Saturday, October 08, 2016

Mujuru: The Story of Scattered Wisdom
Joice Mujuru (right) met with former holder of Ruzambu Farm Guy Watson Smith (centre) to discuss compensation for the farm in London

Nathaniel Manheru The other side—
Zimbabwe Herald

I have been reading Basil Davidson’s 1969 publication, The African Genius. This followed a claim I ran into in the context of my research where Davidson is described as one “historian who changed Africans’ perception of themselves”. The British-born historian died in 2010 after penning quite a number of books on Africa, his basic thrust being to engineer a paradigm shift on the interpretation of the history of the continent, well away from the dominant Eurocentric, white colonial tradition. Whether he succeeded or didn’t is really a matter of opinion and reader expectations. Personally I don’t believe that a historian hailing from a non-African milieu, let alone from a generation tainted by the ethos of Victorian England, can ever successfully shake free of encrustations and pre-possessions of culture, politics and prejudice. Not even the majority of African historians succeed in freeing themselves from the stranglehold of the same western historiography, which is why the prospects do diminish when it comes to the race whose interests vested in that historiography.

Wrapped in rural idiocy?

It takes a little more, definitely a lot more, by way of perspective and tools to break free from the integument of such a tradition. I would argue that the most dramatic expression of colonial white historiography which we, Africans, must all rebel against came in the form and person of one Hugh Trevor-Roper, the Oxford don whom the good Lord — mercifully for Africa too — called in 2003, but well after he had done his utmost damage scholastically. In a passing reference to Africa in his supposedly magisterial work on world history, he asserted that Africa had no history of its own. Mouth clenched, he added: “There is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness and darkness is not the subject of history.” Gentle reader, don’t think Trevor-Roper was a contemporary of Charles Darwin. No, he actually takes this startling postulate in the 1960s, thereby showing how recent and enduring the scholarship that derides Africa is. Arguably it can be traced back to Hegel, if not before. Even Karl Marx was no better, which is why Marxism dismisses peasants as too wrapped in “rural idiocy” to be the motive force of history. And we know which continent carried the mode of production which gave us an abundant peasant society well into the 20th Century. So, against such a well-entrenched disparaging scholarship of Africa — and UNESCO tried to fight it — Basildon’s The African Genius passes for quite some fascinating read, especially to a person like me who is interested in the theory of knowledge, in epistemology as it is called in big book.

The man who collected and sought to store wisdom

But this piece is not about history, although I argue that all writings must show some measure of historical consciousness. Basildon who dedicates his book to Amilcar Cabral, the late revolutionary from Guinea-Bissau, prologues his narrative with a fascinating folktale called “A Scattered Wisdom”. Like all folktales, it is set in the never-never once-upon-a-time period where Ananse Kokrofu, the great spider of venerable memory, is said to have been bothered about the state of wisdom in the world. People were not looking after wisdom properly, and this was Ananse’s concern. He bemoaned its loss over time, and what that would presage for future generations that would then have to live and do without accumulated wisdom. Promptly, the wise Ananse took it upon himself to collect all the wisdom in the world, with a view to securing it by storing it in a gourd fastened at the top of the tallest palm tree where no here-and-now soul would reach to tamper and scatter it. After much ado, Ananse collected all the wisdom there was in the world, packed it all in this mighty gourd. Then soon after began the travail of going up the tallest palm tree, hard step by hard step.

The gourd that fell

Halfway to the top, he got into difficulties: he had tied on the gourd in front of him, and it hampered his climbing. Try as hard as he could, the delicate gourd stood in the way, Ananse’s fear being that upsetting its delicate balance would send the gourd tumbling to a smashing end that would spill and scatter a whole precious heritage for mankind. As father struggled up, Ntikuma his son, was anxiously looking up from below. For Ntikuma, it was not just the precious gourd; it was also his father whose life stood at great risk. Perhaps less the gourd, more the father the value of whose grand enterprise he had never been fully convinced of. At last and against mounting wistfulness, Ntikuma called in a shrill young voice: “Father, if you really had all the wisdom in the world up there with you, you would have tied that gourd on your back.” Not used to such put-down, one made all the more painful by the green age of his son, Ananse untied the gourd in a fit of temper and threw it down. It broke and the wisdom was scattered far and wide. After a while people who had learned their lesson came and gathered in their own gourds whatever each could find. There ended Ananse’s ma-triotic enterprise, to the extent that it was meant for the whole of man-kind.

The task she was never prepared for

Yesterday I was stunned to read that Joice Mujuru, leader of Zimbabwe People First, had a jolly good meeting with Guy Watson-Smith, the white farmer who occupied Ruzambu Farm before the late General Solomon Tapfumanei Ruzambu Mujuru got it under the land reform programme. The meeting was held in London, ahead of Joice’s Chatham address which I also hear proved yet another disaster for the ex-Vice President who was haunted out of Zanu-PF under a barrage of allegations. My views about Joice and her extra-territorial fixtures are well-known, and have been shared with you the reader. Simply, she is not yet ready, indeed may never be ready for such fixtures, which is why President Robert Mugabe never used to send her on taxing external missions during her tenure as Vice President. Yes, she could go to represent the Party and Government on symbolic and structured events -the handshake-in-a-crowd kind of meetings – but never on missions that needed cerebral input. If you have time, flip back the pages of time and prove me wrong.

Hard to turn on

Often, I hear retorts of why President Mugabe appointed her in the first place, if she was not very bright. Aah, don’t forget she came in to represent the women’s bloc, which is how Emmerson Mnangagwa, now Vice President, had to be stood down. It was about representing women; she came from women and the President had to oblige. I remember a female activist and longtime friend from my college days censoriously arguing that menfolk in Zanu-PF settled for mediocrity in her choice, all in order to give the gender argument a bad name. “She is not the best of or from us, and you appointed her for a self-fulfilling failure”, said the irate lady activist who dismissed the whole enterprise as the sly handiwork of politics of patriarchy that effectively denied what they appeared to concede. Frivolously, I dismissed her as hard to turn on. But I could relate to the charge whose public repetition while Mai Mujuru held sway would have passed for an abomination. Today those who mind her career — and they are all men — still routinely make her function beyond her ken as if in a continuation of that conspiracy against womankind. Clearly, the stage is set for a second proof. Or for a second take at politics of patriarchy, if your viewpoint is reflexively en-gendered. And to my waspish activist-friend, it is the progress of gyroscope: women cannot govern, the proof she provided when she was in Government; women cannot oppose, the proof she now daily provides in her new role in oppositional politics. And if you boldly turn to MDC-T, there isn’t much to lift your hopes and heart either. Little wonder Mudzuri and Chamisa had to come in. It’s a man’s world, is it not, Master Jack?

No certificate of no present interest

Without beating my chest, I broke the news that Joice Mujuru was slotted for a performance at Chatham House. I did much more. I ran ahead of her to warn that the whole act would end up disastrously for her, what with how she had presented herself, firstly in the inaugural British Sunday Times interview with Christina Lamb and, lately, in the Gupta ANN7 which Trevor Ncube hopes to “buy” the same way he “bought” Mail and Guardian. What I had not budgeted for was this far-flung encounter with an ex-Rhodesian farmer now living in Canada, and of course the subject matter broached in that encounter, namely her offer to personally compensate the white farmer, one Guy Watson-Smith. However you look at it, this is a new high in political blundering, all the more so ahead of 2018. I will start at an obvious level. I hope her late husband purchased that farm. Of course I am being foolish or sarcastic, all to dramatise a key point: the farm belongs to the State, but is only being leased to her under the 99-year arrangement. Of this is indeed the position, she now seeks to transact over a property she wields no title to. Much worse, the transaction, assuming it passes, amounts to a major challenge to the philosophical outlook and policy of the acquiring authority. The land policy only recognises local compensation for developments, not for the land itself. Secondly and related to all this, assuming this whole matter is valid, the envisaged transaction would pass for one between a Zimbabwean and a white absentee landlord, in which case such a transaction requires “a certificate of no present interest” from Government. But that is to assume Government recognises Guy Watson-Smith’s title deed, and ignores its own laws which nullified old, Rhodesian title deeds. The whole matter is fraught, very fraught indeed.

Myriad contradictions

Secondly, just under a week ago, Mujuru’s acolytes, led by Mutambara, had a run-in with Zanu-PF youths in Guruve, in defence of one of their own who did not want to be evicted from a farm acquired under conditions similar to Ruzambu. Allegations are that shots were fired in defence of continued occupation of that disputed farm by ZimPF official. How does such militant defence of “ill-gotten land” reconcile with this new reckoning symbolised by Joice’s actions, whose message seems to be one of her belief in sanctity of ownership, outside facts of colonial history? I mean why defend an illegality? And do so barely a week ahead of a highly symbolic encounter whose message is the exact opposite? And was Mujuru herself not quoted as saying beneficiaries of land reforms who supported her had no reason to fear dispossession since the entitlements of land reform could not be washed away by later political choices? To me that sounded like an endorsement of the policy, practice and proceeds of land reforms.

When of the rest?

Thirdly, whatever outcome of that encounter with the former white farmer, there are many ZimPF officials who are on the land, including Didymus Mutasa, Rugare Gumbo and Mutambara. In the case of Mutasa, he was not only the acquiring authority during land reforms; his household writ large is still on the land, determinedly so if the recent attempted invasion of one such property by a senior government official is anything to go by. He defended it by bare teeth, even barer knuckles. Judging by how many ZimPF officials are on the land and how scattered the white tribe of Rhodesia is globally, ZimPF will need the whole of 2017 and 2018 to coral and engage this dispossessed racial subgroup to reverse the slights of history. They will not get time to fight Mugabe in elections!

Failed earthy role of step-mother

Fourthly, I thought not too far back Joice approached the courts in the name of a poor widow who lived off vending and thus stood mortally injured by enactment of SI64? The encounter with the Watson-Smiths appears to suggest a major means-transfiguration of this same woman: from a widow-of-mite into a widow-of-mighty-means. Does it not? And to imagine that she is ready and prepared to play even with a far-away white farmer before she has played it half-even with the late general’s out-of-wedlock scion sounds a little bit weird, does it not? The charity that fails at home, travels all the way to Chatham House via Canada. She remarkably acquits herself as a leader in neo-liberal politics while failing dismally in her earthy role as a step-mother. I call it macro-wise, micro-foolish, indeed an act of picking a wrong mix of nuggets of wisdom from the gourd Ananse let fall.

What now, contrite Joice?

Fifth and first politically, where does this action leave her as a fighter in a war of liberation whose causa belli was the land issue? From the seventies when she joined the struggle, the principal mobilising grievance – the grievance of all grievances – was the land. From 1980 when she joined Government of an independent Zimbabwe until about two years back when she was kicked out, she staunchly espoused the resolution of the national land question, winning the glamour of office from it, making personal fortunes out of it. Her home district of Mt Darwin was affected by this policy which she pushed for vigorously, both for her personal benefit and for the benefit of her kinsmen and women. Can she tell us how much land her family wields to this day? Today how does she go back to the same people she gave land only yesterday to ask for their support, given her newfound politics of contrition? A policy which by implication exhorts the very people she helped liberate to go back into landlessness, unless they can find the means with which to compensate dispossessed whites for that very land they now have under land reforms? Is this not a repudiation of all she fought for? An act of not just ignoring wisdom from the gourd, but actually peeing on it?

Bwandiranguwo iwe!

Sixth and second politically, Violet Gonda did a good job to picture her in various poises with the white farmer and his son. And the pictures were not just an ideological outrage; they showed a woman who cannot sit properly. The kind of sitting posture sure to get my late mother fired up with rage, sure to roar, bwandiranguwo iwe! African culture abhors a sitting posture where a woman’s legs are thrown about revealingly. Even the fictitious Okonkwo of late Achebe fame would not have it, roaring “sit like a woman”, to little Ezinma then with little more than plain split flesh between her legs. I wonder how dead Okonkwo’s living brother would react if bearded Ekwefi would sit like that in an all-white male company. And as it was bodily, so it is politically. Joice has ungainly revealed her bearded political innards too much ahead of 2018. As with the Tsvangirai/Biti picture showing ravished interest in the Zanu-PF manifesto ahead of the 2013 elections, these images will fatally go far, very far. Mark my piece! She will have no peace from those eye-piercing political pieces!

Re-valorising land umpteenth time

Seventh and third politically, like MDC-T in 2013, ZimPF is emphatically re-valorising the land question for 2018. By raising the whole issue of compensating white farmers as a pillar policy of ZimPF, Zanu-PF is being afforded another bite at the land cherry for the umpteenth time. Very easily it can now start raising the spectre of politics of reversing land reforms with all the households that benefited from land reforms, with all eager home-seekers who now see the relevance of land reform to urban dwellers. A combination of benefits from command agriculture and residential land allocation will give this spectre a sharp and acute resonance with the voter. Does this not amount to a proverbial villager who picked from the smashed gourd wisdom on how to arm a malicious neighbour against himself? Surely she could have done better, all the more so now when Zanu-PF is in a tight corner as far as the performance of the economy is concerned.

The debate that has since moved on

Eighth and fourth politically, Joice appears to be trying too hard to ingratiate herself with the British. And what is worse, hoping to do so on the strength of hollow symbolism. By the time she left Government, it had become quite clear that as far as westerners were concerned, the issue of land had not only gone beyond arguments of possible reversal, but had also assumed more nuanced interpretation against the sheer fact of both the advanced age of the white generation tossed off the land on the one hand, and the ever-maturing generation of black farmers planted implacably on acquired land on the other. It is now recognized that outside of Mavericks like Ben Freeth who continue to froth against change, time and sense, the argument for restoration of white land rights is both archaic and counterproductive. In the case of Americans, the push has been to embourgeoisify the new settlers by strengthening property rights and property consciousness through issuance of title deeds. Americans are long past racialised property culture in Zimbabwean politics; rather, they are for a non-racial property ethos which they hope will yield a stable black middle class as in Kenya which they judge likely to support American-led global capitalism. For the British, their angst is cured not by a politician who strives overly to ingratiate herself with them; rather, they want a strong politician who has a following in the country, and who this can keep Zimbabwe stable as before. And all this because their wish-scenario discounts President Robert Mugabe as a player in 2018, itself a fatal mistake. So, Mujuru looks woolly – too woolly and mealy to secure the very confidence she strives for by those jaunts to Chatham. Illustratively, Chatham’s current position paper on Zimbabwe which has been sold very hard to the Obama Administration, works within the framework of an enduring Zanu-PF administration, and a Mugabe tenure, however stilted their reckoning of its longevity may be. I sense I am beginning to give away too much, which is why I must shout, Icho!

Mujuru in Dour Chatham Debut

October 8, 2016
Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
Zimbabwe Herald

Opposition Zimbabwe People First leader Dr Joice Mujuru gave a “dour performance” at the Royal Institute of Foreign Affairs, also known as Chatham House in Britain, on Thursday and failed to convincingly answer questions regarding her party’s policies. Dr Mujuru was invited by the influential think tank to discuss the theme, “Zimbabwe changing opposition”.

The People First leader read a prepared speech, which was largely a rehashing of her party’s Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development (BUILD) manifesto and fielded questions from the floor.

The event, which was streamed live was chaired by former British Defence and Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, but the audience comprised mostly Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora.

Sources who attended the event said there was “no one of note at all” from the British Government. In her address, Dr Mujuru claimed she had been hounded out of Zanu-PF because she was a pro-West “moderate”. Dr Mujuru revealed that she and others had wanted to change the revolutionary party “from within”.

“Some believe that because we were once part of Zanu-PF, therefore we are an extension of the party. It is common knowledge that some of us were considered to be moderates pursuing pro-West policies against party position, which belonged to an individual.

“In Zimbabwean politics, calling someone an agent of the West is a way of hiding from fundamental differences of opinion,” she said. “Initially, we thought we make changes from within, when some of our actions were for the people, but our colleagues were not willing, hence their dislike of us,” she said .

She said she would repeal the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act and revise land reform to make it “fair” and avail land to “all persons who call Zimbabwe home”. On foreign policy, she said Zimbabwe would rejoin the Commonwealth and seek rapprochement with Western countries.

Sources who attended the seminar and spoke to The Herald were not impressed. “Dr Mujuru came and recited her policy which they call BUILD,” said a diasporan who asked not to be named.

“After that she embarked on a long monologue of revisionism and moral somersaults on everything she ever stood for. If we were to judge her as a potential future president for the country on this performance, then one would say she would be a dour and uninspirational leader. There was nothing memorable and nothing that stands out except if one would think of it as watching paint dry,” said the source.

He said Dr Mujuru lacked clarity and was equivocating on issues.

“For example, she said she supported the principle of indigenisation, but then said that the Act should be repealed. She seemed to suggest that she hated the word ‘indigenous’, but embraced the principle of Zimbabweans benefiting from their God-given resources with the foreign investors coming in with their technology and capital,” said the source.

Zanu-PF UK chairman Nick Mangwana who was invited by Chatham House in his official capacity and attended the meeting said Dr Mujuru “struggled to read her own presentation”.

“The silence in the room was telling. Not once did she get an applause from the audience except the polite 10 seconds at the end, which the chairman asked for,” he said. He explained: “Look, this lady is a reluctant leader. This has not changed. She actually did say that she was asked reluctantly to come and lead this project.

“Maybe this is the reason she failed to connect with the audience at all. I don’t think she understands the young people she tried to pander to, by attacking leadership of other parties for not being young.

“The mainly young audience she was addressing did not come looking for a ‘victim’, but were looking for an inspirational visionary. She disappointed in that regard.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Dr Mujuru met with former white owners of her family’s Ruzambo/Alamein Farm and purportedly pledged to compensate them for the developments on the farm.

But Cde Mangwana called it “grandstanding”. He explained that Dr Mujuru had been challenged by a journalist about her family’s acquisition of the farm and dispossession of the property. Dr Mujuru claimed that she had been looking for Guy Watson Smith, which led the journalist to phone the former commercial farmer and arrange a meeting.

“Two things happened here. She wanted to grandstand to the journalist who called her bluff and she ended up with a costly political compromise,” he said.

“The question is, if she is going to ‘personally’ compensate Guy Watson Smith why doesn’t she do it now? Why does she have to wait until she is in power to do it?” political analyst Jupiter Punungwe asked. “There are two possible answers. Either she is lying or she wants to wait until she can steal state money and call it hers,” he concluded.

No comments: