ANALYSISBy Lovemore Ranga Mataire
Jane Austen, an English Georgian era author, best known for her social commentary in novels like “Sense and Sensibility”, “Pride and Prejudice” and “Emma” has a remarkably ironic quote in “Northanger Abbey” in which one of her characters says: “I can read poetry and plays, and things of that sort, and do not dislike travels. But history, solemn history, I cannot be interested in. Can you?”
So ironic that Austen should create a character challenging the efficacy of history when all her novels bear a sharp historical consciousness.All her novels interpret, critique and comment on the British landed gentry at the end of the 18th century.
Recent dramatic events in Zanu-PF where top Women’s League members Cdes Eunice Sandi Moyo (deputy secretary) and Sarah Mahoka (finance secretary) are in the eye of a storm reminds one of Austen’s writings particularly their fixation on society and a woman’s place in it.
Austen makes one latent observation in almost all her novels. The shape of things to come is normally imagined in the private actions of major players and not in what they publicly proclaim. What individuals do in private determines the shape of things to come. In delivering this truism, Austen employs satire to get her female readers (and male ones) to see themselves in the comical and small-minded antics of her characters and to relate to that, and think how they can improve in the elements that apply to them — each reader as an individual.
Austen deliberately creates fluffy and empty-headed and short-sighted characters like Mrs Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice” and the impetuous, naïve, impulsive and similarly short-sighted Lydia. Other characters are tad arrogant and full of themselves to the extent of being thoughtlessly hurtful to others. With remarkable gentle humour Austen gets readers to see society in a new way.
Would it have been helpful if Cdes Sandi Moyo and Mahoka had read Austen’s novels? Would the shape of things to come have taken a different course? Austen makes it imperative that; “The person, be it gentlemen or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”
Cde Mahoka can be forgiven for not indulging is such pleasurable exegete of a novel for she has in the past confessed to being semi-literate. But the same cannot be said of old Cde Sandi Moyo, who did her primary education up to Standard Six at De Glae Primary School in South Africa and after completing her primary education, did her secondary at Certificate Barkley Rd High School in Kimberly, South Africa. She also did her Joint Matriculation Board there.
One would assume that this comrade is a well rounded individual who has had the experience of both worlds, apartheid South Africa and colonial Rhodesia. She also holds a Degree in Agricultural Economics which she attained at Gore Browne Teachers Training College, Kimberly in South Africa.
Mai Sandi Moyo is not like Cde Mahoka. She is a whole Minister of State for Bulawayo Metropolitan Province, a veteran of our struggle for independence and a Zanu-PF Central Committee and Politburo member.
She has a rich history, a history that makes her very conversant with episodic contraries in the trajectory of any revolution. What exactly could have irked hundreds if not thousands of Women’s League members to vent such vitriol against someone with so much history and be juxtaposed with Cde Mahoka who, like Mrs Bennet, is impulsive, naïve and seemingly empty-headed?
As they say, the astronomer’s knowledge of the stars is mediated by what his telescope picks up from them. Similarly, as a scribe, an unconventional daily purveyor of history as it unfolds, relies more on what the characters say and act — essentially what is mediated.
Between the scribe and the past lies the evidence. But in unearthing this uncongenial history, value-neutrality is impossible. I am a social being, shaped by own social environment. The assumptions of my own time are inescapable. I am part of the historical process, powerfully influenced by my time and place.
Of course, the placards were explicit. The misdemeanours of the two comrades laid bare, citizen justice at play and within a whim of a historical moment, they join the club of renegades, incompatible and unrehabilitated. Comment is free but facts are sacred.
What then is the task of the scribe in deciphering the facts in this dramatic turn of events where top league members are accused of failing to subordinate themselves to the dictates of hierarchical order?
In the premature period of the fiasco, interpreters rely more on inherent concepts of right and wrong to determine the facts. The invention of the spinning jenny, for instance, is important not so much in itself but mainly because it contributed to the industrial revolution.
It is our concepts that determine and colour the language we use. Interpretation unavoidably enters our very terminology and hardly makes a significant statement without it being coloured by our point of view and writing a value-free account of what happened and what is likely to happen is beyond any scribe’s power.
So in understanding the sad developments within the political life of the two, Cdes Eunice Sandi Moyo and Mahoka, we have no choice but to delve into history. We have no choice but to indulge in journalistic voyeurism and construct something seemingly credible out of those nuances and those behind-the-scenes episodes attributed to them.
Having been instrumental in exposing the shenanigans of ex-VP Joice Runaida Mujuru, Cde Mahoka overnight became an arch superintendent of all manner of things in the party. In her impulsive and tad arrogant attitude, she failed to draw the line in appreciating the constitutional dictates of a party that she belonged to.
Many will remember how out of sync with tradition, culture and hierarchical respect she publicly derided VP Mnangagwa and Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Permanent Secretary Mr George Charamba, calling them all sorts of names. It was clear that Mahoka, in her tawdry impulsive semi-illiterate mind, thought she had became indispensable.
Zanu-PF has its own ways of dealing with such characters. It gives them a very long rope in the hope of rehabilitation but soon they entangle themselves completely rendering their continued existence in the party incompatible.
But that’s not all. Sarah Mahoka was not so long ago in 2015 accused by her own Mashonaland West Province of misleading and duping the First Lady, Amai Grace Mugabe. The provincial women’s league members demonstrated holding placards inscribed with very foul statements.
While this was a clear sign of the shape of things to come, Cde Mahoka paid little regard to it. Some would say what’s in a name? But names can reveal a lot about the individual. In Hebrew, Sarah means Princess but in the Bible Sarah was the wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac.
Her name was originally Sarai, which in Hebrew means the quarrelsome and this is the reason why God commanded that her name be changed to Sarah before the birth of her son. Like her namesake, Cde Mahoka was to distinguish herself as a rabble-rouser and that tag seemed to have gotten to her head.
If in public Cde Mahoka had become a nuisance, she was worse in private. Out of public glare, she pitched herself as the master-player and had the temerity to suggest that the First Lady had reached the threshold of her ascendency. Her big illiterate mouth went berserk and it was only a matter of time before members were to show her where power truly resides.
As for old Cde Sandi Moyo, her troubles are far beyond just the issue of the league.
Being Deputy Secretary for the Women’s League and also the Provincial Affairs Minister for Bulawayo, Cde Sandi Moyo should have known that she at all times needed to exhibit unquestionable allegiance to her party and Government.
Those in the know say that she has survived this far as the provincial minister on the convenience and benevolence of the appointer. Numerous intelligence reports from Bulawayo reportedly cast her in not so good a light. She is alleged to have consistently uttered unsavoury anti-establishment remarks in the company of those she thought were her confidantes.
At one time she had to chuck out one female intelligence officer after accusing her of issuing adverse reports about her. Behind the scenes, out of the glare of the public, Cde Sandi is said to have been venomous and critical of the party and the Women’s League chairperson.
The turning point must have been her failure to attend the Women’s League rally in Buhera. She is alleged to have told her confidantes very negative things about the rallies and the First Lady.
There is also that issue of her harbouring higher ambitions. Of course in a democratic party like Zanu-PF everyone is allowed to dream but certain dreams need to be managed lest they entangle the dreamer.
Unlike Cde Sarah Mahoka, Cde Sandi Moyo’s middle name is an antithesis of her current troubles. Short for Sandra, her name means a helper of mankind, intelligent, witty, honest and loyal friend. Has a strong sense of family and will do whatever it takes to protect those she loves.
Easily hurt but a strong woman who goes through tough times but never gives up.
As mere mortals, we all hope Cde Sandi will learn from this sad development in her personal and political life.
Although the extent of the two comrades’ misdemeanours is yet to unravel, the hope is that a lesson is learnt in appreciating the importance of history in our lives. A people unaware or unconscious of their history are fated to repeat it. History helps us to understand the past, to predict the future and assist in creating it.
The more we delve into history, not just Mills and Boons, the wiser we become.