Hegelian historicism, at least in as far as it concerns Africa, is fraught with the kind of warped racial thinking and contradictions that have long bedevilled European approaches to the rest of the world.
Many a fine scholar has made short shrift of Hegel’s epistemological violence towards Africa, and that of the likes of his intellectual minions like Hugh Trevor Roper; so we shall not venture to unpack that whole issue here. But that does not mean everything Hegel said was wrong, informed by a false sense of superiority or plagued by ignorance of the wider world.Much academic and practical application is still influenced by his dialectics and many institutions today teach “thesis-antithesis-synthesis”.
For those not familiar with Hegel, think of him as the guy who gave us the following statement: “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”
That is a sort of extraction of what he said as the fuller statement is not as succinct, is grammatically wieldy, and thus not easily committed to memory.
What he actually said was, “Rulers, statesmen, nations, are wont to be emphatically commended to the teaching which experience offers in history.
“But what experience and history teach is this — that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.
“Each period is involved in such peculiar circumstances, exhibits a condition of things so strictly idiosyncratic, that its conduct must be regulated by considerations connected with itself, and itself alone.”
So there it is, history has taught us that we don’t learn from history. And we are proud of our amnesia.
It’s a tragic reality, more so for a country like Zimbabwe which likes to boast about how much better its literacy and education levels are than those of almost all of Africa and much of the world. The developments of recent months in Zanu-PF have shown us that some people in the ruling party simply don’t learn from history.
Some would like to compress what is happening in the ruling party to the events of the past week, but those are merely expressions of developments that have been going on for much longer. Those developments were running counter to the thesis that is Zanu-PF as an ideological proposition, bullishly assuming that their anti-thesis (which is factionalism) could be reconciled into a “structural synthesis” of a party that will continue to govern after 2018.
In a nutshell, factionalism is an antithesis and can never be part of a final, sustainable, structured Zanu-PF that hopes to deliver on campaign promises to the people.
History has shown us that Zanu-PF cannot be hijacked by personal interests.
Yes, there are many reports of individuals acting with impunity, looting State resources, posing as Robin Hoods, threatening those taxpayers (or rather, their paymasters) who dare question them, and pleading victimisation whenever they are caught out.
But how long do they last? Do the ruling party’s structures not eventually assert themselves over personal caprice and set things back on their right track? Have we not seen this before, most recently — prior to last week’s events — with the end of Gamatox?
Have we not seen how, when these would-be untouchables are shorn of the robes assigned to them by party structures, they are revealed to be no more than dwarves?
Have people not learnt that within the context of national and State politics, factionalism is nothing short of humanising God and deifying man?
Have people not already learnt that the life of a factionalist is a one of short, seemingly happy days and long, unbelievably dark nights?
And how can they not have learnt these lessons when they have PhDs in Public Administration, undergrad degrees in Political Science and are eating big books to better understand Law? Is it because Hegel — racism, ignorance, arrogance and all — was right and history has taught us that people do not learn from history?
The lesson is simple: Zanu-PF as a governing party driven by what can dismissively be called a populist agenda but is in reality a liberating ideology cannot be ransomed beholden to narrow interests. More so, this cannot be allowed to happen almost a year shy of what should be a watershed election.
We sincerely implore all in Zanu-PF to redirect those factional energies into fulfilling the service and development expectations that come with the structures to which they are assigned.
As officials of a governing party, they owe it to the nation to deliver, never mind what they think of each other as individuals.
We don’t need President Mugabe to come up with a Command Unity Programme to tell them to do that which Zimbabweans expect of them.