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Chidyausiku: Challenging the sustained legacy of the land question (Part 1)

Godfrey Chidyausiku

Godfrey Chidyausiku

“The rejection of the land reform by intellectuals in some sections is a rejection of blackness.

It is a thinking informed by an inferiority complex nurtured by decades of enslaved and killing of the African spirit. For these folks, the land reform was wrong because ‘racism doesn’t exist’ . . . a colour blindness reflective of naivety and again the inferiority complex,” said the late anti-colonial agrarian scholar, Professor Sam Moyo (Rest In Power).

Today the nation mourns one of its illustrious sons who refused to reject blackness. It’s another tragic moment of national bereavement as we remember the retired Chief Justice, Cde Godfrey Guwa Chidyausiku.

A legal practitioner par-excellent, a patriot and a fierce defender of the republic who spat in the face of land coloniality through his rulings, viewed as irrational to those who thought White settlers had ultimate — if not supreme control over the country’s agrarian wealth.

Hardly three months after retirement Cde Chidyausiku gave up his last breath. However, he did not give up on his cause to the interest of his people of colour as far as liberating land ownership by the majority was concerned.

According to Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Justice Chidyausiku was involved in early anti-colonial politics during Rhodesia’s unilaterally declared independence, being a member of the Rhodesia House of Assembly.

After Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 Cde Chidyausiku was officially a Member of Parliament and served in the government as Attorney-General. He was then given another assignment as a Judge. To this effect, he headed the Constitutional Convention in 1999, and was appointed Chief Justice in 2001.

His appointment was at a turbulent time when Zimbabweans had decided to affirmatively repossess the land from White minority ownership. Chidyausiku will be remembered for his vehement challenge of the rulings of his bench mates who probed the legality of the land reform as it was perceived as an antithesis of the “rule of law”. What “rule of law”? Whose “rule of law”? Nothing, but a caricature of the colonial regime.

As a result, Chidyausiku’s retirement to eternity will be forever engraved in the memory of our struggle as a great loss to those who saw the “beginning and the end of the golden era he was preparing for us”. Famba zvakanaka gamba rehondo yeminda.

The Mhuriro case will always serve as a reminder of how much Chidyausiku was not a conformist to the legalities of colonialism. As we celebrate this legacy we are also confronted by a deep-seated memory of how the land question is still hinged on strong colonial connotations.

This comes out when one revisits anti-nationalist-sponsored human-rights advocacy which Chief Justice Chidyausiku stood to challenge during his tenure as the judiciary supremo of Zimbabwe.

In our case, this is an embodiment of the neo-colonial narrative which represents what I term the “missed racial” factor of knowledge production which manifests in the sub-conscious negligence of local perspectives on local issues.

One of the issues used in the service of the missed racial factor is the Land Reform Programme that continues to shape discourses of the present political economy and at large the intellectual faculty of Zimbabwe’s social-sciences.

This follows residues of ideological supremacy of the colonial contact with the soil of our ancestors supplemented by incipient ideas of global belonging presenting our historical state of being as trivial subversions of globalisation.

This is why the Zimbabwean land reform has not only received literary polarisation at home, but at the global stage.

This shows that all academic narrative fraternities are framed from the centre defined as the first world knowledge producer rather than the periphery which is the other side which constitutes ideological recipients, chiefly the black majority.

Therefore, Zimbabwe’s post-land reform political path constitutes a fair reflection of the relationship between the global giants and African states. Due to that, it becomes difficult to analyse Zimbabwe in isolation of external higher politics of knowledge generation and power struggles.

This prompts the need to constantly locate the country’s academic narrative development in issues of global power. The described situation mostly defines the “missed racial factor” in terms of the African owned story in the local literature.

Apart from its relevance in Zimbabwe, the “missed racial factor” offers an omniscient articulation of Africa’s failure to be democratic and adherence to human rights according to Western moral barometers.

The “missed racial factor” further emerges as that loud sounding voice deforming Africa’s recollection, with commands for erasing the knowledge banks of the past to make Africa fit well into the cryptic puzzle of itself determined modernity.

However, indigenous knowledge embraces the past. Moreover, the indigenes just like the globalisation deportees in Africa and their diverse countries of origin carry their past into the present shaping their various destinies.

This makes it ridiculous for Africa to be made to forget the history of slavery to colonialism. Moreover, this makes it irrational for the people of Zimbabwe to forget the protracted liberation struggle informed by the “missed racial factor” and its whims of knowledge control.

Likewise, it is even remiss for us to “cherry-pick” the anti-establishment route guided by knowledge generated in thought banks of individuals whose ancestry architectured the plunder of Kaguvi, Chaminuka, Lobengula and Nehanda’s soil.

Therefore, beyond the missed racial factor, it is essential to embrace that all writing is political and at any point writing is a medium of ideological supremacy carried from the past to the present. Arguably any idea advancing the missed racial factor obliterates the past of the African, and that is wrong!

However, it is pleasing to note how nationalists like Chidyausiku defended the cause of the race in the face of the intellectual antagonism surrounding land reform.

This is because Chidyausiku belonged to a class of intellectuals who understood the essence of racial politics in the hierarchy of global politics and the neo-colonial matrix thereof. This is articulated by Nazneen Kane (2007: 354):

Despite a wide range of perspectives, underlying these debates is the shared assumption that globalisation is fundamentally determined by the economic aspirations of global and national institutions (transnational corporations, nation-states, NGOs, etc).

Consequently, the canonical works of this relatively nascent interdisciplinary field of study fail to investigate how race and racism constitute organising principles of globalisation processes.

Nazneen Kane (2007: 354) further summarises the concept of the “missed racial factor” in equal resonance with the current crisis-nationalism thinking patterns of Zimbabwe’s academia:

This systematic omission of the racialisation of economic and socio-political processes places serious limitations on globalisation theory’s ability to remain critical and to foster human emancipation in the 21st Century. If globalisation theories co-opt the “post-race” assumptions of the status quo, they risk reproducing colour-blind ideologies, that is, the notion that race no longer matters and that racism is not structural but merely a problem of a few individuals.

The deconstruction of race in the land revolt, resulting in the “post-race” politics in writing, is a dangerous misrepresentation of the political situation in Zimbabwe.

This is because race played a role in organising violent placing of the black people in societal politico structures and their rebellion.

In that regard, one is involuntary reminded of how the Chief Justice fought his way to the bitter end in defence of the cause of the race.

Richard Runyararo Mahomva is an independent academic researcher, founder of Leaders for Africa Network-LAN. Convener of the Back to Pan-Africanism Conference and the Reading Pan-Africa Symposium (REPS) and can be contacted on rasmkhonto@gmail.com.

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