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Dzamara worth more than the others who have disappeared or killed

18 Jul 2015 at 13:24hrs | Views
CHIKUKUVATAVATA. It used to be a game we played in our youthful, colonial days. Mother asks you and your siblings to catch a cock or hen for dinner, most probably because sekuru in the sense of your mother's brother is expected, or has come. These would be free-range bird, often without a "home". It was not always that back then, Shona families would build fowl runs which often became breeding grounds for honondo, blood-sucking birds bugs, not to mention the nhata whose placeless crawling would turn you mad.

Every Shona family had a granary - typically a pole and mud rectangular structure under a greying thatch. The architecture of it - again typical - was such that the whole structure rested on "legs" of stone - four big boulders which played cornerstones, in spite of their irregular shape. These would constitute the footing and stilts on which the whole structure rested, raised well above the ground to keep the grain dry in soggy seasons.

The space between the ground and the underbelly of the hozi or granary would remain empty and welcoming, famously a good substitute for fowl runs which housed all manner of life from the animal kingdom. Even Zvanyadza, the ribbed family dog, would litter beneath this structure, well ensconced from the elements and much worse.

Chasing meat
The assignment to catch a cock or hen would always be undertaken enthusiastically. It portended a good meal, a meaty one, something rarely or sparsely enjoyed in a whole year. The assignment itself consisted of an indeterminate sprint during which the energies of the family brood would be summoned, all to run down the ill-fated fowl.

And in desperation, the fowl would run, fly, run, run and run until it was out of breath, its eager and unrelenting pursuers hotly behind. Often it made sharp shifts which had to be matched by its pursuers, often with a ponderous fall, depending of course on the size of one's frame.

Or you would hit against an "iceberg", a protruding sharp end of an embedded stone, to a torn toe tip. Whereupon the poor bird would take advantage of this forced detour to speed off into creepy zones of the gudzugudzu, the underbelly of the granary.

In that "fastness", the bird would enjoy temporary respite, or even another life as it became unreachable, forcing mother to pick on another, for quarry.

When the Man above saved
|Woe betide if most of the hens are "sleeping" on eggs. That would mean the targeted bird was the only fitting candidate for death. It had to be dislodged, which invariably meant throwing missiles in that dark and smelly space beneath the granary, amidst a din of all sorts of coaxing human noises. Or worse, having to creep under the underbelly, thereby coming under a retributive assault of nhata and other crawlies haplessly defending their habitat against rude human intrusion.

It was not a pleasant experience, one that always left you scratching for a few more days. As the crawlies left you, died, a nagging rash from their bites crept in, relentlessly. It could also be worse. You could meet mubobobo, the big, recumbent snake that would have relocated into the gudzugudzu for shelter, warmth and for a meal from one or two odd hen eggs dropped there without a good maternal instinct. Thankfully, the Man above always protected, and we live to narrate those crawls into the nether.

Power of hypnosis
Once the hen was caught, you took it into the round kitchen, where mother would be bustling busy, often to a wordless tune that recalled her virgin days. Once in the kitchen, and before Amai would have taken custody of the ill-fated bird, my siblings and I would crouch, then take the panting bird between half stretched arms, all resting on open palms on the kitchen floor.

Invariably, the kitchen floor came from compacted dark anthill soil. Back then, very few afforded "Portland", as cement was called. You began a slow, rhythmic movement of folded arms between which stood the hen, barely calm.

You then added a slow, rhythmic tap on the floor. In no time, the anxious bird would recover calmness, drift into languid inactivity, before closing its little eyelids for a fateful sleep. Oh, we enjoyed that. Looking back, this was an expression of power - hypnotic power - over life, strange but human delight in the exercise of power and control.

If you were creative enough, you would add a hiss and sound, all to complete the hypnosis. The Shona people have a name for it - Chikukuvatavata. Roughly translated, it means "little-hen-sleep-sleep". That state of calm, even restful but subdued bondage, one always presaging both defeat and demise.

When vultures circled
A good friend tells me when something dramatic is about to happen in a Third World country - a coup, serious unrest, or death through assassination - always watch the behaviour of foreign press or correspondents. They troop in, using all sorts of excuses and all manner of entry methods, including unlawful ones.

The past few weeks were very interesting. There was huge foreign media interest on covering Zimbabwe, and not many of us knew we were the carrion above which hovered these impressionistic vultures. They expected something really dramatic to happen, and strove to be in place to carry out the message, hot and steamy. Of course we are no Ebola zone. Nor are we at war. But something newsworthy was hoped for, something coming from within.

Tapping us into a new fate
The same few weeks back also saw lots of deputations to our country: Americans, the French and even the British. All of them spoke of a great, wonderful country and people we are, beckoning us to see the great future hovering in the horizon.

More palavers were to be had abroad: Washington, Brussels, etc, etc, tom-toms beating to our imagined greatness. It was musical. Lulling. And the national eyelid began to sag, began to wink, to turn lazy and languid. Before long, the shutters went down, and it was a sweet drift into Elysian Fields.

But someone was tapping the ground on which we slept so peacefully. In Washington, Ambassador Wharton was pronouncing himself on our futures: how they had to be modern, outward, welcoming, quite far removed from an old, angry generation that fought for independence. Far from a generation that was hidebound, clinging to "outworn ideas", exasperatingly "didactic".

Few if any realised he was capsulising a tomorrow which was another world, a tomorrow completely unencumbered by history, legacy and value. It was a prognosis of a succeeding generation, of an epoch, a new weltanschauung or worldview. A new fate. And hypnotised, we had no time to weigh it, this brave new world!

Which end for love?
Similarly in Brussels and under the Zimbabwe Europe Network, great powers (Oh Berlin, how art thou renamed!) were discussing and deciding our futures, cutting us up while we slept. They spoke about our land, our broken environment. Spoke about hunger that stalked us ever since we chased the white man away. Spoke about fractured opposition and how we badly needed activist NGOs as substitutes.

They spoke, too, about which end, which opening through which we made love, bemoaning how we badly needed re-routing, while making the nuptial bed interdenominational! Mozambique, our neighbour, had since declared gay rights. Why not us, they asked.

Remade by grief
Back home, we moved from sweet slumber to righteous prayer. Of course both involve closing national eyes, involve voluntary blindness, albeit temporary. We prayed for a missing person called Itai Dzamara, flinging the Bible aside for something richly secular. Morgan Tsvangirai - our politician who art in failure - saw a great new convergence in the Nation.

Simba Makoni spoke on behalf of all opposition, spoke from the plinth of inexorable denouement: he lost presidential elections, lost parliamentary elections and dwindled, yet on that day still imaged himself as a larger-than-life politicians.

Then you had the impulsive Mliswa seemingly soaring high, seemingly sparkling in newfound company. No one in the media remembered that when the missing person could not meet his wedding bills, one Temba picked and settled them. That was well before his dismissal from Zanu-PF. What was the attachment, the basis of that relationship?

I won't mention Jabulani Sibanda who daily gets more and more foolish in denouncing what he created, backed only a few months back. And together, the two felt formidable, invincible! Of course there was Dzamari's wife, tearfully portrayed. And all else was drowned in maudlin sentimentality, in staged mass grief seemingly devoted to the missing man.

The story Itai invented
Drowned, that is the word. Key questions escaped languid, prayerful eyes. A journalist had gone missing. One whom Geoffrey Nyarota had fired after penning a fictitious story tying Zimbabwe to Iran in the exploitation of uranium deposits of Kanyemba.

Dzamara had picked the story in the Quill Club, not as a tip of a real occurrence, but as a joke on Zimbabwe's inventive journalism in times of little news, a joke by one Barnabas! For the now missing man, the joke was too serious to be left alone, too serious not to be turned into a real story.

The goal was clear: to project Zimbabwe as an outlaw nation, a threat to world peace and thus a good subject for the UN Security Council. We all know from the Libyan experience what the calculated end result would have been, know how sinister the intention behind contrivance was.

He belonged to the opposition, an activist strayed in the newsroom, one seeking to push a hard political age agenda under the guise of journalism. He was not alone, for this was a coherent MDC strategy, one that included people like Richard Chidza, an MDC pioneer activist, trained in South Africa alongside the likes of late Ndira, now embedded with NewsDay and pursuing the same agenda so many years later.

A journalist gone missing. The same who edited some partisan publication by the name "Leadership", for the then Prime Minister's MDC-T party, in the days of the inclusive Government.

Why has the media ceased to be curious, deliberately avoided telling us one who claimed to be one of their own, tell us about him, warts and all. Was the idea to enrich his character, post-missing? For a man so used to stretching reality, inventing it even, could he have hit another creative moment in the barber shop?

When times are better
More questions. We now know the missing man was accused by the men who took him away, accused of cattle rustling. He didn't protest like all suspects are wont to. We are told he obliged an arrest, without a demur, literally offered both wrists for an arrest. This is an MDC-T activist, the same man brave enough to mount a defiant one-man protest, who one time had to be carried out of Africa Unity - the setting of his solo demonstrations - legs kicking, nails scratching.

This time around he was quiet, sheepish: against the charge, against arrest by men not in uniform, men unknown to him. And the arresting powers are so kind that they allow him to keep and use his phone for the rest of the day, and the next one. He does not take advantage of that to raise alarm even with his beloved wife, even with his beloved comrades in both Occupy Africa Unity Square, and in the MDC-T.

Meanwhile, his barber does the needful by raising alarm with the wife. She comes to the scene, sighs and departs. No uproarious scene, no weeping, no wailing as does an average African wife who senses impending grief. Incredibly she goes home, sleeps over the heavy intimation. Only much later, and not on the day of disappearance, she walks up to a police station which is nearby, to make an official police report!

Thereafter glory visits her, favors her to this day. She now wafts in diplomatic circles, squints out photogenic tears! Times look infinitely better, materially better without Itai around!

A people's city MDC promised
Meanwhile back in the raw tomato-besotted streets of Harare, municipal police are engaging itinerant vendors, to dire predictions from MDCs and MDC-related unions and organisations typified by NAVUZ, the National Vendors' Union of Zimbabwe. Beware of triggering civil unrest, Government is warned!

From the woodworks a professor emerges, Professor Richard M. Simango, him- or herself, or itself a name for a propaganda vignette on which an inciting refrain, Arise Zimbabwe Arise, is pegged. Yesterday it was a Yamamoto, another never-never person.

Today it is Professor Simango, kuti zvityise! Yet the mess on our streets is an MDC mess, one wrought by their council which has been in office for more than two terms in succession. I recall when they came in. They vowed to make the city "a people's city". Does anyone remember?

Today they now have a perfect result, one made durable by sanctions-wrought poverty they pleaded for in Washington.

When Boynton came
Abroad, war correspondents are trying to deploy into Zimbabwe. Lengthy pieces are authored, starting with the Muleya/Ncube piece originally published in the South African-based Mail & Guardian, only to be imported into the country through sister publications.

You have David Smith whose mediocre and recycled piece receives acres and acres of space in the British Guardian as if breaking new ground. It focuses on the First Lady, ascribing presidential ambitions to her, profiling her as a symbol of profligacy, one richly deserving the cruellest comeuppance. A forbidding prospect that must be stopped at all cost! Such is the tone and express meaning of the piece.

Further afield is one Graham Boynton who smuggled himself into the country for a month-long compilation of a report for Newsweek on Mugabe's aftermath. The effort yields a treatise of eleven and half pages of A4, something extraordinary in magazine journalism. As I write, Boynton's piece is rated by Newsweek as the most read world story! But what is it about?

The people want us
It depicts Zimbabwe as schizophrenically waiting for "the moment the old Man dies", a nation wistfully waiting for the death of its leader, which will not come soon enough for it.

Quite a macabre expectation which the report says is ours, you and me! Everything, in the meantime, stands still, in paralysis. Zimbabwe is depicted as poverty stricken, a condition illustrated by fat barbecues, palatial homes and well-stocked restaurants, mostly white-owned.

It is also home to refugees running from troubled lands, white refugees who now own and run restaurants. But it is a racially structured hierarchy: journalism that befits it can only be white, Boynton-like. The universe of opinions is white: David Coltart, Eddie Cross, Hendrik Olivier, and Ben Freeth who "hopes to farm again". "The people want us", he declared when asked why he won't leave the land he denounces so heartily.

Provided you are a Simba Makoni
And the people who want him are you and me - blacks, the other and lower tier in the racial hierarchy. We have no opinion; we are only described by whites "we want". And when we become players - and that is rare - we are tinpot dictators who will not die. Or their wives. We are "flamboyant and corrupt businessmen" like Phillip Chiyangwa, Gideon Gono and the police chief, Augustine Chihuri, all who live in sickening opulence.

And a "long-term Western diplomat now based in Harare" weighs in to say "nowhere else on the continent had he seen wealth flaunted with such impunity . . . or such segregation between the privileged and the poor".

But all is not lost. We are not always the described, although that is the dominant position. We often make it, although the passing line is tough. We can begin to deserve to have an opinion vetted, rated, passed, accepted and circulated within a universe of predominantly white opinion. That is if we are "English-educated"; that is if we are "educated at Leeds University". That is if you are a Simba Makoni!

The president the voter killed
He is described as "the people's president in waiting", a conclusion which his admitted drubbing in one presidential election and one parliamentary election, does not seem to dampen or qualify!

Then comes a significant statement in the report: "Seven years later he is still around (he has not been killed like others!), a principled thorn in his old party's side, a man several foreign diplomats describe as "the most ethical politician in the country".

A ringing endorsement, one which makes his fact of losing elections repeatedly at the hands of native voters look especially baffling, perplexing! Why fail such an "English-educated" politician? Why not support a candidate "educated at Leeds University", one regarded by "foreign diplomats" as "the most ethical politician in the country"? Again, the racial hierarchy comes through, pitting Caucasian rationality against innate African senselessness.

The new Dom Diogo
My ground thesis has been that at no time in Africa's imperial past has the succession question met with respectful indifference of the white outsider. What is staggering is how little has changed since the days of Mwenemutapa and his Dominican-educated son, Dom Diogo.

The foreign King still wants the ruler to declare Dom Diogo heir, declare him ahead of the deserving heir. He is more deserving because he has come through the crucible of Eurocentric training.

Today Dom Diogo now morphed into the Leeds-trained and Western-endorsed Simba Makoni. And in spite of a narrow, foreign endorsement, he is still touted "the people's president in waiting".

But in this truncated, racial universe, the term "people" is racially specific. It is not us. We don't matter. We are irrational: in voting, in expectations and in judgment! But also we cannot be on our own: we need whites, the Ben Freeths who routinely go to Washington to testify against our independence and empowerment, how unwholesome it is for our constitution.

There was feeling in the white world that Zimbabwe's tipping point had been reached. There was a feeling that Zimbabwe had found its own Mohamed Bouzizi, and that the Zimbabwean Arab Spring was set to ignite.

Dzamara was the trigger, the vendors the tinder. International media journalists were already in place to prepare the world for a "brave new world" about to be born. An apocalyptic moment, but one proclaimed by the outsider, and his esoteric reading of the African mind. In the meantime reality soon reasserted.

The so-called prayer day attracted very few attendees, mostly opposition party devotees. In public discourse, many were still asking: who is this Dzamara we are supposed to pray for?

Let the little fowl sleep
Across political parties which were hoped to converge, one of them - Zunde - was savaging the idea of convergence, of embracing Zanu-PF's born-again renegades. Within the renewal shackle, Chikwinya was regretting ever leaving MDC-T, blaming Mangoma for it.

Meanwhile, Biti was telling the world democracy and democratic leadership can wait till he becomes rich one day. So no congress, the party has no money. Such are the supposed makers and inheritors of the bad world Mugabe was supposed to vacate.

Above all, world statistics were unforgiving, unyielding, unhelpful: 275 000 missing persons in Britain; in US 800 000 missing under-18 years of age, 2 000 missing every day, 58 000 abducted by non-family members. That was in 2002.

The situation has since taken a turn for the worse in the intervening years. In fact the National Crime Information Centre statistics on missing persons for 2014 speak of about 1,8 million entries. Much worse, it tells us that almost 700 000 cases were removed from records! When is one more than a million? But all is supposed to be well in our world. The pace of re-engagement, we are told, is fast picking! Sleep little fowl sleep!


Source - the herald
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