This is an edited version of an article in which Dinizulu Macaphulana responds to columnist Nathaniel Manheru’s instalment of his Herald column The Other Side titled Southern Zimbabwe: Ending an overdue myth.
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana
In the article Manheru attacked sentiment regarding the Gukurahundi massacres as “politics of blackmail” and a politically self-serving, everlasting myth.
IN recent days certain bold but infantile statements have been made that have caused some of us to reflect seriously on the problem of political silliness and historical idiocy in Zimbabwe.
On the subject of idiots as an intellectual and political challenge, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek provided two defining categories.
The first category of an idiot is defined by the arrogant and at the same time ignorant individual who runs into a battlefield between warring soldiers and shouts at one side, “Stop shooting, there are people on the other side.” This idiot is blissfuly oblivious of the nature of war and the context of deadly fire battle, but arrogates to himself the power to instruct and command one side of the war.
The second idiot, on the pathetic side of things, is the innocent and incorrigibly confident one that when asked by someone in small talk, “How is your day?” he goes on a pulsating and detailed description of the events of his day and his life. Though innocent, the second category of the idiot can be a nauseating reality when there is very serious business to attend to.
In the present article, I have reasons that I will advance below, to believe that Nathaniel Manheru, a paid cleaner of Mugabe’s mess, is a clinical idiot who collapses in himself the two types of idiots defined above.
I have no intention to hang Manheru out to dry, but my intention is to alert most of us in the intellectual and political community to the convincing falsehoods and persuasive nonsense that Manheru recently circulated in the media ( http://www.herald.co.zw/southern-zimbabwe-ending-an-overdue-myth/) and the general public sphere.
There is no doubting that many of us out there consider Nathaniel Manheru a diehard opponent of imperialism and fighter against all manner of forces colonial and oppressive.
I write here to observe that Manheru is an educated but uninformed colonised and colonising colonial subject who, while pretending to rebuke imperialism, feeds fat from what Valentin Mudimbe (a philosopher, professor, and author), has called “the colonial library”.
Manheru has thrown a lot of textual and verbal mud in the eyes of many a reader and listener, pretending to be a warrior against imperialism and a loyal cadre in Mugabe’s ideological army, in the process concealing rather than revealing the important truth that he desperately needs firm hand-holding when it comes to understanding how the world works.
Unfortunately, the knowledge and information economy is populated by researchers, thinkers and other personages that will not allow the unhindered circulation of nonsense as wisdom. Nathaniel Manheru specifically asked to be challenged, by anyone using “national platforms” whatever that means.
As things stand Nathaniel, you are not going to choose the venue of the fight or where respondents must place their blows.
Of late Mugabe does not sleep at night in fear of assassins and other enemies, not surprising for one who has offended and wounded so many, but I think Nathaniel is the first assassin that Mugabe should fear for when he writes he really expose him as worse than Idi Amin.
Locating Nathaniel Manheru
Those that have studied literature know that in order to effectively penetrate a narrative and make sense of the form and content of a text, one has to establish the setting in time of the narrative and the historical, social and political location of the writer.
As an employee, and one who feeds from the partisan patronage machinery, Manheru must work overtime to prove to First Lady Grace Mugabe, Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko that he is an able wordsmith that can silence angry critics and throw effective textual punches at any would be attacker of the new chefs.
Suddenly Mnangagwa is affectionately called ED, and Grace with her “bold frankness” is credited with bringing in new political wisdom into the party and the country.
Critics of Mphoko and ED are viciously rubbished and threatened by a Manheru who admits that he is “debauched” from some binge in the village. The article which reduces the grave Gukurahundi massacres and the genocide to a “myth” is written by a Manheru who is dramatising his CV and displaying his “credentials” before new prospective employers.
Unfortunately for Manheru, “there is no amount of soap” in the clever words of Charles Mungoshi, or any verbal and textual antics that can wash clean the guilt for genocide that Mnangagwa and his league bear.
Recently declassified intelligence documents of the apartheid regime in South Africa confirm that Mnangagwa used to have meetings with the apartheid intelligence in South Africa to plot the downfall of Zapu and the ANC, at the time when Mugabe was pretending to be anti-apartheid and pro-democracy.
Those readers who are interested in following up on the details can read Rationalising Gukurahundi: Cold War and South African Foreign Relations with Zimbabwe, an article by Timothy Scarnecchia.
A former CIO officer that Mugabe later detained, Kevin Woods, has published The Kevin Woods Story, a book that details among other things how Mnangagwa and others created dissidents, planted them in Matabeleland and created an excuse for the 5th Brigade to be deployed in the region to conduct ethnic cleansing and to destroy Zapu.
Woods also narrates how perpetrators of Gukurahundi tried to conceal the evidence of their crimes, some of them by changing their names, for example one Dominic Chinhenge changed his name to the present, Constantine Chiwenga.
For that reason, Nathaniel Manheru is in trouble if he thinks he will come up with some cheap shots to silence emerging voices on Mnangagwa’s Gukurahundi guilt and his bloodied hands.
What Manheru will achieve at this “debauched” rate of his is to add his name on the list of genocide denialists and those who were accessories to crimes against humanity.
The colonial and imperial politics
Observant readers will note that Manheru, in his attempt to discredit Ndebele nationalism and to rubbish the calls of Gukurahundi victims and survivors for justice, dismisses collective identities as a site of political struggles.
Previously, Manheru has dismissed regions such as Matabeleland and Mashonaland as manufactured and imagined figments that people must not be occupied with.
The reference to Matabeleland and the Midlands as “Southern Zimbabwe” is part of the spirited dictionary attempt to erase Matabeleland and the Midlands as locations of identity, history and politics.
Manheru also wishes forever to silence the voices and the history of these regions which is replete with evidence of crimes and a genocide that he prays was long forgotten.
I remember very well Manheru publicly expressing disappointment at Chinua Achebe’s book, There was a Country, in which Achebe documents the history of the Biafran war in Nigeria and defends Igbo nationalism against the imperiality of Nigerian centralism.
Centralism and the erasure and silencing of other voices, histories, languages and cultures are what Manheru stands for.
The kind of political thinking that Manheru is selling here is not new. Samora Machel and Frelimo in Mozambique, from their Marxist standpoint believed that ethnic histories and identities were “false consciousness” and that “the tribe must die for the nation to live.”
This politics of one world, one nation, one culture, at the exclusion and most times the mass murder of those that don’t want to be forced to belong is colonial and imperial politics that is presently haunting the world.
The colonial Linguistics of Nathaniel Manheru
Many readers circulate in universities and other institutions that have people who are paid to read, think, write and teach, full time researchers who dwell in the knowledge and information economy. Never in these corridors have I met a professor who claims to have read “enough” of any subject in any discipline.
For that reason I was alarmed to read Manheru’s claim that he has “read more sociolinguistics, done more semiotics than anyone” who is likely to respond to his article. Besides my lingering suspicion that Manheru might be educated but not informed, and that he might actually be an arrogant and ignorant idiot, I was forced to take a closer look at his understanding of linguistics which he tried to use to shout down those who were understandably aggrieved by the butchering of the Ndebele language by one entity called Chicken Slice.
Manheru seeks to downplay the cultural imperialism and crime of Chicken Slice by reducing it to innocent “poor communication” and poor “language discipline” that can be laughed off. Those who feel otherwise are coming from “tribal narrowness” or they are disgruntled Ndebele elites thinking from far away.
I beg to address Manheru directly on this lesson that will benefit him and his like. You must remember well Nathaniel the observation by Frantz Fanon that “to speak a language is to take on a world, a culture.” Fanon emphasised that “a man who has a language” consequently “possesses the world expressed and implied by that language.”
What Fanon meant here is that a people’s language carries their history, their identity and their culture. You cannot therefore, Nathaniel, believe that the butchering of a people’s language can be a laughing matter unless you are the proverbial idiot that sings wedding songs at a funeral.
Political Silliness of Nathaniel Manheru
Besides his colonial and colonising politics, together with his imperial and colonial understanding of linguistics, Nathaniel Manheru can be very silly politically. He claims, for example, that Mugabe has a “wily personality” that allows him to fool his opponents, including “like to appear dozing” in public. What are you smoking Nathaniel? Mugabe is a ninety something year old man who is doing poorly in health and who now sleeps in public and suffers frequent explosions of senility. Was he also being wily when he said pasi ne Zanu PF! at the congress?
Grace’s rantings against factional opponents is called the arrival of “new politics” in Zimbabwe and possibly in the region by Manheru.
This is pure baloney. Grace has squandered an opportunity to introduce new politics that is divorced from the paradigm of war and genocide by going back to the old Zanu PF politics of insults and violence.
As things are, the toes that you and Grace Mugabe are busy stepping on might be toes that, as they say, are attached to hinds that you will soon be forced by history to kiss and lick.
Humility in victory or in loss is the biggest strength in politics. As soon as the protective shadow and symbol of Mugabe is gone, that excitement that allows you to describe genocide as a myth, and that allows Grace to rubbish war heroes and tell the men of Gwanda to stop having sex will evaporate.
Another Politics is Possible
It’s not all lost with the colonial politics, imperial linguistics and political idiocy of Nathaniel Manheru. Zimbabwe can still achieve another politics and another life.
Politics, as those who have explored the works of such thinkers as Chantal Mouffe will confirm, can remain conflictual, with us versus them, but it can stop being antagonistic and become agonistic.
There is no need for a moral register where those who oppose us in politics are enemies, but we can have fierce political competition as adversaries and not as enemies.
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana is a Pretoria based Zimbabwean Political Scientist and Semiotician: firstname.lastname@example.org