South African celebs tip-toe in the footsteps of George Bernard Shaw
Tourist of the Revolution – George Bernard Shaw (with freshly washed beard ) on his way to Moscow in August 1931
By Trevor Grundy
The BBC’s Shinhai Nyoka summed it up in a few words – “Free fried chicken and an endorsement from an unbeaten former boxing champion have formed parts of the intriguing choreography of election campaigning in Zimbabwe.”
She wrote (BBC News, August 21, 2023) that finger-licking crowds and cheers for US boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr., have not distracted from fundamental concerns about the polls and fears of vote rigging in the first election (August 23, 2023) since the death of Robert Mugabe.
Tomorrow’s vote will see Emmerson Mnangagwa of ZANU(PF) being challenged by Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and nine other contenders.
A visit to the Oracle at Delphi is not needed.
Mnangagwa will win. Chamisa will get a decent vote in order to convince the outside world that Zimbabwe under Big ED (Mnangagwa) is open not only for business but also World Bank-approved democracy.
Those in the know in Harare say – “Forget the election. We know who will win. The real story this week is what’s happening at the BRICS meeting in Johannesburg.”
But for a while, we have to watch and wonder what the South African celeb tourists of an ill-fated people will do next to delight their hosts, the ubiquitous ZANU (PF).
Floyd Mayweather Jr.,
Fighting for freedom in Zimbabwe?
Floyd Mayweather isn’t on his own.
Other celebs include the South African film legend Selb Maake Ka Ncube, and super-stars Sonia Mbele and Paul Thusi.
ZANU (PF) wants the outside world to believe that South African celebs know more about what’s happening in Zimbabwe than the people who live there.
Of course, it’s not unusual for politicians to seek support from big name stars.
Think of America and the way Republicans and Democrats turn election rallies into circuses.
Do Africans really want to drive along that highway towards Hotel California in Zimbabwe?
South Africa’s Sonia Mbele
So, Comrade Mayweather from America and all you South African superstars and comrades on holiday in Zimbabwe.
Before you throw your next left- hook, Floyd, or hand out more chicken and chips to starving voters, Sonia, think of the lies you might (unwittingly) be spreading by doing what you’re doing and being who you are where you are and how you’re being used by a ruthless despot who should be facing trial in Nuremberg not running for his latest attempt to be head of state in Zimbabwe.
Have any of you looked at – yet alone read – a devastating report by the Scottish academic Hazel Cameron about the mass rape of women in the Midlands and Matabeleland (North and South) during the ghastly Gukuruhundi campaign organised by Rober Mugabe, Perrance Shiri and Emmerson Mnangagwa between 1983 – 1987 – one of the most appalling crimes committed by a Commonwealth country during the last century? It was a genocide brushed under the carpet by a cowardly, self-serving, British Government in 1983.
There isn’t a person or a publishing house in South Africa or Zimbabwe or anywhere else in Africa with the guts to publish this report.
Selb Maake Ka Ncube
South African screen legend
So, superstars. Why are you in Zimbabwe?
For idealism? Maybe.
Perish the thought it could be money. And surely not for the Zimbabean dollar.
Maybe you’ve been persuaded to believe you’re doing something important for real Africa ie., Mnangagwa and his cronies.
Think how big name celebs have been used in the past by out- of- touch despots, Emmerson Mnangagwa one of them.
Think Big and Think GBS and learn a lesson from what George Bernard Shaw led the world to believe after his first visit to Stalin’s USSR in August 1931.
Do you really want to be remembered like him – that clever Irish playwright and Fabian preacher, a Literary Treasure in Britain, a Very Useful Idiot in Stalin’s USSR?
First, he fooled himself. Then he went on to fool large parts of the world.
Watch out that you don’t do the same.
In August 1931, GBS set sail for Russia, his white whiskers and coat-tails and wisecracks flying – along with Lady Astor who had been told by Mrs Shaw to take good care of her husband and to wash his beard every morning. That she did.
It was a nine-day trip
Said GBS: ”When my friends learned that I was going to Russia they loaded me with tin food of all sorts. They thought Russia was starving. But I threw all their food out of the window in Poland before I reached the Soviet frontier.”
Contemporaries said he then laughed like a naughty schoolboy.
Shaw celebrated his 75th birthday in Moscow. He was staying at the Metropole Hotel (all foreigners and journalists were forced to stay there and never move around Moscow, or any part of the USSR on their own).
The highlight of his trip was three hours with Stalin who, said GBS, was a Russian giant in a land of Western pygmies, adding – “I expected to see a Russian worker and I found a Georgian gentleman.”
A revolutionary Marxist gentleman, that is.
As soon as he was back home with his upper-class Fabian friends in Bloomsbury, Shaw dispelled the myth about hunger in the Soviet Union and Ukraine (millions died later that decade because of Stalin’s man- made famine) saying that in Russia “I ate the most slashing dinner of my life.”
At a luncheon in the Metropole the following day Shaw banged on about throwing away tinned food at the Polish border.
An American woman who lived in Moscow and knew a little about local conditions remarked that Russians were sorry that he didn’t wait to throw his food away on Soviet soil.
They might have had something to eat, she said.
Shaw did one of his unwanted and most annoying mental Irish jigs and looked round the restaurant and asked – ‘’Where do you see any food shortages here?’’
And on and on he went.
Eugene Lyons, author of ‘Assignment in Utopia’
Amused and angered by the antics of GBS in Moscow
In his seminal work “Assignment in Utopia”, (George G. Harrap & Co, 1938) Eugene Lyons devotes a chapter to Bernard Shaw in Moscow and reminds us that GBS went on to say and write many favourable things about Adolf Hitler. .
Lyons wrote: ”Shaw made a large contribution towards the myth of a happy, prospering, enthusiastic, socialist Russia being built up in the outside world, especially among a certain type of intellectual. For the Webbs (the founders of Fabianism) and people like them there is at least the excuse of wishful thinking: they were eagerly moulding a make-believe Russia close to their own heart’s desire. Shaw had already attained his heart’s desire. His humanitarianism was a self-indulgence rather than an idea, or he would have revealed some slight twinge of awareness of the Russian humanity.”
Hopefully, visiting super-celebs from South Africa and the USA won’t suffer too many “slight twinges of awareness” on their way home after waving goodbye to 17 million Zimbabweans, many of them living with hope in their hearts but with little in their stomachs.
Teachers and doctors are looking for jobs in Britain at a time when the ZANU(PF) government is anxious to make sure everyone understands the true nature of the new Patriotic Act that silences criticism and which will possibly keep a corrupt and incompetent group of money-grubbers in power for the next few years.