“No matter how well the hen dances,” says a Ugandan proverb, “the fox will never admire her” because for fox, the hen is just a meal whose talents must never go beyond filling his tummy.
This proverbial predicament of the talented hen whose gifts are ignored while her value as the fox’s delicious meal is upheld compares interestingly to the political and historical predicament that confronts Welshman Ncube in Zimbabwe today.
He is being told in all manner of words and signs that in spite of being mandated to assume the leadership of his party and the position of political principal and that of deputy prime minister, he cannot do so. All sorts of legal and political confabulations are being erected to block his ascendancy, for no other good reason except that he is Welshman, surnamed Ncube.
A loose translation of Lovemore Majaivanna’s classic song “Isono Sami” bespeaks as much as the above Ugandan Ocholi proverb. “No matter how well I dance, even if I go across oceans, whatever it is that I do well,” sings Majaivana, “they won’t publish my story because my one and only sin is being Zwangendaba.”
It is this historical, cultural and political sin of being “Zwangendaba” that pursues Ncube like the Biblical curse of the sin of the fathers that is punished upon their grandchildren. It is very easy to look at this as Ncube’s problem or even to see him as the author of his own demise, but a close Socratic scrutiny of the matter shows that the sin of being “Zwangendaba” dogs all personalities of Ndebele bearing in Zanu PF, MDC-T, and even outside the perimeters of politics -- in schools, universities, companies and sporting organisations.
It is not a joke. It is a serious historical, cultural, spiritual and political question that begs an urgent answer. It is a problem that will not commit suicide but must be confronted and killed once and for all. It is an invitation to deep thought and emergency corrective action that cannot be postponed. It must not be called by any other name, nickname or euphemism but its correct and honest description of anti-Ndebele tribalism that punctuates the politics of Zanu PF and MDC-T in Zimbabwe.
I will, at this juncture, digress a little for illustrative purposes, after all, the curse of the sin of the fathers is not unique to the Ndebele people, but it is uniform to all feared, hated, and marginalised minorities in the world.
Sometime ago in imperial America which did not only enslave but cemented the bricks of her civilisation with the blood of black people rose Marcus Mosiah Gurvey. He built a giant ship called the black star liner in preparation to “ship out” the blacks back to Africa, since America was refusing to “shape up” to the needs of the African Americans. In fear, anger and hatred, the system infiltrated Gurvey’s group, manufactured fraud charges against him, damned, jailed and finished him.
Later on, there rose Martin Luther King Junior, a hair-raising Christian orator who shook the world with his “dream” of togetherness between blacks and whites in America. His teachings amounted to Christian “turn the other cheek” strategy. Angered by his compelling truths, growing popularity and spectacular talents, the system did not only record his various bedroom operations (remember Pius Ncube) but his life ended with a bullet to the head.
Then came Malcolm X, a fiery Islamic speaker of the militant category. X preached “an eye for an eye” and argued that it was impossible to confront the “extreme” violence of American racism with “moderation”. He urged blacks to shoot back to the Ku Klux Klan. Malcolm X also died under a hail of bullets.
Earlier on, as a student of agile intellect, X had disclosed to his teacher that he wished to be a lawyer by profession. The white teacher was taken aback. He advised X to try bricklaying or other professions that were equal to his station of race and class, not law, a preserve of the white and privileged.
There you have it, patient reader. The blacks were the Zwangendabas of the American system. They were not supposed to aspire above what was cut out for them. They were to be labourers and not leaders. They were what legendary British investigative journalist John Pilger calls “the unpeople” who always must be underlings and ladders upon which the masters of destiny must climb and that is it, they are residents of the peripheries of mainstream political and historical happenings whose talents can be enjoyed without their benefit.
Let us return, dear reader, to the Zimbabwean political and historical theatre of the macabre, where the “Zwangendabas” and “unpeople” of Ndebele label are playing out their own encounters with the self appointed first borns of historical and political destiny who occupy the high echelons of Zanu PF and MDC-T leadership.
The late Joshua Nkomo, perhaps the greatest paragon of the Zimbabwean struggle against colonialism, died a broken and finished man. Nkomo was told that he is “father Zimbabwe” which title I still insist was a cruel nickname given to him by his enemies who wanted him to cling to nationalism while they resorted to opportunistic tribalism.
For rightfully aspiring to lead Zimbabwe, Nkomo invited hell for himself and all the Ndebele people. “Father Zimbabwe” left the country through a rabbit exit as Mugabe’s Gukurahundi hounds came for his life and many lives of his disarmed followers. The “chibwe chitedza” and “father of the nation” had to scamper for dear life as “the father of the dissidents” that Mugabe called him in parliament.
And who were the dissidents? This writer attended a school in Bubi, where the “dissidents” came wearing deliberately torn and dirty clothes and raped our teachers. These “dissidents” spoke English with a now familiar accent. The following day, the same dissidents came, wearing new army fatigues, in hot pursuit of yesterday’s dissidents. We were toddlers at primary school, but we were not fooled. The dissidents were soldiers and soldiers were dissidents, with a sole mission to stop the “Zwangendabas” and the “unpeople” from ascending to the leadership of Zimbabwe.
There is also good Gorden Moyo. He worked so hard for the victory of the MDC-T in Bulawayo, to the extent of creating an entire Progressive Residents’ Association to campaign for Tsvangirai and unseat MDC. Gorden Moyo even uttered vows that certain politicians were not to see parliament as long as he lived. He even attended the all important “Botswana meeting” where some MDC parliamentarians were “persuaded” to rebel and to break the MDC for all time.
Recently, when Gorden announced his wishes to be elected into some top office within MDC-T, he was reminded that he is not MDC-T enough to go that far. They enjoyed his efforts in manufacturing their victory and rewarded him with a ministerial post and now they cannot endure his wish to rise to influential ranks. He is a “Zwangendaba” and also very “unpeople” in the eyes of the system that is now using the same people that Gorden campaigned for to remind him to keep his political station.
Thokozani Khupe is the vice-president to Morgan Tsvangirai in the MDC-T and she is the deputy prime minister. In the party and in government, she deputises Tsvangirai but she has to live with the interesting reality that Tendai Biti is called MDC-T “number two”. If Biti is Tsvangirai “second in command”, what is Thokozani Khupe? She is a shadow -- a ceremonial and symbolic place holder like a decimal in arithmetic. She too is “unpeople” and a “Zwangendaba”.
These realities show the difference between Zanu PF and MDC-T to be similar to that of Castle Lager from Castle Lite -- different levels of fermentation and alcoholic concentration, but the same ingredients and flavor.
Professor Jonathan Moyo, the man from Tsholotsho, cannot escape mention in this article. Mugabe is happy to have him back in Zanu PF because of his many “talents”. His “talents” are well understood to mean his industry at political strategy and his ability to command words as if he created them.
Moyo does hammer and chisel words into such a shape that delivers old ideas as if they were novel discoveries of today. Words obey him, and he is a champion of politispeak. Any political party will be happy to have him.
For all his talents and service to Zanu PF, Moyo did not create Zanu PF, nor has he been in there for very long, yet all the sins of Zanu PF have been heaped upon him. He is said to have single handedly sat down in his closet, drafted and enacted AIPPA and POSA. There are senior Zanu PF politicians who have commanded genocidal brigades and overseen the slaughter of many innocents, but these are tolerated.
For being a spokesperson of the regime for that period, all the sins of Zanu PF rest on Moyo’s political shoulders. Yet there are many who have served Zanu PF bigger, bolder and longer than Moyo including the now political “angels” like Pachedu Roy Bennett who fundraised and rallied for the genocidal Zanu PF government for years but are now delivering lectures in Paris on the evils of the same party.
I have been confronted by angry Tsvangirai supporters who charge that I unnecessarily bundle Tsvangirai together with Mugabe and criticise him without observing that he is far better than Mugabe. I refuse that suggestion. Ronald Roberts Suresh in No Cold Kitchen, an unauthorised biography of anti-apartheid Nobel Prize winning novelist Nadine Gordimer, accuses her of being “weirdly positioned as one wanting to undo racial distance while remaining a beneficiary of that distance.”
It is the same with Tsvangirai, while he is happy to win awards presenting himself as Mugabe’s formidable opponent; he is not showing himself willing to abandon the benefits of the genocidal system that Mugabe and Zanu PF have established in Zimbabwe. He carries himself more like a Zanu PF reformist or faction leader than one who wishes to overthrow the system. Angry Tsvangirai and Mugabe’s supporters should also know that I do not write to make friends but to expose what I see as truths.
The political spectacle that is ensuing around Welshman Ncube is not an accident but an incident deliberately and conspiratorially occasioned by the anti-Ndebele system of tribalism in Zimbabwean politics. Notice how two weeks ago, Mugabe’s parrot and poet Nathaniel Manheru was accusing Ncube of having been “a negotiator without a principal” and for the first time praising Mutambara as “his own man”.
Tsvangirai was also lionised by Manheru as a political “big boy” which was also a first. This was a deliberate effort by the system to fertilise the political landscape in Zimbabwe for resistance to Ncube’s ascendancy. Just notice Mugabe’s response “only if Mutambara resigns” otherwise “we cannot remove him.” It is now clearer than before that Priscilla Misihairabwi’s argument that there is an enduring fear of Ndebele leadership in Zimbabwe is a valid conclusion.
Joubert Mudzumwe and others were sponsored and encouraged to mount that legal challenge to give the system an excuse to block Ncube’s rise. No doubt Ncube is a formidable politician of robust intellectual stamina and agile emotional intelligence who is equal to this challenge.
The political lesson that can be gleaned from this unfortunate attempt by tribalists in Zimbabwe to block the political ascendancy of a deserving and capable politician is that the separatists and divisionists in Zimbabwe are not as commonly alleged in Matabeleland but they are in Harare and in government. What Mthwakazi Lliberation Front and others are doing is to react to the separatism and divisionism.
There is no doubt any more that what is happening around Welshman Ncube in Zimbabwe is a bold attempt to fulfill the dictates of the infamous 14 paged 1979 nine tribal manifesto that clearly spells out how the Ndebele people must be undermined in all spheres of Zimbabwean life.
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Zimbabwean journalist who is studying in Lesotho, he is contactable on e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org