Zimbabwe: A Voter Looks at History

26 May, 2018 - 00:05 0 Views
Zimbabwe: A Voter Looks at History Professor Jonathan Moyo

The Herald

Gentle reader, I am sure you have listened to the Twitter live-cast involving the two mighty men of Generation-40, a.k.a. National Patriotic Front. I am referring of course to Jonso and Zhuwao who claim they accidentally broadcast themselves “live” as they trudged the streets of Kenya. And of course the gushingly false apology that followed that live “accident”. Frankly, you would be a fool to believe that very tall tale, a big fool indeed. I thought I forewarned you only last week, did I not?

Listening to Zhuwao, you can’t help, but remark, “when only silence is sincere!” He didn’t have to write at all, let alone tender an apology which he himself least believed; and which he knew stood the least chance of being embraced by the one for whom it was intended. Much worse, his version of events, goodness me! The world has to be stupidly credulous. Or his own reading of it. How does an accident give you such an excellent establishing shot in filmic terms? You have to be an accomplished fool to believe that.

The crab that  walks sideways
Last week I berated this duo for accusing Tyson — the man is now back! — for cutting deals with the New Dispensation. I went further and asked who between them wasn’t? Jonso flipped in characteristic style, spewing torrential abuse. Except he forgot that a congenital defect is always inescapably overbearing. Wouldn’t crabs be “walking” given their age since creation? How many crab generations have passed since God created that tribe? Or since He used Noah to rescue couple species of that tribe from the great deluge of post-lapsarian life? You just can’t run away from your innate attribute. The only issue really is if you know that you walk sideways. It does not look like someone does.

An Audio selfie
No sooner was my ink dry than was the dude contriving a “selfie shooting” accident in which he disclosed to the bemused Zimbabwean authorities his whereabouts. Shorn of all pretenses, the dude simply turned himself in. And in audio style too! He gave them a voice selfie! But being a man who knows no measure, that was not all. He gave the world a de-briefing by Twitter! All to achieve a twin goal, and here we go. He knew the authorities’ asking price to be big, and pre-emptively paid it a thousand times over.

He delivered “muchembere”, on a platter. She is not only livid, but gasping to exonerate herself against this deadly backstab by a man we repeatedly told her she needed a very long spoon to feed. Need she cry? Who to, who with? Ask us who know him, Jonso never entertains scruples, still less scrub his mess. Everything and anyone is for auctioning, when he is set on self-redemption. Hanzi amai havaroodzwi! Not with that dude.

Dying to be guilty
He messes a lot, which is why he needs so many human mops around him. Just see the careers he wrecked during his short stay at Higher Education Ministry. Pwaka-pwaka on budding careers with the care of a bull in a china shop. And today in Zhuwao, he has found an unintelligently dutiful mop. I mean what can be “stupid-er” (you need a new adjective for this one!) than an innocent man waxes tearfully to assume and own all guilt? Laments harder, louder, than Job for ever starting a conversation which triggers habitual excesses in a being well known for a tall mouth? Meanwhile the offender is “mum-mer” (another needful adjectival invention!) than a graveyard! Poor Zhuwao wrecks himself with undeserved guilt. To imagine he was a minister of government!

Mr Zhuwao

Delivering shards of NPF
The second objective for Jonso was to dismantle NPF, all to place himself in the good graces of the New Dispensation. And then pointing to its smouldering ruins, to then say to the New Dispensation, see what a fine mess I have done for you! And what a better way to destroy the fledgling NPF than to flutter its dovecot? To sow seeds of suspicion? Nothing is more damaging in electoral politics than to suggest that monies meant for campaign materials have been misappropriated, have been “eaten”. And the claim does not have to stand scrutiny. It just needs to be made to trigger a train of events that swiftly takes the whole party to perdition. This he has done in characteristic style.

Not that NPF was not in perdition already. Only that its credulous membership needed to see an undertaker busily hovering above its corpse, and then interring it, to believe all is now lost. That happened, thanks to Jonso. Did I say characteristic? I meant it. Check what he did when he found himself in Parliament as an insignificant independent. Rejected by the MDC-T, and aware that his “Gukurahundi Bill” bore no traction, he reached out, sold all to ZANU-PF. He gave long nights of de-briefing the system on his erstwhile colleagues in the opposition, all to be readmitted into the ZANU-PF fold. ZANU-PF richly mined intelligence, and made itself stronger for that time. Of course it later paid dearly for it, when the man got back to his congenital proclivities, inside the Party.

Back in the 1970s
Lest you say one swallow does not make a summer, tarry a bit. The tempestuous late 1970s, specifically Jonso’s ZANU-Ndonga days. Gentle reader, I hope you know the man is a political fraud. As now, his story then takes you to Kenya! Read the book by the late Vesta — late Ndabaningi’s wife — titled My Life With An Unsung Hero, specifically page 105, to get what I mean, and how important Kenya is as an “evacuation” country each time Jonso’s assignment comes unstuck, and he has to be evacuated to safety by his handlers. Except his world now — unlike in the late ‘70s — is drastically shrunk, limiting his options, and motivating him to seek accommodation. He now has to make peace, which translates to deliberate leaks, and shredding the NPF, so perilously close to polling day, all to ingratiate himself with the authorities! Thank you Jonso, thanks mate!

Need he burn incense on altar?
Which is to say? Simply that what Tyson has done by his feet, Jonso does by his leaks! Which does not take away the basic fact: both have capitulated to the New Dispensation. The trouble with us Zimbabweans is amnesia. Made worse by our fear of history which has to be recovered by eating raw book. We don’t read to get to know what we haven’t lived, but which shapes how and where we live today. Which provide working biographies to phony characters we wrongly place on pedestals of national eminence. Back in the late ‘70s, Jonso did in ZANU-Ndonga just a few “minutes” before a critical poll. He fled to America with images which were critical to Zanu-Ndonga’s propaganda story and election bid. The hurt to that party took the form and anguish of a female figure – Vesta, wife of the party leader, Ndabaningi Sithole. Ndonga never recovered from that body blow dealt it in its last hour.

Now to do in NPF, he has favoured the authorities with a terrific walkabout “audio” selfie which leaves NPF in tearful tatters. Again another woman has been hurt — muchembere! I leave you to extend the parallel. Meanwhile Jonso has Zhuwao in his tow, forever a dutiful acolyte. With such a scapegoat so firmly bridled, Jonso doesn’t have to burn incense on the altar. But his real worry comes from the courts, with the attendant risk of fast morphing from a self-exile, through to a refugee, and swiftly degrading to a fugitive on INTERPOL’s “wanted”. This is what he is fighting to avert, with such fury. For that, everything is raw material, friend, funder, or foe. Hey Zimbabwe, know thy man!

Great convergence
Last week I noted a striking feature of the political debate which is shaping our 2018 polls, namely that all parties appear to read and regurgitate ZANU-PF thoughts, as adumbrated in that Party’s Manifesto, and as articulated by its leadership. I don’t blame this on a lack in originality. That would be very unkind, given the age and/or experience of all those against whom ED is pitted. I am a bit more generous in my judgment: our Nation has in fact hit a point of convergence; a point of consensus, which is why the economic recovery zeitgeist proves so compelling and so commanding, regardless of name of politics, name of party or name of politician. This is quite fatal for the opposition.

I mean, why wait, sorry vote, for the son when I am now with the father? If ZANU-PF is the author of the ruling or governing ideas at this stage in the life of our Nation, why not let it govern? Which is why I think the electoral matter is pretty much decided. Even more decided when you realise two features in the opposition. First, that on a good day they seem to debate one another, instead of debating ZANU-PF, their perceived opponent. Perceived because it can’t be when they stand beholden to it for their manifestos. Which is probably why there is this push for a second GNU which, as with the first one, ZANU-PF leads. Except a winning party least countenances the idea of a coalition. It is that obvious.

Tambai zvakanaka imi kani!
Second and on a bad day, they are busy bashing one another, whether by words or worse, by knuckle. Which confers a custodial role and responsibility on ZANU-PF and its government. Bashing each other even in front of the High Court, and pleading with the Police for protection from themselves! Of course the Police shall be availed, making the Government stand out on its custodial role. And with that comes high moral ground, a key resource in the art of persuasion. Like pugnacious kids in the playground, opposition parties are playing the rough and the tumble, while mature ZANU-PF indulgently calls on them to “play well kani”! It’s the kindly voice of a caring guardian, not that of a fellow gladiator.

I highlight the broad point not to flatter ZANU-PF, but to remind us that we have nothing to choose from, only much to confirm through our votes, so our Nation gets on with the job of reconstruction, and job-creation through economic growth. Politics recede, and may very well be a matter for a leisure generation to come after us, tapedza kuvaka madzimbabwe. For now, nothing to choose from. So, don’t cry when the result looks and turns out obvious. Actually, the surprises have been in intra-party contestation, not inter-party harmonised polls. There you have it.

History in human form
Then there is another common, in my view a second one in the body-politic. But it takes complex forms: two in my view. The basic point to interline being that it transcends parties, which is what makes it a question of the day — of our age if you want. History vis-a-vis contemporary politics. Ironically it as issue which we deferred until it came back to bite us. Time was when the old ZANU-PF was berated for historicising politics, accused of feeding the hungry voter on the staple of Chimurenga, allegedly to dodge contemporary questions and/or its failures. This gave our politics an illusion that once shorn of an historically-inclined leadership, we would hit a happy, endless plateau. Now we know better: the past cannot be banished, cannot be exorcised from the present and future. History matters, which is why, as political matter facing a generation, it assumes human forms.

Has anyone noticed that an unacknowledged, yet all-party question is just what the former President — Robert Gabriel Mugabe — means politically in this plebiscite? Is he a cost; is he a gain? Should he be on your side or should he pass for your pet hate? ZANU-PF is having to deal with Robert Mugabe the history. Mujuru thought she could appease Mugabe’s ghost through nightly incantations on his grave. The NPF — oh my God — they don’t know what to do with him. For Chamisa and his MDC-C, they meet him by stealth: as a condolence letter to their late leader; as Sandi Moyo of the fractious NPF looking to make love; as Mashayamombe who does not know where to rest his itchy foot; as Bhasikiti who has tossed himself into yet another basket. Above all, the MDC-C meets Mugabe in the form of their youthful leader who by emphasising generational politics, barely notices how beholden he is to the then palatial G-40 (How old is Chamisa, kikikiki?). And all these are the subtle manifestations of the gorgon of history which will not go to sleep.

Where history rules the roost
Blame it, too, on Operation Restore Legacy, and how it opened its flanks to a crowd of many political colours, a variegated political multitude. Beyond the dramatic, rolling tanks and talking camouflaged images on our screen that fateful day, the Operation netted us into History as a continuing, living legacy. Its mantra was “Legacy”, another word for preferred history. And by joining in the carnivalesque protest, we domesticated a history into our parties politics, making it an overarching national political matter which brackets us all into one vexatious fold — in spite of our politics, regalia, slogans and ourselves! For we saw History stand between angry tanks and a potentially bloody outcome. It calmed leaping fury, all to avert what could have marked the beginning of a bloody episode in the story of our Nation. It, in other words, beat swords into ploughshares. As if to prove it is a humane material force, History saved the former President and his entire household.

As if to prove it was a bigger, humane commander, it tempered passions in the barracks, uniting otherwise tussling comrades into sharers of a tradition — the liberation struggle — they needed to jointly protect and defend. And as if to prove it was the solder and software of a Nation, history transcended little political party chasms, all to unite a people, our politics and our parties into one giant, cohesive mass which gaily marched into a new history, to a watching, yet utterly amazed world. Many in the world are still trawling for answers and, as I keep telling them, don’t go too far: just read History — Our story. And the current interregnum continuously doff to history, emblematically through the re-naming of barracks, from where history was plotted and written; indeed to where history retreated when it had made a new dispensation. Whatever little irritations today’s politics spew, history shall, in the final analysis, always have its day, harmoniously connecting yesterday, today and tomorrow.

A contest sure to come
And check how our politics have panned out before and since. G-40 politics amounted to a statement on — sorry, against — history. Today Chamisa’s age fetish amounts to a statement on — sorry, against — history. G-40 and its defeated wayward politics continue to miff me. Apart from parading the vanity of an a-historical generation, G-40 showed the futility and hazards of cheating history by pilfering its slogans, symbols and icons. You don’t go very far by making a case for a generation while decapitating its forbears, do you? To do so provokes history, which quickly raises an army against you. For history sees beneath pretenses, reads, reaches and reacts to the deeper, sinister wish to repudiate it. The disconnect between the veterans of the war of liberation and the youth who played arrowhead to these a-historical politics spelt doom for G-40.

G-40 lacked a mother movement from which to launch itself. And because the mother movement ran deeper into time and into the spirit of a people, a G-40 without this mother movement could only have lifespan shorter than a flash in a pan. Now its NPF variant commits the same sin again: that of filching slogans, symbols and icons. They must ready themselves for a legal battle as ZANU-PF prepares to force them to drop the image of late Father Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, from their regalia and other artifacts of political communication. Being long dead and reverently rested, Dr Nkomo can no longer make political choices, change parties. Or give power of political attorney to any who live. So, as he died, so he lives posthumously, which is what gives ZANU-PF and its Government “locus standi” in the contest sure to come sooner.

Mr Chamisa

Those whom history has privileged
Which is what miffs me about young Chamisa. Quite a promising young politician, he does not seem to appreciate that history is best left alone, where you are not keen to listen to, and obey it. Like his G-40 think-alike, he is blinded by vanity to the point of not knowing that such a holistic phenomenon that history is, brooks no cherry-picking. I follow his increasingly threadbare addresses. He genuflects to history, perfunctorily, in order to cheat it. Then he hurls himself against its surviving personages: Mugabe, Mnangagwa, Chiwenga, Mohadi, war veterans and many more. This need not be, given his heritage, his age, and the huge prospects that lie ahead for his generation. The real risk is to view history as time chunks on the human calendar. Or persons who are born, and later to perish with it.

I hope he reads history, and has an expansive grasp of it. Carvour is not Italy. The history of Italy is how the spirit and movement of Piedmont superseded itself to mould a unified Nation called Italy. In that process, Carvour was its instrument, which is why he was revered by his peers, is revered in Italian history to this day. Equally, until Prussia moved to become part of modern Germany, Bismarck was not born. But once born as history’s process, he could not be assassinated merely because he ran for an election. Simply, it’s impolitic to hurl yourself against those whom history has privileged.

What then is history?
All this means that history develops as great questions which a generation must answer; yes, great tasks and missions which a given generation must either fulfil or place into sharp relief by its failures. Being inexorable, history cannot be betrayed as the young man misunderstood Fanon to have said. And leadership is not being a superman or a super-generation, as Chamisa self-flatteringly believes. Rather, it is to grasp the great question which history throws up to a generation – a generation which is never simplistically an age-group, but the sum of all those who usefully live to affirm or answer the epochal question history throws up – and then frame and interpret it to move a generation. Much more, leadership is being able to organize and mobilize society to execute history’s ever evolving missions. Tellingly, when Russia was ready for a revolution under the Bolsheviks, Lenin captured this zeitgeist through a pamphlet simply titled “What is to be done?” It lives relevant across human epochs, goading generations and situations for answers.

Lenin raised it; Lenin answered it by leading the Bolsheviks into a revolution that triumphed in 1917, to give the world its first ever soviet State. Interestingly, generations later, in post-Soviet Russia, Vladimir Putin reportedly raised a similar question with his inner staff. He is said to have asked: What is the worst crime which a Russian leader can ever commit against his country? After many wrong attempts, he answered himself thus: It is to walk away from the power which the Russian people have given and entrusted you with! Before Vladimir Putin and Boris Yeltsin was one Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who dismantled the Soviet Union. He had all the power which USSR could give. But he walked away from that power, betrayed it. Today Russia lives great and strong, which is why America contests it. What question does history pose to our generation in 2018? Who grasps it? Who answers to it? Who unites and mobilizes a generation to execute the mission that answers to history’s question? Ndopanenyaya mu2018.

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