IT never rains, but it pours. When one bad thing happens, a lot of other bad things also happen, making the situation even worse.
That is the situation MDC secretary-general Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga finds herself in today.
A month ago she took a sob story to a local weekly newspaper, saying she had been hung out to dry, abandoned by colleagues she once depended on, betrayed by people she least expected to do so. Citing internal bickering in her party, she said somewhat resignedly: “I guess it is in the nature of politics that honesty is not sacrosanct, so in the quest for power I have seen a sinister side of people and I have lost many friendships because in politics loyalty is a myth . . . I have been fighting too long and the most painful and hurtful fight is internally with colleagues and it is difficult to explain.”
Indeed, in politics there are no permanent friends, but permanent interests. The contestation for power can be an amoral, dirty game.
I don’t want to pretend that I have liked Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s style, no, but for her to feel aggrieved and betrayed is understandable.
However, people need not be naive about human nature. You don’t invest all your trust and confidence in another person as if they are perfect, as if they are superhuman. To use an extreme example, in South Africa, Julius Malema declared: “We are prepared to take up arms and kill for (President Jacob) Zuma.” Well, their fallout came sooner rather than later. Malema’s abrasiveness came back to haunt him. Such expressions of undying loyalty suffice as long as they are done purely for sloganeering purposes. If what brought you together in the first place isn’t there anymore, then you won’t be of much future use. Zuma got rid of Malema after using him as a battering ram to oust his bitter rival Thabo Mbeki. Malema, driven by his anger and irrationality, immediately began to scream and shout in favour of Mbeki. That’s the paranoid nature of politics.
Maybe this adoration of leaders — found across all the main political parties in Zimbabwe — can be traced to the highly polarised nature of politics in the country where if you belong to one party you have to hate the others with a passion.
All the main parties in this country have been “Zanunised” to different extents. Every one of them has been contaminated. But someone needs to break this mould so that Zimbabwe can have a people-centred political culture, not the “either-or” syndrome we have today which has given leaders disproportionately immense powers over not just followers, but top officials as well. This does not bode well for internal democracy.
But Misihairabwi-Mushonga could be the main source of her problems.
Last week, NewsDay reported: “. . . there was a near-fight in (Parliament) when Misihairabwi-Mushonga was . . . heckled by mostly female MPs when she said they were debating from a position of ignorance. She then completely lost her temper and challenged the male MPs to go outside and fight her, while she also used unprintable swear words on the women who were heckling her, saying they had failed to support her as a woman.”
That’s showing one’s true colours, true nature.
First, she could take a leaf from former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s few dignified, restrained responses to deeply personal, defamatory attacks which have exposed her detractors as coarse and bitter.
Second, she ought to use the word “ignorant” sparingly and appropriately because it could apply to her conduct.
Third, feminism is not about women supporting each other regardless. Yes, men cannot be women, women cannot be men. To women, men are their partners, their fathers, their brothers and their sons to be loved and cherished and vice versa.
In fact, research has shown that feminism in the modern world is viewed as outdated, and is being increasingly shunned by women themselves.
More and more women describe radical feminism as “too aggressive” towards men, and no longer view it as a positive label for women. Others even say feminism has gone too far, oppressing men and “losing sight of the natural roles of men and women” and doesn’t take into account their personal circumstances. That is why Misihairabwi-Mushonga faced stiff resistance from women MPs. They might as well have asked: “What is she talking about?”
We need a balance between the male perspective and female perspective, not to propagate the myth that men are the “enemy” of women and in a permanent state of war with them. The myth is further reinforced by those who claim Shonas and Ndebeles are like chalk and cheese, and Tafataona Mahoso and Co who see the Devil in every white person, even one born today.
Fourth, losing one’s temper like that in public is not exactly endearing. This is not the best way to deal with one’s problems. There are some situations where you are perfectly entitled to get angry. If someone deliberately hurts or betrays you, then, of course, naturally you become angry.
The important thing is to differentiate between unresolved and resolved anger. Resolved anger means reacting proportionately in an appropriate way to a situation. Unresolved anger — such as daring others to a fight outside Parliament — is when you fly off the handle at a situation that does not warrant it.
And it is important to realise that anger is often not only pointless, but damaging. Explains Australia-based anger management expert Meghann Birks: “Think of anger as throwing a hot coal at someone; you’ll blister your own fingers, but the person you throw the rock at will probably walk away unscathed.” In Shona, they say: “Ukakanda dope kumunhu, rimwe rinosarira muruoko” [If you throw human waste (faeces) at someone, some of it will remain sticking to your hand].”
Well, beware of what you throw at others.