SOMETIME in 2001 when the Zimbabwe Independent led with a story about musician Andy Brown being funded by Zanu PF, some of us shook our heads in disbelief. How on earth did the editors think a mere musician could sell a national business paper, we wondered? The editor had lost it, we said snidely.
Yet from the vantage point of March 2012, the editor’s prescience is plain for all to see. One sure way of judging a nation’s level of sophistication is to measure what it offers on the recreational front and what it does with its artists and intellectuals. It is for that reason that the story of Andy Brown, who died on March 16 and was granted a provincial heroes status, is significant in a way that goes well beyond the narrow confines of showbiz.
According to his friend, Professor Jonathan Moyo, Brown was a willing nationalist whose patriotism came naturally. There is little reason to disbelieve him. Brown’s early compositions, done under Ilanga, confirm him as a politically conscious champion of African freedom.
In the tune ‘Botha’, for example, he assails Apartheid South Africa. Subsequent tunes ‘Chimhandara’, ‘Mapurisa’ and ‘Let the children play’ demonstrate his passion for juvenile discipline and his love for children – all the hallmarks of a responsible African man. This African consciousness continued up to the 2000s through albums like ‘Tongogara’ and tunes like ‘Chigaro Chamambo’. As if that was not enough, Brown spoke a range of African languages and had friends across the region. Moreover, few played the guitar like him.
And yet there is a way in which his story assumes a tragic aspect thereby offering a glimpse into the hollowness of Zimbabwean nationalism. On this score, one can’t help feeling that Zimbabwe, as it did to many, did him a disservice. Here was a talented composer, patriot and guitarist who didn’t get the recognition he fully deserved with the DJs regularly serving some of his compositions under other people’s names (‘True Love’, for example). This probably explains rumours that his departure from Ilanga was followed by bitter rivalry between himself and his compatriots like the late Don Gumbo.
When talent comes along with a sense of being underrated and personal faults like gullibility, naivety and hedonistic tendencies the ground is made ready for manipulation and exploitation. And bring Zanu PF into the whole equation that happens in a wholesale scale.
Of all his faults, naivety was probably the most lamentable. For example, the tune ‘Botha’ betrays an inability to sniff the direction of the world. ‘Botha,’ it goes in part, ‘where are you gonna go when Azania is free? I just want to tell you something, time is running out for you. Are you gonna run, are you gonna jump… you just have got to jump into the sea.’ Here, Brown failed to read signs that a under a new South Africa, thanks to international politics and diplomacy, retribution was going to be out of question. Even Zanu PF, known for their vindictive habits, had found it difficult to defy international opinion as they initiated their rule with reconciliation.
That as late as the late 1980s Brown still foresaw a new South Africa called Azania shows that he had links with PAC exiles who, despite the evidence that South Africa’s future was already being shaped by international capital and diplomacy, were adamant on retributive justice. Moreover, the PAC was already a diminished and an almost irrelevant party making chances of a new South Africa being called Azania rather remote.
There is a current aspect to this streak of naivety. The title ‘Tongogara’, for example, is not befitting of a project in praise of an edifice which the late Josiah Tongogara, judging by his tolerance, would almost certainly have repudiated. In ‘Chigaro Chamambo’, Brown descends into breathtaking gullibility, reducing the ‘Zimbabwean Crisis’ into a petty squabble over power and attendant benefits. That Brown equates modern political authority to kingship shows that while he was a politically aware somebody, he was – like the PAC – beached by tides of history. He failed to understand that ours is a struggle for freedom from blackmail, manipulation, rape, demonisation and an atrocity by a few people trusting in their criminal nationalism and tattered credentials.
Ours is a leadership which while it wants to take glory for Zimbabwe’s high literacy rate will also take care to nature a calculated parallel culture of gullibility as a convenient facility through which to achieve bigoted social engineering. Just because of its intellectual grounding, Zanu PF politics has tended to deceive many people, hence people like Brown despite their political consciousness find it difficult to differentiate between ‘Third Chimurenga’ – an uncreative construction of bigoted people whose solitary aim is to postpone The Hague – and true patriotism. These are the people who have given patriotism a bad name which explains why if today one confesses to their nationalist ideas they will be confused for a Zanu PF lackey. Yet there isn’t anything nationalistic about Zanu PF. Of all the malign inheritances that the Mugabe rule is set to leave behind, the strangulation of genuine nationalism and the subsequent deployment of an aberration – a smidgen of democracy and authoritarian callousness – are probably the worst.
Now, Zimbabwe has the ridiculous distinction of being the only country where bigots successfully masquerade as patriots with the true nationalists ridiculed as ‘clowns’ and ‘’sell-outs’ deserving elimination. Such a system spawns tragedies that go well beyond that of Brown.
The story of Moyo himself demonstrates that sad reality. Here is a Zimbabwean of immense abilities – a man from Tsholotsho who has no restraint in giving his children names from other tribes – but finds himself serving an evil system for no other reason other than he is a nationalist. To Mugabe, for example, Moyo’s patriotism is of little value; what matters are ‘his talents’ which include formulating excuses for the master’s quarrelsome brand of politics.
Internationally, Moyo has become the face of the ‘Third Chimurenga’ and is routinely referred to as a ‘Zanu PF strategist’. The meaning of this is that when time comes for atonement, he is likely to be the target of retributive justice ahead of the authentic Zanu PF strategists – the authors of the carnage with a strong, long and successful history in violence. Must we believe that Moyo is the real Zanu PF strategist and not Emmerson Mnangagwa, Constantine Chiwenga, Augustine Chihuri, Happyton Bonyongwe, Nicholas Goche, Sydney Sekeramayi, Didymus Mutasa and Robert Mugabe? Isn’t he a mere megaphone?
While Moyo himself may not be naïve, his fate rings resonance with that of Brown. During his sojourn in the political wilderness in the aftermath of the Tsholotsho debacle, Moyo regularly fulminated about the bigotry inherent in Zanu PF politics of which he said he was a victim.
Symbolically, Brown’s mother was called Zondiwe (The unloved one) Ncube. Among the pall bearers at her son’s funeral may have been some people who really loathed her for who she was. Like Mugabe who allowed Moyo’s come back into the party simply because ‘we all know his talents’, some people may have attended Brown’s funeral simply because he had willingly or naively offered himself for manipulation.
Like Moyo who returned to Zanu PF with full knowledge that some there resent him, Brown stayed on as a ‘friend’ of the bigots perhaps with full knowledge of their dislike for him as a person. Effectively, Brown spoiled his sweet rhythms with the messages from the earlier era which appealed to yesterday’s ears. Sadly, the fates of Moyo and Brown are just a tip of the iceberg. Talk of the sorrows of a patriot.