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Zimbabwe: Country without a Nation?

06 Aug 2016 at 11:14hrs | Views

Phew what a humorous week I have had! I hope, dear reader, you have found the week just as mirthful. If not, here we go . . . First, the spectacle of tajamuka hoodlums convening under a false bravado of "hatichatya", we no longer fear, only to scatter in sixes and sevens at the mere sight of police water cannons! Bararamhanya netawindi yose.

In this season of Olympics, one got a sense that it is the best of our sprinters who remained behind. Granted, the water is often cooked with a bit of chilli, but what is an itch and a scratch to a motley, but determined crowd set on bringing down a government? And governing in the aftermath? In other eras a generation braved dog bites and, with time, bullets. Not very inspiring if you ask me.

Crooked been-tos
Then you have "pastor" Mawarire telling the election-distracted South African media he has some job to do back home in Zimbabwe, adding, but he needs to be assured of his safety. Except I thought the job to do is to lead a "non-violent uprising" aimed at toppling the Government so he emerges as the new head of state and commander-in-chief of the defence forces?

I am yet to see a more terrified soul, but masked by a brave face. Don't say I did not tell you. It is not just the hashtag spectacle that has fizzled out; it is Mawarire's political pastoral work that has been fully repaid, thereby making him superfluous.

Zvake zvaita and his wallet weighs heavy. He now has a sumptuous apartment in South Africa, lives off eager Western donors and has enjoyed some limelight which assures him of a footnote in the narrative of technically savvy purchased civil society agitation! Chimwe chaungada chii zvakare?

The children can now go to school, best schools he would never have dreamt of affording given a thousand lives. Good money is never enjoyed posthumously, which is why he must stay every inch alive and around, even though no one means any harm to him.

Pity those who ascribed a larger national vision to this puny, egocentric person. Such is never the stuff that makes leaders. Which reminds me of Jonathan Swift and his timeless warning to mankind he so despised as a collectivity, he so loved as individual beings: expect no more from man than they are capable of.

I suppose I could add: than sheer venality makes them to be. Too bad for a generation that trusts too much in crooked "been-tos". They perfect importation of dissimulation techniques.

Just follow the alphabet
A humorous week it was. Did anyone follow the goings-on in CODE, the coalition of un-comradely democrats? Two months have elapsed since they launched themselves amidst the pomp of weakness. And the rule is that after every two months, a new pair of weakness must be installed to lead the CODE.

The current pair is Simba Makoni and Welshman Ncube! Selected how? Well, alphabetically! M, N! What a way of organising leadership in politics! Just the alphabet? Yes, ABCD . . . up to Z! The idea I suppose is to gain immutability of leadership combinations from the changeless lettering of the alphabet! Not even a lock functioning on combinations is thus run.

When the executive arm endorses its own injunction

And then you have the charade in the MDC-T in the wake of two recent presidential appointments. That party's Chemical Ali — a.k.a. Obert Gutu — was singing a different song on Studio 7 just the other day. But one step back. When the appointments were made, Luke Tamboinyoka (could this be where the illusion begins?) says Morgan Tsvangirai was simply doing the bidding of the executive arm of the party, the executive arm between routinely rigged congresses.

We took his word, we the watchers. Then Gutu tells us that this week's meeting was meant to get the same executive arm to endorse the appointments! The executive arm causes appointments; the appointments are made by the dutifully subservient leader; the executive arm then endorses its own behest!

And of course the man to announce and defend the tail wagging the puppy is none other than Gutu, all along a knowledge and conscientious objector! And he kneads an ingenious argument: there is a difference between legal terminology and political communication!

Exactly how not to play or defend politics of duplicity. Meanwhile, the simmering and seething continues, creating a hard-to-heal cleavage in the party. Not even today's Masvingo rally will paper over the cracks. Mark my words. It is this tribal cleavage which this whole sage introduces in their politics which could have spill-overs nationally.

Only a vendor
But the trophy goes to Mai Mujuru and her un-endorsed political grouping. Firstly, she is poor, a cross-border trader she now is, going by her court papers!

And her livelihood as vendor has been injured — mortally injured — by SI 64 of 2016! Quite a monumental rise from all we have been accustomed to, we have known her to be since 1980! A Vice President under two years ago, heya; a PHD holder under two years ago, one bragging about her singular skills in strategic management, heya; an efficient farmer minding birds running into hundreds of thousands on a farm she got from the very Government she now excoriates, heya; a court contestant whose plea is to be declared the sole widow and inheritor of lucre left by her husband, uuuh!

I hope someone is putting on their thinking cap. This is one trial which could just, just do it for ZANU-PF politically, all the more now when political debate is focusing on who owns what, where and since when, indeed when our politics are fast mutating into class politics.

Mourning less than the outsider
The Sunday Mail was a bit cruel, I must say. They publish a piece and question-and-answer, in which a South African minister is actually defending SI 64 which the former Vice President of this country, a decorated strategic management thinker, is challenging in court and wants scrapped off, all in the name of suturing and healing a national ill!

It is called putting people first! And you do it by defending de-industrialisation of the country you helped liberate! And in her tow are MDC-T youth hoodlums who now arrogate upon themselves powers to shut down all our borders should SI 64 remain on our gazette!

And none in the whole crowd stops to ask how turning this country into a dhirihora remafinished products from South Africa creates two million jobs they agitate for. Or does this mean we had already attained the two million jobs until this most horrible SI came about?

The defence of the Zimbabwe national interest now rests with politicians from the exporting country, South Africa? Topsy-turvy it is called in proper English. When the owners of the corpse mourn less than the outsider.

What a happy ambassador
But the comedy of the week was still playing out, owed us one more act, again playing out in the courts. Featuring the same cast! Pity the courts which have to be that loaded. This time the episode is on bond notes. The same lady approaches the courts to plead for their removal now, before October which is their month of introduction!

No one knows how they look like, how they will be received given that they are at least three months away. A whole former Vice President. A whole PHD. A whole strategic management thinker! And all done in the name of Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans.

Outside the courts we have the demos threatening God and man if the bond notes are not "dropped" to save "our hard-earned US dollars"! No hint of mirthful irony at all. Serious business. Very serious, especially for the US Ambassador who just cannot believe his luck both of tenure and of country.

I mean, what more can an ambassador wish for than for the host country to which he is accredited to pick up placards and demand currency of his country and decry currency of their own country. Not even currency of own country; a mere shadow of it!

The world is American, I hear the ambassador whisper with a loud brag! It has started with the US currency, does one know how far this infatuation with things American will go? Maybe Mister Trump should simply allow Hillary Clinton to be declared winner. With this level of ambassadorial competence, Zimbabwe might end up with an American president. It always starts with a kiss, does it not? And that is how humanity hit teeming proportions.

World in a lighter line of laughter
We have laughed enough. Time for serious reflection, for showing one another the ugly world in a lighter line of laughter. Like I always maintain in this column, the mind of a country, a generation, a nation, a people, mirrors in its politics. Mirrors in the sum total of its politics, governing and opposition alike.

An oversimplified way of looking at national political discourse is to view it as a conversation, yes, one which is not always evenly dialogical, but a conversation all the same. Whatever the ruling party postulates draws a response from the opposition, and vice versa, which is how the notion of a conversation comes about.

Usually acrimonious and point-scoring, but an exchange all the same. Looked at that way, it is very possible to assess the level of the mind of a country, generation, nation and a people, by how the dominant national political question was articulated, debated and hopefully resolved.

Again looked at that way, even Manheru rises above his partisan position to assess the state of the national mind. And he does not like what he sees. Not at all.

Supposing he had ignited this country?
Whatever his verve, however short-lived it was, whatever his cowardice and however adorned, Mawarire brings to the body-politic a new trait that is set to influence public perception of national politics. Call it a deformity, if you will.

And all the more so given the highly impressionable group which his hashtag politics galvanised: the youthful, the yuppies. After what started as a dramatic entry, albeit founded on pilfered glory (from an unhappy civil service), ended up without even a whimper.

In stark difference with the bravado he showed when he appeared ready to tackle the authorities, today he has petered to a YouTube talking head, mouthing expletives and executing oral revolution from afar, from the safety and comfort of a neighbour and a gullible donor respectively.

Make Zimbabwe safe for my return, he tells the same generation he gingered up only a short while ago, but exactly personifying a generation that preceded him, a generation which went into self-exile, into servitude, instead of putting right whatever it claimed was wrong with the home.

Imagine what cynicism overtakes those yuppies who had mistaken Mawarire for a generational leader! Will they vote? Will they politic? Will they remain engaged? Or will they feel overwhelmed by the status quo they will regard as unchanged and changeless?

And if he had succeeded in igniting this country? The rest of us would have been baking in an incinerator, accosting baba Abraham to send poor Lazarus with a drop of water to assuage our anguish. And him? Well, watching from the incombustible Tundra region!

This is the way to create a deeply cynical political culture, one sure to ruin a generation. After all, he had captured a generation which Zanu-PF could not arouse, a lost generation which felt unserved by opposition politics and politicians. Whither that generation?

Leaders by alphabet
Secondly, this idea of a coalition whose leadership question is resolved by letters and logic of the alphabet does encourage us to look at national leadership with levity. You cannot develop a sense of seriousness in the leadership question when it is all about calendar months and alphabetic order.

This amounts to an abnegation of responsibility over the leadership question, indeed a feeling of dipping the head in the hot soil hoping to emerge tried, tested and well-led. Of course you emerge well cooked and nothing else.

While President Mugabe will obviously view this with a wry smile, I am sure he worries about the world beyond his leadership if it gets structured thus. Achebe put it so well: the nation has been failed because we have allowed our second eleven to enter the field.

Not feeling national
Thirdly, when you have politicians who simulate vendor-poverty when they are known to belch filthy riches – both acquired and inherited – you cannot hope to encourage the rank and file to develop a positive view of politics and politicians. Quite the contrary, you entrench a sense of duplicity and role-playing in politics, neither of which encourages a view of politics as serious business of putting right national ills. But it goes much further. You ask how a politician who puts herself on the line in respect of a matter which is a class action legally, can ever convince you that they earned their doctorate. A politician who opts to approach the courts, itself always serious business, on the back of an argument which is disowned even by the very beneficiary of that argument, does not teach the children how to feel national, how to feel a people, how to feel the throb of the national interest in their hearts, an interest which must be defended at all cost. And this is a politician you called Shefu only a few moons back! Indeed a politician who initiated the idea of adopting the yuan as a "national" currency, even then without feeling the irony of her postulate.

Tactic, not strategy
Fourthly, a generation which follows tenuously connected politicians in agitating against national industrialization, and against the development of monetary sovereignty after so many years of currency dependency, leaves you despairing. I hear you quibble but it is Zanu-PF which invented the adoption and use of foreign currency after a disastrous currency management era. True, true, true. Except that is not the full story. You would be wilfully ignorant and in despicable denial not to acknowledge that whatever shortcomings Zanu-PF showed and may continue to show, its iconic land reform Programme created a vicious backlash which not just triggered a run on the economy and its currency, but also necessitated the adoption of a basket of currencies as a counter-measure. That was a short-term strategy which had to make way later than sooner, which is why the idea of bond notes comes when it does at that juncture in our national life that signals some success in the normalisation of relations with the West, itself the author of ruinous sanctions that blighted a good chunk of our immediate past, present and immediate future. To then think a tactical move must transform into a strategic goal makes one wonder about a generation. And to just imagine how Ambassador Thomas is feeling just now! Feeling about Zimbabweans who are ready "to take bullets" for the American dollar?

The missing link
I said the sum of our politics reflect the state of a country, of a generation, of a nation, of a people. I hope I have shown you how self-negating the arguments of the week have been. I hope I have also shown you the tragic side of the comic act of the week. What turns both into a potential real tragedy is that Zanu-PF, itself the ruling and governing party, is still to complete the conversation by talking back. And talking back is not always strategic, I must admit. Often, that is the recourse of a party which can't cause the weather, which cannot set the national agenda. But two things have happened which raise the oppositional monologue to a potential real threat level. Firstly, Zanu-PF has been talking and acting. Its response to the debate challenge posed by the opposition has been a law-and-order one, that is through the police. Of course the police must act whenever there is a threat to the rule of law, life and limb. But history shows this is best deployed together with lots of communication designed to show the falsity of the opposite discourse. In the absence of that, what catches the ears and eyes of a perplexed citizen, and watchful outsider, is that the opposition has been roughened up. It takes us to 2008 when we lost the propaganda plot on the back of human rights histrionics.

A bicker with the leader
Secondly, Zanu-PF has already initiated discussion with the citizenry on both the issue of importation of finished goods, and the issue of bonds. If anything, it is the opposition which is responding to the weather Zanu-PF caused. So keeping up the gale it has started cannot be a sign of weakness. Much worse, at a time when the opposition response has amounted to a challenge on Zanu-PF authority, elements within Zanu-PF are showing every sign of being internally focused. Even wishing a semblance of oppositional success in the hope of precipitating a cabinet reshuffle they know will not take place. This amounts to a bicker with the leader, not a blow against the opposition. If anything, it suggests a clique within Zanu-PF that would want to fish from a pseudo-crisis it must help diffuse. One hopes this is not the case, what with all the deep-throating we read. When the issue of imports arose, the whole response came from the whole Party machinery. Why is that not so now? Or is it coming? We shall see in the intervening days.

When we cannot imagine a nation
The argument implied by what Mujuru, MDC and those youths groups have coalesced to make seriously undermines the national outlook. The focus is never on Mujuru, Tsvangirai, Ncube, Dabengwa, Mkwananzi or Mawarire. The focus should be on the millions and millions of Zimbabweans who want to understand what it is at stake, who seek to know in which direction the country is going and whose faith we must always cultivate and keep. Today they have a sense of a tenuously balanced tug of war between Zanu-PF and the seemingly gradually coalescing opposition we know will never unite. Much worse, they have a sense of a fragmenting argument for nationalism, a sense of deep divisions within those supposedly incarnating it. A sense that we don't need to imagine our nation in the sense of the late Benedict Anderson. And nations are imagined through historical moments, yes, but also through shared myths of origins and symbols. Today all these are being challenged, starting with the struggle. And when it comes to national symbols, we need to think straight. Among foremost symbols that unite us, that get us to imagine ourselves a nation is that of a national currency, which is why the British will fret to national death if anything happens to the pound, their dear pound. When even our most tentative steps towards restoring this foremost national symbol meet with public demonstrations, however small, negligible, the average citizen wonders whether we are not slowly disintegrating into a country which is not a nation. To carp and even promise to die for the United States dollar, in contra-distinction to a national currency or even the beginnings of it, cannot be a small matter that can wait while we bicker.


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