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Biti apologises for Chipinge witchcraft 'joke'

10 Mar 2021 at 17:30hrs | Views
Tendai Biti, the MDC Alliance vice president, has given a half-hearted apology to the Chipinge people for calling them witches in his response to a comment by Professor Lovemore Madhuku.

In the half-baked apology, Biti said his Twitter comment was not his reflection of the people of Chipinge, but that he was joking with Prof Madhuku, whom he claims is his friend for years. There is an extraordinary inconsistency between what Biti said and his pretense of an apology. Many people made the point not to make a political charge against Biti nor for any personal benefit, but to defend the integrity of being Zimbabwean, the integrity Biti has trashed.

Biti said there was nothing sinister about the way in which he addressed Madhuku as this was his pub jokes, yet the good reputation of the people of Chipinge has been permanently damaged. Zimbabweans should be offended by the half-baked, somewhat perfunctory apology offered by Biti to Chipinge people. Biti actually said the people of Chipinge's integrity is for the pub talk and must not be taken seriously.

His apology was more insulting that soothing. He issued a rather non apology, a wisher apology, a back-handed apology.  or indeed a fauxpology – a statement in the form of an apology that does not express remorse. This type of apology from Biti was an insult to the people of Chipinge. Biti justified his insult by saying the late Ndabaningi Sithole was abused by the government and thus his insult to the Chipinge people must not be taken to be deep as it does not compare to the treatment Sithole had. Biti, who claimed to have represented Sithole in his treason charge, tried to justify his shoddy work as a lawyer by blaming the government for the conviction Sithole got in the case he and his firm badly handled.

Saying "I'm sorry you feel that way" to someone who has been offended by a statement is a non-apology. It does not admit there was anything wrong with the remarks made, and does imply that the person took offense for hypersensitive or irrational reasons. Another form of non-apology does not apologize directly to the injured or insulted party, but generically "to anyone who might have been offended". Biti's Twitter apology was general, by the way, and then a rhetorical and history of the Chipinge people. Statements that use the word "sorry" but do not express responsibility for wrong doing are not meaningful expressions of regret, but such statements can also be used to elicit forgiveness without acknowledging fault.

The range here is enormous, from the outright, full-hearted apology to what amounts to little more than a discursively constructed, mealy-mouthed expression of regret. Biti's puking and attempts to patronise the Chipinge people does not amount to a true apology. A true apology does not include the word "but" ("I'm sorry, but …"). "But" automatically cancels out an apology, and nearly always introduces a criticism or excuse. Biti proceeded to attack Zanu PF for no reason.

All what was expected was to apologise, but Biti treated the Chipinge people with contempt and went on to insult their intelligence by invoking the stories of the past.Bit literally says ‘I insulted you witches, but my insult is better'.  A true apology keeps the focus on your actions and not on the other person's response. Biti in all senses said "I'm sorry that you felt hurt by what I twitted." This is not an apology. What Biti tweeted was insensitive and uncalled for.

He must learn to own up to his behaviour and apologise for it, period. A true apology does not overdo things. Biti should have stayed focused on acknowledging the feelings of the hurt party without overshadowing them with his own pain or remorse. A true apology doesn't get caught up in who's to blame or who started it. A true apology needs to be backed by corrective action. It requires that you do your best to avoid a repeat performance. Obviously, it doesn't help to apologize with a grand flourish and then continue the very behaviour you apologized for. Passionate expressions of remorse are empty if you don't put sincere effort into ensuring that there is no repeat performance. Biti only dragged the Chipinge people back to history and telling them how marginalised they are and they must not at all complain if he insults them for their tribal inclination.

A true apology should not serve to silence another person, nor should an apology be used as a quick way out to get yourself out of a difficult conversation or dispute.It should not be offered to make you feel better if it risks making the hurt party feel worse. A true apology recognizes when "I'm sorry" is not enough. A serious hurt or betrayal requires repair work over time to restore trust.Biti and MDC Alliance cannot just say mistakes were made. The expression "mistakes were made" is commonly used as a rhetorical device, whereby a speaker acknowledges a situation was handled poorly or inappropriately, but seeks to evade any direct admission or accusation of responsibility by using the passive voice.

The apology by Biti was no big change of heart, but a political tactic to tarnish the reputation of the ruling party. It is fair to describe the Biti incident as "the most tragic incident of our times".  Biti's apology appeared aimed at embarrassing the ruling party, but in actual fact it has exposed his arrogance and ignorance of historical facts. Instead of looking or facing his demons in the eye, Biti chose to face history, albeit distorting the facts to justify his insults. By bringing up the Sithole's issue in his apology, Biti is not only hunting for votes amongst Vasharukwa, he is abusing the issue in order to discredit his political opponents.He is actually trying to kill two birds with one stone by diverting the issue of the insult on the good people of Chipinge.

Biti needs to be reminded that an apology is not a mudslinging game, but instead an expression of regret or remorse for actions, while apologizing is the act of expressing regret or remorse.  The goal of apologizing is generally forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration of the relationship between the people involved in a dispute. In this case, Biti has lost all his humanity and lost being Zimbabwean because of his views on other people.When we wrong someone we know, even unintentionally, we are generally expected to apologize. The person we hurt feels entitled to an admission of error and an expression of regret.

We, in turn, try to ameliorate the situation by saying, "I'm sorry," and perhaps making restitution. But when we're acting as leaders, the circumstances are different. Leaders are responsible not only for their own behaviour, but also for that of their followers. Since leaders speak for, as well as to, their followers, their apologies have broad implications. The act of apology is carried out not merely at the level of the individual, but also at the level of the institution. It is not only personal, but also political. It is a performance in which every expression matters and every word becomes part of the public record.In this case, Zimbabweans at large and the people of Chipinge in particular are waiting for the MDC Alliance leadership to come and apologise for the insults belted by Biti.

A leader's apology is a performance in which every expression matters and every word becomes part of the public record. Sincere apologies help to rebuild relationships with people you've hurt – that could be colleagues, clients, friends, or family and in this case the people of Chipinge.By owning up to your mistake, you open a dialogue with the other person. That way, you can reflect on and take responsibility for your actions.

And they can process their feelings, restore their dignity, and avoid blaming themselves for what happened. Zimbabwe's composition is unique and surely we are more than a rainbow nation, but we are all Zimbabweans and we are one regardless of where we come from.Zimbabweans have dropped a colonial section in every application form which asked for your tribe. This was done in the realisation that we are one. Biti must grow up and stop taking the people of Chipinge, and Zimbabweans in general, for fools.

Source - Dr Masimba Mavaza
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