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‘Sometimes it is difficult not to be pessimistic’: An incoherent narration of chaos

2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.
3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.

‘1 Thessalonians 5:2-3’

I saw this scripture during one of my current flirtations with my favourite philosopher Zizek. In his book Zizek hinted at the global catastrophe that will happen while the world is in the illusion of progress, modernity and scientific advancements. Of course the book was published before the plague that has closed the world.  I’m grappling with my research proposal topic on Rethinking War in the Zimbabwean literary canon.
The scripture struck me in a different light as it took me on a serious path of reflections that cemented my already dangerous ideas on independence, freedom and the sexy term democracy.

My reading of history (which of course is mainly influenced by literature) tells me we never had freedom in Zimbabwe and probably throughout Africa. I like the flawed realistic conversations and perceptions of literary citizens that always escape the manipulations of their creator’s ideological worldviews. The scariest thing is me thinking we may continue getting closer the touching distance without managing to have freedom. The 1960s wave of the downing of the Union Jack, French and Portuguese flags caught up with Zimbabwe more than 20 years after the disintegration of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I am always fascinated by how a small small country like Zimbabwe has changed names for a number of times without necessarily finding a viable way to change the fortunes of its inhabitants. At one point it was Rhodesia, the other time Southern Rhodesia, then a shareholder of the federal settlement I alluded to above before resorting to Rhodesia again which was succeeded by the bogus Zimbabwe Rhodesia which preceded the Zimbabwe we know today. This very Zimbabwe if we may try to believe in it has gone through multiple circles of metamorphosis that with unimaginable level of ironies continue failing the people. You remember how this small country has been on the news headline for two decades now of course for the bad things.

The disintegration of the federation made sure that the sister states, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland turned into Zambai (1964, October)and Malawi (1964, July) respectively of course on different days. Southern Rhodesia was taken over by white supremacist regime under the stewardship of Ian Douglass Smith who of course succeeded Winston Field in a coup like fashion when he declared the Unilateral Declaration of Independence on November, 11 1965. This is one of the many ‘what if’ that characterize our national history, I mean the ouster of Field who is seen as a progressive liberal-conservative who might have facilitated the illusion of a smooth transition to majority rule. Many atimes I try with great futility the possible destiny of Zimbabwe if Herbert Wiltshire Hamandishe Chitepo had lived to see the liberated Zimbabwe, if Ndabaningi Sithole was not ousted through a coup like fashion by Mugabe who then was being backed the militant wing of ZANU PF which by then was called the High Command. Today this is probably the influential Joint Operations Command. I also try to imagine what could have been us if Joshua Nkomo was the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe or if the new Zimbabwe had allowed him to be a healthy political contestant in the post liberation war Zimbabwe. With futility I think and think what could have happened to Zimbabwe if Tsvangirayi had been allowed to take over the state in 2008?

You see this land is not new to not so coup like power takeovers. If I don’t forget we may get there.
As Prime Minister of Rhodesia Ian Smith had vowed that this land will not see black leadership in a 1000 years. The heroic episode of the war that involved militant guerrilla tactics with of course the assistance of the majority of the Rhodesian black populace ensured that the mad 1000 years were turned in to a mere two decades. I called this era from 1966 an ‘episode of the war’ deliberately in order to debunk the myth that has limited the people’s struggles into three linear phases that could be merged into one larger than life heroic story of successful resistance: First, Second and Third Chimurenga. The concept of Chimurenga has been distorted of its meaning by propaganda to the extent that the new generation no longer have anything to do with it. To help you reader Chimurenga just means that disturbed yet undying yearning to have the not so easily attainable freedom that is in the oppressed you.

This (linear historical narrative and distortion of the people’s hearty desire) for me completely silences the people’s wrestling with oppressive systematic forces say from 1897-1966, and from 1980 to the present. This is the reason why great representatives of these epochs like Mzingeli, Burombo, Dumbutshena, Tsvangirai and even the masses (to use the Marxist jargon) are placed on the periphery of history. The writers of history (which we all know are those who think they had tested victory) have placed gun holders and those who think they lead the gun at the forefront of the struggle. Playing to this propaganda might be one of the reasons why we are in this deep deep abyss.

The heroism of the violent war (which on a good day was arguably necessary) has discarded and is still discarding the power of dialogue in Zimbabwe before physical, psychological and emotional violence is meted on the very souls of the Zimbabwean masses. It’s because those who advocated for freedom without using the gun are seen as non entities. If I were to continue or if you were to rethink Rhodesian history you may end up agreeing that since 1980 there is never a time when power or beneficiaries of power were ever ready to negotiate with the powerless. Those with power will always be on the offensive while proclaiming there is ‘Peace and Safety’.

As I said Zimbabwe managed to exchange the Union Jack for the multi-colored (red, green, yellow, white and black with the Zimbabwe bird) cloth on the night of the 17th of April 1980 to make the day officially recognized as independence day the 18th of April. This makes Zimbabwe be on the top three of the last nations to gain Independence in Africa. The other two are Namibia and South Africa. I am still struggling to come to terms with such historical coincidence, I mean having exchange of the two symbolic cloths at night. I also controversially think Bob Marley’s historic performance with his Wailers as symbolic of the wailing of the masses in the midst of ‘Peace and safety’

There is a remarkable phenomenon peculiar to African date with independence: coups and civil wars. Zimbabwe escaped an early coup, yet ushered in a remarkable dispensation of coups that are not coups in the most recent of our times. The speculative reason for such a late experience with a coup might be a result of the formidable remedy that came through strict measures by the ruling elites from across the continent through its bodies such as Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and Southern African Development Coordination Committee (SADCC) among others. I used their very terms deliberately. I am not easily seduced by sex new terms that doesn’t necessarily alter existing status quo. They (SADCC, OAU leaders) have allowed the cementing of bonds between sister revolutionary movements that are threatening to rule forever especially on the southern end of the continent. I’m referring to them because they are said to have been created to make sure the gospel of peace and safety is relentlessly preached. For example, Harare and the souls that live in it are in unimaginable psychological and physical anguish yet the recently held SADCC virtual meeting was hailing the rulership for its remarkable handling of the organ to do with peace within the organisation. Ironic?

Tragically, soon after the famous speech by then British empire’s golden boy (Robert Mugabe) rode on reconciliation mantra that promised turning swords in to plowshares, there were skirmishes which historians have termed Gukurahundi that caused severe loss of lives, property and dignity in the Matebeleland and Midlands regions of the new born nations. This was the earliest threat to the rhetoric of peace. Ironically the ruthless threat came from the rulership to the people. The Unity Accord of 1987 came as a relief that aloud the gospel of peace more preachable, yet the incident had brought unimaginable physical, emotional and psychological scars to the country. The country is failing to find closure to this chapter because the country never have itself the platform to converse on this.

Another interesting irony of the miracle of the guns turned plowshares is its utter disregard of one of the chief grievances: land repossession. The masses had no guns to turn into plowshares, neither did they possess the land to use the plowshares on.

While this explicit genocide was happening in the already mentioned regions, the country was also living a false freedom which stretched to the 90s. Why am I calling this a false freedom? It’s because freedom never came to Zimbabwe. Like many other countries that claimed to have gotten independence Zimbabwe failed to upset the systematic injustice and inequality of the colony. While the nation thrived on areas such as education it failed on the liberation and de-racialisation of the landscape. With their growing literacy rates the blacks found themselves squashed on that little space allocated to them through multiple acts of deprivation which is championed by the Land Apportionment Act of 1930. The willing buyer willing seller has too much limitations to facilitate real and meaningful freedom.

Any attempts by the people to occupy the land from 1980 until the late 90s were ruthlessly squashed by law enforcement agents. Peasants yearning for land who took the initiative to repossess their lands were termed squatters in the Zimbabwe of those time. So you can see while peace and safety was being preached the masses had no land to allow business to involve everyone else. The irony is, at the time Zimbabwe had one of the strongest currency in the world and was being touted the breadbasket of Africa yet it’s black population was yearning for land.

Feeling the threat of loosing power to the strong emerging opposition in 1999, the Zimbabwean government allowed a pseudo land revolution occur before they grabbed large chunks to themselves. Due to this failed revolution at the turn of the century Zimbabwean creatives have come out without wonderful arguments on land, identity and belonging. You may want to read the Zimbabwean literary canon to gain perspectives on these issues. The failed revolution left Zimbabweans enduring the most painful epoch in history. Half of the population escaped the country in that spectacular fashion by the nameless narrator of the House of Hunger by Dambudzo Marechera,

After the new inequalities of a revolution that benefited the elites, the land reform in Zimbabwe produced a new rhetoric of peace and safety where Robert’s vocal vitriol made him popular across the globe while his vitriol ensured extreme physical and emotional suffering at home. The land grabbing elites failed to work the farms and Zimbabwe is now an importing giant. The youth are still relentless in their pursuit of academic achievements with them having nowhere to claim as their own space. They’re the new pawns in the political chase game with most of them destroyed beyond repair.

The recent 2018 election which came after the historic hijacking and awakening of November 2017 saw many youths participating in electoral processes. I know many excited first time voters who thought they could bring new luck. They hoped they the honeymoon with the military of the past few months would lead to freedom. The then new President who had been there in the first cabinet had promised opening the country for business, a mantra I had qualms with from the beginning. I opined that the concept of “openness” is synonymous with the popular dancehall song Bhero, I will look for it and maybe have a blog for the benefit of my non-Zimbabwean readership. My thinking is a direct translation of opening in modern or current youth cosmology has strong undesirable sexual connotations. It is a language of pimps. The message of peace and safety from 2017 came riding on mega deals that never ever materialized into the prosperity of the masses. The masses are even more despaired than ever.

Having been born and raised thinking their places in the office which is not there the Zimbabwean youth has taken the idea of petty business of selling second hand commodities, alcohol and drug consumption as well as violence to another level. Let us pray that we remain in this same path of despair. Let us pray no more for hope but despair. Maybe that way we may hit a brick war that make us think beyond elections, human rights, freedom of speech, education, children’s right and so forth and so forth. Allow me to close with a recent yet wonderful whatsapp message from a friend which resonates with Paul’s message to the Thessalonians: ‘Sometimes it is difficult not to be pessimistic’

Published by advocateofunpopularopinions

I am a preacher confused in the constant happenings of life. I have been secretive about inner thoughts. Now I want to flow with them. I want to vomit. The pen is my link to the paper. The keyboard becomes the first step towards you. The internet will sort everything else considering I am not broke.

11 thoughts on “‘Sometimes it is difficult not to be pessimistic’: An incoherent narration of chaos

  1. we are sick of despair and even sicker from hope…
    Clutching at shadows and illusions even as we all become undertakers burying dreams and each other.
    Someone asked me how we got here, and I think the truth is we never left.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. The fact that you rolled this through time is better for us who study a few things from Professor Ali Mazuri’s African Nationalism few paragraphs about Zimbabwe

    Liked by 1 person

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