The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: When Constitutionalism Gets So Stale

opinion

I had a sustained bout of raucous laughter this week when I came across a headline screaming, "PM plan to honour Tongo stolen?" In part, the story read: "It emerged Zanu-PF had literally hijacked a planned MDC-T event to honour the national hero (late General Josiah Magama Tongogara).

"Tongogara, who was the commander of the Zanu's military wing, Zanla, during the 1970s liberation struggle, died on December 26, 1979 in a car accident in Mozambique a few days after attending the Lancaster House talks. MDC-T national organising secretary Nelson Chamisa yesterday said they had been working with Tongogara's brother to commemorate 33 years after the commander's death, but backed down after it emerged the plan was dividing the family which was now under pressure from Zanu-PF to decline the MDC-T proposals."

Stealing one's own!

You cannot avoid being struck humourously by the complete absence of a sense of irony on the part of both Nelson Chamisa, the MDC-T organising secretary and Everson Mushava, the writer of the piece in question. Surely if Tongo "was the commander of the Zanu's military wing, Zanla", how then does Zanu-PF steal or hijack its own? Or much worse, how then does the MDC-T, a fornicated British political creature of 1999 -- a creature of a good 20 years after the death of General Tongo -- plan on Tongo without seeking to steal or hijack him?

Tongo died while part of the fight against a British settler colonial system forcibly planted here from 1890. A key antagonistic component of that fight was the Rhodesian white settler farmer of the same shape, mould and persuasion as that burly and coarse white farmer from Mutorashanga who made out a cheque to Morgan Tsvangirai at Banket Country Club, all to sponsor Chamisa's MDC in its fight against Tongo's Zanu-PF.

That was sometime in 2001/2. And that burly white farmer was not too different from the Smiths of Shurugwi who turned the Tongogara family into hewers of wood and drawers of water, who made the young Tongo survive by picking stray tennis balls in the Smith recreational yard. Of course the Smiths bore one Ian, later to become the Prime Minister of the British colony of Rhodesia, later to rebel against the same British Crown.

Loving Tongo, supping with his enemies

The white farmer was both the reason and backbone of the British white settler regime's war machinery here, a war machinery built specifically to eliminate Tongo, indeed to neutralise the cause for which Tongo had raised a whole guerrilla army called Zanla. And you notice that the force that was mobilised to eliminate the seven heroes of the famous, commissioning 1966 Sinoia Battle, included a strong component of territorials: a white farmer paramilitary force.

And you notice that earlier than 1966, the first victim of the Crocodile Group led by the late war hero, William Ndangana, was a farmer from the then Melsetter, a white farmer who was a local leader of the Rhodesia Front. And, and you notice the 1972 attack marking a second and decisive phase of the Second Chimurenga took place at Altena Farm on the margins of rural Centenary.

The farmer was settler Rhodesia's reserve force, a recumbent army in peacetime, a vicious army in Tongogara's wartime.

Hounds and hares

From 1999, the same farmer becomes MDC's hyperactive financier, indeed MDC's mobilising structure and machinery by way of farm workers and farm infrastructure. If you have time, read "Farmers at War", a Rhodesian book introduced by Dennis Norman, then chairman of the Rhodesian Commercial Farmers' Union, later a Minister of Agriculture in independent Zimbabwe. If you have time google for a very incisive report on how during and after 2000, the peacetime farming structures of settler farmers became virile structures for the MDC in its campaign against the draft constitution and the subsequent polls of 2000.

Now, how does a political party whose origins are British, whose financial wherewithal is Rhodesian settler farmer, go about celebrating the life of the same fighter who was a mortal target of its present sponsors? It is called running with the hares, hunting with the hounds.

Canonising heroes, blunting their cause

This may never make sense to you, gentle reader, unless you keep in mind what Lenin says on class society and the state. Attacking revisionism and vulgarisation of the ideas and personages of Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, Lenin had this to say: "During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, receiving their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander.

After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonise them, so to say, and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the "consolation" of the oppressed masses and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarising it.

Today, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the labour movement concur in this doctoring of Marxism. They omit, obscure or distort the revolutionary side of this theory, its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is or seems acceptable to the bourgeoisie. All the social-chauvinists are now "Marxists". (don't laugh!)

Converting Tongo after death

But important caveats. Here we are not talking about the ideological and symbolic wiles of the bourgeoisie, of the oppressors. The MDC formations while certainly petty oppressors in their small spheres, can hardly pass for bourgeoisies. Rather, we are talking of the servile activities of puppets of the real overseas bourgeoisies, puppets who need the symbolism of nationalists and revolutionaries to blunt the notion of national liberation, to legitimise their own sellout politics and to dupe the masses into falling for those politics.

Chamisa and his MDC-T would want to glean associational value from General Tongo and his family, in order to legitimise their treacherous politics and in order to make them electable. They sought to use Tongo's renegade brother who was long rejected by Tongo's family. The symbolism failed, with Conrad and Nyaradzo -- Tongo's children inside the country -- and Amai Tongo, widow of the late fighter, rejecting this infiltration. And the ritual of "honouring" Tongo a good 33 years after his demise, a good 12 years after the launch of the MDC sellout politics is an attempt at "converting" Tongo after his death, indeed an attempt at turning him into a member of the MDC-T posthumously. What madness!

Reversing Tongo's footsteps

Well, I have news for the MDC-T and the likes of Chamisa. Tongo stood for a non-racial Zimbabwe in which the majority ruled. Tongo stood for the destruction of the settler colonial system which had political, economic, social and cultural sub-systems that stymied Africans, disempowered them. That was the substance of his ideology, his life-long fight. That is what his own life personifies in political terms.

Now, what does honouring Tongo mean in a context in which, as MDC-T's Mhashu says on HardTalk, there is an intention to return the land to the whites? Now, what does honouring Tongo mean in a context in which Tsvangirai leads a party sponsored, mentored and motored by white settler farmers, for the achievement of exactly the same Rhodesian objectives which Tongo took up arms against? The same white farmers Tongo met in battle? Now, what does honouring Tongo mean in a situation in which the MDC-T, through its secretary general, Tendai Biti, swears before man and God to reverse the policy of indigenisation should that party ever come to power?

And of course to reverse the policy of indigenisation and economic empowerment is to restore the settler socio-economy, the very vile system which Tongo vowed to dismantle. I shall not make reference to the Western sponsorship of the MDC-T, including disclosing to you, gentle reader that the MDC leader is in fact in the heartland of Europe to fund-raise for the electoral defeat of Tongo's party in the forthcoming elections.

How about that one, Comrade Chamisa?

Let's bring the point nearer home. Unless the MDC-T is only seeking to canonise Tongo in order to blunt the revolutionary edge of the cause that sent him to war, then they should reckon with the ideas and personages that respectively drove and incarnated Tongo. I have already given some of the ideas which motivated Tongo. What I have not done is to remind Chamisa and his party that Tongo's colleagues and soldiers are very much alive and around.

They are called war veterans. His ideals live on them. If Zanu-PF has stolen the PM's plan to honour Tongo, surely it has not stolen a plan to honour veterans of the struggle who exist in too big numbers to be stolen by Zanu-PF? Could they make a start, possibly starting with Tongo's commander-in-chief, one Robert Gabriel Mugabe? How about that one Comrade Chamisa? And then persuading Biti to give veterans a better war gratuity. How about that one too, Cde Minister?

J.M Tongogara barracks?

I am very happy that General Chiwenga has suggested that King George VI barracks be renamed after the late Tongo. "Ndoozvimwe zvinongotisimudzira mhepo dzisina mushumo munyika," said the General, wondering why the British King George the Sixth continues to oversee the men and women in whom we repose the defence of the realm.

The reader will recall that this was the subject matter of my instalment only last week. There is more to names than mere designation, mere appellations. We must always know that. Our defence establishment, itself the hub of the revolution, must show the way to decolonising the mind. I am happy a beginning has now been made.

The cyclist who should never come near the bus

The constitutional charade continues to rumble on, seemingly interminably. I wrote about it last week, emphasising new shifts on the same issue. Unbeknown to me, The Herald would run a story on the same day of my piece, quoting Welshman Ncube emphatically indicating he prefers to hold the next harmonised polls under the old Lancaster House Constitution than under a new constitution so "soiled" by Zanu-PF proposed amendments. So what was meant to be a projection then became a mere whisper across the paper column. Not to be undone, The Sunday Mail ran a fascinating piece showing Welshman Ncube at his figurative best.

Pushing Tsvangirai to power is like inviting a cyclist to drive a bus, we are told he said! He has since recanted, as all politicians do after the fact, and of course without retracting the well calibrated damage. After all, who remembers a retraction said in pedestrian style, relative to so soundbite-full an attack? Who?

So we will remember some politician most suited kuchovha three speeder; most unsuited to sit behind this articulated bus we call Zimbabwe! Remember this beautiful metaphor right through to the voting booth! After all who pretends to know Tsvangirai better than his erstwhile Secretary General? But that is not my main point.

The place of constitution in the GPA

What Welshman Ncube has said in relation to constitutional parameters for the next poll, the MDC-T has long decided, only without saying. They have given up on the draft constitution and will only attend desultorily to the assignment given to them by the principals. That I am aware. And their reasoning makes sense: why waste time on the draft instead of spending time on organising to win elections so you use that victory to determine the constitutional pace and outcome?

Perfect reasoning. And of course if you recall that this whole constitutional issue was an afterthought of the two MDC formations, originally pushed to appease Madhuku and his constitutional lobby, then you also remember this cannot be a make or break issue. Let me clinch the point. The two MDC formations needed some inclusion of the constitutional issue in order to improve the appeal of their controversial joining of Zanu-PF in an Inclusive political arrangement, a move which a good part of their constituency was opposed to. Fearing that neglecting the constitutional issue would give platform to people like Madhuku, the two MDCs persuaded Zanu (PF) to accede to this one for their combined sake. In the spirit of give-and-take, this was granted, although Zanu (PF) always knew that the constitutional lobby was numerically small, its influence grossly exaggerated.

The donor factor and the constitution

But there was a bigger, greater reason. While the GPA negotiators were hard at it, a series of amendments were eventuated, both constitutionally and by way of lower laws. In fact by the time constitutional amendment 19 was struck, virtually all the concerns of the two MDC formations had been addressed to a point where they could have lived with a Lancaster with all those amendments.

Still they went further. They worked on and agreed to the Kariba Draft. Kariba Draft represented the genuine constitutional wishes of these political parties, away from their madding sponsors. That draft was still acceptable to the formations, even though Zanu (PF) had carried the day. Trouble began when Kariba was leaked to donors of the MDC formations, coincidentally same countries which had deep-seated grievances over land reforms, and against a post-2000 Zanu (PF). The baffling sudden about-turn on Kariba should be understood from this perspective. The West felt the formations had under-negotiated, thereby worsening matters already spoiled by the GPA which already seemed to defend Zanu (PF) positions so staunchly. The sharp verdict on the two MDCs from the West was that they were no match for Zanu (PF) at negotiating constitutional matters.

A second bite at the cherry

The rejection of Kariba using the convenient argument of "a people-driven constitution" was predicated on the western hope that given another round of constitution-making, the two MDCs would do better this time around. And their assignment was to tie down Zanu (PF) constitutionally, while augmenting space for the formations, the latter being so important. It was an attempt to create a second bite at the cherry by the beaten West, using the pretext of people-centred constitution-making. And the disguising, sinking teeth would have been a UNDP one, although the receiving bowels would have been the West. I hope this explains the shenanigans we saw at work throughout the constitution-making process, including the dubious loaning of skills from South Africa.

Beaten once, twice shy

Both the MDC formations and their western backers hoped that over and above regaining through constitutionalism what they had lost through a drawn -out fight with Zanu (PF) over their hurt interests, the whole constitutional process would give rise to another wave of constitutionalism with a strong momentum to win them elections as had happened in 2000. That was the hope, and as events would show, a vain one. Previously bitten, Zanu (PF) had become twice shy. The outreach showed Zanu (PF) at its organisational best, a development that saw it nearly lose it by lowering its guard at drafting stage. Secondly and perhaps more critically, both the donors and the MDC formations forgot that what had given form and impetus to 2000 was the land clause in the rejected draft, were the farmers mounted a spirited defence of their landed interests. After 2010, this factor had largely been dismantled, its spirit definitively doused. We are not likely to see white farmers mounting an organisational challenge to Zanu (PF) on behalf of the MDC formations, which is comparable to what we witnessed in 2000.

No make or break issue

All of which is to say? Well, that the constitution-making process was always exogenous vis-à-vis parties that pushed it, interests that determined it. That once the MDC formations realised they could not rely on the same process to cause a new wave of a constitutional movement for electoral outcomes, they lost interest. The MDC-T was the first one to see this, including a realisation that Madhuku and his phantom constitutional army had been overstated. Including the realisation that with the settler farmers defeated, the potency of constitutionalism as a mobilising plank had been greatly reduced. Including the realisation, too, that Zanu (PF) had staked in the same process its key agenda item on indigenisation and economic empowerment which ironically enabled it to enjoy the same electoral potency which the 2000 constitutionalism had achieved for the MDC. The last to realise the worn and tired state of constitutionalism was of course MDC-N, especially after the notion of devolution was rejected, including by its political sibling, MDC-T. The media need not waste time on this one matter as if to suggest it is a make or break issue. It simply isn't. Or to give it such prominence as suggests it is a national issue. Again, it simply isn't. Maybe a donor issue. Maybe a western issue. Maybe a class issue, an issue of elites, but never of the common man. Maybe a huge cost to the economy.

When Zanu's defeat becomes the raison d'être

As we move into the future, we shall see both MDC formations seeking to de-escalate interest on the constitutional theme in order to hide their retreat from it. As we move into the future, we are likely to see Welshman Ncube and his faction gravitating towards some alliance with Dabengwa's ZAPU, the only issue being the low worth of such an alliance. Of course Makoni will make occasional barks, none of which will ever bite anyone, except of course the very mouth carrying and conveying the bark.

Mawere's, oh Mutumwa! He is exactly that, is he not - a messenger! I thought his sender was going to more and more come to the fore. But that is now highly unlikely, given the clownish beginning of the whole project. This column shall disclose who the sender was, but as a small detail of a bigger history, much of it done for comic relief. He has to answer one simple, even humorous one: he has created a party to vie for elections in which country? Is he not better dealing with post-Mangaung South Africa, his adopted country? Of course MDC-T will continue to pilfer icons and traitors indiscriminately, hoping by some chance to hit an emotive trigger. I dont need to tell you we will have lots of noises on the need for some unity pact of the opposition in order to defeat Zanu (PF). Not in order to unfurl this or that vision, but to defeat Zanu (PF)! The defeat of Zanu (PF) has become the ideology, the raison d'être of these parties! And we all know who needs Zanu (PF)'s defeat so badly. We shall see.

Icho!

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