GRANT defeat its creative side. It has been quite transporting to read agony pieces from officials of the two MDCs as they go through the writhing motions of confounding defeat.July 31 was a real tsunami and, naturally, the shattered centre no longer holds.
To the piece, the output from these officials has been agonizingly philosophical, delivering and displaying searing anguish that borders on the existential. And to measure the depth of that anguish that now afflicts these officials, one only needs to remember who they were only the day before, who they had become from February 2009 when the Inclusive Government came into being.
From mere agitating midgets, they had inflated to high-ranking government officials wont to living large. They had gotten used and inured to a shimmering life of woolly, tender softness. A real conspicuously consuming cabal that suddenly found itself in the lap of the GNU plenty!
Always awaited, these big men and women treaded the padded land softly, sure-footedly too, majestically marched gently pelted by tongs of yodels leaping off flaming tongues of fawners who were quick to multiply in industrial quantities. Yes, power loves doting crowds, creates them even.
From on high, these big men and women barked orders, spoke with God-like knowingness, never at once believing they were mere humans, or would be ever again. It was a high horse they rode, these deities, the toll of power’s drugging chimes happily stalking. And as power’s bells tolled louder, so too receded and dwindled their cankered souls, everything mathematically in exact inverse.
A view from the bottom
Now all that saccharine glory is gone, gone forever. They have been toppled from the high horse, dismounted it in an undignified hurry, showing their unkempt hinds in the process, to derisive laughter. The cherubic splendour of yesterday has since waned, revealing the rough, warted skin of mere men and women who, save for the rich, half-decade lie they have lived, have always been like all of us, nay, a little worse.
They now have to learn to survive like all of us, learn to view life from the bottom of the pit, yes, dismount and learn to engage life from the cesspool of defeat. It is a new station, one beneath the starting point, a new vantage point from which to view and engage life. Not exactly nice.Advertisement
When grief yields musings
But like I always maintain, grief inspires. Misfortunes give us poetry, indeed activates man’s rhapsodic reflexes. Even sorrow has its own songs. See what we now get from one Tendai Biti, the MDC-T secretary-general. Soon after defeat, Tendai wrote: “Since late Wednesday, July 31, we have been walking like zombies, drowning in dark shadows of pain and disbelief, hoping that this is just a nightmare where someone will wake us up on sweat and we sink into prayer. I am afraid it’s real.
The unbelievable is happening. The surreal is playing. The insanity rolls on. The conductor does not pause; he waves his arms in deep satisfaction to the exquisite delivery of the orchestra. The crowds applaud at the orchestra of insanity.”
Wow, what prosaic poetry! What heroic prose! Arguably Miltonic! The kind only possible when the soul is thrust in unhappy circumstances.
Milton tells me that Satan, previously God’s archangel, went profoundly philosophical when angry God deposed him for vaulting ambition, when God handed him a harsh verdict following his ill-fated rebellion.
Bedimmed by the sin of insubordination and soon to be flung into a bottomless deep, the Devil, Milton tells us, pelted God with that clever, defiant, epigrammatic curse: “Better a Dungeon than a Heaven without democracy.”
And with that timeless shot, Satan took an eternal dive downward, hind flaming from the celestial curse! But behind, he had left a nugget of imperishable thought. We revel in it to this day. The creative, philosophical side of adversity, if you ask me! Even Boethius knew and wrote about it.
A generation of credulous fools
The two MDCs plus Dabengwa’s Zapu have been readjusting to defeat’s hard circumstances. Key to this adjustment has been stout denial taking a characteristic form of charges of rigging. From the phantom of Nikuv to the magic pen which rewrites and transposes voter choices in favour of Zanu-PF, the defeated parties have been quite fertile in mind, feeding us with fabulous yarns that turn us all into credulous fools.
And the private media, forever unconditional extended patients of this massive defeat of the opposition, have been gratuitous in repeating such yarns, giving them the dignity of print, thereby.
Yonder I hear posterity’s clapping laughter as it wonders just which century we inhabited where anything seemed possible!
Three things from the defeated
Soon after the election bombshell, I reached out to a very high-ranking MDC-T official. He was surprised that I had called, still more surprised that I addressed him in a ministerial appellation he knew had begun to wither. Of course he knows me to be Zanu-PF to the marrow.
Please convey to your leaders three things, he pleaded, past pretensions of bellicose glory now all gone. Oh Tamburlaine, thou art a mere man! He laid out the three matters I had to convey. First, that they (Zanu-PF leaders) understand that we are going through our own motions following a stunning defeat. As always, this is a noisy affair, full of harsh unsubstantiated words.
But in two or so weeks, it shall be all over, and we shall all live morosely ever after. Second, that we will not take to the streets. This, he added, I have told my leader, repeating the same to my colleagues.
Third, the President must keep the lines of communication open. We must continue to talk, continue to work for the prosperity of this nation, he stressed, adding Zimbabwe is bigger than all of us.
Since then, one and two have come to pass, while three remains a cacophony of whispers, mostly at interpersonal levels across the political divide. As I write, I am beginning to hear some importuning for audience, all coming from the defeated. It is beginning to dawn on them that July 31 was no interim order, but final verdict.
Shying away from face of defeat
Another while later, I reached an MDC-N official, again quite high-ranking. “Congratulations, you won, and frankly you guys deserved it. You worked hard. It was a good campaign. Tell Sekuru I pass my sincere congratulations!” So ended the conversation. I was grateful this was on the phone.
How else would I have related to this figure so wrecked with grief? Like the bereaved, a defeated person is never looked in the face. But I have left out an important detail from the conversation.
“Of course we will, as per custom, castigate you for ‘rigging’ elections. Ignore all that. Check the last sentence where we will say the elections are over and done with. We need to move on as a Nation.”
A while later, the party conceded defeat, of course amidst customary phalanx of uproarious charges. Unlike their impecunious peers in the MDC-T, these ones never went to court, electing to lick their navels in prime solitude.
But before this, one senior official from their number, a Paul Themba Nyathi, openly conceded defeat. An act of great bravery indeed!
Finally conceding defeat
Three weeks have since passed. And in dribs and drabs, the other MDC has been conceding, gradually of course, and in a veiled fashion.
Have we not seen and read Tsvangirai’s poetic post, that one where he urges his supporters to look beyond “defeat”? He uses the word “defeat” for the first time.
It is such a wonderful addition to oppositional vocabulary, a word routinely unavailable in opposition diction. Again another brave gesture, a real measure of how far we have evolved, whether as rulers or as losers. We must grant losers time to gently bring down the curtains.
After all, during the election the MDC-T leader gave us a wonderful line: Munhu mukuru haasiyi bhachi padare. Roughly translated the saying cautions against humiliating a losing elder. No matter how guilty, the elder must still walk away from the court fully clad, with some modicum of dignity.
Then, few of us knew this was a plea to all of us, a plea from a man already afflicted by a presentiment of defeat. I will never for once believe anyone who says defeat stole on the MDC formations, unawares.
They knew they would lose elections, which is why they sought an indefinite delay to the polls. But only yesterday, in Gweru, Tsvangirai pleaded with the President to leave him alone, to stop abusing him so he has time to lick his weeping wounds.
It has been a real plea for peace, a submission, indeed an unconditional acceptance of defeat.
This society must grant some dignity to defeat so our democracy flourishes. When defeat equates to humiliation, electoral contests become a do-or-die affair, and with such comes gore.
Then a plea for space
But Tsvangirai has done more. Through his officials and a captive private media, he has been planting the idea of his getting appointed to the post of vice president. Another plea, this time one for accommodation. I am not so sure he quite grasps how the two posts of vice presidency are structured in the Zanu-PF scheme of things. They are already apportioned, historically apportioned, aren’t they?
One is for old Zanu, the other for old Zapu. You cannot reallocate this without tearing the Unity Accord apart. No one is about to do that. But grant him that kind of thinking, for it is part of the poetry of defeat, part of the difficult route towards adjustment. The last few weeks have seen his whole world collapse spectacularly.
From prime ministerial glory, he finds himself out of friends, maybe out of pocket. He cannot go golf putting anymore, surrounded by adulating white ambassadors and eager business executives.
From an all-powerful plinth, he now finds himself unsure of where he is destined to stay the morning after. As for the family, well, it is really tragic.
Focusing on the organic
And this is where I draw hard lessons for Zanu-PF. Zanu-PF needs to be a polished player, tempering its passion. I think Gramsci it is who distinguishes between “historically organic ideologies” and “arbitrary, rationalistic, willed ideologies”.
The latter are exactly that, arbitrary, ephemeral. They don’t hold a generation, never generate movements, don’t move the masses. Rather, arbitrary ideologies are a fluke; they produce nothing other than charismatic individuals and little gatherings which whilst given to loud, clever polemics, never carry people’s aspirations.
They soon too fizzle out. Of course Gramsci does not dismiss such ideologies outright: they function like the error that by opposing truth affirms it. It is the former — historically organic ideologies — which really matter, which move history and reshape societies. Definitionally, organic ideologies are an integral part of given social structures.
They have validity in social circumstances, carry aspirations and express themselves as “modes of thinking which acquire the force of popular beliefs”, to quote Gramsci. And as Marx says, popular conviction often has as much energy as a material force. It makes, moves history.
Organic ideologies thus do have a validity that is psychological, a validity that organise the masses, indeed that establish the ground on which humans move, parameters within which humans become conscious of their positions and struggles.
Applied to our own situation, it is not hard to see that the MDC formations mobilized grievances against a Zanu-PF status quo; they never reached the pith of the people’s aspirations. They became an outlet for grievances, never a vehicle for the realisation of deep-seated aspirations which Zanu-PF was beginning to neglect.
The death of such arbitrary ideologies and parties which animate them is when people outgrow the protest phase, and begin to look for serious, viable vehicles for the realisation of their aspirations. 2008 was a phase of anger; it could only disrupt but never move it. Only organic movements, armed with organic ideologies can move history; can carry aspirations of the masses.
Out goes the bogey of Gukurahundi
So one key outcome of the recent elections is a clear demonstration that the opposition is inorganic and thus incapable of “moving the masses” in a way that shapes or reshapes the ground of social circumstances and history.
The two MDCs’ failure to produce any credible manifestos was quite indicative.
Their failure to rouse the masses, to move the masses beyond bitter criticism of 2008, towards their own vision of society, clearly showed how unreal they are as a political force. Much worse, their fascination with devolution and Gukurahundi, all against a society long evolved to new, modern forms of socio-economic foci, showed how antiquated and out of touch their politics are.
However you read the result, the voting behaviour of the two Matabeleland provinces showed a sensibility for new, real politics beyond those wrought by a bitter, painful and emotive memory of a bygone conflict, or wrought by past tribal glory. It sounds rude but the point has to be made: the Unity Accord of 1987 soldered the bloody rupture of post-independence internecine conflict.
But it was all left to land reforms to repair all the bloody rifts of history, with the post-land reform reprisal white sanctions underlining and bringing to the fore all those common interests that unite us as black Zimbabweans, that put and pit us against settler politics whose current faces in politics are Bennet, Coltart, Cross and Kay. From that perspective, the 2013 elections were a watershed.
The tragedy of the opposition is its failure to realise that the old politics woven around old feuds and schisms have long turned inorganic against new, real and emerging dynamics defining new fissures.
The political society is now more forward looking, while the civil society-based opposition political society remains stuck in a bygone era of tribally-based bitter feuds from the past.
And this is why our elites in the opposition to this day cannot understand why and how the two Matabeleland provinces voted Zanu-PF whose manifesto put accent on land, indigenisation and economic empowerment, notions clearly raising new questions, defining new preoccupations, carrying new aspirations and new visions for society.
Inventing new idiom for urbanites
Of course Bulawayo voted MDC-T. So, too, did Harare in the main. You would be an absolute fool to transpose the Gukurahundi grievance onto both conurbations. You would be perfectly rational to add Gweru, Mutare and Masvingo to these two voting cities and tendencies, before asking: has Zanu-PF found an organic message that enjoys a hold on this sample urban voter?
Indeed you would be perfectly normal, in fact percipient, to acknowledge that the regain which Zanu-PF now enjoys in Harare after the latest poll indicates that unlike MDC-T which has been rolled back to a war of positions, Zanu-PF is now embarked on a war of offensive movement that targets the temperamental urban voter.
With the land reforms taking care of the countryside, the politics and actions of indigenisation and economic empowerment, if implemented in earnest, should see a pro-Zanu-PF organic movement in urban centres. The ideology of economic empowerment must now take a material form in urban areas matching the form which the land reform programme has assumed in the countryside.
Zanu-PF cannot win on full shelves, clean water, uninterrupted electricity, important though these may be. It must address a more fundamental question to do with the material position of the Zimbabwean located in cities.
In this vital thrust, Zanu-PF faces many calculated distractions. I will mention some of them. The principal distraction is one of viewing the MDC formations as the real opponents. Severely castigated by the voter, these formations have never been real politically, have never been the real opponents of Zanu-PF.
They have always been the organizational expression of the West’s opposition to Zanu-PF’s liberation politics. You do not expend your energies on nearly men, surely? Tsvangirai’s current itinerary is an ever narrowing war of positions. He is struggling to salvage his fragmented non-homogenous support base so stricken after the polls.
He knows he cannot succeed. He seeks to make his departure honourable, bearable. He is finished as a viable tool of the West, a truth borne out by the fact that America, Britain, Australia and Canada are increasingly displacing their erstwhile tools to openly and frontally lock horns with Zimbabwe. Their Trojan Horse has been dismantled and what now unfolds is quite invidious for them.
Breaking the Trojan Horse
Much worse for the MDCs, a new sensibility is gaining currency in the opposition. There is a quest for new forms of opposing but without descending into the reflex of negativism, of automatic contrarieties. The likes of Lovemore Madhuku, shoots of this new opposition, now realize that durable opposition can only be premised on a reverent embrace of politics and values of liberation, something the two MDCs rejected.
Equally, they now reject foreign influence, embrace the need to own and control our God-given resources. Much worse, they reject sanctions. These are new politics which are bound to de-stool the two MDCs, well before Zanu-PF comes into view. This leaves westerners quite exposed, which is why there is a frantic effort to buoy the MDC formations.
Like keeping Zimbabwe perpetually in an election mode as a way of delaying or slowing down the decay of the MDCs, indeed as a way of slowing down the pace of implementing the winning manifesto. Or creating false benchmarks by way of the so-called “final reports” of Sadc and AU. You freeze your social actions in anticipation of those “final” reports, don’t you?
Or engineering panic in the banking sector or destabilizing the stock exchange in order to frighten the winners from pursuing a radical economic agenda which yielded electoral victory. Or getting a mere American ambassador to seek to guide the President of Zimbabwe on who to appoint to Cabinet. Apart from being an outsider, he is so junior in rank to even advise anyone in America on mayoral appointments of his country.
False debate on succession
There are many distractions which Zanu-PF must avoid, to keep its eye on the ball. The elections have been won resoundingly. They have been embraced as peaceful, as free, as fair and as a credible expression of the will of the people of Zimbabwe. That closes that chapter, does it not? No need to dither.
Zimbabwe has a President now in place. Soon he will appoint a Cabinet that must steer the ship of State. Zanu-PF has a leader firmly in place. More important, it has its machinery for any leadership changes it might desire. With more than two-thirds majority, it does not have to be dictated to by anyone, least of all its enemies.
Succession is one huge distraction it must brush aside. In that debate is a sinister attempt to distort Zanu-PF internal structures away from the requirements of indigenisation and economic empowerment, towards divisive politics of succession.
The West has been outflanked decisively, and Africa is behind us. No need to be obsessive about Europe and America. Both no longer call shots in the world anyway. We have tended to devote more time to our enemies, leaving hardly any for our friends. There is the BRICS, and hey, Brazil has already made the first move by way of a facility for agricultural recovery.
Clearly, the uncertainties of the Inclusive days are over and real nations can now relate to us with confidence. That is what July 31 did for us. Engage Russia. Engage India. Engage China. Engage South Africa. Rather than obsessing about the West, our foreign policy must refocus BRICS-wards. Above all, we have the land. We have the minerals. We have the skills. We have the will. Arise Zimbabwe! Hapana chekumirira apa. Chekumirira hapana.
Nathaniel Manheru is a columnist for the Saturday Herald. E-mail him: email@example.com