Tran­scend­ing the polemic, puni­tive mis­read­ing of con­flict

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

“We are a di­vided na­tion” so goes the col­lo­quial post-2018 ur­ban­ite elec­torate adage. Ap­par­ently, this is one of the most deemed in­tel­li­gent ob­ser­va­tion from our so­cial-me­dia po­lit­i­cal-the­o­rists.

How­ever, an ef­fort­less ra­tio­nal at­tempt to un­pack the mean­ing of this per­spec­tive brings to the fore the re­al­ity of a less rea­soned char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of po­lit­i­cal climates. Ba­sic logic would tell you that a na­tion can­not be con­clu­sively de­scribed as di­vided be­cause there is a group of in­di­vid­u­als who as­sume that they are a ma­jor­ity and yet the tra­di­tional elec­tion out­comes have con­tested their imag­ined re­al­ity of be­ing a ma­jor­ity. Put more bluntly this could be read as de­nial psy­chosis and much of it is found in so­cial-me­dia po­lit­i­cal de­bates whose ground­ing is largely emo­tive. It’s even dis­ap­point­ing that those who we ex­pect to be ra­tio­nal in read­ing the times are en­trapped in fa­natic anti-es­tab­lish­ment rhetoric which adds no value to the shift­ing power dy­nam­ics which the op­po­si­tion and its prox­ies refuse to ac­knowl­edge. This is why Zanu-PF will al­ways be on top of the sit­u­a­tion while the op­po­si­tion re­mains con­fined to its pre­dis­po­si­tions of ro­man­tic pop­ulism which is far de­tached from the re­form re­courses be­ing suc­cess­fully ef­fected and only shot down by so­cial me­dia de­nial­ism. Clearly, our po­lit­i­cal thought is densely emo­tion­ally charged than it is de­fined on prag­ma­tism and logic.

Go­ing by the tenets of un­even elec­toral out­comes, one won­ders where in the world a united na­tion can be found be­cause elec­tions pro­duce win­ners and losers and thus a chasm. Na­tions are di­vided on nat­u­ral dis­sent­ing views of their polity. The pop­u­lar­i­sa­tion of our so-called “di­vi­sion” feeds into a nar­ra­tive which as­sumes that na­tional co­he­sion will be achieved if the losers de­throne Zanu-PF and in their view, only then will we be­come a na­tion.

There­fore, is the no­tion of a di­vided na­tion real or it is a con­struc­tion of sec­to­rial lim­i­ta­tions to imag­in­ing what a na­tion is or what it should be? Here we are, stuck on what ought to be as ex­pected by los­ing de­nial­ists.

In all this, it is clear that po­lit­i­cal dis­courses are a con­struc­tion of the dia­lec­tic con­tes­ta­tions of power. In such con­tes­ta­tions there are clear win­ners and losers, but sur­pris­ingly the losers’ clam­our is what met­ro­pol­i­tans re­gard as wis­dom. The images we cre­ate out of our po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses of­fer clear-cut terms for ei­ther co­he­sion or tur­moil, in re­sponse to this re­al­ity one has to be able to dis­cern pop­ulism from re­al­ism. Most of us have failed in that re­gard, we have stuck to some much epis­temic anger and we have gladly and per­ma­nently chose to re­side in the com­bat­ive epis­temic mode. To be more pre­cise, that is the kind of men­tal­ity can also be eas­ily lo­cated in the my­opia of trib­al­ism that has been long dis­guised as schol­ar­ship.

How­ever, it is then re­fresh­ing to read a book writ­ten by a Nde­bele in­tel­lec­tual de­con­struct­ing the hate that has been nur­tured through neo­colo­nial re­search grants and ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing pro­grammes. I de­lib­er­ately re­fer to Ny­athi as a Nde­bele in­tel­lec­tual be­cause the tag of eth­nic­ity has been made fash­ion­able in our academia to a point of hav­ing an in­tel­lec­tual ge­nius be­ing zoned to toxic eth­ni­cism by in­di­vid­u­als who think that loot­ing ac­co­lades out­side Zim­babwe makes them key points of ref­er­ence on the sub­ject of na­tion­build­ing — and they will go to lengths to jus­tify their tribal medi­ocrity which has no space in the pre­vail­ing terms of unity by ar­gu­ing that geo­graphic prox­im­ity does not en­tail epis­temic prox­im­ity and one won­ders what that means es­pe­cially if com­ing from in­di­vid­u­als who mas­quer­ade as au­thor­i­ties of Zim­babwe’s so-called “North­ern-Prob­lem” (Dinizulu Mbiko Ma­ca­phu­lana!). Many oth­ers like my afore­men­tioned com­pa­triot only di­ag­nose Shona tribal hege­mony to the Zim­bab­wean na­tional ques­tion. Such es­teemed col­leagues de­lib­er­ately ig­nore the role of white cap­i­tal in ad­vanc­ing the “tick­lish north­ern-prob­lem” and how it has pre­served the “di­vide and rule” ide­ol­ogy. Un­like these giant self-ac­claimed world scale trib­al­ist schol­ars, Ny­athi (2018:30) of­fers a re­fresh­ing def­i­ni­tion to trac­ing real source of the “tick­lish north­ern prob­lem”

At the same time, a crit­i­cal and ob­jec­tive anal­y­sis and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the post-in­de­pen­dence events is not pos­si­ble with­out tak­ing into ac­count the Cold-War in which the Com­mu­nist/War­saw Pact was pit­ted against West­ern pow­ers who in­cluded both the United States of Amer­ica (USA), the leader of the al­lies and Bri­tain the coloniser. The two lib­er­a­tion move­ments were armed by China and the Soviet Union and its al­lies. The stage was set for a stiff com­pe­ti­tion for the con­trol of re­sources in South­ern-Africa. In­tel­li­gence ser­vices of the al­lied na­tions were at work in covert op­er­a­tions.

Fur­ther to that Ny­athi (2018:30), Ny­athi lo­cates the source of the 1982 dis­tur­bances to how the lib­er­a­tion move­ment had been long in­fil­trated to ser­vice an in­evitable post-in­de­pen­dence ten­sion which man­i­fested in the form of Guku­rahundi. There­fore, the fun­da­men­tal in­put of Ny­athi’s sub­mis­sion is that our sources of ten­sion goes beyond the vicini­ties of tribal feuds as main­streamed by most of our South­ern aca­demic lu­mi­nar­ies. Ny­athi lo­cates the cri­sis of the ini­tial di­vi­sion of our na­tion along eth­nic terms to the em­bry­onic con­struc­tion of Africans’ self-hate. The suc­cess of this project of self-hate has sus­tained white hege­mony and loot­ing.

In Ny­athi’s view, any ob­jec­tive anal­y­sis on Guku­rahundi must not be solely premised on the Black on Black the­ory of self-hate and let alone, the col­lapse of na­tional con­scious­ness. In fact, the Black on Black polemics are un­der­pinned on Africa’s ex­pe­ri­ence with colo­nial­ism. Ini­tially, the na­tion­hood we as­sumed was prob­lem­atic as it em­bod­ied as­pi­ra­tions of state-craft born out of im­posed rec­on­cil­i­a­tion pro­cesses with a bi­ased propen­sity on White cap­i­tal in­ter­ests. As a re­sult, the idea of rein­te­gra­tion did more to sus­tain im­pe­rial pos­ter­ity. The fis­sures of the na­tion­al­ist move­ment were not re­paired to safe­guard a peace­ful han­dover takeover and con­sol­i­da­tion of na­tion­al­ist fronts’ com­forts. There­after, the state tran­si­tional pro­cesses were left in the hands of a rem­nant colo­nial class per­ceived as lib­eral and progress. See­ing this early cap­ture, rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies be­came di­vided with oth­ers re­fus­ing to be in­te­grated into na­tional uni­formed tasks and be­ing su­per­vised by erst­while colo­nial se­curo­crats. From there, re­bel­lious move­ments emerged across postin­de­pen­dence Africa.

In our cir­cum­stan­tial ex­cep­tions, these were the “dis­si­dents”. In an at­tempt to un­pack the con­cept of dis­si­dence, Ny­athi (2018:25) de­fines this crop of mil­i­tary men as “non-con­form­ists” or “rebels” whose point of dis­sent em­anated from re­sist­ing in­te­gra­tion into a sys­tem they found pre­dom­i­nantly colo­nial and be­tray­ing the val­ues of the lib­er­a­tion legacy es­pe­cially with re­gards to the post-in­de­pen­dence se­cu­rity re­forms. Con­trary to the largely tribal fo­cused point of dis­si­dence to the early Zim­babwe Na­tional Army in­te­gra­tion (ZNA), Ny­athi (2018) sit­u­ates the cri­sis in rad­i­cal anti-colo­nial con­struc­tion of the se­cu­rity sys­tem. In Ny­athi’s view the call for in­te­gra­tion was per­ceived as mis­chie­vously colo­nial hence the ‘dis­si­dent’ re­sis­tance it re­ceived. Some Zapu cadres re­garded the call for in­te­gra­tion as a sub­tle preser­va­tion of white mo­nop­oly to state se­cu­rity. As a re­sult, this point of dis­sent had to be crushed as its ma­jor propo­si­tion was largely Zapu. The rem­nants of Rhode­sian in­tel­li­gence were suc­cess­ful in con­struct­ing images of hate and di­vi­sion which were later am­pli­fied to ex­pres­sions of eth­nic par­tic­u­lar­ism and hence the um­brella purg­ing of the Nde­bele as “dis­si­dents”. Fur­ther to that Ny­athi draws back the reader to the Zapu split which gave birth to Zanu in 1963. Ny­athi (2018: 26) gives an elab­o­rate de­scrip­tion of how those who quit Zapu were la­belled “dis­si­dents” and how oth­ers who crossed over from Zanu back to Zapu were also de­fined as dis­si­dents. In the same man­ner those who left Zapu in 1971 fol­low­ing the birth of the Froliz were also crim­i­nalised as dis­si­dents. Ny­athi’s metic­u­lous trace of the ge­n­e­sis of the dis­si­dent con­struc­tion helps one to go beyond the eth­ni­ci­sa­tion of the Guku­rahundi ten­sions. This is be­cause eth­nic­ity has been pre­dom­i­nantly ma­nip­u­lated to per­pet­u­ate the colo­nially in­sti­gated ‘di­vide and rule’ strat­egy. Con­se­quently, the puni­tive thrust to the Guku­rahundi cri­sis has used eth­nic­ity as an en­abling pedestal for se­ces­sion­ist pol­i­tics.

As a re­sult, the nar­ra­tive of se­ces­sion has since been raised as an es­sen­tial facet of con­fronting what oth­ers per­ceived as Zim­babwe’s failed na­tional project. How­ever, Ny­athi brings in an im­por­tant al­ter­na­tive per­spec­tive to this de­bate as his book so­lic­its a uni­fy­ing point to na­tion­build­ing. Un­like many cel­e­brated thinkers from the South­ern-Re­gion, Ny­athi’s book de­fies the cir­cum­vent polemic and puni­tive logic clum­sily ped­dled to frus­trate the long as­pired val­ues of Black on Black peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion terms. If we man­aged to dis­pense with the White on Black peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is­sues why are we stuck in the im­passe of feuds with a mea­gre atro­cious in­put to the cap­i­tal dis­mem­ber­ment of Africa by colo­nial­ists? Be­cause they fund us to fight our Gov­ern­ments at the be­hest of our false pro­jec­tions of prospects to po­lit­i­cal re­form?

Our prob­lem is re­gion­alised lengths of think­ing and Ny­athi’s lat­est of­fer­ing fore­goes the nar­row polemic and puni­tive scopes of read­ing into the past. This prob­lem of re­gional in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism is sus­tained by tribal god­fa­thers en­ti­tle­ment pol­i­tics — our doyens of CSOs and Mth­wakazi Repub­li­can­ism. Af­ter the CSO fund­ing crunch and their failed re­gional po­lit­i­cal projects some evolved to be­ing for­eign ed­u­ca­tion funded fundis. Sadly, with most of them hav­ing re­alised the sig­nif­i­cance of hav­ing ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion ac­co­lades to their names in their mid-life, they now think they will come back home to ter­races of their erst­while promi­nence as pro­lific anti-es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures. Times have changed, Zim­babwe is fast heal­ing to­wards peace and re-en­gage­ment.

More­over, they have been re­placed by new faces to the anti-es­tab­lish­ment civic so­ci­ety game. On that front right on the ground one finds new game chang­ers like Thando Gwinji, Busi Bhebhe, But­holezwe Ny­athi, Thabo Dube, Gift Ostal­los Siz­iba, Njab­ulo Moyo the Pfunye boys. There­fore, it’s a pity that some char­ac­ters think that eth­nic es­sen­tial­ism will con­tinue to mir­ror our pol­i­tics. Com­rades should wake up and no­tice that the times have changed. Un­til next week, let’s keep read­ing the times with ra­tio­nale and pre­ci­sion. Pam­beri neZim­babwe.

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