Tsvangirai (right) and other opposition leaders listen to Mutasa’s address during a flopped Nera demonstration in Harare on Wednesday
Nathaniel Manheru: THE OTHER SIDE
So it’s true after all? That Tsvangirai’s MDC benefited from Mai Mujuru and her late departed hero-husband, Chauya-Chauya’s Mavambo project? So why was she denying it when this column made that revelation for the benefit of truth and history?
What has now changed so much now to inspire such unheralded candour? They got it all wrong, those sages of old. It is not hell; it is not even fury. It is politics; it is truth. Politics hath no truth like woman scorned! Still I thank Joice — do so from the bottom of my heat, sorry, heart! She has well and truly served History. The late it is, the nearer to history. But about that, a little later.
Temper kept in the countryside
“I defy you to agitate a fellow with a full stomache,” wrote one William Cobbett, a radical politician by British liberal standards. This timeless prognosis was made at a time when English kings daily lived in the fear of French Jacobinism which threatened to sail across the Channel. A fear also shared by their scholars whose role was to play “whispers behind the throne”. Burke among them.
He lived in mortal fear of what he termed “the swinish multitude”, an epithet which that eminent British historian, E. P. Thompson, termed “an epochal indiscretion”. Today I join William Cobbett in defying Tsvangirai and his group to agitate a fellow with a “full stomache”. Like they tried to do a few days ago, leaving many wondering how well, and how much they are in touch with their immediate constituency and, more broadly with the national mood. Is it not a truism that the national temper is kept in the countryside?
Buhera, my dearest home
But the misconception started well before, and not a matter of a few days ago. It started much earlier when Save (may the good Lord save his soul!) told newsmen while on his rural rides that the good national harvest expected boded well for next year’s electoral politics. His logic: food would thus not be used as a tool for political mobilisation!
For a man who like me comes from the caked earth of Vuhera, I found that hard to grasp, harder to believe. Vuhera, our existential milieu — glory be the hard land that raised us, whose bruises steeled us – taught us good harvests don’t just happen; they follow a struggle, are eked out. That behind full granary of a rich man is the story of ardour, of sweat. Abridged sleep, harsh tongs, a furious wrestle with the dry, reluctant sod. Getting those tired sands to yield a morsel! Those tired sands through which black ants easily bore empty homes. That is the story of Buhera, my dearest home. Its lessons which no sane man desert, can ever forget.
Haru’s Freedom Square?
So, why would a mind hewn out of such a hard earth ever think good harvests do happen on their own? Or fill granaries of those who count cock crow? Even thinking the met need of an otherwise famished woman turns into yodels for the granary, not the granary-owner? Which harvest does not have a totem, which granary an owner?
Using my homeboy’s strange thought as a peg, and linking it to that vain political fiesta set at what Haru Mutasa — a professional journalist — glibly called Freedom Square, you end up with a continuum of endless fantasies. A torrent of rhetoric for a deluded age. Such are the times, and all these, the people! To assist my knuckle, sorry, my Uncle, the bounteous harvest you witnessed in the countryside has an owner, has a name. It is in someone’s field, someone’s effort. Politically, sekuru! Tambaoga, the naughty singer. He would have roared: Ndezvedu izvi! Kikiki!
Then unhelpful vocabulary
For before long, sekuru shall know whose field, whose harvest it is! As 2018 beckons, facts are being grown, made and written — in the ground, while the opposition is invoking a vocabulary which is either barren or which triggers a self-defeating recall. NERIA, sorry, NERA! ZEX, oh what’s wrong with me today, ZEC! And Freedom Square? Really?
What if the whole country, the whole people — you included — is someone’s Freedom Square, Freedom People? Freedom Vote? Freedom Land? Freedom Harvest? You stumble on your door-mat, well before you meet a rival in the pitch of play? Babanguwee Nhuka! Simply, there is a vocabulary that is not helpful to any thinking opposition; a vocabulary that is most helpful even to a slothful ruling party. I suppose that is what happens when you argue against the land, the spirits, the guardians of this land. Unobatwa nechadzimira! Hanzi gomo reMbire renemanyin’inya.
The art of an indispensable carpenter
I blame it on the men and women around the MDC-T leader. Including those now clawing back, now seeking and hoping to be around him once more. Senhunzi patsvina, as Matemadanda would fondly put it. Like flies on human dung, for those who can’t speak Shona. Those around Tsvangirai are mostly lawyers, invariably carrying the blind-spot of their profession.
But making a virtue of it. And as they say, to a carpenter all problems take on the shape of the head of a nail. For the hammer must work, itself the carpenter’s tool of familiarity, choice and competencies. We are witnessing a whole generation of attorneys growing fat — fatter — on the niceties of electoral law, to quote one modern authority. They feel very useful, industrious around sekuru. They pick an opponent of choice — Justice Rita Makarau — herself a “nail” they are wont to hammer to demonstrate and exhaust their competencies. Poor nail!
A man or a horse?
The opposition won’t go to the countryside where voters are; they prefer Haru’s Freedom Square where they sleep and snooze in open incest. Gladdening each other’s heart by feeling formidable, victorious. The opposition will not wrestle Zanu-PF, their opposite number; nay, they prefer ZEC, so they gloat in nice, sonorous legalism.
The opposition will not tackle vaMugabe; no, they prefer Mai Makarau against whom they exhibit exceptional manliness. Real vanquishers; formidable knights in ponderous armour. E. P. Thompson — I have quoted him before — in his Making of the English Working Class laments that for two long centuries, Britain wallowed in the fantasies of constitutionalism, thanks to its generation of erudite lawyers who split stupendous legal hairs, to great sweat and ardour.
And it told on the warped false consciousness that followed and stymied a generation: the hungry workers were ready to burn the baker and farmer for expensive bread and corn; but would hail the King and the Pope who gave them starvation wages! The proximate, symptoms, became causes. And when it finally dawned on them that their woes owed to the Castle and to the Church, still they could not tell if Popery be man or a horse! It’s called a consciousness lag, the bane of ignorance.
Do they smell the irony?
We are living in the grip of a giant irony; are we not? The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC for short, is a constitutional body, created, many thanks, by the MDCs through constitutional and statutory amendments during the life of the GNU. Biti was there; Welshman Ncube was there; so was Douglas Mwonzora.
The whole lot, and a whole bevy of their legal advisors. We ended up with ZEC, and many constitutional bodies, some of them now real institutional monstrosities. But it was an age of indulging an opposition, so as to blunt its stabs. An age when good politics was playing helplessness, all to incorporate reforms that demolished a legitimising argument.
The MDCs never read it, lost as they were in a succulent chew. Today the opposition have no case, do they? If they have to invent one, it is to seek to undo what they agitated for only yesterday. Nowhere is this evermore than in their current tussle with ZEC — a creature of their legal fancy. Do they smell the irony? That they are crossing swords with ZEC, itself the acme of electoral legalism and rule of law they sponsored and hailed, and not with Zanu-PF which they have painted blackest when it comes to the colours of democracy and democratic tenets?
Corpse, Koroner, President, Minister, all in one
Today it is Zanu-PF and its Government which have to protect and defend ZEC against its legal progenitors, ironically! Mudede, then the shorthand for all that was electorally evil, is now unreachable; Mai Makarau — a judge they desired at the helm for all to be put right — is too reachable that she now must be made to flee from where they wanted her to be. Flee from them! Poor learned lady! A real strange twist where the independence of an electoral commission has to be defended against ceaseless onslaught from an opposition. Not from the ruling party as normally often happens.
Oh Zimbabwe opposition, see what thou have wrought! And the arguments tendered? Amazingly bald. ZEC must disband, they tell Judge Makarau! She, a creature of the Constitution passed by a Parliament in which the MDCs sit, must now kill herself! sadc, the AU, the UN, must come to run our elections, a message put to Mai Makarau! Goodness me! ZEC that has dissolved itself must call foreign bodies to run Zimbabwe elections?
Hello Madame President and Foreign Minister, all rolled in one! And with such faith in her, why then can’t she run the bloody little elections for you? Well, ZEC shall be protected, defended, very soon. The learned lady shall sleep well. The opposition parties have just made a case against themselves, and let no one cry. A good general-friend of mine repeats the joke of Dzinemunhenzva, once-upon-a-time presidential candidate who manages a zero-vote count in an election in which he cast a vote. Generously forgot to vote for himself!
Exit UNDP’s Political Department
Except all this is consistent with broader calculations which Zanu-PF had better taken good care of. The facts on the electoral ground are large and snarling. Seen by all who care and matter.
The old man is set for a landslide. Far bigger than the 2013 one at that. It is frenetic in Metropoles. Resigned to a Zanu-PF resounding victory, the new effort is on how to discredit the win. Delegitimise it if possible. How else better than to traduce the process, now that the UNDP’s American-controlled Political Department has been outmaneuvred and ousted? The idea — we can talk about it now — was to get the Political Department to take over the running of our elections, the Ivory Coast way.
Then engineer a fiasco in which the PD would declare the opposition the winner, all to pave way for intervention Gbagbo-Ouattara style. Sorry guys, not here! It is back to the drawing board, with three scenarios are being mulled, all desperate, none promising. In the meantime Biometric Voter magic is out, although the opposition continues to suffer from delayed reaction. They have no compunction mounting demonstrations for its stoppage, long after it has been ceased!
Spectacle of Dead-mouse Mutasa
Back to Haru’s Freedom Square. What a spectacle! What messy polysemy! For MDC-T, it was about getting Tsvangirai endorsed as the losing candidate for a united opposition. Zvavo zvikabva zvaita. For Pastor Mawarire, it was about morphing from a life in the cyber-nether to a life into the work-a-day world in which he is but a political minor, an ever dwindling joke from scriptures! Good God! Biti? Oh Tendai! “Amandl-yaa!”, he yells! A safe, neutral slogan! What have we here? A man or a fish? Remember your Tempest, Shakespeare’s last but one tragi-comic play? No slogan, no language of own, no correct pronunciation, the bane of a political nowhere man. And the heckling; the desperation, the urge to return, to belong once more! Really debilitating. Then Dead/Deedy-mouse Mutasa?
Poor old man; he had to be helped up the political scaffold, all to stand beneath the political guillotine, akimbo. What have we here? A man or a fish? Smells like a very ancient fish. Fuuu! It is always pathetic when symbolism overtakes a man. He is helped up the political scaffold, an elder already disabled in multiple ways. He utters something that tries to be a slogan, but with a fist clenched the Zanu-PF way. The crowd that must affirm, is outraged and roars into deafening approbria. He killed us! We don’t want him there! Get him off! Boom, Maximilian Robspeare let’s go of the rope: the guillotine comes crushing, does the rest! At that age, with so short a distance to go? And so wearied. Why, why, why vaMutasa? Babaiwee Shonga!
Runaida, Fourfold want
Asi pane vakange vasipo, the absent ones. Runaida — Four-times-want — Mujuru! Where was she, chizukuru changu? Waendepizve? HARDtalk? And in the absence was the present and future meaning, quite resilient and faithful enough to carry her all the way to the ballot. Not far back, Tsvangirai had intimated he would pick recycle-able matter from the ZimPF rabble. And we all waited with baited breath. Would it be the “queen bee”? Or the old man from Maungwe?
But the man from Vuhera had given a hint: you don’t give “blanket” refuge to a neighbour’s wife, however abused she may be. She remains someone’s wife. As for Shonga, well, the guillotine fell at Haru’s Freedom Square, did it not? And Chamisa is happy. No longer does he need to convince his doting principal; he saw it for himself how much of a liability the suitor is. After all, rinosebwa ngenyi ratingagweshera nekusi kusina shashiko kudaro? What colour is the relish that makes us so eager to fill our palms with lumps of “fufu”? Got that, my man from the white man’s graveyard? I translated that one especially for you!
We now understand and situate Runaida’s sudden burst of candour. Tsvangirai will not have her, sorry! And she did her damn-dest to make herself unappealing. She is throwing tantrums. She now walks alone, poor girl. Same, same naShonga. There is something economists call ruinous competition. Herewith, find a political sample!
Uncontested national by-election
So who won at Haru’s Freedom Square? Certainly not Al Jazeera whose journalists could be better trained in the art of “distanciation”. You do not “eat” the nomenclature of a civet cat, and still hope not to carry its smell. Need you wonder then when all those you seek to come near to sniff “fuuu, fuu”, before giving a wide berth? When was that open space renamed Freedom Square? Who by?
For a profession judged by its tongue, it was truly fatal for this daughter from Bonda. Was it Save who won? Certainly, for Save’s day it was! But to what end? To nowhere, of course! Pot-bellied, he has to survive on a widow’s mite! It was not a mealy day, whether by strategy or by numbers. You do not seek to supplement a poor argument with Burke’s “swinish multitude”, much of it small and absent-minded. While the multitude could have been a real force for political supplementation last year — itself a lean year — it certainly cannot be today when the fellow you seek to agitate struggles with the ache of “a full stomache”. To do so is to suggest a chronically impaired sense of reality.
On that fateful Wednesday, one noticed the spectacle of grown-up men seeking to ladle a small crowd that dragged “a full stomache”. You can only upset its “stomache”, never the King, never the prayerful Pope who still can afford a joke with an angry God. For if anything, the platform revealed disheartening disharmonies in what was supposed to be an emphatic message to the Crown. Now how does Tsvangirai make power shiver, and sleep wakeful, what with a crowd too small to surround a drenched mouse? We are headed for an uncontested national by-election, if you ask me. Which is why Bhasikiti and Mwenezi are such perfect prefigurements. For in a year of plenty, Jacobinism does not work.