ZIMBABWE – The beauty about an argument that has an encompassing, hard-to-fault, premise is that its detractors end up validating it, fortifying it. Responses to my instalment on the People First project last week, left me feeling more or less vindicated, in fact endorsed.
It is always a good, lifting feeling in the life of a columnist, when opponents end up paying grudging tribute, when vice pays tribute to virtue. One such opponent was my young brother, Jealousy Mawarire, until now known for his landmark action that forced the MDCs and Mai Mujuru’s faction into polls they least wanted.
I hope he is aware of this, particularly the fact that Mai Mujuru did not want the 2013 polls. This whole matter provides an ironic setting to Mawarire’s current politics as he has given them to us. But all this is by the by. I want to get to the nub of his argument.
When diviners share lots
Mawarire takes umbrage from my assertion last week that Mai Mujuru and her People First are still to prove they have that key commodity of transactional value in the political market, the People. And have it in compelling quantities. My assertion last week was that the People First people have chosen to introduce themselves negatively by who is not with them, than through a positive affirmation of who “peoples” their ranks, so to speak.That they have not shown us the colour of their people, so to speak.
This Jealousy did not appreciate, inflicting a painful ego wound by giving me Temba for a thought companion. My proposition lacked “basic logical reasoning”, said Mawarire, adding I lacked skills in “both quantitative and qualitative research”, something that made my claims “wild”.
Well, being a polemicist myself, I can tell serious points from those made in levity, those merely meant to shut up an inconvenient opponent by claiming fatal deficiencies both in his person and argument. And the writer does me a favour by remarkably dispensing with the very skills he misses in my argument, in fact showing far advanced finesse in facile claims and generalisations than I can ever muster and manage in a lifetime.
And often, he commits all these “sins” with a streak of humour, which makes him such great company when you have him. The other day I wanted some piece of furniture from Makandiwa the Prophet. Knowing as I did Jealousy’s association with the Prophet, I approached him for intercession. “Mukoma, ko idzo n’anga dzinokweretesana hakata here?” Roughly translated, he reminded me diviners don’t share lots! That is Jealousy for you, forever packed with witty responses, all of them richly steeped in the tradition of our anonymous sages from a long past.
Joining a non-existent party
Mawarire makes three points, all of them hiding their absurdity in humour. Firstly, he proves Mai Mujuru has millions of supporters by publicly buying his own membership card to her non-existent party: “I am one Zimbabwean who has been convinced that in Mujuru, Zimbabwe has hope politically and economically and therefore proudly, herein, declare that I am glad to be part of the People First project”.
You can’t miss the conceit in the high, grandiloquent style by which this “weighty” membership decision is conveyed! And he gives reasons for this seismic decision: he has joined because he is convinced that “there is something fundamentally wrong with our national politics and governance”. And this is his beginning of validating Manheru.
Firstly, it is a project; it isn’t a party. At least for now, which was really my argument last week. Why is it not? What is the impact of that in terms of public perception of it? Secondly, he joins the project out of a realisation of something “fundamentally wrong with our national politics”, not because of something fundamentally right with the People First project which he reckons not by an adumbration and appreciation of its BUILD (which he accuses me of not doing), but by an admiration of Mai Mujuru’s alleged “sober, motherly and moderate political inclination”.
Well, here is a big, bearded man looking for a motherly breast to suckle. She will not sleep alone, I still say! Why introduce People First by what got you to leave Zanu-PF, and not by what it stands for?
A standstill negative
Much worse, Mawarire proves vast membership for People First by publicly joining it. Jealousy the person becomes “people”; Jealousy the man becomes the “millions” that the project yearns for! What a remarkable lesson in quantitative and qualitative methods on research!
From his solitary decision, many shall come, many shall join. He is the band. He is the wagon. The horse, the trailer in tandem. What a brave claim! And if Kindness Paradza disavows what Jealousy Mawarire avows, what, mathematically, is the result? A standstill negative, is it not? Manheru’s painful point last week: that the project is reckoned by a game of subtraction. A Kind departure triggers in a Jealousy! Kuwarira chaiko. Kikikiki!
Wanton figures with no moor
Then Jealousy wades into a real quicksand, hoping wanton figures might just moor his wobbly vessel. Culling statistics from ZEC, he says out of the 6,4 million registered voters, only 3,4 million voted in 2013, meaning 2,9 million did not vote. A straightforward quantitative mathematical point. But what follows is stunning.
The 2,9 million, or 46 percent of the registered vote “is a very important niche that Mujuru can start with”. Note: can START WITH, not can START FROM! Jealousy the man who becomes the million, becomes Jealousy the giver of millions to a lonely politician! I don’t think he is intent on making a serious point. Rather, he seeks to ridicule. A master communicator I have always known him to be. It is a modest proposal in a classical Swiftian sense where the problem of infant poverty and mortality is solved by turning dead infants into a delicious dish for hungry mankind!
More than one brand
Thirdly, Jealousy argues that one cannot deny Mujuru supporters and yet purge whole PECs of Zanu-PF in her name. Surely in the purge is a measurement of Mujuru’s support base. That is a logical point to make, vindicating Mawarire’s urge to uphold logical reasoning. And he concludes: “She certainly has a niche that she can work on to mobilise support”.
It is both about dropped officials and about Zanu-PF structures which Mawarire builds a claim on. I am sure philosophers have a name for this kind of fallacy. Of course, there is a huge gap between suffering disciplinary measures for showing sympathies with a renegade politician who is still in office, and retaining loyalty for her in adversity
Or responding to the pull of office and concomitant prospect it held for the incumbent then, and responding in the aftermath of a show of devastating force by those you thought were effete and on their way out. And as the Mliswa story shows, not everyone who was dismissed goes to the project. Or even leaves Zanu-PF. Or remains in politics.
Human choices are very complex. Models for human behaviour are still to be developed, a point I covered last week by use of the term “stochastic”. Jealousy makes fulsome or overly optimistic conclusions on murky premises. And often buttressed by analogies that invite humour and chuckle. Zanu-PF is the Nokia of politics; Mujuru is either iPhone or Samsung, both of which have overtaken the once popular Nokia brand! “This is the same with political marketing”, thunders Jealousy. You don’t get sense in the analogy, only a parody and sarcasm conveyed so humorously. Good political points are rarely made through recondite analogies. After all, there is an admission that the fall of Nokia creates brands, never a brand, an inadvertent acceptance that Mai Mujuru is but one among many.
The idea that Mai Mujuru is but one of the many is made so beautifully by the Daily News, Jealousy’s ex-employer. The paper ran a story alleging mistrust between MDC-T and the project, demonstrating this mounting mistrust by noting the never-never meeting between Mai Mujuru and Morgan Tsvangirai.
Curiously, a voice in the story talks of “public sympathy” which Mujuru has, and which she hopes to harness to “rally her troops together”. We have moved from Mawarire’s “motherly” claims to yet another nebulous magnitude called “public sympathy”, but whose negative impact on the search for unity within the opposition is anything but nebulous.
Says Didymus Mutasa in the same story: “We only hear that the MDCs are talking to Zanu-PF and we are not party to that (no pun intended). We cannot trust people we have not talked to yet”. Read this together with a piece from the wide-mouthed Obert Gutu of MDC-T, a piece on why coalitions are created.
Four reasons that become all in one
He gives four reasons: individual party weakness; shared ideologies, vision and mission; common enemy and, conflict avoidance within their ranks. Well, he left a fifth reason, which all these put together, a reason so close to our opposition. But if you know Obert, that is an expected ellipsis. What I found even more significant were his parting comments.
Whatever prompted them, they appear an apt and timely response and retort to Didymus Mutasa. “You can have some otherwise lightweight political figures with inflated egos who might then want to punch above their weight,” warns Gutu, adding coalescing partners would help themselves “to appreciate that certain political leaders and parties are bigger than others”.
You have to be very daft not to see who the butt of that rebuke is. Well, there is a whole cupful of hemlock for you Jealousy. Let’s see you drink it, and check whether you walk on the morrow. By the way Mawarire’s membership announcement came a little too late for his actions. He had been watched and detected as he moved from newsroom to newsroom, negotiating placements of ads for the project. It is a small, shrunken world indeed.
Zimbabwe and Cape Town
Cape Town has always been such a significant place for Zimbabwe, both in history and in contemporary politics. Historically, Cape Town was Rhodes’ springboard for his colonial assault on Zimbabwe, back in the late 1880s. We were colonised not by an imperial power, but by its colonials already in overseas lands. And these, led by Rhodes, were Cape Townians. Always keep that in mind.
Today the assault on post-Independence Zimbabwe has again been mounted from Cape Town. I am talking about the auctioning of Zimbabwe’s property through court actions of 78 white farmers who lost land through the restitutive Fast Track Land Reform Programme of 2000. Well, the Empire struck back, ironically using the native’s own institution for justice, namely the Sadc Tribunal, whose judgment of 2009 mischaracterised our land reform programme as racial, and not as a matter of restorative justice. When one reads through documents on Rhodesia’s racially motivated land apportionments, from as far back as the 1920s and especially after the 1930s, one cannot miss the incensing irony in the whole judgment.
Pressing on with a precedent regardless
Cleverly, the 78 landed gentries of Rhodesia took the judgment from Namibia, itself then home to the now defunct Tribunal, to have it registered in the South African court system. They knew the Bench in South Africa has hardly changed, if not by personnel, certainly by ethos. It remains deeply colonial and ashen white in the colour of its judgments.
Resultantly, it was hospitable to that landmark registration bid. The fact of dissolving the Tribunal amounted to a small action coming too late, after incalculable damage had been done already.
This week the 78 farmers harvested from that fateful decision which is set to have far-reaching consequences to Zimbabwe and to all countries in Southern Africa which suffered massive land alienation in favour of a colonial white settler community. I don’t want to congest discussion on this key development whose significance seems lost to our people and to the media.
I just want to introduce it today, hoping to pick it up substantively next week, God willing. Suffice it to disclose that indeed last Friday, two days before the fateful auctioning of the property at, ironically, 28 Salisbury Road, Kenilworth, Cape Town, the Zimbabwe Government had deposited a sum of R800 000,00 in the account of lawyers representing the white farmers.
That payment was disregarded on grounds that are set to raise legal eyebrows, as the lawyers rushed to contrive a precedent which is set to escalate land matters beyond Zimbabwe. Instead of staying the action following the payment, the lawyers pressed ahead, claiming the money was not enough to cover the costs of a Messenger of Court they had not factored in the claim, and to cover another claim, unrelated to the white farmers, brought in by a German company.
Let me leave matters at this point, hoping to pick up the issue substantively next week. For now let it be known that Rhodes’ bones have risen, and before long we might have to pick up arms, again. For clearly it’s not yet Uhuru.