Zimbabwe and a history of the future

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IF in the present world there was no propaganda and no war, politics would not be seen and experienced as a very dirty game. The telling of lies as truth, marketing of myths as reality and the shooting and burning of opponents for economic and political power has made politics an unhygienic and alarmingly bloody game. Journalist, John Pilger, has complained that in world politics propaganda is no longer the powerful invisible hand that is used to shepherd the hearts and minds of publics, but that is has become the almighty government of the world.
In religion too, Lucifer beats the believers black and blue because Christian propaganda has presented the devil as a dark fellow, ugly beyond repair and equipped with a pair of sharp horns. In reality, Lucifer looks more handsome than most angels, he is covered in beauty and other fine things and after all he once lived in heaven, he sings melodiously and can be very generous with wealth and might, the devil can be sexy, that way he floors even the strongest.
As Robert Mugabe spiritedly seeks to elevate his wife, Grace Mugabe, to power in Zimbabwe, propaganda has assumed governance, ridiculous myths are being sold as tested truths and Mugabe’s own personal wishes are presented as the will of the people. Suddenly, the Zanu PF Women’s League makes a polite request that the women’s quota principle be brought back to elevate at least one woman to the presidium. The war veterans too have added their voice to the urgent need for a female leader to be promoted to the high table of the party. As a humble servant of the party and the people, a fearer of God that he is supposed to be, Mugabe is soon to grant the wish of the masses. The many voices that are screaming for the promotion of women, for the elevation of Grace Mugabe to the presidium are actually one voice, Mugabe’s own voice multiplied into many mouths of the multitudes. One thing is happening here, politics.
I write today to observe that, given the slumber of the political opposition that continues to resist the wisdom of a broad and strong coalition, the prospect of Grace Mugabe becoming the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the armed forces in Zimbabwe now deserves open and dispassionate debate as it is a matter of grave national interest. The continuing pretence by Mugabe and his wife that there are no plans to parachute the First Lay to power is increasingly becoming that kind of toxic propaganda that threatens national security. Beyond the curtains of propaganda, I also seek to describe what exactly the so called G40 political outfit is, the fortunes and the threats that it comes with.Advertisement

It is a misfortune of some proportions that the publicly owned media in Zimbabwe, in alliance with the ruling elite, creates such huge information gaps that have led to the privately owned media specialising in contesting their lies and attempting to fill in the gaps. In the process the role of the media to monitor power, to question authority, to explode myths and to speak truth to power has been abandoned, making the media in Zimbabwe agents of power rather than agents of the people.
When the media do not question the official narratives, no matter how patriotic they sound, censorship, distortions, silences, erasures, and omissions become the rule rather than the exception. Using some rice, cooking oil and some groceries together with open threats, Grace Mugabe has tried to buy the silence of journalists. Strong journalists, the fellows who journalise by processing information into knowledge, analysts who deconstruct propaganda, and unmask myths should be able this time around to defy those who seek their complicity in marketing their unquestioned political agendas. Grace Mugabe has a perfect right to enter the political fray and even to aspire for the presidency of the country, but she must not, for any amount of cash or cause, escape probity.
King Robert Mugabe has Spoken
It sounded as a mundane exaggeration when Lovemore Madhuku suggested that Robert Mugabe has his own personal constitution by which he presides over the party and the country. But a close look at the recently ended Victoria Falls conference clears the dust and shows that Mugabe’s voice in Zanu PF is the voice of some kind of a divinely elected king. In loudly wondering why there are people who think they belong to Phelekezela Mphoko and others to Emmerson Mnangagwa when he was the one in power, Mugabe royally told the two vice-presidents to park their ambitions because power is his to keep and to give.
The public admiration of Joseph Chinotimba as a “practical” and humble war veteran was among many statements a reminder to Christopher Mutsvangwa, the present leader of the war vets, that his replacement has been identified. Liberation war credentials that have been used as the richest qualification for anyone to be considered for any important office have been reduced to nothing by the King, as even those who did not go to war have become equally “special” to Robert Mugabe. Since liberation war credentials have been one of the missing lines in her political CV, Grace Mugabe becomes a beneficiary of Victoria Falls. The campaign for the return of the women’s quota principle to elevate a female candidate to the presidium turns her from a previously dark to a white galloping horse toward the throne. The armed and uniformed officers, including the spooks themselves have been warned to stop dreaming of themselves as king and queen makers. Not in so many words, in Victoria Falls Mugabe said, calm down my people, I will choose for you a leader, prepare to follow her. It is not amazing at all that in condemning unruly war veterans, interfering securocrats and in calming down the two vice-presidents Mugabe never gestured any warning to the First Lady herself who is otherwise the most visible and spirited aspirant to power; she is the chosen one.
The Foxes versus the Hedgehogs
In beginning his classic on leadership and leaders, Isiah Berlin quoted a verse from the poet Archilochus who noted that “a fox knows many things” while the “Hedgehog knows one big thing.” In this view, foxy politicians and leaders are clever and resourceful Machiavellians with bags of tricks and stratagems for political manoeuvre and survival. On the other hand, the hedgehogs are rigid and even frigid political operators who rely on one big idea as their recommendation to power and leadership. As hedgehogs, war types like the Crocodile, Emmerson Mnangagwa and his backers such as the endangered Christopher Mutsvangwa, have had the big idea of war credentials taken away, leaving them without any other known recommendation to leadership in the new scheme of political things in Zanu PF. The hedgehogs should remember very well Grace Mugabe’s warning a few weeks ago, “don’t tell us about your abilities, we know them.” The time to cook and eat the hedgehogs has come and Mugabe even said to some of them “you will go to jail.”
What is prevalently called the G40 is a collection of politicians and thinkers in Zanu PF and outside in the civic society, who are keen to produce a reformed Zanu PF that can sell itself to Zimbabwe and the world without having to explain Zanu PF’s sins of the past and the legacy of genocide and political violence.
Liberation war credentials and the uses of violence for political reasons are distasted by this group that prides itself with being modern, intellectual and even streetwise. The reason why Grace Mugabe himself had to force a PHD for herself is that this group that prefers her to those with blood in their hands privileges education and intellectualism as a political resource. The members of this group who do not and cannot muster academic credentials are described and sold as humble, patient, loyal and reliable cadres. A few of those that are associated with this outfit have been spotted at the College of Law at the University of Zimbabwe, not just reading law but also sending a clear message that their definition of politics and power is ideas not a legacy of war and violence.
Not so many of us notice that Grace Mugabe is personally frustrated whenever political commentators and journalists associate her with such Zanu PF legacies as Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina, and other dark deeds. She wishes one day to argue that if she were in charge at the time such things would not have happened. In the true manner of the fox, she and her foxy backers wish to shake themselves off from any individual leaders who cannot successfully plead ignorance and innocence of the Zanu PF sins of the past. The power that Grace Mugabe has over Mugabe now is moral and political; she says I can’t sit back and watch you go, leaving me to be hated and punished by the enemies that you created, for the sake of my family and fortune, I will do something about it, get some clever friends to get me into power and I will do this even if it means publicly condemning your legacy at some point. She believes herself to be cleaning Mugabe’s bloody mess and she reminds him of it that his war time friends cannot clean the mess because they have their own to deal with, and may actually slaughter her, the children and the family’s fortune to appease the angry multitudes of Zimbabwe. Even as Mugabe thinks Sydney Sekeramayi can be trusted to protect Grace, the family and the fortune, she is not satisfied. She and the foxes pride themselves with the 2013 elections that were won through brain work without violence or any recourse to the war of liberation. For that reason, war credentials, any legacy of degrees of violence has become a serious liability for any aspirant for power within Zanu PF.
The foxes are charm warriors; their plan is to bewitch Zimbabweans with flashy ideas, music and mesmerizing political symbolism. Even sport, especially soccer which the group has managed to free from some baracudas and have it under their own, will be a site of spectacular public relations and political marketing. The international community will be finished off with modern economic and political blueprints; this group will remain Zanu PF by name because in content it will be another outfit that has already attracted some energetic and brainy former leaders of some opposition political parties. To take away all the spirit from the hedgehogs, these foxy fellows are prepared to bring back Joice Mujuru as a defeated, humbled but important comrade. A few of us noticed how Mujuru was given gentle treatment in Victoria Falls, the foxes need her for the present project, after all the hedgehogs in MDCT failed to achieve what Zanu PF feared the most, to make her a leader of the opposition.
For Mnangagwa and other hedgehogs, the time for total rebellion is now or to admit defeat and help the foxes. Both options have consequences. While the Crocodile might remain breathing, the levels of water around it will be reduced and political oxygen carefully measured to the basic, the people around him will be clobbered to silence. Anyone who saw a picture of a finished Dydimus Mutasa about to receive what appeared from a distance to be some coins from a sympathetic but naughty journalist, who pictured the scene, knows what a clobbered person looks like. After these allies of the Crocodile have been clobbered, some of them will be brought back as those of Gamatox as the foxes unite scattered and crying cadres for 2018, which sadly might find the ill-equipped political opposition even more divided and a smaller quantity than it ever was.
Enter the Prophets and the Charlatans
Owing to the Hedgehogs in the political opposition in Zimbabwe, especially Morgan Tsvangirai who rigidly does not see that another leader with other ideas is needed to lead a strong coalition, Grace Mugabe might become president of Zimbabwe sooner than 2018. Her joke about pushing Mugabe in a wheelchair is much more pregnant-a political statement than most of us realise. I can argue here that her leadership as scary as it may be,– I imagine her saying stop it at UN or telling SADC and the AU such things as that she is sent by God, –can bring some fresh oxygen away from the hegemony of war vets and the testosterone ideologies of political violence and death. She can be repackaged into a benevolent and good humored matriarch under whose watch, and support by competent technocrats, of which she has many, Zimbabwe can be recovered from the hedgehogs and restored to the comity of nations in the world. I believe that the foxes can engineer genuine power sharing in Zimbabwe that may relaunch the economy and refresh the decaying polity.
The trouble might be her belief and patronage of the prophecies and predictions of debatable “men of God.” She might, with the aid of prophets and charlatans, turn out to be a strange leader with messianic pretensions who can deploy the army at the dream of a prophet and the like. The sooner Grace Mugabe admits that her wealth and her political fortunes are a result of her luck, her courage and the genius of her foxy companions the better. The longer she believes that she is sent of God and therefore opposition to her is war on God the better she stays far away from the state; or else she might do an Idi Amin or worse in Zimbabwe.
There is another troop of pretenders that are scattered around Grace Mugabe, around her businesses even, besides the genuine foxy spin doctors and the intellectual mafia types that surround her. These are pure charlatans, briefcase academics and phrase mongers who have filled Zimbabwe with fake PHDs and counterfeit graduates. These are lazy people who collect phrases and aphorisms from dictionaries and blogs, string them together and profess what they claim to be knowledge when it is pure wind. These fly by night academics are confidence tricksters who boldly preach and teach subjects that they know nothing about, half-baked students who need to be supervised themselves are busy pretending to be experts and they drop the first family’s name to scare observers while milking the fat cows and even infiltrating universities. In the company of these, Grace Mugabe, might become a clown of the century, the queen of the fake.
In the early eighties, when many people came from the war without qualifications, the forging of certificates and claiming of academic qualifications was understandable, it is shocking that in 2015, young people who enjoy proximity to power and privilege would rather buy a red gown and pretend to intellection instead of getting scholarships and studying their butt off to the pinnacle like everyone must do. These are the people who must stop it, if Grace Mugabe is to be one of the possible leaders of a new Zimbabwe.
A history of the Future
The future, in politics, is always a sweet or a bitter harvest, depending on the thoughts and actions of the past. Ideally, in Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe should be the last ever person to hold so much power as an individual and Zanu PF as party. The future politics should see power being shared and many groupings coming together to check each other in governing the country. The Big Man or Big Woman paradigm should be allowed to retreat with the leadership of Robert Mugabe and the hegemony of hedgehogs. For that reason, the creator willing, my next contribution should be on the political opposition in Zimbabwe and some insights on decolonial politics. The urgent business of every serious Zimbabwean in these transitional moments is to destroy the paradigm of politics as a dirty game or as a game of foul play. As politics increasingly becomes based on ideas and intellection, counterfeit ideas and fake producers ok knowledge should stop it.
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Pretoria based Zimbabwean Political Scientist and Semiotician: