VERY often you hear claims that Zimbabwe is a very peaceful country, with a very low crime rate compared to our neighbours, especially South Africa. Very often we eulogize that we have the highest literacy rate and a very competent pool of technocrats, thinkers and intellectuals. We swallow these generalizations as undisputable facts without testing their virility against a sordid history of violence, murders, assassinations, genocide and now bloody coups that are an obvious indictment to this falsehood.
When I reflect on my life, growing up parallel to the historical events developing in Zimbabwe, from the bombings in Zipra’s Mkushi and Freedom Camps, the senseless massacres in Nyadzonya and Chimoio, the Gukurahundi massacres, the bloody murders of political opponents, the disappearance of many a politician including Itai Dzamara, the unexplained assassination and incineration of our beloved General Rex Nhongo, the mysterious road accidents that have killed many and the recent bloody coup that has installed a murderous military junta into government, I am left with no doubt that to say Zimbabweans are peaceful intellectuals is a myth.
For if it were that we are intellectuals, as we often brag to be, how does a political contestation of ideologies and ideals in a succession battle in Zanu PF end up in a midnight bloody coup where opponents are hunted in the middle of the night with laser guided lethal weapons, their homes ransacked, their privacy un-ravelled in front of their children and wives while in bed, leaving their private residences riddled in bullets, shattered glass and bloody floors? If indeed we are peaceful and intellectual, how does a contestation of political ideas culminate in armed militants burning down villages, bludgeoning and decapitating opponents, burning and necklacing them alive with burning tyres and plastics? To fathom that such barbarism is planned, commandeered and executed by military people who claim to hold PhDs in philosophy is beyond comprehension.
The Succession Battle of Ideals
The succession battle in Zanu PF is a battle of political ideals, openly contested between the Lacoste military group and the G40 generational renewal group. The veritable ideologies of both groups are easily discernible and quantifiable. The Lacoste faction expounded ideals of militarisation of Zanu PF, forever relying on gun-trotting politics of cohesion and command, hence their main ideological policies were militarization of the Party, commandeering of election structures and the Command Economy i.e. Command agriculture, Command Mining, Command Education etc.Advertisement
They believed and still believe in the militarization of the entire state structure, the Executive, the legislature, the civil service, the parastatals and municipal councils. A glance at the current Coup Presidency, the Coup Executive and Coup Cabinet will bear undisputable testimony to these command ideals – The entire Presidency is now occupied by military men while the entire cabinet is 70% military.
On the flip side, the G40 ideological thrust was to de-militarize Zanu PF politics. Instead of force and cohesion, the G40 focus is on winning the mind and soul of the people through philanthropy and political philosophy. While presenting Mugabe as the fulcrum of their political ideology, they espoused political ideals that were incontestable by both the Lacoste military men and the main stream opposition.
The G40 ideals are encapsulated in catchy political phraseology such as “the Economy is the Land and the Land is the Economy”, “indigenization and self-sustenance” and ‘’STEM’’, an idealistic interdisciplinary approach to developmental learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real life lessons to encourage a vibrant youthful workforce to apply Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to kick-start a self-propelling impetus in development of communities and the country as a whole.
I am deliberately avoiding mentioning any names so that the ideologies of the two factions can be analysed and evaluated without the usual danger of personalizing them. I brook no sympathy for President Mugabe and his wife Grace for all their flaws, but it is not a secret that they both feared the military hard-men who rule us today. Mugabe knew he owed his power to these murderous military hard-men hence he always endured pain to reiterate the mantra that in Zanu PF, ‘the Politics leads the Gun’ and not the inverse.
Mugabe, forever a champion of ideas and rhetoric, always wanted civilian politics as Plan A and resorted to the military as a last resort and often when he felt cornered. He always lived loathsome of a coup and knew the military men would eventually betray him. His obsession with security and a heavily armed motorcade exhibited this fear and it is no surprise that it was the military hard-men, not civilian politicians that dethroned him. As for Grace, she often complained the military men wanted to kill her son Bellarmine Chatunga. It is no doubt the First Family lived in perpetual fear of this murderous military.
The struggle in Zanu PF pits the military hard men of the liberation war who continue to hold the party to ransom, enslaving the party to the old rusted chains of its bloody past against a new robust breed of youthful political cadre whose focus is to create a new set of political principles and norms that, in their opinion, would propel Zanu PF into the future. While the military junta in Zanu PF yearn to keep an iron grip on the party by consistently reminding the party of the liberation struggle stories of blood and sacrifice, G40 aimed at inculcating political ideals of working the land, economic indigenization, enhancing scientific education and self-sustenance as being the key to a brighter tomorrow.
The ideological chasm between the two is wider than the Kariba dam, it would take me days to navigate through the differences, but one thing is for sure, in that contestation of political ideas, the G40 group had convincingly slayed the crocodile group prior to the bloody coup. The writing was on the wall that G40 had won the intellectual/ideological battle in the following ways- (1) Zanu PF Political Commissariat had successfully been de-militarized, (2) the Rambosque and rowdy War Veterans element had been neutralized and expelled from the party and, (3) the Executive had been pruned of the blood thirsty military hard men. The events that followed culminating in the November 14 bloody coup are therefore as astonishing as they are despicable.
Celebrating Blood and Death
Astonishing is the euphoric celebrations with which the coup was embraced by the general public who seem to have quickly forgotten that political violence in Zimbabwe was never perpetrated by the G40 but by the same military hard men the masses seemed to regrettably endorse.
The coup was despicable in the way it was executed, assassination-style, holding an elected frail 94-year-old President Mugabe under house arrest, forcing him live on national television to sign a resignation letter he was obviously unwilling to sign, attacking the G40 leadership with automatic laser guided lethal weapons in the middle of the night and the military, not the police, arresting civilian MPs and Ministers on trumped up charges. As I watched the events unfold on various news channels, I couldn’t help but shed tears, that eventually a bloody coup was unfolding in my supposedly peaceful and intellectual Zimbabwe.
What is more disturbing is to imagine that SADC, AU, UN and even the European Union seem to think there is nothing wrong with military men arresting civilians, putting an elected President under house arrest, taking over a national broadcasting station, shooting at Ministers and elected MPs? Why were ordinary civilians and opposition parties that suffered unspeakable brutality and murders at the hands of the military in 2008, now celebrating the bloody shenanigans of the same military? Something did not add up until it dawned on me that, in fact, violence is in Zimbabwe’s DNA and today we are celebrating the manifestation of violence, blood and death in the same way we did in the not so far past.
In the not so far past, we held borne fire jamborees called ‘pungwes’ where so called sell-outs (vatengesi) were mob judged, tried and executed by these military hard-men in the name of advancing the struggle. In the not so far past after Independence, the majority celebrated as the minority Ndebele were massacred, hunted like dogs, humiliated and murdered after the current Coup President called them “cockroaches” that needed extermination.
In those dark days, we celebrated when the affectionate Father Zimbabwe, the Late Dr. Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo, the founder of our nationalist aspirations, was almost assassinated when bullets fired by these military hard-men rained on his home in Phelandaba. Later that night, we laughed when the same humble Nkomo was humiliated on national TV by mobs chanting “Ngomo must go!” as if he was not a Zimbabwean citizen. That the military hard-men who commandeered these senseless acts of violence and bloodshed are today leading our government is treacherous to the struggle for freedom and a betrayal to the troubled spirits and souls of tens of thousands of Zimbabweans so senselessly killed.
That today our cursed nation celebrates a bloody coup is just but history repeating itself. History reminds us that indeed we are not intellectually superior but more often than not we have resorted to brawn rather than brain; that more often than not we choose to shed blood as a way of resolving our differences and exerting our authority on others.
Today when I reflect on the trail of senseless bloodshed this country has spilt, I am left superstitiously clinging to the words of award winning South African author Credo Mutwa in his book Indaba My Children at page 209, that indeed perhaps Zimbabwe is cursed. He states-
“Zima-Mbje is a place that we must forget and if you ever pass that ugly and forbidden structure you must close your right eye and look at it only with your left- and curse it! Because there, in Zima-Mbje, is the shame of your fathers- the shame of the tribes. Zima-Mbje is a guilty place, and its name, its original name of Luvijiti, must always be mentioned with a curse. It must always be spat upon and which is why I ask you to know it by this name: Zima-Mbje- a structure of stone.”
Ironically one of the most iconic songs of the liberation struggles proclaims that indeed “Zimbabwe ndeyeropa baba”- meaning Zimbabwe is borne of blood, and today perhaps we need not be surprised by the blood trail that has been flowing from time immemorial.
The blood trails
1. In the late seventies when it was dawning on the Smith regime that freedom for all was inevitable, and would not wait for a thousand years, the regime unleashed a succession of devastating bombings and massacres in Mkushi, Freedom Camp, Nyadzonya and Chimoio that led to senseless killing of thousands of civilians, mostly women and children. The blood that was shed in these camps without remorse, is still awaiting spiritual appeasement and cleansing today, and the perpetrators of these war crimes retired to their mansions, some fled overseas and are making money writing books about it, enjoying their lives unsanctioned and unpunished.
2. No sooner did we gain Independence than another bloody curse befell the nation in the name of the Gukurahundi massacres, where exclusively Ndebele men, women and children, most of them unarmed were bayoneted, burnt in huts while they slept, butchered and dumped in mass graves in disused mines, dams and rivers. Pregnant women were disembowelled, entire villages burnt down, and thousands disappeared, never to be seen again. While the troubled souls and spirit of these innocent people still linger aimlessly beyond our mountains, forests and rivers, the perpetrators of these crimes retired to their posh suburbs, some were promoted and are now claiming to be our rulers today, enjoying the throne of power unfettered and unperturbed.
3. From Independence to date, a number of prominent politicians and civil leaders have disappeared without trace, never to be seen again. They were captured, tortured and vaporized into the atmosphere. It would appear our military hard-men copied this cruel modus operandi of political abductions and disappearances from Smith Regime’s notorious CIO who abducted prominent nationalist Edison Sithole and his driver in 1975 and both were never to be seen again to this day. Then there was Captain Nleya, Rashiwe Guzha, Tonderayi Ndira, Patrick Nabanyama, Itai Dzamara and thousands nameless others who were just taken away by military men in dark glasses, disappeared forever like they were swallowed by a black hole or the famous Mount Nyangani. Those who were found were recovered dead; their bodies badly mutilated or burnt beyond recognition. In the meantime, commandeers and perpetrators of these crimes retreated surreptitiously to their cosy suburbs, untroubled and unrepentant to this day.
4. A number of prominent opposition voices within Zanu PF died in mysterious circumstances, mostly involving head-on vehicle collisions; Sydney Malunga crushed to death while avoiding a ‘black dog’; Edward Chindori Chininga, who was heading a committee investigating the looting of diamonds, crashed to his death when his car veered off the road and smashed a tree but there were no skid marks ever found on the scene. The list of these murderous accidents is long and includes William Ndangana, Chris Ushewokunze, Zororo Duri, Brigadier Paul Gunda, Moven Mahachi, Border Gezi, Elliot Manyika, Fakaza Muleya, Gedion Lifa, George Kawuzani, Witness Rukarwa etc.
5. But the one recent mysterious death that proves Zimbabwe is a bloody cursed country is the death of our beloved 5 Star General of the Liberation Struggle General Rex Nhongo, also known as Solomon Mujuru. Now here was a man who wanted the best for his country murdered in the middle of the night at his Farm House and burnt beyond recognition by what his wife described as a “blue flame” to disguise his death as having been caused by a random farm house fire.
His body was found in the part of the house were the so-called house fire never reached. Honestly, how can a trained soldier who successfully evaded napalm bombs for decades die in a house fire caused by burning curtains in a house that had windows the size of sliding doors? Soon after the General’s burial, his wife, then Vice President Joice Mujuru, was attacked by political vultures within Zanu PF and current Coup President Mnangagwa is quoted as saying the removal of Mujuru delighted him; “Ndakazipigwa!”, meaning he was thrilled by the fall of his erstwhile comrade. Need I say more?
The tomorrow we want must be appeased first before it can be embraced, for we cannot embrace a body full of measles today and expect to live a happy and healthy; peaceful and prosperous tomorrow. Today needs healing. We must get rid of the violence and the bloodshed or our country will remain cursed; blotted by blood so needlessly shed. Multi-congregational cleansing ceremonies and rituals must be carried out at Mkushi, Freedom Camp, Nyadzonya and Chimoio to appease the dead and bless the living. Only then can we embrace a future of peace and prosperity.
The Gukurahundi massacres and mass graves must be unequivocally acknowledged, the dead accounted for, the guilty charged and condemned. It is up to the families of the victims to forgive them. National prayers and traditional rituals, spreading over a full week if not a full month must be carried out in all provinces in the spirit of collective national mourning to appease the spirit of the dead and protect the future of the living.
President Mugabe must be freed from his perpetual house arrest and allowed to speak openly about what transpired in our journey to nation building including the fateful days of the bloody coup, so that the whole world knows, that indeed there was nothing smart about this coup and that Zimbabwe is currently under a Bloody Coup Government! The Army and its military hard-men must be allowed to retire or crawl back into their barracks, where they belong and let civilians engage in civilized politics and democracy.
Verily, verily I say unto you, until these things are done, until these scattered bones are collected and reburied, our country will not see any peace and prosperity.
Boyd Madikila writes from Cape Town, South Africa. He can be reached at email@example.com