My Turn with Tichaona Zindoga
ROZAN Rothann, writing in “The Handbook of Political Behaviour notes that, “Symbols are manifestations of the deeply felt human need to order . . . ‘the blooming, buzzing confusion’ of experience and endow this order with meaning. Order is socially cued and of human construction. Symbols are the artefacts or objectifications of this search for meaning; they are value and emotion laden. Symbols become part of the day-to-day realities we know so well that we are not conscious of their compulsions and demands.”
Politics is full of symbols and symbolism — and that is a trite point to make.
In that light, one may quickly relate to the events over the past weekend where we saw the holding of a prayer meeting ostensibly to intercede with a god on behalf of one Itai Dzamara whom we are made to believe is missing after being allegedly abducted by unknown people whom the opposition MDC-T party wants to believe to be State agents.
A lot of ink has already been spilled on the subject of Dzamara.
What is instructive though is to analyse the symbolism associated with the latest event and the larger politics of Zimbabwe today.
The first point to make is that Dzamara has become more than man — a social being: father, brother, son, sekuru; etc, but a political symbol that the opposition has appropriated to itself; which act is not in-congruent with the mortal Dzamara whom we all knew as an anti-Zanu-PF government activist and journalist.
If one were to doubt this, the new characterisation of MDC as standing for ‘Muchatipa Dzamara Chete’ when we all thought that it stood for movement for democratic change is a telling one.
There were banners all over telling us of this new Dzamara movement.
And one begins to get a feel of the bottom of it.
Dzamara springs to life as a rallying point, a symbol and human construction to bring certain meaning and that meaning is opposition politics of Zimbabwe.
One may question the wisdom, let’s say lack of it, in putting Dzamara as the ultimate symbol as a martyr when nobody outside a precious few in the field of journalism and politics knew him and when to the same who did he was something between a discredited journalist and a fanatic who was teetering on the edge of a mental something by staging a lonely sit in with a couple of buddies and breaking that tedium by running the perimeter of Africa Unity Square blowing whistles during lunch time.
One can be sure for the bad abductors it would have been a better job to abduct Tsvangirai himself or a Nelson Chamisa or even Obert Gutu?
This would give us better political drama on both sides, wouldn’t it?
But we have to stick with this poor, boring Dzamara show someone is trying to shove down our throats and get us worked up.
The Americans and Europeans require us to, and they have been issuing statements, itself a symbolic gesture.
African diplomats, who thankfully know better have not, and someone was complaining about it.
But the symbolism does not end there.
We have Jabulani Sibanda, expelled Zanu-PF member and war veterans leader and Temba Mliswa another Zanu-PF erstwhile coming to this MDC-T event which so touches Tsvangirai that history has been made.
Both men are applauded.
Both men are toasted to.
Both men are de facto entrants to what Tsvangirai has been calling the big tent, a symbolism for amalgamated opposition politics.
Simba Makoni was also there.
But it is Jabu who delivers what he imagines to be the ultimate unifying voice and declares “operation kubvisa zvisina basa (clean up operation)”.
“Let’s come and reason together. These words my brother and president of the MDC Tsvangirai and Amai Tsvangirai. Let’s come and reason together my sister from Matabelelalnd, Thokozani Khupe, all chiefs from Manicaland including Chief Makoni. God is saying come let’s reason together.
He preaches: “We must forget about our political affiliations and co-operate. We cannot continue to be going for painkillers, painkillers and more painkillers. God does not take his people on a journey where there are no signs of success.
“We have the signs and we need to confront the problem not its symptoms. In Shona when they say ‘maswera sei?’, the answer is ‘taswera kana maswerawo?’, which means we are okay if you are fine as well. That means we cannot be fine when a colleague is not well, so tinoda operation yekubvisa zvisina kufanira (We want operation remove filth).”
“Itai’s name gives us directions. Itai izvozvo (D)zamara takunda (Do that till we succeed). It is time to wake up from our sleep, forget about our political parties and come together as Zimbabweans to pursue the national agenda.”
The opposition-private media establishment is in throes of excitement.
So is Obert Gutu, as excitable as ever, repeating to us the dictum that in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies; only permanent interests!
But there was to be more symbolism.
Here is the Daily News schooling us: “ . . . the location selected for Saturday’s prayer meeting could not have been more appropriate and politically resonant.
‘‘The Zimbabwe Grounds are the epicentre of people power and are famous for having hosted Mugabe’s ‘Star Rally’ in 1979 where he made his famous prediction of a landslide victory at the impeding independence elections, which the ruling party won.
‘‘The Zimbabwe Grounds were also the scene of State-orchestrated violence and widespread chaos on March 11, 2007, after the opposition, church members, civil society and the general public gathered for a prayer meeting to protest against the death of democracy in Zimbabwe.
‘‘The government then responded with a much-criticised iron fist, resulting in the fatal shooting of an MDC activist Gift Tandare, as police resorted to using live ammunition against the masses.
‘‘Thankfully, riot police were conspicuously absent from Saturday’s prayer meeting — a welcome first for Zimbabwe, after the government banned the same prayer meeting last month.”
Anyone with anything between the two political ears will know that the MDC has been praying — pun intended — for a spark, a violent one, to trigger a revolt in the country.
The party’s last congress last year called for mass action but this has not yet found anything to torch it off.
Dzamara was the big idea and one can hazard a guess that last Saturday the opposition was secretly praying for a scene that would degenerate into chaos; another 2007.
Wen you begin to look at things this way Dzamara the man — who has a wife who badly needs him this cold winter; and kids who may not understand these dynamics — disappears.
This writer has been accused by some quarters of being insensitive in the matter.
Only the people who make such accusations are the same people who are propagating the symbols of blooming and buzzing confusion, or are veritable victims of the same.
There is larger politics to this and we hold this to be true.