The Sunday Mail
I once had an aunt who would turn into an abominable monster whenever examinations were around the corner.
As exams drew closer, it became a painful and traumatic period for everyone — pets (dogs and cats) included.
In bouts of fretish angst — which were often interspersed between periods of intense cramming — she would shove and hoof anything in her path for ostensibly disturbing her “focus” and “concentration”.
It was quite a spectacle seeing her study: seated under the mango tree, she would occasionally knock her palm against her head as if to force the crammed material to last longer enough to see her past the finishing line.
The area around which she settled to study usually became a hard-hat area.
Allegations of distracting her, however contrived, almost always attracted a thorough and unforgettable smacking.
But all this didn’t help; she would always unfailingly fail, which often guaranteed another haunting cycle of study and torment.
Argh, dear reader, the struggle was real.
Salvation for a then-young Bishop Lazi and clan finally came when she threw in the towel and decided, rather wisely, to concentrate on farming.
But over the decades, I have unpleasantly realised that my aunt was just unlucky.
There are many who crammed their way through high school and by hook and crook — the latter often involved engaging the services of downtown geeks who excel at writing dissertations for desperate undergraduates — managed to go through university.
It is this specie — who routinely brandish and wave their supposedly lofty qualifications at every opportunity, whether warranted or unwarranted, but paradoxically demonstrate scant appreciation for facts and rationality — which is now contaminating the quality of social conversations and dialogue.
We see them every day masquerading as economists, political scientists and social commentators who always line-up before our TV screens every evening, but disarmingly fail to make sense of the world we currently live in.
The end result is a sceptical audience and a lost narrative.
And this is why Bishop Lazarus, for all the torture that was visited by that ZBC-TV programme Zvavanhu — where a bromantic cast of co-hosts such as Tafataona Mahoso, Aeneas Chigwedere, Sheunesu Mpepereki and Cloud Mararike would almost always curiously agree on everything and anything — found one critical takeaway from it.
In one of the instalments, Mahoso observed that while the country’s literacy rate was more than 90 percent, it only meant that they had mastered the basic life skill of reading and writing, but this did not guarantee that what they read and wrote was sensible.
How a nation that prides itself with eating big book can be so breathtakingly naïve, unsophisticated and downright pedestrian in its world view is astounding.
But not to this Bishop.
Having lived through the Cold War-era, which saw heightened and frenzied political and diplomatic contestation and chicanery, the Bishop, being someone who loathes deception, is not one easily taken in by smoke and mirrors.
It’s not about democracy, stupid!
For as long as nations, especially global powers, still have vaulting ambitions, the Cold War didn’t actually end: it simply evolved in both sophistication and tact.
As I said last week, the script remains unchangingly the same.
Countries whose policies are not aligned to the strategic interests of the United States are always condemned to the same fate.
And it is never about democracy.
You see, the US is like that fat school bully who, by an inexplicable stroke of luck, became a senior prefect, much to the chagrin of hapless peers who had to budget for more trying days of being robbed of packed lunches and more torment.
Bullies, especially in positions of authority, will make sure that they use their power, whether legal or extra-legal, to make your life intolerably painful.
Libya. Yemen. Venezuela. Syria. The list goes on.
But to understand the current turbulence in Zimbabwe, dear reader, one necessarily has to understand erringly similar circumstances in Iran, which, incidentally, commemorates the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution tomorrow.
However, there is little to celebrate. The Revolution is under siege.
Clearly, Harare and Tehran’s misfortunes are inextricably linked.
On August 6 last year, Washington imposed sanctions on Iran, and exactly three days later, they also renewed ZIDERA, effectively torpedoing the country’s re-engagement efforts.
But while Harare is hurting, Tehran is screaming. Its national currency, the rial, has nosedived by more than 70 percent against the greenback since the embargo, and inflation has jumped to over 30 percent. Shortages of basic commodities, whose prices have galloped by 75 percent, have begun to bite. The situation has deteriorated to the extent that some shops are beginning to ration red meat.
Not surprisingly, Iranians have become restive. And this is where the similarities between Zimbabwe and Iran become frighteningly striking: of late, the recent anti-government protests in Tehran have featured a rare breed of “determined rioters” who are willing — rather foolishly — to clash with security forces.
It is, however, the pattern, nature and character of the January 1 protests, which claimed more than 20 lives in clashes between rioters and security forces, that is more interesting.
Just as in the case of the recent protests in Zimbabwe, where violence initially flared up in Bulawayo, the blood-letting violence in Iran began in the second-largest city, Mashhad.
During one of the clashes, a daring protestor even opened fire on police officers, killing one and injuring three others.
Incidentally, CNBC, an American news outlet, enjoyed the front-row seat to the mayhem.
“Videos on social media showed an intense clash in the central town of Qahderijan between security forces and protesters who were trying to occupy a police station, which was partially set ablaze,” reported the news outfit in its January 1 report.
Yes, the “determined rioters” were even attacking police stations.
More than 450 protestors were arrested.
Kikiki. Does this sound familiar? Is it coming closer to home?
In this riveting narrative, it is easy to use the names Zimbabwe and Iran interchangeably, especially after the January 14, 15 and 16 violence.
A Leopard will never change its spots.
Luke 6: 43-45 is even more emphatic: “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil [a]treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
The Bishop often watches in wonder as Zimbabweans overtly and covertly celebrate sanctions against their own country, even going the extra mile to petition the US and UK embassies to intervene.
Is it myopia or foolishness? Or a toxic combo of both?
A closer look
Maybe we need to take a closer look at why a bully might feel compelled to snatch away lunch from a fellow student.
Again, we need to look no further than Iran. Like, Zimbabwe, why is it hated so much?
Well, story begins with oil and a brave man called Mohammad Mossadegh, who was Iran’s 35th prime minister (1950 to 1953). Tired of being fleeced by multinational oil companies that held sway over the Middle East’s vast oil wealth, Mossadegh, who was considered as a reformist and democrat, in 1950 sought to force Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) to share its oil revenues.
A precedent had already been set in the same year after the Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco) in Saudi Arabia had been forced to come to an agreement with Riyadh.
Well, naturally, the British were intransigent, which forced Mossadegh’s hand as he nationalised the oil company in 1951.
Call it indigenisation by another name.
But the Bishop implores you to read a series of declassified CIA documents published by the US national security archive in 2013 to get an appreciation of the intriguing events that unfolded thereafter.
Soon after Iran fell out of favour with the West, the CIA, America’s spy agency, and MI6, their British cousins, were hard at work. They covertly coalesced all the rag-tag groups and organisations, including conscripting the Shah (equivalent of King of Iran), whose power had been whittled by the new prime minister.
On August 15 1953, they made their call.
However, after the initial CIA and MI6-engineered coup attempt was pushed back by security agents, Kermit Roosevelt — the senior CIA officer on the ground in Iran during the coup — mobilised the most feared mobsters in Tehran (In Nelson Chamisa’s lingo this group would be the “guys from Mbare”) to stage pro-Shah riots on August 19.
According to the declassified documents, other “CIA-paid men” were brought into Tehran in buses and trucks, and took over the streets of the city.
Bishop Lazi has to ask this question again: Does this sound familiar? Is it coming closer to home?
Yah! Mari ine chitema, and this is why Matthew 6:23 — 25 claims that “no-one can serve two masters: either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
During the bloody protests in Iran, which unfortunately succeeded, about 300 Iranians died, and for what? So that the UK could reclaim Iran’s oil fields.
You will be interested to know that our long-nosed cousins from the cold island in the north have, until 2013, been trying to block the Americans from releasing these hitherto classified documents.
You only have to examine the August 1 and January 14, 15 and 16 crime scene to understand the spy-craft behind the witchcraft affecting Zimbabwe at the moment. The 1953 coup in Iran bred contempt for the US, especially over the 26-year period the Western-backed Shah was in power, and this culminated in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis, where the American embassy in Tehran was besieged and 52 Americans were held hostages.
A series of events thereafter subsequently led to the establishment of a theocracy, which Iran is today, and the reclamation of the nation’s sovereignty and oil, the same oil that has put it in Washington’s cross hairs again.
The greedy and indefatigable capitalists were not finished with Iran yet.
Within a year and half of the revolt, they resorted to sponsor Sadam Hussein, who was still their guy as they helped into power through another coup, to invade Iran, which resulted in an eight-year war that ended in a stalemate.
The war resulted in the death of one million Iranians.
Like the Bishop’s aunt, you don’t have to knock your palm against your head for the facts to be apparent.
The lessons here are clear: for the West, it is not about democracy, but its economic interests (mainly oil), and this is why Mohammad Mossadegh — a democrat — was replaced by an authoritarian Shah in 1953.
Whenever the West’s interests are threatened, they are prepared to unleash their intelligence machinery to create the smoke screen that is needed to carry out their political designs (read regime change), and they will not spare any expense to ensure the success of their enterprise.
The pervasive extra-terrestrial and extra-territorial media, which has been joined by the insidious and infectious social media, often pre-empts the West’s foreign policy through degrading, denigrating and creating disaffection of the targeted regime.
And in order to turn ordinary citizens into the fodder needed to stage their acts, they first squeeze the economy in ways that potently affect ordinary members of society. Further, when they use you, they will dump you. Look at the Saddam’s gory and violence end.
It is the same pattern that continues to today. Fortunately, most African leaders, particularly in SADC, who have their own “eyes” and “ears”, know exactly what is happening in Zimbabwe.
In any case, it is folly to think that sanctions almost always result in regime change. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made this clear to CNN 13 days after the oil-rich country was slapped with another volley of sanctions.
“I believe there is a disease in the United States, and that is the addiction to sanctions . . . We felt that the United States had learnt that at least as far as Iran is concerned that sanctions do produce economic hardships, but they do don’t produce the intended outcomes that they intended them to produce. And I thought that the Americans had learnt that lesson; unfortunately, I was wrong . . .
“The US sanctions have always hurt. What is hurting though is people who want to buy medicine, people who want to buy food . . . we are prepared for the worst-case scenario,” he said.
This rings true for Zimbabwe.
This Bishop believes in Manichaean dualistic view of good and evil, where the former always triumphs over the latter.
Evil will never win.
Not here. Not now. Not Ever.