Tyranny cannot define who we are

This week was that ambivalent time of the year again for many Zimbabweans —including myself — as they were torn between, on one hand, celebrating the birth of this great nation 37 years ago, and, on the other, mourning the betrayal of values that has heavily and scandalously manifested since, making the country hardly recognisable from 1980.

echoes: CONWAY TUTANI

Zanu PF legislator, Monica Mutsvangwa ....“Let’s think deep as Zimbabweans because, as war veterans, when we went to war, we never fought for a political party — we went there for everyone in the country.”

Zanu PF legislator, Monica Mutsvangwa ….“Let’s think deep as Zimbabweans because, as war veterans, when we went to war, we never fought for a political party — we went there for everyone in the country.”

It was time to take stock and the results were not pretty. The Zanu regime has suddenly gone cold — stone-cold — on the Sovereign Wealth Fund after its much-vaunted foundation — diamond revenue — was, by the Head of State’s own, unsolicited admission, looted to the tune of $15 billion .

There was hardly a mention of the real state of the nation in the Independence Day address. Selective partisan propaganda dominated, as President Robert Mugabe painted a rosy picture of everything, turning a blind eye to potholed roads and other evidence of socio-economic decay. Talk of lying by omission!

Who, in 1980 — when then energetic Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was all talk about egalitarianism and frugality with his government even threatening to ban beauty contests, labelling them a capitalistic relic — would have imagined that the First Couple would splash
$1,4 million on a diamond ring, as happened last year, sealing the moral and cultural decadence? This decadence — that lust for power, pleasure, money, fame and glory — has become the real ideology of Zanu PF under the convenient guise of economic empowerment and indigenisation as all sorts of bandwagoners — like the self-styled Sir Wicknell Chivayo, who conveniently and shamelessly support Zanu PF only because it is in power and can dish out favours to them no matter if it’s at the expense of the nation —hitch a ride on the gravy train and are in many cases used as fronts by those in power.

In the same week Independence was being observed, the death of Zanu PF MP Kizito Chivamba, who was previously a bodyguard of the now-late former Vice-President Simon Muzenda, provided a perfect reminder of this fall from grace of the regime. In the run-up to the 1990 elections, Chivamba and the now-deceased Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operative, Elias Kanengoni were convicted of attempted murder after, in broad daylight — yes, that’s how brazen it was — pumping bullets into the now-late former Gweru mayor, Patrick Kombayi, for no other crime than “daring” to stand as an opposition candidate against Muzenda.

The ultimate insult and greatest betrayal was when Mugabe — with more than indecent haste — gave the two criminals a Presidential pardon using — no, abusing — his constitutional prerogative after they were duly sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment each. You cannot put it past the regime that it will declare Chivamba a hero* of some sort because Kanengoni, his partner in the crime, lies buried at the National Heroes’ Acre. That’s why Mugabe’s appeal for unity in his Independence Day address rings hollow. Does he seriously expect Kombayi’s family and relatives and decent and right-minded Zimbabweans to heed his call after the shooting he condoned eventually led to the death of Kombayi after suffering painful and humiliating incapacitation for years?

This culture of political immunity and impunity has again, to me, brought sad memories of the horrific fiery deaths in 2000 of MDC activists Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika at the hands of another CIO agent, Joseph Mwale, and war veteran Kainos “Kitsiyatota” Zimunya, who were shielded from prosecution by the regime until their deaths. There is need to exercise the option of holding trials for such people posthumously, that is, after they have died. A posthumous trial can be held for a variety of reasons, including the legal declaration that the defendants — as in the case of Mwale and Zimunya — were the ones who committed the crime, as ruled by then High Court judge Justice James Devittie before he fled into exile after he was intimidated and threatened. There is also equal need to provide justice for society and family members of the victims. In addition, the families of the victims should sue the estates of those dead killers. Justice should be served even when the accused is six feet under. The magnanimous Shona saying that “wafa wanaka” (one who has died becomes blameless) should not apply to Mwale and Zimunya.

It is this duplicity that has irretrievably ruined Mugabe’s legacy. But some clergy were effusive in their praise of the regime on Independence Day, turning a blind eye to all these excesses — unless they are censuring it privately and politely. But it seems they cannot distinguish between Zimbabwe and Mugabe. It’s a sad and tragic fact of life that they have gone down the wrong road, but some will say: Can anyone move this man? Well, need these clergy be reminded that in their manual, the Bible, men of God were not politically correct with King David, but reprimanded him for his sins of omission and commission?

But it was not all convenient lies and deceptions this week. The speech encapsulating the true state of the nation came from an unlikely source, Zanu PF legislator, Monica Mutsvangwa, who, speaking at the funeral of MDC-T Senator Ronia Bunjira, said: “What’s important is for us to know that we are suffering. If there is no hospital, we are all suffering. If there are no doctors, we are all suffering.”
If you do not tell the full story, it means you have something to hide, but it’s an exercise in futility because you can’t cover up things forever. Even blind people know that potholes are there as they are tossed this way and that way in vehicles.

Said Mutsvangwa, also a war veteran: “Some said it is scary (for a Zanu PF member to be among MDC-T supporters), but I am not scared … I have come here with (fellow Zanu PF legislator) Beatrice Nyamupinga to bury one of our own. The most important thing is for us to know that we are children of Zimbabwe … Let’s think deep as Zimbabweans because as war veterans, when we went to war, we never fought for a political party — we went there for everyone in the country.”

Mutsvangwa’s words tie in with this quote from American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910): “Loyalty to the nation all the time; loyalty to the government when it deserves it.”

It’s as clear as that — there can be no ambivalence that the nation is above the government.

There cannot be greater political rivalry in this country than that between MDC-T and Zanu PF, but Mutsvangwa still found it within herself to mourn with the bereaved family; she dug deep into her humanness and Zimbabwean-ness.

To me, it’s such acts of kindness and sincerity, which stood out this week, not the parochial, self-congratulatory, self-aggrandising, self-serving official address by Mugabe at the National Sports Stadium.

Let’s not allow tyranny to define who we are.

Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: nkumbuzo@gmail.com

* Chivamba has since been declared a provincial hero. — Editor