UNDER THE EAVES WITH Igomombe
Where I come from you don’t begrudge a child for darning clay into a mighty ‘bull’. That is called creative play, for clay hurts no living being, and does not add one beast more into the kraal. So you let kids play, as long as you ensure they are in village rags, and not in their school uniforms. We all came through that route anyway, all to become today’s “large” men and women, with sins, children and all.
When the thong comes down
But in the village, there is a clear red line which no child ever dares cross: you don’t play with a log on whose uneven end smoulders real fire. We all grew up knowing that only too well. There are limits to liberties which the home and village grant. Beyond those indulgences lie a long thong and a swift hand. Both mercilessly descend on your tender skin should you exceed the bounds of tolerance. The swift reaction and the loud wail did much more than teach you what not to do. It also taught your peers in the village: you don’t play with naked fire in a village so full of thatched roundavels, all of them built closer to one another than maize grains on a filled, mature cob. The village elders know that fire burns, more so when committed to tender, inexperienced hands. Which is why children are only allowed to gather around the round heath for warmth, but never to turn embers or live faggots into articles of play.
A welcome distraction
Nelson Chamisa, the so-called MDC-Alliance leader this week amassed impressive crowds of lumpens, all to make a mighty small point to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC for short. He knows the law; or should. Our Constitution grants him and his ilk the freedom to associate. And to demonstrate. Given our checkered history, this newfound freedom tastes sweeter than saccharine, which is why the opposition wastes no time, no excuse, to claim, enjoy and as we now know, abuse it. No one begrudges them. It is good, very good, for the development of our burgeoning democracy, and for the growth of our nascent Second Republic where liberties must be guaranteed, and where democracy’s naughty discontents give both a tensile form. For resilient democracy and the Second Republic must house all, accommodate all, including the most weird. And for me — a die-hard Zanu-PF cadre — any day Chamisa fritters in democracy’s playground, and foregoes chance to mobilise, is more than a welcome distraction.
Science of catharsis
Is that not how the Greeks and Romans used to manage pent up anger as they welled up in bosoms of frustrated demos — lumpens in the lingo of Karl Marx? They created amphitheaters, bore gladiators and, after the Spaniards, invented bullfighters, all to ensure the demos could experience some emotional release, so they would live more pliable and thus much easier to govern. As vicarious gladiators, their urge for violence and aggression would exhaust itself in and through such bloody spectacles, all to go home drained and satiated. It was called purgation of emotions, a key aspect in the science and practice of catharsis. Today Rome uses those old ruins only for tourism, Italy and the western world having invented new and better amphitheaters: mass media, films, red-light districts, pornography and of course propaganda that distracts and opiates the masses.
Against that background, what is wrong with a carnivalesque Harare, while ED and CNDG — the two governing elders — go about reshaping our infrastructure, our economy, our politics? Go about campaigning for a renewed mandate? I suppose it is only Karikoga Kaseke and his ZTA who grow green with envy. For in political terms, the Wednesday carnival was remarkably small in significance as it was massive in numbers. Something hardly surprising in between quarter-finals when Harare’s do-nothings look anywhere, everywhere, for joy, sparkle and spectacle.
Scuds of opaque beer
Expectedly, our media are having difficulties in finding the right idiom for this supposedly political carnival. Not that they don’t know its low political value. They do, correctly too, which is why they barely conceded much space to it in newspapers. The focus has been on the colourful, aimless, marching multitudes, and of course on a “bevy” of raucous youths, all well armed with “scuds” of opaque beer, with which to smash and fell ZEC! The event must have been good for the national brewer. All good, for as long as the good advocate knows what limits and strictures the law imposes on his hysterical play: that ZEC must not be impeded; that law and order must be maintained for property, limb and life. Above all that Zimbabwe must remain stable for all times, for all generations, including his own children.
Nihilism or anarchism?
As for the media, well, they do more than apportion space to vying causes. They name; they interpret; they provide expressive idioms by which events and occurrences are cognised, understood and digested. Apa ndipo paita dambudziko rakati ooo! A good many of our media described the Alliance action as “anarchism”. I suppose in the dictionary sense of the word “anarchy”, which means “disorderly”, “chaotic.” But not in the serious political sense in which the term “anarchism” is used. Our media need to know that this is a serious political term with a definite parentage, definite genealogy, definite semantic load and range. And where it is deployed in a politically fraught environment such as we are in, and to describe what purports to be a political action such as was conceived by Chamisa and his Alliance, the dictionary meaning simply won’t wash.
You have to deploy terms with semantic decency and exactitude, lest you entrench hard-to-dislodge, well-fossilised errors which obfuscate political meaning. A better, more fitting term to employ in the circumstances is “nihilism”. Check that out, dear media colleagues, if such is the meaning you intend to convey. A propensity to destroy all order and authority, but without any vision to replace the rabble.
This is not anarchism in the sense the term came into currency around and after the 1789 French Revolution. Certainly not in the sense it came into greater usage during and after Lenin’s days and revolution in Russia, all to describe the actions of Bakuninists, so named after Michael Bakunin. Our media must always know and remember that terms denote and connote ideas which have parentage, age and history, and that deploying such political terminology imply their ante-ceding histories which must be respected by being borne out through comparability of events or personages, whether direct or interpreted.
Unruliness or without a ruler?
Anarchos, the original Greek word, means merely “without a ruler”, which Woodcock takes to mean either negatively a state of unruliness, or simply to positively mean a condition of being unruled. It does not take much to sense that the media use anarchism to mean a state of unruliness. It can’t be otherwise given that Zimbabwe does pass for a strong State with able governors, albeit exhibiting a fascinating democratic temperament, especially when measured against our past which was characterised by over-governance. Zimbabwe thus can’t be construed to be in a state of being without rule. Still all this does not bring the usage closer to “anarchism” as an idea and an experience in history.
Which vision after status quo?
In history, anarchism has amounted to a stance against a reigning status quo, against it with all its pillars and personages of authority. But without passing for an unthinking revolt, a nihilist pushes for a disorderly outcome as the desired endgame. Rather, in history anarchism has always been a quest for social change, which is what pits it against the reigning status quo. It criticises and attacks the status quo in order to make a case and make way for a different order, always regarded as desirable by proponents of that movement, and without doubt touted as better and more humane than the status quo. It’s a doctrine and programme of change, of an alternative social vision. So not quite the same as promoting disorder while offering nothing in place of the order which is being targeted for destruction.
My power, my Government!
So which order in place of the one detested and targeted? Well, it depends. For Pierre-Joseph Proudhon — the father of anarchism — the desired order meant himself, meant his power, his authority, his government. For Michael Bakunin who was Russian and followed much later than the French Proudhon, it meant Owenite utopia where men are united and governed by natural human affinities, natural bonds of human fraternity! As should be apparent, Proudhon criticised the status quo not to abolish authority, but to take it. Not to abolish private property, but to have it; not to end government, but to control it. He thus was a figure of paradoxes and one who knew and delighted in them. We are getting closer, aren’t we?
For Proudhon, attack on authority spared force which he knew was and would be a dire need for propping him soon after his take-over. Disorder was thus a means, not a political end. He promoted crime to attack the status quo, but he attacked crime that went unpunished, especially when his reign came, which never happened. He hated one type of constitution while he loved his Constitution; hated some government while he praised his “Government”; hated some justice while he panegyrised his brand of Justice; indeed hated some morality while he gloated about his self-defined Morality. He spoke of fraternity while he slaughtered his brethren. In short, he was an enemy of all Government in which he did not govern!
In real history, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was “a stormy, argumentative individualist who prided himself on being a man of paradox and a provoker of contradictions.” Very sleek and eloquent, his often quoted address ran: “As man seeks justice in equality, so society seeks order in anarchy. Anarchy — the absence of a master, of a sovereign — such is the form of government to which we are every day approximating.” And in his treatise called “Economic Contradictions”, published in 1846, he said: “I destroy and I build up.” His later-day admirer, Michael Bakunin, would put it more elaborately: “Let us put our trust in the eternal spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unsearchable and eternally creative source of all life.
The passion for destruction is also a creative passion!” Ever since these two men, many more anarchists and anarchist movements have appeared in history, across continents and systems, including Italy’s Garibaldi and Spain’s Buenaventura Durutti. As for Zimbabwe, well, it appears we now have our own Mister Proudhon, a birth hardly surprising given that such characters always pop up or visit societies that are at the cusp or in the aftermath of major seismic shifts.
Attacking the Legislature
Chamisa proudly helped conceive the idea of independent commissions, which idea is now an abiding feature of our new Constitution. Today he happily seeks their destruction, and uses Harare’s lumpens to march against them and to seek to destroy them. Much more, he participated in the staffing of ZEC. Today he actively participates in firing the same commissioners he put in office, and sees nothing amiss in doing that. He says he saw men and women of ability and integrity when he interviewed them as an MDC-T parliamentary functionary.
Today he sees them as an evil part of a piece. A man so susceptible in human judgment now seeks to lead us, to lead this literate nation! His mantra before the electoral season was to pitch for the independence of ZEC. We all applauded him as a reasonable man, a legal sage and a democrat. But we now know better: he wanted a ZEC and ZEC commissioners insulated from any other influence except his own. He wanted not any ZEC but his ZEC; not any group of commissioners, but his commissioners. Which means it was not the principle of independence which he sought and defended; rather it was a certain type of dependence he criticised and rejected, whether real or feared. Through this, our Mister Proudhon trained his gun against the Legislature, a key
Except his position is more complex, more nuanced, more contradictory as befits a quintessential Proudhon. He has no difficulties in a Zanu-PF which undermines ZEC’s independence, for as long of course the goal of that undermining is to help and enable him to access the reins of power.
So he wants all political forces — oppositional and ruling — to agitate with him against ZEC and against Judge Chigumba. To do otherwise is to be guilty of conspiring with ZEC and Judge Chigumba against him! This is the charge he lays against ED Mnangagwa: why has he not joined “us” in agitating against ZEC and Judge Chigumba? And “us” is him alone! Same with election results. “We” have won these elections. “We” have done more than 55 rallies — with more coming — more than any other political party and actor. And in all those rallies, the people’s chemistry with “us” has been total, giving us victory in polls which are still to take place. So elections are only free and fair if ZEC announces “our” win! In fact, “we” will not wait for ZEC; “we” will announce results ourselves so “our” people can then defend “our” victory! All the above plural pronouns are an affective self-referent by a young politician intuiting self-victory, self-exultingly enthused by himself and his self-rated performance!
Attacking the Executive
Today the young Proudhon mobilises his lumpens, warning he seeks to do on ED what Operation Restore Legacy did RG! Clearly he simplifies matters, dreaming that all it takes are drunk lumpens to bring down a sitting Government. And like the outsider he was during Operation Restore Legacy, he mischaracterises the forces at work during that epochal action, thinking they can be galvanised by and around a petty, unconstitutional grievance.
The key point to stress is that he now trains his gun on the Executive pillar of the State. And does so in ways that dispel any lingering doubts even in his most ardent supporters as to his fitness to join even the Zanu-PF Youth League, let alone to lead a cell. Ruzha rwega-rwega, from sunrise to sunset. I hear he now threatens to hold protest vigils against ZEC. Let him, while Zanu-PF consolidates its hold electorally. And in case he wants a glimpse of the future of such a ruinous course of political action, let him read an apt sub-plot by way of his party’s protesting women at Hwange Colliery. A self-dispiriting political futility.
Attacking the Judiciary, businesses
At his recent rally in Marondera, he disclosed his reasons for withdrawing his case against Thokozani Khupe, the rightful leader of MDC-T. In his judgment, the Bench is partisan and remains so until his “ascension” to power! When he is in office, he added, he will ensure the Bench does its bidding, after which he would then resurrect his case against Khupe!
This is the vision of our Proudhon: to overrun the Judiciary, itself the third pillar of the State. So, the Proudhon era is an era of broken pillars of the State, an era of vindictive politics. Much worse, he threatens homeowners and business owners, adding “isu hatina dzimba kana mabusinesses.” It does not take much searching to know what western ambassadors percipiently note that a Chamisa win would be catastrophic for Zimbabwe. Well, they don’t need to tell us that. We all know that, as will be demonstrated on July 30. In the meantime, let the young Proudhon collect as much clay, darn it into “bulls” of all manner of humps and mighty horns. They hurt no one. Only when he ventures towards the fireplace should the bid thong be wielded for an appropriate portion of punishment. Ngachirire!