Chipangano, a militia group that has been having the run of the place in Mbare for years, has been literally getting away with murder.
“Chipangano” is the Chichewa term for covenant; that is, a solemn or binding agreement either written or promised between two or more parties.
Going back to biblical times, it was an agreement between God and the descendants of Abraham and people going against this would bring great misfortune upon themselves. The phrase karat beriyt (“make a covenant”) is found in the Hebrew Bible. The word karat literally means “to cut”.
When a covenant is made, a fattened animal is cut into pieces and laid out on the ground. Each party to the covenant then passes through the pieces signifying that if one of the parties fails to meet the agreement, then the other has the right to do to the other what they did to the animal.
Chichewa is a Malawian dialect and with Mbare originally having a large ethnic Malawian population among the majority of locals, residents know the meaning of chipangano and the dangers of going against the “solemn agreement” forced on them to back a certain political party – in this case, Zanu PF. This implies political ritualism signed in blood and those straying from this will face severe penalties.
This mystique is calculated to intimidate people into submissiveness to Chipangano and those behind it. The term in this fraught political environment of Zimbabwe is loaded with intimidation. Whoever chose to call the militia “Chipangano” knew what they were doing, knew what they wanted to instill – fear and submission.
A lot of crimes have been committed in the name of this forced chipangano or covenant, which started as political intimidation but has descended into outright criminality including racketeering.
That’s why Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa finally admitted as such and as much this week. Mutasa roasted the party provincial leadership in the capital for failing to rein in Chipangano, aligned to some party officials and terrorising commuter omnibus crews and vendors through extortion.
The extortion at commuter omnibus ranks where the hard-up Harare City Council is being robbed of its legal and legitimate source of revenue should be viewed in the context quasi-official looting.
Is it any wonder since these enforcers are collecting over $1,2 million from the ranks monthly? And who along this chain of extortion are also benefiting? Lack of decisive action makes this nothing less than Zanu PF-controlled or even sponsored “official looting” as, for instance, the racketeering is going on right next to Harare Central Police Station throughout the day. Council is only allowed to operate with the permission of Chipangano.
If the intent is to make it appear that these gangs are autonomous or random looters, it won’t wash. When did these parasites last put in a decent day’s work? These goons have known nothing else besides extortion.
This “cake-sharing” assault on the economy instead of “cake-baking” has resulted in a virtually jobless recovery of the economy. There is now proliferation of a predatory class with a sense of entitlement over the entire country’s assets and resources — including diamonds — accompanied by a decline in the performance of other, more productive and value-adding sectors of the economy.
Demanding nothing but the truth as Chipangano was costing Zanu PF during elections, Mutasa told Zanu PF provincial chairman Amos Midzi: “Cde Midzi, if you tell me that you don’t know that group (Chipangano), I will tell you that you are lying.
Instead, I want to know what is not ending it.” Yes, own up, Cde Midzi, because when did Zanu PF last win an election in Mbare? As for Mutasa, don’t just condemn Chipangano, but live up to the message.
It’s the worst kept secret in Mbare that Zanu PF is the force and power behind Chipangano as residents live and see this daily at Mupedzanhamo flea market and the bustling Mbare Musika where these party yobbos relentlessly extort from them.
To Mbare people, there is nothing shadowy about Chipangano, as often described in the media, because they know the names and faces involved. For some of the Zanu PF officials who have become serial losers in Mbare, it has become an obsession to win there that they would go to any length to achieve that. But bullying can boomerang as that party has found out to its great electoral cost.
Time was when Mbare was a functional community with direction, purpose and pride before it was divested of these by Chipangano.
The people earned their keep; there were not freeloaders like Chipangano with its contemptible, parasitic tentacles now reaching everywhere in Harare and the exploitative tendencies now a national disease as the feasting on diamond wealth now shows.
Mix this cocktail of the unholy alliance of the greedy at the very top with the motley crew of criminals and the unemployable, rogue elements at the very bottom of society, is it any wonder that Zimbabwe’s politics and economy are chaotic?
It is good that the new draft constitution restores the automatic citizenship, voting and other basic rights of these ethnic minorities and the rest of the majority of Zimbabweans which had been withdrawn illegally in reprisal or retribution for the “No” vote in the rejection of the 2000 draft constitution. They can use this to hit back at their tormentors whenever and wherever.
Why must a political party have a chipangano or covenant-like hold on people anywhere in this country or on the globe?