MY apologies to followers of this column for not showing up last time. It was the second time in the last three years of the column that I did not show up. I trust that, all things being equal, I will not let followers of the column down. But what is the importance of this column or any other for that matter? What, indeed, is the power of the words we write and what good, if any, do these words do to move our people forward?
So much to say
This past week, I found myself taking a close look at Zimbabwean society and the popular discourses on social media. Social media has tended to proliferate and homogenise discourse.
For example, when an issue tickles the fancy of an influential opinion leader, it tends to cascade and even snowball across cyberspace. Thus it was that the week started off for me with the Big Saturday Read issue of the previous week by Alex Magaisa, which an acquaintance sent to me via WhatsApp. Magaisa is a widely respected thinker and columnist. His article raised many questions and the thing that struck the most was the part he wrote about enablers of dictatorial regimes. He dissected them and I believe he got a couple of them questioning their “bonafides”.
A personal contact who has tried to convince me on the logic of engagement was quite animated in his response to my criticism of his efforts.
He has tried in vain to try to make me think that so many years down the line, the crow can change its shade. I do not believe in Santa Claus and such other fables. But people love myth and that is how it takes root. The myth of the lion turning vegetarian is really for the foolishly gullible.
The best way to understand what I am putting across in support of Magaisa’s article is to reach back to childhood. I will never forget the nganekwane or ngano (folktales) my aunt told me of the time hare was caught by lion. To save his life, hare propositioned lion that if lion were to let him go, he would make sure that he would go trick larger animals for his supper.
Lion agreed and let hare go off to his trickery. Indeed, he delivered and had the animals singing pasi pamera ziso (the ground has grown an eye!).
Hare’s plan had been to dig a pit and conceal lion’s entire body, leaving only a blinking eye. This was the idea of hare: create a spectacle and entice the gullible through curiosity. You can guess what happened as soon as lion had spotted his preferred victim. But folklore can sound preposterous to overly rational adults.
The very idea of a talking hare is preposterous. But not to a child, however, because children have imaginations to work with. Adults tend to have had their minds and consciences seared or deadened by the weight of convention and experience. To quote contemporary British poetess Elizabeth Jennings, adults tend to have “learnt their place” in this life “through negatives”.
Of course, it was the issue about Marry Mubaiwa that dominated social media and continues to grip the nation’s attention. Even the ruling party’s pronouncements at their conference were eclipsed. I will not even mention the doctors’ plight which has been lost in the grist of the news cycle. But this is the downside of new media.
Anybody can make the news and disseminate the “news”. We as practitioners do not have a monopoly on what you all read and it is not fair to bunch us up with all that is happening out there which is making the rounds on cyberspace.
It is out of our control. If it were up to me, I would keep us all out of people’s bedrooms and focus the attention on bread and butter issues. But some will argue that when US$1 million is allegedly siphoned surreptitiously, the bread is right there!
So many questions have arisen and people have so many things to say! For instance: why it took so long to file attempted murder charges on the Vice-President’s wife. My sense is that the genie is out of the bottle now and genies do not go back just like that. Still, this has been a year of theatre on a grand scale and anything to divert the masses is actually good — the proverbial bone to chew.
Prevarication is just a fancy way to say “lie”. It can also mean skirting the truth, being vague about the truth, or even delaying giving someone an answer, especially to avoid telling them the whole truth, according to an online dictionary. Our political leadership has a trust deficit among the populace.
They have engendered a culture of obfuscation and of telling tall tales which fortunately no one believes. When they speak of austerity, they really mean that we should all tighten our belts so they can eat. When they ban the use of US dollars to defend the local currency, they really mean that they want to horde the real money for their own use. I mean, who is keeping an eye on the printing press at Fidelity to make sure that no one just takes the paper that is being “drip fed” to the hapless masses?