Quite a morsel of things doesn’t add about the trip that Sheik Fayez Muhamad Salem Sultan Al Qassimi has just made to Zimbabwe, outside the winding name.
By Tawanda Majoni
The sheik arrived in Zimbabwe last Sunday. Maybe we were never going to know about his pretty shady trip if the official media had not rushed to tell us without us poking our noses. But the public media did a poor job, because it only told us about the sheik’s arrival and put it off the diary the whole week.
That is strange, of course. Why tell us about the beginning of something and avoid telling us about the middle of something and the end of that something.
The government loudhailers told us that Al Qassimi was coming to explore investment opportunities in Zimbabwe with President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The sheik, they said, was looking at a whole array of investment portfolios, but particularly in energy and health.
That would be good news, with all things being equal. Who would hate foreigners investing in Zimbabwe where just about everything is wrong with the economy? We are experiencing acute fuel shortages. The Gulf region, the United Arab Emirates included, is a good producer and exporter of oil. Our health delivery system is in a very bad shape Vice President Chiwenga’s fake promises of a new dawn. And it looks like the UAE would do a good job there and spare us the Chinese hypocrisy we have all become accustomed to with all those false Covid-19 centre constructions and fleeting face mask donations.
A chip on the shoulder always reminds you that you can’t trust Mnangagwa with anything. To the extent that when he tells you he is turning south, you must just go north if you really want to meet up with him. He is that chap who promised you a corruption-free Zimbabwe, remember? He is the very same chap who gave you jobs as he campaigned to be president. And he is the same dude who said the voice of God was the same as the voice of the people.
So, naturally, when you hear that some rich sheik from UAE is coming to meet him to discuss investments in the Zimbabwean economy, your question must be: Really? This is a good question, considering what has already happened and not happened.
Number one. That report we got from the official media said Al Qassimi was coming to Zimbabwe at the invitation of the first family. And Al Qassimi didn’t waste his time to tell us that he was going to lend some support to Auxillia Mnangagwa’s Angel of Hope Foundation.
There is no harmony in that tune. We were told that Al Qassimi was invited by the first family. Let’s do some simple, basic logic here. The government of Zimbabwe is not the same thing as the first family. Given. The first family comprises the president, his wife and children. If you want to squeeze your imagination, just throw in the extended family and, maybe the villagers from the villages the wife and husband come from, even though that feels a bit stretched right from the start.
The government of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean state are far, far, far larger than the first family. Zimbabwe is us. First families come and go, and you know that. Zimbabwe doesn’t come and go. It is always there. Zimbabwe is that entity that defies particularities, it is an abstract yet concrete thing.
What this means is that if someone is invited by the first family, the invitation is not by Zimbabwe. It is a private — though also a public affair. The invitation must never be seen as a Zimbabwean affair. It is a private affair.
The next question, then, is: So, when Al Qassimi was invited by the first family and not Zimbabwe, whose interests will his visit ever serve? Obviously, those won’t be Zimbabwean interests, but private, family interests. In other words, Al Qassimi’s visit seems like a clever plot to advance the interests of the first family. Clever in the sense that it has been disguised as a public affair yet all points to a private affair.
That’s not too farfetched, when you look closely. When the sheik says he is going to support the Angel of Hope Foundation, things get clearer. You know African politicians very well. Those guys seek political power for all the reasons, but never the right reasons. They want power because it will get them eating sumptuous meals. When the sheik says he will support Auxilia’s foundation, take all that charity crap off your head.
Philanthropy is a frequently abused cause. In other words, philanthropy is a façade for other very bad things. Forget about Florence Nightingale. She is long gone anyway. Forget about Jairos Jiri too. Like Nightingale, he belongs to the golden era of selflessness. And that era is as dead as the dodo. Today, when they come to you as Good Samaritans, know that they will pick your pocket the moment they hug you, no two ways about it.
The Angel of Hope Foundation is a good cause when it’s not being used to gain political capital. But can’t you see the yellow—or red—flag when the sheik comes at the invitation of the first family and then pledges support for a foundation that is being run by the hostess? That quacks, walks and flies like bribery.
And when a thing quacks, walks and flies like a duck, chances are pretty high that it’s a duck.
Put differently, what this would seem to mean is that the Sheik and the first family are up to some dirty game. It happens too often in Africa. They give you a narrative that says we are going south when the reality is that they are actually heading straight up north. Yes, Al Qassimi and his band might ultimately invest in Zimbabwe in a way that will create employment and benefit the halting economy, but the bigger scheme seems to be going elsewhere.
The real possibility is that the Arabians could have struck personal investment deals with the first family. Which means that Mnangagwa could actually have forged private deals with the Arabians as a retirement or exile package but assumes we are too stupid to see that.
Nothing is encouraging about that. The UEA is a good economy even by global standards, granted. That, though, doesn’t say the Arabians are angels. We hear that, year in and year, out, they are targeting billions of dollars in dirty money. That’s coming out of the fact that they are participating in the smuggling of unrefined gold from Africa. They are a huge market for gold even though most of the major gold producers and marketers are not going there. That leaves the possibility that they are using the gold black market to make the mega billions.
And it doesn’t help that the sheik’s visit has been wrapped up in so much secrecy. Good things thrive in openness. Bad things thrive in opacity. Opacity is prevailing here. Which means bad things are thriving.
l Tawanda Majoni is the national coordinator at Information for Development Trust (IDT) and can be contacted on email@example.com