The cynical weapon that some Zimbabweans know best is betrayal of one another in various aspects of our lives. The cynical weapon of an African is best described as betrayal of self and the other to get piecemeals not worth by any measure of decency.
Betrayal runs deep in some of our African societies and has its origins that predate colonialism. We have been reading on social media about a woman returnee from UK who was among Zimbabwean demonstrators who mobbed and embarrassed current Foreign Minister Sibusiso Moyo when he visited Britain sometime ago.
Someone in the UK must have known that this woman was travelling home to Zimbabwe and waited for an opportune time to betray her to the Zanu PF led government’s notorious secret service with clear intentions to harm her.
Whoever did that did not consider much about her fate at the hands of a brutal regime.
I felt a deep sense of sadness when I read an article about the woman said to be among the group that was quarantined at Belvedere Teachers College.
At the same time, I realised that what has happened in Harare was typically, the mentality of a lot of Africans generally, Zimbabweans included.
For centuries, the history of some Africans are narratives embedded with betrayal of one another. It is so sad that we have not come off this hateful, detestable and invidious habit. To betray anybody to Zanu PF government disregarding what would happen to the fate of this woman is satanic.
He/she knows exactly, intentions to betray her determined by hate. It is betrayal done consciously with intentions to revenge, crush fatally once and for all with Mnangagwa’s CIO, whatever vendetta the betrayer has about her.
Who betrayed an African to the European slave traders and the slave trade was a booming and lucrative industry that saw millions of Africans sold to America to work as slaves: What did those Africans who betrayed their own get from the trade? They got, with all disgust it deserves, a “piece of cloth and Whiskey!”
West African monarchs sold other Africans as merchandise devoid of Ubuntu to get a piece of cloth! It was the Africans wholly in cahoots with European slave traders who waged wars with other Africans, captured those who lost the battle by transporting them to Goree, a Slave-market place, where the trading took place.
In 1979, my mother, Mrs Louisa Sihwa was then Chief Representative of Zapu in Senegal. She visited an island called Goree, a place that was built by an Afro-French in 1784, used as a house of slaves, a transit to no point of return. It took me decades to understand those letters my mother wrote describing what she saw in that island of Goree. Those pictures of the island never escaped her: the horror of the gate so vivid as if it were yesterday. She wrote me letters extensively about Goree and the lessons we learn from such history of betrayal of your own to get in return “perishables” a cheap barter exchange of trade: the cloth and whiskey drinks. The next question we have to ask ourselves is: knowing how notorious Zanu PF regime is and how they will respond to this case with the woman who demonstrated against Minister Sibusiso Moyo.
I feel sick right down the pit of my stomach just by imagining what will happen to her. The nauseating feeling comes again when I think about the betrayer, what is he/she going to get if this woman was murdered by Zanu PF by torture. All those are possibilities that are real for us who know Zanu PF right from the time of the liberation struggle to today.
A piece of cloth and whiskey determined the lives of millions of Africans who are now called Africa-Americans today. We Africans are lucky in that the African Americans can speak to us despite the betrayals of centuries. It would appear some Africans have not learnt anything; this betrayal continues to this day because we have not revised this devilish aspect of Africa and Africans: we need to revisit the devilish in us. We are quick to talk about racism, especially black-white racism.
We have books about racism that can fill libraries and bookshops. Truly little is spoken about how Africans betrayed Africans to the very white people they condemn racist. It escapes us completely that sad and dark chapters of our African history have not been adequately addressed by almost all communities, governments and academics in Sub-Sahara continent, we wonder still when we experience xenophobia in South Africa. This brute force against Africans exclusively has not stopped. Its pain and violence punctuating the African lifestyle.
My topic is not far from talking about “betrayal” in the liberation struggle for independence. How many people were murdered because of “Betrayal” that saw commanders, freedom fighters right down to ordinary citizens killed by burning in open fires, so many of them were shot dead without thorough investigation. Some were made to dig their own graves and were buried alive: remember Dr. Edgar Madekurozva. The most excruciating stories are told about the nastiness of the struggle for independence of Zimbabwe. A traitor must be killed was the mantra in liberation movements but there was no clear demarcation line that determined the traitor and the innocent. In most cases personal scores were given a new definition; betrayal. It was easy to label one as a traitor to the higher authorities in the liberation struggle not for any reason but was the way to square up personal differences.
There were some ludicrous punishments that were given to freedom fighters from both Zanu and Zapu. If there was a renegade in the army, he will be dispatched to the war front to fight the enemy Smith’s army: (there will always be some people in any given organisation who found loyalty of any kind a difficult thing to do). Ofcourse, there were other reasons that were deemed as traitorous and must be punished for. In some strange cases, they will be told to go to the war front without arms. How can sending a freedom fighter to the front to fight a noble war be made punishment measures again? The struggle for independence was a noble war, supposed to be a noble war and a battlefield was not to be punishment by any stretch our anyone’s imagination. This punishment on freedom fighters betrayed the values and principles of the liberation struggle altogether. In most cases logic was not questioned at all because it would mean you are not down the line, unfaithful to the commanders.
There are some questions about the struggle for independence that still linger in our minds till today. How did the Smith regime get INTELLIGENCE information about the whereabouts of the camps for freedom fighters in Zambia and Mozambique? It is widely whispered that some commanders betrayed the struggle by collaborating with the Smith regime for monetary reasons noticeable by their lavish lifestyles in the middle of the struggle. They gave military information to Smith’s Ken Flower he needed to bomb those camps with precision. A good example is Freedom Camp situated 35 kilometres away from Lusaka. When the camp was bombed by Rhodesian forces, those that survived the bombing were sent to Solwezi, away from the front line. (Solwezi is near Congo border with Zambia) Smith’s intelligence got it from the traitors inside Zapu. The Smith’s military got the exact location of the camp and bombed the Solwezi camps once more. Curiously, the sell-outs were not punished. They are known by those that were in Zambia during the struggle till today. This brings me to the argument about the demarcation line between a sell-out and an innocent freedom fighter who will be sent to the front to fight a liberation was as punishment, just flimsy accusations.
Betrayal, pain and violence play a big role in Zimbabwe politics today. Pain and violence are the stick that the government has used since independence, curiously there is no carrot. Other organisations in the region have, replicated, copied the style of violence to reduce its citizens they purport to protect from Zanu PF regime. The Mthwakazi MLO, one of whose leadership is Israel Dube does not hesitate to warn all those traitors not loyal enough: they do not want to subject themselves to Mthwakazi political party ideology of cessation. Israel Dube’s party MLO have literally replicated the killing art of Zanu PF in their struggle for independence of Mthwakazi Republic; they warn gloatingly, without shame how traitors will be executed by burning: Winnie Mandela necklace. It can be said with equal truth that Israel Dube admires Dambudzo Mnangagwa’s brutality when dealing with perfidious citizens. This is what is meant when they say: pain and violence is easily replicable and contagious. Brute force brings the citizens to submission – coercion. This is the rhythm and grammar we have known before independence and after independence, a sad legacy for the coming generation to leave behind when we pass on.
Betrayal runs in families too. We need not discuss this now because we know what betrayal in family setups is like. One thing stands out of our history as a nation and nations of this great continent: This country’s habitual lies in the fact that there is a lot of pain and blood that was spilt that liberated this country and most of other countries in the African continent. This pain and violence are lingering in our psyche, we have internalized pain and violence in every respect or our daily lives. The liberation of this country was because of the use of brute force yes but even after independence we remained in the “struggle mindset” and hence pain and violence has defined us in various forms of our interaction with one another in our societies. Violence and pain are so evident in our society, worse still we experience structural violence on daily basis, and we see this as normal. We ceased to recognize and realize the pain of pain; we have normalized violence and pain with time because pain has manifested in other forms of societal violence subconsciously and consciously?
Whoever betrayed this woman who demonstrated against Minister Sibusiso Moyo in London, I can say he/she is a poor soul. She/he is putting the life of this woman on the line. How is he/she going to feel if the brutal regime of Zanu PF murdered her? How is he/she going to spend the rest of his/her with blood on his/her hands. There is a place in hell for such people who betray other people in exchange for a “cloth and whiskey” as payment. To appeal to his/her conscience is a waste of time because such people do not have it. When you hear Africans speaking about UBUNTU as if they have it!!