Tragedy and Hope

David Tswamuno is both the tragedy and hope of Zimbabwe. Tragedy because he is not at home, putting his very considerable talents and energy to use for his country; hope because he is minted from the extraordinary human capital with which Zimbabwe is blessed and which could, in shorter order than many expect,  undo the damage done by the gangsters into whose hands his country fell.

Tswamuno is a 20-something financial analyst at UBS in New York.  His resemblance to the actor Presley Chweneyagae is striking; friends call him Tsotsi.   He is from Mutare. There he received an education better than almost anything he could have had at a public school in the US. He came away with four or five good A-Levels.  Mugabe may yet be saved from the bottom depths of hell by his decision to stick with the English system.

Tswamuno’s next stop, with help from the US embassy in Harare, was Middlebury College in Connecticut. It is a very competitive school. He was two years ahead of his class when he arrived. Writing skills taken for granted as a basic A-level requirement in Zimbabwe his American professors thought he could only have gained through special tutoring. So poor are US standards. Continue reading “Tragedy and Hope”

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Izwi Grilled

Here’s a Q&A on Thabo Mbeki and Zimbabwe I did with Murray Williams for the Cape Argus’ Friday Grill column.

MW: Do white South Africans reserve special hatred for President Robert Mugabe because he is black?

Izwi: I can’t speak for others. As far as I’m concerned, misrule is misrule is misrule. The one specifically race-related objection I have to Mugabe’s conduct is that he is reinforcing every terrible stereotype about this continent and its people.

MW: Has Mbeki been answerable to South Africans about his policy on Zimbabwe?

Izwi: We live in a democracy so of course Mbeki is answerable for all his actions on any issue. He did a lot of answering in Polokwane last December. Continue reading “Izwi Grilled”

Constructive Engagement

Ill-informed calumny is an occupational hazard for practitioners of constructive engagement if they fail, as they often will, to gratify quickly. Calumny because they will very likely be seen as supping with the devil; ill-informed because constructive engagement entails quiet diplomacy and the use of public statements less to inform than to manipulate.

I have no inside knowledge of President Mbeki’s constructive engagement with President Mugabe and his securocrats.  I did however spend five years reporting on Dr Chester Crocker’s constructive engagement with South Africa’s ancien regime to secure Namibian independence.

In Crocker, I saw a master at work, and watched him calumnied and traduced at almost every step. Indeed, I joined in the calumny myself from time to time in a journalist’s frustration at not being privy to his every play.  But finally I was there in the UN Security Council chamber in late 1988 to witness his perseverance pay off: Angolans, South Africans, Namibians, Cubans and Russians all falling like silver balls into the slots of a child’s puzzle. Continue reading “Constructive Engagement”