HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsIn what age is Chivaura living?

In what age is Chivaura living?


Being in the journalism profession, we often remind each other that although we might have strong feelings about a person or an issue — and we do — it is always wise and fair not to lie and exaggerate about who and what we like and don’t like.

This means people mustn’t lie about President Robert Mugabe equally as they mustn’t go overboard in their criticism or praise of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC leader Welshman Ncube.

Obviously as the situation stands, Mugabe will get the most flak because he has held effective power for the past 32 years and almost everything that has gone wrong — from the abrogation of political rights to economic collapse, and the sub-texts of rampant corruption and widening income inequalities — is justifiably blamed on him. These disastrous developments have almost erased his liberation credentials; unless something drastic is done, he will be remembered more for these failures than for his initial, immense successes.

Equally we mustn’t rush to conclude that just because Tsvangirai has left a woman — or women — in the family way, this makes him and his party totally unfit to rule. Or that just because MDC MP Siyabonga Ncube is being accused of infecting a female journalist with HIV, therefore all in the Welshman Ncube-led party are tarred with the brush of recklessly indulging in unprotected sex. Of course, sexual impropriety, especially among leaders, is legitimate grounds for criticism, but people mustn’t go overboard as this has the tendency of boomeranging on the very accusers.
For instance, it has been found in many cases that those who are rabidly against gays are closet homosexuals themselves. Yes, there could be a thin line between a homosexual and a homophobe.

Equally, we mustn’t conclude that the MDCs will wave a magic wand to solve all the problems besetting the nation. We have seen how they have faltered in government – and that is expected because to err is human. Life is always work in progress and no one can claim to have a final solution. Politicians come and go and some come again depending on how they would have re-invented themselves to be relevant again to the electorate. Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Ncube, degreed or not – they are all mere mortals with various degrees of faults – like all of us.

But not according to University of Zimbabwe lecturer Vimbai Chivaura as far as Mugabe is concerned. To him, Mugabe is forever, he is a supra-being. Addressing traditional chiefs last Friday in Bulawayo at the Chiefs’ Council annual conference, Chivaura said: “The President is a svikiro (spirit medium) which will never die. He might die physically, but his spirit will remain with us, just like Mbuya Nehanda and Chaminuka. We will continue fighting the British and other imperialists using his spirit.” Has Chivaura let us into a secret which could explain all this political madness of the past 12 years?

Continued Chivaura, who is also an anchor on pro-Zanu PF programmes on the State-controlled ZBC-TV: “So as traditional chiefs you should support this great man because he will always be with us.” There is a thin line between imposing and defending, as non-compliant chiefs have found out.
Normally this sort of sycophantic rubbish does not merit comment, but in view, first, of the “diesel n’anga” disaster, we might ignore it at our peril. Yes, some in the ruling class, highly educated as they are, are not that rational. Encyclopedia Britannica notes: “Being irrational, it (superstition) should recede before education, and especially science.” Religious beliefs, like political beliefs, differ among faith groups and have changed over time to be in line with broadening horizons of scientific, economic and other knowledge. That did not happen in the case of “diesel n’anga” Rotina Mavhunga who swindled government of millions of dollars, aided by credulous, degreed Zanu PF Cabinet ministers, after claiming that pure diesel was oozing from a rock. Where on earth has that happened?

That was at the time of economic uncertainty — and Mavhunga took advantage of it. Now chiefs are facing political uncertainty and can be taken advantage of. They are becoming an anachronism with fewer and fewer subjects to rule because of urbanisation and the diffusion into the Diaspora. The nation has undergone rapid social change. No wonder chiefs are at the mercy of the structural arm of government (Zanu PF); it’s a survival and relevance strategy. But it is a sad thing that our “innocent” chiefs could easily be swayed by aggressive speeches by these people, leading to political turmoil in rural areas.

Yes, we have nutcases who constantly make headlines, but some of these oddballs — like Chivaura and Tafataona Mahoso — are literally forced down our throats so we get to know about them. Chivaura, along with Mahoso, has been a major player in trying to keep the Zanu PF wool pulled over the eyes of the average Zimbabwean. But people have real reasons, longstanding reasons, for shifting their vote. So all this talk implying they don’t understand the issues involved won’t shift their attitudes. In fact, they find it insulting in the extreme the suggestion that they are seized by collective ignorance.

Second, this “svikiro” talk goes against the grain and spirit of the ongoing constitution-making process. Will the new Constitution become subservient to a “svikiro”? What’s the point of Copac if, as it were, there is one appointed to rule divinely? That leaders derive their right to rule from the ancestors and are not accountable to the people? This a dangerous concept that Chivaura is implicitly and explicitly advancing.

Yes, those elements of traditional culture and religion that are compatible with constitutional rule need to be recognised. But there is no such thing as divine rule. Imbuing anyone with God-like status is totally unacceptable — and this applies to everyone no matter what position they hold. Are we going back to feudalism? This kind of thinking has no place in modern democratic practice.

But matters are not helped by the fact that Mugabe himself does not discourage this “svikiro” talk. Fanaticism in any form is bad and dangerous.
So, let’s be wary of people like Chivaura because they – and those behind them — take themselves seriously — in fact, too seriously — and won’t hesitate to make us drown with them.

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