UNDER THE EAVES WITH Igomombe
since there are so many impious hands on Zimbabwe’s internal affairs, so many hands challenging its sovereignty, I thought my opening paragraphs should address those meddlesome, self-righteous foreigners who think Zimbabwe incurably remains a white man’s burden. Well, it isn’t, never has agreed to be, even though white-occupied and traumatised for nearly a century. Even though it faces a real risk of resurgent neo-colonialism after almost four decades of formal freedom. Not many realise that the Rhodes and Lugards of the imperialist colonial world continue to lurk and live, albeit under different guises and titles, and always invoking different arguments to legitimise their claim and hold over us. They have sought to modernise and re-issue colonial histories, to neatly re-package them using different lexicon and lingo, to make our continuing vassalage direly needful, urgently desirable and cheerfully borne, indeed reckoned as a benchmark to modernity.
So natal a figure of speech
The Shona people have a graphic figure of speech they use to convey and diffuse a fight between twins and/or siblings. The imagery is profoundly natal, all to suggest deeply ingrained wisdom which is as old as, and traceable to creation. If twins or siblings fight, elders are quick to remind them: “muri kurwira zamu ramaenyu”, meaning “you are fighting over your mother’s breast.” And this is one cautionary which obtains regardless of the age of fighting siblings. The significance of the figure of speech or trope is multiple, infinite in fact. I just give few profound interpretations out of it. Firstly, the meaning of the metaphor comes from suckling twins scrambling for the best vantage point. That means the fight is over a “wet” breast, round and plump with milk that nourishes life. Otherwise the fight would be worthless. Which child fights over a dry, flaccid breast?
A fight within limits
Secondly, the twins or both siblings seek and strive to suckle, lest again the fight would be needless. It is a quest for life, but one maternally linked to the female physiognomy. I choose to ignore the Oedipus dimension, important though it is. Thirdly, neither twin nor sibling thinks his/her cause is best served, his/her fight best resolved, by severing or lopping off the breast and running away with it; by detaching the precious breast from the mother-body. There is a general acceptance that the fight must not injure the breast, hurt the mother from whose body flows fluids that create the milk of human kindness. Still less get resolved through matricide. Not even to upset her, in which case she angrily cups that life-giving, lumpy tissue into her hands, shove it back, to button it behind the front of her dress where no one reaches it. Should that happen, both fighters lose, starve. The rule in the ring is clear: the fight must never be mutually ruinous.
Mainstay of the clan
Much more, the fight must remain that between the mother’s tissue. No outsider interposes, nor disposes. That makes the fight an inverted, rancorous affirmation of joint ownership, only contradicted by rivalled, non-equitable access inspired by raging appetites. To use a concept of development finance, the breast is both a “common” whose consumption ordinarily should be non-rivalled. But it is also a private good whose access is rivalled. But also a common in a more fundamental, spanning way. Ownership is not just for the two, and in the present. Rather, ownership is for siblings who have already drunk from it, and have since wandered off into adulthood. Ownership, too, is for siblings who are still to be conceived, still to come to this worldly life from which to stake a claim once born. The breast thus connects life past, life present, and life to come. It is the mainstay and life of the clan; indeed the guarantor of its continuance. Which is why the fight must never kill the zamu, the breast of life.
Breasts of our mothers
Fourthly, the twins or both siblings know that after they have suckled full from the lactating breast, they comfortably siesta against it, both. Fifthly, and in my estimate lastly but never least, the breast is a symbol of collective honour and pride. That symbol of sanctity which must never be traduced or ravished by the outsider. About this aspect, a little story is usefully illustrative. As I write, my forehead spots a scar I proudly, honourably and happily trace from my tender days as a young herdboy down in the sodden vleis of Buhera where cattle still low and sheep still bleat. A fellow herdboy — by far my senior in terms of age — had built two mounds of sand, each of which represented breasts of two very important women. One of them was my mother; the other one was of Mhundwa’s mother. Both women lived in our village, the latter having sired this pugnacious boy I was fated to share cattle herding chores with, apart from other less happy encounters, including the one I am about to share.
On that fateful day, our fathers’ herd had converged in Marawi Vlei, whose southern reaches were bordered by corrugated, red-roofed houses of a much-feared colonial administrative settlement. Kukamba (The Camp) we called it. Both by virtue of the colour of its denizens which was white, and by sheer aura of what it meant in the colonial chain of penal authority, this was one zone and space where all African angels feared to tread. Still less little village boys like us. Approaching the settlement from the east meant crossing two rivulets which still run to this day: Nzombe or Bull, which was crossed first when the African “wanted” or accused would still be bubbling with false confidence, sure to defeat or defy the white colonial overlord; then Kofoto or Collapsed, which was within sight-shot of the settlement, principally its spiked remand prison – chitokisi as it was notoriously called by locals. Kofoto was rugged, which gave its tumbling waters a sinister roar. On crossing it, the accused’s once boisterous and bursting confrontational confidence would, quite inevitably, collapse. In full, unnerving view would be all the symbols of colonial penal justice and sentence. Including its wandering human minions dressed in starched khaki denims and, on a bad day wielding ‘303 rifles.
Pastures that came
at a price
To the north of Marawi vlei slept a long hill by the same name, whose legs and head stretched from east to west, its fontanelle gushing waters that enchanted the flow of Chidzikisa River. Beyond the eastern rough slops of the hill lay Magunda village. We all knew that the vlei’s sweet pastures came at a price. If the cattle strayed southward, there was the forbidding risk of their grazing, trampling and ruining the white colonial Native Commissioner’s flower garden. And dung-ing his handsomely manicured grounds. It was an unmentionable crime, an abomination. The cattle would be impounded on the orders of the D.C. — District Commissioner — and taken to, and penned in a stockade notoriously called “kusikiti”, for mandatory keeping by Sekuru Mambiri, a local employed for that purpose, and coincidentally a distant cousin of my mother. But fear of the white man simplified the choice and placement of his loyalties. He would look after the “arrested” cattle better than the family trove.
A pain so exotic
Retrieving the animals was a drawn-out process whose high point was parting with considerable hard-to-get Rhodesian pounds, it being the charge both for the destruction of mafurawuzi emurungu — the white man’s flowers — and of course for the safe-keeping of the animals for the entire duration between raising the fine and the eventual retrieval of the offending animals. My not-too-amused father would find emotional recompense in savagely whipping us, a ritual whose collateral often embraced my innocent mother. Reason? She had to learn to bear well-behaved children! That would be round one. At about sunset would come round two by way of Babamunini Muhodhari — Little Father Orderly — a name by which we knew my fearsome father’s young brother employed as a medical assistant at a small clinic that served the colonial settlement. He never took kindly to his good name being sullied by his brother’s children who allowed the family herd to stray kwaD.C. Or to have his brother’s hard-earned pounds frittered away so recklessly by inattentive cattle minders. His portion of punishment was worse and much dreaded: it came by way of whiplashes from branches of the gum-tree! Like the tree itself, the pain exotic.
Like I said, to the north-eastern side of Marawi Vlei lay the sprawling fields of Mudhara Magunda, the village head. Only much later when I was fully grown up and already working, did I realise Mudhara Magunda was brother to the late Witness Mangwende, the celebrated National Hero who lies at the Sacred Acre. All herdboys from my village knew Mudhara Magunda’s hand to be mercilessly swift, especially against playful boys who let their cattle stray into his mhunga field, a crop white colonials derogatorily called “kaffir corn”. My last encounter with Mudhara Magunda was just before I graduated out of the inescapable herdboy status. It left me badly scratched and bruised, not from only from unremitting whiplashes which followed, but also from mupangara thistles under whose piled, dome-shaped dry branches I reasoned I would find better refuge from the irate farmer’s mighty thrashings. I distinctly remember waiting for the countless bodily thistle pricklings to grow white with pus, and then suppurate, before I could push out sharp stubs of thorns embedded under my flesh. You couldn’t share the lasting woes of the miserable day with anyone, least of all your parents lest more beatings would follow. But all this is to wonder off the subject.
A slur on my honour
So this big herdboy made two mounds of sand, each of which was “given” to our respective mothers. In a flash, Mhundwa went for my mother’s breast, knocking it irreparably flat, an action symbolizing mortal injury to my sense of honour. In absolute fury, I made for his mother’s breast, dead set on knocking it flatter, including ensuring a deep crater where it once stood taut and nubile, all to exceed retributive justice and of course to expiate this grave injury on my mother. But that was not to be. Mhundwa stopped me hot in my tracks. I still can’t muster good words to recount the fierce fight which ensued, only choosing to point to a well-etched forehead scar proudly earned on that day in defense of my mother’s “breast”, one sure to accompany me to the grave. So much about outsiders and breast fights.
No nobility in anger
The elections are behind us, resolutely so whatever legal “mortis” are being hyped to follow. Zimbabwe has decided and her decision cannot be reversed by anyone, by anything. Not even an earthquake which demurred as she prepared to make her choice, and which thus can only remain pent-up and “kraalled” behind an ingenious belly-rock, after that choice was made. Chamisa and his MDC-Alliance know that, which is why they have invested in soiling the winner, and spoiling the celebratory dinner. Except time belongs to the winner, as also does the fire, the recipe, the waiters, the ingredients and the table. There are so many eager mouths, hard-to-perish appetites, making any day dinner day. There is a ring of futility in what the Alliance has vainly sought to do. And gratuitous meanness in it all. You want a certain nobility of anger and protest, which qualifies you for leadership stature. I just don’t see it in this ignoble fight that seems informed by common village spite.
Playmate or President?
I know the MDC-Alliance will not like this, and will build conspiracy theories, call me names. Frankly I don’t care, as long as I have served them justly with the eventuality, however painful they may find it. Simply, they have to wait for another five years, then try and fail yet again. For the national judgment of what they have done goes beyond one electoral season, leaving many wondering whether we did not constitutionally grant a baseline of 40 as age ripe enough to produce a presidential aspirant, let alone a leader. For is it not a fact that all those yuppies who went a-voting, thought it was all about finding a playmate, not a president? Such kind of frivolity – levity of you want – with destiny is reckless and impermissible. Having been bitten once, one hopes we, as a Nation, now twice shiver at any such repeat act.
Changing hands, not
Back to realities on the ground. For a very long time to come, power will change hands – after ten-year stretches as provided for under our Constitution. But for a long time to come, power in Zimbabwe will not change parties — will not be shuffled between parties — however invested or angry those opposed to the hegemony of liberation movements in Southern Africa may be. Ironically, the only hope there was for such to happen was if November last year had not occurred, leaving an unreconstructed Zanu-PF, a.k.a. G-40, in place for an inevitable defeat. November last year sealed Zanu-PF’s governing eternity, ironically with a little bit of help from the opposition. The abiding story is of a Zanu-PF with enough fervour within itself to self-change, or, in Marxist parlance, robust enough to burst its own integument, while controlling all levers for power retention. That makes it a home in which generations shall live, while changing positions, faces and ages, and even showing occasional angry grimaces. Food for thought, and not for unstable stomachs. Zanu-PF has now grasped lessons on governance under conditions of social media, and an angry, embittered urban youth. It can never be the same
The enigma of a binary result
I notice the July 30 result has not been well read, in some cases deliberately so. And the result is a complex text by any measure. Too complex — if you ask me — to conform to, or confirm, any rule book. Which is why jaunts in the courts are dilatory, amount to proverbial spit on the vast dome of the heavens. There is a lot to read from that result, just too much, too complex, even too long, to be read or told by a generation. From the Manichaean era of liberation politics, the Second Republic creeps out of the womb, and into being quite a puzzling enigma which bespeaks of a maturing society, with very complex political sensibilities. Here is one small take which could help you make sense of what is there to behold. It’s a take sure to incense Chamisa and his supporters. But then I am never one to flinch or recoil from truth, however hard. Those that do so, always live to twice suffer it – as hard truth mercilessly boomerangs. Simply, the result consolidated Zanu-PF as a party, while denying ED smug complacency and comfort which comes with a resounding win, such as had enervated old, hoary Zanu-PF under his predecessor. He has work to do, principally that of breaking a deeply set inertia, which is why the result handed him challenges him to prove, earn, grow and consolidate his claim to party leadership. July 30 thus gave us a result of binary proportions, both meant to consolidate continuity and change. Continuity by way of a party party enjoying a comfortable two-thirds party majority. Change by way of a President who barely escaped a run-off, and who thus must bend double to break the mould of a smug, assured past which no longer serves a generation.
It’s a result for Zanu-PF alone, and the party had better read it correctly. The party need not be detained or distracted by the Chamisa factor, except in so far as what this means for Zimbabwe’s long-suffering, angry and frustrated yuppie voter whose forgiving protest must be well heeded. Forgiving because the youth vote was both a statement of protest, and a statement of affirmation and continued support for Zanu-PF, all given in spite of begriming difficulties so long suffered. In fact, support for Zanu-PF and ED far outweighed censure for both, which is how Chamisa suffered an upset in urban areas, traditionally well known for their youth bulge and anti-establishment sentiment. And Harare — the yuppie capital — was an unremitting disaster for Chamisa. Which makes it a huge burden for ED in the governing five years ahead. Chamisa’s fate was not decided by the rural vote, important though this was to the Zanu-PF winning calculus. It was sealed in the more than 200 000 votes denied him in Harare, much of which came from the youths. In fact Chamisa did relatively well in rural areas, when one reads his figures against MDC’s polling history.
Speed and haste, Mister President
And the message to Zanu-PF is very clear: we are unhappy; do something for us and very fast. But you remain our home. The message to ED is equally clear: we believe in your vision and plans, but hasten their implementation so we see a difference in the next five years! Come to think of it, seven months was too short for ED to have turned things around. But it was long enough to define and show his vision, show the way. He did and the youth liked it, which is why they gave him support which his predecessor never commanded in the 37 years he was at the helm.
Won on promise
The same also held for the rest of the voting age groups. This was not an election fought on delivery; it was one won on promise. It would have been tragic of the voter had denied ED two-thirds majority, while punishing him with a slender lead. It did not do that, and here is the sense of it. The two-thirds parliamentary majority gives ED the wherewithal to effect fundamental changes he so desires and promised, without being trammelled by a hung result. The legislative arena is open for him. The 50.8 percent delivers enough discomfort to make him sit up for the next five years during which there will be no rest, not even time to mop his steaming brow. Five years of hard, honest work. Rest will come in the subsequent stretch, when the course is set. Or even after when he completes his mandatory 10 years. And through the same result, Zimbabwe made sure ED does not have Chamisa as a governing irritant, both narrowly in parliament, and broadly in the country’s politics. Chamisa was an instrument for goading ED out of smug complacency, but without denying him the wherewithal for far-reaching changes. He has the tools for substantive governance of the Republic, while young Chamisa has been given enough numbers to boost his ego while he outgrows milk-teeth, well away from the daunting burden of leading a country prematurely. In Chamisa, ED reads the youth he must never forget during his tenure. In Chamisa’s defeat, Zimbabwe has given itself a chance to build a stable establishment before it can experiment with a Macron or Trudeau.
Founding a new party?
In parliament, Chamisa is not a factor, which is good; in the broad national political arena, Chamisa will be self-preoccupied, by and large. Whether he acknowledges it or not, fractious battles inside his party have just begun, provoked by a result which excoriates his immature leadership, and crowds claimants to the 2,1 million votes he mustered so he does not grow too opinionated. He needs such a harsh environment to grow and mature as a leader who may come some day many years to come. His call for congress bears the hallmark of panic, of unsureness — well-founded if you ask me. But it underlines his immaturity and lack of stability and equanimity in the face of adversities and setbacks. He faces a tight choice: to continue roughening old political careers which began regrouping before the poll; to continue to want to politically ex-communicates generation which is synonymous with the founding processes of a country he is ambitious to lead. Or simply fooling himself that the 2.1 million votes were his unaided, and thus a good enough numerical base for founding and launching a new party which is not MDC-T which he has already lost to Khupe, or MDC-Alliance which he can’t keep together after court verdict, but which he thinks will give him unchallenged supremacy. He should have had the maturity to know that in his recklessly exuberant argument for a youthful generation to succeed the elderly liberation one, he not only upset players across party lines, but actually united them beyond party dichotomies. And his brinkmanship in the streets, aided and abetted by the same cabal overthrown in November last year, only boosted by a few maverick throw-away pseudo-scholars, left him unable ever again to rouse his generation for a public show of dissent. He should have foreseen that, which is what makes leaders.
Denying mathematical facts
What I find mathematically strange is to suggest that the difference between 44 percent Chamisa got, and 50.8 percent ED earned, is marginal, so marginal as to make Chamisa breathe heavily behind Mnangagwa. This is even before we factor in new alignments and realignments which would have come about if there was a run-off. It sounds like a Conradian saving lie, a blatant refusal to see mathematical facts in their full overbearingness. And who in the Alliance wants a run-off anyway, assuming it was ever to come? Winners in the Alliance are under no illusion as to the non-repeatability of their win. They all know they are the proverbial hare that narrowly survived a chase in burnt openness, in a barren and burnt terrain? Not to mention the Gandawas and the Mahokas who have been taught so sharply that there is no home outside party politics, for the two outside the Zanu-PF collective. It is just staggering to see Zanu-PF independents who are trooping back to plead for accommodation, not to mention the so-called NPF. As for Jonathan and Patrick, well, the sky has fallen on them, for July 30 marked a long winter in self-exile. Particularly for Jonathan, whose hare-brained theory that ED is unelectable – a theory he sold to the Zimbabwe Independent soon after Mujuru’s ouster — came tumbling, falling and breaking loudest in Matabeleland itself, including in Tsholotsho which he dreamt was his. ED did not need a big margin win; he needed to just win, buttressed by a stable party win, to allow him to effect his vision without the smugness which had made Zanu-PF both indolent and unimaginative. For Zanu-PF will have to use the next five years to demonstrate capacity to re-invent, but without losing its liberation moorings. The task thus begins, for ED to build his leadership and the numbers base he needs to rest it on. 2.4 million is good enough base for that.
Softening Zanu-PF for GNU?
A few days ago I had a chance encounter with some western ambassadors. They opined about Zimbabwe as a badly fractured society, seemingly unawares of how divided their own countries and societies are. Or how close we are to one another as Zimbabweans when read by our manifestos, and not by our shrill press. The western world is deeply fractured, including around saving vision, which is unlike us. All of them, including mighty America. The two emissaries sought to smuggle in the idea of a GNU! I wondered. If GNU is such a panacea for the native, why is it not a panacea for the white master? When I had had enough of their holy ministrations, I then cut in, clearly upset. Just what is behind your suggestion, I asked? “No, it is just a thought, for your society is just too divided!” How are we more divided than you are? “We are worse, true, true!” The bright side of the whole exchange was the unsolicited feedback that these emissaries were now seeking to rescue their political ward, which meant they had got a sound beating. But I wasn’t done with them. Could that explain why they funded Chamisa’s youths to go confrontational? Hoping to create a crisis for the West’s attention, and on the basis of which to soften Zanu-PF for GNU? And this re-issuance of ZDERA?
No need for search-engines
Except these emissaries are chasing their countries’ global interests, in whose pursuits we are mere chattels, our countries mere playgrounds, our interests illegitimate in their estimate. The burden to defend ourselves, our countries and our interests are ours, right across the political divide. There must be a baseline national commonality, beneath which none of us is allowed to fall, above which none soars without coming back to dock. When a young politician threatens to burn the country on grounds that he owns no home, owns no business, it raises a fundamental issue of qualification for national leadership. It is like lopping off the breast. And when a mature politician brags that he told the West there will not be stability in Zimbabwe unless his party wins, indeed brags to the echo of a Rhodie like Coltart that the whole of America is behind him, you cannot help but bemoan a disheartening insufficiency of national consciousness. Even haughtily threatening a country next door — in the power of mighty America — for refusing him asylum, you cannot but pity Sadc for monsters it has reared in the name of deepening democracy in the sub-region. Does it take much to know that the flip side of democratising governance is nationalizing dissent and opposition? Mounding loyal dissent. Indeed getting our opposition to know that accompanying the rights of dissent are the responsibilities of defending own country and countrymen? Where is the manual for that? The big book carrying this ABC of membership to a polity? I argue that we need not wonder far, or engage search engines. All we need is to re-read the aphorism that compendiously carry age-old wisdom: kurwirana zamu raamai vedu. Vekunze taramukai. I hope young Chamisa gets this, given his rich Karanga idiom. Ngachirire!