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Beating drums to welcome despair

Reminiscence: one year on

THIS week allow me to take a look back at this time last year when our nation was in the thrall of a coup and, of course, millions were still dancing to Jah Prayzah’s Kutonga Kwaro song. It was the sound track of a moment. I was not one of those who were excited by the noise. The following is an excerpt from the column we published on November 22, 2017 in the aftermath of the coup.

By Admire Kudita


So the sound track of a world-beating revolution was not Gill Scott Heron (the famous Black American dub poet of the 1970s and 1980s). And contrary to his famous declaration, the revolution was televised, tweeted, facebooked and whatsApped. Newspapers were beaten to the news. But what revolution was it?

Never is a long time!

They danced like they had won the lotto. People’s waists appeared as though they had no bone cartilage at that moment. I saw the long disappeared kongonya dance make a dazzling return to a grander dancefloor. It was 1980 all over again — except that this time I was not a starry-eyed kid with a dream of walking on First Street. The year was 2017 and that was the strangest thing about it all. But maybe not so strange.

Wild scenes

Picture this: the blaring of car horns and the crazy swerving is the stuff of Hollywood action movies such as the Dukes of Hazzard or the Fast and Furious. The madding crowd just will not budge as the beeline of cars along Seke Road trudge ahead. It is a slow grind. I am almost cursing myself for having used this road in particular. But it is 7pm after all. How am I to even imagine that Harare’s city centre is going to be this packed? There are touts swinging from bus tops. Half-naked youths on car bonnets. It is a proper stomping-and-roaring street party. Alright, maybe not a party. It is a carnival.

The joy quotient is surging like mercury on a hot summer’s day. Upon reaching Town House, there is a virtual blockade. They want every car horn to hoot. If you are slow to oblige, they are banging on your vehicle’s bonnet. I cannot honestly find the joy in this moment. It is an underwhelming feeling I have instead. The cycles of history have taught me one thing: the mob never learns anything from history. Maybe they do.

Nightmare fears

I fear this party will turn into a Halloween nightmare. It is indeed a game of masquerades that began a little over six days ago. It culminates today with this mass celebration. On this Tuesday night, the rainbow mass of my people has broken out in dance all over the country. It is largely unchoreographed but they are all in step.

The drummer is invisible. He is drummingsomewhere in the nether forest of Man’s heart. Therein is a jungle of fears, hopes and dreams. That medley is life’s endless and often cacophonous song. Tonight is rapturous and I suspect sinners will not rejoice as much when the Lord returns. How did one man’s downfall get to mean so much to many?

How did the hero turn into the villain of the peace? It must be that as Gabriel began the ascent on Glory Mountainand heard the cheering crowd, he was seduced by the exaltation. He began to think the dancing was for him and that he was the music. Well, there is a difference between the muse and the music. One may merely be an inspiration but one is not the song. A song requires the harmony of all the chords and instruments.
Moreover, when one dances alone then it is an aberration.

“Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people,” Alvin Ailey, one of America’s greatest dancers, said. Dance is the people’s art and art is the people’s life mirrored.

Young man

“Hey, old man, if I didn’t know you, I would be fighting you right now!”

A young half-naked youth warns me with an assassin’s smiling face because I am not yet tooting my horn. Why are they happy and why do they need my validation? Is the ogre reallygone? Do they believe things will be different? It does not matter as long as Lady Grace is no longer in the picture! It is this personal now? Yeah, she (Grace) turned him into a monster. She was insensitive and crass. She . . . This profession requires one to remain impartial and tonight, of all nights, I must remain with as cool a head as possible.

Always listen for the music

I listened for the music. The sound track of the feast this time was not Jah Prayzah’s now anthemic song Kutongwa Kwaro, but a cacophony of blaring horns. The song that had been Saturday’s predominant soundtrack among demonstrators in Harare’s streets depicts a persecuted but victorious hero who triumphs over his enemies.

With prophetic resonance, the ditty now seems to chime as the theme of an anti-hero turned hero in Zimbabwe’s formerly exiled second-in-command. The Saturday event was the first cut and, boy, did it leave a deep gash! The blood was oozing now and the beast was writhing on the ground. But what beast was it? Tuesday night was its final slaying. Again I looked for the beast on the ground writhing and it was not on the ground! It was in the eyes of my people. I saw in its eyes a strange mix of fear and hope, courage and cowardice, relief and anxiety. Indulge me this reflection for I was there in the streets.

Parting shot

In this column I have always advocated a culture shift without which our nation cannot move forward. The normative system in which we cannot accept responsibility for our actions and pass the buck is ultimately self-desctructive. The hope is that all of us can stand in our places and deliver on our duties.

Leaders must stand ready to accept credit for their success as much as they should stand ready to accept blame for the crises which bedevil. This is not presently the situation.

Let no one expect us journalists to sing their praises when there is clearly a lot of work to do and a huge debt to repay for a shattered social contract. These leaders are not new. What have they been doing all this time and all these decades ? Surely, it cannot be that it was all Mugabe’s fault. That is the unacceptable narrative of Zimbabwean society today. They were all there. All the time. Are we better off?

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  1. Spot on Admire, sad but true.
    I’m in my mid-fifties – the younger ones I work with asked me (Nov 2017) why I wasn’t enthusiastic and my reply was simple – “it’s your turn to be fooled, we (my generation) have been let down before”. I pray for better leadership in Zimbabwe, what we have is very sub-standard.

  2. Also said that to the young ones at my workplace but they cried foul! It is only now that they say “but mudhara makapenga ka? How did you see that we were being taken for a ride? I just tell them “Once beaten twice shy” and that “Makapembedza gona nerinobata mai.” daily they are crying out for succor which unfortunately the supposedly new regime, dubbed “Second Republic” cannot provide. Cry the beloved country but at least they have seen for themselves what these wolves in sheep’s clothing can do to the country which they believe they are the stockbrokers.

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