The Other Side: Nathaniel Manheru—
Of course political pressure comes in many ways, and manifests in many forms.
In Mujuru’s National People’s Party, they break each other’s knee caps in order to hurt Zanu-PF! In the MDCs, they shout “amandla!” in order to enthrone a muchinja for the so-called grand coalition! And in People Something, they endorse Tsvangirai with Zanu-PF’s totemic fist! I am already running out of exclamation marks yet it’s getting worse! We have yet another opposition nonentity who declared he is not opposed to a grand coalition provided its eventual leader is chosen by the people!
I suppose it is politically feasible to ask ZEC to run a leadership referendum for the opposition in order to bring that about. And before 2018!
I am not normally superstitious. But there comes a time in your life when inexplicable political behaviours come too thick and too fast, when they bear down so hard on your sense of rationality and poise that you end up giving everything to those in the earth. Chadzimira kana kuti chahwihwihwi chaicho!
When God died
A war veteran-friend habitually settles down to a refrain: this soil, this earth, do not spurn it; it bites, leaves you in a swoon. Usually my response comes by way of guffaws of dismissive laughter. The man is too happy to have survived a war, but without realising he owes it to good training, to good comradeship, and of course to providence.
And if providence is what he worshipfully terms “ivhu iri”, then it’s fine by me. After all, human freedom from the thralldom of the Vatican began when man looked downward, when man began to believe in his own sinews and in the power of combinations, well away from the Being above. Humanism descended and soon thereafter, God died!
A land “locked” people
Except there is a deeper meaning to “ivhu iri” than mere protestations of superstition. Read against the politics of this country, sorry, of this land, there is a way in which this short Shona expletive compendiously bridles the hammer and anvil of our entire politics, refractory though they may be.
Sums up the fulcrum of our politics and political trajectory. It does not matter how far back you go in history, the politics of this country have revolved around the land, around our earth. Which means those who have “voted” for our earth — whether by way of political philosophy, choices, or through the gun — have always won, have always carried the day.
Check this out; I don’t need to take you down another lesson of history. The upshot being that if your politics are at odds with the land, or in the language of my veteran friend, at odds with the earth — late Chenjerai Hove would say red hills of home — the vengefully angry earth is sure to punish you, and punish you painfully.
Joice Mujuru’s woes started the day she kicked away the black sod of home. Repudiated it. For there is no greater repudiation than seeking to atone for the repossession of a once pilfered “earth”, whether by word or by the fateful deed of seeking to pay reparations to the knee-less ones.
How would those who have long left us and are now residing in the earth take it, interpret it? As betrayal of course. For did they not teach us — a lesson transmitted through the hypodermic nipple we suckled — that the spirits of the bird reside in the nest?
Of the mouse in the burrow? Who else, but the earth knows when the little one of a mouse is ill? Who? Yet you expect the concerned mother mouse to visit the ocean for divination? What are we, but a land “locked” people? Do our politicians know what that seemingly innocent adjective mean?
Or they think it describes our not having access to the sea, the ocean? It means the land locks our politics, and vice-versa!
Bleaching a legacy
What do you think you are doing to the clan when you break that lock? Like did Tsvangirai in Mutorashanga at the start of the Third Chimurenga? Was he not punished? Is he not being punished to this very day? The wrongs of the earth cannot be appeased by penitential privation — botso — however long you suffer it.
It is a curse that dogs your lineage, which is why Tsvangirai will not rule this earth. Never. Which is why Mujuru has murdered sleep; killed her whole glory and history as a brave woman who would have been Nehanda’s homwe.
Today Mbuya Chagwe — that daughter of resistance — looks away in utter disgust, ever wondering what became of this girl from Mt Fura the fateful day she washed off her colour, scrubbed off her black legacy in the dish of white mud, hoping she could turn squeaky clean, and qualify to join the comers from far-off lands for a meal which none from her line had ever tasted.
And whenever the two — Tsvangirai and Runaida — seek to sit together, their bottoms are pricked; their joints ache to no end. This soil, this earth, hurts whoever spurns it. The opposition of this land carry that curse, that taint, which no amount of expiatory privation will cleanse.
The forthcoming elections are just, but another death ritual.
One Mwonzora of Nyanga?
Mwonzora — he is another one carrying the blotting curse of the land — does he ever listen to his thoughts? He doesn’t; he can’t. If he could, he would have paid heed to the whispers of home. Not too far back, I bumped into him at the memorial rite of Mbuya Tangwena, wife of the legendary Rekayi Tangwena.
I greeted him with the civility I reserve for elders, even though his politics smelled odious, repugnant. For Nyanga, the land that bore him, also bore and raised the late Rekayi who became its political and spiritual guardian when all was well.
Indeed who became its warrior and statement of resistance when land was wrestled from his people. Nyanga, the land that bore and raised Herbert Chitepo, late Chairman of Zanu in exile. Like Mwonzora, a lawyer. Unlike Mwonzora, a nationalist lawyer who knew he had been entrusted by his kind to steal and master the arts of “fire” so the hearth would warm the whole lineage, the whole village.
Today Mwonzora warms the enemies of this earth! Unlike Mwonzora, Chitepo died holding fast to burning embers which the clan sorely needed; had sent him to collect. He even deferred his last, desperate gasps until one of his own had come to snatch the burning embers for the next stretch homeward.
Once in safe hands, once his compatriot was a safe distance away, Chitepo’s iron grip on the thief’s throat loosened, and breathed his last, happy and content.
The cow with a tuff of grass in mouth
Herbert Pfumandini Chitepo, the hero of our struggle. Who, from the broad village forgets his lecture on land which he gave in the early seventies, in Australia? Who? Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, our current Foreign Minister, facilitated that lecture during the days of his studentship.
ZBC/TV plays and replays it. So who forgets it? Mwonzora of course? Need he be surprised when young ones like Supa Mandiwanzira take the mantle from him? You have to be a fitting scion, a deserving son of your heroic father. Or else the village will whisper: Don’t you know? Why are you surprised?
Is he not the tuff of grass which the cuckolding cow brought into the kraal, already half chewed, little, remnant grass spikes still visible on its chewing mouth? The tuff which the cow had already chewed into its belly by the time it joined the new herd, the new kraal?
Does the stomach ever lie? If it ate grass, the cow never gives you dung with residues of maize stalk. Did not our dear departed tell us that; those who lie beneath the folds and layers of the red earth of home? An old woman’s womb never lies what swells it!
So biometric an argument
Today Mwonzora tells the world it was never about whose money buys the Biometric Voters kits. No! It has always been about who buys the kits! And who should, Mr Learned Cousin, mwana wegadzingai? Cousin from the lesser wife?
Well, it is UNDP! Yet you accuse me of being superstitious, dear reader? A whole lawyer pushing such a bald argument? Is he well? Should we not invite sons-in-laws to begin digging a new home for our dear departing? I mean, picture this: the Government of Zimbabwe raises money — precious cash — surrenders it to UNDP for the procurement of Biometric kits!
All for a cheer from the opposition! All for a yodel from Catriona Laing, the British Queen’s woman here? Ahh! And if that does not happen, well, the elections are unfree, unfair, and not an expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe!
Not even a sense of multiple irony hits both Mwonzora and his Laing. A process so heavily mediated by outsiders — including a former colonial power — miraculously yields a genuine expression of the people of Zimbabwe!
If Laing’s government truly believes UNDP punctiliously ensures a ballot that guarantees the true expression and will of a voting people, why hasn’t Britain given and granted democratic sons of Albion such a timeless gift? Surely the UNDP is only an ocean away?
Or written into electoral rules passed down to us that a bona fide ballot is via UNDP, in which case we would have known that ballot democracy is, but a post-Second World War invention?
The smoke of Putin’s Russia
And if intrusive foreigners are such a normal, quality assurance to ballot politics, why all this hullabaloo against Russia and the recent American elections? And let’s get it clear: it’s not like there is a smoking gun, just smoking suspicion that a Russia which grants Snowden asylum must have done something to the box of a sole superpower!
Is this not staggering? I mean for countries that truly and insistently believe ballot integrity is assured by third parties, does or should it matter at all that Russia became that third party? That is, assuming that is the case? And if it is so good, so appropriate for the Zimbabwean ballot goose, why is it so bad for the American ballot boxed gander?
And anyway, is this not a ringing admission that Russia is millions of miles ahead of America technologically? And in what else? The same way they tell us North Korea is so backward yet it explodes nuclear-weaponed ballistics virtually monthly?
And Britain shouts hoarse about more sanctions against meddlesome Putin? This is how absurd diplomacy based on cheap propaganda can be, indeed how utterly perplexed local politicians who quarrel with the earth, while kissing with foreigners wind up being. And who votes for such madness?
Where are you going?
Sobhuza II, the late King of the Swazi people demanded to go to Lovedale School in South Africa for his education. To the Swazis, this was anathema. The king had to be reared and educated in the ways of his people, in the ways of the Swazi Monarchy.
And as an institution, the Swazi throne was a labyrinth of sacred sensitivities which would be policed, dispensed by, and inculcated into the heir-prince by elderly courtiers. Besides the Swazis had not forgotten how nearby, Khama’s country had been rocked to the core early on in the 19th Century by similar cultural apostasy, creating a real crisis in the palace.
Had Khama’s heir not embraced the ways of the missionaries of Kurumani, even gone to South Africa to be schooled by the London Missionary Society? The ways of the missionaries were not ways of their land. The new education dispensed by these white people contradicted the ethos that kneaded them together into and as a kingdom.
Now here was the heir to the throne wanting to leave the palace for a long learning durance at Lovedale, itself a citadel of white education and values! What had become of the heir? Why was the spirit of the Swazi nation so angry, turning its back on, and wanting to kill the kingdom?
What would be its futures, against such unheard-of desertion, such apostasy? Much worse, the land was unsettled, going through a difficult interregnum.
An attempt had even been made on the tender life of the heir.
Courtiers had tried to feed him on poisoned meat. Sobhuza’s insistence on going to Lovedale to acquire the ways of the white man would not only incense the elders; it would arm his enemies. And his enemies wasted no time. “Uyaphi yemntakaNdaba? (Where are you going, child of Ndaba?)”
It was an existential question, but one that never deterred him. Defiantly, he proceeded to Lovedale to eat big book.
In due course, he came back to the kingdom, armed with “white mud” necessary for modern kingship. Thereafter, the kingdom prospered: a Swazi monarch which had imbibed “modern” ways, and could cope with challenges of the ethos, new age.
Cutting up a visitor’s chicken
Until a few days ago, our country was treated to some debate — one which was as needless as it was intemperate in my view — to do with the filling of the position of the Chief Justice. I meticulously refrained from joining it, knowing fully well this column would be abused. I never believe in giving hostage to fortune. Not that there was anything confused or confusing about the whole matter ,which some people who simply cannot shut their mouth wanted artificially to turn into an entangled skein. A crisis. And such people have an opinion on everything, will pronounce themselves on anything, everything, as if they are God’s deputies.
Many think it’s a show of great intellect on the part of this talkative lot. Not me. It is just a consequence of not being properly raised, or not having been brought up in a household with a full staff complement! For is it not a key lesson in African upbringing that you, a mere child, do not start “cutting up” and allocating pieces from a chicken slaughtered for a visitor?
You are not even the mother. Not even the eldest daughter who know the ways of the hearth. But not for this talkative lot which seek to project themselves in the eyes of gullible newsrooms as “always in the know”. I suppose it augments their ever dwindling self-esteem.
The real issues
But before long — this week in this case — reality overtook make-belief scenarios built by these our pundits. What miffs is that these people sit mumatare where weighty matters are discussed, compelling reasons tendered. Still they will disregard, falsify and even undermine common positions, pinning their sagging faith on editorial contrivances, all of them tangentially linked to facts and reality.
They hope to sway decisions, hope to capture the appointing authority, these people who only came, but yesterday. To recap, there were two matters to the whole issue of a new Chief Justice, CJ as he/she is popularly called. There was the issue of incumbency — successor, to use that soiled noun — on the one hand. On the other, there was the issue of rules governing the succession process, minimally for “now”, maximally far into the future.
Rules as written into our new Constitution. For the man at the helm — the one whose prerogative, nay responsibility, it is to make the final decision, the issue of incumbency was the least of his headaches, both in terms of who VaChidyausiku’s successor would be, and in terms of when that succession would be effected.
Helpfully, the new Constitution does not dictate a pace. Only a format, a largely potentially flawed one at that.
Muddying clear waters
I mean how can a constitutional clause aspiring to endure provide for a scenario where those in line for consideration, those most likely to be candidates, with roles which are conflictual and, in terms of propriety and integrity, prove mutually exclusive?
Indeed it was this second aspect which created an issue for the President as the appointing authority: how to straighten rules for less congested, less troubled succession, but only in future. He was clear who he wanted to succeed the outgone CJ.
And this issue of rules was not that much of a difficulty even; the man had a cure: an amendment of the Constitution, the first ever after its adoption. That amendment will come in due course, as a way of improving the legal architecture.
The real challenge thus had nothing to do with the matter on hand, whether by incumbency or by rules governing its search. Those with open minds and un-jaundiced eyes saw matters plainly.
Those near enough — and honestly near enough — knew what was set to come. Not those sophists, those who delight in wallowing in mud even when the waters offered are so clear. They stirred the clear waters, imported mud and stirred further, both out of unbridled ambitions and deep fears of cases pending in which they were either involved or had a vested interest. They are always incapable of dealing with issues on hand. About this let these few words suffice.
What region, tribe, is the law?
Which means? Well, part of what this means has already transpired: we have a substantive CJ in the name and form of Justice Malaba. Chosen not because he is Ndebele; not because he belongs to this or that faction, still less this or that political party. But chosen because he is a qualified and experienced judge who is a Zimbabwean.
Only Ndebele by conventional ascriptions. There is nothing intrinsically Ndebele or Shona about anybody. Only social ascriptions, primitive ones at that. The outgone CJ’s deputy only by prior appointment and past time. Only a Zimbabwean born in the western part of the country by sheer chance of geography.
Which region is the law; which tribe? A professional who will take an oath by which he will serve justice to all manner of people without affection or ill-will; fear of favour. Zvoperera ipapo. This manner of transposing disfigurements and weaknesses of vying princes of power to a world and profession so rule-governed and driven is for those who were not only improperly brought up, but fancy themselves as “whispers behind the throne”.
Little do they realise their input is not only always disregarded; it is viewed with utter contempt and derision, indeed proof of their “vaulting ambitions” and smallness sure to hoist them so high and naked that all decent passers-by will look away in shame and disgust.
Noisy teaser bulls
Pelted by words of visionless ill-will, Sobhuza did not have many words for his opponents. Packing his few belongings and readying himself for a long odyssey to Lovedale, he calmly answered: “Longayembats’ ingubo lowembatsa lugugo lwengwenyama.”
Amidst all this mindless furore, one old Man of the great clan sat quietly, as if he had no “mouth” on the matter. Much like a mighty bull of the kraal which keeps grazing, oblivious to the riotous noises of restless teaser bulls which never mount. After all, is that not their role, namely to hasten the ripening of his mating partners for another season of creation?
Those who wield real power are not stampeded; they are calm and do not fear days that pass, hisses in the neighbourhood. To translate the great King of the Swazis, “he wears no blanket he who wears the skin of a lion.” Well done, Mister President!
Once again you have flattered the dovecot and your enemies are in sixes and sevens.
As for the new big judge on the block, warmly welcome, Sir, and good tidings.
Article Source: The Herald