by Levi Kabwato & Malvern Mkudu, Zimbabwe In Pictures, 04/16/2010
If anyone still had any doubts about the credibility of South African president, Jacob Zuma as mediator in Zimbabwe’s government of national (dis)unity then the recent visit by Julius Malema to Harare will convince them to cast out the last lot of doubt still remaining within them and just embrace the truth of the matter, however painful it might be.
Malema’s unceremonious visit to Zimbabwe makes Jacob Zuma – his boss – look like a very dishonest broker in the ongoing talks around the GNU. From the time former president Thabo Mbeki assumed the mediation role, building up from his infamous quiet diplomacy, the skpetics were out, stating unequivocally that Pretoria would do all it can to maintain the Harare regime’s grip on power firm. And now, their suspicions – once dismissed as wild, unfounded and unfortunate in light of the hope coming to Zimbabwe – have now been confirmed.
We were at Mbare township’s Netball Complex on Saturday, 3 April for Malema’s much-touted rally. Mbare is Zimbabwe’s oldest high-density suburb and is one of the areas that suffered tremendously from the Robert Mugabe regime’s shameful Operation Murambatsvina or Operation Get Rid of Filth, which left thousands of Zimbabweans homeless in the winter of 2005. Many Zimbabweans – epsecially those affected by this operation – actually equated the magnitude of this exercise to the Asian tsunami of 2004.
The rally itself was scheduled to start at midday and we were there much earlier. We should have known better and trusted our instincts. It was not until four hours later that one of the organizers and would-be beneficiary, Saviour Kasukuwere made an appearance, signalling that at least things were about to start happening. Kasukuwere is minister of Youth Development and Indegenisation. His unpopular and controversial regulations on indegenisation have since been suspended by cabinet.
On the sidelines, a lot was happening. To begin with, the complex just could not get full, despite the presence of clearly bussed-in crowds that ranged from elderly women from a church sect to youths who were evidently just looking for a place to hang out for the afternoon simply because they had nothing better to do.
Of course you would also get your ZANU-PF youth proper; a collection of unemployed youngsters who are willing to sing and dance (gather morale, as they call it) for – wait for it – a bucket of opaque beer and free party regalia. You got also young boys joining the party, waving ZANU PF paper flags and completely oblivious to the consequences of what was about to happen.
The atmosphere was made thicker by the presence of ZANU-PF’s paramillitary allies popularly known in Zimbabwe as Green Bombers, clad in their millitary green fatigues, red berets and dark sunglasses to go with. It was also their show. They were there to showcase the ‘gains’ of the controversial youth service programme and possibly hint at the ANC Youth League that this too, they needed to adopt for South Africa.
One thing about the green bombers, however, is their ability to surprise you in a manner typical of warfare strategy. In the run-up to the disputed March 2008 election, they are said to have been the force that instigated much of the violence that accompanied the election. So you still got a sense, sitting in that complex that anything was possible and at anytime, drawing from their unflattering reputation.
If Kasukuwere (pictured sitting next to Malema above), dressed in a ZANU-PF t-shirt bearing the clenched fist of Robert Mugabe, blue jeans and a Cuban-style millitary cap with a red star was meant to portray his appreciation of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe then Julius Malema’s entrance was meant to speak to his expensive taste and unwittingly expose the neo-colonial trait of comrades who condemn all things Western while they swim in the very same luxuries themselves.
Malema arrived in a Mercedes Benz GL500 SUV. The sleek vehicle bears personalized registration, “Zhuwao” and belongs to the ZANU PF director of youth and Politburo member, Patrick Zhuwao. Malema’s entourage followed behind in Range Rovers, Land Cruisers and S-Class Mercedes Benz vehicles. Inside the netball complex, the crowd erupted, as it had been begged to do earlier by a ZANU PF official. In came in Malema, wearing a ZANU PF shirt, his fist clenched and waving to the crowd.
He would soon claim that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is an agent of the West, established to effect regime change in Zimbabwe. He would suggest it was paramount to ensure ZANU PF’s continued stay in power so as to guarantee the ANC’s position in power in South Africa. “If the imperialists succeed in removing ZANU PF from power, we know they are coming for the ANC next”, he said to thunderous applause.
Whilst the dress rehearsal from both Luthuli House and the Presidency disguised as a reigning in on Malema has been welcome in so many quarters, more caution in dealing with this rabid politician who just refuses to stay his leash is needed. Julius Malema is a rather misguded missile that will need more than one press confrerence and a few statements to deactivate and put back in its correct storage.
At least for as long as the Zimbabwe issue is on the agenda and especially if South Africa is the match referee between the uninspiring game being played by both MDC and ZANU PF. Imagine if a referee in this year’s FIFA World Cup tournament were to announce on the eve of the cup final that he is siding with a particular team and would do all he can to ensure that the team he dislikes is not going to win. Would all hell not break loose?
And, regardless of the current discourse of liberation camaraderie, indegenisation and youth empowerment currently being pushed by both ZANU-PF and ANC Youth League, the point must be underscored that Malema and company’s visit to Harare was inappropriate, unnecessary, regrettable and represents a nasty foreign policy challenge to South Africa against the backdrop of Zuma’s mediation efforts.
Beyond castigating the fellow for his breathtaking exhibition of political immaturity, we need to demand from our politics a heightened sense of dignity, unprecedented level-headedness and a genuine commitment to improving the livelihoods of ordinary citizens via the encouragemnet of robust debate and progressive policy formulation.
At 5:27pm Julius Malema left the netball complex and jumped straight into the Mercedes Benz waiting for him. The crowds were still cheering, even more so when the convoy of luxury cars carrying their leaders sped off, lifting a tremendous amount of dust behind them and – sadly – no clue whatsoever how they also, could be able to afford such luxuries some day.