Echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
The worst-kept secret is out that the United States is determined to see the Zimbabwean government fall – just as it is doing in Venezuela. And denying that is like denying one’s existence itself.
Reported fin24 this week: “Zimbabwe is under United States sanctions and unless otherwise authorised or exempt, transactions involving the greenback are penalised if they involve an entity or individual listed on the Specially Designated Nationals list (a list of individuals and entities under US sanctions).
“The nature of the regulations, however, makes it difficult for foreign banks to know whether they are dealing with specially designated nationals or not, hence the decision by most South African banks to de-risk from dealing with Zimbabwean institutions.”
A Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) official confirmed the same: “Ordinarily, we import the cash from South Africa and most of the banks, due to what we call de-risking issues, have now given us notice that they can no longer provide our own local banks with cash (US dollars), so we are in a Catch-22 situation.”
Rightly extrapolated another Zimbabwean said: “So it turns out that the sanctions have an effect on Zimbabwe’s economy after all despite the US spin doctors’ expert weaving. The Western Union puzzle is solved, it turns out that it is not the Zimbabwean government stealing forex after all as some had rashly concluded, but the SA banks citing fear of penalisation (by the US) for supplying US dollar notes to the country.”
This denial against all the evidence of the reality of sanctions against the country is what drove a fellow Zimbabwean, who I will call Mr Realist, to post this on social media: “Last night, I had someone (a Zimbabwean, who I will refer to as Mr Denialist) who made history. Just to dispute the US sanctions and South African banks story, he wrote to a South African bank in the middle of the night and got a reply. Unbelievable!” Yes, it’s quite unbelievable that someone would rather have a sleepless night in his attempt to be proved that he is always right.
Queried Mr Denialist: “Where did they say that?” Mr Realist: “Check in fin24”. Mr Denialist: “That is not South African banks. That is a Zimbabwean in Harare claiming so. No South African bank has said such. Western Union was also hiding behind sanctions and I checked with South African banks and they said that it was a lie. There are no sanctions between Zimbabwe and South Africa. US dollars come to Harare and are filled in standard strategic machines, including at the UN Village.” (If we may remind Mr Denialist, there are no sanctions between European countries and Iran, but many European firms have stopped trading with Iran because they fear retribution from the US).
Mr Realist: “RBZ has been told by South African banks and they started doing so in December.” Mr Denialist: “As I said, my brother, I will check tomorrow. I belong to the Africa Leadership Network, it has South African Reserve Bank (SARB) executives in it, so I will ask.”
As one can see, Mr Denialist’s first inclination was to refute that the Americans would ever to do that. This in itself shows that bias particularly in that he gives such spirited defence of what he has neither read nor heard. What’s at play here is pro-Americanism, not being pro-facts as they are. Facts are secondary, pro-Americanism comes first.
Wilful ignorance differs from ordinary “ignorance“ — when someone is simply unaware of something — in that wilfully ignorant people are fully aware of facts, resources and sources, but refuse to acknowledge them. Wilful ignorance is sometimes called tactical stupidity. Only the previous day, Mr Denialist had exhibited such tactical stupidity when he posted on social media expressing outrage that the money that Zanu PF intended to spend on a solidarity rally for party leader President Emmerson Mnangagwa should have been channelled to revive public hospitals.
Informed people know that both Zanu PF and MDC, in their capacities as political parties, were given money by the government under the Political Parties Finance Act due proportionally to those parties that get at least 5% of the parliamentary vote in a general election. These are the funds that Zanu PF and MDC use to hold rallies. It does not need a PhD in mathematics to ascertain that Zanu PF, having won over two-thirds of the parliamentary vote, has much more funds at its disposal to hold rallies and other internal programmes than MDC. These are legitimate funds channelled to parties as stipulated by none other than the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the supreme law of the land.
So for anyone to suggest that the money should be spent on public hospitals etc is grossly misinformed, if they are driven by ordinary ignorance, and misinforming, if they are driven by wilful ignorance or tactical stupidity as Mr Denialist seems to be. If anything, they should also demand the same of the MDC not to accept the money and splash it on their own rallies, but instead donate it to public hospitals.
For Mr Denialist to write a lengthy diatribe about this without mentioning that distinction that the funds are from party coffers, not government coffers, is irresponsibly misleading and it becomes gross when he does not point out that MDC also gets its share of this filthy lucre, if it may be called that.
Mr Denialist, using tactical stupidity, kills two birds with one stone by, first, lying by commission pertaining to Zanu PF, and, second, lying by omission in favour of MDC. The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true, but only part of the whole truth.
The hidden intent is to deceive, evade, blame or misrepresent the truth. That’s how half-truths work. And Mr Denialist seems to be perfecting that.
Depending on the nature and strength of an individual’s pre-existing beliefs, wilful ignorance can manifest itself in different ways. It can entail completely disregarding facts, evidence and/or reasonable opinions if, in that person’s warped logic, they fail to meet his expectations, like Mr Denialist saying: “That is not South African banks. That is a Zimbabwean in Harare claiming so. No South African bank has said such. Western Union was also hiding behind sanctions and I checked with South African banks and they said that it was a lie.” Often the wilfully ignorant will make excuses, claiming that a source is unreliable in the manner of Mr Denialist saying: “… I belong to the Africa Leadership Network, it has SARB executives in it, so I will ask” , or asserting that an opinion is too biased. More often than not, this is simple circular reasoning like saying: “I cannot agree with that source because it is untrustworthy because it disagrees with me”, similar to Mr Denialist saying: “I am sure if the RBZ had been told, they would have said it by now to justify their incompetences.”
As one can see, in such an extreme case as this one, wilful ignorance can involve outright refusal to read or hear, in any way, anything that does not conform to the wilfully ignorant person’s worldview. It can become obsessive. It must come from their mouth and nobody else. They invest themselves with superhuman ubiquity as if nothing passes them, but only the Almighty God is at all places at all times.
That said, characters such as Mr Denialist have always been there since existence itself, but what is important is to identify them so as not to fall for their lies and wiles.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: email@example.com