Open Palm versus the Fist…

 

‘Fist’ versus ‘Open Palm’: Season of Symbols, Slogans and Chants

Zimbabwe has entered in another interesting, yet frightening season of party symbols, chants, ululations, jingles, songs, poems, dance and slogans. It is an era of the unfolding of different linguistic jargon that seeks to manipulate public consciousness. Many now fear for their lives, as Zimbabwe seems geared for a make or break election come hail, come thunder! Politicians across the political divide are now in an election mood. This speaks to the fact that, we are going to witness another bloodbath as aspiring legislators canvass and lure the electorate for votes at whatever cost. It is an era that will be characterised by the instrumentalisation of fear. An epoch, when politicians legitimise and condone violence. Like in any other previous election, taking from the year 2000 to date, this year’s elections are going to be decided basing on the narratives surrounding these two images (fist and open palm).

We have indeed entered a season were we are all subjected to hearing the monotonous jingles by the hip-throwing and bum jiving Mbare chimurenga choir-Vapambevhu vari kuzhamba (colonisers are crying).It is an era were we are subjected to huge dosages of party propaganda. The season of manipulation and indoctrination is upon us. It is a season in which we  all fear the knock on our doors after dusk. A season of uncertainty, mistrust, fear, political madness, division, acrimony and fist fighting.  It is also an era characterised with hate speech and language.

 In the ZANU PF party, they will use the famous slogan which reads Asingazivi ngaadzidziswe loosely translated meaning (those who don’t know should be taught).This teaching involves the use of force in teaching (the so called sell-outs) the party ideology. During this season, we will all forget Jürgen Habermas’s description of an ideal public space, a space where people can engage in open and rational debate over matters of general concern, and in which “agreement should be secured through the force of the better argument, rather than through any exercise or threat of physical force.” It is a season when people will choose to resort to the latter.

For the MDC this is the season for the slogan Naye mudenge ,muroverei pasi bwaa loosely translated meaning (lift him in the air and smash him/her to the ground). It is a season when we forget to speak law to power.

It is a season of dominant political party campaign discourses and narratives. However; more often these narratives are half-truths and at most outright lies. It is an era of the framing of the election manifestoes which are peppered and curried with flowery sweet nothings. Oftentimes, concepts like good governance, human rights, empowerment, rule of law, indigenisation, growth and development become more prominent than ever before. Oftentimes, these concepts are abused and emptied of their true meaning and value. It is an era/epoch of donations amidst ululations, song and dance.

 It is an era of ‘I will bring you more if you Vote for Me’. An era of ‘I am your child’, ‘I was given the mandate by the people’, so Vote for me and I will source for donors and I will create employment for the youths. It is indeed an era of countless promises. Despite all the lying and political grandstanding, we have now entered again in an era when the fist and the open palm symbols become more significant. It is an era of the waving of an  unclenched fist-epitomising, transparency, accountability, justice, freedom, equality, rule of law, social justice, emancipation, growth, equity, job creation and sustainable development. It is also a season were the same hand at any moment can be clenched into a fist. The fist will signify and act as a typification of the revolutionary symbol (unity, patriotism, pan-Africanism, self-determination, sovereignty, territorial integrity, anti-neo colonialism, afro-centricism, empowerment, indigenisation, and agrarianism). It is a season where our fate and destiny is going to be decided through these two political party symbols. It is also a season, when the spiral of violence will recur, painfully, it is an era when the  spiral of silence will also take centre stage in our public discourses.

 

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USA Gun Violence: Threat to Civilisation

In the past months the world has watched and sympathised with the victims of the US gun violence. Up to now, many are still in shock and in disbelief. We have all watched the horrendous shooting incidences, which we  dare not talk about. Many have lost their lives, and many still continue to lose their lives. We have all raised our eyebrows on whether the United States of America is really a safe place for the innocent children. We are all still in shock and in disbelief over the alarming and shocking rate of gun violence in the US. Nobody could really imagine that in this 21st century in a so called civilised country, one could just load his/her gun and dash into the streets to shoot randomly at any object in sight-including human beings.

Across the world, many analysts have also questioned the gun law legislation in US, especially in light of the numerous gun violence incidents which has gone viral like an epidemic. In the first place it’s worth asking why the US citizens need guns.As the debate on gun violence has started gathering steam, many arguments have emerged. Firstly, should it be made harder or difficult to buy, own, carry and use a gun in the USA? However, the issue of US gun violence had stayed under the radar of public debate in the previous years. As from 2012 to date, the recurrence of gun violence in US has been a disturbing trend indeed. The White House also seem unclear and hesitant to initiate tight gun control measures. This reluctance, therefore mean that incidents of gun violence will increase rather than decrease in the near future. I am of the view that, as long as guns continue being sold like candy in grocery shops, gun violence will continue being on the upsurge in the USA.

To this effect, there should be some regulatory legislative measures to control the global arms sales. The buck should stop with the manufacturer. Something should be done sooner rather than later.According to the New York Times, there are about 310 million guns in the USA as to date. What a shocking figure! It has also been reported that almost 40% of households own these guns. Research indicates that America tops in terms of gun ownership amongst other countries on an international level. To this effect, we should also note that there are various gun control laws in USA as to date. However, these laws seem to be ineffective. This can be evidenced in the numerous reported incidences of gun violence that has hogged the limelight of the international media in the previous months. According to the New York Times, the US has the National Firearms Act of 1934 which restrict civilians from owning automatic weapons, short-barreled shotguns, hand grenades and other powerful arms. It also has the Gun Control Act of 1968 which prohibits mail-order sales of weapons and compels anyone involved in the gun business to be federally licensed and keep permanent sales records. Furthermore, it also prohibits knowingly selling a gun to those with prior criminal records, minors, individuals with mental health problems, and a few other categories of people.

Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 requires licensed gun dealers to perform background checks. Background checks are not required for private gun sale. As of now the White House is busy crafting and announcing the so called White House Proposals on Gun Violence. Personally, I see these proposals as the usual loud sounding nothings. The same vague gun policy rhetoric on background checks will not work. It therefore remains unclear and highly unlikely whether we are going to witness a decrease in gun related shooting of innocent civilians. A lot needs to be done. Addressing gun violence is both a policy and political decision that should involve a bold and tough decisive measure. As much as an individual may have a right to own and use a gun, one should not put the security of other innocent civilians at danger. Otherwise gun violence will remain a threat to civilisation!

Grand Opposition Coalition in Zimbabwe: Towards a ‘Free Rider’ Syndrome

More often, we tend to get distracted from real bread and butter issues as we struggle for our emancipation. We tend to major on the minor. In the process we become prisoners of common sense. In this article I seek to add my voice to whether Zimbabwe needs a grand coalition comprised of all opposition political players that are currently scattered across the Zimbabwean political landscape like lost sheep. I have painfully observed that there is a depressing lack of engagement by both ordinary Zimbabweans and by politicians (from the opposition camp) on the impossibility of a grand coalition in Zimbabwe as we journey towards the make-or-break elections in the near future.

In the previous months, the media has been awash with the tired arguments and wishes made by several so called analysts on the need for a grand coalition from the opposition movement. However, very little discussion have centered on the real challenges and the practicality of such a coalition. Disturbingly so, many so called political analysts have spent much of their time arguing on the impossible. To this end, I therefore do not seek to offer any alternatives or suggestions on practical solutions, since there is nothing practical at all in combining opposition political gladiators in preparation of the earmarked watershed elections imminent any time soon.

Rather, in this article I highlight my personal reasons why a grand coalition is not necessary in Zimbabwe, especially in the contemporary political climate. Firstly, let us be alive to the fact that a ‘spaghetti mix’ of opposition political players will not guarantee an election victory or electoral majority in favour of the coalition. In my considered view, a coalition set up will indeed be a mosaic feature, comprised of various competing power interests. I even doubt whether such a coalition will survive hours if not minutes. Pardon, my pessimism. But, anyway the political reality and truth has to be said. On a more superficial level, one will be tempted to agree that a united movement of contemporary opposition political parties in Zimbabwe namely (Mavambo,MDC-99,MDC-N, ZANU NDONGA,ZAPU,MDC-T,et al),will defeat ZANU PF. But in reality, this unity will not necessarily translate into a sweeping victory just by mere joining forces. The thinking that a grand coalition will be a ‘magic bullet’ is factually wrong and incorrect. It’s not a given.

Let us also escape from the parochial mindedness and look at the broader picture. I pose a question here, “What is lacking in Morgan Tsvangirai that will make him stronger by joining hands with for example Job Sikhala?” Pardon my candour. How many voters from MDC-N will jump ship and vote for the MDC-T.? Personally, I think we should always avoid the danger of writing history in haste. Morgan Tsvangirai defeated ZANU PF in 2008 without a grand coalition. Why not now? The very fact that some voters chose to vote for other political parties other than ZANU PF and MDC-T in 2008 also mean a lot. How are the the grand coalition proponents cock-sure that those voters will switch their minds to vote for a coalition movement? The very fact that they did not vote for Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008 mean that they do not have faith and confidence in him. Hence, it’s most likely that they haven’t changed their voting preferences. So  up to this day, they might not even vote for him because he will be  part of the grand coalition. What guarantee do we have that their perception will have changed because there is a grand coalition? Taking from the Zimbabwean political complexion, which is fragmented and polarised, Horrowitz’s model of vote pooling will not work.

Put simply, the chemistry of forming a coalition is somehow complicated as explored by various coalition theorists. What Zimbabweans need is a multiparty democracy. A democracy were the best candidate wins and not a grand coalition, which is nothing but a temporary marriage of convenience. A marriage which will emerge as a ticking time bomb in the making that will eventually explode. I guess Zimbabweans need a wide choice for selection. Zimbabweans might also have become fed up with voting without choosing. Let them be spoilt of choice. The whole narrative about a grand coalition is all about politics of accommodation which will yield nothing fruitful except the pursuance of the politics of ‘free rider syndrome’. Let individual political leaders enter into the ring. Let the candidate with the ‘people’ win the election. The assumption that an opposition coalition will strengthen opposition is somehow misguided, given the various divergent ideological leaning, goals and political strategy.

Will hawks, doves and penguins blend well together? I doubt very much.

Struggle over Kashmir (India-Pakistan): Unpacking the 70 year Old Granny Narrative

I still go back in memory lane to reflect on my undergraduate days at a local University in Zimbabwe. My lecturer in Peace, Conflict and Development used to teach us that, there were three chief causal factors of conflict in Africa and the world over. Ranging from the following countries Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, Mozambique, Chad, Tunisia, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Chile, Bolivia, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Israel, Palestine, Serbia,Herzegovina, Croatia, Philippines, East Timor, Pakistan-India and on some  countries too many to mention, the triggers of conflict seemed to be the same. In his words, these three main conflict triggers included abuse of resources, struggle for resources and abuse of power.

However, even after my studies I developed a keen interest on the India-Pakistan dispute. The border dispute between these two countries has been recorded in the history books as among one of the longest standing conflicts in the history of humanity. As I try to research and read deeper into the genesis of this border dispute, I am left more confused and shocked to say the least. Many questions have flooded my mind and i guess, they will also flood your great minds too.

I have always enjoyed watching Al Jazeera for some personal reasons. Generally, I just like their motto which reads “We show the shots being fired and we show the shots landing”, meaning to say they always give a balanced reportage if not an objective coverage of conflict situations. According to the Al Jazeera, it is reportedly believed that the Kashmir dispute was sparked by a 70-year-old Indian grandmother (from an Indian border town of Churunda) who decided that she wanted to spend the rest of her days living with her sons in the disputed province of Kashmir.
Little did she know that she had lighted the matchstick that resulted in the clash between these two nations.

The 70-year-old granny is reportedly to have managed to penetrate the heavily defended “line of control” that separates the Indian and Pakistani armies on the Kashmiri border. By so doing, she was responsible for igniting the flames of the dispute between India-Pakistan as reported by Al Jazeera. Personally, the narrative surrounding the old granny’s adventures has pointed out that the old woman wanted to re-unite and stay with her sons who lived across the Pakistan controlled area of Kashmir. Unknowingly, the old granny had sown the bitter seeds of a conflict that has proved to be one of the longest drawn disputes among sovereign nation states.

It is believed that the ease with which she penetrated the defences was seen as a major breach by the Indian authorities, who are always on the look-out for weaknesses in their security that might be exploited by Islamist terrorists. Al Jazeera reports that “the Indian army began building new observation towers, which in turn prompted the Pakistanis to respond by firing a barrage of mortars across the line of control”. Events later followed each other in haste. As of now fighting over the Kashmir province is still ongoing. However, the question still remains whether the old granny was solely responsible for sparking the Kashmir dispute.

Arguably, the old granny narrative might seem to some of us, as another ‘conspiracy theory’ in the making. As I reflect on the triggers for the Kashmir dispute I am convinced there were some other deep-rooted animosities, tensions and mistrust between India-Kashmir, beside the old granny narrative. As we search for alternative track two diplomacy strategies to end this conflict, let us be reminded that we shall continue looking at the bigger picture. Let us not forget that it is the small things (either hate language or actions) that trigger conflicts as shown in many trouble spots world over.

But surely, if it is the  70-year-old granny who sparked the Kashmir border dispute, let her actions be forgiven. For she did it unintentionally, it was for the love of her children. So let peace, love and harmony prevail in Kashmir. Let all the actors involved symbolically honour the old granny’s love for unity, peace and togetherness. In unison let them exchange roses instead of  missiles.

“Peace begins with me, Peace begins with you, and Peace begins with all of us” (The late Vice President John Landa Nkomo).

Touching Lives

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Touching Lives

Leago Pholas notes that, “The future, all over the world, lies in the youth.” Many at times we are interested in rural tourism, but we forget to really interrogate and imagine what it really mean to be poor, disillusioned and hopeless especially at a young generation. Tourists come, take pictures and they go. Humanitarian organisations come, give food handouts and they go. Well-wishers come and pay school fees for one term and they vanish into the thin air. Politicians come and promise ‘free universal primary education’, we clap hands, ululate and break into song and dance.Worringly,the situation of the poor, innocent children remain the same if not worse.

In my life I have seen rural children who chew the same gum without any fear of gum diseases. Personally, this to me shows a deep sense of sharing, care, love and oneness. On the other hand, it may be viewed as a sign of lack and deep poverty. I also grew up in such a continent in which we grew up as children sharing the same mango or guava fruit. We could make sure everyone had a cheerie bite. This is a continent plagued with high poverty levels, characterised by high inequality within the social fabric of our society. A continent were young children sleep on empty stomachs. A continent where we grew up, without even celebrating our birthdays. Children in this continent don’t even know how to blow candles and how to cut cakes.

This is a continent were child labour is rampant. Children do not go to school. Their lives are touching. But behind all the poverty they can still afford to smile at you. Beneath their tender and genuine smiles they radiant their hope and wish of a brighter future.