Mthulisi Mathuthu

Mthulisi Mathuthu is a Zimbabwean journalist. He is hooked on Russian literature and also enjoys the works of John Maxwell Coetzee, Eduardo Galeano and Salman Rushdie. He is an A-Z on Afro-jazz and has recently taken a keen interest in issues of climate change and international development. In Jose Mourinho, he sees his ideal self: "a character who doesn't care about anybody but gets things going for himself". E-mail: thuthuma@yahoo.com

Gay rights: Tsvangirai’s Nobel master stroke

IT was Professor Stephen Chan who not so very long ago wrote something to the effect that even though Morgan Tsvangirai is prone to gaffes, he is still capable of some strokes of ‘genius’.

Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than the gay rights saga. While many think that Tsvangirai’s summersault on the controversial issue will see him fall flat on a concrete floor, on his back, he is in fact set to land on some golden couch – the one he has been dreaming of for a couple of years now, and that is the Nobel Peace Prize.

Here is why. For the past four years, Tsvangirai has twice been nominated for the prestigious award only to miss it at the last hurdle, condemning him into some kind of a human pendulum swinging between hope and sadness. So desperate for the Nobel Peace Prize he has been that only last year, he even tried to create some drama ahead of the committee’s meeting – in vain as it turned out.

Last year, he blew it by daring to concur with Mugabe that sexual minorities will not to be recognised in Zimbabwe’s new constitution. It is instructive that while Tsvangirai brought about the inclusive government which has stabilised the economy, driven inflation down and brought about some degree of press freedom – making him the only politician so far to have ever extracted some concessions from Mugabe – he was omitted from the list of the Nobel Peace Prize nominees in 2011. And then a month after the announcement of the 2011 winner, Tsvangirai is in the spotlight again as a gay and lesbian rights advocate via the BBC.

This shows that this time around, he was clever enough not to take advice from Harvest House which is clearly bereft of talent and wisdom. All of Tsvangirai’s previous strategies at winning this one prize have been farcical – be it the ‘Final Push’ or hiding at the Dutch Embassy or skipping the country into Botswana. The outcome has been the same: laughable.

This time around, he got it right and embraced a different strategy dangled in front of him by the powerful. One sees in this strategy the hand of some highly-connected international public policy consultant or lobbyist with years of experience in drafting winning public affairs strategies. Vested interests on the part of the lobbyist cannot be discounted either.

Here is the strategy: with the elections expected next year and with Tsvangirai expressing his support for the gay rights, Zanu PF will go to town pillorying him over the issue to the extent that in the end, it would be a case of persecution for one’s beliefs and conscience.

And what are those beliefs? According to his brief statement issued only days ago, Tsvangirai is a ‘Christian’, ‘social democrat’ and a ‘family man’ who believes in justice for all, sexual minorities included. So, by the time the Nobel Committee sits again to consider the 2012 list of nominees, the image of a Christian and social democrat persecuted for listening to his conscience would have stuck.

Remember Zanu PF will not have simply vilified him through the Herald and through Rev Nolbert Kunonga’s chants but they would have, in line with their tradition, bludgeoned MDC members. Remember too that the lobbyists would have been listening and watching the persecution, channelling evidence and analysis to the Nobel Committee in Norway.

Easily, Tsvangirai will land the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course, the citation will not be daft so as to award Tsvangirai for standing up for the sexual minorities but it will ride on the broader issues of democracy, conscience and human rights. The police raid on the MDC offices last week and Zanu PF attacks on a Tsvangirai rally last Sunday have already set the tone for what is coming. It would even be more rewarding for the strategists if Tsvangirayi would have, by then, become the President and delivered a ‘democratic’ Zimbabwe – one where gay rights would be recognised.

Speaking to the BBC after the Commonwealth leaders had failed to adopt reforms on the issue of gay rights, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: ‘Britain is now one of the premier aid givers in the world. We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights, and that includes how people treat gay and lesbian people.’

He added: “British aid should have more strings attached, in terms of ‘do you persecute people for their faith or their Christianity, or do you persecute people for their sexuality?’ We don’t think that’s acceptable.”

The meaning of this is that for the first time, Tsvangirai is ‘proper’ Nobel Peace Prize material of the same stature as Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter. Remember Tutu is also a social democrat who once vowed ‘never’ to ‘worship a homophobic God’. Therefore, Tsvangirai, despite the previous nominations, never really qualified because he had merely been beaten once, arrested twice for no more than two months altogether and sought refuge at the Dutch Embassy; and fled to Botswana. Try as they could, the lobbyists failed to influence the Nobel Committee on behalf of Tsvangirai. This time, if Cameron’s statement is anything to go by, the lobbyists got it right.

It seems Tsvangirai has mastered the art of political correctness. Just compare the comments of Cameron and Tutu and those of Tsvangirai: no gulf fixed between them at all. In other ways, if you don’t draw a line between Christianity, human rights, democracy and the sexual minorities you are set to scale the heights.

Tsvangirai has learnt the tactic of sniffing the direction of the world too. Both the Malawian and Ugandan governments were recently forced to drop tough measures against the gay community. When you see Yoweri Museveni and Bingu waMutharika climbing down so readily on their dearly held beliefs, ‘be afraid, be very afraid’. Worse still when you see a proud leader (Gaddafi) hounded out of his hiding hole and being sodomised with a knife before being shot on TV for refusing to listen to the powerful. The message is clear: go against the tide and you shall be pulverised.

One gets the sense that the world is changing and is getting ever more dangerous for those who resist to change with it. According to one analyst, we have come to some kind of the ‘end of history’, not the Francis Fukuyama way, but in an African context. Africa is entering the new age where pride has become folly; resistance futile; and compliance wisdom.

According to Eduardo Galeano, ours is an upside down world which awards incompetence and evil. History no longer needs to be blindfolded and force marched to the service of the mighty because a part of her has indeed ended thanks to a manipulated convergence of international law, technology, commerce, international aid and journalism. These five are not just mutually beneficiary but are mutually vulnerable too.

International law and aid pave the way and where they end technology and bombs take over. Thereafter, both international law and aid run their second lap characterised by punishment of the last remnants of resistance and reconstruction with the compliant press cheering on.

From henceforth, commerce takes over with all its glitz and glamour and the result is both mesmerising and scary. Woe betide those who resist. In such a scenario, obduracy and pride such as is exhibited at the Mhunumutapa Building, becomes comical.

Ours is no longer the age of imagined sympathies but of real deals where the demand from the powerful is simple: you trumpet my cause and values and you get the rewards. Failure to that instead of aid coming your way, bombs may. In other words, one must just conform and if they don’t they, to use Cameroon’s words in the same interview with the BBC, shall be ‘helped along the journey’ to change and if they still resist they shall be sodomised, killed and be buried in the Sahara Desert.

A liberal interventionist bomber doesn’t need to be in Harare to flatten Strathaven or Zvimba village, for example, and neither do they need to worry about the consequences of international law. It takes only the click of a button in Las Vegas to send countries back to the Stone Age. International law has no option but to comply and prosecute the weak, leaving the bombers to plan for their next action.

Tsvangirai and his lobbyists saw through this well before Cameron unveiled the new British strategy in Australia. What a stroke of genius on behalf of Tsvangirai – turning what was initially seen in the West as a disappointing gaffe into a springboard from whence to leap onto the ultimate prize. In the end, he will win the prize not because of fighting to restore democracy in Zimbabwe because, as is known, there was never democracy in Zimbabwe nor will he win it for fighting for human rights per se but for being persecuted for his ‘beliefs’ and one of the key ‘beliefs’ is that sexual minorities are God’s children too and they should be accorded their rights like anybody else.

Whether you like sexual minorities or not, they are strategic, powerful and determined. Not only is the world upside down; it is getting gayer. Whether you like or hate Tsvangirai, this time he got it right. He has without doubt secured one of his major dreams: the Nobel Peace Prize which he has been chasing for some time now.

From October next year, he will be an international peace broker rubbing shoulders with Kofi Annan, Tutu, Carter and the rest. Whether he ever becomes the President of Zimbabwe or not at least he will never be broke again and he shall be forever relevant. Again, what a stroke of genius! You go Save!