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Maurice Vambe: The pitfalls of grudge scholarship
14/12/2012 00:00:00
by Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana
Under attack ... Professor Maurice Vambe
Zim in the Theopolitics of the Future: Dinizulu
Reptiles and Eagles in High Noon: Dinizulu
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Mugabe: A Noah without an ark
Tsvangirai: apostle of ethnic hatred
Hitting Budapest: long issues, short story
Mnangagwa: limits of vuvuzela politics
Will the real Dabengwa stand up
Gukurahundi: Mugabe losing fight against history
Chamisa note: ears of a hippo
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Beating Mugabe at his own game
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INTELLECTUALS, especially those of the active academic category, have long been relied upon by their societies as reliable repositories of information, bold dispensers of fair commentary, articulate suppliers of researched truths and even dependable disseminators of practicable knowledge that societies can live by, in form of intelligent observations and clear policy recommendations.

For their industry at the sciences of research and fact-finding, their skill and craft in the arts of communicating knowledge through lectures and publications, academics have been recognised as leaders who generate and discharge ideas that rule societies.

Sadly, and most unfortunately, as spectacularly represented in Professor Maurice Vambe’s recent “research” article published in the Journal African Identities titled “Zimbabwe genocide: Voices and perceptions from ordinary people in Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces, 30 years on,” some academics can discharge distortions, supressions, denials and downright falsifications of the truth and still attempt to get away with it by disguising their sins behind pretensions to scientific research and lofty professorial titles.

Not only that, but curiously, persons of doubtful perception, suspicious intellectual calibre, fragile scholarly acumen, questionable nobility of intention and dubious moral make-up can tip-toe themselves into the apex of the academic ladder and cause such smelly offence as Vambe has done in this provocative article that is bound to embarrass those who taught him, shock those that have taken him seriously as a scholar and alarm those that he teaches. And even soil the name of those that publish his works.

Most of us who know Vambe and encountered his other very silly article published in the Journal of Literary Studies, and was most foolishly titled “Fictions of autobiographical representations: Joshua Nkomos’s The Story of my life,” an article which argued that Joshua Nkomo’s painful narratives of persecution of Zapu and massacres of his supporters by Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in his biography were a work of “fiction,” forgave Vambe from the bottom of our sore hearts.

Our forgiveness was based in knowing that Vambe’s intellectual background has largely been based - from secondary school to the University of Zimbabwe - only on the reading of and writing about fictitious novels, especially Children’s Literature which eventually made it to being the subject of his full professorial inaugural lecture at UNISA.

Don’t they say those who know, that if a fool’s only tool is a hammer, everything looks to him like a nail? For professor Vambe life is a novel, and a child one, even such ghoulish episodes of lived and suffered history like the Gukurahundi genocide. And this must stop because analysis of child literature while it is welcome and indeed useful in its place, analysing and communicating genocide in the same childish and kindergarten manner as Vambe seeks to, is unforgivable misbehaviour.

In the gibberish disguised as scholarly work, and which is a childish elongation and para-phrase of Gukurahundi perpetrator Emerson Mnangagwa’s statement that the Gukurahundi genocide is “a closed chapter,” Vambe’s sentiments do not only display fragile scholarship and flawed intellectual faculties. In fact, more than ordinary and forgivable incompetence is visibly at play.

His agenda is to use the guise of objective scholarship and scientific research predicated on quantification and ‘’graphing’’ of people’s voices to perpetuate genocide denialism, while at the same time he positions himself as a Zanu PF consultant charged with the task of perfuming the smelly legacy of the genocidal party into popular acceptability.

Like many who are angry on behalf of Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe, Vambe bears a grudge with victims of Gukurahundi who are refusing to forgive and forget the genocide. True to the Somali proverb which holds that “the higher a monkey climbs, the more exposed its bottom becomes.” High on his professorial chair, Vambe’s silly genocide denialism and shameful apologies for murderous tyranny are like, the behinds of a monkey upon a high tree, exposed for all to see.

This article has no intention to hang Vambe out to dry, or does it have any aim to crucify his otherwise promising name. The intention is to challenge Vambe’s intellectual dishonesty and academic fraud with the aim of protecting historical truths. Pursuant to the announced agenda of this article, I, at this juncture chose to take a pound for pound refutal of professor Vambe’s bold falsehoods and intelligent misrepresentations of the truth about the Gukurahundi genocide and the victims who suffered it.

To start with, Vambe attempts to exonerate Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF from crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing by alleging that the Gukurahundi genocide was in a time when “between 1980 and 1987 Zimbabwe was plunged into a civil war.” This is nonsensical first because Gukurahundi was isolated to Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands; it did not affect the whole of Zimbabwe.

Secondly, it was not by any measure a civil war but an armed attack by the state on unarmed Ndebele speaking and Zapu supporting civilians. For Vambe to want to sell the false notion that Gukurahundi was ever a national problem is a mischievous scholarly attempt to conceal than to reveal the truth.

Even more mischievous of Vambe is his futile attempt to convince us that the tribalism of Mugabe, which has become a guiding ideology of Zanu PF and MDC-T was not a factor in Gukurahundi but a “faked, cheap and ethnicised notion” by Ndebele activists.

Vambe and his fellow charlatans need to be reminded of a speech Mugabe gave in 1977, where he said independent Zimbabwe was to be “a natural Shona nation.” Two years latter, some well-known Zanu PF technocrats drafted the anti-Ndebele tribalist 14-page document that Zanu PF and MDC-T are implementing to the letter today. Vambe’s ignorance of these facts is intentional ignorance and deliberate effort to deceive.

There is no limit to the professor’s insanity and its design to deceive in the guise of scholarly argumentation. He goes on to say “memories” of Gukurahundi “pain from the massacres are lost in the cracks due to the wear and tear of the time.” As if this is not enough lunacy, he waffles that “most of the people who were direct victims are dead, so most of the responses could only be stories passed on to younger generations.”

People in Africa are still feeling the pain of slavery and colonialism, Mugabe himself has been screaming hoarse, pleading with youths not to forget the agonies of the struggles against Rhodesian colonialism in the fifties, sixties and the seventies. So what demon tells Vambe that victims of Gukurahundi will lose memory of what happened to them in the eighties and in other ways continues to happen now?

If Mugabe himself is still alive at the age of 88, what twisted logic tells Vambe that most direct victims of Gukurahundi are dead? Does he know anything about the life expectancy of the people of Matabeleland that the rest of us do not know? It’s neither a demon that has possessed Vambe nor a stroke of twisted logic but the pitfalls of grudge and tribalist scholarship that get the better of Vambe’s average mental faculties.

Otherwise what would lead an entire professor of Literature in English, even if it is child literature to make the mad allegation that “most young people from Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces” today “ may not have directly suffered (from the genocide) but lost parents and relatives.” If losing parents and relatives is not direct suffering then what is?

Exactly, besides your obvious one-eyed tribalist analysis and evidently fragile scholarship, what is your problem? There are other glaring indications of Vambe’s feeble scholarship that must be pointed out. He claims that ‘the mass desertion by ZIPRA members from the newly integrated Zimbabwean National Army frightened Zanu authorities.’’ No evidence is given for the use of the term “mass desertion.”

Second, the title of his article and objectives given indicate that Vambe sought to capture “voices and perceptions from ordinary people from Matabeleland and the Midlands provinces, 30 years on,” but there is no single reference to what the people said in the form of direct quotations. What’s available are his graphs and tables that contain simplistic quantification of subjective aspects of life in an attempt to mislead and misinform.

The whole article is sparsely referenced, bordering on plagiarism as the Professor consistently avoids engaging with existing authoritative literature on this subject. He runs for such dubious sources as newspapers as The Patriotic which he knows very well is a project of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) that seeks to misinform and confuse people. He mentions that “at their peak, the dissidents numbered 400.” Again, he does not reference his source for this information. What’s your source Professor Vambe that you dare not reference?


Vambe also makes such senseless statements: “It is too late in the day to imply that there were no Ndebele soldiers in the Fifth Brigade or in the secret services that directed the killing of ordinary people and also that there were no Shona people who died during Gukurahundi from violence by dissidents.”

His reference for this is (Unity Accord 1987, p. 2). What is your point Vambe? A monkey perhaps exposing its bottom indeed! In his acknowledgements he writes that “I have also used material from government sources,” but his reference does not have a single government source listed. In the body of the article there is no single government source referred to.

It would seem Vambe created a questionnaire for his friends to complete and then claims to have interviewed people in Matabeleland and the Midlands. This argument is made more plausible by the fact that he totally ignores directly capturing the voices of his information through direct quotations.

How hard must the truth be pressed into the impervious minds of tribalists like Professor Vambe and his lot that the biggest tragedy of Gukurahundi for some young people in the Midlands and Matabeleland is that those who lost their parents before they got their birth certificates are now stateless adults who have no records, could not get any education, cannot get any formal employment anywhere in Zimbabwe and outside. Some of them are the jobless, homeless and lifeless people that Vambe sees through the window of his comfortable office at the University of South Africa.

It is scandalously fraudulent scholarship therefore, that can conclude as Vambe has done that these people have not been direct sufferers of the genocide and that they have “moved on with life.” Which life? Does the formation of secessionist and some irredentist organisations like the MLF, MLO, MNP and other radical Mthwakazi groupings prove to Vambe’s scholarly mind that Gukurahundi victims have moved on with life?

Before the learned Professor tells us that the intention of his study, which we now know to be dubious, “is not to dwell in the gory past, to open wounds,” he must tell us exactly when his “authorities” as he refers to Gukurahundi perpetrators in his article, took measures to heal bleeding Gukurahundi wounds. Its wishful thinking and somnambulist scholarship that will make such easy conclusions as Vambe has advanced in his “research” article.

What makes Vambe’s intentional ignorance of the magnitude of Gukurahundi even more infuriating is that he acknowledges that “there is sizable literature...on the... genocide,” but goes on to totally ignore the valuable literature in his article.

Not so surprising to those in the know, of the many informative news portals on the Zimbabwean situation, Vambe choses to rely on The Patriot, a portal whose links with the CIO is a story for another day. Vambe’s article could have benefited from Kevin John Woods’ book, The Kevin Woods Story, which narrates how the Mugabe regime through the CIO sponsored some now well-known dissidents to terrorise people and businesses in Matabeleland to create an excuse for the tribalist state to unleash the Fifth Brigade.

At misrepresentation, Vambe is an artist. Trying to perfume the Gukurahundi genocide from the smelly tribal onslaught that it is and make it look like a national political disturbance he says “most Ndebele and Shona people who directly suffered from the authorities’ heavy handedness in dealing with the dissident menace are still bitter that their lives were ruined.”

Exactly what is Vambe smoking? It is knowledge in the public domain that Gukurahundi was an anti-Ndebele military operation and Shona people were spared. Even those Shona-speaking people that were in the senior leadership of Zapu and ZIPRA were neither imprisoned nor molested in any way.

On this one Vambe must just park his nonsense, he will not mislead anyone. His intention to supress rather than express the truth is even dramatised in that he deliberately chose to interview, if he did, scared villagers who were not even willing to disclose their names when outspoken victims of Gukurahundi are abound everywhere.

For a scholar who has been publishing and lecturing at universities for close to two decades now, Vambe’s showing in this particular “research” article is cause for deep worries and fears that he might after all not be the robust and combative intellectual that he wants to be seen as. In his rather too thin bibliography, for a topic of this weight, Vambe indulges in obscene falsifications.

The reference, “Mlambo, A.S, 2008. The hidden dimension of operation Murambatsvina in Zimbabwe. Harare: Weaver Press” is totally fraudulent and misleading. Professor Alois Mlambo has not written any book by that title. In fact, Vambe is the one who edited a small monograph with that title and he has even quoted himself from that book in this particular article.

This cannot be a mistake but an attempt to massage the bibliography and sell an impression to funders and readers that rigorous research has been done. A very small antic for a total professor. One wonders if this “research” article went through required peer review processes. As edited by the esteemed Australia-based Professor Pal Ahluwalia, African Identitieshas been a journal of sound quality and standard, for Vambe to assault its reputation this way is very sad.

If indeed Vambe did a research, he did so when he had already prepared conclusions. While he might advance such vaunting declarations as that “there are no hard feelings that can justify the claim that a silent genocide is still taking place” in Matabeleland and the Midlands, the truth is that victims of Gukurahundi have not recovered from its devastating impact and the perpetrators have not changed their nativist, tribalist and xenophobic agenda against the Ndebele people.

The reason why Gukurahundi genocide wounds will not heal any time soon and why Zimbabwean nationhood will remain a slippery pipe dream is because those like Vambe who are supposed to know better, are complicit in the toxic habits of ethnic hatred and genocide denialism.

Using the guise of scientific scholarly research and the weight of his professorial title in the exalted platform of African Identities Journal, Vambe has discharged primitive tribalism and exhibited alarming propensity to bend scholarly codes and ethics in the process.

The ordinary people of Zimbabwe are at the mercy of deceitful, insincere and hateful intellectual and political elite who are equipped with narrow ethnic and partisan agendas that smell to the high heavens.

Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana writes from South Africa. He can be contacted by e-mail on dinizulumacaphulana@yahoo.com

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