By Rejoice Ngwenya
A DAY does not pass in South Africa without a screaming press headline on the demise of once mighty ex-Deputy-President Jacob Zuma. This has been the song in the past 12 or so months, inst
igated by firstly, charges of corruption that saw him lose his job and now, allegations of rape that have seen his reputation plummet to an all-time political low.
When such charges are levied on the higher office of government, particularly on those with a history of revolution, the common man merely twitches his moustache and waits for the day they are exonerated.
But will that day ever come for Comrade Zuma?
This case reminds me of the modern world that is home to some of the worst human-induced disasters mankind has ever known. To mind comes tragedies like the African slave trade and the Nazi extermination of Jews that shall forever remain etched in our memories.
By nature, the struggle against colonialism in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, of which Zuma was part, was in itself also a hotbed of human misery. In addition to the thousands of citizens that died at home, many young people were force-marched to refugee and military camps in neighbouring countries where they faced untold suffering.
I personally do not purport to have lived in the trenches of the struggle, for when the war against colonialism was raging, some of us were but small boys.
Occasionally, one would embark on an errand or two for the “Real Boys” or get roasted by Ian Smith’s “Green Bombers” for refusing to divulge “military secrets”.
Also, as has been clarified in many previous writings on Zimbabwe’s war of liberation, our mothers played a bigger role of keeping the “Real Boys” well fed, clothed and secure. Although one-sided state propaganda tends to portray suffering as caused only by bombings, assassinations and deprivations traced back to Smith of Rhodesia and South Africa’s architects of apartheid, there is more than meets the eye.
Girl children both at home and in camps were compelled to perform extra-mural activities that in more ways than one, kept the spirits of the guerillas high. Herein, lies Zuma’s problem.
Elderly males who had abandoned regular homes and personal relationships were mostly in control of military training camps in Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.
Inevitably, such people became vulnerable to tendencies and behaviours that are associated with unlimited power, especially unhindered access to both material and emotional “goodies”.
Confronted with young, naïve and beautiful girls, such men lost their heads and abused the poor souls for self-satisfaction.
Back in Zambia, word had it that if a woman was not a isiqabhobho — youthful, pretty and cute — she would hardly attract anyone’s attention either to work in “high offices” or get a dream scholarship to Europe, America or Russia.
The social cost in terms of emotional suffering, unaccounted for children and diseases will never be fully comprehended. The old men of the revolution sing praises on chimbwidos — girl child war collaborators — through state-controlled media, but remain mum on children they fathered and abandoned for real life families back home.
Used to having it their ways when the old men of the revolution returned home after Independence, they continued to plunder both human and financial national resources at will. They were not accountable to anyone, because THEY were the struggle and THEY brought Independence to us, mere mortals. Therefore, when one wanted a government business contract, like in Zuma’s case, you could only go through them.
When a woman wanted a favour but she said ‘No!’ to sexual advances, the old men of the revolution either got really pissed off or engineered the transfer of the poor soul to a desolate part of the country.
In the eighties, in order to secure a well-paying government job, the term “carpet interviews” was part of one’s curriculum vitae. The old men of the revolution had chains of secretaries and personal assistants who ran errands both at home and abroad and rewarded them with cars, houses and promotions for vacuum-cleaning the red carpet.
The old men of the revolution were so used to “yes”, that when our sisters began to graduate from soft-nosed camp girls to assertive Fleet Street independents, all hell broke loose.
There is nothing to incriminate Zuma yet, other than evidence from the unnamed woman, yet it is no secret that, left to their own devises, old men of the revolution have the capacity to demand and have whoever they want.
We know it because the late Canaan Banana got nabbed for forcing himself onto someone, although it sounded like a far-fetched folk-tale prior to his conviction.
In the eighties and nineties, we read several stories of chefs running second homes and throwing out frightened young male suitors from top floors.
Zimbabwe and South African history writers are silent on the “forgotten generation” — thousands of children fathered in and outside the camps. In the dark corridors of power, people speak in hushed tones of dependants of the old men of the revolution who file in and out of offices in search of maintenance.
My humble submission is that if the history of gross human rights violations perpetrated against young girls in the camps has to be written, the victims should come out of the closet and expose the culprits.
As it is, old men of the revolution are getting much older and more repugnant to women. The result is that they corruptively offer more fringe benefits or impose themselves on the sisters.
If Zuma’s case is going to trigger the exposé, now is the time to set the record straight.
* Rejoice Ngwenya is a Zimbabwean writer.