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Zimbabwe’s political history: Reflecting upon the convulsions

18/05/2017 00:00:00
by Seewell Mashizha
 
 
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ACCORDING to Genesis chapters 1–2 all living things, human beings included, were made of dust of the ground. Genesis says, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). And out of the ground, God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man (Genesis 2:19).

Any survey in terms of world mythologies and religions will show that stories of creation in particular make reference to a higher being or higher beings who fashion life out of dust. Given that according to the bible there was nothing of substance in the beginning one can understand the questions that Okot p’Bitek brings up in Song of Lawino, including questions about where God got the dust/soil with which he fashioned humankind.

Other interesting pieces of detail in the creation story, as told in Genesis, include that Genesis, as presented in The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, records that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and that the earth was formless and empty, with darkness over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Owing to the brooding darkness, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God then separated the light from the darkness. The light became day while the darkness became night. That was how morning and evening were created.

God further refined his work by defining ground and sky and decreeing that the water under the sky be gathered to one place and distinct from dry ground. The dry ground became land the waters became the seas and oceans.

The land was to produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.  All this happened.

God made the water teem with living creatures, and willed the birds to fly above the earth across the vault of the sky. So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.  God ordered them to be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and bade the birds increase on the earth.

Regarding the dry land God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.”



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The stage was now all set for the grand entrance of a regal creature. So God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals as well as over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

After God had created humankind, both male and female he blessed them and told to be fruitful and increase in number so as to fill the earth and subdue it. Humankind’s brief included ruling over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.

If God made man in His own image at a time when the whole universe was in darkness, it must be that He himself was also dark in complexion. Therefore, the first creature of creation was a dark man too (now called black). This being multiplied exceedingly well and populated the earth. Black men are everywhere as shown by history.

In Zimbabwe, reference to the land by the indigenous people generally personifies the land thereby making it a living and breathing entity that can reward or punish people according to their misdemeanours.

The land or soil is imbued with parental attributes and everyone on it is a child of the soil (mwana wevhu/umntwana wenhlabathi). The adoption of the mwana wevhu (child of the soil) philosophy by African nationalist movements in Zimbabwe had the effect of bringing people together despite region, language and ethnic origin. A stranger could be stranded in places totally unknown to him and be welcomed by the populace there like a long lost relative.

A stranger was just a friend that people needed to know. This social cohesion was beneficial as the conflict between the colonist government and the black majority escalated. It was a cohesion wrought out of necessity, for everyone everywhere had the same sort of grievances premised on an unjust land tenure system as promulgated by such iniquitous pieces of legislation as the Land Husbandry Act and the Animal Husbandry Act.

During Zimbabwe’s liberation war, young people from the four corners of the country met outside our borders and became one in their need to free themselves from the yoke of colonialism. It mattered not what language one spoke at home or where they came from. The common enemy was a uniting factor. Of course contradictions/negations surfaced from time to time. This is what necessitated negations of the negations along the way to political independence and beyond.

Christian Missionary churches divided the people among themselves and in so doing formed spheres of influence that more or less demarcated land in accordance with the theological persuasions of each group; in effect the churches formed new tribes upon whom they foisted false teachings of received tradition and made their doctrine inviolate. Nowhere were these peculiarities more obvious than when translations had to be done. In such cases, each church had certain lexical and semantic preferences that characterised it.

This was independent African churches were usually proscribed and their leaders arrested and incarcerated. Johanne Masowe was held in prison at the prison in Marondera (then Marandellas) for no clear reason and his pedigree grew with all sorts of wondrous happenings around his person described. The British confiscated the garment, staff and Bible of Johanne Marange. The items were only recently retrieved from the UK by elders of the Church. Even Samere Mutendi the founder of the Zion Christian Church in Zimbabwe served time in a prison in Chegutu (Hartley). But the churches persisted and in time gained some freedom of worship.

Colonial propaganda aimed at trashing organisations with the potential to unite people around a common cause. In this regard certain misrepresentations took root and succeeded in sowing confusion.

The portrayal of ZAPU as a tribally-based party, for example, was a total fabrication. ZAPU was a national organisation with roots everywhere. In the war of liberation ZIPRA fighters were in Hurungwe, Gokwe, Silobela and Zhombe and in the 1980 elections ZAPU won a seat in Kariba. This seat remained in ZAPU hands for some time.

There has been a veritable number of high placed non-Ndebele speaking members of ZAPU. Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa, a prodigious medical doctor after whom Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare is named was the Vice President of ZAPU up to the time of his assassination. Other prominent figures in the party after the split which led to the formation of ZANU were the urbane and articulate Willie Dzawanda Musarurwa in charge of publicity, Josiah Chinamano (Vice President), Joseph Msika, Clement Muchachi and quite a number of others including Professor George Kahari, one-time Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Germany. In the independence elections of 1980 which used the party list system, Ariston Chambati, a ZAPU stalwart captured a seat in Kariba. Similarly, Herbert Ushewokunze was able to win a seat in Bulawayo.

The tribal card is something that has often been overplayed. This tendency persists even today. Rhodesian whites have always found it convenient to harp upon a fake common identity between them and the people in Matabeleland. The assumption was always that both were minorities and by new arrivals by comparison. This thinking was meant to suggest that the two groups had similar interests to protect. Such thinking was of course erroneous given that Mzilikazi’s people suffered great losses at the hands of the colonists. British South Africa Company records show that the settlers appropriated Ndebele herds for themselves. If the Ndebele-speaking part of the country were to seek compensation for their dispossession, Britain would have to be liable and ‘cough up’ so to speak.

The skewed narratives in which dissident militants are given the benefit of the doubt and events such as Entumbane only receive passing mention are a result of politically-motivated bias. During the Entumbane disturbances if you were Shona-speaking and not so proficient with your clicks you were likely to be eliminated at makeshift road blocks where passers-by were made to undergo phonological tests.  As in the Bible, on appointed nights householders had specific things to identify them: a light left on in the toilet and so on. Reports done so far do not concern themselves with these issues.

 


 
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