The Other Side with Nathaniel Manheru
I LIKE what is happening in Europe, namely the trekking to its shores of thousands and thousands of refugees from North Africa and Middle East, foremost refugees from war-torn Syria. It’s a pity America is so far away, made farther by the huge, impassable waters that cut it away from the European mainland. I would have wanted America, alongside its fellow war-monger in Europe, to feel the full heat and force of persons displaced by her predatory wars abroad. The story of Libya is especially instructive.
A stable and developing country under a maverick dictator called Gaddafi, Libya then policed Europe’s waterfront, Europe’s frontier, against refugees and immigrants from North Africa. Gaddafi was very proud of playing such a role for Europe — often against footloose Africans on his continent — and lost no opportunity to remind Europeans that without him and his patrolling frigates, Europe would have importuning, hungry millions banging against its closed gates. As the Europeans and Americans were busy organising an uprising against him, and an invasion of his land by them, he gave two warnings: Al-Qaeda and hordes of migrants desperately seeking entry into Europe. Today both have come to pass, and Europe, forever blind, is just beginning to wake up to the nightmare of recklessly destroying their willing stopper.
The law of the unforeseen
But Libya was a dry run for an insurrectional model built out of exploiting dubious democratic credentials of Arab rulers, harnessing the energy of instigated mass uprising, and invoking perverted rules drawn up by the UN — harnessing all these to invade and change governments at little cost to the west. The eventual targets were Syria and Iran, Syria ripening first. But Assad, unlike Gaddafi, met the beginnings of this Libya-like insurrection with hard armour, precipitating a “civil” war premeditated and financed by the west which pretended to play referee and arbiter in a false human rights game. Unlike in Libya, the west overestimated its power to direct events, underestimated Assad’s will to stay on, and the resoluteness of his allies’ will to prop him. Today Russia has deployed, and all is set for a bruising fight. Much worse, they misread their local allies, winding up arming a deadly force that has now morphed and coalesced into the unconquerable ISIS.
Enjoy the collateral impact
Today Syria and Iraq, its neighbour, have become veritable, seething cauldrons and settings for a new Cold War woven around dual politics of mastery and religious supremacy. Expectedly, such a complex conflict has spewed refugees and immigrants who now flood Europe, precipitating a tremendous crisis, possibly the largest in post-war Europe.
No longer can the consequences of these imperialist wars be confined geographically, something which gives me a kick, indeed something which could give us some respite from the West’s wanton wars on us, Third Worlders. The West will now have to think, think and think again, before fomenting trouble and causing wars in our lands. May many more trek up north, until the West feels the collateral impact of its unjust wars here. Let their taxpayers meet the costs of aggression, the closest the poor and powerless victims can get to getting war reparations.
Gunyana, the month of ill-omen
When you bare your body so early in the day, you best trust the enduring hold of your inviting limbs. Coyness is always known to set in, creases and folds, wrinkles and warts eventually asserting themselves, playing a big put off. They say sex is in the head and the head’s pathway is always the satisfied eye, in the double sense of what it can see and the imaginative fumes triggered by what it can’t see, what it imagines in the absence of sights. Joice Mujuru, the disgraced former Vice President of Zimbabwe, has finally unbuttoned, to afford us a glimpse into what lies beneath her screening garb.
It is a beautiful Monday, the seventh day of Gunyana (September) in the year of our Lord two thousand one hundred and fifteen. Unbeknown to her, and to most Zimbabweans notorious for being dead to history, she is five days shy of the day Rhodes’ brigands reached Harare, hoisting a flag and, a day later, renaming it Fort Salisbury. The same month too, when the Movement for Democratic Change was formed in 1999. From 1890, September has become a month if ill-omen. This month of September!
The year is 2015, which means she has undressed a good three years before bedtime! And, as in real life, she did it in sartorial style, giving us enough to cover the vitals, but too short to leave much room for what the eyes can’t see. Today there is little else to lustfully imagine. The sun will not hurry up, the mind remaining too active, too wakeful to allow sleep to begin to draw shutters on eyes.
We have a good three years during which to behold, three years to glean and gloat if there is depth to the endowments, three years to fend off coyness if we care and wish to endure. Let’s face it, there is extravagant media goodwill towards Mujuru, which is why the sympathetic media has supplied a name and totem to an otherwise nameless party, totem-less manifesto. The full-pages advertisement announcing her entry into active politics, does not spell out the name of her party, and merely signs off as “For the People of Zimbabwe”. Remarkable immodesty! Yes, somewhere in the body of the document is “people first”, and in bold too. But it’s couched to read like a sentence, not like the name of a party.
Recalling is style
With no name provided, one naturally turns to other symbols for possible clues. And very dominant and imposing stands the national colours in unimaginative borderline display which reminds you of, yes, Zanu-PF! And atop the text sits Mai Mujuru, very much reminiscent of her official portrait when she functioned as President Mugabe’s deputy. It is a stately image, a stately contrivance, and thus one inclined to trigger powerful recall of her glorious pre-December 2014 days, never to suggest the present or the future in her new, altered circumstances.
In symbolic terms, this creates memories; it does not unfurl vision of shaping or reshaping futures. You look further for any more helpful clues. With little left – all limbs so available – you go to the text, the only remaining cloth on the body. “My Fellow Citizens, Countrymen and Friends” salutation invokes the speech register associated with State-of-the-Nation addresses, again harkening to her days in office. Save for severe abridgement (not brevity), the style of the write-up is ponderously bureaucratic, harkening to those days she received and made reports as Vice President of the country.
All told, the ethos mimics Zanu-PF and its Government: by demeanor, by content, by reportorial style. Senior civil servants might have to sit up, for so much makes them possible surreptitious authors of the turgid document. Unlike Dr Magaya, I won’t be so generous as to equate signature with authorship. There is much to point to Government, much to suggest the minter of oppositional acronyms is the same.
Manifestos and the unread bible
When it comes to manifestos and Zimbabweans, I am always reminded of my late mother. Her name was Nyaridz . . . ah no! Only bad children born when elders of the village have left for a beer party dare call their mothers by their first names. Well bred sons don’t even know their mothers’ first names.
She was called Mai Ngoni, Mother of Ngoni, Ngoni being my eldest brother who died in infancy, but eternally honoured for being the first inhabitant of her warm, filial womb. She owned a bible, black in colour and written in old missionary Karanga. Hardly surprising. Her denomination was Dutch Reformed Church, now Reformed Church in Zimbabwe. The early Dutch missionaries who founded the church, were headquartered in the hilly part of Chief Mugabe’s land, close to the Great Zimbabwe Monuments.
The language spoken in those hills was the Karanga dialect of Shona. And when those missionaries set about to translate the Great Book into Shona, the translation took the sonorous sound and colour of Karanga dialect, something that all believers vekwaMuneri had to adopt with an aura of holiness. To this day, the RCZ bible puts forward Karanga as God’s dialect.
When possession was the message
I am told my mother got the bible from one “Muneri”, for a remarkable show of piety and devoutness soon after she converted and was “ombekwa-ed”. That was long back, well before I cried my first in this world. That would have been in the early fifties. But the book looked stubbornly new, as if in holy tribute to my mother’s good care of the Word.
Even at her death bed in 2000, the book still looked new, unravished. By the time of her death I was mature enough to find answers to the whys and wherefores of life. Why wouldn’t mummy’s bible age, even die like her? It occurred to me she had been schooled only up to Sub-B, Grade Two in today’s nomenclature. That wasn’t a level high enough to equip her with reading faculties. And that meant except by proxy — literate proxy — she did not need to open the good book, except to tap it gently in rhythmic consonance with those slow, quite boring Dutch Reformed hymns that became my staple for four long years I was detained at Makumbe High School, kwaMuneri, as the school was known then.
Yet the book was so important, an integral part of her whole being as God’s Faithful. And, as I was soon to learn, possession was the message. One didn’t have to read, or be able to read. That was a duty of Church deacons anyway. You only need to routinely pull out the black book from its place of safety, dust it, carry it to Church as part of your Sunday wear. It attested to your membership, your faith, your purity even.
No hypotheticals, please
So similarly, we don’t read manifestos here. We are Zimbabweans, true children of Mai Ngoni! Joice must know it from her days in Zanu-PF. Of course I am summarising the position of most Zimbabweans, never representing the position of the country’s literati who will read, or have already read it. Among them are leaders and literate minions of political parties, those whose sanctimonious reaction to all written documented is part of the ritual of politicking.
Expectedly Zanu-PF has dismissed Mujuru’s effort with a scoff. I am sure they see their own handiwork parodied by one who used to be one of their own. Similarly, Welshman Ncube will not be bothered: Mujuru is still to have a party, so why bother? “We don’t know of any political party led by Joice Mujuru . . . We don’t know its constitution, values and principles. We don’t even know who its leaders are”, said Ncube’s makeshift spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi. And then the sting: “As MDC, we don’t work on hypotheticals. We don’t comment about parties which don’t exist”.
Speaking the MDC language
What of the other MDC, that led by Tsvangirai? To date it has given us two reactions, both of them so fraught, so pregnant.
The initial reaction came from the wide-mouthed Obert Gutu who said: “In a way, the Mujuru policy blueprint is speaking our language; the document is singing our chorus . . . As the MDC, we feel humbled and flattered that the BUILD manifesto largely mirrors what we have already stated in our JUICE and ART . . . They are talking our kind of language; indeed, they are singing our chorus. We are flattered by that.”
Even Alex Magaisa, himself Tsvangirai’s former advisor, takes a similar view, noting “the sound of the message is quite familiar”, and adding “there is a convergence between what Mujuru is saying, even her policy-orientation, to what the MDC parties in their various guises have said before”. Still yesterday the MDC-T felt compelled to issue a statement on the same issue, stressing Mujuru’s decision to finally and completely break ranks with Zanu-PF confirms the inevitable demise of Zanu-PF”.
More critically, the statement adds: “We are heartened by her realisation that the opposition has been right all along that the crisis in the country has been about leadership, corruption and a bad governance culture by those in the stewardship of the State. We feel vindicated by her acknowledgment of the imperative for a new direction for the country.
For us, the fact that liberation struggle icons have joined the opposition in articulating what Zimbabweans have been hoping for all these years is indeed a breath of fresh air”. And the notion of the liberation factor as a boon for opposition politics was also highlighted by Vince Museve, himself minding the oppositional incubator and nursery called National Convergence, and often using his identity and role in opposition and that in the Convergence interchangeably.
Leaking big tent
The last response came from Biti who uses his welcome of Mai Mujuru to excoriate Tsvangirai and his “leaking big tent”. Ironically, like the man he excoriates, he extols the liberation credentials of Mai Mujuru and what they portent for the opposition: “We are aware that the coalition we seek should include the past and the present to come up with the future.
Heritage plus the new wave of post-independent democrats equals the future. We will work with the generation of the past, not on the terms of the past in order to create a new and better Zanu-PF. But on the agenda of the young and new democratic generation to create a Zimbabwe in which citizens can live happy and prosperous lives”. He itemises his endeavour at forging opposition unity: Ncube’s MDC, Zapu, Mavambo, NCA and Mujuru’s project. Considering that he is MDC’s Mujuru, it is only natural that like flies to like. And both luxuriate in playing the contrite, in parading a guilty conscience.
Biti the arbiter
And now the hard points. Surfacially, Biti could emerge as an inadvertent maker or breaker of a broad church. He and Welshman. His outline of the unity quest he is ready to pursue amount to a counter camp to what Tsvangirai may ever envisage. And since Mai Mujuru does not want to sleep alone, she may have to chose between a coalition without Biti or without Tsvangirai.
Never with both. And the exclusion of either in bed guarantees a noisy and troubled night in the opposition camp. To choose between Tsvangirai and Biti, that might be Mujuru’s first dilemma. The Dabengwas and the Makonis have always been hers, right from the days of her husband’s brooding schemes, and of course her daughter’s marriage. All this has nothing to do with her person, party or manifesto, merely a preordained dilemma arising the make up of opposition as we have it today, yes arising from her wish not to sleep alone. And of course she has to know she is combining with parties whose hugeness lies in claims, never in membership.
Follower, not leader
Second and profoundly, virtually all the MDCs in their various names and reconfigurations claim her manifesto draws from theirs, in fact is theirs. One cannot miss the sense of admonishing proprietorship which has greeted Mujuru as a set of ideas. And the stress from the established opposition is that she is a belated follower, not a leader. Already, this discourse points to some investment in the leadership question not in the too distant future. If she is a follower on shaping ideas, how does she become a leader of men and women?
At best a widow, at worst a divorcee
Third, Mujuru’s past presents an ambiguous magnitude as far as creation of a broad church is concerned. At one level, all parties agree that her liberation credentials add value to them, itself an admission of past illegitimacy, indeed a validation of Zanu-PF criticism of the opposition. In the case of MDC-T, her breakaway from wartime allies weakens fatally Zanu-PF, implying they limit her value to weakening their main opponent, rather than strengthening their bid for power.
To be Machiavellian, the fact of launching herself politically completes that perceived weakening of Zanu-PF, which means an alliance with her, unless desirable for other reasons, might very well be superfluous, might amount to a propping into being of an object that must remain a poking stick. From that perspective, Tsvangirai’s statement is quite pregnant. The only thing Mujuru may succeed in doing is to break away from Zanu-PF and its ethos; once in the opposition camp she remains at best a political widow from Zanu-PF, at worst its divorcee.
I thought Tsvangirai put it so well: you don’t take a neighbour’ wife because she gets daily beatings from her bad husband! That seems to abridge her sell-by date severely. The opposition needs Mujuru to divide and weaken Zanu-PF; they do not need her to win power and to govern in the absence of Zanu-PF. The only issue is at what point they will find it tactful to jettison her. That she seeks sleeping mates at birth does not help matters at all. Parties intent on uniting or building a coalition do so from known and proven constituency strength. That was the issue between Zanu and Zapu in 1980, and Mujuru knows that.
The second ambiguity is that the same past links her to values that sets her apart, if not in fact, certainly in suspicion, with the rest of the opposition. She will be read as smelling Zanu-PF, at best residually smelling. Or relapsing into that smell from time to time. Where I come from tinoiti hudzi kana kuti kunhuwa rukoto, a goat-smell that is persistent and follows you beyond the stables.
Occasionally and especially when contentious issues arise in the marriage, her Zanu-PF ethos will smell pungent, smell strongest. It does not have to be there, to be odiferous. Her opponents only need to be nasty and she shall smell. It will be harnessed as a quick put-down. She will never belong, staying a perpetual outsider who escaped from her side, never to reach the shore of the new land to join the other side.
Narrative of rebellions
Fourth, to the broad generality of voting Zimbabweans, principally those in Zanu-PF from where she hopes to cull votes, her links with the MDC in their various contortions is fatal, most fatal. One notices the relaxed response of Zanu-PF, nay their wistful wish for a speedy launch of herself politically. Yes, to realise her acute desire and ambition not to sleep alone. To Zanu-PF, that is a propaganda boon, the best message source for the 2018 campaign. Like it or not, 2018 will not be fought around manifestos. Or the economy.
It shall be fought around Mujuru’s defection. And the narrative will be coherent: ‘74, Nhari; ‘77 Dzinashe; ‘78 Rugare Gumbo; Tekere in the 1990s; skip Makoni in 2008; 2015 Joice. And for Zanu-PF, nothing else matters but the following issues: the liberation struggle and its goals which Mujuru has repudiated in word, deep and spirit; renouncing the Land issue and seeking to tax Zimbabweans to please mabhunu; jettisoning indigenisation, acceding to security sector reforms and an unconditional surrender to, a sellout rapproachment with imperialist countries, above all, jumping into bed with quisling parties.
In short, liberation, land, empowerment, sovereignty and the sin of collaboration. She has fatally repudiated the land which carries the majority of voters. Zanu-PF as been uncomfortable with a floating Joice Mujuru, a Mujuru sitting musingly at Rudhara, allowing time to forget and heal, allowing a growing benefit of the doubt. A Mujuru without a distinguishing political name and differentiating colours. Such a situation has been very hard for Zanu-PF to manage since December last year, justifying endless purges. It enfeebled and enervated structures. This latest move takes matter beyond shades of grey, into a clearcut universe of black and white.
Zanu-PF, the hard auditor
There are many things which Zanu-PF had put into abeyance, waiting for this moment. She has provided a trigger and it can only be fast forward. She is set to be fought on many fronts. Zanu-PF is a vicious, unyielding auditor. Already, yesterday’s appointments suggest a planner putting his ducks in a row. Read carefully what the appointments do to Midlands and Mashonaland East, and you get a good clue. Lastly, as Mujuru was launching herself, many things were happening between Zimbabwe and her western adversaries.
Significant conduct with Nordic countries was taking place. Equally, the EU was engaging Zimbabwe in anticipation of moves on debt relief and investment promotion. The IMF has been here and the interaction has been quite good. But all these are additives, not the trump card. The real card is what Zimbabwe has been doing to mobilise herself for recovery, with some assistance from countries and interests of goodwill. And what Kasukuwere is doing to empower our urbanites.
Between her soul and her desires
Of course by the time 2018 comes, infrastructural projects will be in full swing, absorbing thousands from our pool of unemployed and self-employed. But the key message to learn is that the West no longer favour grooming a party that topples Zanu-PF. Only a strong opposition that keeps it in check. If Mujuru thinks she is the one the West has been waiting for, she shall be disappointed.
And then you have a defining, contrasting paradox: Zanu-PF front-loading its hardballs now, for matters to have cooled and calmed down by 2018; Mai Mujuru undressing now, in anticipation of love set to made in 2018. The one hoping the voting world will have forgotten by 2018; the other hoping for lasting lust, in place of coyness bred by long familiarity. Whichever way, there is a woman who can’t sleep alone, painfully stuck between a man who holds her soul, and a paramour who captures her lustful desires.