Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Other Side – Million Man March: So Hard a Fact, So Harder to Accept
PRESIDENT Mugabe and the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe greet multitudes of zanu-pf supporters who, in spite of the bad press from private media and cold weather, graced the Million-Man March in Harare on Africa Day

Nathaniel Manheru
Zimbabwe Herald

BACK in the 1970s, marriage took the form of musical rivalry that pitted families of the bride and the groom. Each side composed songs that exalted the qualities of their side — both real and imagined — while heaping execrable qualities on the opposite side. The starting point was the physical side of either party: the big, lumpy lips that resembled lungs left to dry by the fireplace; big eyes that would frighten even the owls, sunken face structure that beat a baboon in a competition; rickety legs wider than goal posts.

Things like that, but all said in fierce jest. And when the physical side was exhausted — which was more not that often — the taunting would extend to families: how they did not have bedrooms of zinc; how they survived on ants, their precarious welfare levels, which is why marriage for them was a coping mechanism, a way of lessening mouths to feed.

When wedding taunts reigned

There was this one song the Manherus were fond of singing, always a winner in the competition. It extolled our own, while excoriating those to whom our daughters would have been betrothed. It would be accompanied by a reckless throw of limbs, not least the family economy as wielded by our women folk. It went like this:

All done in utter joy

The song was a threat to parents of the groom, a dire warning that the Manherus would not hesitate to follow through and repossess their daughter in the event of any mistreatment, a nagging mother-in-law or a nagging husband. It pampered the bride while presumptively warning the groom already heaped with imaginary excesses. Much worse, presumption soon gave way to conviction, which is why the groom would be imaged in animal epithets, principally chidhanana — that rock lizard which feigns hitting against the rock as if in resistance. And so the banter would go on, with the groom’s side responding in kind. A typical song from the groom side would go like this:

The past that’s gone forever

In the riposte, the bride was likened to the little one of a donkey roguishly running away from its home and mother without knowing where to spend the night. The innuendo-filled song suggested the girl had eloped, something that was always frowned upon in Shona custom. But the competition would be limited to the young ones while the elders would treat each other with befitting dignity, distance and decorum. We did not have radios. We did not have DJs. But then, who needed them? Marriage ceremonies generated their own forms of entertainment and it used to be real fun. It is harder to recapture that era, what in this world of ICTs and staid music from machines.

The day a small palm started a fight

The Million Man March came on Africa Day, May 25th, and it is now past as an actuality. But it remains firmly entrenched in the hearts and minds of an ailing opposition which must be kicking itself for ever challenging Zanu-PF to the game of street politics. It is a nightmare, an ever living fear hard to overcome.

Led by the Party’s Youth League, the event lived up to its billing. In spite of the vast numbers, there was order, perfect order. In spite of the cold weather, the turnout was massive, far greater than the crowd that greeted the President in 1980, at the close of the war of liberation, the beginning of electoral politics which Zanu won by a landslide. In spite of the bad press, the mood was buoyant without being boisterous, and even those who decided to stand aloof were left alone, more pitied than accosted. With a million, one did not need one man more.

Call it arrogance of the majority. A great show of force in the presumed citadel of opposition. In Harare, where the MDC-T had marched a handful previously, hoping to send shivers to those in power. Tsvaru wadana tivu, we say in Shona, which is to say a man with a small palm must not start a fight, the reply will be hefty and filling.

When a million is figurative

The opposition press is in denial, hopeless denial. The opposition itself, always used to a rote-learnt line, says the march was nothing, a farce. Really? Sometimes you gain credibility by acknowledging a score. Or where you can’t help it, by simply letting a bad day pass. That way the bad day may be shorter.

But when you challenge the obvious — as did this Obert Gutu guy — you provoke a louder response, a bigger, more filling slap that leaves you misshapen, reeling, worse off. Here we go. Million? You would be a fool take that literally, a big fool bereft of the art of political messaging. The language of politics is figurative, always. Where numbers are counted — as was the case with MDC-T’s miserly stampede — that mobilisation will have failed, the call will have gone unheeded.

Typical of hard sale, waning influence. Back home, the lore is vanhu kwaive mavhu nemarara — sand and debris — our own figurative way of reckoning big gatherings. Who has ever counted sands that make our earth? Or the debris that make our MDC-T-led Harare such an eyesore? And that is all you need to reach the political million, to suspend disbelief. The issue is the Youth League pulled a stunning one, a nonpareil. I challenge any party to do half as well, I, the son of Manheru. And the bandwagon effect, oh God help the opposition!

Spacious arguments from those who should know

I read two responses, both desperate coping mechanisms. One: at attempt by Coltart to set off the Zanu-PF million against Tsvangirai’s little thousands who gathered at the same venue towards the tail-end of 2013 campaign. Cross-over rally they dubbed it, but one that marked a slouch back to dejection and current endless oblivion.

What a sparse argument, decidedly spacious for a lawyer to make. The subsequent poll results situated that baby crowd into its proper perspective, which is why Coltart is writing from without, while Mugabe speaks from within, from the podium of presidency, yehumambo. So we have here a self-nullifying argument answered here just in case there is persistent, stubborn denial.

Two: that dzakutsaku in 1980 had such a huge turnout, but proceeded to show poorly in the intervening election. Deliberately, the argument does not say showed poorly against who. And deliberately, the same argument is not used to caution Coltart and his red caps in 2013, both beckoning parallels. This is how the opposition self-deludes, and pretends shock when beaten fair and square.

Lauding our own

The third response is borrowed from Manheru’s argument when the MDC-T raised its handful a few weeks back. Then, I said what then after that? Now there is an attempt to raise the same question in respect of Zanu-PF and its million man march (I like the internal rhyme mhani!). Ahh the fallacy of comparisons. Get real guys.

The million man march — I can’t say it enough — was meant to celebrate the President as a triple leader: of Zimbabwe, of sadc, of Africa. Three portfolios rolled in one, two of them transnational. All done ably by this Atlas-like veteran politician. It has not happened. It may never happen again, at least in my lifetime. Certainly never in Tsvangirai’s lifetime, what with him struggling just to be one of these, struggling more than four times! You would be a big fool to think Zanu-PF had its sights set on local politics.

It is local politicians who are panicking, drawing local meaning. Serves them right. Zanu-PF sought to speak to Africa, to the world, to say: here we have produced a world leader from a continent. We laud our own, like the proverbial lizard that jumped off the high iroko tree and still lived long enough to tell its grandparents how the jump felt. The numbers did just that and you would be a fool to ask what next. Huru inokudzwa newayo, we say in Shona. We did just that.

Zanu yapinda muchiona/Heyo yapinda

But just in case you persist in asking what next, here are the dampening facts. With such a massive parade, Zanu-PF is making its sure win in 2018 only a matter of course and time. It has made an emphatic entry into the electoral register. Yes, Rugare Gumbo got it right when he said through the million man march, Zanu-PF is rehearsing to rig!

Let him rehearse back so the crowds battle is back on an even keel. Let MDC-T rehearse back so Zanu-PF’s street dominance is equalled or challenged. Let both combine so we see what their grand coalition is made off. It was their choice that the 2018 elections start in 2016. So why cry now? In the absence of matching acts, who would be condemned for interpreting this as a prefigurement of 2018?

Who in the opposition? And when 2018 confirms it, who dares mumble about rigging? And hope to be heard? During the war, Zanu had a song that celebrated its quiet advance as a fighting machine. The song went like: Zanu yapinda/ Muchionaaa Muchiona/ Heyo yapinda/ Muchiona makangotarisa muchiona.

Roughly translated the song celebrated Zanla’s ineluctable advance against Rhodesian gaping eyes. As I write, the western world, both directly and through their union, have begun pouring money into regime-change NGOs in anticipation of 2018. Here was a very considerate message from Zanu-PF to say tarry thee, don’t waste your resources in lost cause. 2018 is won already.

2018 was won on Africa Day. As for the Americans, just read their latest human rights report on Zimbabwe and you begin to see what mischief is already afoot, much of it fed in by the hostile press and facile NGO reports. A whole superpower, accredited here, but going by shallow media claims for a report? But there is bound to be a real rethink as we head up to London for another round of re-engagement. I liken this to the battle for Mavonde in 1979. It gave us a good Lancaster.

Taking politics off streets

Secondly, this whole game of taking politics to the streets should stop, and the way to stop it is not through police bans. It is by setting an unattainable benchmark, itself an everlasting image to invoke against any ambitious handfuls paraded by the little parties. Zanu-PF does not need another one in Bulawayo or anywhere.

It has raised a million for the electoral century and the rest is history. Through that action, the constitutional right to assembly will exist as an uncontested right, a passive one which none dare claim. So, yes, the idea was to make street politics very, very expensive for whoever tries them, expensive through deadly comparison.

On that score one finds the MDC-T a bit obdurately foolish. They know their leader is bedridden, unwell after a serious procedure. Sure to be unavailable for quite a while. Yet they continue to suggest he will lead from the front in Bulawayo. Really? Or is the coup complete? Save vadingurwa? In politics you are better off dealing with obdurate facts of life than seeking to wrap them with khaki paper. And obdurate facts are like a beast with horns: you don’t wrap it flat as we say in Shona.

The game has changed guys

Thirdly, the lore of factionalism which the hostile press has been harping on has proven to be just that, an old wives’ tale. I kept saying even at its most fractious moment, Zanu-PF was always mobilising, the real challenge being to ensure the internal contradiction is not allowed to get out of hand.

This is why the meeting between the President and War Veterans was so key. I mean the real meeting, not the subsequent media performance which many mistook for the actual meeting. And pity the ill-adjusted press still holding on to an old, stale script of divisions. As we move into the future, Zanu-PF shall be one whole, indivisible. Which for me was what emphatically answered the so-what of opposition. They say it was about Mugabe showing his invincibility inside his party.

Yes it was, as indeed he should. The perception of a Zanu-PF without a centre has vanished, once and for all. Let’s change the debate guys, throwing real light where the centre is begging, namely in MDC-T and ZPF. The biggest gesture was the image of Kudzi Chipanga and his Youth League briefing the Main Wing of the Party at the Party HQ about the project.

Those with clear heads should have read that the times had changed, and with them, the game. That then made the million men march a show of intra-party, inter-generational, inter-arms unity in organisational action. Exactly the monster the opposition will meet in 2018. It’s awesome.

Zanu Yedu Tinooidaaa

Fourthly and for this week lastly, there is this lame argument around bussing people he he he! Nonsense! Did we not see the Youth League executive addressing meetings in all the country’s 10 province? Do you reach 10 provinces to raise crowds for a local rally? And were people supposed to come on foot from those provinces?

How is it different on Election Day? Is there a law that stops bussing of voters seeking to reach a booth, assuming there will be some booths far away from the voting public? What is the point? Yes, people were bussed from all over the country, people today, voters tomorrow. And the difficulties by some in getting back to their home provinces. What does that tell?

That resources for the million man march were sparse, hard to come by. What was abundant was the zeal, the will to march for a million. You can’t argue that State resources were abused and still find people stranded in Harare. Does that make sense? What is your day like, dear critic? Zanu-PF will did it again! Zanu Yedu/ Tinooidaaa Zanu Yedu tinoida/ Kunyangwe zvavo/ Kunyangwe zvavo vakachema, vakarovera musoro padombo, mangopinda tinokunda.

MugabeOne million-man marchZanu-PFZimbabwe

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