Candid Comment: My Second Journey To The Hague

LAST week I was critical of those who say Zimbabweans accused of human rights violations should be taken to The Hague.

 

I used The Hague in a literal and in a symbolic sense to support my abiding belief that we are masters of our own destiny.

What other civilised nation sends its citizens to be tried at The Hague for domestic crimes? How come Pik Botha and Ian Smith, for all their arrogance in the courts and outside, were never taken to The Hague for their political crimes?

My position against The Hague is a matter of principle, the same way I have rejected over-reliance on foreigners to resolve our problems. Outsourcing solutions to our problems to foreigners leaves us less empowered. The failure of a political settlement between Zanu PF and the MDC reflects poorly on us as Zimbabweans, not on Thabo Mbeki, who is a mere facilitator.

It is us who have to live with the consequences of our political decisions, not Mbeki or South Africans, much less those further afield who have the insolence to set preconditions on the outcome of the talks. To me a facilitator is not a magician to “find” a solution. His function should be to take us out of the box, to expose us to different perspectives of viewing the same problem. We must find the solution or fail.

The Hague in other words is invoked to foster and nurture in us a spirit of contempt and distrust for local initiatives the same way we are being persuaded that only foreigners know better what is good for our country. The farther away they are, the better. How can someone who doesn’t understand my language, let alone my culture, resolve my family dispute?

It is in this context that I can’t understand how President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai failed to build on their first one-hour meeting over dinner after the signing of the MoU in July. In an interview later, Tsvangirai remarked of Mugabe that “he is a human being after all”.

For real statesmen that was the farthest Mbeki could go in getting these mortal rivals to reassess and re-evaluate each other and decide what is best for their nation. It was an opportunity to build on, to separate myth from reality, propaganda from fact and a time to find each other away from the madding crowds.

Nobody besides the two knows exactly what they discussed in that one hour meeting in which Tsvangirai says it felt like “a father and son” reunion. But since then they appear to have drifted further and further apart, all to the detriment of ordinary Zimbabweans.

I have no doubt that there are many foreign leaders who know more about what was discussed in that meeting than we do. Political leaders can go to Sadc, the African Union or the United Nations; there is a limit to what foreigners can do.

We have washed our dirty linen for so long in public no detergent can wring any more dirt from it. It’s not just about listener fatigue; there are new problems cropping up around the globe everyday, like in Georgia. Which means Russia’s veto stays and so is China’s. Soon we might find ourselves on the backburner just like the deadly conflict in Iraq or waved off as a lost cause as has happened with Somalia. The world does not owe us anything to listen to our tales of woe and disaster forever.

Which is why I believe our political leaders should be reaching out more towards the “human being-ness” of each other, bridging the divides among themselves and trying to forge a common national vision. MDC and Zanu PF supporters are Zimbabwean; which party one wants to belong to is a matter of envisaged opportunities. It is above all a matter of personal choice. It doesn’t confer on anyone more humaneness.

Instead of which everyday we are told of “hyenas”, “vultures”, “vampires”, “puppets” and “sellouts”. Hate speech directed at political opponents is seen as virtue. Those who try to see the humanity in their political opponents are viewed with suspicion as wavering in the faith or outright sellouts who should be attacked or vilified in turn. We need a better sense of common purpose, and that we cannot achieve so long as one half of our people believe the other half belongs to The Hague. We do not have a political party made up of saints despite all the rhetoric about people –– it’s all about opportunity and self-interest.

lTo those who have been sending me e-mails, let me assure you that I have been warned by many well-meaning Zimbabweans, some now MDC MPs and councillors, of the dangers of writing what I write. My riposte is simple: I write to please neither Zanu PF nor the MDC. I write to please my conscience; I take full responsibility for all the erroneous judgements I pass on both. In good conscience, I can state that our people have more in common and are more united than politicians want us to believe. It is the politicians who are divided over power.

The main purpose of my writings is that we should instill in our people the attitude that political rivalry is not about enemies to be crushed, which often leads to violence. It is about selecting national leaders. People are killed because of the selfishness and avarice of politicians.

Let me end with a quotation from Alai Ewing Stevenson who said: “A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular.”

By Joram Nyathi

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