evolutions in Zimbabwe — from the times of capitalistic slavery into the war of liberation (Chimurenga, the fight, the struggle) and further still into the post independence era — have wreaked havoc on the body.
Many people across races, tribes, political divide and ages were maimed — they lost their hands, limbs, eyes, ears, and to a certain extent their very lives — and that resulted in disability, in myriad inabilities. It affected the souls of the bereaved; depression creeped, mental health cases bloomed in the wake of the Zimbabwean political revolutions.
The democratic dispensation — roughly beginning in 1999 on the edge of the Millennium and sprawling for 8 years — was marked by labour and student movements, teachers and young people in cities, rising and defying the all-powerful Mugabe regime. They made a clarion call for democracy, free and fair elections, and as well as sea change of political organization in a country death-gripped by autocracy and a two-decade era of tyranny.
As Tafi Mhaka of Aljazeera writes:
“The SADC (Southern African Development Community) should not have to wait for Western nations to point out glaringly obvious constitutional transgressions or human rights abuses. Besides, a still-murderous ‘new dispensation’ cannot be persuaded to freely adopt democracy without establishing measures that proactively punish repressive deeds.”
Each and every election or political season has been marked with
violence in Zimbabwe. The 1980s killings of Zapu cadres led by
“Father of the Nation” Joshua as they were labelled “political
dissidents” in most Matebeleland region ,was followed by even more
ruthless slaughterings in June 2008, hardening the nation into a state
of despair and depression..
Every generation carries the scars of their kindreds in their hearts. They never forgave or forgot and remain raring for revenge.
Zimbabwe revolutions — both past and present — are marked with
political expediency and the rampant abuse and rape of economically
impoverished women; subsequently many women lost any taste for sexual
enjoyment or healthy partnerships. In the end, most of them have
failed to have stable relationships or marital arrangements because of
abuse by war criminals; the struggle to survive has hardened them.
There was little space for proper romantic and dignified marital choices.
Many women became sexual wanderers — their approach to relationships grew calcified, predicated on gain, on the possibility of safety. Many died of sexually transmitted diseases. Sexual favor buys space and favor from political gurus — but disease does not spare the brilliant — and we lost promising minds that might have helped develop our nation.
It could be elaborated upon, & tied to the overall theme of politics & their toll on the body.
As of today my village is torn between jaws of biting poverty and claws of political despair. The revolutionary euphoria is now extinct and in its wake we find mass polarization. The heavy scent of freedom has vanished from their teargas-hardened nostrils. Peasants’ faces are broken mirrors of torn campaign manifestos and squashed ballot boxes. They suffer from an election hangover and the November coup det’at of 2017, led by President Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s former security chief — Emmerson Dambudzo Munangagwa — which dethroned the black cockerel from the echelons of power.
Munangangwa is struggling to climb out of the three-decade trap of the Mugabeist legacy. The economy is suffering and the masses are angry; corruption is endemic and trade embargoes and sanctions are stripping the last flesh from the bleached bones of a paralyzed economy.
You can see hems of weather beaten flags flapping silently in the hot air from a distance; you can hear school walls echoing with hesitating tenors of the national anthem coming out from beneath a decade of famished toddler bellies.
I was born and bred alongside the morning baritones of baboons and hesitant laughter of hyenas. Red hills strutted in white gowns of mist at dawns and hide under the black veil of shadows and dark silhouettes at nights.
A few nights ago, the rumor of another military junta takeover wafted like the mist of an exotic perfume and the foul scent of that gossip is still hanging over our drought-baked red earth like a cloud of dense fog.
Sometime in the ’80s, our immediate ancestors jived for the birth of a new republic even inside their red clay dagga and grass thatched rondavels packed together on the hems of red hills. The birth of our republic was welcomed by a spirited trances of mega phonic euphorias and cacophonic festivals in rural climes and urban metropolis.
“Modern Zimbabwe wasn’t supposed to be a police state,” writes Karan Mahajan in the New Republic. “In fact, when Mugabe came to power in 1980, following a 15-year liberation struggle against Rhodesia’s white supremacist rule, he was seen as an antidote to the colonialists’ repressive policies.”
The freedom mantra was echoed from every mouth, even tender ones struggled to utter the word Freeeedom. The sweet smell of liberation circulated in every crack and crevice of Zimbabwe. War collaborators and guerilla combatants danced to their Leninist wartime tunes until their backs cracked.
Vana Mayi bikai Sadza Vana Venyu Tadzoka Vana Mayi bikai Sadza Vana Venyu Tadzoka Vana Mayi bikai Sadza Vana Venyu Tadzoka Youwiii Vana Mayi bikai Sadza.
— A chant of defiance and excitement, of freedom from colonial rule. It was chanted by the youthful veterans of the struggle in 1980, the eve of Zimbabwean Independence. They sang with the hope of a new country.)
The zeal was extreme and nerve-wrecking.
Laughter and spirited excitement reverberated from mountain caves to hills into village homes. Peasant mothers chanted sopranos of new dawn at water holes. Rivers responded with the tenor of their flowing songs. The usual train whistles rekindled our hearts, and edified the joy of the everyday festival mood. Our earth dangled with dance and hope. Peasants and their youth sipped from jugs of juicy promises all the way to the dregs. They ululated to red carpets they never stepped on. They saluted to the adrenalin-shredding motorcade bells.
They sang to the new flag and the anthem with great anticipation of a great Canaan. They were excited about the coming of the new country, freedom from colonial rule and they expected much from the new black-led government, the Mugabe Regime.
Their spirits glowed with the Vaseline glint of victory. My father and other village elders were staunch evangelists of the new black regime and its Oxford English-gifted, spiked-tongue lashing, Leninist-Marxist protégé, the master of paradox Gabriel Black Cockerel, the revolutionary angel, who villagers felt had bravely exorcised demons of the colonial pharaoh from their land and led them into the Canaan of liberation.
Our evening dinners were prologued and epilogued by praise tales of the all-powerful Uncle Gabriel, a refined orator, ex-guerilla leader and a student of Mao Zedong principles.
My mother’s regalia was emblazoned with black cockerel graphics. Village women donned the same regalia.
They sang for Gabriel and danced to his rhetoric. Wartime hymns floated in their DNA like white blood cells. Marxist propaganda lingua franca was the lotion that waxed their war-tired, but hopeful minds.
Nyika yedu yeZimbabwe, Ndimo matakazvarirwa Vana mayi nana baba ndimo mavari, Tinoda Zimbabweee nevukuru hwayo hwose Simuka …aa Zimbabwe ee
—This song expresses the zeal the Zimbabweans had for their new country. Their profound disappointment in Mugabe would come later.
These tunes oiled their hope for the new republic and kindled the fire of their Canaan of honey and milk. Castro style, bush-green denims with other ex-guerrilla costume paraphernalia decorated the walls of our parents’ inner rooms, my father’s souvenirs bleached and faded due to their constant exposure to time, smoke and weather.
Uncle Gabriel’s portrait hovered over our fireplace. It boggled my psyche, how a brave man like my father could willingly deposit his entire manhood into another man’s portrait. It was the same with all villagers. Our elders had lost their mind. Insanity! They walked, dressed and talked like Uncle Gabriel.
My father and the headman had their black and white striped suits and Uncle Gabriel’s thick brown goggles. We enjoyed the free stand up parody acts every day of our lives. School teachers were the most interesting cast. They loved Uncle Gabriel to their marrow.
But time is the healer and like sunlight, it exposes the rot of darkness; a decade elapsed between 1982 to 1992, revealing the devil and his antics.
The revolution turned Armageddon and revolutionaries turned into black mambas drinking eggs of freedom under shadows of hypocrisy and political witchcraft.
We lost many of our learned teachers and brothers to Uncle Gabriel’s spy web as it was extremely lucrative. All those who refused to become informants were targeted. Teeth gnashed and many disappeared forever. Army-drilled securocrats — the military complicit in Mugabe’s most egregious abuses — and secret intelligentsia snuck into village gatherings and rural bars, our shebeens, under the guise of teaching recruits and visitors.
Uncle Gabriel’s real name and his wrong-doings were a taboo to be mentioned in public or to the wrong people. But we didn’t know who the wrong or right people were. We were young. The only bad people we knew were whites. Our parents sternly warned us to barricade our mouths and not to mention anything about Uncle Gabriel. We were supposed to see or say no evil about him at school, church, crèche or pastures.
We were warned. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Those who bad mouthed Uncle Gabriel disappeared, maimed or were banished from villages.
The Spy web was sophisticated and well-greased. It was the anopheles — disease-spreading mosquitoes — that haunted us year in and year out. Fear gripped the land. Anxiety stripped our confidence. Headmen got recruited as local informants into the cruel network. Our elders had no other option than joining the bandwagon to protect us as they faked to sing along baritones and sopranos of liberation.
I trust that they understood some things better than us, but the truth is with them in their graves — perhaps hidden in the thick clouds of long gone smoke that emanated from their pole and dagga rondavels. Perhaps the truth was carried away by train whistles.
God knows the truth.
Despite infiltration, suspicions, and other Judas Iscariot tendencies, the republic was fast recovering from colonial hangover and our elders were busy imbibing Leninist:Communist propaganda crank and mothers enjoyed the Marxist- Socialist slogan booze as if they were blind.
Elders who were fed Mugabe lies passed the propaganda to some young people where it caused divisions and violence to a greater extent; factionalism and polarization took to centerstage.
They vomited that booze into our mouths.
We sang Uncle Gabriel’s name at elementary schools’ assembly points. Most of our teachers were ex-guerrilla fighters and ex-detainees of the struggle for liberation in the late ’70s. We smoked Mao and Lenin’s wisdom rolled in book petals. We drank Samora’s Aluta Continua and Kwame Nkrumah’s African Unity. We danced to Kambarage Nyerere’s Ujamaa and Jomo Kenyatta’s Uhuru lyrical vibes.
We worshipped the flag and supplicated to African Gods through the Ishe kombera Africa anthem. The political rhythm and the ideological revolutionary stew was still juicy though slowly losing its flavor. Elders died and with them went their struggle songs, their revolutionary jive and their black cockerel regalia.
Time stewed years into more and more decades. Uncle Gabriel’s hangover still clutched the red hills. Sons and daughters crossed oceans and returned back home clutching degrees in modern politics.They were fed with some fresh ideological pizza of democratic change and free speech from Harvard and Oxford canteens, gulped mugs of the renewed political brew fermented in super power Westminster labs, smoked wisdom rolled in global governance journals and international law textbooks.
Alas, they were not welcomed by the old system. Things were falling part in the land of their birth. The country was already infected by the moral decadence fungi, dying from economic cancer and coughing from virulent political malaise. Young ones had digested communist theories, regurgitated African nationalism and vomited pseudo Leninist-Marxist snort.
There grew a rising of opposition forces from those who had received education from western elite schools; they came up with new ideas of better Zimbabwe. They began fomenting the basis of opposition politics, joining forces with local university students , town dwellers, trade unions and others to form a truly democratic movements that aiming to combat the old system.
They chanted down black African totalitarian regimes.
More town dwellers sipped from jugs of the new revolutionary refreshment with renewed hope. College students, urban youth and city workers danced along, imbibing the new revolutionary refreshment with determined passion. University corridors and city bars were now beehives of change rhetoric, the mantra was democratic change.
Cities became breeding troughs of the new struggle.
An earthquake of political marches and mass demonstrations shook the roots of the seasoned, but old regime. Each among the defiant fighters carried in their hearts the required zeal and a character of bravery. The new refreshment had seized their passions, ambitions and minds.
They were tired of the unrepentant dictatorship that was amassing the vast mineral wealth and looted tracks of fertile land. The paradoxical gap between the rich and the poor, the political zealots, the poverty-riddled laborers and the hunger ravaged villagers was countrywide.
The irony that this was a communist–socialist revolutionary system was lost on no one.
Uncle Gabriel had for long time sacrificed us on the altar of pseudo revolutionary gospel and crucified us on the Golgotha of corruption. Idi Amin Dada style, “The Butcher of Uganda.” The wind of the new revolution for change stoked a raging inferno; songs of resistance echoed in the mountains, red hills, the beer gatherings and across our plains.
Uncle Gabriel was now a wounded buffalo, but young revolutionaries were killed and many were maimed. They sacrificed their lives for regime change and political liberation from the chains of dictatorship and cuffs of revolutionary hypocrisy.
Change was the song and democracy was the slogan.
Uncle Gabriel’s regalia was burnt to cinders, his portraits smashed and sealed in unmarked shallow graves on the edges of our lands. Our Red hills stood still in defiance against the earth-baking sun and ravaging droughts. We remained resilient, eking out survival off our red clay earth.
We defied our mothers and sneaked to Cde. General Change’s rallies. Morgan Tsvangirayi was a bright beacon on which we rested fledgling hope; he was the first leader to openly and successfully challenge Mugabe and his regime.
Some of us were banished from our homes. Elders said the white men bewitched us children with the democratic crank and newspaper rolled nonsense to wet the mats of liberation and urinate on the tombs of war cadres. They said the Gods were angry and Ancestors of the struggle for liberation were turning in their grave.
Abomination! They bellowed.
They vowed to fight us until the end. Uncle Gabriel had castrated our elder’s consciences with Pan Africanist rhetoric and the Marxist slogan. They had fought their own war.
But the times had changed and we were fighting our own war of our own liberation. The drama was succeeded by another year of locusts, more hunger — and a little joy.
The joy that our leader Cde General Change was released from the dungeon of hell, they call prison. His prison ordeal was a hell on earth. Our Man of the People and Man of the Movement. We sang for his bravery. We were his trusted commissars.
Halo Genarari Change Halo Genarari Halo YuYu YuYu YuYu YuYu Famba Genarari Famba Genarari Famba Famba Genarari , Famba Genarari Famba Yuwi Genarari Change Yuwi Genarari Yuwi Yuwi Yuwi Yuwi Yuwi , Yuwi Genarari Yuwi Famba Genarari Save Famba Genarari Save Genarari Save , Famba Genarari Famba Yuuu Yuuu Yuuu Yuuu Yuuu Yuuu Yuuu Yuuu Famba Genarari Famba Genarari Famba Titore nyika famba famba famba Yu yu yu Yuuuuu, Youuuu ,Youuuuuu Halo Genarari Genarari Halo Genarari Change Famba Famba Genararu Change , Genarari Change Yu yu yu Yuuuuu, Youuuu, Youuuuuu.
—Part of the songs young people sang for the rising leaders of change against the old system.
Celebrations roared and traversed throughout the whole country, in villages, cities and across oceans.
Even the dead danced with us in spirit. I believe their spirits were livened and calmed. Memories of the struggle were evoked again and encouraged us to be more resilient, we braved on.
Locusts persisted, but Genarari Change (Morgan Tsvangirayi ) was defiant like his foot soldiers; tables were rapidly turning upside down. The sun was setting every minute for the old system.
We got crazily elated, we danced again for yet another liberation.
But nothing has changed with the so-called new dawn. The mist is dense still and the fog is thick in the hills. Genarari Change died a painful death of cancer just weeks before our elections, and we wept until sorrows swept away all our hope.
The laughter has faded — even the baboons and hyenas in the red hills are hesitant to bark.
Now the great Uncle Gabriel is watching the political soap opera from the terraces of a heavenly or hellish Castle — nobody knows which. Meanwhile, books, memoirs, and obituaries of the man unfold every day, telling his story. But what of Zimbabwe’s story — what of Zimbabwe’s future?