Nathaniel Manheru: The Other Side
Happy New Year, gentle readers! Well, a New Year in the Gregorian sense of movement of time. But certainly just another day, another time, in other cultures free from the bane of Western religion and outlook. Including our own before the coming of the white man. Then time was concretely lived and reckoned with in terms of human experience, whether for better or for worse, in happiness or in tragedy. Gore rehwiza (year of the locusts), gore refuruwenza (year of the influenza). Or simply gore riyazve ndiine nhumbu yemumvana wangu uyu Marwei (that year my womb carried my elder daughter Marwei). Oh those beautiful days when time meant so much, was a collective or personal memory bank, yes, a compendium of a people’s lived history and experience.
Not the current frenetic linear race towards an ineluctable destiny. A tragedy. A tick-tock countdown to oblivion. A drift towards one’s end. A reminder of lost perfection, of punitive mortality and incompleteness. And in our case, another countdown to the next harmonized elections, with all the anxieties, tensions, the grief, disappointment and selective happiness that these bring and deliver to loser and victor respectively. Haa, this fretful, linear life!
Reissuing sibling wishes
Which gets me to the subject matter of the year that has just begun. I mean the hype around opposition coalition which began some time late last year. Looking in the crystal ball, clearly that same story — dead in the water as it might be — will continue to loom large, assail our reading eyes even, empty though it has always been. Alongside, of course, its sibling fable of factional fights in the ruling party. Both pseudo-themes amounting to double-barrelled wishes: the one for the elusive but yearned-for electoral upset; the other for a wished-for but unreal division as would make the ruling party vulnerable electorally.
Seen that way, the two seemingly separate themes thus meld into one, judged of course by the overriding end-wish. And precious reader dollars will continue to be spent on the same headline, on the same static story, only sensationally re-worded. Same facts, same cast, same editorial malice, same conclusion. Only on different, yet consecutive days. Cry the beloved craft!
Where hard reality always reasserts
Except no fake news, faked headlines, ever stopped hard reality in the middle of its irrevocable march. No, hard reality slowly slouches, slouches, walks slovenly towards Bethlehem! Did we not see it in the year that’s just gone by? One I(E)(A)van Mawarire still drove to a halt, however doting, however frenetic, the editorial push for him was. To be replaced by young Dzamara, now quietly wiping a tear or two under a roof that the goodly Temba Mliswa built and availed.
Worn and spent, bitterly coming to terms with the fact of politics: always dirty, always hard and draining to beings of tender constitution. As for Advocate Mahere, pity the tender girl! She knew early enough, knew well before her tender face got wrinkled, that the better part of valour was the law. Speedily, she quit that grief-filled stage, to redirect her ardour in what she does best: practising the law. Politics amounted to the gravamen, the part that weighed most heavily against her capabilities. She has since limbed back towards a tender target: extortionate banks.
There she has my support, all of it, and deserves mightily of her fellow countrymen and women, so shaven and shorn by these institutions of “shylockian” usury. Meanwhile, unmindful of all such ins, such outs; such ups, such downs, reality marches on, on and on . . . and still does, until the village woman catches another pregnancy, and another daughter is born!
Will the President die yet again?
On a happy note — well, at least for now — the President has not died again! Or more accurately, has not yet been killed off by the poisoned pen, now that the month of January is upon us, for him traditionally the month of his media-led, routinised, ritualistic regicide. A death to be hotly followed by yet another resurrection and triumphal return — another arrival of him: laughing, much bigger, livelier, indeed larger-than-both-pen-and-life! Yes, I died and have since resurrected, he quips, unconcerned and unexercised by this shameless written ill-will. But hark! A small bird whispers.
Though come, the ides of March is yet not gone! He might just die yet again, killed by the same journalistic ailment, in the process fulfilling the scribe-ptures, this man of many lives! A man far more accomplished in the art of resurrection than the Son of God! Such is the stubbornness of reality: defying human wish, holy or otherwise. Moving on, in ringing laughter.
Reconstructing reality themes for 2017
And now the hard reality in 2017, at the very least the makings of it, one year ahead of 2018: the year that Zimbabwe will decide. Some might not like it, which is exactly the moral of this piece: reality is hard, quite often unlikeable, truculent, but there it is, and there it stands: stolid, solid and stubborn. Either you take it, grapple and wrestle with it, or you become its strumpet, its out and out fool! Mangudya, the Reserve Bank Governor tells us about $73 million worth of bond notes are now in circulation.
The drip feed has become something of an ooze, nipple in the mouth of a sucking, sprite baby. What has receded to mere memory, a mere nightmare, is opposition hope for tajamuka! The opposition press further tells us Rand use has dwindled, against the roaring entry of the bond note. Not the Herald, but the opposition press! Still, the same opposition press tells us vendors in Harare, all along the supposed fodder of tajamuka hoodlums, have switched from imports to locally grown agricultural produce. Whether through ignorance or refusal to swallow reality in its hardiness, that section of the press shyly avoids making a connection with SI64 of 2016. Or with the introduction of the Bond Note. Or with Command Agriculture. Or with rising local manufactures! In total denial, but reality sets in, moves on slowly, slowly forward.
Blind opposition led by blind press
The figures are looking good. Minister Bimha tells us the manufacturing sector has risen 65 percent. Not so big in itself, given the nadir which that sector had hit. But a significant pointer to things to come in 2017. The same opposition press is again unwittingly helpful. A buoyed management of Command Agriculture is broadening the crop mix for the Programme, eyeing Winter wheat, eyeing another Summer.
Winter wheat? Which other wheat when here wheat is largely if not solely grown in winter? Tautology, fossilized tautology! Tobacco, that noxious weed: a good 55 000ha already committed, export bonus incentive already paid! Check 2018, the year Zimbabwe decides. I will not quote from The Herald, lest I am accused of bias. The same opposition press tells us agro-suppliers writ large, are reporting roaring business! Reality on the march, thanks to decisions of 2016, the year of A-van, tajamuka, NERA! My politics teaches me that victory is not for the man or woman wearing the heaviest jacket, the lightest shirt, the tightest waterproof, of course depending on the weather. In politics, the trophy goes to the one who makes the weather, in the process conditioning human raiment.
Our blind opposition, led its equally blind press, would not see the far-reaching interventions of 2016, which today makes the weather. With this wondrous gift of flying from reality, need we wonder that one Joice Mujuru is still visiting the courts, hoping for the withdrawal of bond notes? How out of touch can one ever be, how daft, how unfit to govern!
It’s the economy, stupid!
Gentle reader, the game in town in 2017, right through to 2018, shall be the economy. The economy, stupid! And underpinning that economy shall be decisions and activities on the land, in agriculture. There, only there shall votes be got and lost. Give it to Temba Mliswa, that useful ZANU-PF MP incognito. He understands where to locate the quick of national politics. And how to do them. He joined Command Agriculture, knowing fully well that is where resources will be redirected, influence secured.
Those in the opposition express consternation at his move, forgetting an empty stomach knows no principle. That is the difference between politicians steeped in reality, which means with a parentage in the Party of governors, and nearly politicians, which is to say amateur politicians seeking answers in propaganda books by pundits from the Kennedy School of something!
Which reminds me of a radical Filipino priest. Repeatedly wearied by the refrain that Christians must not join struggles, but must instead build bridges between warring sides, he retorted: even builders do start from one bank of the river. Never in the middle. When you seek to move society towards democratic change, with Tsvangirai as your leader, you start from a bank, which is what the reality of the status quo amounts to. Teach them Temba, “taught” them!
The house that Jack built
Talking about the opposition and its wilfully blind press, I see them slouching into 2017, right through to 2018, hanging on to the miasma of an opposition “coalition”. And the fad is “coalition”. This coalition; that coalition! The word “coalition” designates what smaller parties have formed under the acronym CODE. The word “coalition” represents what Tsvangirai and Mujuru seek to do, in contradistinction and virulent opposition to the so-called CODE! The word “coalition” still describes what Tsvangirai seeks to impose on his reluctant lieutenants who have been sniping at the idea from the parapet of new media.
In the opposition lexicon, this is not dissent; it is “coalition”. More accurately, in opposition lexicon these are not “factions”, this is “coalition”. After all, in opposition lexicography, the nomenclature for ZANU-PF aptly describes no other phenomena, no other reality, than that which is in, by, for, ZANU-PF! Call it the house that Jack built!
CODE? NTA? YARD? Coalition?
Meanwhile, Dabengwa would never have attested into the newly formed integrated Zimbabwe National Army of 1980 because he would not brook the idea of serving under a traitor by the name of Solomon Mujuru, late husband to ZimPF leader, and a once-upon-a-time fellow ZIPRA, a once-upon-a-time co-conspirator in the formation of Mavambo which hoped to enthrone the late general’s wife Joice, now in opposition, sorry, in “coalition”! Meanwhile, Professor Madhuku of NCA agrees with Temba Mliswa that “coalitions” are post-electoral: a way of building a governing majority! Under our constitution with its 50+? Before the harmonised elections which you hope to win, in the process burying ZANU-PF?
Meanwhile Dabengwa, DD for short, believes in the NTA, the National Transitional Authority, on that score agreeing with Tendai Biti of PDP, more accurately under a coalition called CODE! Maybe NTA is a synonym for coalition? Meanwhile, Tsvangirai says PDP is not opposition enough, in fact is an instrument of ZANU-PF, while being careful enough to avoid using “coalition” for the alleged relationship.
How can he, given that the word is reserved for the opposition? Meanwhile, Temba who thinks Tsvangirai is the natural leader of a “coalition”, only if it had not withered on the vine, is busy rounding up (not to be confused with the agricultural herbicide called “roundup”!) what he terms a “coalition” of independents who will win sufficient seats under YARD to form the next government! Patson Dzamara will be among them! Another coalition, this time of the willing!
Coalition as corporate buyout
Meanwhile, the doting opposition is busy hoping that some businessman will emerge to pension off Mujuru and Tsvangirai, all to inherit their coalesced support base! It is called coalition through a corporate buyout! Is that not the Trump approach? An era of moguls in politics? Meanwhile, meanwhile the Mujuru-Tsvangirai coalition has come unstuck over the question of rogue war veterans!
Tsvangirai, a non-war veteran wants a coalition with the rogue element; Mujuru, a war veteran, will none of that! Meanwhile, meanwhile, Professor Welshman Ncube, forever a transcendental intellectual, wants everyone in the broad church, tipped though he is said to be, to become Tsvangirai’s top lieutenant in the coalition which includes Mujuru! The good Professor could not re-educate Mzila who wallows in tribal narrowness; the good Professor could not muster support in Matabeleland, and today walks back to Tsvangirai, alone, empty-handed. Still, it is a coalition!
Enter Bikita, the hard rose
In the meanwhile the crucial by-election of Bikita is being won by ZANU-PF. Gingerly, the MDC-T which is still too traumatised by the 2013 defeat, has decided to sponsor a candidate disguised as an independent in that election. It cannot afford the blow-back of a spectacular defeat on its first ever re-entry into competitive politics after years of secure shelter in a cocoon of rationalisation. More important, ahead of coalition talks with Mujuru. On her part, Mujuru plunges headlong into the by-election, thoughts barely focused on the implication of a defeat ahead of her party congress, assuming it will ever come, and ahead of coalition talks with MDC-T.
Simply, she will emerge from that by-election with a shattered limb. And when that happens, the purr of dissent in her party will rise to an open challenge, while the invitation to a coalition by the MDC-T will turn to grisly call for political self-immolation. She will have shown what her real worth is, well away and beyond the benefit of the doubt she hoped to profit from. Gentle reader, the sense of very clear: a rose by the same name is sure to smell differently.