25 June 2008
Why the Zimbabwean opposition has been stuffed.
The world of wank is frantically pulling its collective pud over a piece by John Simpson, the BBC's Senior Political Editor. Simpson had the temerity to say that the Zimbabwean opposition, and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, had "been completely outmanoeuvred" by Robert Mugabe, who is now set "for a remarkable victory, when only three months ago he seemed to be on the ropes".
The problem here is that both those statements are the literal truth. Mugabe has outmanoeuvred the opposition, and his manoeuvres ended with the the bludgeoning and battering of the opposition. Manoeuvres don't have to be sophisticated - they just have to work.
It is also true that three months ago Mugabe looked like a man on his way out. The opposition was making all the running, and the fact that Mugabe will now remain in office is as much a condemnation of that opposition as it is a recognition of Mugabe's lethal skills as a survivor.
To be honest, the Zimbabwean opposition has a long and sorry record of cack-handedness when it comes to, well, opposing Mugabe. It seems to pretty much rely on western governments, and their agencies, providing it with the kit and the expertise that allowed it to function. When the west's talents proved unequal to the government's, then the opposition began to creak.
Let's take the case of SW Radio Africa as a case in point. This short wave station was set up in London in December 2001 with funding from, it is rumoured, the British and American governments. Everything went well until 2006 when the Zimbabweans imported Chinese made jamming equipment and just blasted SW Radio Africa off the airwaves.
The point is that for several years the opposition could get its message out, and thus it did nothing to prepare for the day when that message would have to end. No network of secret transmitters was ever set up within the country, no illegal newspapers were established - everything was done via SW Radio Africa.
Then when that station recently began to get its message through once more by switching its frequencies, Mugabe's men started to confiscate the Baygen radios that the western governments had given out in the country.
Compare this level of sheer indolence and stupidity with what the nationalists, under Mugabe, had done during the bush war. They had radio transmitters inside the country that broadcast to the people. It is true that most of the agitprop signals came from neighbouring countries, but there was always going to be at least one station inside Zimbabwe that was broadcasting, even if only now and then.
Mugabe's Zanu party was Chinese trained, and the Chinese made it plain that 90% of guerrilla war is political, not military, action. That is why a radio station had to be on air from inside the country, not only so that it could broadcast to the blacks. It was also to let the whites know that opposition existed - it helped to lower their morale.
Nationalist newspapers existed. Mimeographed sheets that were passed from hand to hand, but someone had to print them up, which meant that people knew that an organisation existed.
In those days even a small radio transmitter took up a big suitcase and weighed a lot. Printing presses were also heavy and bulky. Today you can get a transmitter inside a briefcase and any computer and printer can run off a newsletter.
So, this is why the opposition is being stuffed. It has relied too much on the west, and the west's advice. It needs to go underground and operate as the nationalists operated 30 years ago.
Until it does that then all the howling from the world of wank won't alter the fact that Mugabe and his men have just run rings around the opposition.