THE gist of my article is on the death of God in Zimbabwe and the resultant birth of many Christs. I write also in defence of political stupidity as the fundamental capital of difference between a full life and death of a people as a collective. In such dangerous historical and political times as those that Zimbabwe is going through, human beings escape lived reality and seek shelter in symbols, metaphors, religions and prophecy. I write also about what happens in a country like Zimbabwe where there is an abundance of politics and a scarcity of politicians. I refuse Cameroonian historian Achille Mbembe’s fundamental argument on the “post-colony” in Africa but I am persuaded by his description of how the libido and the appetites for sensual pleasures, together with massive eating and excessive buffoonery are bound to show up when the politics of a country are damaged.
A life of debauchery and licentiousness accompanies bad political climates. Fundamentally I write to argue that too much truth, too much fear of death and love for life is undermining many possible futures in Zimbabwe. Whenever a ninety something year-old does the job of a forty year old, and seems in reality to be doing it so well as to suspend the need for the forty year-old to be present, something is bound to explode and break badly. The explosion and the breakage are not the serious danger. The serious danger is if there is no explosion at all, and no breakage. Reality is subverted, the abnormal becomes normal and the people are doomed. Miracles, prophecies and wonders take over the scene, and most sensible people become foolish as foolery begins to make a lot of sense. Suddenly one is either a politician who is failing in his impossible job, a prophet or a fool.
The death of God in Zimbabwe
God is murdered in Zimbabwe in every way. The Bible is not only edited and re-written by inspired preachers. It is effectively replaced with new gospels of power, money and sexuality. Gold can rain on you any minute in Zimbabwe. Suddenly power hungry and even foolish politicians get eloquent witnesses to claim how they are sent of God and not elected representatives. Preachers and “Men of God” order women to strip and minister to their divine libido. So many churches spring up. Christianity balloons everywhere, the Christ himself disappears and is effectively replaced by the Christs. From mass-murderers to mafia kings, everything is about God who is now so present in the land that in actuality he becomes totally absent as everything and everybody becomes a God in what they are doing.Advertisement
This did not start now, it has been going on. Politicians long refused to answer questions and referred the questions to the ancestors. Shrines gain new currency and become contested as sources of power. Enterprising healers fool even the most educated in the land, even promising to supply fresh auto-mobile fuel from the ancestors and presidential delegations attend to these outlandish claims. Statues, monuments and other symbols of power become more important as real power itself continues to be elusive. This is not even ancestor worship, the politicians want the ancestors to worship them. The living are not honouring the dead by erecting statues and naming streets after them; it is the opposite, the living are using the names of the dead to decorate their own lives as heroes and legends.
When a living hero honours his dead enemy he is saying if this dead fool can be this big, what about me, this living legend ? As fuller life becomes scarce for the living, the lives of the dead become very important, symbols and signs begin to speak with unusual eloquence and more prophets and fools come up to be believed and followed. Those who are supposed to die refuse to die, the expected future does not manifest and old fashioned people present themselves as the future, monsters claim to be the real friends of the people. The politicians stop lying as the people begin to lie to themselves, everything must be God’s will, the people say.
Those who have political power use it to harvest money and to access as much sex as possible. From their podiums leading politicians command women in their multitudes to their sensual service, equally from the pulpit pastors and preachers demand sex not in so many words. God himself is suspended, the popular politician is a God and the charismatic preacher is a God and there is a scramble by faithful women to calm the politician and the preachers’ violent erection. It is not only Tsvangirai and Gumbura; the two are only unfortunate that their individual and private tragedies have become public knowledge. It is happening everywhere in political organisations and the churches. God has died, the Christs are in charge.
Achille Mbembe talks about this “excess” and “lack of proportion” in the “post-colony.” In Zimbabwe those who earn big, earn so big as to eat on behalf of everyone in the country. Those who do not earn, earn nothing at all. Here someone is stabbed to death for Five Rands; there someone is killed for a debt of One Dollar. These newspaper headlines of obscene earners and witchcraft stories have become daily bread in a Godless republic. The Christs are everywhere and they will get us. In all this overwhelming religion that has arrested national imagination and that envelops everything about the country, one thing is missing – God.
Messiahs have also come; the saviors of the people are here. Messiahs are the deliverers who know on behalf of the people what is good for the people, you know you are in Zimbabwe when you here that an individual politician has defected from his party because the voters are thankless, so he is going to join the victorious enemies of the people to fix the voters. Politics is no longer about any values and principles, but voters must listen to the Messiahs or face abandonment by the messiahs.
When Tokwe Mukosi refuses to burst, and if it bursts.
One myth that destroys Zimbabwe every moment is that Robert Mugabe will die tomorrow, or now and again the usual news that he will not die tomorrow but that he is actually dead already. Mugabe’s is a much-awaited death, by his comrades first and his opponents next. So important is this long coming death that it has become a politician itself. I believe now and again Mugabe himself does fan the rumours to keep energies away from his life and get zealots occupied about a death that is not there. There is a danger, in actuality that Mugabe might die tomorrow, leaving no clear successor. The factions will fall on each other, dividing the army and throwing the religious land into a civil war. Zimbabwe might be Africa’s next trouble spot. That possibility as vivid as it is, does not become the most serious danger.
However, the ultimate danger is that Mugabe will never die at all. That in his biological death tomorrow or the day after, he will gain more life and become the worst of what he has been in his life. His grave will become a shrine and his name a religion, while his words will be recited as those of Mohammed and Jesus. In his name people will be killed and laws will be broken. For that reason, politics based on Mugabe’s anticipated death are dangerous and wrong. Politics that rest on Mugabe’s life rather than death stand a chance of solving problems as a physically dead Mugabe might be spiritually and emotionally be more dangerous than the millennium menace that we are already dealing with. Things done in the name of a dead Mugabe by self-serving zealots may turn out to be worse than the catastrophe that Mugabe has put us through already.
Another present danger is, picture this lucky prophet or politician (this is a land of politicians and prophets) who happens to assume the reigns as soon as the Mugabe of flesh expires. The successor must prove to be bigger and better in Mugabeism, literally this fella will out-Mugabe Mugabe himself in the land of the religious. Even for a village product like myself and others who grew up fearing snakes, lighting strikes, witches and teachers, it is not difficult to observe that any projects, political and otherwise, that are based on wished for disasters can very easily become disastrous themselves, because, in the first place, they are about disaster.
The danger of Mugabe becoming more alive and more powerful in death is a lesser danger to Zanu PF becoming more united and more powerful after Mugabe’s demise. Yeah, I mean exactly that. Zanu PF becoming more of itself without Mugabe. Already the signs are there that the very wild West are looking closely at the feasible option of a reformed Zanu PF after Mugabe. The suspension of sanctions might not be telling half the truth but wiki-leaks revelations of meetings of Western ambassadors with Mugabe’s possible successors scream the plans out the plans.
The present loss of support (financial and moral) to Tsvangirai and the MDC-T by the West, might not indicate it well enough but the sheer refusal of Zanu PF to be defeated has told the West a clear message of who the real, even if not the better puppet is. The West are good Machiavellians and deal makers, and they don’t announce when they change heart. The suspension of the larger part of sanctions, and removal from the list of targeted sanctions of a host of powerful Zanuists to the exclusion of Mugabe whose death is awaited, must tell all of us something really telling about the future in Zimbabwe.
I have often told my students that it was a mean insult and disrespect for Slavoj Zizek to accuse Noam Chomsky of not knowing how the world works, especially after Chomsky had written an entire best-selling book titled: How the World Works. The message of how the world works is important to Zimbabwe, in my view. The West do not like investing their money where there are no gains. The captains of empire pay for food and not for philosophy. I must observe now that it is possible that whenever Tsvangirai receives financial support from this and that donor he probably, not knowing how the world works, believes that the money is for the promotion of something called democracy in Zimbabwe. And that Tsvangirai really does not know that, in reality, he is supposed to be a puppet of the West who is going to return to the whites the farms, mines and factories that Mugabe seized. The rulers of the world are not patient with puppets who don’t understand their job description.
I have said this before, my students and drinking buddies, in the thickness of the season of the so-called Arab Spring, that time when the West sought to restructure the world after their imagination and interests, Tsvangirai disappointed his funders badly. His only job was simply to announce a nationwide protest, and get a few MDC-T activists shot and NATO would have been in Marange diamond fields first, and in Harare second, in no time. By Now Tsvangirai would be his Excellency the President of the Democratic Republic of Zimbabwe, somehow. It is failure, in the present world and how it works, to be a puppet who does not know that he is a puppet and who does not understand his job, hence the troubles that Tsvangirai faces presently. And that, not physically, but in actuality Tsvangirai has died. Whatever he can now say and do might just be to decorate his obituary; the “Morgan” who is “More” is really no more in the present world.
So many who have counted the days towards Mugabe’s death, have themselves died in many ways before Mugabe. I remember in 2006, when, over a cold beer, I told a friend of mine who is currently a senior minister in government that Mugabe would contest the 2008 elections, the comrade laughed until his beer (Windhoek Larger) became warm, and warned me never ever to say that in public as it would ruin my public standing as a thinker. It was unimaginable that Mugabe would contest the 2008 elections at his then age. It is a real concern of mine that Mugabe might, among other scary possibilities run Zimbabwe from his grave.
The Death that killed General Solomon Mujuru
For the reason that the physical killers of General Solomon Mujuru remain unknown, and the reason for his killing officially a mystery, it is safe here to say the General was killed by death itself; death because in my view Mujuru had long died before he was killed. Mujuru, under a very thin veil of secrecy conspired with the opposition to topple the establishment. After that conspiracy he reneged from openly joining the opposition as promised, apparently to avoid risking his billions. At that moment he died politically and his physical death became only a matter that would come with time. At the time of that mysterious fire which should not have surprised anyone, Mujuru did not have the protection of the establishment or the sympathy of the opposition in Zimbabwe. He was dead alive and dead alone. As for who physically finished him off – that is a tale for prophets like Baba Jukwa and others, for us here it suffices to observe that Mujuru did not know how feared he was and how much political power he had in his name and legacy.
My own conjecture is that those who finished him off were sent of people who feared what Mujuru was capable of but, like Tsvangirai, Mujuru failed to understand his appointed job description and value in this world and its workings. In the main, I will argue here that most Zimbabwean political players, except a few, really don’t know how the world works, or do they understand their various capabilities and job descriptions. Mujuru loved his rich life so much that he feared death with gigantic intensity, and that killed him a long time before he really died. As I write many Zimbabwean politicians are dying now as a result of fear of making risky and unpopular decisions.
Elton Mangoma’s Shirt
Political conspiracies, justified or unjustified, are by their fundamental nature unhygienic business. Empires fall and bones break, blood spills and men and women fall by the sword of their trusted friends. The business of political conspiracy is not a neat fork and knife affair, but dark and dirty business that calls for the sciences of war and brutality. Anything otherwise you end up with a burnt body of General Solomon Mujuru or if you are lucky the tattered shirt of Elton Mangoma. I insist that political conspiracies meant to topple sitting, popular and powerful leaders need not the ‘going to heaven’ type of politician or the usual ‘mother’s milk’ individuals who pray and cry before cutting the throat of a broiler chicken. This ancient and modern business requires cold characters that can pick up the political knife, aim for the heart and deliver a death blow to the candidate. There is no time to solicit public opinion or to scan the dictionary of morals. I want to say to Elton Mangoma and General Mujuru that you cannot conspire politely and in dignity without alerting the victim and getting onto his menu.
In Zimbabwe, where God has effectively died, political parties have become religious cults and presidents of political parties Gods. Rebels and malcontents like Elton Mangoma and General Mujuru are visited with the treatment of all heretics and blasphemers—crucifixion by the nearest means. Political conspiracies are the dangerous business of power and death and exist in the dark economy of bloodshed, pain and loss. Political conspiracies exist in what Achille Mbembe calls ‘politics as expenditure’ where people sacrifice themselves or are sacrificed by their friends. This is a political hard hat area where the emotionally uncircumcised have no business. Toppling your leader is not, Mangoma, a white collar job. Not even the strength of the biblical David or the wisdom of Solomon is everything here. What is needed is a cut and dry heart of Judas Iscariot who kisses and stabs at the same time.
In defence of political stupidity
I am sure of it that I am not the only Zimbabwean intellectual who has been in illogical, sometimes exciting but very unmathematical Pan-African moments. I have found myself lecturing to Nigerians about the literature of Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe, and about the Biafran War. I have taught Kenyans the age of my late father about the Mau Mau uprising, and with the Congolese I have debated Patrice Lumumba and Mobutu Seseseko. I have examined Tanzanians on Julius Nyerere and Ujaama and Ghanaians have asked me about Kwame Nkrumah and Jerry Rawlings.
The compliments and recognition never fail to come, but with them comes a damning accusation and downright scorn. A Nigerian student of mine, a brilliant young lady from Igbo land, shot at me one day “bots Sir Willy, you speak so clearly abowt moy contry, you know all tho strong mon, like Obafemi Owolo and Babanginda, you got owur history roight, why, if you ore so brilliant is yo own contry so forked.” I mumbled some poetry about Africa being complicated and navigated away to safer issues. The answer that I never gave is that Zimbabweans, in the main, do not have the necessary stupidity and the emotional and mental resources to conspire politically with success. I don’t know why. We have so much politics and not so many politicians in the land.
A slow reading of Niccolo Machiavelli’s ‘Discourses’ on political ‘conspiracies’ does not fail to reveal that most political conspiracies that succeed are carried out by stupid and reckless fellas. So stupid are successful conspiracies that even the candidates and the victims of the political long knives can laugh about them as impossibilities. It is because of the stupidity of it all that that when Brutus delivered his blow, Julius Caesar said “Etu Brute?” It was unimaginable that the noble Brutus would strike Caesar.
Zimbabweans are not into unimaginable things. Like Mangoma they are fond of writing long letters and in capital letters warning the candidate of a toppling that a conspiracy is up! Like Solomon Mujuru they hold long meetings and wear conspiratorial faces in public and raise clearly conspiratorial questions in politburo meetings. The fundamental reason why most successful political conspiracies, bloodless or bloody, end up delivering such vegetables as Idi Amin and Sani Abacha as leaders is because the conspiracies as projects require generous measures of pure stupidity. Too much careful and diagrammatic planning and other regular rituals of political canvassing do not observe the fundamental rules of political stupidity.
Imagining a political future of conspiracy in Zimbabwe
I am one of those bored souls who honestly regard Morgan Tsvangirai as a decorated political failure. I lose faith always in Zimbabweans when I think of them as people who have fancied Tsvangirai as a hero and a possible president of the country. Chief among the multitude of Tsvangirai’s monumental failures has been his dismal inability to persuade one of the Zanu PF factions to his side. This failure has also been because Tsvangirai is surrounded by such inadequate people who are insecure about their positions and do not want any strong comers from other parties even if it means that the party is getting stronger. I am also one of the many who think that it is an insult to Zimbabweans that Robert Mugabe who called himself a hero for our grandparents and continues to want to be a hero for our grandchildren.
Zanu PF and MDC-T have become emphatic contesting populisms that stifle political creativity. The two parties have become rigid religions and in them are trapped many creative Zimbabweans who only need to know that conspiracies work in the world. I want to insist that people who will liberate Zimbabwe are brave and stupid conspirators in the MDC, the NCA, MDC-T, ZAPU, Zanu PF itself and other groupings that will include ‘national talents’ in the civic society and security forces. There is no one truth in politics but many truths, and political stupidity is one of them. Too much love for life and excessive fear of death and unpopularity are not the stuff of successful politicians. Zimbabwe’s present historical condition provides so much politics, what is needed are politicians to play the dirty game.
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Pretoria based Zimbabwean Political Scientist and Semiotician. (firstname.lastname@example.org)