Home » Governance » Leadership – When History Speaks [column]

Kudakwashe Bhasikiti is taking the President and Zanu-PF to court. He thinks his dismissal from Zanu-PF was so unfair that it offended against principles of natural justice.

He was not afforded a hearing, he claims. I am sure there are some in this world who would find his case interesting, pity-awakening even. I am not one of them, and that need not bother him. I have always been looking at the other side, hoping I can show my readers the world in a grain of sand, to quote from a famous bard. My interest is in the law firm that is representing him.

It is Tendai Biti’s law firm.

Yes, Tendai Biti of the Renewal Party.

Yes, Tendai Biti whose fate in MDC-T is so comparable to that which Bhasikiti chafes against, that one would be forgiven for collapsing them into one and the same.

Yet when Biti was expelled from MDC-T, his firm couldn’t find, let alone mount legal action for him. Today his law firm finds a legal counsel and remedy for Bhasikiti that it couldn’t find for its founder-owner!

Or do I read a renewed overture to the first people led by Mujuru, this after the initial rebuff which Mangoma talked about? Or do I need to turn to the legendary wisdom of the vaShona to understand this otherwise inexplicable turn of events?

The Shona people say: “N’anga haizvirapi.” Roughly translated, it means no witchdoctor cures hisher own ailment. Got that? We wait to see if Biti is curing this other ailment, cloning for new allies or simply caring for his purse!

The day Bhasikiti read the Bible

I listened with fascination to Bhasikiti’s biblical interpretation of his ouster that was broadcast on the American pirate radio Studio 7. It was a heavenly interpretation of earthly happenings, one that saved him from having to answer many questions relating to allegations he faced, allegations responsible for his present ruin. God willed it, religiously waxed Bhasikiti, comparing his dismissal to the biblical betrayal of Joseph by his treacherous brothers.

Sooner than later, he opined, God will repair the damage, and then proceed swiftly to reconnect and infuse a leadership fate which divinity deems inherent to his group. And when that happens, Bhasikiti prophesied, not only will Zimbabwe be saved so will the evil brothers in Zanu-PF whose treachery fulfilled this divine will!

Moving through tears

I know a little more about mudhara Bhasikiti, including his persuasive histrionics during his days in Zanu-PF.

As when he wept and cried for his beloved Zanu-PF in one august forum. In his view, his party faced a great danger of infiltration by the CIA through some mafikizolos.

He named one of them as Professor Jonathan Moyo, a man he alleged was on CIA payroll!

He didn’t seem to care about the consequence of what he alleged. To communicate the gravity of the danger faced by Zanu-PF, he turned to tears, stammering words of “own sacrifice” between mounting fitful sobs: “I gave my my my life to this Party, Comrade Pre . . . Pre . . . Prez . . . President! In 1979 and at fif . . . fif . . . fifteeen, I was already a mujiba fighting with the boys!”

The whole meeting was momentarily transfixed, before withdrawing into guffaws of armpit laughter. The man had provided some bizarre comic relief, one more comic when one remembered that Bhasikiti’s audience comprised many veterans of the liberation struggle, men and women with weeping scars from the war, men and women who actually confronted the Rhodesians with guns. Here they were, being taught a lesson or two on vigilance and sacrifice by a 15-year old mujiba who only served at the tail end of the war. Here they were, listening to this modest tale of supreme sacrifice, a tale seasoned by bitter tears of a mujiba who didn’t feel appeased or repaid enough by having scaled up to the Politburo, something very few combatants ever hope to glimpse.

Professor Lule, I presume

And to add to his aura, Bhasikiti had prefaced his tears by recalling how his classmates in high school called him “Professor Lule”. Save for broken English, he simulated a professorial mien, looking eminently self-pleased at this school time attainment. Those not so familiar with African history may want to know that the late Yusuf Kironde Lule, an ex-colonial civil servant and ex-principal of Makerere University, was the provisional president of Uganda between April and June 1979, this after the Tanzanians kicked out Idi Amin in a short war in which Amin was the aggressor. He would be ousted after that very short stint, only to be replaced by one Godfrey Benaisa.

Later, he would seek to relaunch himself as a guerrilla leader of the ill-fated Uganda National Liberation Front. Why such a top politician, claiming such high consciousness deriving from serving a revolutionary party as a mujiba, would ever put himself in the same basket with such a lowly, chequered career, only Kudakwashe would know!

But who wasn’t a mujiba?

Like Bhasikiti, I, too, did my stint as a mujiba.

Did so a lot earlier, a lot longer, and in many places which included Buhera, Zimuto and Mt Selinda or Chirinda.

That was from 1977 up to the end of the war. I am aware of collaborators who served longer, faced more dire situations than I did, all of them modestly quiet and sinking in humble circumstances.

Looking and listening back to the whole incident, which by the way would be re-enacted a few weeks later by another gentleman from the same faction, but who shall remain unnamed for now, one draws rich lessons on what happens when upstarts indulge in power-think.

Fundamentally, one could not miss the inverse relationship between role and claims, between role and contrived sonorous signification. In the hands of upstarts, power is given to clothing itself in hyperboles.

Against failing human memory, power takes aantage of time past to carve heroism out of the most mundane of deeds. Unless one was a mupuruvheya or had run from the war by going to the cities, I can’t visualise any teenager of Bhasikiti’s time who was not a mujiba or war collaborator, who did not take risks for the struggle.

Peace bullet, soldier’s harm

And having been one myself, I am not going to be the first to belittle the key role played by war collaborators, the high risks they took for the struggle. But equally, I won’t be the first to make enormous claims about such a role, claims so enormous that the haver or doer expects one Robert Mugabe to sit at attention as they are narrated! Or to lionise my contribution then, lionise my abilities now, as to imagine Zanu-PF revolves around the fulcrum I carry on my back.

Not even to jump the queue, and place myself ahead of those who actually wielded the gun, those who took direct hits by dint of that status. Listening to the man on the day, I wondered: why is post-struggle peace so unfair in its rewards, so unfair as to make short, uneventful men then pose today as so tall, so big, so greater, while making midgets of giants who liberated a people? Could this be what they mean when they say the worst bullet to a soldier is peace?

The story of petty village thief

Today, thanks to the thirty-five years that have gone by since the end of that war, we have wily, petty actors who drape themselves in panegyrics of claimed wartime gallantry, all to justify places of eminence they have since usurped or seek.

Ngugi put it so well in the Grain of Wheat.

A petty village thief who walked the village with an ungainly limp traceable to a battered knee, took time’s permissiveness to knead a ravishing tall tale about his wartime exploits. He spoke of many battles he had fought, many moments of hazard he survived by a whisker.

With a battered knee to back all up, who would not buy his heroic claims, without risking the name of an ingrate odiously irreverent to those that snatched freedom from the jaws of the colonial lion? But one day, the brag went one sentence too far, provoking stubborn truth to reassert itself. It turned out the man had been battered while trying to liberate a she-goat from its rightful owner!

Zimbabwe, beware of long mouths that speak endlessly about the war, a good 35 years later! Today they not only peddle ornate yarns they have turned those yarns into wares for buying leadership in post-colonial Zimbabwe.

Breaking the taboo

Talking about leadership, I wonder how many Zimbabweans have read history’s free lessons on leadership?

Some career dimwit at the Zimbabwe Independent thought she could draw dire conclusions out of my promise last week to tackle this same subject which this nation has now made even more urgent through sheer neglect.

I am not aware of any nation which looks so ill-equipped for well-defined leadership criteria post the leadership hewn out of struggle.

But a nation agitating for leadership transition and super-session in spite of all that.

For a fact, President Mugabe has not gagged us from discussing leadership or succession, from discussing the life of this nation after him.

He has not posed as the endnote of time. Quite the contrary he has been leading in that discussion, always sharing titbits on what does not pass for good, deserving leadership worthy of our Nation. And telling us how not to be a good leader implies disclosing how to be one. It is simple logic, my dear, knowing Faith, ye woman of many lives, many loyalties, many masters.

And of course to condone discussion on leadership and succession is not the same as not to condemn a divisive quest for such leadership, something the

President abhors with all his might. The subject is available, and there is no novelty in broaching it, no newer hints on dynamics inside Zanu-PF in starting it.

The Portuguese and Mwenemutapa

I have just been reading primary documents on the Portuguese in Mozambique and Central Africa, records covering the period 1497 to 1840. Clearly this is not a light read. A key document in that vast record is entitled: Carta De Irmaos Em Armas: Do Rei De Portugal A Favor Do Imperador Do Monomotopa, Em Resposta A Carta Deste De 4-8-1607. In English, the document’s title translates to: “Letter of Brotherhood-in-arms from the King of Portugal to the Mutapa, in reply to his letter of 4 August 1607.”

I was fully aware that the Mwenemutapa Kingdom interacted with foreign potentates, principally the Chinese Ming Dynasty, the Arab world led by the wondering Emirs of Qatar and, much later, the wanderlust and foot — or is it sea-loose Portuguese Empire. Mwenemutapa’s was a great civilisation, a trading one and one thus outward and cosmopolitan. But what I hadn’t budgeted for was the fact that its interaction with the outside world included written communication, such as is acknowledged in the aforequoted document.

I had always thought these were days of orature, days of face-to-face communication unassisted by calligraphy. Of course I am also aware that under Gatsi Rusere to whom the document I allude to above is written, the Kingdom produced two princes who proceeded to pursue higher studies in Goa, India, then a Portuguese colony. Those two princes gave this Nation its first graduate doctor of letters, one Miguel, thereby giving it its abiding trait as one with a great thirst for knowledge.

When the outsider defines succession

The two sons were taken by one Diogo Simoes Madeira to Tete, where they were baptised by the Dominicans as Dom Felipe and Dom Diogo. I am not so sure which one ended up as the accomplished Miguel. The late Dr Mudenge used to relish this turn of events in our history, always telling us how so political Miguel was that he led the first rebellion of priests at Goa, over a needling racial issue.

That rebellion, Mudenge would unfailingly add, shook Christendom, making the Vatican temporarily doubt its omnipotence. With that kind of DNA, need we wonder at this nation’s taut and tense relations with the West? What has not been publicised though is that years after these two princes were taken to Goa for higher western studies, the then Portuguese King put pressure on Gatsi Rusere, the reigning King of the Mwenemutapa Kingdom “to acknowledge as his heir his pro-Portuguese son, Dom Diogo, then studying in Goa”.

But this was resisted in favour of Nyambu Kapararidze who was the eldest son, and thus the natural heir to the throne through the rule and logic of primogeniture. This incensed the King of Portugal whose many letters demanded that Gatsi Rusere face war or “make me a present of all the gold, silver and copper mines of his said kingdoms and that I (King of Portugal) may order my vassals to take possession and verify them”. The reward for all this was spelt out as follows:

“In token of this I send him my royal banner which he may take and raise in his kingdom in all wars he may fight against its enemies”. He also had to accept and convert to the Portuguese King’s Holy Faith, the Catholic version of Christianity.

But he would not be permitted to allow the building next to Christian churches of “any Mosques of the Moors, Synagogues of the Jews, Pagodas of the Heathens, nor anything else which offends our Holy Faith”. Much worse, he was required to be “a friend to the friends of the (Portuguese) State of India and of all my captains and vassals” and to “be the enemy of their enemies”.

Deciding succession or war

Key lessons do emerge from this short communication between the Portuguese King and our regal patriarch, Gatsi Kapararidze. From that far back, the outsider — in this case the Portuguese — has never been indifferent to the leadership and succession question as it has affected our Nation. Always western, this outsider has sought to produce successor leadership for us. The Portuguese went much further on that question, trying even to train and produce a leader for us, one grilled by the Catholic and Western mill. Eligibility was shaped tutelage, shaped through adopting alien faith and values personified by Dom Diogo. Criteria for leadership did not have to comport to the African leadership theory and practice, namely one founded on primogeniture and native leadership training. The regent was the outsider who expected to be obeyed on threat of war. Thus Goa, not the Great Zimbabwe, was the deciding citadel.

Ceding national wealth

Secondly, the issue of leadership eligibility was tied to the long-term goal of foreign potentates to gain control of the Nation’s finite natural resources, in this case typified by gold, silver and copper. The African leadership was expected to cede these national resources willy-nilly as “presents” to the outsider’s King, who was expected to send his vessels to take an audit of this newfound overseas wealth. The return for the Nation came in by way of a protectorate status which allowed the vassal state to unfurl Portugal’s banner in times of hostilities with neighbours.

No mosques, synagogues or pagodas

The governing norms and value system was summarised in Catholicism, itself the faith of the dominant outside State. The duty of the servile and titular native leadership was both to facilitate the spread of the Portuguese Faith, and to block all rival faiths, principally Mosques, Synagogues and Pagodas. So much about claims of fundamentalism as a vice of the Muslim faith. And the wish to have Dom Diogo as heir meant leadership had to incarnate foreign, values, foreign faith, foreign sensibility.

Even more revealing was the expectation that the new ruler would not make his own friends and enemies. He was obliged to receive friends and enemies from the dominating foreign power, something that amounted to learning to love Portuguese friends, learning to hate her enemies who would become your friends and enemies respectively. Gentle reader, keep in mind the four vital criteria for leadership which this peculiar history gave us: foreign meddling in deciding leadership and succession ceding control and exploitation of national natural resources to the outsider surrendering national sovereignty for a protectorate status and, adopting foreign faith, values, enemies and friends. After another case from our talking history, possibly next week, you and me should be able to engage the leadership issue from a deep perspective which history grants.


Source : The Herald