Iconic Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe had occasions of plunging into almost immortal eloquence in most of his writings. One such lucid moment is captured in his all-time classic, Things Fall Apart, which, to a huge extent, now mirrors happenings in Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu PF.
guest column: Learnmore Zuze
Things have been falling apart at an unprecedented rate in the last few months and worse times could be ahead. The internecine fights just won’t end. Events of the last few days bear testimony to this self-evident truth.
Achebe, drawing from his native Nigerian language, quotes a proverb that aptly describes an unusual state of affairs in the context. The shrewd saying states that: “The frog never hops during daytime, when you see a frog hopping during daytime then something is after its life.”
In a nutshell, what this means is that when an unexpected phenomenon becomes commonplace, then something would have gone wrong, terribly so. It’s something akin to a nocturnal bird, the owl, hovering above heads in sunshine. It speaks to something definitely wrong.
Happenings in the ruling party have assumed a similar turn. The toad is leaping in the glare of daylight and the owl is perching on a twig in full view of children at 12 midday; things are not well. War veterans, who, for a long time, formed the backbone of President Robert Mugabe’s rule, having been instrumental in the liberation struggle itself to executing the chaotic land reform are up in arms with their previously unquestioned leader.
It was unthinkable that anyone in Zanu PF could openly contradict Mugabe on any matter. It was something of an anathema in the over 50-year-old party. It was the very thing next to witnessing an owl during daytime.
The defiance by the liberation war cadres, particularly, to First Lady Grace Mugabe’s utterances that the President could single-handedly anoint a successor, points to something never witnessed before. Mugabe’s word has always been law in the ruling party; he, as many concur, represents or represented the sole centre of power, which, for close to four decades, was unobstructed. Who would dare to?
The fate of those who have dared to oppose him is a matter of record. Dzikamai Mavhaire is a living example, back then, of what would befall any who differed in perception with Mugabe. Mavhaire was expelled from the party for his opinion that the President had to pave way for younger blood. Many learnt from him.
Since then, Zanu PF has been a party denigrated for shocking sycophantism, where people chant slogans and say things they would never believe in private to render themselves politically correct. Mugabe has been described as Cremora, a popular creamer brand, by former Information minister Webster Shamu and most recently was equaled to none other than God himself by a youth leader of the party.
It is, therefore, something of an “abomination”, something of a frog-running-during-daytime occurrence for party members to defiantly continue standing up against Mugabe or his wife as is the current case. It is logical to ask: Why is the frog hopping during daytime? Where are the war veterans getting the gall to confront a leader long revered by the party?
It’s simple to understand if you look closely. To begin with, there is an apparent simmering anger in the war veterans’ body, which currently feels alienated by the man they stood firmly in support of in trying times. War veterans were Mugabe’s foot soldiers. They aided Mugabe achieve a number of things that could not have been easily attained without them.
Foremost, there was no one who could have spearheaded the invasion of farms in 2000 with such diligence as war veterans to save Mugabe from a marauding MDC at the time. That was a ragged task that demanded the very DNA, which makes war veterans.
With the emergence of a red-hot united opposition movement, MDC, at the time, the only trump card stashed in the ruling party closet was the distribution of land. While I agree, in principle, to equal redistribution of land it was the manner in which it was carried out that is very objectionable.
White farmers, estimated at 13 (the figure could be more) were killed in cold blood. Thousands of farm workers were displaced. Families and livelihoods were destroyed. This delicate and unenviable task was assigned to the war veterans, who carried it out with unbridled impunity knowing the law had been rendered powerless.
In the very tough 2002 election, violence was a palpable factor, a concrete factor that saw teachers fleeing rural areas under terror unleashed by war veterans. Thousands of people suspected of being opposition supporters were hounded out of their homes and many fled the country.
Perhaps, no time better captures the use of war veterans than the bloody 2008 run-off poll. War veterans, among many other State arms, played a massive role in striking fear in the hearts of the masses in overturning Morgan Tsvangirai’s victory in the first round. It was honestly violence that won the poll. War veterans were instrumental throughout the episodes, even from 1980.
The plain truth, therefore, is that these men and women evidently feel that they made Mugabe, they apparently feel that the politics and the gun should lead together as implied by war veterans secretary-general, Victor Matemadanda.
Listening to war veterans speaking, it is abundantly clear why the frog is leaping during daytime. These men and women are aggrieved and feel that they are being discarded at a time when they have been used to achieve the party’s ends. It explains why they cannot accept the gun being sidelined by politics.
I believe war veterans feel cast-off and will, therefore, aberrantly, oppose the establishment in the knowledge that they were, for a long time, core main actors in the script who can’t be thrown away at will.
Learnmore Zuze is a law officer and writes in his own capacity. E-mail: email@example.com