Echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
It’s self-evident that the situation in Zimbabwe is very much unsettled at the moment, but to go on to deconstruct it and reconstruct it to suit one’s political narrative of the present is mendacious.
But it has been quite refreshing to read the facts of the matter over current events as observed by Judith Todd, whose human rights activism pre-dates independence, when human rights activism was a conscience crusade long before it was infiltrated by many mercenaries, who now lead celebrity flashy and luxury lifestyles far from the suffering of the people.
Interviewed recently, Todd said she was “deeply distressed by the deaths, macabre beatings, and arrests of hundreds of Zimbabweans following demonstrations earlier this month (last month) against a doubling of fuel prices”. Indeed, what happened is most condemnable.
But Todd — who and her late father Garfield Todd, a former Southern Rhodesian Prime Minister, were detained without trial several times by the Ian Smith-led repressive Rhodesian regime — went on to describe the situation since January 14 as “confused and complicated with few angels on either side”.
To the dismay of some, she declined to place blame solely on the government for the violence. One can understand where Todd is coming from. Typically, she looks at the whole picture without fear or favour because what is being omitted in so-called human rights circles in their narrative is that there was all-out war over those three days of the stayaway-cum-shutdown, which was not peaceful at all as some people keep lying, as people were forced off public transport, shops were looted and vehicles burnt.
Only a totally deaf person missed the boastful open talk on the streets that an uprising was underway and this time, they would topple the government unlike on August 1, 2018. This undeclared war resulted in the most tragic killing of 17 civilians and one policeman. Yes, there are few angels on either side.
Understandably, some people were disappointed that the uprising failed, but let’s put things into proper and honest context and perspective that it was supposed to be another final push, not a peaceful demo merely over the doubling of the fuel price as claimed by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), who overtly organised the protests. The truth of the matter is that there was a covert side to it as revealed in a front-page report by the Zimbabwe Independent (January 18, 2019) in the aftermath of it all.
The masterminds were #Tajamuka/Sesijikile and so-called civil society organisations who, following the failed rebellion, were quoted in the Zimbabwe Independent giving the government a 30-day ultimatum before unleashing another blietzkrieg, a military-style tactic calculated to create psychological shock and resultant disorganisation in enemy forces through the employment of surprise, speed, and superiority in numbers — as happened on January 14 when mobs sent police and soldiers packing.
Tellingly, nowhere in that Zimbabwe Independent story was ZCTU mentioned; yes, there was not even a single mention of the ZCTU, the supposed organisers. It should be noted that wherever ZCTU is, MDC is somewhere near. Yes, there was a grand conspiracy with various layers and, going by the tone of what is being said by some people, there is more to come. Yes, as Todd said, there are few angels on either side.
Zimbabwean intellectual Melusi Nkomo went further to unpack the events: “Provocative as it may sound, most urban Zimbabweans who took to the streets in the past days were not clamouring for ‘democracy’ per se, much as the concept and idea is good-sounding … What we saw on the streets of Harare and Bulawayo is anger, and moral outrage (the latter provoked by a perceived transgression by the State against moral standards, obligations and some other implicitly agreed norms) … That some protesters, in their anger, cried for the days of Robert Mugabe, who was the exact antithesis to democracy, is instructive. Even a call by some to replace President (Emmerson) Mnangagwa with his bitter rival, young Nelson Chamisa, is not in itself a call for democracy, because it is a call for another rulership that revolves around an individual whose party is already directed by whimsical discretion … A revolution is a long way off, and so is the idea of a full-fledged democratic state, no matter who occupies the State House in Harare.”
Indeed, what we are seeing unfolding is more of a contestation for power and less about democracy. That is where Zimbabwe is at the moment.
Let’s not be impetuous and unthinking in what we do and then live to regret forever.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org