Home » Governance » Country Politics – the Forfeit Soul [column]

Can someone tell me, just who is threatened by the First Lady hitting 50 years of age? Or by her celebrating that age? Or by the fact of taking advantage of that occurrence to fund-raise for charity? In raising these questions I am prompted by two headline stories in yesterday’s private Press. One of them read: “Grace showcases her power at 50”. The other proclaimed: “Grace bootlicking frenzy breaks out”.

Two or so weeks back we had a piece of unusual length in the British Guardian done by one David Smith, again on the First Lady. It presented hare-brained scenarios which whites are so wont to draw each time they try and portray Africans. It provided no new or fresh insights into the First Lady, whether by trait or by work.

Quite the contrary, it recycled old claims, old lies, old prejudices, including those already challenged and debunked by rival media as malicious. That it was given so much space by the British paper reminds us of how little has changed in European sensibilities since Elizabethan days. In white eyes, we are all Gagools and Calibans, aren’t we? Calibans on whose “nature nurture can never stick”! If I doubt google another piece, this time on Robert Mugabe by one Jan Raath.

Victim and vector

I have no problem with white sensibility. I don’t expect any charitable characterisation from it, what with white worldview so incorrigibly founded on racial hierarchies. I can deal with that one, blow for blow, indeed live with it. It is when we ourselves self-flagellate, when we maul ourselves, or one another so mercilessly as if the enemy has not mauled us enough, badly already.

Like Aids, the cure for self-hate is hard to come by, is still to be discovered and developed. It is a disease of the soul, one so self-fulfilling, so self-reinforcing and self-exacerbating, to the point of debilitating irreversibility. The victim is also the vector, something sure to render any curative interventions futile.

Born into insufficiency?

A friend says to me Ham, our supposed biblical father whose curse followed our untoward laughter, whose curse turned us black, does not pre-date creation, pre-date the uxorious Adam and his beautiful Eve.

That means black or white, our lineage universally takes us back to God’s image in whose likeness the great book attests we are all created and modeled. That same great book adds that Adam, our forebear, ate the forbidden fruit. He fell as a consequence, giving us the taint of sin and mortality we cannot rub off as humans. It is a universal predicament, one abridging all life, black or white.

And yet, says my friend, you find the black man abandoning the glory of being made in God’s image for the incrimination of being descended from fallen Adam, from naked Ham. We self-hate, and are born into insufficiency, it seems, and daily remind ourselves of that, to a downward spiral into even deeper incapacity.

Where dismissed workers are no news

Here is one lady married to the President of this country. By dint of her generous God, she turns 50, and chooses to celebrate that act of divine generosity. That simple, innocent gesture either piques or threatens some newsroom, and pens come blazing! Ahh! Is it her age which provokes such editorial frenzy? Not quite, apparently. It is the goodwill expressed by larger society towards her, goodwill expressed by way of Press ads.

Why should people buy space to congratulate her, someone in the newsroom grates. Really? And here is the amazing aspect. A newsroom whose publisher fires 11 journalists in one swoop, still does not find that newsworthy enough, but affords the luxury of leading with the First Lady.

You lead with a story questioning why the First Lady should be loved; you ignore the story about yourself and why you should not be hated for delivering such grief on individuals who have worked for you for so many years, doing your dirty bidding? We have to go to other titles to read about that.

Otherwise in their world, the biggest tragedy is that Grace Mugabe has turned 50, is enjoying to much goodwill! Cry the beloved profession. And the lesson is a sordid one: what the white man hates, we, too, must hate, and hate even more. It is called self-hate, an incurable malady. The President once addressed this matter when the private media took turns to attack the late Charles Chikerema: “Tinozvisakadza, kuzvisakadza kuzviyanika pahunhu hwedu kuti zvidii? Kufadza varungu?”

Untried virtue never errs

Usually I don’t read Vince Musewe. I find him partisan and reducible, too angry to give the reader any useful nuances or refreshing shifts. Like a bad politician he hates and reviles, his vocabulary is short, limited. But I read him this week, read him by mistake

I ran into a piece headlined “The end of party politics”, and thought here was something interesting, something reminiscent of Francis Fukuyama and his “end of history” thesis. I sank my teeth into it, hoping for plenty. Only to hit the brickwall, or is it bone wall, of familiar cynicism that carried the smell of a Vincent.

No fresh insights, no nuances. As usual, it was a weeping piece, one founded on untried righteousness which for that very reason, never errs. My literature knowledge tells me the only privileged character in history was the Elizabethan fool. He could taunt power, poke fun at it without paying the usual reparations, usually quite fatal. His governing competences lay not in deed or misdeed, but in never governing! For that reason he was a privileged critic.

The fool enjoyed some licence born out of being untried, but founded on a prescient desire to correct and mend power and governance while that power lasted. The fool was the substitute for an excoriating Parliament, in fact better than it in that he always shrouded criticism with witticisms. He was an aesthete playing politics. Think of the Fool in Shakespeare’s Lear, and you get what I am driving at.

Eating the forbidden fruit, after Adam

But in Vince you have the Fool’s role without the accompanying privileges, without the witticism. He knows all what is wrong with our politics, with our politicians, but can’t analyse it beyond village tirades, indeed can’t correct it. Not that archetypal Fools corrected anything. No, they never. But they foresaw, warned, which is where their value lay. They were seers.

Here is one Fool-alike who routinely goes angrily banal, who badly needs bad politics, bad politicians, to live, to write. For his constitution badly needs bile to function, his politics bitterness to perorate about an imperfect world and the vile politicians who inhabit it. For him time was when all evil politics lay in Zanu-PF. Yes, time was when evil politicians lay in Zanu-PF. Zanu-PF was evil’s universe, and week in, week out, Vince would excoriate Zanu-PF, spewing out bitter rheum for our supposed edification as readers.

This week he was different, but in the same way. He has just discovered from the conduct of his MDC-T MP in charge of Highfield East that evil politicians are a little more ubiquitous, abound in more universes than that circumscribed by Zanu-PF. He is depressed and disappointed. After polling day of 2013, he never saw the man. Or his works! And he is bitter, nihilistic seven.

He says: “It is a ridiculous career to be in Zimbabwe politics right now because there is no logic in the madness.” It is an ascetic’s conclusion, one that repudiates the world because one man after Adam has eaten the forbidden fruit. Here is Vince’s dilemma: a man caught between what he must hate even when it provides a commanding template, and what he should love even though it not only fails and fouls its claimed precepts, but increasingly apes what he must hate! You condemn the world for corrupting your idol, never yourself for idolising mere man!

Politics by innuendo

What is his way out? Well, to berate the world, berate politics. And to suggest a repudiation of all things political, followed by a retreat into what he terms “citizens’ movement” whose focus is remoulding neighbourhoods a-politically, to what they want. He clinches his point through a broad sweep into a Fukuyama-like philosophic apostasy: “Political ideologies of the Cold War era are no longer relevant in a fast-changing information age. People are no longer interested in philosophies and lofty ideals. They are now more interested in leaders who can deal directly with issues that affect their lives – not some airy ideologies that sound only good on paper”.

You can almost hear the man cheering himself on, self-convinced he has stumbled on a rare vision, hit an epiphany! But that is not for long. The next paragraph talks about creating “a developmental state”, says the “people can never come first if we are using the same institutions that are mired in patronage, because they have failed to deliver and will not deliver in the future. We need new structures in our political architecture”. So it is back to politics, politics by innuendo. Poor Vince!

Bitter Fukuyama

It is always the case. Where virtue is untried, its righteousness rings loudest. Here is a man who seems to have the model for the good politician, but who won’t be one himself, a man who recognises virtue but can’t be the paragon himself. He must remain righteous, untried, so he continues to excoriate the world!

And there is never a Chinese wall between untried virtue and naiuml;veteacute;, which is why he prematurely embraced the MDCs in the hope of a panacea, only to be disappointed. Today he repudiates politics in ways that affirm its abiding presence in his world and his zone of the unconscious. And herein lies the difference with Fukuyama.

Fukuyama was too happy, too celebratory of the end of Communism, to see and read history on its continuing, ineluctable march! He declared its end, but without realising that such a declaration, foolish as it was, was a marker of a continuing history. Vince, our Vince on the other hand, is too consumed in bitter disillusionment to see continuing vibrancy and continuity in the politics he now so naively abhors. And in trying to be apolitical, he finds he needs the vocabulary of politics to say and name the world he now craves for.

Criss-crossing lawyers

He is not alone. We have just had an earth-shattering judgment by the Supreme Court relating to termination of employment contracts by employers. Located firmly within the four corners of the law, this judgment has nevertheless opened floodgates, with employers taking advantage of it to offload hundreds upon hundreds of employees.

There is a stampede to serve this grief to as many employees as possible, before the stables are closed yet again. And there is ample indications the stables will soon close. I leave lawyers to debate that whole case. My interest is on the who is who of the case.

The appellants (the sacked employees) were represented by Professor Lovemore Madhuku, also of the NCA party. The team of respondents (Zuva Petroleum) was led by Advocate Mpofu, but crucially included Chagonda and Chamisa, both associated with MDC-T. And somewhere perched on the legal haystack was one Munyaradzi Gwisai, also a lawyer, but with International Socialist Organisation (ISO).

An amazing configuration of legal skills if you ask me, one that redraws in a fundamental way the politics of this country as traditionally polarised or as traditionally dichotomised.

Chamisa’s dreadful mistake

So Chamisa, an MDC-T MP, can actually stand on the side of capital in a court of law? And win, to proclaim the victory “a landmark judgment”? And the MDC-T still touts itself as a workers’ party, what with Tsvangirai as the face of that labour factor in our politics?

Indeed, the MDC-T, fronting its wide-mouthed spokesperson, Obert Gutu, himself another lawyer, expressed its disquiet at the judgment, ironically urging Government – not employers or itself – to “protect the interests of workers”.

Not to be outdone in bizarreness, Japhet Moyo of the ZCTU, itself historically an MDC-T founding ally, denounced the judgment and called on President Mugabe to use Presidential Powers to protect workers. From his lofty ISO perch, Munyaradzi Gwisai Chikweche calls for massive demonstrations against Chidyausiku, something unprecedented in politics, something completely abominable from the mouth of an officer of the court.

But Chikweche is not finished: he wants Chamisa punished. He has made the dreadful mistake of saying workers are “useless”, indeed of “wearing suits and pushing briefcases” on the side of capital! “He is forgetting that his party which groomed him since 2000 to become what he is today . . .

He is forgetting that it is the very workers who raised him to become a Member of Parliament and a minister . . .” And Japhet Moyo of ZCTU demands that Chamisa should have recused himself from the case!

See what knowledge has wrought

Here are the multiple paradoxes, all of them richly political. Chamisa’s maiden high-profile case torches a political storm that makes his MP status in the dormitory workers’ suburb of Kuwadzana heavily ironical.

Of course, he will say he has an obligation to represent his clients, itself a legal argument which makes little sense in politics. He had options, all which he knows even though he remains a boy of tears in court circles. And he hailed the judgment as “a landmark” one, suggesting conviction, glory and delight in his legal victory against the workers’ cause.

That recasts him as a lawyer of capital, a tag he enjoys alongside Chagonda, his soulmate politically. Madhuku, on the other hand, used to brag that Chamisa was among his NCA embeds in the MDC-T. When time came, he would ominously add, those embeds would be recalled. Last Friday he found himself on opposites with one of his embeds, in a court of law, and on a case with a huge mobilisation potential.

But both Madhuku and Gwisai are Chamisa’s teachers in the Law School! See what the knowledge you have imparted has wrought! And we ask, who must be punished, a pupil who masters the teacher’s ropes, or the teacher who dispenses the deadly knowledge?

Workers of the world, disunite

The paradoxes span wider. For a very long time the ZCTU, in cahoots with MDC-T and the civil society activists, agitated against Presidential Powers. These powers were draconian and unwelcome in a democratic society, they chafed, all in unison.

Today the same ZCTU calls for the use of those very powers they condemned, all in defence of workers? Can a dirty power, a dirty statute, create righteousness? And when both the MDC-T and the ZCTU ask President Mugabe to defend “workers’ interests”, what should be the reason for existence of the MDC-T/ZCTU alliance, now and in future?

Much worse, when the Bill amending the Labour Act comes to Parliament, how will Chamisa the MP vote? Going back to 2000 raises even stiffer questions. ZCTU worked in partnership with employers to stage stayaways and demonstrations. We all wondered when Marx’s postulate that interests of workers and employers are always diametrically opposed, had become redundant.

Today those employers are eating the same workers they acted in concert with, against Mugabe’s Government, against Zanu-PF. What now?

When is it Murambatsvina?

It is not just about this court case. Take the issue of illegal structures which the MDC-T- led City of Harare is demolishing in the name of enforcing lawful by-laws. Is that not the same argument which Zanu-PF used at the height of the so-called Murambatsvina? Is the impact on lives so affected any less, now that the decision has been made by an MDC-led council?

Are we likely to see Tibaijuka back, likely to see a whole host of human-rights NGOs spewing condemnatory verbiage? And whether in court or in residential areas, the workers are taking unremitting pounding, thanks to the MDC-T and its structures, its lawyers! If you take the case of Biti and his Bhasikiti case, the waters really get muddy. Need we wonder then that our Vince Museve repudiates politics, pushes for neighbourhood movements? Is it politics of professionalism? Is it the law or life? The forfeit soul!

Beginning of real politics

Our politics have now entered a new phase where real issues are coming to the fore. Firstly, the workers are having to learn the hard way that without the requisite consciousness, they are a cog in the wheel of political ambition. They must be a class for itself.

The MDCs are no allies, have never been. They carry briefcases, are coxcombs. On its part, the MDC is realising that all along it did not need to grapple with local issues. Its political masters and donors did that for it. It received agendas, critiques of the status quo from its handlers. Reality was simple, dichotomous.

Today they have been left in the lurch, thanks to the withdrawal of their disenchanted Western backers. They have to face the world as it is, with bare hands, own hands, own brains, own interests. It is then they are discovering the world is neither black nor white, but beige. It has shifts, it has nuances.

Above all, it presents hard-to-classify imponderables, delivers baffling outcomes. So dear Vince, this is not the end of politics. The emerging politics might not be recognisable, might not be anything you are familiar with. But this is real politics, only beginning. But hark, I hear Bruce Wharton in a careful tread. Where is he going, headed for? Back to Washington to re-emerge as one of Washington’s big white man watching, judging Africa! Watch this column.

Icho!

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