opinionBy Tanonoka Joseph Whande
In our African tradition, when two people want to get married, the family of the man who wants to marry scouts for someone, man or woman, who is known and respected by both families to act as the "go between".
This person's role is, literally, like that of a referee. He or she not only delivers messages from one family to the other but also counsels and advises them.
The go between is privy to what both families think and want but does not betray that information to either family. Instead, he or she monitors the progress of the negotiations with the primary goal of making that marriage possible.
The go between, or munyayi, is one who commands respect of both families and whose word of advice is usually taken seriously by both.
Munyayi is taken seriously and defuses any potential hiccups that might pose a threat or derail a marriage in the making.
Thus, munyayi is a builder who can cobble something out of hopeless situations, especially when the parents of the bride start making unreasonable demands.
I am fascinated by the go between's credentials.
It so happens that the go between's biggest and most valued asset is neutrality; his ability to treat both families as equals and advise one family against the other while doing the same with the other family.
When all has been said and done, when the happy couple has been granted the go ahead to marry, it is the go between who smiles for having literally negotiated with himself in a marriage of a young couple.
This is always the case because of the respect the go between commands between the families; because of his desire to bring two families together, making sure that either family does not become too unreasonable as to mess up an impending marriage.
The go between is honestly neutral and literally loves both families. He is tough but gentle, kind but firm. He listens and gives advice or warnings yet he makes no unilateral decision on his own but carries the message as given to him even if the message is one that goes against the advice he had tried to give.
While he is on duty, he does not think of himself but fights to unite the two families.
The go between is not an envoy because he belongs to both families. His interest is in the success of the bonding. He thrives on seeing a successful marriage because he knows that when two people marry, it is actually two families, two clans that are being united through the marriage.
It is a strong bond he builds. That is why even divorce will never break the two-family bond once established in an African marriage, traditional or otherwise.
The issue here is the respect that the go between commands from both families. It is the go between's fairness and wish to unite two different peoples that drives him.
On national level, we have a serious situation that has seen our nation severely polarised along political lines and, as a result, even along tribal lines, if calls to partition Zimbabwe are anything to go by.
For 33 years, our nation has lived under the rule of one man and political party, something that is definitely unacceptable. It is an indication that something is not right.
Indeed, in 2008, Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF were trounced at the polls but then resorted to violence from which our nation still has to recover.
The violence before, during and after that election took the lives of hundreds of our compatriots.
To this day, Mugabe and his ZANU-PF continue on their wayward path of harassing the citizens while breaking rules, both economic and political, of dealing with other nations and governments, including those in opposition in our country.
The disharmony deepened until our regional grouping, SADC, intervened and somehow South Africa emerged as the "go between", or facilitator, tasked with bringing harmony among the violently disagreeing political parties.
First, it was former president Thabo Mbeki who went on to embarrass himself by taking sides in a dispute in which he was supposed to play peacemaker.
Mbeki went on to repeat the same ignorant tenets when, surprisingly, the African Union named him peacemaker in the Ivory Coast dispute.
Mbeki's political party, the African National Congress, had to recall their own president for incompetence; Mbeki did not finish his second term as president.
He failed in both Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast. Mbeki just could not be a go between.
Just last week, Mbeki himself finally spoke out, saying that the African Union had failed Africa.
The Sunday Times of South Africa reported that Mbeki is accusing the African Union of letting down the continent, "because of petty disagreements between heads of state".
Mbeki is quoted as criticising African leaders, including his successor, Jacob Zuma.
It is ironic that Mbeki, a staunch Mugabe ally, fingered "former liberation movements' inability to bring about meaningful social change once they moved into government as the cause of many of Africa's weaknesses in the past 10 years".
Mbeki failed to be a go between.
So much for African solutions to African problems!
Then came Jacob Zuma, who likes to talk more than act.
Zuma says all the right things but does none of them. He sends his team of "facilitators" to Zimbabwe almost every month but they come back empty handed.
For more than five years, Zimbabwe has seen talks, talks and more talks which bore no fruit.
When the Voice of America's Studio Seven told Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that, according to emails they receive, people are fed up with this long negotiation process, he said: "They'll have to be patient," and added something about Rome not being built in a day.
Back to South Africa, the go between.
Zuma's mandate, among others, is to bring the quarrelsome political parties to agree on issues mapped by SADC, to urge the cessation of political violence being perpetrated by Mugabe and ZANU-PF with the aid of the army and police and to make sure that the country adheres to recommendations put forward by SADC before any elections are held.
In 2008 when Zimbabwe held its last elections, as many as 200 people were murdered and the police, army and ZANU-PF vigilante groups are blamed for the killings.
Last week, it was revealed that while South Africa, the mediator, the go between, was outwardly busy trying to bring peace in Zimbabwe, it had, in fact, sold weapons worth more than two and half million Rands to Zimbabwe this year despite its commitment not to arm countries with "political complications".
Jacob Zuma does not view Zimbabwe as a country with political complications, much as Thabo Mbeki said there is no crisis in Zimbabwe.
The heart of the matter is that Africa does not appear to be politically mature to solve its own problems. Africa has a death wish and never winces when killing its own people.
Mbeki, one of the founders of the African Union now distances himself from the organisation while his successor shamelessly sells weapons of war to a man he is supposed to bring to order and stop from annihilating his own people.
Africa's failures do not amuse me. Africa's failures kill people and Africa's failures are deliberate.
SADC has shown us its ineptitude; the African Union is totally useless and is a disgrace to Africa; South Africa is patronising and steadily colonising the African continent.
Africans cannot depend on its own sons and daughters.
Zimbabwe is on its own, so are its long suffering citizens.
South Africa is not a go between in our country.
South Africa is not a mediator in Zimbabwe.
South Africa is not a facilitator in our country.
South Africa is colonising and subjugating our country and, hopefully soon, we will aim the same weapons they are selling to our oppressor at the South African warmongers.
I wonder what it takes for us to wake up.
I am Tanonoka Joseph Whande and that, my fellow Zimbabweans, is the way it is today, Thursday, September 13, 2012.