Latest News Editor's Choice

Opinion / Columnist

Of Chief Albert Gumede, 'National' Reconstruction and the Unchaining of Django

02 Apr 2014 at 06:42hrs | Views

In 1984 just at the beginning of Gukurahundi,( that rain that sweeps away the 'chuff) the 200 year old tree that King Lobengula conducted his business under,  was swept away by a rainstorm. A new generation of saplings have sprung up from its roots and they are protected by the department of  national museums and monuments . #Decipher the Symbolism#
Disagreement and deliberation  have always been at the centre of Matabeleland politics since time immemorial. Processes like imbizo or lekgotla have been part and parcel of Matabele vocabulary where matters of concern to the nation were thrashed out in a democratic way days on end. By and large disagreement and deliberation have been the cornerstone of Matabele nationhood, but they have, of late become 'our' Achilles heel. Deliberation is no longer confined to the Matabele themselves, instead outside interests distort everything Matabele until it becomes almost unrecognisable. The often self-seeking Matabele, particularly the elite, have become incredibly disunited and vacillate, torn between self-interest and the demands of their existential situation.

 The latest subject to expose this weakness has been the installation of Albert Gumede as an induna/traditional leader down in Mzantsi, a move well in line with the South African constitution. Gumede, a man whose philanthropic inclinations particularly where the leaderless people of Matabeleland are involved  has without doubt exposed those fissures. A number of people have been conspicuous for pawing with tenacity at the whole exercise, seeking to see it in shreds. Against this backdrop, it is worth asking the question why vele?

What this really shows is that there is genuine and conscientious disagreement on important issues of Matabeleland reconstruction in the face of a 34 year old government orchestrated repressive system.  All agree that possible goods and harms should be seriously weighed,  in  this reconstruction process in general and Chief Gumede in particular. But, when the weighing has been done, people will still differ over the right thing to do, it is natural, there is very little in morality or reconstruction exercises that would be agreed by everybody. These disagreements are deserving of our admiration. The Gumede installation has however cast people into 4 different, almost rigid camps.

In the first camp are the' Gumedites'. These have embraced both the idea and Gumede the man. Some have gone to the extent of dismissing with contempt those questions that they think seek to diminish their new found leader. Abatohaka wilila kene ini tjinolebwa.  The second camp, I call the 'Reconstructionists', these embrace the whole idea although they are not familiar with Gumede and will need to know more about him and his plans and the people behind him. The Reconstructionists, acknowledge political spaces have been shut in Zimbabwean politics. They realise the vast potential that this Gumede idea has in opening up those shut spaces not only in Matabeleland but Zimbabwean politics.

In the third camp are the 'Hesitants', these think the idea is by and large good but Gumede is not the right man. Bona ba, bare Ntate Gumede o rata ntwa le bogodu. The first three camps appear to have in common the perspective that in the repressive Zimbabwean political context an oppressed Matabele people struggle to develop a revolutionary consciousness or reality. Consequently, the three camps believe, reality must proceed from a different and non-conventional set of assumptions than those that have failed them with distinction in the past. In the fourth camp are the 'Absolutists'. This camp rejects both the idea and the man. This article's main focus is on this fourth camp, the 'Absolutists'.

 Absolutism is generally defined as the doctrine that reality is unitary and unchanging and that change and diversity are mere illusion. In a nutshell, it is a pro-establishment ideology that for various reasons including self-preservation, supports exercise of complete and unrestricted power by those in government.

This article is therefore divided into two sections. The first section which forms the bulk of this article focuses on the fourth camp, the Absolutists. The second and very short section discusses Gumede and this new project.

My arguement is simple; the 'Absolutists' are a manifestation of a peculiar and complex experience of the 'Matabele' trying to find space and concrete identity in a repressive Zimbabwean political and cultural sphere. It cannot be denied that the Zimbabwean tribal state clumsily mixes civic citizenship and ethnic nationalism in the process excluding certain groups within the boundaries of the Zimbabwean nation state which is characterised by intolerance, discrimination and marginalisation against out-groups particularly the Matabele(of late joined by whites, gays, women and people of foreign descent-'totemless people')

Consequently, this Matabele marginality has unfortunately produced internalised self-hatred that is manifested through anti-Matabeleism by the Matabeles themselves.  These victims of marginality (absolutists) are ready to paw into any Matabele project with un-briddled hate. For instance, if another Gukurahundi was to take place they would be the first to pick up arms and kill their own. 

Who then are the Absolutists, what do they do, how do they do it and why? The 'Absolutists' can be divided into two interlocked groups. First is the elite group, the petty bourgeoisie, which benefits a lot from the repressive system. This  group is perpetually used as exhibits to sanitise the repressive government's evil deeds. These may range from traditional leaders, musicians, politicians, historians to bankers.

These individuals, to them elevation points to one thing, acculturation and assimilation into the dominant repressive group. This is a complex process that involves rejecting their own existence and pummeling  their own kikkkkk. It reminds me of one incident involving  Nat Turner during slavery. A big black Mandingo had gained a reputation of killing other slaves to the excitement of his bosses. One ingwevu yomuntu omnyama yaze yamtshela one day, sarcastically though, 'yes beat them, beat them, beat them champ,beat these black bastards  till your skin turns white and grin too.
The old man was stating a very strong point. He was virtually saying,   only a social transformation which eliminates the structural position is the ONLY condition for the elimination of the oppressive social identity. In other words no-matter how hard the Mandingo beat his own, he always remained a Mandingo to the dominant group, unfortunatley the same Mandingo met his death through the same masters that he had tried to please.  

I will not elaborate on the second group because, they are an extension of the first, these can be exempted of any charge of complicity because they are plain ignorant, they have generally been brainwashed mostly by emotion such that they believe wrong is right.  They even take their own oppression with a smile just like the Israelites that reported Moses for the murder of an Egyptian.

The 'Absolutists'  individuals often  hate their hereditary 'Matabeleness' because it prevents them from being totally accepted as equals, they seek to be assimilated but the tribal Zimbabwe state rejects them. It can only offer them deputy or ceremonial positions and as a result at their best they can only be superior second class citizens the way Chicarito is used a supersub at Manchester United. They also exhibit the haunting wish to wash away their identity in a Nkalaresque or Michael Jackson way. Any project by people sharing their identity is therefore not ideal because it cements and foregrounds difference and in the process throw a spanner into their assimilation attempts.

 Freiderich Nietzsche prevents a more psychoanalytical view, he points out, such a person sacrifices his inborn or traditional identity ( an Irishman, a Scot or a Turk in our case Matabele), and instead internalises the ethos of the surrounding majority to which he strives, albeit thus far unsuccessfully, to fully belong. Frustrated in his efforts, he punishes, by rejection and self-ridicule, those very elements in his character or behaviour which make such assimilation almost impossible.

This petty bourgeoisie group of Absolutists, usually in the form of traditional leaders and politicians tend to confront any Matabeleland initiative. These individuals are quick to use tradition in rejecting any Matabele maneuver and all of a sudden, from nowhere, they become custodian of the nation.

I need to be clear here, there are great Khumalo families that have participated and supported each and every Matabele endeavour. They are an honourable people who everyone hopes they could sort out their differences and present the Matabele with a King for either  both symbolic and practical reasons.  But, I have to says, it is usually the Khumalo families that push this 'absolutist' agenda as if there is a Mbiko ka Madlenya seeking to usurp their throne. After all, the complicity of the Khumalo family in destroying the Matabele nation is well-chronicled. I can cite five clear occasions that can be left for academic research. First, it was Mzilikazi's brother who sold out to Shaka at the nation's birth hence the migration. Second, Zinkabi, her  brothers and Masuku initiated the first civil war in the Matabele nation by trying to usurp power from Lobengula. Second, when Njube collected money so as to fight the land issue in England, it was some Khumalo families that let the project be known. Fourth, when Nyamande wanted to assume the throne, the Chief Native Commissioner(CNC) told him point blank that izindunas did not want the Khumalo family but the colonial masters instead. Nyamande refused to believe the news, the CNC took Nyamande to a place where he hid Nyamande so that he could overhear the conversation between the CNC and indunas mostly Khumalos. They bad-mouthed their own Khumalo family such that Nyamande is said to never uttered a word since that day until the day he died. Fifth, it is an open secret that some Khumalo families were privy and complicit to Gukurahundi.  However in all this selling out there have always been sober Khumalo families that have always fought for the Matabele nation.

 To buttress my earlier point, there have always been Khumalos who are always against progressive steps in helping improve the Matebele concerns. This tradition of these Khumalo families started long back during the time when Mzilikazi was installed as the leader of the Khumalos. Certain Khumalo families became jealous and very angry about the installation of Mzilikazi, and vowed that they will do all means to destroy what have been started by Mzilikazi. All the Khumalo houses that vowed to destroy what has been started by Mzilikazi were referred to as 'Inzonda'. Mzilikazi's brother Zeni (the one who sold out to Zulu warriors) was an Inzonda. Another Inzonda house was Mdamba's house (the house was part of the royal members). Other Inzondas sold out during the time when Mzilikazi was fighting against Dingane's warriors in former Transvaal areas; The Inzonda syndrome has even transfered to other Khumalo houses, specifically to the descendants of Mzilikazi and Lobhengula who know that they have little chances of being chosen as the next Kings. Some of Inzonda houses did rehabilitate themselves and accepted that Mzilikazi is the chosen one and this in- fighting can be detrimental to the nation. Mtshana, the leader of the famous regiment, Imbizo (Imbizo kaLanga) is a great example of an Inzonda that went against this vow of destroying what has been started by Mzilikazi and fought for the preservation of the Matabele existence. One of the interesting Inzonda cases is when an Induna at an outpost let the enemy come in withot alerting Mzilikazi. When Mzilikazi summoned the induna esigodlweni, the fellow told Mzilikazi to his face that he hated him and wished he were dead. Mzilikazi let the guy go for he had spoken his heart out. There is also a belief that Mtshana could have "sold out" during the first encounter against the White soldiers in Gadade (battle of Mbembezi) by advancing in broad daylight (usually the Matabele attacked during early hours like 2:00am or 3:00am in the morning but Mtshana attacked in the daylight and led to the destruction of the Imbizo power). To prove that he didnt 'sellout" because he emanates from an Inzonda house, Mtshana fought fiercely in the battle of Pupu and saved the King from being caught by the White troops (maybe this might have been a cover up for destroying Imbizo at the first encounter with whites and maybe not). As much as the Inzonda syndrome has been rejected by some of the well known Inzonda houses, it has however infected some of the royal descendants of Mzilikazi and Lobhengula. The Inzonda syndrome is here to stay and the Matabele masses should always be cautious and look for ways to counter it. In fact it should serve as the fuel to the Matabele cause.

My point, in a nutshell is, some of these Khumalo families that pretend to speak for Mzilikazi can gladly work with ZANU as they did with the colonial regime. Theirs is a struggle for political space at the high table not necessarily the marginalised Matabele  people. This agenda is rooted in the  idea that the Khumalos  are bonafide authority. That conservativist Inzonda delusion tries to impress upon people that Matabele masses are not free to determine methods which eliminate the five evils facing the Matabele people, namely inequality, oppression, exploitation, dependence and marginalisation. And that is a lie. Anyone, as history has proven, can use whatever method they deem necessary to free themselves from shackles, one who feels it knows it, Martha Ngano, Mkwati Ncube, Chief Siansali, Francis Munkombwe, Andrew Sikatata Muntanga, Joshua Nkomo among others have fought Matabeleland marginalisation, not because they were elites, but because they were products of their context. Freeing Matabeleland is freeing Zimbabwe.

In addition, tradition is not static. Behind all this facade, the absolutists simply want to perpetuate the stranglehold of Robert Mugabe and his cabal. He is their paymaster. Their ideas are by and large within a framework of bourgeois social democracy. They are actually masquerading as representatives of the subjugated and they want to maintain a stranglehold in return of two pieces of silver and dusty crumbs. The Matabeleland case becomes one of  repression by these petty bourgeoisie traditionalist  leaders and politicians. In other words these people sustain oppression, partly because it achieves some material things that they want.

These petty bourgeois absolutists confirm their elitist disposition through their rhetoric. For example, one of them is quoted as saying, 'Ndebeles' in the Diaspora are confused' and another saying the occasion is a' non-event'. These are revealing statements.  They are elitist views, 'Ndebeles' in the Diaspora according to them are' izichaka' they cannot be listened to. Question is, who determines an event from a non-event? Yes, it is the elite deputies, getting their mandate from the repressive regime.

Quinton Tarantino's movie Django Unchained captures this complexity very well through the character of Samuel L. Jackson who basically outperforms everyone in the film with his character Stephen. Django is a film about a heroic  freed slave who joins his German liberator in the hunt for three outlaws and for his own wife. In their expedition, they lodge at a racist slave owner's house where they meet  Stephen, the 'house slave' played by Samuel L. Jackson. Stephen displays disturbing loyalty and toadying towards his master and extreme viciousness towards his fellow negroes. Stephen's outrage at the idea of Django staying 'in the big house' can only be paralleled by a Matabele traditional leader or politician  whose sadistic  passion for the destruction of anything Matabele to the pleasure of his handlers Matabele is well-chronicled.
Perhaps, the most significant thing about Tarantino is that he subverts the Western genre. He keeps us at the edge of our seats, where we are concerned with Django's final fate. In Hollywood a black person rarely emerges heroic after killing so many white people. Tarantino shocks everyone, Django triumphs and between him and his triumph is Stephen. The situation is emblematic of the Matabele situation. People watch with concern where any Matabele project will end.  Like Django what stands between the triumph and defeat of the Matabele is none other than the Matabele himself, not the slavemaster.
Edmund Msiska, in his article(The Mugabe State: A shack built on viscount scraps-available online) buttresses the above points, '"It is no wonder why it is taboo to talk of Matabeleland today, even those that talk of devolution are ostracised because it raises demographic issues and therefore history which may disturb the Mugabe created state as created on the basis of Western bigoted benevolence'. It is therefore along these lines that Gumede's own will seek his elimination as they sought the elimination of Welshman Ncube or anything thought to be Matabele like the Zambezi Water Project.

In concluding this section, it is clear to everyone that the Matabele people have been left to their own struggles, they have been cut off these elitist manoeuvres by the politicians, some Khumalo families in the efforts to consolidate petty bourgeoisie positions.  These petty bourgeoisie are not willing to commit class suicide. So as to gain or maintain a morsel of respectability and trust they wave the flag of anti-Matabele high in the eyes of their masters.  Some of them, the Matabeleland vote is what they promise to deliver to their enslavers, so anyone who threatens to destabilise that niche market is a threat to their livelihood. As for the politicians, Matabeleland has always been known to vote as a block for whoever they choose. Some Matabele elite promise to deliver the region to their political masters, whether in opposition and in the ruling party.  It is not like they are not aware, they realise the risk Gumede poses to their respective constituencies, that is why they cry out loud for things they do not understand as long as they are Matabele. Why would they not give well measured criticism than outright rejection? Simple, there is something in it for them.
Yes we do understand, the colonial and 'post-colonial' Zimbabwean state was built on the annihilation of the Matabele . Matabele annihilation was also central to Zimbabwe's founding, a fact that has barely broached the Zimbabwe narrative. This annihilation was even evident by 1898 as shown by the statement from the then Chief Native Commissioner;
 "there is absolutely no cohesion among the Matabele, each little tribe, is opposed to the other, albeit, a certain amount of jealousy has naturally risen amongst the indunas, this jealousy has been fostered by me, as I am of the opinion that it is the most politic form of governing the natives"(CNC). This disunity has continued today accelerated than none other than these elite groups but it should not limit us for the human right to live freely. We are fortunate that we still have some Khumalo families that care about the plight of their father's people.
A brief on Gumede:

I do not know much about Gumede, however one thing that is clear is that he is a complete product of the Matabeleland struggle. His father a ZIPRA financier, killed by Gukurahundi under the guise of robbery and him meting out instant justice on one of the killers and serving a decade in prison for it, migrating and facing all the diasporan struggles, he is best positioned to lead.  It must also be said; he has been questioned, because of his associates that range from criminals to heads of state. It is a mark of a leader, one has to say, particularly in the not so holy but judgmental world that seek angels on planet earth. Most importantly, Gumede should know, a leader never gets a second chance to make a first impression.

But, it is important that  Gumede should not found his position based on hatred, ignorance and lust for power. His advisors should cover for any of his weakness or point them out to him, because if like ZANU PF which has no internal way of correcting its evil ideology, that would be a clear sighted rejection of morality. We know human beings are dangerous; things are bound to go wrong at some point. Question is, how can we guard against this? The answer is, we need a set of beliefs that convict us of any wrongdoing. Clearly articulated values of ubuntu certainly promise some sort of reconciliation when we stray. It is those values that will guard against any false starts by Gumede in our process of  learning the difference between goodness and pseudo-goodness where greed, hatred, patriotism, loyalty, nationalism and honour etc are disguised as morality. It is then we shall acknowledge as the Matabele that the Nambya and the Tonga need books and control over their resources such as the Colliery and Kariba conservatories. They were not placed there by mistake. We want the first language in all Plumtree government offices to be Kalanga and Beitbridge border post we need ChiVenda. It is not a crime and we shall not be apologetic about that. May the leaders across regions rises like Lobengula's sprouting sapplings. We need more Chief Gumedes.

We are tired of absolutists, the petty bourgeosise, the chicaritos, inzondas and the superior deputies. We have had enough of them! Tanyala! 

In conclusion, let us speak more concretely.

The installation of Gumede as chief is an important step towards the regrouping of the Matabele people. Therefore this is a call to the absolutist/inzonda to repent of their old ways as most of them are influential people whose talents can be of great significance in the rebuilding of the Matabele nation if used in the right way.

Tshepo Mabalane Mabalane can be contacted on:

Source - Tshepo Mabalane Mabalane
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.