The Other Side with Nathaniel Manheru—
I HAVE always told my fellow Zimbabweans this: history matters. You don’t know history, you can’t use it to defend or further your interest. You become its butt, a clown by history, not necessarily of history. And history is not about the past; it is about a way of looking at the past. A narrative. A construct. Even much more. A way of using the past to gain the present, to control the future. Just see how Eddie Cross has used history to paste human droppings on all of us Zimbabweans! Or you have not read, seen, his piece which beguilingly centres on leadership, while in reality introducing and legitimising supremacist white history on world affairs. On the Second World War, he postulates two sides, not necessarily coterminous with the Allies/Axis dichotomy we are accustomed to from early history.
He creates a new dichotomy. On the one hand there are one “dictators”: from Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union. On the other, there are “diplomatic and military leaders”: the West, led by Churchill who “stood alone in the world against the tyranny of Fascism”. Soviet Union which fought with the West, gets reclassified together with forces of fascism it fought against.
Beatifying the bomb
The atomic bomb which America dropped on bad Japan is goodly, presented as a solution “to bring the carnage [of the Second World War] to an end”. An instrument which allowed good leadership, all of it from the West, to introduce “reconstruction programme and a new world order”. Cross’ history demonises the Soviet Union; it does not recognise that the Soviets by far paid greater sacrifices in the war against Fascism than the whole western world.
And that it was USSR which actually broke Nazi ardour for war, indeed which took the war back onto the German soil, triggering Hitler’s final surrender. This is not just an accidental ellipsis; it is a mangling of history which is at the core of western hegemonic historiography, a key principle and reason which saw the western world’s recent boycott of Russia’s celebration of the struggle against Nazism, a good 70 years later. The nuclear bomb is cleansed, beatified as a panacea to aggression, not an escalation of aggression and hegemonic post-second world war politics which America dominates.
Crossing Cold War narrative
What is worse, Russia which fought Fascism alongside the West, is represented as a producer of “dictators”, and joins Japan and Germany, the two fascists it fought against, while western countries, then its allies, stand apart as “diplomatic and military leaders”, stand apart as paragons totally unfit of the company of Soviet Union, an ally against Nazism. It is a Cold War’s unthinking reflex retold by a hoary Rhodesian who preys upon our ignorance of history. In crossing history so blatantly, Eddie hopes for no comebacks for there is a presumption of an a-historical readership.
It gets worse. And Churchill, that unconditional proponent of colonialism, is celebrated and presented as the hero of that war against “fascism”. Except those of us on this continent and in India know that Churchill would rather resign from government, from parliament and from the Conservative party in the early part of the Twentieth Century, than agree to the end of the Raj in India, to the end of the British Empire. We in Zimbabwe remember his outstanding support for Cecil John Rhodes in his quest to conquer and colonise Zimbabwe, in his Cape-to-Cairo dream for whites, nightmare for Africans. That wasn’t very liberal, Mr Cross!
Happy subjects of Rhodes
But Cross does not allow you to stretch points. He pokes them into your face. Here is his take on Rhodes. Ranking him alongside the great leaders of the world, Cross writes: “Rhodes was such a man, dying at 49, leaving an empire of over 70 companies and five countries who owed their existence to his vision and vitality. He left a legacy that still broods over Southern Africa, and even the world through Oxford and the Rhodes scholarship”.
He might as well have added: which still broods over Southern Africa, and which brags on from Zimbabwe through himself, a good century and a decade plus later. Notice the clever, deflecting use of “empire”, but without denying it its brooding semantic reach in the offensive sentence! All of us — you and me — owe our existence to Rhodes’ vision and vitality, and should be grateful, eternally grateful for the privilege of being made scions of Rhodes’ empire. Subjects of the British Empire! How blatant can the abuse of history ever be!
A Zoba and a Diptank
Worse, the Cross narrative leaves out the Africans who fought, who were maimed or who even died in that so-called world war. Africa fought in that war, albeit under the command of the fascist colonial empire. My own father’s elder brother, Mudhara Mudhibisi, fought Hitler in Malaya and Burma, but came back to a Zoba watch for a present for his sacrifice, and to a job as plunge dip officer, and hence “Mudhibisi”, Dip Attendant, for a post-war profession.
His white counterparts were resettled in Manicaland, in the scenic Burma Valley, so called after a key theatre of the Second World War. South Africa has a whole monument detailing thousands upon thousands of Africans who fought in white wars. And when Cross’ “reconstruction programme and new world order” came, these Africans were out of it, which is why in the case of Algeria, these African combatants saw no way out than to use the same war skills to fight against colonial fascism at home. This is a narrative which Cross, fired up by Rhodesia’s white supremacist ethos, steam-rolls and tramples under. Maybe it’s not his duty to narrate it, although he thinks it is his duty to abuse its mute owners.
Implotting Chinese history
We have a thing or two to learn from the Chinese. This week, on September 3, they celebrated 70 years of victory against Japanese brutal occupation. By so doing, they have staked a claim on world history, not as silent victims, but as claimants to its sacrifices, its setbacks and victories. Much more, they have “implotted” their own history and narrative into world history, into the world narrative.
Not with a view to being at par with the East and West in the fight against Fascism. No. But to be greater, better, worthier. Their narrative qualifies the broad, white-centric narrative of the Second World War. While this broad narrative starts with the year 1938-39, the year of Nazi aggression and expansionist occupation, the Chinese narrative starts in September 1931, when Japan invaded northeast China — ravaging vast areas of Chinese territory, including horrendous massacres at Chongchin and Nangjin in Jiangsu Province, the same province which trained General Tongogara and VP Mnangagwa, among other liberation fighters.
So, well before Cross’ “world” leaders had woken up to Fascism, or worse, were still appeasing Fascism, China was nearly a decade earlier in that fight against early fascism, in fact had sacrificed well over a million by way of casualties, Nangjin alone contributing about 300 000 to that staggering number. This narrative stands China both apart and above. And when Japan’s back was finally broken, her surrender in the Far East happened on Chinese soil, happened because of Chinese resistance. So no one bullies China. Or makes her a butt of history the way Africa is made so, both through silence and innuendos.
When history remakes the present
More significantly, the Chinese have demonstrated how history bears down on contemporary questions and quests of nations in the global order. In that long war, both China and Korea battled Japanese occupation. On September 3, the two leaderships used the event to reconstruct their relationship all along strained over the North Korean question.
In that long war against the Japanese, an inveterately divided China forgot its differences to fight a common enemy. The whole national effort was led by the Koumitang, under Chiang-Kai-Shek, and the Communists, latterly under Chairman Mao. This week, veterans from both sides came together to celebrate, in the process creating raw material for a reunion of China, that is the coming together of the mainland and Taiwan. It’s an all-time goal for a China divided by history, the Cold War and American contemporary hegemony.
Again in that long war against the Japanese, the Russians fought side by side with the Chinese. On September 3, President Putin was there, both to recall in tribute and to combine hands and means in fighting American global hegemony, backed by Cross’s “kindly” nuclear bomb. Equally, India, then still a British colony, was recognized for her efforts.
Nothing for Africa
Nothing for Africa there. Or in Russia’s May celebrations early on. Or in Europe and American celebrations. Nothing for Africa on the African continent. We don’t recognise our sacrifices for European peace, sacrifices made by our forbears. We don’t see the need to use these enormous sacrifices to stake a claim on the new world order which we partly made, and thus into which we don’t need to step in as strangers.
Or to use this legacy to make a case for a permanent seat in the Security Council, Africa being the only continent without representation on that critical world body. I am not talking about history as a dead force. It is a living tissue, a legacy on which to stake claims in the present and future. Shame on us Africa, us Africans. No wonder why the Crosses can afford to spit on us. Or worse. Maybe we deserve such indignities.
One Rudeologist Chikala
Back home I like this stout writer calling him/herself “Rudeologist Chikala”. You don’t want to be his opposite, as was the case with Welshman Ncube who still calls himself “a leader of a party”. He seems to take forever to know that his world has since shrunk from a pretentious party to a thin weekly column, or as the inimitable Chikala aptly puts it, to “weakly Ncube”.
He sees the folly of a penniless “ten point plan” which he says the President announced; he does not see the folly of a “people-less, spokesperson-less” MDC-N, in short the folly of leading no one! No wonder Chikala calls such politics “lacto”, or politics dzakagwamba! There is a real danger that I might also fall victim to a comparable folly, namely of over-pontificating on a man who does not stand for a recognisable body of opinion in the country. Let him be.
Zimbabwe First, Second, Third . . .
But there is one thing coming to the fore nowadays. The country no longer has an opposition. Only little man playing loyal, a visiting criticism to Zanu-PF. And the little men are shrinking by the day, making Giants of Jonathan Swift’s Lilliputians. They have no faith in themselves, in their capacity to tackle Zanu-PF, let alone to change anything without Zanu-PF’s agency, the party’s say-so. As I write, there is a new party called Zimbabwe First Party, launched by one Maxwell Zeb Shumba, himself a former MDC-T US branch leader.
The branch has now decided to be a full tree. We all wait to see if it tassels. And Shumba agrees with me that there is no opposition in Zimbabwe, only little parties which bicker. And his solution is to do exactly more of the same: add a number to the little parties, and another shrill to the cacophony! When you launch a party which you call “First”, you imply a second, third, fourth . . . many more such. You don’t hegemonise, claim all space. It is not a name of confidence, of victory; it is a political prologue that awaits others, more, possibly better. You are not the one who they have been waiting for. Merely a harbinger. Let many more come!
Enter a naming revolution
And quite unbelievably, Zimbabwe has slid into a phase of political naming, a naming revolution. Biti has decided to drop the acronym MDC, finally. He now calls his party People’s Democratic Party! Young Mafume provides the rationale behind the name sea-change: “We are abandoning that. We felt we needed to put people at the centre of what we are doing. You cannot claim to be different from something when you are known by the same name”. Hahaha! So what was at the centre of what you were doing until now, Jakuwo? When was that epiphany reached? What else has not yet dawned on you? Known by the same? Heard about “People First”? It’s a merry-go-round.
Not to be outdone are Zanu-PF’s wartime rebels, typified by Bernard Manyadza a.k.a Parker Chipoyera, and Max Mkandla, both of the erstwhile Mhanda’s Liberators Platform. We are told they have appointed former VP Mujuru president of “PF” translated to “Movement for People First”! Maybe MPF? So, where to Mafume? Don’t you name the same, sound the same, possibly do the same?
Is this the grand alliance Mangoma spoke about? And as if you confirm shared paternity, Mkandla says: “One of the major resolutions of the meeting (now called “Ruzambo Declaration”) was that we should do away with the name zanu (PF), and stick to the name “Movement for People First”. The comrades made it clear that if the likes of Didymus Mutasa and other zanu-(PF) colleagues insist on the inclusion of the word zanu in this new project they will not get support from anyone because the word zanu has got some connotations of very bad things”. What is the difference between this and Mafume thinking? And in battling to move away from bad names and connotations, all the parties end up criss-crossing, even connoting connections: there are “People”; they wish to be “First”; they remain “Movement” and claim to be “Democrats”!
A third force plus a bishop
As if three is not bad enough, we have a third force in the hood-works, something called “National Convergence Platform” (NCP)! And like all third forces in our history, it is led by a bishop and calls itself a “people’s movement”. How history repeats itself! Bishop Sebastian Bakare emerges as the new Muzorewa, with Vince Musewe — yes Vince — as the new spokesperson! We now know where his writings were going! And like First Party, they opine: “We already have many political parties and they are not doing so well.
Maybe what will come out of the gathering will be a movement, a people’s movement”! The launch is set for September/October; the money is western. Gentle reader, I hope you recall Ibbo Mandaza and his recent act in the US. The redeploying American Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton, has left his own little mark here by way of this strange creature which Tsvangirai almost stole while still in the womb, and which the likes of Mandaza await by the placenta!
You think this is the end of it? Wait a little. Dabengwa’s Zapu is calling for a national conference to resolve the question of the national economy. Echoing the National Convergence Platform, Dabengwa urges Zanu-PF to “come to the table as Smith did and let us build the country together just as we defeated oppression together side by side”. He brags: Zapu stands ready to lead Zimbabwe out of this sorry state of the nation.
The future belongs to all stakeholders working together”. It is a call to partnership, not a presentation of an alternative vision, a promise to wrestle power. MDC-T’s Abednico Bhebhe agrees: “What is only needed is the willingness and commitment of the executive to the necessary long overdue reforms.” Again, it is not a blueprint for opposition, for power struggle, but a quest for “a regime change” effected together, under the auspices of “the executive”.
Keeping up as a quisling
The real fear in the MDC-T is a Zanu-PF that reforms itself without them, that turns around the economy and attracts business alone. Says Mashakada: “If Zanu-PF carries out business and economic reforms, everyone will rush to do business. Even Britain and America will soften their stance. Remember the West is already in competition with China whose presence in Zimbabwe is massive.
It is all about economic interest. Period! I fear and warn that this will leave MDC irrelevant. We must not wait for that process to come into fruition. We need to take charge now. Look at how we as MDC have squandered all the ripe opportunities to steer change. Vendors, the economy, three months notices, you name it. We must wake up and smell the coffee”.
For the MDC-T, it is not about opposing Zanu-PF, about presenting alternatives to the Zanu-PF blue print. Rather, it is about retaining western support and allegiance. Remaining a patronised and thus successful quisling, that is. This is what Zanu-PF defeat of the opposition has done: shrunk all opposition into its importuning critics.