Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Unmasking the myths of decolonization in Zimbabwe through the lens of Cain Mathema

25 Mar 2019 at 21:36hrs | Views
Cain Mathema's 2018 publication, "I Join The ZAPU Armed Struggle" captures stories of experiences and reflections of the young Thula at Cyrene Mission, an Anglican Church boarding school for boys. ZAPU is a curtailment for the Zimbabwe African People's Union, an early nationalists party founded in 1960 in response to colonial brutalities of the Rhodesian led government.

Experiences of Africans in colonial Zimbabwe, some facets of pre-colonial Zimbabwe as it was imagined in nationalists' narratives and also the pitfalls of the post independent Zimbabwe are alluded from a decolonial approach. The yearnings for independence as it was imagined in colonial Zimbabwe are posited with critical analytical analysis in the book.

The reasons why Africans took up arms against the British colonialists in 1893-97 as well as the second war of liberation are well articulated from the perspectives a former ZAPU cadre. The missionary school is interpreted as a site of nationalists' ideological incubation from which strategies to confront the racist colonial government, contrary to its colonial objective of suppressing and dehumanizing the Africans. Cain Mathema emerges as "an epistemic disobedient" author to Eurocentrism, envisioning a future Zimbabwe beyond the contemporary predicaments.
The search for religious pluriversality

Thula reflects on some challenges he has with Christianity and Islam historically. Regina Mundi, a Roman Catholic missionary school run triggers such memories as Thula viewed how the Church was being "granted land by Rhodes all over the country" at the expense of Africans when they were marginalized to African reserves like Tsholotsho (p.5). In doing so, "the darker side of modernity" as well explained by the Latin American scholar, Walter Mignolo is unmasked since dispossession of Africans took shape under the auspices of the claimed civilization and Christianizing mission.

Forced removals without compensation from the good soils in Nyamayendlovu, Nyokeni, Westacre, Marula and Mlevu/Soluswe from 1930s-1950s added to calamities that Africans encountered (p.8) The Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA) was granted Mlevu/Soluswe or Solusi area by under the then headmen Soluswe. However, renaming of African spaces was made possible under SDA with the name Solusi still stuck today. SDA is rather typical of "epistemicides" which distorted names.

Islam as a religion is also castigated by the author for its role in forced conversion in East, Central Africa and West Africa, "Moslems too invaded us, they killed us, and they destroyed our civilisations and forced some of us in East and Central and West Africa to believe in their religion" (p.6). As such, the Western worldview, together with the Middle East are situated within "epistemicides" as destruction of other cultures using violence are noted. In pushing for pluriversality, Thula notes that "…I also want my grandmother to practice and preach their religion, the indigenous religion." Pluriversality entails fighting for a plural world in which all human beings, cultures and worlds have equal space and recognition (Ngugi wa Thiong'o 1986; 1993; 2012).

Missionary schools as incubators of nationalism

In the struggle against colonial brutalities, Western-oriented education in Zimbabwe paved way for spaces from which the ideological impetus to fight the Rhodesian government was made possible. In this work Cain Mathema, Cyrene Mission School becomes a typical example. Goromonzi Secondary school located in Goromonzi district of Mashonaland East is also mentioned as another hub from which the young organized to join the struggle against colonial injustice (p.10). The missionary schools worked as incubators of nationalism. However, Cain Mathema's narratives of the underground meetings can also be illuminated by accounts of other Rhodesians who thought and worked beyond racial lines. An interesting dimension to this being added by Arthur Guy Clutton-Brock who assisted in crafting the 1957 constitution of Rhodesia's African National Congress which called for "equal opportunities for all, and stated that advancement was possible only though non-racial thinking and acting." (Judith Todd, 1995). Clutton-Brock was an agriculturalist and social worker who remains up to the present, the Welsh hero of Zimbabwe buried at the National Heroes Acre who supported African nationalism.  This points to St. Faith Mission in Rusape where in the 1950s, Clutton-Brock met with black nationalists such as James Chikerema and George Bonzo.

Indigenous Knowledge Systems and health

In his search for pluriversality, Thula talks of the central role played by traditional medical practitioners who use/d wild animals as prescriptions for some of the patients (p.19).  Thula reflects that, westerners criticize indigenous knowledges on health based on fear for competition and hence, monopolizing the trade by way of falsifying traditional medicines and their central role.

Western scientific medicine can be generally categorised into two types; Clinical medicine and Laboratory medicine. The laboratory aspect is regarded crucial in this knowledge system because according to the French physiologist Descartes,

"The true sanctuary of medical science is a laboratory; only there can he [the scientist] seek explanations of life in the normal and pathological states by means of experimental analysis ...There, in a word, he will achieve true medical science" (Quoted in Cunningham and Andrews 1998: 8).

Western egocentrism manifests in such assertions as no alternative space is accepted in light of health issues. Alex Magaisa (2004:141ff) critically engaged with how Western egotism manifested itself in its claims for superiority, objectivity and universalism creating an exclusionary space. Since colonial education was meant to colonize African mental universe, it remains compulsory to see that indigenous knowledge systems and health are accorded their space.

The search for Unity between ZAPU-ZANU

All in all, having witnessed and lived in such a colonial phase in the history of Zimbabwe, Thula, with other young students decided to join the struggle. The road to Botswana which is known as a "pipeline" for would be guerillas and refugees from South Africa and Rhodesia is accounted for. ZAPU relied on Botswana and Zambia in its intensive recruitment drive during the liberation struggle. The wish for unity between ZAPU and ZANU's military wings is also articulated (p.34).

More notable from reading Cain Mathema's book is that, he goes beyond the euphoria of independence narratives as some of the pitfalls and setbacks on achieving genuine independence are noted. From religious, legal, economic and political fronts, imperative aspects worth of attention by policy makers, researchers and story tellers in the African sense are explored. To those who wonder and ponder on where Zimbabwe got it wrong, a reading of Cain Mathema's book may offer insights which address the trajectories that the indigenous people encountered over a long period of time.

Although this thematic reading of, "I Join The ZAPU Armed Struggle" is not exhaustive, its relevance cannot be easily dismissed as it appeals to academics and non-academics on Zimbabwe's liberation accounts. Actual dates on some events articulated in the Underground (Cyrene mission school) do not come out and this pushes one to further read other historical texts on Zimbabwe's pasts. Again, names of other nationalists who attended Goromonzi secondary school and Cyrene mission school seem to be silent (p. 10).  Mathema submits that, "if others are prepared to die for our liberation, I am also prepared. I too will join the armed struggle! I too want to join the ZAPU guerillas!" (p.1). Cain Mathema has remained consistent as a writer, poet, short story writer and political analyst with this publication.

Brian Maregedze is a historian, author and columnist. He can be contacted at or alternatively, visit him at Valley Crest Academy in Waterfalls-Park town, Harare. Author of, A Guide to Sources of African History: For Advanced Level Examination Candidates (2018).

Source - Brian Maregedze
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.