Journey to Chegutu

On a lazy Sunday morning I decided to take a bus to Chegutu to see a friend. I took with me the novel Othello by Shakespeare. In the bus I sat next to her. She was gorgeous, cute and curvy, to sum it all – she was an eye candy. She glanced at me and I suddenly started to feel shy. She was chewing a bubblegum. I purposively chose to sit next to her for the reasons best known to my heart. I attempted to greet her, but it seemed as if my lips could not move. I was tongue tied.

She glanced at me from head to toe. Suddenly I saw her tucking ear phones in her ears. I tried to summon courage to let my feelings known to her. But, the more I tried the more I was gripped and arrested with fear. My heart skipped and started pumping faster and harder. But I still believed I will manage to throw an ice-breaker. As the engine roared into life we left Mbare Bus Terminus heading towards Chegutu. As I tried to gather courage I could feel butterflies in my stomach. I developed jelly legs.

I then decided I would tell her about my feelings when the bus would have arrived at the National Sports stadium –which is a distance of approximately 10 kms from Mbare Bus terminus. We passed through the National Sports stadium and no word could come out of my lips. I started calculating distance. I told myself I will talk to her when we reach Norton. The bus pulled to a halt in Norton and still nothing had been said.

I then calculated some distance and I thought I will gather courage when the bus reaches Selous. But, sooner than later we arrived in Selous and still the chemistry did not occur. I then started flipping through the pages of my novel – not that I was in a reading mood. In my mind i thought she would ask ‘Who are your favourite authors’, she never did. I wasn’t a fan of literature or novels – but I had realised most ladies like guys who read. So I wanted to seem classy, smart, intelligent and well-read. I wanted to appear as one of the dude from the upmarket. But all was in vain. The chemistry could not happen, all I lacked were the guts.

Eventually the bus arrived in Chegutu and as we were disembarking I said to her. ‘Goodbye and safe journey!’ Poor me!! How could I simply bid someone farewell whom I failed to talk to all the way from Mbare Bus Terminus? It was the fear in me. As I lay in my bed I am trying to read How to Approach a Woman: A Beginner’s Guide.

No more folklores

‘You will remember me for the good times we had’, she said. ‘You will remember me for the good I have done in your life’, she said these words before she finally resorted to an eternal sleep. She was the woman who taught me how to iron my khaki shorts, wash my feet and to brush my teeth. Above all, she taught me to wear shoes, but I remember grandmother used to be cross with me upon hearing that I had  developed a habit of removing shoes and hiding them in the school yard. I remember my very first time when I wore shoes. These were the days when I had to go to Form 1 at the nearby  Manyene secondary school. Shoes used to hurt my feet such that they would bleed. I was more comfortable in rubber sandals and walking barefoot than in wearing shoes.

I remember, she used to grow groundnuts and sell at the nearby missionary school. She was a great woman who believed in the value of education though she could not read and write. She sacrificed and invested much in the education that she never had. Even during the toughest of times she could still afford to do menial cleaning jobs just for the sake of my upkeep. In me she saw the potential. I remember how she used to go to Teacher Maswera to re-emphasize the need for him to discipline me. She strongly felt and feared I would become a spoilt child.

With the sands of time, God saw it fit to take her from this mother earth. In the serenity of death we lost grandmother. There are no more short stories, folklore and the goodies she always brought with  from the nearby grocery shop. All what is left are empty and fading memories of the once cheerful and loving woman. Each time I take a stroll down the family graveyard, tears ooze uncontrollably.

I am painfully reminded of the lives and times we shared. I always try to re-connect and re-trace the lives and times of grandmother. I only seek solace and comfort in the Lord. I believe grandmother is watching over me wherever she is. I still hear her wise words of wisdom ringing in the back of my mind…

You will remember me for the good times we had….

Surely today as I sit in my hut, I am in deep thoughts. I am remembering you for the good times we shared, the tender love and care. Life will never be the same again…..

Law as a Shield or as a Sword? No Easy Walk to Freedom for Zimbabweans

When law can do no right, let it be lawful that law can bar no wrong’ (Shakespeare, King John Act 3). Africa is replete with worrying and disturbing scenarios whereby the law is used as an instrument of oppression rather than liberation. This makes one to safely arrive at the conclusion that in most African countries the law is being used as a sword rather than as a shield to defend the citizens’ rights against encroachment from the excesses of the state.It can be vouched with certainty that the Zimbabwean case is a striking illustration of a country with ‘fractured constitutionalism’. A country, according to (Uzoukuwu, 2010) with an arrangement where a constitution has features of constitutionalism but the practice of constitutionalism is ominously absent or missing. Like in South Africa, it’s worth quoting Sachs (1990) who argues that, ‘the battle for human rights in our country has essentially been the struggle for the vote and not for the Bill of Rights’- so has been the struggle in Zimbabwe.

The struggle and contestation for rights is as old as humanity itself. In Zimbabwe the struggle for the realisation and enjoyment of rights and people’s freedom is far from over – taking a cue from the just ended 31st July elections. The obtaining events preceding the elections, during and post elections has clearly and unequivocally pointed out the shortfalls of the electoral laws in protecting people’s fundamental freedoms as constitutionally guaranteed under municipal law, in the Bill of Rights and in several other human rights legal statutes and instruments (both from a regional and global) level. In fact the just ended election has revealed the danger of relying on purely legalistic interventions in rights claiming and realisation. The inadequacy of the law in rights realisation –whereby the law has and continue to be used as an instrument of oppression rather than using the law as a stone upon which everyone can step and be saved has also become apparent for the naked eye to see.

For the record, it should be noted that Zimbabwe has a long checkered history of unsuccessful election petitions (since 2000 to date) which is indeed a blight to an emerging constitutional democracy. Consequently, this has led to the erosion and loss of public confidence in our judiciary system. Just imagine –

When citizens lose faith in the courts
When the wheels of justice seem to be exceedingly grinding slow-that is if they even grind at all
When justice eludes the poor

Indeed the Zimbabwean judiciary has become a site of contestation over its alleged politicization subversion and usurpation by the executive. Chief among its shortcomings is the handing in of activist judgments (judicial activism) in various cases that has been brought before the bench as well documented in the Zimbabwean legal jurisprudence. Many thus wonder whether the men and women in the bench are still protectors of citizen’s rights and freedoms or are mere pretenders? In most post-conflict and conflict zones the judiciary system has failed to dissociate the ‘living law and living politics’ – hence ultimately the judiciary remain ensnared and captured by the legislature and the executive. In such instances the judiciary lack in principle and in practice (praxis) of separation of power in the strict Madisonian and Jeffersonian sense. Such is the case in countries such as Zimbabwe, a country in which it seems there has been erosion in the systems of checks and balances.Nowander why the Zimbabwean government echoed the famous statement during the peak of the 2000 land invasions as a reaction to the ensuing court appeals

Chief Justice Gubbay is acting against the government that gave him his job and is paying his salary; he is biting the finger that feeds him’.

Reading from such pronouncements we can therefore agree with Abel (1995:8) who observes that, “the myth of the judge as a passive vehicle through whom the law mechanically finds expression encounters a number of inconvenient facts”. We should also stand reminded by Gubbay’s observation that, “The bedrock of a constitutional democracy is an independent judiciary”. But when the judiciary ceases to function independently as the case in Zimbabwe – what more can we expect? When the complainant’s lawyers are supposed to be arrested in a constitutional democracy, we are all left with many questions than answers. Isn’t this akin to a situation of rejecting and denying the aggrieved of his/her rights?

http://www.newsday.co.zw/2013/08/21/arrest-tsvangirai-lawyers-judge/

Consequently, this makes many to wonder whether the law is worth the paper it is written on, as some will believe ‘it is not worth the paper it is written on….’.This happens in a country when the law only becomes a piece of paper which is difficult to waive in an authoritarian context. A law that is built on quick sand and ever shifting sand – it is a law that reflects the politics of the day. It is the dark sides of virtue! Reflecting on the Zimbabwean case, one can safely agree with Singer (1990:1841) who posits that, “When we ask ourselves whether a social or legal practice works, we must ask ourselves, ‘works for whom?’ Who benefits and who loses from existing political, economic and legal structures?” In the same vein, Zimbabweans can also agree with Sachs (1990:32) writing on a South African case when he opines that,

We do not know what it means to have constitutionally entrenched Bill of Rights. We are unfamiliar with the notion of constitutionalism and constitutional rights.

The long walk to freedom is far from over. In an authoritarian regime where the law is used as a sword rather than as a shield the struggle for rights realisation is a nightmare. But, the time for speaking truth to power is now or never! In a democracy why is it criminal to criticize and talk openly about the shortfalls of the judiciary?

Maybe we need to draw lessons from best practices elsewhere in countries such as Kenya

Gone but Not Forgotten

I sit on my chair typing some document on social justice and human rights struggles on my laptop. I walk to the refrigerator I feel thirst, I hope to find some juice or the common Coca-Cola but I realise my refrigerator has been empty for days. Only what I can find is the water bottles not the purified mineral water but boiled tap water. I stroll back to my sitting room; I start to play Lucky Dube’s music. I am now seeking solace and inspiration. The music reaches to the core and marrow of my soul. It is the kind of music that resonates with every generation, the women, youth, the old and the downtrodden.

The music stops, yet I can still feel the background music, the lyrics and the instruments ringing in my ears. Lucky Dube’s soft voice of reason speaks to my mind. It is a voice that questions, encourages and challenge you to stand up for a better society. But before I could search my playlist for some more Lucky Dube that’s when I realise the soft-spoken and talented singer is gone. The cruel hand of death took him from this mother earth in such a callousness way. Although he is gone, he is not forgotten. He did his part; he changed lives and inspired many souls. With his music one can afford to smile, cry and get into an ecstatic mood – all at the same time. It is a type of music genre that can take you places. After listening to his music you will be touched. If you are not touched you will never be touched at all.Lucky Dube sang unsparingly on thematic issues that include but are not limited to social justice issues, love, domestic violence, death, pain, religion, humanity, human rights, and freedom, women and peace issues.

We lost a legendary music icon,whose music continues to inspire and change lives.Nonetheless,Lucky is gone but not forgotten.The music,lyrics,message and the sound is still with us.

Happy Listening……

Prisoners of Truth – Merchants of Falsehoods

Everyday knowledge has been captured by the experts – it has been doctored, massaged, glossed, produced, re-produced and re-packaged. In the process ‘everyday knowledge’ has been emptied of its true meaning and value. Such is a tragedy of our times! If Franzt Fanon was around he would have talked about the Wretched of the Earth. In the past weeks the Zimbabwean media landscape has been awash with self-opinionated analysis on the unfolding political events. To this end, a large hectare in the media space has been accorded to the so called experts. Consequently, what we have witnessed is the sowing of the seeds of confusion, falsification of facts and reality. As such, lies have multiplied, germinated and the society has reaped a bumper harvest of falsified projections on the future of Zimbabwe. Such is a tragedy of our times!

The past weeks (post 31 July 2013) has been characterised with myopia, cynicism, insincerity, ingenuity, misinformation, disinformation and a lot of unsubstantiated, unfounded and unqualified fallacies. One can be of the general view that, the so called analysis on the Zimbabwean future and the unfolding events in the recent past is at variance with the hard reality of our times. The tragedy of our times is that we have left the political and economic discourse in the hands of a few elite the so called ‘experts’. As such these self-acclaimed experts have influenced public opinion through a single narrativisation. Lest we forget Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s the Danger of a Single Story!

We have indeed witnessed a renewed interest amongst a cabal of organic intellectuals on the Zimbabwean case. It seems everyone has suddenly become an expert and specialist on Zimbabwean issues, more particularly on analysing Zimbabwe’s political developments and her perceived future economic trajectory. I have watched in pain from the sidelines as the so called analyst and experts has reduced the Zimbabwean debate to a bookish academic exercise peppered with excellent theorisation. These intellectuals conveniently chose in most cases to be blind to the reality of our times. Regrettably, most of them end up glossing the reality for personal individualistic ends; they often choose a particular selective narrative which in most cases is regrettably fraught and riddled with factual inaccuracies. This has engendered (led to) a culmination of a persistent dearth of balanced analysis. What’s left for the ordinary Citizen? Alas, what these self-acclaimed experts forget to realise is the fact that Zimbabwean issues do not require one to be a professor of Robotics and Mechatronics neither a professor in Political Science. Even a villager in Silobela in Lower Gweru knows about the words ‘crisis’, ‘democracy’, ‘good governance’ – hence can articulate the unfolding political trends.

The problem we have had in the past weeks is that we have left our academic titles to speak more than us – which in fact, is a criminal libel against reality. The tragedy of our times is that everyone wants to be said to have said something – whether sensible or not is something else! After reading Derrida, Amartya Sen, Karl Marx, Max Weber, Giddens, Bourdieu, Immanuel Kant, Franzt Fanon, Plato, Thucydides, Aristotle, Mamdani, Leftwich, Galbraith and the so called father of international law Hugo Grotius et al we have suddenly pretended to be experts. Put simply, no one has a monopoly on knowledge on the Zimbabwean issue both in the political and economic realm. Otherwise we are nurturing a culture of falsehoods, misrepresentation, misinformation and disinformation being peddled under the guise of expert analysis. The merchants and preachers of such falsehoods are non-other than the half-baked political novices who masquerade as ‘experts’ or analysts.

I am not surprised, when you read Plato, Claude Ake, Huntington, Fukuyama, Polanyi and Anthony Giddens you start to think you are the smartest guy around -you think the rest are stupid.It’s so tempting a feeling!!!

‘Soap Operanization’ of the Zimbabwean Politics and the Democracy Phantasm?

I remember when we used to sit in the government yard (…..)
Ob-serving the hypocrites

As they would mingle with the good people we meet
Good friends we have had
Oh! Good friends we’ve lost along the way
In this great future you can’t forget your past
So dry your tears, I say
Everything’s gonna be alright

The above lyrics are non-other than of the legendary reggae icon Bob Nester Marley in his song entitled ‘No Woman No Cry’,
Politics is a dirty game! No, some will say politics is a ‘bitch’. I remember when we used to sit in the Coalition Government, good friends we have had, good friends we have lost. Now everyone believe everything is gonna be alright. This is all happens in the Zimbabwean political landscape a landscape which resembles events that we only imagined can unfold in a ‘soap opera’. It is in such a soap opera that the ‘Igwee’ (King) as in most Nigerian Movies will emerge against the backdrop of loud cries and screams of discontent and grumbling from the masses.

One writer said when ZANU-PF’s leader President Robert Mugabe lost in the March 2008 elections he must have echoed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s popular phrase “I’ll be back” as said in the film the Terminator. Indeed ZANU-PF is back with a bang, after having witnessed a ‘landslide victory’ in the 31st July 2013 elections. But, the President of the (MDC) the leader of the opposition political party (Morgan Tsvangirai) – who was the main contender in the just ended election also seem to be saying “I’ll be back”. The twist of events, the bickering and the melodramatic complexity of the Zimbabwean politics can only be played out in a ‘soap opera’. All the unfolding events seem to point to a political drama with the main actor always remaining the victor and the rest being the supporting crew. The episodic events signal the different seasons in the ‘soap opera’.

But then is this ‘soap operanization’ good for a democracy? Personally, I view the endless unfolding political drama as played out in Zimbabwe – as a form of entrenchment, socialization and deepening of the democratic ‘phantasm’ (something apparently seen but having no physical reality/illusion). Democracy is illusory and utopian in Zimbabwe – all the unfolding court cases, appeals to SADC, AU and the international community will only perpetuate and prolong the season of the ‘soap’. So dry your tears, I say, Everything’s gonna be alright. Like in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, “I’ll be back”.

Conversation with Reality: Great Expectations and the Harvest of Thorns?

At our arrival they rush to our car. They greet us with warm smiles, they had thought we are from a humanitarian NGO. Noticing they had mistaken our car for the NGO guys they laugh and we share jokes. It is a closely knit community – a community that has weaved cordial societal relations. A community in which we virtually knew each community member either by name, surname or by totem (the latter being the most common). In a short moment the villagers start narrating about the drought, sunny days ahead and the petty party politics – the politics of affiliation and the partisan distribution of humanitarian aid and food relief. In a few minutes we are literally told everything, ranging from village politics to developmental concerns. We now know Chenzira’s wife is cheating over her hubby.

This is a community that greets you with your totem. (Simboti Makadii) (How are you Simboti?) Even the youngest boys at the Growth Point – at least come to greet us. After exchanging greetings, they ask for money to buy beer (Mdara tiitireiwo 1). These guys have mastered well the art and perfection of polishing your ego. They praise you by the totem and through various convincing lingual ‘gymnastics’ so as for you to buy beer. At the local bottle store, relatives are found, relationships are re-established, family lineages and the family tree is traced and re-traced. All done in the spirit of love, unity and oneness. This is all happening in the back of beyond in Chiendambuya. When we arrived they were already drinking their opaque beer (chibuku) and ZED (a certain type of beer imported from Mozambique), they all wear jovial faces. They have hope and great expectations. At the Growth Point the herd boys can be seen milling around Pitikoti and Sons General Dealers’ grocery store. Some cowboys (herd boys) are spotted standing near the counter admiring the beautiful shopkeeper –telling her to keep change. In anticipation they look ahead to a day when she will succumb to their love proposals. They all become jealous, some threaten each other to blows.

Anyway that’s part of the social life in most rural growth points including in Chiendambuya, Checheche, Mahenye, Gairesi, Ruwangwe and Mayo. We have been there, we saw them. The heavily oiled legs, cracked feet and the sun tanned skin – we all greeted and laughed with them. One would be surprised by the dancing antics of these guys – we witnessed them dancing to Tsaona by Pengaudzoke. We had bought and they had drank, not water but the ‘waters of wisdom’. All the shyness was now gone.In all these dances and in the beer they forget that children do not have school fees. They also forget that piece-time jobs (maricho) are hard to come by. They all seem to enjoy – they do not bother much in the politics of the day. What they are only happy about, is the fact that we are living in the times of the Inclusive Government.

Every Sunday they go to the Growth Point. Women go to the various churches dotted around the growth point to pray. In their prayers they pray for bumper harvests, peace and stability, jobs for their children and for the general well-being of their families. The men as usual go to drink, play pool (snooker) and to dance and listen to music. They have hopes for their community – hopes for their country. Now that all is lost and gone, the prices of beer will soon skyrocket – so are prices of basic commodities. Will the cowboys mill around shop counters especially in their favourite grocery shop Pitikoti and Sons General Dealers? Will the women pray for jobs for their children, will they pray and ask for the provision of adequate foodstuffs? Certainly I know they will pray for Zimbabwe’s deliverance. They will pray for the country to be delivered from the pre- coalition government situation. I was there, we were there, I can feel the poverty, I can touch their anger, I can see the images of the pythons of poverty chiselled in their minds. I can see their sad faces – their disillusionment, the lost hope and the silent suffering and mental torture. They have experienced it all.

Will the youth tell the beautiful sisi Chipo to keep change? Will the girl child continue to access sanitary ware? I have met the girl child at Chiendambuya and in the Headlands farming community during my days as a trade unionist at the General Agriculture and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ). I used to distribute sanitary ware to the womenfolk in the farming communities – I was there in Headlands, I was there in Macheke I was there at ARDA Chisumbanje, I was there in the Tanganda tea plantations. (Tipewo Mwanangu taneta nekushandisa machira) ‘Give us some sanitary pads; we are fed up with using pieces of cloth’. Whether false or true, I was unable to prove or disapprove. I only felt for them, I understood their plight and I gave them – this was during the whole of 2007 and 2009. I wondered it would have been my sister, mother, aunt, daughter, niece or girlfriend. I wish and hope we are not taken back to those days.

What can be done, when a community has great expectations and in return reaps a bumper harvest of thorns? All hope is gone…what is left, is not only hope but belief and faith in God –hoping Zimbabwe will one day fix her problems.

MDC’s – Waterloo?

The 31st July election has been envisaged in many quarters locally, regionally and beyond as the last battle of ‘Waterloo’ especially for the MDC-T party. Events came rushing, emotions were aroused – victors won the elections. Surprisingly, there is a groundswell of an anti-celebratory mood. There is no popping of champagne bottles neither the honking of cars and I haven’t come across any ZANU -PF party supporter(s) in jubilant celebrations. The members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC- T), their rank– and – file and the ordinary Zimbabweans still remain in denial, disbelief and in shock as I write. I suspect pharmaceutical companies must have run-out of supply of Blood Pressure (BP) Tablets in the past few days (post – 31 July 2013) (no pun intended).

Those who write history in haste are quick to point that the 31st July elections marked the last straw that broke the MDC’s back. On the other hand, others are already writing an MDC-T’s obituary. Nevertheless, what remains crystal clear is that both the people of Zimbabwe and the MDC-T fought a spirited and good fight for jobs, social justice, human rights, peace, democracy and socio-economic and political transformation through non –violent means, especially after the hemorrhaging of the economy by the nemesis ZANU – PF through their (gonomics) and the kukiya-kiya economic policies which include but are not limited to farm mechanisation and price controls (Operation Reduce prices).

Coming to whether the 31st electoral outcome signals the crumble, disintegration, collapse and end of the MDC-T – it’s too quick to extrapolate. Only time will tell. The preceding events that will likely obtain in the near future will qualify or disqualify this assertion. Certainly, in my own considered view I do not foresee the eclipse of the MDC-T from the political scene – rather I foresee the regrouping of all democratic forces and the realignment of forces in a bid to salvage the country from the imminent crisis that seems to obtain. As clear as day follows night, it is also apparent that Zimbabwe is going to plunge further into a crisis situation. Tellingly so, Zimbabwe is indeed at the crossroads and the nation will still need the MDC-T for several reasons. The MDC-T is still a serious political force that cannot be shrugged of easily especially in a ‘free and fair’ environment. Admittedly, we know free and fair is utopia and far-fetched in the Zimbabwean political context.

Whether elections were rigged, stolen, or were a ‘sham’- free, fair or ‘unfree’ and ‘unfair’ remains an academic debate. Essentially the 31st electoral outcome is now history! Let us fast forward as a nation with progressive like – minded people. The tragedy of our times is that we tend to major on the minor and minor on the major. When faced with monumental and difficult challenges human beings tend to be distracted from the real issues at stake. Oftentimes, the leadership also become confused and weakened in the face of adversity. This is what 31 July has done to our minds, souls and spirits. Many of the so called analysts have started to offer ‘practical’ solutions to the MDC-T leadership – solutions which in my view are not ‘practical’ at all. For instance there has been talk about leadership renewal – but at this critical hour do we need such?

Furthermore, do we chase the chief executive officer every year when the company fails to perform well? Even if there should be a change of guard –let it be done democratically and constitutionally (internal party constitutionalism). The MDC-T has never been in short supply of leadership – leaders come and go but the ideals should not die. Unfortunately, many several questions and conspiracy theories are now being thrown around. Some say the MDC-T was exposed through its participation in the Coalition government, some believe they neglected the party at the expense of government business. All is now history. Period!

What the MDC-T cannot afford at this time is its political extinction from the political map. Let the MDC-T be guided against the ideas of the 2005 split – let the MDC also stand guided about the ‘struggle within a struggle’ to quote the great eminent Zimbabwe’s finest political scholar professor Masipula Sithole. Let his soul rest in eternal peace! Admittedly, the MDC -T did its best under difficult conditions. Even if we had the best of the candidate in terms of wits, intelligence, mobilization and strategies the outcome was likely to be the same. As the way forward, let the MDC-T draw lessons from the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Ilyich Lenin who elucidated that, ‘there is no prescribed method of struggle, every method will depend on the circumstances that exist at each particular epoch’. 31 July has failed to awaken conscience but has rather reawakened consciousness – the lesson is simple we should not give up as a nation.

To the MDC- T these elections have evoked different philosophical and religious sentiments. What is just or unjust, fair or unfair, god or ungodly, peaceful or violent? Above all, the issue of faith and trust in God has been re-emphasized – to this end (the MDC- T) should stand motivated by Martin Luther King Jnr’s teachings. This is not the Waterloo –it’s not yet over until it’s over! Certainly, certainly, certainly we should never throw away the baby with the bath water. Zimbabwe is at the crossroads so is the MDC-T but it’s not the End!

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.