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M Blackman

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Archive for the ‘Zimbabwe’ Category

The End of JZ and History?

It has probably gone unnoticed but it has been quite a while since I last wrote anything on this blog. This is largely because I haven’t had anything to write about. In many ways I have been feeling that we are living in a kind of Fukuyamaesque end of history type of thing. Not because there aren’t disturbing things happening in the world, but because all of those disturbing things have hit some kind of equilibrium. In Iraq the bombing, both suicide and conventional, go on but the American troop reductions have made the whole issue less media visible. It’s now really down to Iraqis killing Iraqis – which is pretty much where it has been since Iraq’s independence. In Afghanistan the usual 1-3 troops get killed daily out in Helmand Province, which saddens but doesn’t disturb. Nobody really knows whether the situation in Zimbabwe is getting any better but at least there is a Government of National Unity and, recently, Mugabe hasn’t had his thugs beat Tsvangirai to a pulp. At home there is no AIDS denial, no crime denial and no bald-face lying about Zimbabwe. And hey we had the World Cup and the only people the police shot at were some of our own. That’s a positive. And all-in-all I do share the feeling that we did a pretty good job and the whole thing was fun.

Basically we are back – or near enough back – to where we were at the fall of the Berlin wall. Liberal capitalist discourse seems the only one around worth taking an interest in – sadly there is simply no other alternative to it. The Africanism of Mbeki (and Mugabe?) was an unmitigated disaster, causing more inequality and more Machiallevian state controls than could have ever been imagined in 1994. Religious fundamentalism, although still around, seems to be on the wane. If Camus was right about the idea that writers should address social and political injustices – and in this blog I always take him to be right – then for me, at least, on a macro-level there is very little to write about. On a micro-level there is almost too much to write about, but which side I really believe in when it comes to these quibbles has always lead me into the depths of moral perturbation. I like black and white – I have never had much affinity with shades and desaturation.

There is of course one issue that is at hand. And to a certain degree I am almost looking forward to its hand. This is of course the Media Appeals Tribunal. In my dreams I long to be thrown into jail over writing a newspaper article claiming to have had tea with JZ astride an oil-tanker on the moon – which will, I believe, get one into the necessary hot water. Of course we are getting ourselves into a stir over very little considering Mbeki probably had more control over the media than this tribunal will have – something intimated at by Blade Nzimande. But what JZ should worry about is that, although the last president did so much to deserve our disdain, it is always the relatively harmless politicians that get it in the neck. I mean look at Louis Sixteen and Tsar Nicholas. They were in no way the worst of a bad lot. In fact it is now often noted that they were relatively splendid chaps and vessels of liberal progress. But the mention of liberal progress should put us on our guard because whatever guise the politicians would like to justify the Media Tribunal with, liberal progress is not one of them. If Orwell’s Newspeak is what we are heading for, if it is not been here for many years already, then this may be the end of objective history at the very least.


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A Response to the Chairman of Anglo American’s Letter in ‘The Times’ of London.

In response to the Chairman of Anglo American’s letter on the 30 June. First, having ‘been investors in Zimbabwe for 60 years’ is not necessarily something to be proud of. And secondly, there is justifiable outrage at Anglos proposed £200 million investment in Zimbabwe. Those who argue for applying sanctions are all to painfully aware that disinvestment will hurt the least advantaged, but they realise that continued investment will assist Mugabe in maintaining his grip on power.

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart’s promise to improve access to water and food assistance is not meaningful considering Mugabe only allows assistance to reach his own supporters – or at least those who will support him rather than die of starvation. This coupled with the fact that the taxes paid to the Mugabe regime are used to commit crimes against the Zimbabwean people suggests that there is a very strong moral imperative to pull out of Zimbabwe all together. This is, after all, what prelates such as the Archbishop of York John Sentamu and Desmond Tutu have been calling for.

I feel it is worth noting that not even the moral precept of the Doctrine of Double Effect (that condones the foreseen yet unintentional bombings of civilians) can be dredged up to defend Anglos’ case for continued involvement in Zimbabwe. The DDE would, for example, condone the bombing of civilians if (a) they were not the intended target of the bombing (e.g. the intention was to target a munitions factory) and (b) the good in bombing munitions factory significantly outweighed the evil of killing the civilians. It is now quite clear that the good of Anglo’s presence in Zimbabwe is outweighed by the evil that they are unintentionally sponsoring.


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Dr. Chitiyo’s Zimbabwe

Reflections on a lecture I attended at the London School of Economics dealing with the crisis in Zimbabwe. The title of the lecture was ‘Zimbabwe: 1980 – 2007: Past, Present and Future’ presented by Dr Knox Chitiyo, head of the Africa Programme at the Royal United Services Institute.

Political commentators have found it difficult to put the troubles in Zimbabwe, and South Africa’s response to them, into perspective, often proffering analyses bordering on the Quixotic. There have been those (many in the South African liberal establishment) who have decried Mugabe’s apparent fall from a once liberal leader to the anathema who can utter such lines as ‘let me be a Hitler tenfold’. Others have argued that Mbeki’s policy of quiet diplomacy has been delicately crafted to stop Zimbabwe from imploding, and (astonishingly) that the policy has achieved a measure of success. Finally, there have been those who have trailed out that old hat that Mugabe’s policies are deranged, that he has gone mad (some even suggesting through venereal disease), and that his policies are selected out of the lucky-dip-hat of evil deeds.
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