UNDER THE EAVES WITH IGOMOMBE
“The turbulence in India this time hasn’t come from foreign invasion or conquest; it has been generated from within. India cannot respond in her old way, by a further retreat into archaism. Her borrowed institutions have worked like borrowed institutions; but archaic India can provide no substitutes for press, parliament, and the courts.
“The crisis of India is not only political or economic. The larger crisis is of a wounded old civilisation that has at last become aware of its inadequacies and is without the intellectual means to move ahead.”
Bitten by history, by present, by future
How do you do gentle folks? It’s good to reconnect after last week’s instalment which generated vigorous debate and reactions. That is how it should be, what with the unprecedented sense of newfound freedoms that is upon us! Interestingly, those in opposition don’t realise how deep and pervasive in the country this new sense and feeling is, and how it makes nonsense of their claims that we live under a “military junta”.
The vast majority of Zimbabweans recall how the military mediated change in the country, indeed how a Force hewn out of an ethos of, and by cadres of, the national liberation, can never yield a foreign, Latin-American-like military oppressive construct on a post-colonial Savannah country with such a peculiar history such as we have. This irresponsible nomenclature suggests an absolute weak grasp of world history, and is an insult to both these cadres and the millions of Zimbabweans – those in the opposition included – who only less than six months ago read national salvation in that historic act, even voting for it with their feet. For, were they not part of the roaring crowd that gathered in Highfield?
Above all, it shows rather woefully the shameful dominance of the G-40 in mis-framing national issues, while in fact insulting you and me for moving national history forward, well away and beyond them. Not that one is bothered by this gratuitous insult which is sure to be un-usable and un-abusable after July 30, when the new dispensation inevitably stands on the solid plinth of a universally rated electoral victory. It’s just that one finds it daft for the few amongst us who delight in participating in their own abuse by playing faithful repeater stations to G-40 propaganda.
Hanged by the scarf
One such daft self-immolator is Tendai Biti, who without much fore- and after-thought, spouts “junta”, always juicing the word with hate-filled spittle. My little advice to him comes from a sartorial illustration, of course founded on my reckoning that lawyers who have never operated (without bureaucratic stilts) outside their profession will always find it very difficult to handle or structure reality which doesn’t fit within codified rules and recorded precedents.
Not far back, Biti made ED an easy pelting target for launching himself around the scarf brand. Those of us who knew what was coming, “laughed” Biti on to batter down his guard. Unable to decode this “laughter”, Biti went overboard, derisively referring to ED as “uyu wechiscarf chake uyu”.
Then winter came, and with it cold July 30 as the plebiscite day. The national dress code changed, including for the upper echelons of the frothing opposition. Biti foremost! Who didn’t see him “hanged” by his own scarf a few weeks ago, seemingly undeterred by his own diatribe against necks that wore scarfs?
As I always tell people, why waste precious breath on a fool whom time will soon chastise? Save to say, how so soon are the impulsive so mightily felled and fallen! And to trust such an “unforesee-ing” leader with vote? Never! Not in such a world so full of snares!
Tackling hot pepe
Gentle reader, we made a pact that a key objective for this column is to draw wisdom from different sources and lands, sources and lands far and wide. Much more, we agreed the column would cultivate a reading culture by adverting to nuggets of knowledge hidden in big book. A few tweeting bigots think the column’s circumlocutionary style points to an inability to be direct and hard-hitting.
Unschooled in aesthetics, they lump fault on the writer, never on themselves as indolent non-readers who seek cheap refuge in seemingly trendy, tweeting twaddle. Don’t mind them; we have some job to do, which, hot pepe-like, is tackled from the margins, and taken in small quantities to temper burning tongues. Ko, ndiwo munakiro wayoka mhiripiri. After all why hurry when we sit relaxedly under the shady Eaves?
Venture out, ye great civilisation!
A good read which gave this instalment its opening quote is V.S. Naipaul’s “India: A Wounded Civilisation”. Though Indian by ancestry and birth, Naipaul became part of India in the Diaspora, in his case cast on the shores of the West Indies by a cruel history. And here is a lesson for Zimbabwe.
Often, in our bizarre urge for self-flagellation or belittlement, we forget “diasporic” nations have been an abiding feature of human settlement and civilisations, nay, a hallmark of venturing peoples, of venturesome civilisations. Statistics do abound in history, across civilisations, not least that of the imperialist West whose surplus peoples literally were exported abroad, often forcibly. That is how Australia came about.
That is how new colonies were populated. All civilisations that have been content to stay at home, which have not sought to conquer immediate space and own boundaries, soon died of anorexic in-breeding. Whatever their erstwhile wonders and breakthroughs in the past, their wonder achievements soon became colourless bric-a-brac.
Harnessing surplus populations
Nearer the home history, we often forget we are a nation of “comers” who left elsewhere to arrive and settle here. It does not matter from where: whether from Guruhuswa (Place of Tall Grass), or later from KwaZulu. The issue is history and contemporary political boundaries pen us into this wonderful, teapot polity we call Zimbabwe, bound one unto all. A rich miscellany of wandering.
Then of course Rhodes and his invading column. They sprang their invasion of our land from South Africa, having themselves come from overcrowded industrial Europe, principally Britain, an industrial Europe of sooty chimneys, begriming poverty and an increasingly restive underclass. Rhodes made it clear the lands “up North” were Britain’s only safety valve against the ogre of 1789 French Revolution which had decapitated a king, and with him monarchical rule. England lived in the dread of such a dreadful endgame.
Read Edmund Burke to get this patrician fear of the raging “demos”. Read E.P. Thompson’s book on the conditions of the British working class to appreciate how combustible Britain’s “surplus” population was. So, weep not child that your great Nation – great Civilization of Stone – has since become wanderlust, growing nimble legs to move about the globe! Was it Ali Mazrui who termed it counter-penetration?
Back to the cradle of wounded civilisation
Naipaul made a journey back to his birthplace and birth-civilisation. The rest was “India: A Wounded Civilisation”. Back in India, he felt the echo and tag of the founding milieu for certain rituals and chores which India abroad had continued to practise and maintain, but whose whys and wherefores her successive generation of children living abroad barely grasped or understood, much as they still found in their faithful observance and regular performatives their Indian-ness.
The India he came back to was a land of broken societies, broken monuments, broken temples and broken gods but whose shards old India still held on to firmly. Yes, an India of grand, self-adulatory titles and place-names that belied its conquest and long occupation by the British raj. A wounded civilisation, in other words, but one to which post-colonial (India threw off British colonialism in 1947) held firm and tight as some ballast against the blast of contemporary turbulences.
As Naipaul looked at his ancestral home, he saw a happy mass escape into a once glorious but decidedly dead past – into eminently edible archaism – an escape which to him reeked of failed national intellect and leadership. Indian needed to move on beyond its history, albeit with it, move into a new future defined and marked by the press, the parliament, the court, in place of dead deities, fixed and sanctified kingdoms and dynasties, as well as its long looted titles and privileges whose reality was found in dateless legends.
Nayaran, another Indian, and foremost among its pioneering writers, would later capture this propensity for “phantasmal memories of old India” in a fictional novel which he figuratively titled “Vendor of Sweets”. It did not need much telling on what the “sweets” were; on who the vendors were. For his fictional heroes, as for many Indians who lived in the work-a-day-world, but for whom contemplating a painful present was like opening “trapdoors into a bottomless past”, India’s past continued!
Handful of mustard seed
Today India is shorn of that make-belief, saccharine past; it moves on hard earth, exists in hard space, making it the world’s largest democracy. Today it gears itself to be counted among the world’s largest economies. But the road to India’s present shaping glory has been long and arduous, littered with repeated assassinations of its leaders, with lots of religious and sectarian violence which at one point made India doubt its own capacity to become a nation-state, let alone one where deities and temples would give way to press, parliament and courts which abound today, regulating its pulse.
Naipaul gives the reader many fascinating, loaded anecdotes, two of which I will sample for you, my dear reader. In one instance, he fertilely recalls the Buddha (about 560-480BC) comforting a woman whose child has died. To restore life, Buddha asks of the grieving woman: “Bring me a handful of mustard seed from a house where no one has died.”
The woman wipes dry her sobs, shakes herself free of escapist grief, then leaves the Buddha for a nuptial bed from which to create a new life in place of the dead one! There is a way in which extended grief is nothing more than indulgent self-cherishing, indeed a craving for “a religious response to worldly defeat,” implies Naipaul. Nations never die; only individuals do.
Only an Indian!
The other anecdote relates to a long de-frocked traditional Indian prince who still regaled in long lost dynastic glory. Except he did not realise that the British to whom he had lost his princely status, had long left India to itself, but not before placing on its doorstep of independence a myriad political, economic, social and demographic problems that daily threatened to overwhelm and sink it.
And beyond the material, India sorely needed from its elites a philosophy for governing it, indeed one that would solder the fractured independence it had inherited, while also summoning its long stricken children to rouse themselves anew, work and shape another future. It needed patriots. Naipaul asked this prince what needed to be done to help forge a patriotic spirit that would bind India.
Angrily, the prince retorted: “I’m not a patriot, but I’m an Indian. Go out and talk to the people. They are poor, but they are not inhuman as you say . . . You people must leave us alone. You mustn’t come and tell us we’re subhuman. We’re civilised. Are they happy where you come from? Are they happy in England?” Of course relative to where India stood, colonial pilfering England was much happier, certainly more cohesive and developed. But a raw nerve had been touched.
Escape into the nebulous
Naipaul persisted: what could keep the country together? “Not economics,” came the princely answer, “Love, Love and affection. That’s our Indian way . . . You can feed my dog, but he won’t obey you. He’ll obey me. Where is the economics in that? That’s love and affection . . .” The prince recalled the enormous power he once wielded; recalled how he used and abused it, to give and take away life. Yet he still walks unarmed, unprotected, without being killed the way “they” killed John F. Kennedy. “That’s not economics. That’s our love and affection.”
Surly David Col-tart!
The MDC Alliance has finally launched its manifesto, or what it calls its vision “handbook”, all of it aired by ZBC/TV. Another milestone! I defer that for a while later.
Two days before, the MDC Alliance had marched on ZEC, and then to Africa Unity Square, hoping such a march would be heavy-handedly halted, all to highlight a democratically turgid and brittle political environment where elections could not be held in a free and fair environment.
To the contrary, they found the environment surprisingly tensile, much to the wonderment of even the surly David Coltart who, forgetting his Rhodesian past as a soldier for the draconian settler Law and Order Maintenance Act (LOMA), dared to dismissively argue that ED could not give Zimbabweans rights which the Constitution conferred!
Conveniently, he forgot that the settler constitution conferred democratic rights (see late Masipula Sithole’s writings), but partitioned these only for the exclusive enjoyment of a racial minority, of which he was an eager, privileged, even armed part.
Read thy own past, Sir!
Does he need to be told that rights on paper remain nominal until the government of the day honours or respects them? If he needs to be so told, let him read his own past, a deodorised part of which is in his latest book. More important, let him recall his own tweet following the abuse of uniformed forces in the Selous area during ZANU-PF primaries. Self-righteously, he held Mnangagwa responsible for the infraction, demanding a public statement. Why did he not rail at the Constitution which – unaided by a sitting government – confers and grants rights it carries? And if infractions are for Mnangagwa to account for, why are accolades from non-infractions or compliance not for the same Mnangagwa to claim and beg? It’s not so much the stilted reasoning which I am worried about, obscene though this is of a lawyer from whom so much is expected. It is the sobering fact of ex-Rhodies playing priests and guardians of post-colonial electoral democracy they denied charcoal black natives when they reigned. It grates, chafes.
Looting the the GNU
What I found fascinating in the launch was how Chamisa, Biti and Mashakada drew copiously from the so-called Government of National Unity (GNU), all to prove the validity of their postulates, indeed to authenticate their fulsome promises by which they hope to be electable. Of course for them, the GNU amounts to halcyon days of title and privilege. And such delightful flashbacks are not a fluke, this drawing upon, and arrogating, the GNU to make larger claims on themselves. You would think the GNU was an MDC-T affair, an MDC-T governing era. Of course it wasn’t. What good right does the MDC Alliance have to exclusively loot gains – sparsely real, copiously imagined – to accrue from the ZANU-PF-led GNU? In what way is ZANU-PF not a claimant? Worse coming from a person like Tendai Biti, who served on the sufferance of his own boss Tsvangirai, and was only saved by former president Mugabe from the sack! And Chamisa, has he forgotten the hand-written piece leaked by Kasukuwere, on which he scribbled lofty accolades on the former president whose awesome leadership qualities made him find a place in the ZANU-PF-led sun?
Grand National Unity?
And the whole lot – have they forgotten how Western multi-donor support meticulously routed through their NGOs and originally designed to make them electable post-GNU, simply came unstuck in their own unrestrained avarice and donor-fudged narrative of illusory recovery which, even though extravagant, still handed them a hefty defeat in the election which followed? If truth be told, GNU served the masses a grand opium, while denying them a plausible scapegoat given that MDC-T was now part of the sanctions-induced failure.
And MDC-T – Biti foremost – admitted to as much! If they did so well, how come they were defeated? Spare me this crap about stolen election! To have to hanker after GNU; to have to indulge in a second sales effort for the GNU chimera, that is a downright obscenity. Much more, to have to loot its acronym to cobble a “new” framework for a from-birth-ill-fated-broader-alliance with the NPF – to be dubbed “Grand National Unity”(GNU) – is downright political deceit.
Hard, wet-hide balloon
One has no difficulties with the desperate and isolated G-40 duo abortively seeking to fly a hard, wet-hide balloon. Desperate times breed desperate solutions. But for MDC-Alliance to fall for such a Mandaza/Moyo/Zhuwao toy, that beats all expectations! One gets a sense of ill-thought desperation on the part of the (Mis)Alliance. They did not have to waste their effort and ZTV airtime. Their so-called blueprint revolves around a second ZIMCORD (remember late Chidzero in early 1980s?), something already completed by Chinamasa and donors, but only awaiting the predictable elections result to start yielding results. Then Mining, Infrastructure and Tourism, with Victoria Falls Airport being upgraded (!), while Victoria Falls Town becomes the financial services centre! I thought that is what the ZANU-PF Government has already accomplished, or plans to do? Dualisation of main roads! Good gracious me! Continental trading enabled by CFTA! Which Mnangagwa signed on for Zimbabwe in Rwanda recently? All for the MDC-A to implement?
When Zimbabwe is another country
Back to the GNU deity and its dilapidated temples, both dead. The ZANU-PF-led GNU (Not Grand National Union!) ended in 2013 – disastrously for MDC-T. Surprisingly, it still relishes it, much like old India after conquest and independence! The decision for a multi-currency Zimbabwe had been taken much earlier in 2009, under Chinamasa. The GNU found it in place, for goodness sake. Why loot accolades? Today Zimbabwe is another place, another country, since ancient GNU, which ended a whole governing term before.
Former president Mugabe is out, retired by his party. Tsvangirai is out, retired by his Maker. Zimbabwe’s demography is changed, with youths who were about 13 or more then, becoming today’s voters; while voters who were old enough to vote then, only remember how MDC-T soon forgets once comforted with frills of power. They cannot trust it with more, greater power – when even fringe power corrupted them so absolutely. Today there is no MDC-T; there is only MDC-C: without a Khupe, without an Obert Gutu; indeed an MDC-Alliance with a disruptive Tendai Biti, a truant Welshman Ncube, a sulking Mudzuri, and of course a sly Mwonzora.
It is an Alliance of raging back-stabs, ahead of both defeat and its Congress. All we have from a GNU past is a “wounded civilisation” whose inadequacies, intellectual and leadership deficits should be apparent, except to those wanting to “vend sweets” culled from a saccharine past. Listening to the MDC-Alliance, one gets a clear message: the past continues. None from its midst realises the unpoetic oxymoron in the phrase, which thus becomes a blatant, self-deluding contradiction. A self-cherished escape; an archaism born out of a deep dread of linear time and all it means socio-politically.
Choosing palatable opinion poll
We have had three opinion polls, all of them giving ED an unambiguous lead. Interestingly, those punting for MDC-Alliance have decided to hold onto the Afrobarometer result, not so much because it gives victory to the side they are betrothed politically, but because it gives them some glimmer of hope for a second bite at the electoral cherry by way of a run-off. And like I have always revealed through this column, a run-off is the vain hope in MDC-Alliance, meaning it goes to the polls already defeated.
Its whole effort, which is also a G-40 effort, is to degrade an ED win for a hung result on which then to negotiate a governing coalition. That is what ED is up against: an opposition whose millennia vision is about ruined temples and dead deities, a wounded vision where old talk is laced with modern words. Or predicated sweet hyperboles like “love and affection”, all to escape the rigour of preferring a governing philosophy. Very much a fight against the 21st Century-Before Christ!
Flowering of rights and space
Interestingly, the TIFA survey says about 30 percent of MDC-Alliance supporters believe the country is going in the right direction. One hopes this hard detail is not missed by Alliance lotus-eaters, for it means ED’s six-months governing deeds and evolving elections narrative is changing hearts within the Alliance itself. It is hardly difficult to know why. From a governance point of view, ED’s present powers are enormous but he has resisted the temptation to govern despotically. He allows full play to all constitutional rights, including and lately the right to combine and demonstrate.
For the first time in Zimbabwe’s electoral history, he has honoured Section 61(4) of the Constitution requiring equal access to the media, well before the “election period”. Even artistes are free to tackle and stage plays on any subject matter, including the touchy so-called Gukurahundi issue. There is a net flowering of liberties, something the sceptical West has noted and conceded.
Above all, he has opened up Zimbabwe’s political space for the world to peep and judge. To date, he has kept the peace, laying good foundation for a non-violent poll. Finally, Zimbabwe has found “a handful of mustard seed from a house where no one has died.”
Buddha is sure to now console the grieving country, indeed to restore life! That ability to vie in an election while not allowing this to befog him from the need to undo certain excesses of his predecessor: that is what eats into Chamisa’s support base, while getting Zimbabwe to believe that Mnangagwa can change and transform politically archaic Zimbabwe into a new dispensation moderated by press, Parliament and the courts. And of course while getting the rest of the world to believe he can put right the politics, the policies and property rights for a new era. One also hopes the MDC Alliance sees that the small parties in the Alliance would not count for much electorally, in the unlikely event of a run-off. Not with the margin of difference. Ngachirire!