The Other Side – Million Man March: So hard a fact, so harder to accept

PRESIDENT Mugabe and the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe greet multitudes of zanu-pf supporters who, in spite of the bad press from private media and cold weather, graced the Million-Man March in Harare on Africa Day

PRESIDENT Mugabe and the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe greet multitudes of zanu-pf supporters who, in spite of the bad press from private media and cold weather, graced the Million-Man March in Harare on Africa Day

Nathaniel Manheru
BACK in the 1970s, marriage took the form of musical rivalry that pitted families of the bride and the groom. Each side composed songs that exalted the qualities of their side — both real and imagined — while heaping execrable qualities on the opposite side. The starting point was the physical side of either party: the big, lumpy lips that resembled lungs left to dry by the fireplace; big eyes that would frighten even the owls, sunken face structure that beat a baboon in a competition; rickety legs wider than goal posts.

Things like that, but all said in fierce jest. And when the physical side was exhausted — which was more not that often — the taunting would extend to families: how they did not have bedrooms of zinc; how they survived on ants, their precarious welfare levels, which is why marriage for them was a coping mechanism, a way of lessening mouths to feed.

When wedding taunts reigned

There was this one song the Manherus were fond of singing, always a winner in the competition. It extolled our own, while excoriating those to whom our daughters would have been betrothed. It would be accompanied by a reckless throw of limbs, not least the family economy as wielded by our women folk. It went like this:

Julie wedu/

Tinomuuda, Julie wedu tinomuda x2

Vamwene vake vakamushuusha

Julie wedu tinomutorax2

Vamwene vake

Kunyange vakapenga, vakarovera musoro padombo

Mangoshusha tinomutoora.

Zirume rake

Kunyangwe rikashusha rikarovera musoro padombo

Rangoshusha tinomutora.

All done in utter joy

The song was a threat to parents of the groom, a dire warning that the Manherus would not hesitate to follow through and repossess their daughter in the event of any mistreatment, a nagging mother-in-law or a nagging husband. It pampered the bride while presumptively warning the groom already heaped with imaginary excesses. Much worse, presumption soon gave way to conviction, which is why the groom would be imaged in animal epithets, principally chidhanana — that rock lizard which feigns hitting against the rock as if in resistance. And so the banter would go on, with the groom’s side responding in kind. A typical song from the groom side would go like this:

Chosiya Mai vacho chonorarepi

Chidhongwana chosiyax2

Eh eh chidhongwana chosiyax2.

The past that’s gone forever

In the riposte, the bride was likened to the little one of a donkey roguishly running away from its home and mother without knowing where to spend the night. The innuendo-filled song suggested the girl had eloped, something that was always frowned upon in Shona custom. But the competition would be limited to the young ones while the elders would treat each other with befitting dignity, distance and decorum. We did not have radios. We did not have DJs. But then, who needed them? Marriage ceremonies generated their own forms of entertainment and it used to be real fun. It is harder to recapture that era, what in this world of ICTs and staid music from machines.

The day a small palm started a fight

The Million Man March came on Africa Day, May 25th, and it is now past as an actuality. But it remains firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of an ailing opposition which must be kicking itself for ever challenging Zanu-PF to the game of street politics. It is a nightmare, an ever living fear hard to overcome.

Led by the Party’s Youth League, the event lived up to its billing. In spite of the vast numbers, there was order, perfect order. In spite of the cold weather, the turnout was massive, far greater than the crowd that greeted the President in 1980, at the close of the war of liberation, the beginning of electoral politics which Zanu won by a landslide. In spite of the bad press, the mood was buoyant without being boisterous, and even those who decided to stand aloof were left alone, more pitied than accosted. With a million, one did not need one man more.

Call it arrogance of the majority. A great show of force in the presumed citadel of opposition. In Harare, where the MDC-T had marched a handful previously, hoping to send shivers to those in power. Tsvaru wadana tivu, we say in Shona, which is to say a man with a small palm must not start a fight, the reply will be hefty and filling.

When a million is figurative

The opposition press is in denial, hopeless denial. The opposition itself, always used to a rote-learnt line, says the march was nothing, a farce. Really? Sometimes you gain credibility by acknowledging a score. Or where you can’t help it, by simply letting a bad day pass. That way the bad day may be shorter.

But when you challenge the obvious — as did this Obert Gutu guy — you provoke a louder response, a bigger, more filling slap that leaves you misshapen, reeling, worse off. Here we go. Million? You would be a fool take that literally, a big fool bereft of the art of political messaging. The language of politics is figurative, always. Where numbers are counted — as was the case with MDC-T’s miserly stampede — that mobilisation will have failed, the call will have gone unheeded.

Typical of hard sale, waning influence. Back home, the lore is vanhu kwaive mavhu nemarara — sand and debris — our own figurative way of reckoning big gatherings. Who has ever counted sands that make our earth? Or the debris that make our MDC-T-led Harare such an eyesore? And that is all you need to reach the political million, to suspend disbelief. The issue is the Youth League pulled a stunning one, a nonpareil. I challenge any party to do half as well, I, the son of Manheru. And the bandwagon effect, oh God help the opposition!

Spacious arguments from those who should know

I read two responses, both desperate coping mechanisms. One: at attempt by Coltart to set off the Zanu-PF million against Tsvangirai’s little thousands who gathered at the same venue towards the tail-end of 2013 campaign. Cross-over rally they dubbed it, but one that marked a slouch back to dejection and current endless oblivion.

What a sparse argument, decidedly spacious for a lawyer to make. The subsequent poll results situated that baby crowd into its proper perspective, which is why Coltart is writing from without, while Mugabe speaks from within, from the podium of presidency, yehumambo. So we have here a self-nullifying argument answered here just in case there is persistent, stubborn denial.

Two: that dzakutsaku in 1980 had such a huge turnout, but proceeded to show poorly in the intervening election. Deliberately, the argument does not say showed poorly against who. And deliberately, the same argument is not used to caution Coltart and his red caps in 2013, both beckoning parallels. This is how the opposition self-deludes, and pretends shock when beaten fair and square.

Lauding our own

The third response is borrowed from Manheru’s argument when the MDC-T raised its handful a few weeks back. Then, I said what then after that? Now there is an attempt to raise the same question in respect of Zanu-PF and its million man march (I like the internal rhyme mhani!). Ahh the fallacy of comparisons. Get real guys.

The million man march — I can’t say it enough — was meant to celebrate the President as a triple leader: of Zimbabwe, of sadc, of Africa. Three portfolios rolled in one, two of them transnational. All done ably by this Atlas-like veteran politician. It has not happened. It may never happen again, at least in my lifetime. Certainly never in Tsvangirai’s lifetime, what with him struggling just to be one of these, struggling more than four times! You would be a big fool to think Zanu-PF had its sights set on local politics.

It is local politicians who are panicking, drawing local meaning. Serves them right. Zanu-PF sought to speak to Africa, to the world, to say: here we have produced a world leader from a continent. We laud our own, like the proverbial lizard that jumped off the high iroko tree and still lived long enough to tell its grandparents how the jump felt. The numbers did just that and you would be a fool to ask what next. Huru inokudzwa newayo, we say in Shona. We did just that.

Zanu yapinda muchiona/Heyo yapinda

But just in case you persist in asking what next, here are the dampening facts. With such a massive parade, Zanu-PF is making its sure win in 2018 only a matter of course and time. It has made an emphatic entry into the electoral register. Yes, Rugare Gumbo got it right when he said through the million man march, Zanu-PF is rehearsing to rig!

Let him rehearse back so the crowds battle is back on an even keel. Let MDC-T rehearse back so Zanu-PF’s street dominance is equalled or challenged. Let both combine so we see what their grand coalition is made off. It was their choice that the 2018 elections start in 2016. So why cry now? In the absence of matching acts, who would be condemned for interpreting this as a prefigurement of 2018?

Who in the opposition? And when 2018 confirms it, who dares mumble about rigging? And hope to be heard? During the war, Zanu had a song that celebrated its quiet advance as a fighting machine. The song went like: Zanu yapinda/ Muchionaaa Muchiona/ Heyo yapinda/ Muchiona makangotarisa muchiona.

Roughly translated the song celebrated Zanla’s ineluctable advance against Rhodesian gaping eyes. As I write, the western world, both directly and through their union, have begun pouring money into regime-change NGOs in anticipation of 2018. Here was a very considerate message from Zanu-PF to say tarry thee, don’t waste your resources in lost cause. 2018 is won already.

2018 was won on Africa Day. As for the Americans, just read their latest human rights report on Zimbabwe and you begin to see what mischief is already afoot, much of it fed in by the hostile press and facile NGO reports. A whole superpower, accredited here, but going by shallow media claims for a report? But there is bound to be a real rethink as we head up to London for another round of re-engagement. I liken this to the battle for Mavonde in 1979. It gave us a good Lancaster.

Taking politics off streets

Secondly, this whole game of taking politics to the streets should stop, and the way to stop it is not through police bans. It is by setting an unattainable benchmark, itself an everlasting image to invoke against any ambitious handfuls paraded by the little parties. Zanu-PF does not need another one in Bulawayo or anywhere.

It has raised a million for the electoral century and the rest is history. Through that action, the constitutional right to assembly will exist as an uncontested right, a passive one which none dare claim. So, yes, the idea was to make street politics very, very expensive for whoever tries them, expensive through deadly comparison.

On that score one finds the MDC-T a bit obdurately foolish. They know their leader is bedridden, unwell after a serious procedure. Sure to be unavailable for quite a while. Yet they continue to suggest he will lead from the front in Bulawayo. Really? Or is the coup complete? Save vadingurwa? In politics you are better off dealing with obdurate facts of life than seeking to wrap them with khaki paper. And obdurate facts are like a beast with horns: you don’t wrap it flat as we say in Shona.

The game has changed guys

Thirdly, the lore of factionalism which the hostile press has been harping on has proven to be just that, an old wives’ tale. I kept saying even at its most fractious moment, Zanu-PF was always mobilising, the real challenge being to ensure the internal contradiction is not allowed to get out of hand.

This is why the meeting between the President and War Veterans was so key. I mean the real meeting, not the subsequent media performance which many mistook for the actual meeting. And pity the ill-adjusted press still holding on to an old, stale script of divisions. As we move into the future, Zanu-PF shall be one whole, indivisible. Which for me was what emphatically answered the so-what of opposition. They say it was about Mugabe showing his invincibility inside his party.

Yes it was, as indeed he should. The perception of a Zanu-PF without a centre has vanished, once and for all. Let’s change the debate guys, throwing real light where the centre is begging, namely in MDC-T and ZPF. The biggest gesture was the image of Kudzi Chipanga and his Youth League briefing the Main Wing of the Party at the Party HQ about the project.

Those with clear heads should have read that the times had changed, and with them, the game. That then made the million men march a show of intra-party, inter-generational, inter-arms unity in organisational action. Exactly the monster the opposition will meet in 2018. It’s awesome.

Zanu Yedu Tinooidaaa

Fourthly and for this week lastly, there is this lame argument around bussing people he he he! Nonsense! Did we not see the Youth League executive addressing meetings in all the country’s 10 province? Do you reach 10 provinces to raise crowds for a local rally? And were people supposed to come on foot from those provinces?

How is it different on Election Day? Is there a law that stops bussing of voters seeking to reach a booth, assuming there will be some booths far away from the voting public? What is the point? Yes, people were bussed from all over the country, people today, voters tomorrow. And the difficulties by some in getting back to their home provinces. What does that tell?

That resources for the million man march were sparse, hard to come by. What was abundant was the zeal, the will to march for a million. You can’t argue that State resources were abused and still find people stranded in Harare. Does that make sense? What is your day like, dear critic? Zanu-PF will did it again! Zanu Yedu/ Tinooidaaa Zanu Yedu tinoida/ Kunyangwe zvavo/ Kunyangwe zvavo vakachema, vakarovera musoro padombo, mangopinda tinokunda.


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  • leemoyo


  • Amai veZimbabwe

    This is where we stand now: war veterans are 100% behind the President and Amai President, youths are 100% behind the President and Amai President, and women (of course) are 100% behind the President and Amai President. More importantly, ZANU-PF is 100% behind the President and Amai President. The revolutionary party is united, and talk of succession is now history.

    • Thandie Gwatidzo

      A aaah what were your expectations? We hate em?
      You, You are reading too much trump white people propaganda.
      Read the right stuff so you won’t be so lost coz isu na Baba na Amai Dr Grace tiri tii-narinini narini soread the word mubva magaroziwa mese.

    • Thandie Gwatidzo

      You mad haa! Sorry-wo
      Together we stand divided we FALL.
      Viva Zanuuuuuu

    • bodo_kwete

      Don’t lie. Evrery one is 100% behind own ass, of course a few are behind Amai’s.

  • tineyichiz

    Ipai vana mabasa mhani kwete swera nyora nonsense idzi, who do you think you fools shall continue fooling

    • Cde Mzvinavhu(Prof)

      Its proper for ZANU PF and all progressive and patriotic Zimbabweans to celebrate that successful rally , despite our current economic problems caused ,mainly by the illegal economic sanctions imposed by the evil West. Tired and despondent opposition parties were chagrin ridden , seeing what they never expected after regurgitating propaganda spewed by neo colonial media, against the very successful rally. Well done Manheru! Allow me to agree with your wise and well informed position.

      • succuba

        “despite our current economic problems caused ,mainly by the illegal economic sanctions imposed by the evil West” – the (prof)

        Name the sanctions against Zimbabwe here kikikikiki… stop making yourself look like a complete nutter kikkikikikik…

  • loonex

    Not even one tenth of a million made the march. There were not even 100,000 there. What a waste of time and money. Of course Manheru swallows the propaganda hook line and sinker

  • matshobane

    i want you Zimbabweans to suffer so that you learn how to open your eyes.Why do you behave like corpse.Y ou are thick!.

  • Richard

    This photograph has been “doctored”

  • OceanKunene

    Where are the 2 million jobs?

  • Thandie Gwatidzo

    Very aptly put Manheru..Eloquent as ever.

  • no to zanu

    if you read the above shame on you….what has ZAnu done ….after 1980….yes destroyed what has bn done kudhara….

  • ashburton grove

    cant wait for trump to lift sanctions

  • Chamabondo

    So what next was not answered at all , nonsense indeed

  • Rawboy

    Strangley they have all of a sudden gone quiete….

  • hunzi007

    Bullshit editor.nothing to write home about. Hre city council workers earning 39K US per month is a shocker. Corrupt Zanu PF

  • cedrick

    Is the editor of the Herald not embarrassed by blatently publishing digitally modified photos to try to fool people by deception?

  • Nziradzemasoja

    Looking at vanhu vacho vakainda ku gathering iyi….vane kauromberombe kavainako so….

  • bhinikwa

    Bussed supporters, coerced transporters, forced attendants. Meanwhile Bob flies to an unknown country to be the only head of state among clerks & ministers. We know Grace wanted to stop over in Singapore to check out Bona. We know they travelled with more than 50 hangers on, we know it was an unbudgeted trip, we know the change is never returned to treasury. Bond notes crisis unfolds, president couldnt careless. Meanwhile Zim is in permanent election mode

  • Telescope

    Editor….I am interested in numbers and estimates. Can someone estimate as to how many people were at Robert Mugabe Square. I have not come across anyone with a rough estimate. It is sad that your journos don’t know how to furnish such numbers. Fine it was not 1 million but how many….just want to know. 10,000, 30,000 here? Nokuti if indeed we can estimate then we would know kuti million haikwane in that space. Apa youth yaka zama even if they missed their target. Organisation was good.

  • Im African

    I can’t agree more with you! It doesn’t need a rocket scientist to tell that those youths are disgruntled, hungry and angry. If the issues of corruption among cabinet ministers, cash shortages and unemployment are unresolved, only God knows what awaits ZANU PF. What that Kudzai dude was saying are the grievances of most Zimbabweans, only that the wiser ones know the platform to air them. The ‘youngman’ was complaining about corruption, poverty, cash shortages, unemployment, inter alia. Does ZANU PF know how to deal with these challenges? Of course we all know they’re devoid of any solution. Therefore instead of celebrating the million man march, ZANU PF must be concerned and worried about the concerns raised thereof! That is a boiling volcano, just waiting to erupt! Icho wananchi!!

  • Mabaleka

    In as much as l am not fan of how ZANU PF has run the country especially in the last decade, you must give it to them. They are creative and “clever” in the way they run their politics. This sadly cant be said of the opposition. At the best, opposition has made some noise which has at its best made ZANU PF what it is today. If you know anything about the politics of this country, you would remember that there was talk about President Mugabe talking a rest before the ZCTU turned itself into MDC. The problem with opposition politics is that they align with the wrong people. White people are not and have never been our friends.

    So what am l saying? Nathaniel’s opinion here as irritating as it is, he is correct from a stand point of ZANU PF and from who emerges the winner or who has emerged the winner over and over again in Zim politics. In my opinion, ZANU PF would do better without MDC, the other small parties they are making noise. All they are doing is awakening the dragon and “pissing it off”. That’s my take, take it or leave it.

  • bodo_kwete

    They are sick. This is why they drag everyone else into it.

  • bodo_kwete

    George wekwaCharamba.

  • wenjere

    What garbage. manheru is just a lickspittle prpogandist for the worst elements of the Zimbabwean kleptocracy. He will eat his words.