Sound & Fury is the title of a book by US writer William Faulkner. It’s set around the prodigal life of an American family around 1929.
The family lived to rue the consequences of its lack of probity and fiscal discipline.
Earlier in Macbeth, 16th Century, Stratford-upon-Avon born renowned English playwright, William Shakespeare, had talked of “. . . a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing . . . !”
Sound and fury has become the pejorative shorthand for inconsequential and non-substantive vituperations – a manifestation of serious underlying deficiencies – a stereotypical reaction and steam valve for frustrations and failures. Success, on the other hand, has a self-expressing, quiet eloquence about it, like a quiet storm.
We made the point elsewhere, that thunder may impress, but it’s lightning that does the job!
Sound and fury was truly the essence of the costly and much-hyped-about Zanu PF conference held in the Eastern Highlands last December, with speaker after speaker blazing molten anti-MDC-T and anti-West diatribe. Zanu PF firebrands and pretentious “fireflies” went into overdrive, firing from all cylinders.
Phew . . . ! What a spectacle! I would give them an “A” for showmanship – if only it hadn‘t been so grisly and morbid.
It was a cascading crescendo of fire and brimstone, when President Robert Mugabe took to the podium to deliver the keynote address.
President Mugabe is incredibly bionic, for his age. He took the show to the limits, upping the tempo to a frenzied height.
He had no kind words for his opponents, perceived and real. The venue reverberated with “Down with MDC . . . MDC this . . . MDC that . . . Britain this . . . America that . . . !” Bellicose harangues and war cries rained down like confetti.
The President was visibly angry and he ran the gauntlet firing vicious broadsides at the West, warning the British and Americans to either remove sanctions or face the take-over of “their” companies which are operating in Zimbabwe. Rio Tinto and Anglo American Corporation were singled out of the alleged 400 or so companies. We are not sure whether these two companies or the rest of the 400 really belong to the British or American governments.
The jury is also still out on whether the President’s bite will be worse than his bark. It’s highly unlikely though, given the nosedive the economy took after the farms debacle.
History has proved that such intemperate talk sends shivers down the economic spine of any country, with devastating consequences.
anu PF may be hard-nosed and unsentimental at times, often swimming against the current and spitting against the wind, but I think they have more common sense than to think that they can grab those companies, Idi Amin-style, and get away with it!
The region and the rest of Africa long-stopped spewing outdated, meaningless “revolutionary” rhetoric, except for the beleaguered Gbagbo, of course, who is hemmed in by his electoral theft, opting instead for quiet diplomacy, dialogue, and placing more and more emphasis on developmental politics.
The Zanu PF conference was a well-choreographed ritual, at best, all decisions having been taken in Harare well ahead of the conference. Central to its purpose was the whipping of members to accept taking the plunge, with the President, in unified elections, tentatively scheduled for this year, given the general disgruntlement on the part of most winners of the peaceful March 2008 elections, with being unduly and prematurely exposed to yet another election which will, unquestionably, take a toll on many of them.
Still in all, methinks if half the energy expended on negative rhetoric was channelled towards something productive, we surely would get ahead in so far as development and nation building are concerned!
While there is moral justification on issues relating to land acquisition and not necessarily on the methods used in acquiring it and the skewed distribution that followed, nationalisation of foreign companies, per se, sounds more and more economically and politically bankrupt in the current global context. It’s a direct assault on property rights – the very bedrock upon which investment models, economic development and stability are built on.
Why we continuously take one step forward and several backwards, I shall never know! We didn’t listen, not far back, when we started printing money like it was going out of fashion and branded those who warned us against it, “bookish economists”.
Resultantly, we harvested the whirlwind, ending up with a comatose economy, the highest inflation in the world, and a begging bowl.
Perhaps our newfound foolish bravado is inspired by the discovery of diamonds, and like imbeciles we are getting arrogant, instead of receiving the anointment on our knees, with humility.
Economies are generally fragile and quick to respond to the slightest reckless political misdemeanour, however well intentioned.
It is said that capital is the worst of cowards, taking flight at the slightest inept political breeze.
President Mugabe often makes impromptu policy statements, especially when he is addressing funerals and political gatherings. He warned that Zanu PF is a steamroller train and if anyone doesn’t get out of the way, they will be crushed.
Is it not better and more enduring to talk of a peace-train and to ask people to get on board?
It may not inspire confidence in the environment as a safe destination for any kind of investments to talk of crushing those who hold different views.
The threatened company take-overs are also coming at a time when Africa’s economic giant, South Africa, is swearing upon the souls of its ancestors that it will never resort to nationalisation, in a bid to woo more foreign direct investment, which is pouring in floods, in any event, and at the same time in a bid to mollify nervous capital that may fear the Zimbabwean contagion.
You don’t empower indigenous people by destroying the wealth that is already there, you do so by creating affirmative policies that assist the previously disadvantaged to prosper.
The issue of sanctions, or what others have coined restrictive measures, is something that has ruffled the President’s feathers for some time. I bet he longs for, “the way we were”, as the song goes.
Whether one calls them sanctions or restrictive measures is really six of one and half a dozen of the other. Grown-ups should not waste time splitting hairs on such trifles. Will a rose, by any other name, smell differently?
It’s highly unlikely that Britain and America or the EU and the West will be unfazed by the sabre-rattling of a Third World country, anyway. They are demonstrably masters and long distance runners when it comes to wars of attrition.
History is replete with examples of this and Libya and Cuba are living-colour examples of the case in point. For over 50 years and counting, Cuba has been under a crushing blockade and Libya had to finally yield and strike a diplomatic compromise.
To what extent can a lone under-developed country take on the full might of the economic giants of this First World, is a matter for conjuncture.
Suffice to say, pioneering an under-developed country is a daunting exercise, much like walking a trapeze, and requires skill, statesmanship, patience and Socratic stoicism.
One has not got to just think outside the box, as the colloquialism goes, but to realise that there is no box.
I have often wondered, if the sanctions or restrictive measures applied by these countries are illegal, why haven’t we taken them to the International Court of Justice? Are we uncertain about the illegality thereof?
The inter-party animosity displayed by our politicians is primitive and difficult to understand. Each political formation and leader is an expression of the electorate that he represents, which has a right to hold a different view on issues, so why the hostility?
It’s overly sanctimonious for any particular party to think that it has a right to define political correctness. People have an inalienable right to disagree with any party, irrespective of the romanticism with which such party holds position.
The era of politics of bluster has long been eclipsed by diplomatic finesse!