There is no Planet B:
Seven Take-Aways from the Climate Strike
and Can We Elect
Greta Thunberg President of the World?
Melissa Tandiwe Myambo
Fresh blue sky, crisp breeze, warm sunlight, the crackling bustle of back-to-school-and-work after the sultry summer humidity. On a perfect autumn weekday like this, it would normally be a good idea to bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. But today, it is almost impossible, not just because of the usual tourists and brides in their fluttering white dresses posing for a picture against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty rising from the harbor. The bike path is jam-packed with excitable children, singing, stomping, shrieking with laugher, chanting slogans, carrying signs, crossing the suspension bridge that joins Brooklyn to Manhattan. A trash barge floats along on the wind-churned waves of the East River which smells like the sea and sparkles so much under the glittering sun it doesn’t even look polluted.
New York’s Department of Education has allowed the city’s 1.1 million public school children the option to skip school if their parents sign a permission slip on this Friday, 20 September, 2019 so that they can participate in the global climate strike inspired by a small girl from Sweden.
Greta Thunberg has come to America via boat instead of plane to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. She has turned Asperger’s syndrome into an asset and a pulsating tension coils through her diminutive, wiry and still growing body. She is sixteen-years-old but her #FridaysForFuture movement has ignited a wildfire as powerful as those which recently devastated the Amazon. Here are seven things I learnt about the past, the present and the future from this stunning day of passion and protest.
I go to a lot of protests and demonstrations and not just in the US, in various countries, but I have never seen a protest like this one. It was exhilarating, emotional, energizing, galvanizing and inspirational to see so many children and teenagers proclaiming their right to live in a better world. Political organizing at the grassroots level often takes years to develop into a movement yet it was merely 13 months ago that Greta Thunberg started her movement as a single protester outside the Swedish parliament to demand policy reform to substantively address global warming. Extinction Rebellion, a UK-founded group that promotes civil disobedience to bring attention to climate change, has garnered a lot of attention (and criticism) although they are less than a year old. Al Gore says this is how change happens: very slowly at first and then all of a sudden a great tsunami of transformation.
Now, millions of school children and for the first time, adults from tech workers to trade unionists to teachers joined Greta in New York and around the world. Initially, I heard 139 countries were participating in the climate strikes but when Greta finally took the stage in New York City’s Battery Park after the rousing march from Foley Square, she said 150 countries had taken part. A few hours later, it was reported that 185 countries had taken part. That is mind-boggling.
In New York, the crowd was estimated at around a quarter of a million but New Yorkers were joined by many others like Brazilian indigenous groups such as #CarvãoAquiNão Mbya Guarani. African youth from South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria came over to join the protest despite several of them being denied visas by the US embassies in their home countries. They all had their own hashtags and their own local agendas but they were, like all the participants, part of a global climate strike that is becoming more powerful in leaps and bounds.
The numbers are incredible and the fervent intensity so contagious…Was this what it was like to go to protests in the status quo-smashing protests of the 1960s when the world was also on fire, although in a different sense?
Wake up, corporations and capitalists, you have a target on your back!
“If the climate were a bank it would have been saved by now.” That was one of many signs written on old cereal boxes which took aim at big business, factory farming, Wall Street, fossil fuel energy and the extractive industries. Another placard demanded that oil executives be prosecuted. Jeff Bezos was name-checked on more than one recycled Amazon Prime box which is kind of ironic. As the world’s richest billionaire, the youth as well as thousands of his own employees want Bezos to make Amazon more responsive to calls for cutting carbon emissions. Many protesters voiced not only anti-capitalist messages but also pro-socialist ones, proclaiming the need for total societal transformation, not one day in the future but right now. They are not interested in the same old, same old corrupt politics influenced by special interests dedicated to maintaining the status quo of corporations repeatedly raping the earth for profit. The writing is on the wall for...
Be afraid, be very afraid! Dinosaur politicians are headed for extinction
Crusty old dinosaur politicians in the vein of Donald Trump. They will have no future with the rising electorate in the US and other countries. The United Nations is holding its annual General Assembly this week and many world leaders plan to attend its Climate Action Summit. Coal-loving Trump, however, will not be there. Instead, he will participate in a religious freedom meeting. At the G-7 summit last month, he also skipped the climate change meeting. But as many placards proclaimed, these youthful protesters were “skipping lessons to teach you a lesson” and that lesson was very harsh: “We’re in a Hot Mess,” said one poster, because of the globe’s rapidly rising temperatures and “Denyin’ is Lyin’.”
Climate change deniers like Trump, Fox News and the Koch-funded Cato Institute which reject science, facts, data and evidence in order to keep the world “safe” for big business to keep on plundering the earth and irreparably damaging the environment are living on borrowed time. Every category 5 hurricane blows more of their lies away.
The kids today won't listen to adults spewing lies. Many of them grew up reading dystopian, anti-establishment young adult fiction which often cynically paints adults as corrupt and contemptible – works like the Hunger Games trilogy, or Patrick Ness’ excellent, The Knife of Never Letting Go. These kids trust grown-ups even less than previous generations. I heard one kid in Foley Square outside City Hall shouting, “Anyone older than thirty should be ashamed of yourself.” They feel that we – the so-called grown-ups – have betrayed their future. Greta Thunberg lamented the number of celebrities and politicians who take selfies with the child activists but have nothing but empty words of admiration for them instead of a viable action plan. They are not going to wait for reactionary adults to catch up to what they know is reality: we, the human species, are killing the Earth. They are going to take action into their own hands.
Fed up, frustrated, FURIOUS: These kids ain’t f***ing around
As afore-mentioned, I go to a lot of protests but I have never seen so many F-word posters. I personally don’t like the use of curse words in public settings because it often points to a vocabulary deficit on the part of the speaker who cannot fully express him or herself in more evocative and precise language. It also coarsens public discourse even further and puts people on the defensive. But these kids are fed up, frustrated and furious because they think time is up. They are afraid that one day all too soon we will live in a world without birds, bees, butterflies and flowers.
Several chants disparaged the “bullshit” politicians constantly spew about their plans that never materialize to address climate change. “The planet’s fucking broken,” chanted one group. “If you gave a single fuck about the planet, you would be vegan” read a pink and green sign. This anger at inaction mirrors that of the youth spearheading current calls for substantive gun reform policy in a country obsessed with the right to bear arms.
After every single horrific gun attack in the US, politicians react by sending “thoughts and prayers” and insisting that the tragedy is still too raw, blood is still wet on the streets, so it really is too early to discuss a policy response. Time passes, nothing happens. But after yet another school shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida on Valentine Day’s in 2018, the surviving students rapidly and astutely grabbed the media spotlight to demand policy reform. We don’t want more of your hopes and prayers, they said, we want change. One teenager told me that the energy and the urgency of the climate protest reminded her of the school walk-outs after the Parkland school shooting. In sum, kids concerned with gun control policy and climate change issues are not looking for answers in some distant future obscured by the mists of time not yet come. They don't want change now. They want big change - not yesterday but yesteryear. “Climate Crisis won’t wait, Neither will we,” read one banner.
The level of critical thinking on display in the youthful climate change movement which has been reformulated as climate justice is off the charts. Critical thinking is about connecting the dots and making explicit the context and contours of a phenomenon and linking it to the big picture. To take but one example, sixteen-year-old Rebecca Sabnam, a Bangladeshi-American New York City school kid addressed the audience before Greta took the stage. Sabnam is known for pressuring school cafeterias to stop using plastic bags and foam. As an immigrant from Bangladesh, she linked racial justice and climate justice to issues of poverty in both her old and new countries.
The mainstream climate change movement is often accused of only representing the interests of white, middle-class residents of the global North even though indigenous people, the poor and people of color all over the world are more immediately affected by the warming globe. This is one of the fault lines in the movement but maybe there is hope for this new generation of progressives who link climate change to broader structure of global injustice.
Predicting the future: “Far left” and bright green
In twenty years, if I am still alive, I hope someone will congratulate me for correctly predicting that these kids will grow up to form a generation of voters and citizens who will make the “far left” Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren/Alexandria Ocasio Cortezs of today look like arch-capitalists.
Right-wing pundits and media outlets are already terrified by the current numbers of millennial Americans who think socialism is a better option than capitalism. Outlets like Breitbart make the argument on behalf of pro-business, climate change denialism that the millions of children advocating climate change policy are mere fronts for a left-wing agenda. They are just as nasty about these teen activists as they are towards the Parkland kids. But they are mistaken. These kids are not a front for leftie causes. They are the vanguard of a new “far left” and bright green political future.
Generation Z looks set to be much more radical than anything we’ve seen before. There were many signs touting support for Elizabeth Warren and urging a “Green New Deal Now!” but in the years to come, won’t that seem too moderate to kids cutting their teeth on protest at such a tender young age? I am speaking here of youth growing up in countries with nominal democracies. Kids growing up in authoritarian regimes will not have the same opportunities but If you start being an activist at age thirteen like Alexandria Villaseñor, New York's school striking climate protester, won't it just become second nature?
“We are almost losing our cool,” said one poster. And what will happen when they do? A group I had never heard of called, International Youth and Students for Social Equality, was handing out flyers entitled, “The only solution to climate change is world socialism.”
When people feel that they are facing the apocalypse, they tend to become more radical. A toddler hoisted atop her father’s shoulders held a sign aloft, “Will I have a planet to inhabit?” If you feel you have no future, you’re willing to go all-out for change because as many placards proclaimed, “There’s no planet B.”
Should we elect Greta Thunberg President of the World?
Donald Trump in his current starring role in a nightmarish reality TV show about American democracy's implosion is hailed as the leader of the free world because that is traditionally what US presidents in an American-dominated globe have been. However, as anyone who has heard him speak or seen any of his unhinged tweets can testify, he is clearly not qualified for the job. Greta is 57 years younger than Trump but yet light years ahead of him when it comes to matters of maturity, intellect and principle.
This Swedish adolescent speaks better English than the American president and is a clearer and more articulate communicator. Her use of social media is responsible and dignified, unlike Trump’s daily embarrassing glut of grammatically-incorrect, emotionally-unstable and truth-challenged social media postings. Most importantly, she believes in facts and science and thinks climate policy should be determined by what the experts deem is needed. I am pretty much ready to elect her world president because I am absolutely sure she would be better than this old, orange-colored man who spends too much time on a tanning bed and none at all on learning, reading or leading on climate change.
On Friday, 27 September, Greta Thunberg is going to take to the streets again. And then presumably on Fridays for the foreseeable future until real change is achieved. Isn’t now the time to join her at a protest near you?
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Children are selling themselves in the
New Frontier-Fictional Economy...Should we care?
Melissa Tandiwe Myambo
Summer camps for middle-class American children where they learn to swim and ride ponies and identify different cloud types and generally get in touch with nature are so last century, so yester-year’s economy. That’s why the traditional summer camp has got some new competition. This is the era of the shameless plug and the humble brag, Instagram celebrities, social media influencers and a president who suffers from Twitterhoea. The top-earning YouTube star is a cute 7-year-old boy named Ryan who reviews toys. His channel earned US$22 million in 2018. Who cares about ponies and cumulus clouds and learning to read a compass when kids need much more necessary skills to navigate this new world we’re living in. They could be earning ungodly sums of money. Enter stage right, the entrepreneurial camp!
With plans to begin offering programs for kids as young as four (yes, four-years-old!), some of these entrepreneurial camp providers, according to Brendan O’Connor’s article, “Capitalism Camp for Kids,” are already supplying kids of eight-years-old and up, summer skills courses where they “learn how to monetize their hobbies, interview local corporate executives and shoot YouTube commercials for their prospective businesses.” These tween-preneurs are also encouraged to network during lunch breaks and suggested conversation topics range from edifying subjects like, “The Richest Kids in America,” to ways to “take action” now and “harness the power of this moment.” Time is money under capitalism.
The entrepreneurial camp providers highlighted in O’Connor’s article profess to what used to be considered Republican ideologies -- small government, self reliance and so on -- before this muddled Trump era scrambled traditional conservative ideals into a confused omelette of populism, racism, xenophobia and fiscal overindulgence -- increased government spending whilst providing generous tax cuts to the wealthy. Some of these camp providers have also received funding from conservative libertarians like one of the arch-capitalist Koch Brothers. Critics of these entrepreneurial camps characterize them as the “commodification of childhood.” But is it really? Isn’t this something rather newer and even more insidious?
The commodification of childhood is not a new phenomenon. It has been going on since at least last century and refers to how we turned kids into ardent consumers of toys, clothing, and video games. What is new today – and this has everything to do with the new capitalism and the new economy – is that now we are teaching children how to think of themselves as commodities - an object that can be bought and sold because it has a money value. Michel Foucault had already diagnosed in the 1970s how neoliberalism, the current form of capitalism that is globally dominant, had succeeded in making the self an enterprise. Writing on Foucault’s notion of biopolitics, Lois McNay explains that, “Individuals would be encouraged to view their lives and identities as a type of enterprise, understood as a relation to the self based ultimately on a notion of incontestable economic interest.” But I’m pretty sure Foucault was talking about grown-up individuals. Now, we’re teaching little children to commodify themselves and do their utmost to sell themselves.
It wasn't so long ago that people looked down on parents who pressured their children to pursue careers as models or actors or pop stars as being a somewhat debauched form of child exploitation. Now, every child with access to a smart phone is seemingly addicted to taking selfies and performing in front of a recording device. Exhibitionism is not only accepted, it's expected. Some parents try to monetize this and now, entrepreneurial camps are encouraging children how to do so also.
Two questions about this cultural change: Is commodifying the child a cynical, right-wing, neoliberal plot or just a rational response to a changing economy? Secondly, should we be morally outraged about this or just accept it as a “natural” progression of our contemporary iteration of capitalism – the much-maligned neoliberalism?
What is this New Economy?
It’s not like the Girl Scouts have not been doing this for ages. They send out little girls to sell cookies and American kids have always been encouraged to set up lemonade stands in front of their homes where they can be safe whilst using their assets (cute round faces, adorable pudgy hands) to lure neighbors and passers-by into shelling out a small, almost symbolic sum, towards their pocket money. But technology and the new forms of capitalism have changed all of that and we’re not talking about symbolic sums but instead, the big bucks.
We now have platform/surveillance/big data capitalism and the new economy is variously called precarious “Uberified”/side hustle/winner-take-all/influencer/digital/attention economy. It has so many appellations because everyone is still trying to figure out how it works and how to make a decent living in it. Many of the names it goes by are euphemisms designed to conceal the structural inequities and injustices at its core.
For example, the so-called “sharing” or “collaborative” economy (Uber/Task Rabbit/Airbnb) is better described by the term, the gig economy. Freelancers/independent contractors who are more often than not precarious, poorly paid and exploited are paid per gig. Even when they work full-time or overtime, they receive none of the securities of yore associated with fulltime employment: They receive no healthcare, no parental/sick leave, no paid holidays etc. Oftentimes, their gig work is referred to as a side hustle but often they are full-time workers doing work essential to our society: adjunct professors, schoolteachers, healthcare providers etc. They have to work this side hustle because their salaries are too low. The economy is tilted in favor of the wealthy who are paid way too much while workers receive far too little.
Parents trying to raise children to succeed in this economy are simultaneously faced with another euphemistic neoliberal mythology designed to obfuscate the realities of this unfairly tilted economy. Neoliberal ideologues declare that we are “all the CEOs – Chief Executive Officers - of our own lives.” Our lives are our work and that is why we should “do what we love” and therefore we’re not really working. All we are doing, in the sense of the Foucauldian critique, is perfecting our individual enterprises. This convenient mythology puts the onus on the individual to try and surmount the structural barriers to upward mobility colloquially known as getting ahead. Is that why parents are susceptible to the notion of entrepreneurial summer camps for their kids? Are they viewed as a way to give kids an edge over the competition when it comes to getting into a prestigious tertiary institution?
Owen Davis’ illuminating essay, “Class Warfare: What the cottage industry of admissions consultants tells us about American higher education,” examines how high-end consultants help kids brand themselves in order to optimize their chances of admission to elite universities. Writing in The Baffler, Davis chronicles the lengths to which middle-class parents will go to get their kids into a good college as these highly-paid admissions consultants help their children plot “out their admissions stratagems as early as seventh grade” (see also Operation Varsity Blues in which celebrities took this to the criminal extreme). Much of these consultants’ work concerns making ordinary teenagers appear to be extraordinary “entrepreneurial agents of social reform.” Social media activism is CV-padding to get into college in a playing field, very, very, very tilted in favor of the super rich. The cutthroat nature of competitive college admissions means that “the old mission-trip-to-Guatemala essay [on the college application] has become passé. Now, ultrawealthy parents swap tales of launching charities just to give their kids interesting nonprofit work; one family reportedly bought a Botswanan orphanage as grist for a college essay.”
This is all very instructive and we can deduce from this many characteristics about the contemporary economy: It is precarious, competitive, unequal, capricious, unstable and also, fictional. I call it the frontier-fictional economy because there is a constant search to identify and locate new spaces of economic opportunity - new frontiers - and moreover, there is a lot of fiction at the heart of this economy. Fiction in two senses: there are a lot of overvalued technology companies which destabilize the economy because this is really just fictional capital and secondly, fiction – the telling of an imaginative story – is central to many of these new money-making endeavors.
The New Frontier-Fictional Economy is All about the Story
When I talk of the fictions which lead to the overvaluation of technology companies, we need look no further than Silicon Valley’s most fraudulent “unicorn.” In Silicon Valley, a unicorn is a company that is valued over one billion dollars. John Carreyrou’s excellent page-turner, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, exposes the deception which lay at the core of the tech world’s favorite female-headed unicorn. The infamous Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos when she was 19-years-old. Millions of dollars were thrown at her even though she was a Stanford dropout or maybe because of it. (How many techie demigods have made being a college dropout a cornerstone of their origin story?) Her idea of running blood tests off of just one drop of blood was so far-fetched it would strain credulity in a science fiction novel. But that is Silicon Valley for you. Her original idea of a patch that would inject medicine into the patient’s arm after said patch analyzed the blood was even more ludicrous. I literally would not have invested five bucks in her company yet, plenty of big-name venture capitalists were tripping over themselves to give her their millions. If it weren’t for the Wall Street Journal’s intrepid investigative journalist, Carreyrou, we would be none the wiser and the unethical Holmes would still be giving Ted talks in her Steve Jobs-wannabe, black turtleneck get-up.
In the second sense, fiction, especially when it is dressed up as reality, is at the heart of so many of these new technology-enabled jobs and other media-fuelled moneymaking endeavors. Elizabeth Holmes sold her bogus technology on the basis of her ability to fabulate. All Silicon Valley and other types of start-ups looking for funding are telling a story but then again, so are more 20th-century, bricks and mortar businesses.
Donald Trump, when he was a middling real estate developer trying to become a celebrity, pretended to be a publicist named John Barron and he would call up reporters to give them the “secret inside story” on Trump. He would later convert his fame into a fiction of his astronomically exaggerated wealth and then he would land a TV series called The Apprentice where he played the role of a successful businessman - even though in reality he went bankrupt six times - and then he became even more famous. Several of his entrepreneurial ventures failed or were found to be fraudulent and his shady business practices have resulted in multiple lawsuits. Most ignominiously, he had to be bailed out by his dad on more than one occasion, yet he has successfully crafted the fiction of himself as a self-made billionaire. He then parlayed the fictional persona he played on a so-called reality show into his latest avatar, politician. And fiction trumps reality once again because as you may have heard, he became the president, thanks to a series of fictions and lies.
The art of the con is the new art of the deal. And all con artists are convincing storytellers. To call someone a hustler used to be an insult. Today, in the era of side hustles, everyone has a hustle and Trump’s advice in The Art of the Deal to employ “truthful hyperbole” has now become his administration’s “alternative facts.” He is a living reminder that the phrase, fake it till you make it, can be used in an ends justify the means kind of way – whatever it takes to “win,” hustling and fakery and fabulation are all options.
Even though Twitter is the social medium that fits Trump better than any of his suits, the hard truth is that even before the advent of social media, stories and fabulations and dissemblings were central to his career trajectory because the culture at large was becoming more permissive about falsehoods. However, the era of social media influencers and YouTube stars has only intensified this trend. All of these new occupations require people to tell a story and a highly-curated one at that in order to attract large online followings which can be translated into a platform and thus monetized. Many times these are not the best stories or even very good ones but if they can find a niche in a world of narrowcasting, lo and behold, they may attract followers and thus, fame and funding.
A 14-year-old girl recently told me that she makes almost daily videos for her Instagram and YouTube channel. She confessed to not knowing why people would want to watch her packing her suitcase to go on holiday or clean her room but she said, “Lots of people watch.” And I said, “That’s sad.” And she agreed. Why would people watch such banality? Is it because she is a very pretty little girl who has adopted many Kardashian affectations and puts on make-up every day even though she doesn’t need any with her flawless complexion? I really don’t know the answer to this question but she has been advised that her followers and subscriber base will only grow if she constantly feeds the beast.
The Baffler’s Liz Pelly writes “In the Era of Teen$ploitation” that “the social codes that once applied strictly to celebrities now curiously apply to us all.” So even when nothing is really happening, this young girl, like all the rest of us trying to garner some attention online, has to try and come up with a good hook, a plot and a subplot, a narrative arc, some dramatic tension, zesty dialogue, conflict and all the rest of the elements that make for a good story.
Except it’s not a story. It’s her life. So what happens when you start living your life as if you are the producer/director/scriptwriter/cinematographer of your own story which becomes a tale that you can sell for the big bucks? In other words, what happens when your life - or at least the story of your life - becomes a commodity?
The Commodity used to be what Marx calls an “External Object”
There is a good reason why Karl Marx, the most brilliant analyst of capitalism to date, began his perspicacious treatise on capitalism, Capital: Volume I, with a meditation on the commodity: “The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities’…The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind.”
Right here, however, we see a schism between what the commodity was then and what the commodity is now. Marx assumes the commodity is an “external object.” He also assumes that capitalism’s division of labor results in the laborer being alienated from the products of his own labor. Commodities too are also the result of “universal alienation.” But what happens then when the commodity is you, your self, your subjectivity, your personality, your clothes and style and commentary and crushes and conversations with your cousins, parents, siblings, and friends? Does that mean you are alienated from yourself as the product of your own labor? Are you external to yourself?
The Victorian novelist, Charles Dickens, was much admired by Marx for his vivid depiction of societal injustice, particularly that experienced by child laborers. But these children were forced into selling their labor as a commodity. They were not selling themselves as commodities.
The idea of human beings being commodities has a long and ugly history. Jamaica Kincaid, in A Small Place, wrote blisteringly about black people’s distrust of capitalism: “Do you know why people like me are shy about being capitalists? Well, it's because we, for as long as we have known you, were capital, like bales of cotton and sacks of sugar…” Slaves were commodities who were bought and sold and shipped around the world to feed the needs of the global economy. But slaves did not sell themselves.
Is it different when we sell ourselves? Marx made the point that workers were forced into selling their own labor-power and his prototypical example was a factory worker. Now, because of the 24/7 nature of the internet, the collapse between work and leisure space and work and leisure time, the erasure between private and public and so on, the factory is everywhere and never closes. Labor is not contained to a place or a time or a certain activity. These new forms of labor can become one ubiquitous, unremitting enterprise.
In an "influencer economy,” do would-be celebrities have to pursue fame by any means necessary day and night whether in the home or the hotel or the high-end corporate boardroom? Kim Kardashian’s ticket to fame and fortune was a sex tape that was anonymously leaked online. Many, however, suspect that she released it herself. Whatever way, it catapulted her into the spotlight and now her marriages, her kids, her family and her "private life" are all part of her brand. Her book, Selfish, contained a decade worth of selfies and landed up on the New York Times bestseller list. If anyone has made the individual self into an enterprise, it is Kim Kardashian who inarguably excels at branding.
Branding Reigns Supreme
We now live in an economy of jockeying brands. Countries have brands, corporations have brands, companies have brands and today, individuals have to have one too. Brand recognition, brand valuation and brand equity used to be corporate gobbeldy-gook. Now, little kids speak that language because personal branding is de rigeur in today’s frontier-fictional economy. Branding is all about the story you tell and successful branding is when that story comes to define you. But it can sometimes come to contain and even stifle you, especially for young people whose developing identities are still evolving and fragile.
Branding used to have more connotations. Slaves and criminals were branded with a branding iron. To have a brand denoted the mark of public shame or disgrace. Writing in 2004 for a now defunct magazine, American Demographics, Andrew Zolli wrote that branding was undergoing a sea change:
Today, brands are increasingly serving another function: they have become the tools with which people construct their personal and social identities…Brands have gone from being the glue that ties companies
and consumers together to being the glue that holds our very souls together. This is part of a much larger cultural and economic story. The marketplace has become the central meaning-making institution in
many people’s lives…
Zolli is not a bourgeois Marxist critic of capitalism like me but even he links the elevation of branding to neoliberal policies which began in earnest “in the early 1980s when state and federal governments started to deregulate markets and curb public sector spending.” Smaller government meant that corporations jumped in to fill the vacuum in the public sphere. What he calls the “brandscape” became “virtually inescapable.” Even as recently as 2004, companies were still the dominant force in branding but he declared that companies had a “new role – as stewards of human meaning, not just economic value.” Now, real humans have brands and many of them derive their meaning from how that brand is valued, economically and culturally, online and off.
What should we conclude then? Should we concede the point that entrepreneurial camps are a rational response to the frontier-fictional economy and are beneficial for children who will learn timely and valuable skills on how to craft their own stories for an (online) audience, build their own brands and curate their celebrity personas? And if we concede this point, should we be morally outraged?
What’s at Stake When Children Commodify Themselves?
There is an idea - a somewhat romantic ideal at the heart of all critiques of commodification – that money should not be able to buy some things, that some things must never be for sale and assigning a monetary value to something that exceeds the commodity valuation system will result in a little death. What dies is the belief that we cannot be reduced to the sum total of our net worth in crass economic terms. What dies is the hope that the market is not the totality of human experience.
Liz Pelly admirably elucidates the moral stakes of the influencer economy: “the efficiency with which the faux-empowerment, build-your-brand-by-being-you ethic has targeted teen girls is dispiriting, especially when you consider that such marketing has historically been aimed at making those same girls question their self-worth.” The flip side of all the time spent on social media, research has shown, is the increased anxiety, depression and suicide rates for teens. Pelly also quotes Melissa Campbell of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) who points out that “what you’re doing is monetizing your experiences [and] setting yourself up to be consumed, literally, through your videos and your content and your personality.” Pelly says that social media platforms and marketing companies, “By encouraging young people and teenagers to become influencers, [are] push[ing] them into a commodified space filled with negative forces that run counter to their interests.”
But in the frontier-fictional economy, do they run counter to their interests?
What are the child’s interests? Aren’t well-meaning parents attempting to give their progeny an edge by making them into entrepreneurs of the self? In this winner-take-all economy of ever-increasing income inequality, CEOs’ compensation is astronomical relative to the wages an ordinary worker makes. Thus, shouldn’t every child strive to become the CEO of his own Self-As-Story-As-Business-Enterprise?
Pelly blames platform capitalism for repackaging “exploitation and selling it as empowerment.” She issues a powerful, well-articulated denunciation of what happens when exploitation is sold as empowerment, when people - children - have internalized the logic of the market which sees their labor of the self as a commodity to be exploited and they see themselves and the sum total of all their relationships, hobbies, experiences as a commodity in waiting…With enough likes and shares, can I too become a micro-influencer, or a YouTube vlogger, or even a Reality TV sensation?
But if this is not frightening enough, there is another side effect of commodifying the self. Melissa Campbell issues a dire warning that marketing to children, or as Pelly points out, turning children into marketers – even those who market themselves as commodities - can establish “new norms where young people just expect all of their relationships to be commercialized.”
I remember a conversation I had with a twenty-something young woman who had a very popular blog on which she wrote about her intimate romantic and sexual experiences with various lovers. She told me that her last relationship had been with an aspiring artist. They had reached an explicit agreement. The visual artist would depict the blogger in her artwork and the blogger would write about their intimacy. It was a quid pro quo and she told me that neither of them had a problem with that. In fact, the implication was that I was being very old-fashioned and outdated in thinking there could possibly be anything wrong with commodifying/ commercializing an intimate relationship.
What is intimacy anyway, you old fogey! Intimacy is not something that happens in private behind closed doors. What is privacy? Intimacy is changing your profile pic to an image of you and your love. Get with it!
I didn't have the words then to express my belief that intimacy requires trust and if your vulnerabilities, insecurities and secrets are all fodder for someone's commercial enterprise, would you ever be able to trust that person and thus enjoy intimacy...
If these are the new norms, does the commodification of the self inevitably lead to commodification of other people and all one’s relationships? No more friends, just followers. No more romantic partners, just public image accessories/co-stars. No more family, just image enhancers/supporting cast members. No more hanging out, just networking.
This is not an episode of Black Mirror. This is what is happening all around us.
Do you want to live in a world like this? Should we just accept that this is a “natural” progression of late capitalism?
No, we should not. Capitalism is not natural. The market is not a natural phenomenon like waterfalls and mountain ranges. We create this economy. We are not just products of this economy but producers of it. If the frontier-fictional economy is eliciting such a soul-destroying response, then we have to transform how that economy operates. In other words, we should not be forced to adapt our morals and our principles to this economy. We need to have an economy that is founded on better principles and sound morals. We should be morally outraged that children are selling themselves online and yes, we should take responsibility because this is a reflection of what we do.
This anonymous poem was found on a leaflet left by demonstrators in Quebec City in 2001:
Capital is Enclosure
First it fenced off the land
Then it metered the water
It measured our time
It plundered our bodies and now it polices our dreams
We cannot be contained
We are not for sale
Leave capital to enclose itself
I hope this poet is right. I really want to believe that we are not for sale and that people will refuse to be contained and constrained and curbed and coerced by the crude logic of a reductive market. I hope that but I am not sure of it…
Trump’s Wall on the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
Melissa Tandiwe Myambo
When it was finally completed, the Berlin wall was almost 100 miles long. From 1961 until 1989, it stood as a potent marker of the division between East and West. When the wall was finally felled, an ideology, a worldview, the Iron Curtain and eventually the Communist bloc all came tumbling down.
9 November, 2019, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall but with the benefit of hindsight, it now seems that 1989’s tremendous optimism was misplaced. The symbolic end of the Cold War was feted in the West as the triumph of capitalism and liberal democracy but ultimately, capitalism may have been the major beneficiary. Today, democracy everywhere is under threat.
Although the World Wide Web was also born that year, seeming to signal a new era of interconnectivity and global cohesion, much blood was also shed at Tiananmen Square in Beijing where students faced off against military tanks. In Germany itself, 9 November is still an ominous date because on that day in 1938, Jewish people and their properties were attacked during Kristallnacht, a shameful prologue to the Holocaust.
Today, we are seeing a resurgence of virulent anti-Semitism, blatant Islamophobia, emboldened white supremacy and xenophobia as policy. Consequently, there are more borders and border walls being erected than ever before.
A slough of new books – Michel Foucher’s, The Return of Borders; Greg Grandin’s, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America; Tim Marshall’s Divided: Why We’re Living in an Age of Walls; Todd Miller’s Empire of Borders: How the US is Exporting Its Border around the World – present alarming facts about the precipitous increase and hardening of borders worldwide – fences, barriers, walls. A significant number of these have been constructed since 2000.
US president Donald Trump’s proposed wall on the US-Mexico border at 1,000 miles is perhaps the most infamous of these. Although Trump embraces nationalism and purports to despise “globalism” and “globalists,” he rode to electoral victory on a wave of xenophobic populism that is in fact part of a global trend.
The anti- or deglobalization backlash is in vogue worldwide - deadly xenophobic outbreaks in South Africa, the UK’s interminable Brexit debacle, Matteo Salvini in Italy and India’s attempts to repatriate “Bangladeshis” are just a few examples.
Only 3.4% of the world migrates across national borders yet xenophobic populism makes up a considerable percentage of political rhetoric. Racial, ethnic and religious discrimination is filtered through anti-migrant discourse and funneled into harsher policies towards refugees and migrants. In the name of nationalism and sovereignty, politicians put precious state resources towards more and more draconian border enforcement.
US Customs and Border Protection estimates that every mile of new or replacement barrier for Trump’s border wall costs the US taxpayer $6.5 million. Mexico never did pay for the wall as Trump promised during his campaign but large numbers of Americans are apparently willing to absorb the exorbitant cost.
That is because, like the Berlin wall, the significance of Trump’s wall exceeds its utility as a block to human mobility. Most of the unauthorized migrants in the country fly in on a plane, a form of 20th-century technology, and then overstay their visas. The efficacy of the 7th-century wall is therefore its targeting of a specific demographic.
Trump once described the proposed wall as an, “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall” hence the news that smugglers are still able to saw through it was met with psychic dismay by many right-wing pundits. The wall is, of course, so much more than its materiality. Its primary function is symbolic.
The Berlin wall marked the divide between East and West but Trump’s wall marks the divide between the global North and the global South. It is a total repudiation of cultural globalization and the diversity it engenders. It is what scholars call a hard ethno-nationalist border.
Ironically, Trump the politician may espouse anti-globalist sentiment at his rallies but Trump the businessman has spent the last thirty-plus years trying to take the Trump brand global. His children are today currently involved in business dealings in almost every continent. Like many other US businesses, the Trumps benefitted from the new markets opened up by globalization.
After the fall of the wall in 1989, triumphalist free market advocates predicted that American-led globalization would create an unfettered neoliberal world in which capital, more than labor, could move freely into a post-national, cosmopolitan, borderless future.
However, the benefits of globalization have also been simultaneously complemented by the disadvantages which the same process brought into being. Aggressive Reagan-Thatcher neoliberal policies were globalized by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund after the fall of the wall.
In the 21st-century, it is clear that the globalization of neoliberalism has destroyed and is destroying the middle class in industrialized countries. It has increased income inequality everywhere. But contrarily, it has also created a vast new middle class in developing countries which is driving global GDP growth.
The destruction of the working and middle classes in Euro-America is partly driving the anti-globalization backlash which instead of identifying neoliberal policy as the source of its woes prefers to scapegoat vulnerable migrants.
The idea that increased sovereignty, harder national borders and a secured, bounded nation protected by a wall can restore the fortunes of the middle class does not compute with reality but it does resonate emotionally for many.
The Berlin wall and Trump’s border wall invoke great emotion in both supporters and detractors. When the Berlin wall was built overnight, calls for it to be torn down reverberated through the West. The most famous of these was probably John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963.
Today, Pope Francis has publicly wondered why Trump would build a wall when the Berlin wall brought “so much suffering.” He went on to say that “those who build walls end up being prisoners of the walls they build.”
But isn’t that partly the point of this wall? To make those on the inside feel more secure and less afraid of an “invasion” of brown bodies? The Berlin wall was built to stop East Germans fleeing to West Berlin although about 5,000 people are estimated to have escaped. Trump’s wall is ostensibly about keeping people out but it is also a highly racialized symbol that is meant to protect a nostalgic notion of a white nation and a white future that is threatened by demographic and cultural change.
The Berlin wall was named for a place and Trump’s wall is named for a man who likes to brand places. When the Berlin wall fell, people celebrated because they thought a new era of freedom was in the offing.
Trump’s wall will forever be associated with detention centers where little children are separated from their parents. This is a crime against humanity and one day, if Trump’s border wall is felled, perhaps people will dance on the rubble, the way they did in Berlin in 1989.
The Troubling Nativism of the Non-Native
Melissa Tandiwe Myambo
Rally after rally, speech after speech, Donald Trump frames immigration as a “crisis” and even a “national emergency” requiring the militarization of the southern border and the caging of children ripped away from their parents. He constantly refers to “illegal immigrants” and the approaching caravan from Central America as “invaders.”
Families too poor to fly into the country are walking thousands of miles, according to the president, to breach the nation’s sovereign borders.
“They are trying to take over our country,” says the president.
Observers have often pointed out how Trump stokes the fires of populism and nativism to his political advantage. “Build the wall,” is still a popular chant at his incessant rallies. Some commentators do emphasize the irony of a billionaire populist but few note the bitter and pathetic irony at the heart of American nativism.
Most Americans are not native in the full sense of the word native.
Native can mean being born in a land - the US constitution’s 14th amendment ensures birthright citizenship - but it also means being indigenous to the land, being one of the land’s original inhabitants. Nativism is a growing trend in Western countries but how is the US brand of nativism even possible when you consider how oxymoronic and inherently contradictory it actually is?
Can you be a nativist when you are not a native?
The answer to that question is yes but only because of a convenient if powerful historical amnesia. About 2% of the US population is Native American and the rest are descended from slaves and immigrants, some whose forebears came more recently than others. It is these descendants of peoples from other continents who now lay nativist claim to the US but American nativism is only made possible by the complete and utter erasure of Native American indigenousness from the national consciousness and indeed the national conscience.
TO READ FULL ESSAY, CLICK HERE
FROM THE HERALD NEWSPAPER,
Image: Justin Izzo
Zimbabwe: A coup by any other name
Melissa Tandiwe Myambo
Friday 1 December
Zimbabweans are waking up today wondering if they are having a bad dream from which they cannot free themselves. The Croc's cabinet rewards those who helped him wrest power from Comrade Bobs: the army, the airforce and the War Vets. It also has many people from his own ethnic group and where are the opposition members we wanted to see included?
This is what he has done, this is what he could have done and this is a message circulating this morning: "We expected too much from someone who was with Bob and Zanu for the past 60 years. Ndoshamwari dzake dzakamira naye. This is pathetic. Let's register and vote. Asante sana. Iwe neni tine basa." These last two sentences mockingly echo Bobs' infamous non-resignation speech of...was it ten years ago? Let me scroll down to find out. Mugabe gave that speech on 19 November, a mere 11 days ago, feels so much longer. For some reason he thanked the nation in Swahili, asante sana, and then said in Shona, you and me still have work to do, as in we have unfinished business...
Well, as you see, Zimbabwe has unfinished business. If there are free and fair elections next year and a genuine free press, the people of Zimbabwe will finish with Zanu-PF and vote the Croc and his cabinet out! Please note, IF...The coup represented change but not necessarily progress. This cabinet, however, is barely even change and certainly not forward progress...
The Croc has been talking the talk but now, we see that he is not walking the walk. Crocodiles don't really walk much. They spend most of their time wallowing in the mud...That's what we're seeing today. Same old mud...The people of Zimbabwe were willing to march in solidarity with the military to remove Mugabe. Will they be willing to march against the army to protest Mnangagwa IF Zanu-PF tries to steal next year's election? Because they cannot win fair and square with this cabinet...
Thursday 30 November
ZBC is reporting that the Croc has announced his cabinet. This cabinet is so unserious and uninspiring and unchanged from Mugabe days (except for more MaKaranga) that really, if this is not fake news, we have to ask, WHAT WAS THE POINT OF A COUP? I feel that every day we come back to this very same theme: do these guys comprehend the concept of a coup? Scroll down. A coup is supposed to represent CHANGE. So the plan is this: we're going to bed. When we wake up, this better turn out to be fake news because who would actually put Supa Mandiwanzirah in their cabinet??
Wednesday 29 November
On this rainy, unseasonably chilly evening, I meet a woman from Tsholotsho in Matabeleland. She is not very old but old enough to remember seeing her father shot dead in 1985 by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade during the abominable Gukurahundi massacres overseen by one Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. Her father had been accused of feeding “dissidents” antagonistic to Zanu-PF and thus he was murdered in front of all his wives and dozens of children. His family was told that if anyone cried upon seeing him fall down dead, they too would be shot right there and then.
These stories are all too common for Zimbabweans who grew up in rural Matabeleland. Yet, so many of them, despite their PTSD, want nothing more than to give Mnangagwa a chance to redeem himself. They are desperate to forgive and forget in the hopes of a better tomorrow. This is also why there are so many messages lighting up social media which represent the wishful thinking category of news I cannot confirm is true but which many people hope represents rumours based in reality:
-One tale is that Zanu-PF government workers will be required to submit CVs to find a position in the new administration’s leaner, meaner operation. I am fairly positive many of them do not even know what a CV is since Zanu-PF is such a rotten political party, operating for years through patronage and rewarding only a willingness to condone corruption and blind loyalty to Mugabe, that a CV submission if true would represent a massive change in the ruling party's modus operandi.
-A picture of a car stopped at a robot (traffic light) is circulating with the claim that Mnangagwa is a “humble president” who is shunning Mugabe’s obnoxious motorcade which used to roar through the streets bringing all traffic to a halt as his entourage consisting of dozens of security vehicles raced by at dangerously-high speeds, woe unto any creature that failed to scramble out of the way.
-There are some documents circulating that purport to be the new leaner, meaner civil service with cabinet cut down to twelve people.
None of these are verified but even if they eventually qualify as fake news, their very existence shows how eager Zimbabweans are for a new efficient, competent, capable, honest leader on a genuine anti-corruption crusade…
It is true, however, that the Croc is adopting the communications platforms of the modern presidency. He is on both Facebook and Twitter (hopefully he won’t be "twitting" corrosive nonsense like cringe-worthy, fact-allergic, mentally-unhinged, emotionally-stunted, hate-mongering, thoroughly racist, sexual predator Donald Trump. American people, take heart! If Mugabe can be removed, Trump can most certainly be impeached. Have you signed the pro-impeachment petition?).
The Croc tweeted something very important today: “I’m calling for those Zimbabweans in diaspora to participate in rebuilding our Zimbabwe nation which shall include diaspora voting and dual citizenship.” Technically, Zim already allows dual citizenship as in it passed in Parliament a few years ago. But in practice it is yet to be realized. The people at “kumapassports,” which is the building next to “kumabirths,” have no idea how it works. Kumapassports and kumabirths, by the way, if you are lucky enough to have never visited either of these hellholes, are the most horrible, venal, Kafkaesque, byzantine, bureaucratic morasses of infinite madness-making machinations you will ever encounter. I personally think corrupt Zanu-PF politicians should be banished to these two government buildings for the rest of their lives so they can experience the nightmarish quagmire which ordinary citizens confront daily as they try and obtain documents we all need – birth certificates, national IDs, passports…
…But diaspora voting would be a game-changer. Some people estimate that as much as a third of the population is outside of the country and most of these were considered hostile to the Mugabe/Zanu-PF regime as their base has always been peasants in the rural areas, especially those in Zezuru and Karanga-speaking regions…So, that would be a risky move for Mnangagwa to allow real, unrigged diaspora voting…but that promise might just encourage more diaspora investment in the country which is broke even though former Minister of Finance, Ignatius Chombo, was found with US$14 million in cash in his ceiling...or as some other versions of this possibly apocryphal tale have it, US$9 million stuffed into a suitcase...
…Meanwhile, we are still waiting for the cabinet picks but some good, if ironic, news. Pastor Evan Mawarire of the #ThisFlag movement was acquitted in court today of the charge that he had tried to overthrow Mugabe. This article reports that, “Declaring him innocent, Judge Priscilla Chigumba told Harare’s high court on Wednesday that ‘there is no evidence that he urged a violent removal of government’.” Yeah…that’s because the War Vets were busy plotting to remove the Mugabe government themselves so the high court can hardly convict Pastor Mawarire on these charges when the new President has just been sworn into office in this coup they keep denying is a coup…but a coup by any other name is still a coup…
Tuesday 28 November
I am still drowning in a flood of fake and real news on a daily, and sometimes even hourly, basis. Anxiety, fear, trepidation, adrenaline are still running high for Zimbabweans and thus the incessant, fervent sharing of photos, videos, audio files, pithy Whatsapp declarations and cryptic “twits.” If you would like to be scandalized by the grotesque antics of Zim’s super-rich elite on Instagram, check out this British tabloid article, which features all their conspicuous consumption and shallow, Kardashian-esque lifestyles.
In the last 48 hours, pictures have circulated of the Croc with a rather gormless-looking white guy (sorry to go all ad hominem but just being honest). Noone knew who he was at first but he was shown posing with various stakeholders: shaking hands with the Croc, smiling with Mai Mujuru, and making nice with Morgan Tsvangirai (who really needs a good nickname if he’s gonna be a recurring character in the Blue Roof Mansion TV series which so needs to get made). These photos immediately sparked speculation that the UK was already in the process of lifting sanctions. The gormless white guy turned out to be Rory Stewart, the British Minister for Africa, who was the first foreign visitor to officially come a calling. Sanctions have not yet been lifted but wiser observers have noted that China is already well-ensconced in Zim so now that conflicted Anglophile/Anglophobe Mugabe - who both loved and admired Britain but also hated himself for loving and admiring it so much since it is Zimbabwe’s former colonizer – is out of the way, the UK wants to get back in the door. And thus Rory is the first courtesy call paid to the new administration…
Although the Croc has not yet announced his cabinet, he has taken several other steps to combat graft and portray a new, economically-efficient state, at least according to the multiple photos of his pronouncements which I received on Whatsapp. Firstly, he is encouraging the parents of those super-rich spoilt brat social media sensations to repatriate the monies stolen from Zim. There will be a “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” three-month amnesty accorded to these corrupt tsotsis if stolen funds are returned no later than 28 February, 2018. Now, I won’t spoil the party by asking if the Croc is going to bring back any funds he may have stashed outside the country in case one day the former First Lady, “Dr.” Disgrace, should, I dunno, maybe try and poison him with tainted ice cream? Okay, if you missed that episode of the Blue Roof Mansion TV series, which is truly stranger-than-fiction truth, just scroll down.
Secondly, ED has circulated a memo stating that he is going to slash the government bureaucracy into a lean, mean machine…This will be music to the ears of the IMF, World Bank and all those other multilateral institutions with their neoliberal agendas…Thirdly, he did not attend Kenyatta’s inauguration today citing an onerous schedule and budget constraints. Undemocratically “elected” African leaders normally support each other (even when their country is bankrupt) by celebrating each other’s ascension to power through very “treacherous shenanigans”…so that was a bit of a curveball…
These budget-conscious moves above make me wonder if we’re moving towards a Singapore-style state in which political freedom is traded for positive economic growth? Certainly, Mnangagwa is getting his capitalism on big-time right now…but will freedom of the press and freedom of speech be part of this new dispensation…I think it’s important to remind all Zim stakeholders right now that what has taken place in Zim in the last two weeks is certainly a coup but I no longer think of it as a military coup. It was a coup conducted with the explicit and implicit support of the liberation war veterans, some of whom were in the military (e.g. General Constantino Chiwenga, Major-General Sibusiso Moyo) and some of whom occupy different sectors…As stated somewhere below, the war veterans have often reiterated that they fought for democracy and all freedoms associated with a democratic state…Don’t forget this, please!!
To round up tonight’s thought download (and I would like to thank my friends and family for finding me the very best stuff out there), I will leave you with this article which I so wish I was clever enough to have written: "On Grace Mugabe: Coups, phalluses, and what is being defended."
Will Zim see the formation of a new cabinet tomorrow?
Monday 27 November
Did I imagine this or did Mnangagwa say during his swearing-in speech that he was going to "hit the ground running"? I've noticed that these Team Lacoste members do not seem to possess the commonly-accepted definitions of some words/phrases e.g. a coup is supposed to be fast and is what happened in Zim even though they keep on saying it didn't.
Well, just as the coup unfolded in slow motion, ED's "running" seems to be an unhurried, meandering walk...Hence, while wild rumours and fake lists flood social media, he has dissolved Mugabe's cabinet and appointed two acting ministers but we're still waiting for him to name his cabinet...Will he include someone like Tendai Biti to shake things up and assure us we're on a different path? Or will he just reshuffle the same old crooked Zanu-PFers? While the rest of the world is obsessed with jejune royal nuptials and beauty pageants, I suggest you read this thrilling recap of what General Chiwenga called "treacherous shenaningans" (as far as he could pronounce shenanigans...:)
Saturday 25 November
12:03 - Which reminds me...Dear Pseduo Pan-Africanists. For the last twenty years, you have aided and abetted Comrade Bobs in his self-absolving theorem that all Zimbabwe's woes were the fault of the Anglo-American imperialists and had nothing to do with his venality, greed, selfishness or incompetence. You stuck to his side like a leech because his unconstitutional, unethical, immoral, violent, deadly land grab was sanctioned by you because you perpetrated the myth that he was righting the wrongs of the past, and returning land stolen by the colonials back to its rightful owners, the children of the soil.
Now, I will say for the record here again that I believe in just land reform. Real land reform executed without violence or partisanship or corruption. Mugabe did NOT do this. He took land from white farmers who supported the opposition MDC (and not from white farmers who gave money to Zanu-PF). Then he used that land to curry political favour and leverage by serially dishing it out and taking it away from various stakeholders. In the process, he destroyed the economy whose backbone is agriculture and ruined countless lives, not just of the dispossessed white farmers but of the thousands of black farm workers who were, by the way, a key constitutuent of the trade union organization, ZCTU, which was led by, guess who, Morgan Tsvangirai, former leader of the ZCTU (Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions), now head of the opposition party, MDC-T. Mugabe's post-2000 cynical land grab was always an attempt to undermine fellow Africans in the MDC.
Of course, Euro-America does try to interfere in African politics. But you have no more credibility to make this case because you refuse to recognise that this interference cannot excuse African leaders from their accountability for their own sins. I assume your heartfelt apology is in the post...
11:50 - This future is so unclear that conspiracy theories continue to circulate on various platforms. I received yet another Whatsapp message telling me not to eat products produced at Mugabe-owned Gushungo Dairy because they are "tainted with a deadly substance." This all stems from the hypothesis that The Croc was almost assassinated by the Mugabes with poisoned ice cream. Other fake news fictions taking wing involve the imminent deportation or permit revocation for Zimbabweans working in Botswana, Zambia, South Africa etc. Not true but spreading like wildfire and sowing fear and anxiety nevertheless...
11:21 - I've found myself in the last days thinking of Pepetela's brilliant novel, Mayombe. Its hero, Commander Sem Medo (Fearless), was a true Angolan nationalist but even as he was fighting for the liberation of his country from the colonizer, Portugal, he could never see himself in the future, liberated, postcolonial Angola. He considered himself a guerrilla fighter, not a builder or a state bureaucrat, and he was happy to confine his role to the duration of the liberation struggle...
This fictional character is so poignant to me...When will the liberation parties which fought for southern African independence from white minority rule and colonialism relinquish their grip over the national trajectory and the armed forces which are so determinative of it? We thank the liberation war heroes who brought us independence but are they now holding back our future?
10:50 - “Like a compass needle that points north, a man's accusing finger always finds a woman.”
― Khaled Hosseini
Feminist scholars will write about this one day. How Grace, as horrible as she is, has been made to bear the full weight of all her husband's myriad sins. Just as all women who try to climb to the highest rungs of power are made to do. Hillary Clinton is still paying for her own and Bill's sins. Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini-Zuma, beware! South African president, uJacob Zuma, intends to pass the presidential baton to his ex-wife in the near future.
It's not that we should not hold these women responsible for their mistakes and their complicity in their husbands' wrongdoings. I am merely saying we should not hold them more responsible than their husbands and in Zimbabwe now, this Empty-headed Gal - Evil Genius Grace narrative is being used to exonerate Mugabe. NO WAYS! Mugabe is a murderer, not just of the Zim economy but also thousands upon thousands of people.
At yesterday's inauguration speech, I was not surprised to see several women lambasting Grace whom I really do prefer to call Disgrace. But she is not as disgraceful as Bobs himself. Some commentators have made the point that if Grace were a war veteran, Zanu-PF would not have been so offended by her power grab. Yes, I agree. But...when Grace successfully chased genuine war vet, Mai Joice Mujuru, out of the party, we didn't see General Chiwenga bringing his troops out of the barracks as he did when Mnangagwa was removed...I hear the ZDF have returned to their barracks now that The Croc has been sworn in. How long will they stay there? What might entice them out again? If Mnangagwa's wife, Auxilia (a very suitable name), decides she wants to be more than a mere auxiliary to her husband, what will happen?
10:23 - Can you imagine, this whole process of removing Bobs and installing The Croc began 11 days ago. It was a coup but wow, Team Lacoste has shrewdly utilized every tool of the state to sanitize this whole process. They have even had the courts declare the army's actions constitutional on the basis that Grace and her G40 gang had undue influence over poor, innocent, elderly Mugabe and had usurped his executive functions. On one hand, we have to acknowledge the skill and cunning it took to outfox Bobs. If he wasn't so elderly, he would have realised that he should have taken out General Chiwenga before removing Mnangagwa. But on the other hand, this blame it all on Grace narrative is such a convenient narrative...
Misogyny has been rife in the characterization of Grace Mugabe's role in the downfall of Zimbabwe. She has been painted both as an "empty-headed gal" (said Comrade Chris Mutsvangwa of War Vets) and the Evil Genius Pupeteer pulling Mugabe's strings. She is the former "typist" (said with a condescending sneer) who used to be Mugabe's secretary before she landed the country's most eligible sugardaddy. But she is also the mastermind who almost stole Zanu-PF and thus the Zimbabwean state apparatus from the powerful war veterans. How can she be both?
Well, that's how misogyny works...
08:18 - The Herald declares that this is, "the end of a long soap opera." Is it? Or is it just a new episode with characters who were previously members of the supporting cast suddenly elevated to being the main characters? And even as Team Lacoste assume the role of protagonist, will any of them emerge as heroes?
07:47 - Will the Crocodile announce his cabinet today since he declared in his inauguration speech yesterday that he has to hit the ground running? It had been reported that he would name his cabinet during the speech but that didn't happen so when will it and will it be inclusive?
Friday 24 November
14:14 - More later on misogyny and Disgrace, the apology owed by the pseudo Pan-Africanists, and whither Zim...but first we have to go for a walk...
13:51 - Since yesterday, rumours flying around about potential cabinet appointments. If this inauguration speech was talk, that will be action, ED's first action as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Different voices and viewpoints are being raised as multiple stakeholders try to shape this fluid period of transition. Check out this Open Letter to the Croc from the Zimbabwe Truth Reconciliation and Restoration Initiative.
13:48 - The stakes of this Zim reset could not be higher. I have heard so many heartbreaking stories in the last 72 hours about exploited, undocumented Zimbabwean workers in South Africa who now feel that they have more leverage over their evil bosses who sometimes pay them half of what promised or nothing at all after they complete their work because the evil boss merely threatens to call the immigration officials. They have been getting away with murder so to speak but if Zim becomes a viable country again, these workers feel that they won't be forced into working for these types in the first place because returning home becomes a real option...
13:37 - I am still gathering my thoughts and canvassing opinions but the bankers here are loving it! I rarely concur with bankers...
13:31 - "The voice of the people is the voice of God"...
13:30 - Supports the Palestinians. Blast from the past liberation party position but still necessary.
13:28 - Wants to reengage with the world and nations that Zim has been fighting with (ergo UK and US)..."In this global world, no nation can be an island"..."All foreign investments will be safe in Zimbabwe"...China, are you listening?
13:21 - ED is talking about the banking system. This speech is aimed at Big Business and multilateral institutions like the IMF so they feel that Zim will provide a "friendly business environment."
13:17 - Jobs, jobs, job creation. Investment, Foreign Direct Investment, economy, economy, economy, investment. Problems of liquidity must be tackled urgently.
13:11 - Promises elections will happen in 2018! Fab. But will Zanu-PF promise not to rig the ballot box and launch a campaign of violence against the opposition?
13:07 - Land reform will continue...but land will be used "optimally." This wll be a break from Zanu-PF cronies using rich, fertile agricultural land which they "repossessed" from white farmers to have braiis on the weekend. He says he will also compensate dispossessed white farmers...That's a game-changer, we will have to discuss more anon...
13:03 - We shouldn't be "hostages of the past." Let "bygones be bygones."
13:01 - Mugabe is still his father and a founding father of the nation...
12:58 - Recognizes non-Zanu-PF Zimbabweans...finally!
12:55 - The Croc takes the podium. Better late than never. Busy acknowledging every dignitary and his dog. Zimbabweans love this pompous protocol. Hearing the same old names from my childhood...
12:43 - What time will ED speak? This swearing in ceremony is taking as long as the coup...
12:27 - Good coverage on Aljazeera for international audience. I will try and find a good article on this to post later but very important that Mnangagwa is Karanga. Mugabe is Zezuru. They are both Shona but from different regions. This is significant in the Zim political landscape...
12:02 - ZRP Police Comissioner Augustine Chihuri is booed by the crowds and some "twits" say they are chanting, Chihuri must go! Absolutely, good riddance to bad rubbish. He is so corrupt and partisan, he should step down...I am going to call Bob Mueller to come to Zim and launch a Special Counsel into all Zanu-PF criminals...As soon as he is done investigating Trump's collusion with Russia...
11:53 - All this pomp and ceremony is time consuming. But all eardrums on alert as we wait for the Crocodile's speech...It is paramount that he speak the language of democracy with absolute flluency. Munogona Democracy here, Comrade Croc?
11:42 - ED is taking the oath to uphold the constitution...umhum, the proof will be in the pudding...
11:38 - Chief Justice begins the Croc's swearing in...
11:33 - Eish. These people are really running with delays. Let's talk about how the ANC should apologise for sanctioning Zanu-PF's stealing of the election. Imagine if the ANC and SADC had declared the stolen election of 2008 illegitimate? They could have saved Zimbabwe from an extra nine years of Mugabe. Instead, they have sanctioned this oppressive dictatorship. I saw an ANC spokesperson making the most illogical statement. In response to a question about the coup, he said that Zanu-PF is the sister liberation party of ANC and that he was "suspicious" about what was happening in Zimbabwe because "everyone was happy." Yeah, dude. When everyone is happy that Mugabe is gone, it should illustrate to you how misguided your infinite, unethical support of Bobs has been!
11:12 - I have not read The Herald in years as really just blatant Zanu-PF propaganda so I cannot say if it was until last week reflecting the G40, Grace's faction, viewpoint. But it certainly is 110% behind the Crocodile's cabal, Team Lacoste, now. Look at this story, "G40 cabal was on a self-enriching crusade." And Team Lacoste was not? Please! ALL of Zanu-PF has been shamefully ransacking the country for decades, treating it like their own personal ATM. So is the Crocodile's intention, backed by the force of Chiwenga's army, to blame all financial crimes and misdeeds on G40 with no acknowledgement of their own collusion, complicity, cooperation, coordination in enriching themselves?
11:02 - Now, Mugabe is not coming. As always with Bobs, seeing is believing so I am not surprised. Probably he was never due to come. But what a pity because he has deprived us all of some well-deserved schadenfreude. If he loved Zimbabwe, he would have come because it would give us all more closure...okay, and also schadenfreude. I admit it, I totally admit it.
10:56 - Mugabe's agemate, former president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, arrives...He had been sent last week by Zambia's current president to try and convince stubborn Bobs to resign...
10:50 - Crowds in the National Sports Stadium being entertained by singer of the moment, Jah Prayzah, with his aptly-entitled hit, Kutonga Kwaro, anthem of the coup.
10:46 - Mnangagwa is now seated. He is no spring chicken at 75 but still 18 years younger than Bobs. When the Blue Roof Mansion series is cast everyone will be 30 years younger and way more attractive.
Delays because some other heads of state are still arriving...African time?
10:33 - Ugghhh. Seeing more reports on violence. Zimbabweans have been ever so smug about this so-called "bloodless" coup, lording it over Kenyans with the cry that a Zim coup is more peaceful than a Kenyan election...Kenyans, let me assure you that Zim elections have been marred by murder, abduction, rape, torture...and now reports surfacing that former Minister of Finance, Ignatius Chombo, is in hospital after being tortured in military detention...Already signs that Chiwenga and Mnangagwa are determined to keep on drawing from the Zanu-PF playbook...
10:27 - Peeps are "twitting" that Morgan Tsvangirai has arrived...
10:08 - Some sources reporting Comrade Bobs will be in attendance! Ko "Dr." Disgrace?
09:47 - Oh goodness. Worrying reports of violence that we absolutely cannot support. ZDF may be targetting families of deposed Saviour Kasukuwere and former Minister of Disinformation and until last week, current Minister of Miseducation, Jonathan Moyo. I will try to confirm but such extra-legal, vindictive actions would be despicable and unacceptable.
09:30 - A very clever somebody has asked me if Mugabe will be present as Mnangagwa takes the oath. How would I know? In my whole life I have never seen the swearing in of a new president. But if ZDF wants to continue the charade that this is not a coup, shouldn't Mugabe and Disgrace be there for the handover? Now that would be entertainment! We all want to see Comrade Bob now that he has joined the ranks of the unemployed. And according to various sources, the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is 95% so he will have plenty of company. Congrats, Gushungo, this is your legacy, university grads selling bananas at the side of a potholed road. Shame!
09:00 - Settle in, settle down. Did you bring the mangoes and the watermelon? You are probably drinking. That's fine. Let's get down to business. First dignitary to arrive is supposed to be the Mayor of Harare in the next minutes. Rumours abound that the main opposition party, MDC-T, has not been invited. Other sources say that MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, did receive an invite late last night...Our eyes are peeled. Zanu-PF must provide us with a symbolic spectacle that signals a new era of openness to the opposition and to alternative viewpoints...
Thursday 23 November
WATCH: ‘Mnangagwa, the military and Mugabe are cut from the same cloth.’ Please watch and listen closely to these brave activists! They're reminding us of where we have come from. I just had a...vigorous discussion with a lovely Ndebele-speaking Zimbabwean who lived through the atrocities of Gukurahundi at the hands of the infamous North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade. He said we must forgive Mnangagwa and give him a chance to make positive change in Zimbabwe. I said, please don't give these guys a long leash. They must immediately prove that they are trying to reform and are now trustworthy and will deliver the democratic freedoms that the war vets fought for. I remember once hearing Comrade Wilfred Mhanda, genuine war veteran, say that Mugabe had cynically reduced the Chimurenga to a struggle for land. Cde Mhanda was clear that they fought for the land AND democracy - freedom of speech, freedom of association etc.
Now, if you want to follow the nyayas regarding Zanu-PF's continuing intrafacational battles, nowhere better to look than the Herald. General Chiwenga is suing former Minister of Disinformation and possibly the second most unpopular man in Zimbabwe after Mugabe, Professor Jonathan Moyo, an obnoxious member of the G40 cabal who loved to trashtalk on Twitter and was an ardent supporter of Disgrace.
I have to travel today so let's get some mangoes and reconnect tomorrow to watch the swearing in of the Croc as Zim's new president. At that point we will talk about why the ANC/SADC/AU owe Zimbabweans a massive, heartfelt apology and why those misguided, pseudo Pan-Africanists who claimed for so long that Mugabe's unpopularity was a fiction sponsored by the Anglo-American imperialists should be on their knees begging for forgiveness...
Wednesday 22 November
22:22 – THANK YOU/SIYABONGA/TINOTENDA!
Flip to any news channel and you might see what I’ve just seen for the fourth time today. An enthusiastic TV journalist trying to interview an “ordinary” Zimbabwean about his or her opinion about the incoming president and the “new” era. So many of them, both in Zimbabwe and even those in the diaspora in South Africa, are AFRAID to share their opinion. They fear reprisals for them and their families for simply voicing their viewpoint and they’re right to do so.
Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party along with the ZRP (police), CIO (secret police) and the ZDF (army) have inculcated such fear because the people have seen the consequences of speaking up and speaking out, of attending an opposition party rally, of daring to support anyone other than Zanu-PF. The consequences for any of these ranges from arbitrary detention, torture, assault, imprisonment, being “disappeared,” or even murder.
Earlier this month, a young, white American woman was arrested for allegedly sending a tweet saying, “We are being led by a sick and selfish man.” Because she is a white foreigner, there has been a huge social media campaign, #FreeMartha, to release her. Her arrest was thanks to the newly-formed Ministry of Cybersecurity which polices social media. This innocuous tweet which she claims she didn’t even send was seen by the tyrannical Zanu-PF government as an attempt to overthrow Mugabe!! Will ED be putting an end to this democracy-destroying Cybersecurity ministry considering that freedom of expression is a fundamental tenet of democracy? Now that Zanu-PF itself has hypocritically reversed its decades-long support of Mugabe and have said far worse things about our long-serving despot, in public and in parliament for the first time, shouldn’t such ridiculous charges be dropped? Shouldn’t the laws be rewritten to enshrine all democratic freedoms?
So all of this is to set up for my biggest thank you of all. I want to thank the unnamed protester, the demonstrator, the activist, the vendor, the NGO worker, the teacher, the student, the lawyer, the ordinary citizen who has shown such bravery all these years in confronting this venal, vengeful regime at great personal risk of losing life, limb and livelihood. THANK YOU! You are so valiant, brave and courageous!
19:47 - Meet Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa aka ED aka Ngwena/The Crocodile. He is the man who will be sworn in as Zimbabwe's new president on Friday. He just arrived back in Harare after hiding out in South Africa since he was unceremoniously fired by Mugabe on 6 November, afraid for his life because he believes that Zanu-PF loyalists of the G40 cabal recently tried to kill him and who knows better than the Croc how violent Zanu-PF's tactics can be?
Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, leader of the now victorious Team Lacoste cabal within Zanu-PF.
Claim to fame: 1) Overseeing the massacre of tens of thousands of Zimbabweans in Matabeleland province in the 1980s which is known as Gukurahundi.
2) Unleashing a wave of deadly force to steal the 2008 election when opposition party, MDC, beat the Croc's boss, one Robert Gabriel Mugabe, at the polls.
Yet today, ED is speaking the language of democracy, "Today, we are witnessing the beginning of a new, unfolding democracy" and pledges to be a servant of the people...But two reasons to doubt the sincerity of these statements: He has addressed the excited crowds at Zanu-PF Headquarters and he finished his speech with "pamberi neZanu" (forward with Zanu). If he is a sudden convert to democracy and wants to serve ALL the people of the country, not just Zanu-PF supporters, why didn't he pick a neutral location and end with pamberi neZimbabwe?
13:17 - AMHLOPE MAKOROKOTO CONGRATS MOZEL TOV, ZIMBABWE!
If you should see any Zimbabwean today, tomorrow, or for the next 18.5 years, please effusively congratulate him/her! S/he should politely respond, "Tese!" (Together). Zimbabweans are a very communal people so good things should be enjoyed together.
But later today, we have to discuss how this is not progress, but change. Change is a beginning but not an end. Zimbabweans must celebrate this change but recommit right now to fight for progress! That progress has been stymied for years by Zanu-PF/Mugabe apologists who have justified their/his despotic rule with specious logic and ideologies. As David Coltart, MDC activist and human rights lawyer, said, this is the end of a tyrant but not the end of tyranny.
Now, if you have not congratulated me yet on this historic toppling, please do so. And later on we will discuss necessary thank you's, apologies owed and crocodile tears...iwewe neni, tine basa rakawandisa!
Tuesday 21 November
17:52 - Getting messages, now confirmed. MUGABE HAS RESIGNED! When I stop crying, I'll write more.
17:51 - Opposition MDC MP tells Zanu-PF he has been trying to impeach Mugabe for years but Zanu-PF only woke up last week, "including you, Mr. Speaker." LOL!
17:45 - Itai Dzamara, the "disappeared" activist, is mentioned! Zimbabweans love the English language. They are quoting Shakespeare...
17:41 - They have also brought up the shameful episode when Disgrace assaulted her sons' friend in Jo'burg, a young girl whom she found talking with her sons. Disgrace allegedly beat up the girl with an electric power strip and the girl subsequently filed a case with the police. I have inserted the word "allegedly" but actually all Zimbabweans believe it happened...
Remember that TV series we were discussing yesterday, Blue Roof Mansion? Well, as you can see, we have PLENTY of material!
17:35 - In sum, it's all the fault of Disgrace (scroll down for what I have written about misogyny below). Mugabe family is also being accused of "harbouring criminals" - Saviour Kasukuwere and Jonathan Moyo, who were last week this time, Honourable Ministers of Parliament and members of the cabinet!!!
This hypocritical aboutface is giving me whiplash. Zanu-PF is not even shy...Now, they are saying Mugabe is too old to be president...As if he wasn't 93 last week. Hypocrisy is so ugly, no matter if the ends justify the means...
17:30 - Facebook is live streaming parliamentary impeachment proceedings! Click here: Open Parly ZW
17:07 - General Solomon Mujuru's ghost is still haunting various messaging platforms. In addition to an excited audio message claiming he is still alive and was not killed as previously thought in 2011, now, there is a text message circulating claiming that the "Commander has vowed to join the masses on Wednesday 22 November, 2017, in the Grand National Shutdown." (I can't help but correct grammatical errors when I quote these messages, just FYI).
Now, I don't know if this Grand National Shutdown is still going to take place. Maybe it depends on what happens right now with the MPs at the Sheraton. But ancestral spirits coming back to help the people is a Zimbabwean tradition. I don't have time to write about that now but Mbuya Nehanda who was responsible for the first Chimurenga in the 1890s against the colonials was actually an ancestral spirit who manifested in the body of a svikiro (medium). When the colonials hanged her in 1898, they did not vanquish the spirit of Nehanda who still makes appearances in Zim now and then through different mediums...
16:47 - Jay-Z aka JZ aka Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, will fly to Zim tomorrow along with his Angolan counterpart. They also can't understand this coup/non-coup and so they have to go and see for themselves. Meanwhile, the president of Botswana has written Mugabe an open letter telling him to resign!
WOZA IMPEACHMENT! The party continues outside Parliament in Africa Unity Square but the MPs had to decamp to the Harare International Conference Centre at the Sheraton because they needed more room. Both houses or whatever you call them are meeting NOW and they can't all fit in the Parliament building.
US Democratic Party, are you watching? A week ago, if you had told me that Mugabe would be impeached before Trump, I would have laughed and made an appointment for you with a shrink to treat your delusions. This has been the longest week of my life. US Democratic Party, let's see how fast Zim Parliament can move. Please take notes.
14:21 - WOZA IMPEACHMENT! Thousands in Africa Unity Square telling opposite-facing Parliament that Mugabe must go! Other protesters outside Mugabe's Blue Roof Mansion insisting they will stay there until he's gone. Comrade Chris Mutsvangwa of war veterans fame says SADC should tell Mugabe his time is up. Mixed reporting on the cabinet meeting: some say a few ministers did go, others say they all snubbed it. But never mind all that, WOZA IMPEACHMENT! Parliament, get your impeachment ON! The MPs are inside now and they say they have the votes to trigger the process...let's cross our fingers, pray, or have some wine, whatever you need to make it through these anxious times...
11:38 - You better put on your dopest gear and make your way to Africa Unity Square! There's a #ImpeachmentParty under way, just opposite Parliament. There are several groups heading there, some to pray, others to party, but all to encourage MPs to vote to begin impeachment proceedings. Africa Unity Square is not that big so if you're in Harare, best to head there now to stake out your spot! Send pics.
09:47 - Best live updates I can find are here.
So...yesterday, ZDF said the students must remain "calm." Today, UZ students say they plan to march to Statehouse and have three central demands, "Grace Mugabe's PhD must be revoked, Robert Mugabe must step down as University Chancellor, and he must step down as the president of the country."
How will the ZDF react to a demonstration they have not sanctioned? Further complicating this seemingly-infinite imbroglio is that in Mnangagwa's statement, he is, for once, speaking the language of democracy and says protests must be respected?! Is this really the wicked Crocodile of the Gukurahundi genocide? Or is the Crocodile just dressing up as a giraffe with a long neck who can see something we can't?
I really do not know. Please God, NO VIOLENCE! Parliamentary vote to proceed with impeachment process to happen at lunchtime...
9:11 - The reason why I was left wondering about the status of this so-called coup after reading the ZDF press statement was because it referred to talks between the Croc Mnangagwa and Mugabe. If Mugabe is being impeached, what do they have to talk about? Talks seemed to indicate an ongoing negotiation in which Mugabe still wields some leverage and might remain as head of state. But if he is to be impeached, that does not make sense. As I have kindly explained to ZDF, time and time again, they seem to have great trouble with the definition of coup. It is supposed to be quick and must end in the removal of the leader.
But this morning, there is a statement circulating on social media, greatest source of fake and real news. It is purportedly from the Croc and says Mugabe must go and he will not return to Zimbabwe until it is safe for him to do so. I cannot guarantee the veracity of this document but it is currently being circulated as genuine..
09:00 - eNCA is reporting that two thousand people have gathered at Mugabe's Blue Roof Mansion. Zanu-PF has instructed cabinet ministers not to attend the cabinet meeting. Parliament is due to begin impeachment proceedings now so that the charade that this is not a coup can be continued by creating a constitutional path to removing Mugabe and helping Zimbabwe out of this imbroglio.
8:18 - Good morning! I suggest you fix yourself a cup of tea with lemon and honey because it's going to be a very long day. If you are lucky enough to take alcohol, might as well just start drinking from now.
So many things to discuss. Firstly, Mugabe called a cabinet meeting yesterday. They are due to meet at 09:00. Will it happen? And if it does, will it be explained as yet another smoke-producing event to obscure the machinations of a coup so that SADC, who are also meeting in Angola today, do not decide they should intervene? If it is a coup, they will oppose the new dispensation because it came to power by force. Hence the charade that it is not a coup must continue for their benefit. SADC has never once intervened on behalf of the people of Zimbabwe but is quick to protect the rights of its leaders to continue to oppress the country's citizens.
So SADC, don't mind us, just carry on with your own lives. Did you read this petition that Zimbabweans sent you that advised you to, "please drink your tea and biscuits and watch [events unfolding on Zimbabwe] on your TV's the same way you did for 37 years. There is no need at this time for you to do anything but business as usual. We speak for many people when we say we hoped and prayed for this day for long and now that it's here, DON'T mess it up for us. If you love Mugabe so much you can have him all to yourselves, we will even throw in a 50 something year old lady as a bonus"?
But having reread last night's ZDF press release, I am left increasingly ambivalent and confused: is this a coup?
Monday 20 November
21:11 - The ZDF has had a press conference, thus disturbing my otherwise peaceful evening. Their communications strategy leaves much to be desired but only new things in their press statement as far as I understand so far are the following: The Crocodile Mnangagwa has been in contact with Mugabe and "is expected in the country shortly"; students "are encouraged to be calm" (this is troubling) and they are continuing "with the operation code named 'Operation Restore Legacy'" to set Zimabwe "on the the desired development trajectory."
When will "Operation Restore Democracy" begin? These Zimbabweans have started this petition: "We the People of Zimbabwe DO NOT Want Another Mugabe. Here Are Our Expectations. We the people of Zimbabwe are obviously excited by the inevitable end to Robert Mugabe's grip on power. In our excitement, however, we will NOT neglect our responsibility to ensure that we will never find ourselves in the position we have been for the past few decades. We hereby clearly outline our expectations on whoever holds the office of the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe whether in an acting capacity or as substantive president."
You can sign by clicking above!
18:44 - On second thoughts, the new TV series, Blue Roof Mansion, will probably have more in common with Game of Thrones so, dear HBO, call me anytime.
18:21 - Dear Netflix, now that you are cancelling House of Cards, please feel free to call me to write the Zim political series, Blue Roof Mansion. Eish! I better go and do my real writing work right now. Social media wits, please do not plagiarize this Netflix request, okay? :)
8:18 - In the continuing saga of parallel universes, of coups which are not coups, and resignations that are not resignations, Mugabe has called a cabinet meeting tomorrow for his Zanu-PF ministers but Zanu-PF is supposed to be voting to impeach him at the very same time...
17:16 - Okay, #OccupyZimParliament, #OccupyMugabe, #OccupyZimImpeachment, #OccupyZimStatehouse - or really whatever you want to call it because who cares about hashtags unless they effect change on the ground - is on!
Chris Mutsvangwa of War Vets, or should I say Comrade Chris Mutsvangwa, is asking people to come to Africa Unity Square tomorrow, Tuesday, to help parliamentarians along as they begin impeachment proceedings against Mugabe. This is supposed to be an impeachment of days not weeks but these parliamentarians will need a lot of assistance as doing good for the people of Zim is not their forte. And what will happen with the land? Here's one of several articles that claim the Mugabe family owns more land in Zimbabwe than any other individual pre or post-independence. Mugabe once told UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, "Keep your England and let me keep my Zimbabwe." Emphasis on the possessive pronoun "my" clearly. Maybe he never did think of it as "our" Zimbabwe and that may be the root of all the corruption and mercenary, deadly hogging of power...
15:33 - Pastor Evan Mawarire and his #ThisFlag movement are staging a sit-in in Africa Unity Square, Harare, "until Mugabe goes." Please go and support them if you can and spread the word. If you can't sit there for long, maybe take some food to help the people do their version of occupy Wall Street, except this time we can call it, "occupy parliament." I hope that's not a bad analogy. Occupy Wall Street did not end in success...
14:30 - Dear Zanu-PF MPs, do you know that Zimbabweans are so desperate for salvation from Mugabe that there is an audio message circulating on Whatsapp that the late General Solomon Mujuru is still alive? Even though he was allegedly killed by Mugabe in 2011, Zimbabweans are so frantic for deliverance that some are willing to believe that General Mujuru is coming back to help them after supposedly hiding out in Germany for the last six years. Speaking of Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel may not be able to form a coalition which would mean new elections in which the racist Far Right may gain seats. Why not give the world a lift and impeach Mugabe? Kenya's Supreme Court has ratified Kenyatta's shady election so you can see that, you, the people who have been responsible for allowing Mugabe to rape and loot Zimbabwe all these years, should try and, for a change, spawn some positivity in the world and impeach your president. Kenyans have been enviously commenting that a Zimbabwean coup is more peaceful than a Kenyan election. So keep up the non-violence, find a way within your arcane constitution and please remove Mugabe.
14:20 - Dear Zanu-PF MPs, you are meeting at 14:30 to discuss impeaching Mugabe. Let me give you my two cents because I know you really, truly, most definitely care about my opinion.
11:59 - VaMugabe, what time are you stepping down, please? Imimi neni, tine basa!
11:21 - IMPEACHMENT MOTION issued by Zanu-PF Chief Whip. First time in years, Zanu-PF has done something useful. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I have lots of work to do so please keep following on live updates, link below. Mugabe, keep on trying, you might still be able to be impeached before Trump!
11:06 - Live updates is reporting that, "Students [are] demanding that University of Zimbabwe vice Chancellor Levi Nyangura step down because he is corrupt and gave Grace Mugabe a PhD. Students are also demanding that Robert Mugabe steps down. 'We want a fresh start. We're getting all these degrees, but they're worthless because there are no jobs. We want to take care of our parents,' said a third year social work student."
Firstly, as the holder of a genuine PhD which took me years to earn, this is a valid point. "Dr." Disgrace who received hers after two months thanks to corruption and I kid you not, "discovered" in the course of her in-depth research that orphans do not have parents, should have hers stripped forthwith. Secondly, I read a very sad tale yesterday about a UZ graduate who is now selling bananas on the side of the road because Mugabe has decimated the Zim economy. Thirdly, TINOTENDA/SIYABONGA/THANK YOU, UZ students for fighting the good fight! You have been fighting for so long for all of us. May your efforts be rewarded and your studies ensure a brighter future in a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe!
10:50 - As I mentioned before, the war vets are saying today is D-Day. Here are live updates on today's events as they unfold. The War Vets are declaring again that Mugabe must leave. University of Zimbabwe students are refusing to write exams until Mugabe has gone. CNN is reporting that Mugabe is drafting his resignation letter...Until it is done, it's not done...
7:17 - Africans are a benighted people. First, we must fight colonialism, then we have to fight those who liberated us from colonialism.
Last night, Mugabe might have read the wrong speech. Otherwise why were the uniformed generals shuffling pages behind him? Whichever way, this has turned up the heat on this pressure cooker situation. As some social media wits were saying, that speech was like when you break up with your girlfriend and she asks you what time you want dinner. Denial is not jut the name of a river in Egypt. Like father, like son, however. Mugabe's son posted a Facebook message saying it was impossible to fire his dad.
The people marched on Saturday in support of ZDF because they believed that ZDF was liberating them from Mugabe's oppressive rule. Last night, Mugabe's speech was filled with multiple uses of the word "perception" as in, some factions of Zanu-PF perceived their interests to have been threatened but no worries, he, in his capacity as supreme leader, will rectify that. The speech was directed to Zanu-PF and was only for the benefit of "alienated" factions within Zanu-PF. It did not address the larger context: the country at large wants Mugabe to go.
Is the ZDF going to anger the people who showed their full force on Saturday by allowing Mugabe to stay? Received this Whatsapp this morning and will seek to confirm/find more information later:
Zimbabwe Final Shutdown
We will be shutting down everything on Wednesday 22 November, 2017 if President Mugabe doesn't step down...
Bulawayo - City Hall at 9:00 in the morning
Harare - Africa Unity Square at 9:00 in the morning
All businesses must be shut down on 22 November, 2017, and schools will be closed down and no-one will be allowed to go to work and all taxis will be shut down...
Mugabe must go
Grace must go
Let's all go on the streets 22 November, 2017, carrying our flags and we march all day until Mugabe steps down...National shutdown
Please forward to all Zimbabweans and all groups...
Today, we will see if impeachment proceedings begin as promised if Mugabe does not resign by 12 noon today...Stay tuned...but now it's best to do a bit of yoga to prepare for another tough day!
Sunday 19 November
22:51 - Oops! Heart-stopping tweet from @TrevorNcube: "Let me share with you what I am picking up. Military people below General Chiwenga believe he has sold out and might take this into their own hands. The people want Mugabe out yesterday, this might get out of control. Tonight did not help #Zimbabwe."
That is truly a devastating tweet. And Mr. Ncube is not known for "twitting" (as the Zim papers refer to it) unfounded nonsense...Now, again we won't sleep tonight?
On a brighter note, the war vets are saying that impeachment will definitely proceed tomorrow, Monday, after 12...
22:40 - I hope they start impeachment proceedings tomorrow as promised. But the way this so-called coup is going, Donald Trump may be impeached before Mugabe. ZDF, please scroll down, down, down for a reminder of the definition of coup!
22h - One of my clever relatives on my family Whatsapp group has written: When you have a coup which is not a coup, expect a resignation speech which is not a resignation speech (not sure now of provenance of this witty comment as seems to be everywhere). Zimbabweans have got jokes! But social media is lighting up with declarations of defiance. There is no going backwards. If he refuses to realise his time is up, he shall be removed. It was said earlier that Zanu-PF gave him a deadline of noon tomorrow to resign or face impeachment. Does that still hold?
If not, Mugabe just punked the whole world!
21:39 - No offense, ZDF. But if you vetted this speech before he gave it, I have one question: did you understand the big English words Mugabe was using, like untrammeled? Did you think it was another way of saying resign? Chirungu chinonetsa...
21:25 - WOW! Mugabe is such a troll. This is so surreal. Why did General Chiwenga sit behind him and allow him to deliver this speech after yesterday's marches? He is such a stubborn old man.
21:21 - Mugabe did NOT resign or retire or recognize that everyone wants him to GO...
21h - The army is shown on ZBC. Mugabe arrives and sits down, prepares to speak...
20:53 - SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) is streaming live on Youtube and will stream ZBC live when Mugabe finally graces us with his presence...
20:51 - Some people say Mugabe's speech is being vetted by the military hence the delay. Others are saying that they are recording it because letting him address the nation live might be too risky...
20:13 - Have just seen Reuben Barwe of ZTV for the first time in years. Lol!!!
20:12 - Both eNCA and SABC broadcasting ZTV live!
20:11 - ZTV in normal 8 p.m. evening news broadcast now...everyone standing by for the man of the hour to make us all happy...
19:55h - Sorry. Should have said this earlier. Reuters has reported that Mugabe will step down. But those of us with long familiarity with Mugabe would like to see it with our own eyes...ZTV is announcing that we should stay tuned, Mugabe is about to address the nation...
9:11h - Bobs, what time are you making your announcement? We would like to get back to our lives. Don't worry, we will start fighting against Mnangagwa from tomorrow if he is going to continue Zanu-PF's repressive rule but please let us sleep well tonight. Fambayi bhoo, Gushungo!
18:20h - ZTV is outside Statehouse. Mugabe wants to address the nation. Now, the question is, will he resign or will he refuse to go? Everyone constantly refers to him as "the stubborn old man."
17:23h - Good coverage on BBC World News and eNCA...
17:17h - State broadcaster, ZBC, heading to Statehouse. Speculation running rife. Is some type of announcement imminent? Can we discuss how it is impossible to get any work done with all this upheaval?
15:20h - Wow! Finally this coup has speeded up. Zanu-PF has done an about face. 9 November, Harare International Airport was renamed Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport. 19 November, Mugabe is sacked as head of Zanu-PF and now he has been given a deadline to resign as president by noon on Monday, 20 November.
Disgrace, horrible woman, is being scapegoated in an extremely misogynistic fashion. Her horribleness does not justify this convenient misogynistic scapegoating. But as of now, she has been expelled from the party, removed as head of Zanu-PF women's league and may be prosecuted. Let me repeat, prosecuted!
She absolutely should be prosecuted. But so should her husband and those calling for her to be prosecuted!
The pot calling the kettle black. Zim version: the crook calling the criminal a gangster!
14:34h - How long can one man hold a whole nation hostage? If the whole country, the military, the war vets and your own political party don't want you, what are you waiting for? It's time to go! Chizororai Gushungo!
14h - Robert Mugabe has been removed as the leader of Zanu-PF. Replaced by the Crocodile Mnangagwa. Disgrace expelled from party. But Mugabe is still technically the president...what does that mean??? Can he just go already?
13h - The waiting game is on! Zanu-PF Central Committee is meeting right now. Will they fire Mugabe as party leader thus further clearing the way forward for a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, for the first time ever in the country's history?
Fake news is everywhere and it's hard to tell fact from fiction from wishful thinking from pure desperation. Trevor Ncube is trying to keep it all straight while providing frequent updates here.
I hope to be back tonight with more about the historic Mugabe Must Go marches of yesterday and maybe, fingers and toes crossed, praying for the good news of Mugabe's departure?
Read this disturbing article out this morning alleging that the US and China were informed of the coup before it happened and that there actually has been some violence since the military moved in on Tuesday night. The people who have allegedly been beaten by the military are some of the regime's most evil and are responsible for egregious violence themselves.
But due process is due process and human rights must be respected! We have been asking for a long time where is activist Itai Dzamara? Now, we must ask where is Augustine Chihuri of the ZRP?
Saturday 18 November
Please don't be reading this. Please be at a march to call for Mugabe to go!!!! See below for updated info.
Zimbabwe Solidarity Marches in the US:
ATLANTA: Martin Luther King Centre @ 12
DALLAS: Dallas City Hall @ 12
WASHINGTON, DC: Zimbabwe Embassy @ 12
NEW YORK: Zimbabwe Mission House, near UN @ 2
INDIANOPOLIS: 62nd & Georgetown @ 2
Friday 17 November
10 p.m. - Sooooo...amazing news! Zimbabweans will for once be able to go to a demonstration tomorrow without fear of being teargassed, beaten or arrested. Or at least that's what it looks like because the army says they support the rallies happening tomorrow and therefore, I assume that the ZRP (police) will not be harassing protesters for once.
Rallies: Harare - War Vets rally (This is one of many but is confirmed. You can ask my BFF, Google for others)
Jo'burg - Marching from Eastgate Mall to Zimbabwe Consulate - confirmed! 10 a.m.
Cape Town - Grand parade
Windhoek - Meeting at 10:00hrs, Cnr Robert Mugabe and Jan Jonker Street, marching towards the Zim embassy
London - Zim embassy then Trafalgar Square/Zimbabwe House, 429 Strand (are those the same? You find out)
Belfast - Belfast City Hall
These are primarily Mugabe must go rallies. You can write your own placard. NO VIOLENCE, PLEASE!
I'm sure you have been following the zigzag course that this very bizarre coup has been taking. We all grew some white hairs when Mugabe pitched up at a graduation ceremony today to give out diplomas. This army has its own idiosynchratic definition of house arrest! But now, things are moving towards Mugabe's exit because his own party, Zanu-PF, is recalling him, branch by branch. More amazing, this was reported on ZBC!!!
Tomorrow will be a long day so good night, more tomorrow. GO TO A RALLY!
10 a.m. - #SADCBackoffZim! Throughout the day, you can follow Trevor Ncube's updates: https://twitter.com/TrevorNcube
The ZDF has issued a communique that communicates almost nothing fuelling more anxiety, speculation, rumours and heart attacks. Zimbabweans are on tenterhooks as it is very unclear whether Mugabe will stay or go. Where is Mnangagwa? He is very MIA...Meanwhile, people are mounting social media campaigns to tell SADC to back off as they are Mugabe supporters and are very unwelcome in this moment.
PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION to tell SADC not to interfere in Zimbabwe's affairs.
It's amazing how the kleptocrats support each other in rigging/stealing elections. As for these generals running the so-called coup...do they know that a coup d'état is French and means a "sudden, decisive strike"?
By all means, General Chiwenga, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills us!
Thursday 16 November
Only in Zimbabwe can a bunch of generals with guns be outwitted by geriatrics!
Very bad signs in the ongoing coup attempt in Zimbabwe. Yes, yesterday it was a coup. Today, it is an agonisingly slow coup attempt because until Mugabe is deposed, he is still the leader of the country. The ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces) are not communicating with the people at all even though they took over ZBC and broadcast on ZTV yesterday. Therefore everyone is on edge and at the mercy of myriad "fake news" messages circulating on every platform known to humankind. I do not want to spread fake news but as of now I can tell you for certain what we do not know:
We do not know if Mugabe will step down, or when he will step down if indeed he will step down at all.
We do not know the whereabouts of Disgrace. Namibia has denied that she is there. Some people are saying she is still at their residence in Borrowdale, Harare. Who knows...
Further bad signs for a post-Mugabe Zim: Today, Mugabe and Chiwenga met with envoys from South Africa whom President Zuma sent as SADC representatives to discuss and negotiate...something. The presence of South Africa and SADC can only benefit Mugabe and increase his leverage. These liberation war vets stick together and that's why the ANC has always backed Zanu-PF.
I will remind you that I warned yesterday that the army could still very well be outsmarted by that cunning mudhara...I will now return to watching the Trump telenovela with its frenetic-breakneck speed-bombshell every eighteen minutes pace. This Zim coup is unfolding like the tortoise strolling home for a nap! I will update here IF anything happens...
Wednesday 15 November
Less than 24 hours ago, I received a phone call that there may be a military coup underway in Zimbabwe. Last week, when dictator of 37 years, Robert Mugabe, fired the vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, rumors circulated that army commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, who backs Mnangagwa was going to take over. The army, it was said, would not sit by and let the 93-year-old Mugabe hand over power to his wife, Grace aka Lady Gaga/Gucci Grace/Disgrace. They favored a genuine war veteran like Mnangagwa, who once shared Mugabe’s prison cell and fought in the war of liberation, to succeed Mugabe.
A week ago, those were just “fake news” rumors. Today, it seems it is true.
On the night of 14 to 15 November, the army moved tanks into the capital, Harare, and placed Mugabe under house arrest. Grace’s whereabouts are still unknown but there are reports that she has been given safe passage to Namibia because of course, she cannot come to South Africa as she is wanted on criminal charges here for assaulting a young girl a few months ago. The army spent the greater part of the day broadcasting on the state-run ZBC songs from the liberation war. They are calling this a “bloodless transition/correction” and Major General Sibusiso Moyo, an aide to Chiwenga, was repeatedly shown in his military regalia on ZTV reading the army’s statement:
"…the situation in our country has moved to another level.
Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency, The President, of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R.G Mugabe and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed. We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.
As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy."
Let’s put these semantic shenanigans aside. This is a coup. We hope it will be bloodless and violence must certainly be avoided at all costs. The army does not want to call it a coup because the African Union and SADC (Southern African Development Community) can officially intervene if it is. Hence, the hedging but whichever way, Mugabe, who just last week renamed Harare International Airport after himself, should not be given a free pass. He is a criminal. So is his wife and all their cronies. They should all be hauled into court to face criminal charges for myriad sins against the country.
But already narratives are being spun all over social media and beyond blaming Grace for Mugabe’s corruption, criminality and mismanagement of the country’s economy. “Biggest lessons from events in Zimbabwe in last 24 hours? Usaterere mukadzi… (Don't follow a woman/wife)” is one whatsapp message circulating. There’s another meme going around that juxtaposes a picture of Mugabe’s first Ghana-born wife, Sally, who was quite popular against Grace, lamenting that Sally died too early and Grace has lived too long.
Please stop this misogyny! Disgrace is an absolutely dreadful human being. No-one who has watched her crude, rude, unbecoming rants at political rallies or knows anything about her violent history of alleged assaults can think otherwise. But the idea that she is the evil puppeteer exerting undue influence over “innocent” Mugabe is ridiculous.
Wily, cunning, Master of the Game Mugabe has been outplaying all political opponents for the last fifty years, well before he married Grace in 1996. Even during the liberation war in the 1970s, he was suspected of killing off his opponents. Since he took power in 1980, we have seen how he has maneuvered and manipulated and masterminded a decades-long dominance. The army should not, for their own self-serving sake, foster the lie that Mugabe has been taken advantage of by criminal elements. He is THE tsotsi-in-chief who has successfully perpetuated a reign of terror for far too long.
I always wondered why my Pakistani friends celebrated when there was a coup in their country. Now, I understand.
Three weeks ago, I left the country very depressed. A common phrase heard on the streets everywhere was “nyika yakafa” (the country is dead). The Zimbabwe flag flying over Africa Unity Square in Harare’s city centre was hoisted high on its mast but it was literally in tatters, symbolic of the deteriorated state of the whole country. It is across the street from Herald House which accommodates the national newspaper, another tattered rag that I have not bothered to read in years. It is just a propaganda mouthpiece for Mugabe’s party, Zanu-PF. In fact, their headline this morning was, “Zanu-PF unfazed by Chiwenga.” Events unfolded faster than their ability to keep up but honestly, there was no sign of the coming coup. No-one knew it was coming. I did see one tank during my stay but it was there to chase away street vendors. Mugabe and Zanu-PF have destroyed the formal economy so now the city centre looks less like Jacaranda-lined Pretoria and more like a West African city with informal traders everywhere trying to scrape together a living. (So this army that has now come to rescue the people was busy chasing away the people just the other day…).
The only sign I saw that maybe, perhaps, it could be that things were changing in Zimbabwe was the information obtained from one Mount Darwin resident who said that even the people in this Zezuru-speaking Mugabe stronghold no longer wanted to hear his name. They had finally come to see what the rest of the country realized long ago: Mugabe is a looter, not a leader.
That’s why he must go! We are elated to see Mugabe go after 37 years of too much oppression and untold suffering even though we don’t know what comes next…
…Now, as I write, the situation is still fluid and it’s unclear how this cookie will crumble…Mugabe has not yet officially stepped down. People are expecting that Mnangagwa “Ngwena” (the Crocodile) will be taking over.
But is this cause for celebration?
For too long, many Zimbabweans have been waiting for “mudhara” (the old man) to die because they believed that his passing would suddenly change everything and the country would magically return to its former glory. I do not share that opinion.
The corruption of the Mugabe family has been enabled by the entire Zanu apparatus. They are all complicit in stealing elections, depriving the Zimbabwean people of their democratic and human rights and driving the economy to catastrophic collapse as they enrich themselves.
The Mugabe family is just the most visible iceberg tip. Zanu-PF is a deeply-entrenched network responsible for massive corruption and bloody violence against political opponents. Mnangagwa is no savior if indeed he is to be the new president - if Mugabe does not outsmart them yet - because he is a foundational element of this corrupt network.
Like Joice “Teurai Ropa” (spill blood) Mujuru, he has always been a Zanu-PF stalwart enacting Mugabe’s wishes until now, when they finally threatened his own future. We cannot ever forget that Mnangagwa presided over the genocidal massacres of Gukurahundi that took place in Matabeleland in the 1980s and colluded with Chiwenga to steal the elections for Mugabe in 2008 when the opposition MDC won.
This “bloodless transition” from one faction of Zanu-PF to another is not adequate. We need a transition to actual democracy and legitimate, violence-free elections.
The African Union, SADC and other countries in the region should not come with their hypocrisy and continue to perpetrate the lie that a military coup represents the end of democracy in Zimbabwe. Mugabe destroyed democracy decades ago and all of you sat and sanctioned his bloody regime. Enough!
Today, we are happy to see him go but this is only the first step in a long journey towards the democratic dispensation that Zimbabwe deserves...
To be continued...