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Chamisa of the Gumbo totem

08 Nov 2014 at 23:17hrs | Views
So Chamisa was knocked out? Nikuved, as some would say? Really? Chamisa of the Gumbo totem? Sorry Chitova! Which reminds me of my paternal grandmother's favourite song after a good day's drink.

Her name was Tsarimba (May her happy soul rest in eternal peace), and she, like Nelson, was of the Gumbo totem.

And tsarimba is a name for that popping seed of the musasa tree. Later in life, I would soon know why. A vain daughter of Denhere - himself a shoot-off from the far-flung Gutu dynasty - she would miss no opportunity to always remind our family - lowly in her estimate - that to marry my grandfather was a special favour generously extended to an undeserving commoner.

A lifting favour and experience, she maintained. And as if a male, she would be addressed as "VaGutu", an adulatory appellation of chieftainship.

The day dogs grazed finger millets
But a kind and happy grandmother she was to all of us. We miss her sorely, often paying tribute to her through reminiscences on her dramatic lifetime conduct, almost all of which was humorous.

Staggering between beer-sodden burps, she would break into her favorite song, one dedicated to her Gumbo clan. It ran:

Manenji angu Gumbo wee/
Kudyirwa munda nembwa/
Sendakarime nyama uuuh/
Ndakarime zviyo!

The song needed an energetic accompaniment of stomping feet, interspersed by expletives and other swear words that seemed to punch at the vacant night.

Roughly translated, the song registered the puzzle of a good farmer of the Gumbo totem. One fateful day, curs from the village grazed clean his whole crop of finger millet, much to his utter puzzlement. Here was an abomination, a strange development.

He could not understand how dogs, themselves carnivores, would graze empty his finger millet field. As if he had cropped stripes delicious of meat! But this was a lineage brag, one meant to celebrate agricultural prowess.

For the Gumbos were renowned for cropping good finger millet whence came a rich brew for the village, a brew known far and wide. You drank it and you "slept". Kuraradza.

The proverbial young bull hippo
Now to our Nelson of the Gumbo totem.

Simply put, how does a man who secures nomination from 10 of the 12 MDC-T political provinces, secures all these against an opponent who is initially nominated by a synthetic province based in the US — yes United States of America! — and much later by one forlorn province — Manicaland — all after a bit of executive massaging, end up losing the popular congress vote?

And lose to the one man he led by ten nominations, all to a chiming press?

A loss that ends up consigning him from the pinnacle of publicity to the dust of silent, importuning shame?

Of course Biti has an answer: this is only possible in the reptilian kingdom where one is always larger than ten! And Biti dispenses advice: Nelson Chamisa must leave that world of reptiles for a human, nay, humane one populated by renewed beings!

Otherwise for us less mortals, here is one strange happening in the veldt, a case of finger millets proving more sumptuous to carnivores than a pound of fillet!

Until now I didn't know politics go by their own mathematics, their own mathematical logic.

The media played up Chamisa, projecting him as having it in the bag. This column knew better, always maintaining Chamisa was, young hippopotamus bull-like, daily measuring his hoof against that of his elder, eagerly waiting for that one fateful day his hoof and that of his father would be equal!

Quite a useful analogy on succession from animal kingdom.

In the three arms of Government
I am not so sure where this leaves Chamisa, a political player I have always thought slightly above average, even though at times excitable. Maybe defeat vanquishes intellect.

In trying to run away from this bad mauling, he torches a stiffer controversy.

Well-robed and looking every inch a polished lawyer, the brand new Nelson who graduated a few weeks ago, announces to the world he has just been attested into the legal fraternity, in the process achieving a second first - after the first first of losing his finger millet to dogs - namely that of serving his country in all the three branches of government: the Legislature, the Executive and now the Judiciary!

This rare feat made all the rarer by so many predecessors behind it, was released hard on the heels of his spectacular defeat, obviously to suggest he lost a post to gain a better qualification.

That is only if one decides against asking for the credentials of the man he lost to. Well, if one does, then it becomes clear Chamisa is every inch a follower, an impatient one at that, and not the nonesuch he wishes to be.

Culling sonorous significance out of mundane occurrences does not quite get you well away from your predicament. Far from it, that makes your defeat linger on, augmented by bald antics.

When defeat maketh an advocate
But he had a third first for this bated Nation: he would be an advocate straight on! Whao, straight from the exam room, from the graduating ramp, and well before a maiden appearance in a court of law as its attested officer!

Now, that is what I call a real feat, Nelson! I am sure to right thinking persons, this vault must trigger lots of debate, while providing lots of food for thought to all those whose bounden duty it is to shape a profession far lost to its founding shine!

On a serious note, both the predicament and replacing new fame of Comrade Chamisa must start a serious conversation on two matters in the realm.

Firstly, what do structures and personages pass for in political institutions and processes? Who creates them? Who validates them? Who profits from them?

What do these structures and those manning them measure in political terms? And against all this, why have they yielded an inverse result for Chamisa and Mwonzora? One for worse, the other for better?

Methinks one fact stands out conspicuously: it is very easy to create structures, and to control personages heading those structures. But it is well nigh impossible to gauge support on the ground and prospect from the control of both.

Structures are ductile, personages quite vulnerable to pecuniary inducements. These can be manipulated and "bought" respectively, rigged in fact to hand over victory to the undeserving, to serve defeat on the winning.

Or simply to play a beguiling game with contestants and the media. But the general membership is too "many" and too "much" to manipulate and bribe.

This is a lesson which goes well beyond MDC-T, indeed which is at the heart of current tussles in ZANU-PF. Has the media learnt anything at all from all this?

The power of the secret ballot has just been demonstrated, and more drama is set to follow.

Like Chitepo?

Secondly, could some competent person tell this nation the credentials of an advocate in this jurisdiction? Is it a professional state, status and title?

Or is it a whimsical declaration by the haver? Something you declare about yourself and it becomes so? Surely we need to know as prospective clients of these robed beings sauntering and carrying about such flatulent titles.

Know before we are robbed! Are there any rules to the title and institution of an advocate?

Or is the first and last rule whims and caprices? Who provides answers to this? Who registers advocates?

On what considerations? I mean is Chamisa going to be an advocate the same way that the late Chitepo was? The same way Professor Welshman Ncube is?

The same way Adrian deBourbon is? Overnight? Please educate me. Or this another overreaching dash by a youngster, this time hoping to coup rules of law?

Opinions from the grave
Which takes me to my issue for the week. But before it, a lamentable fact of this country, of us as a people. ZANU-PF politicians have been slugging it out, one against the other, even one against most if not all.

They have chosen to head-but one another, to allow the MDC to reorganise undisturbed, in peace. Maybe that is the form arrogance takes after an emphatic victory.

You challenge "chi", your personal god, to a wrestling match, having defeated all human wrestlers in the nine villages of Mbaino!

What a bloody affair it has been, levying breath in the faint-hearted, serving laughter to those who, God-like, enjoy a certain level of omniscience.

Jumping into the fray, the Zimbabwe Independent gave us its take in this unfolding petty drama. I am referring to Muleya's "Editor's Memo", as well as a sibling column, "Muckraker".

Given the synonymous references, it is a bit difficult to tell which began, Editor's Memo or the grim business of raking muck. From Rugare Gumbo's February 1980 interview, Muleya found the missing insight into Mugabe's personality.

Beyond its "Eureka" hysteria, the Muleya piece was a mortifying admission to the limitations of journalism. Journalism, it appears, looks up to vying politicians for "accurate" human portraits.

And to take Gumbo's stale piece a little forward - or so the editor thought - Muleya imports Heidi Holland, sprinkling some verbosely named approaches, including one he terms psycho-dynamic (I suspect he meant psychoanalysis), to lend eruditeness to his derived opinion on the man he shares a country, a city, a colour with.

No, instead of watching and judging the man himself, judging him in situ, he would rather exhume decayed Holland.

Electoral portraits and truth
Muckraker goes a little further, and draws from Mandaza-cum-Tekere, and of course Heidi Holland, again to attempt a portrait of Mugabe.

I get very worried when our knowledge guardians think Heidi Holland - that neo-liberal ex-Rhodesian drunkard who died fawning a tenuous link with Mugabe - has, purely on grounds of weak national memory and writing indolence, become a goggle through which to peep into a complex mind and player that Mugabe is.

I get very worried when it is lost upon such knowledge guardians that Rugare Gumbo granted that 1980 interview as part of his campaign message against ZANU-PF, and for a rival party.

It was no time for balanced accounts, never a source of material which make "masterpieces".

It was a time for swaying minds, a time for demonising opponents. Has Muleya checked the context of that interview?

Has he checked with Rugare Gumbo to gauge whether or not he still stands by that campaign portraiture? Much worse, does Muleya know that Heidi had been commissioned by the British establishment to produce that book on Mugabe ahead of the 2008 poll, as part of the campaign material?

The same way that the Mandaza/Tekere book was meant for same electoral ends, namely preparing for the launch of Mavambo?

Worshipping false gods
And to imagine that there is a Zimbabwean who quotes from the Zambian commission of inquiry on Chitepo, an inquiry which even Zambians have repudiated and feel most embarrassed about, is truly pathetic.

In any case, how do the findings of that shameful inquiry help carve heroism out of Rugare Gumbo, the Zimbabwe Indepndent's newly found "unassailable" hero? Which reminds me of a conversation I had with a senior ZANU-PF minister and a high-ranking ex-Zanla fighter.

Both expressed pity for Zimbabwe's young generation, adding "you shall end up worshipping false gods".

There is just too much gratuitous splashing of accolades on undeserving persons by a generation whose relationship with narratives of the struggle is remote enough to merit "kwaivapo" and "dzepfunde", as in occurrences of never-never lands of folktales.

I mean what role did mudhara Cephas Msipa play in the Unity Accord, itself so near an historical occurrence to be regarded as too taxing to national memory represented by our media?

For goodness' sake the Chiwewes and Sileyas of this world are still alive and ready to share with the media who did what on that occurrence. Why assert misleading positions of history?

Seniority and portfolio hierarchy
My real point this week is about the notion of seniority in politics, ZANU-PF politics especially.

Last week I decried the current succession tussle as vacant to the extent that it is not founded on any set of ideas or alternative vision to merit anyone's attention.

I still stand by that. I added that claimants to the throne invoke the notion of seniority, or Mugabe's age, as if that is what justifies their bid for power.

Much worse, it is as if the term "seniority" straight-forwardly yields a non-contentious meaning in the context of ZANU-PF politics and the whole succession discourse.

Senior in terms of what?

Age? So why contest a ninety-plus year old if age-based seniority is what matters?

That means it cannot be age. Senior in terms of what?

Party and governmental structure?

Again, you run into problems in trying to succeed Mugabe who is the most senior in the Party and Government.

So what is the point?

Well, not so much the point as the confusion.

Let me attempt to clarify a small point which might help the media and all those debating the issue.

In ZANU-PF, structures and posts do summarise placements and areas of work or assignation of individuals.

They do not necessarily provide a hint at succession and prospects. They represent ZANU-PF skills capacity deployments, not always a power hierarchy.

The President invites one to serve in a certain capacity; he does not necessarily position you for his aftermath. And he has made this point quite clear in one forum: occupying a post is not a measure of seniority or of degree of sacrifice in ZANU-PF or in history of the country. The real problem is that the media have treated the two as coterminous, thereby implying the succession line neatly follows ZANU-PF's current portfolio hierarchy.

National straitjacket
What seems to have been avoided, possibly because it yields an unwanted result, is the issue of history of service to the party, combined with consistent and persistent adherence to the Party's values and principles. If that is invoked - and it is not my business to do so here - then you realise how more complex ZANU-PF's succession matrix is bound to be, relative to the reigning bicker and shallowness.

Being higher and being more senior are not the same. Placement and position in the party do not always equal. Maybe the party should have published its order of precedence,which is bound to be different from hierarchical placements. Another interesting feature which appears to have escaped the media is how the principle of orderly succession and neat generational handover is being commissioned in national politics.

And I mean national politics, not ZANU-PF politics. Often, we forget national politics are forged by the mores developed, whether knowingly or unknowingly, through combined political praxis, ruling and oppositional. These create reigning political ethos.

The just-ended MDC-T congress has just implied a peculiar straitjacket, which we have seen at work in ZANU-PF. For ZANU-PF it is the goals and ideals of the liberation struggle; for MDC no one knows. But their decisions at congress did suggest some straitjacket.

What would have happened
Equally, there is a way in which similarities can be drawn between contending politics in ZANU-PF and those in the MDCs. In both succession politics have turned insistent, none founded on ideology.

This appears a phase of personalities, not of ideas. And that this "wind" buffets both parties suggests a glacial movement in national politics, a movement set to lay down frameworks for eventual transitions when they come. And quite well away from the selfish narrowness which sources of the Zimbabwe Independent allege against Mugabe, his planning vista is a lot broader and futuristic.

Posthumous in fact.

Who knows for instance that save for Tsvangirai's folly in rejecting results of 2013, Mugabe planned to get Tsvangirai into Parliament as head of the opposition, possibly by redeploying one of Tsvangirai's elected MPs abroad as an ambassador, all to create room for this foolish man from Buhera? He was looking at some continuities from the politics of inclusivity.

Or that post-Congress governance structures could in fact reintroduce some useful features from the inclusive era? And do so in ways that reconciles contending ambitions, thereby guaranteeing smooth transitions whenever they fall due?

This is the Mugabe people like Muleya are fated to read and hear about, never to encompass in the man who lives now. But first, order in the deck.


Source - The Herald
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