In the morning of the eve of the celebration of our 39th Independence anniversary last week, the MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa, torched a storm on social media when he insinuated that the Zimbabwe bird was an item of idolatry.
This demonstrated a number of things about him as an individual and a political player in Zimbabwe.
“That Zimbabwean (sic) bird symbol is part of the problem. We must deal with institutional idolatry,” said Chamisa in response to a tweet by one Australian-based MDC supporter Brighton Kunaka Hove, who was expressing his frustration with the MDC’s poor performance as an opposition party and suggestion that Chamisa should spell out how the party’s supporters in the Diaspora could also participate in its activities.
“The Zimbabweans’ birds must now fly. Advocate Nelson Chamisa, how can we also be part of the team here in the Australian Diaspora?” is all that Hove said.
Hove, however, forgot that his party leader, despite holding university qualifications in law and other disciplines such as marketing, does not understand simple figures of speech like metaphors.
Chamisa responded by denigrating the Zimbabwe Bird, which is a national symbol which Zimbabweans, except him, hold in reverence and honour as a national symbol.
Chamisa understood Hove’s bird metaphor as the literal Zimbabwe Bird against which his response betrayed a long-held holy grudge.
Hove tweeted Chamisa at a wrong time. Chamisa’s mind is currently twisted up over his party’s forthcoming elective congress.
Yes, he is likely to win the presidency after haunting and hounding his secretary general Douglas Mwonzora using a cocktail of unconventional and unfair tactics such as night polls, open violence and intimidation, but that is not the end of his troubles.
Realising that Chamisa is likely to cut a deal with Mwonzora for the latter to retain his current post which the incumbent deputy general, Chalton Hwende, thought he already had in the bag, Hwende is also giving Chamisa sleepless nights.
Chamisa also has the Bulawayo Province to deal with as it has told him in his face that they will not vote for political wilderness returnee Professor Welshman Ncube into the party’s presidium as “he is not presidential material.”
It is against the background of this mental turmoil and crossed wires that Hove tweeted Chamisa and the latter, baulking under the pressure of party internal politics, answered like the folklore character, Madzudzo, a daydreamer, who on being called would wake up from his reverie and answer in confusion: “Hmm. Sadza? Kupi? (Hello, where is the sadza)?”
So confusing is the situation in the MDC that Chamisa also forgot that the Zimbabwe Bird forms part of the official MDC logo which was approved by its former leader, the late Morgan Tsvangirai, whom he claims to revere.
Although Chamisa’s response was out of line with Hove’s question, it tells a lot about Chamisa, the cleric’s position regarding national symbols such as the Zimbabwe Bird.
Despite vying to lead this great country some unlikely day in future as a politician, the pastor in him is contending that some national symbols are objects of idolatry as if Zimbabwe has a law forcing the nation to pay homage to the bird or representations thereof.
If Chamisa gets his mind all twisted over a mere impending internal election to this extent, he is out of his depth to run the affairs of the country as he is dying to do.
Long Zimbabwe Bird history
Before criticising the Zimbabwe Bird, whether intentionally or by mistake, Chamisa should ask himself why the Government of the independent Zimbabwe retained the Zimbabwe Bird, whose origins are the soapstone carvings found at the Great Zimbabwe monument in Masvingo, as a national symbol.
For his information and that of other like-minded people, the Zimbabwe Bird was adopted as the crest of the Rhodesian coat of arms back in 1924.
Although whites represented colonialism and religion, which they used to advance their political stranglehold on the country, one cannot just ditch our national symbols carved by his ancestors just because he feels that they are items of idolatry.
These symbols like the Zimbabwe Bird, the national flag, the national anthem and the national coat of arms form our very Zimbabweaness.
This explains why the Zimbabwe Bird image had to be superimposed onto the red star in the design of our national flag before it was accepted and used for the first time in April 1980.
This is also the reason why the Zimbabwe Bird was retained as the crest of the country’s new national coat of arms which was first used on September 21, 1981.
Before Chamisa dismisses our national symbols as objects of idolatry, he should understand that those who brought Christianity, his basis for condemning our national symbols, to these parts also use birds and animals as their national symbols.
The United States uses the bald eagle and the United Kingdom uses the lion as their national symbols. Israel, which he visited last year, uses the six-point Star of David as its national symbol, but the Israeli, among whom Christianity arose have never condemned it as a symbol of idolatry.
For his own information, Cecil John Rhodes used the same lion as his personal symbol and it was part of his company, the British South Africa Company (BSAC)’s coat of arms, which graces the main facade of Charter House in Harare to this day.
The same symbol was used as part of the Rhodesian coat of arms which was in use from 1924 to 1981.
More Christian than Christianity’s originators
In our own places, circumstances and language, we would describe Chamisa as munhu ari kubatira chiKristu pamusoro kukunda varidzi vacho (trying to be more Christian than the religion’s originators). To what ends?
This is obviously to appeal to the Christian community and to please his Western handlers. Unfortunately, despite Christianity’s estimated dominance of around 80 percent of the Zimbabwean population, many people still respect their traditions.
This is why during the burial ceremonies of many local people, Christianity shares space and time with traditional burial rites.
A most expensive coffin may be bought for a dead person, but it has to be underlain by a reed mat in the grave according to our culture.
Chamisa has to choose to be either a politician or a priest. He cannot serve both successfully as his idolatry gaffe has already demonstrated.
If the former ZANU Ndonga leader, the late Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole or the United African National Council (UANC) former leader, Bishop Abel Muzorewa were still around, they would tell him that playing to the Christian gallery in politics is not very profitable.
This is not to say that there is anything wrong with Christianity, but there is everything wrong with someone trying to use it to score political points, especially at the expense of those national ties that bind us as a nation.