Mawere: Letter to Nathaniel Manheru

By: 
Mutumwa Mawere

Dear Mr. Manheru,

I AM writing this letter not to discourage you from sharing your insights and ideas on what Zimbabwe needs to do to lift itself up but to put across another perspective that can possibly assist those who wish to better understand what, if any, could have been done differently in order to better shape and define the character and personality of post-colonial Zimbabwe.

It is painful when one reads your article titled: “Zimbabwe: Assassins without guns,” to describe human beings who have chosen journalism as a profession in a post-colonial state; to recognise that the state has been hijacked by backward-leaning actors who don’t always respect the truth.

It seems obvious that Zimbabwe was born from the womb of Rhodesia and as such the idea of Rhodesia was and ought to have been buried when universal suffrage became the order of the day in 1980. The watershed elections of 1980 transformed simple human beings from the bush into state actors but the elections had no transformational capacity.

What simply happened is that the chairs occupied by colonial actors were taken over by new actors. This transformation was clearly not merit-based to allow the beneficiaries of the liberation dividend to delude themselves into believing that the act of elections could conceivably convert one foolish mind into an enlightened one. Indeed, there were many who assumed state positions without any preparation or knowledge about what the post-colonial project really entailed or required of them.

I should like to think that you will agree with me that the last 35 years of Zimbabwean independence has regrettably produced a class of actors in the state who believe that elections were part of some kind of self-serving anointing project. The belief that state-actors by virtue of assuming state position through an electoral system that often is inherently flawed automatically confers badges of superior wisdom on the elected state actors is what has contributed to the distortion and undermining of Africa’s development trajectory.

I am sure you will agree with me that even President Robert Mugabe is not a clairvoyant but a man of flesh and by the nature of his job and the context in which a President operates, his worldview is prescribed by his handlers, including you, who often think that the best way to manage him is colouring the truth for self-preservation. I have no doubt that you will agree that the idea that a government can be a little God capable of empowering people is counter-intuitive and corrosive. The understanding of what a government is and is not has unfortunately been contaminated by people who see the state as an end in itself and not a means to end.

Some may even be praying to God to give them more time to solve the people’s problems forgetting that the government and its actors is not and will never be equipped to substitute human imagination and creativity. It is against the above backdrop, that one is then compelled to respond to the ill-conceived idea that a journalist who thinks differently from people close to power and people in power is necessarily an assassin without a gun.

If one accepts the idea of describing a scribe as an assassin, then one is entitled to also consider you as an assassin with a pen. Independence promised independent and sovereign minds yet in reality the import of your contribution in the article is that journalists must conform to a standard that even you fail to define and articulate.

You take issue with so-called syndicated writers that you say are often “white” and, therefore, exhibit colonial attitudes and worldviews forgetting that independence had real consequences for those that believed in race-based ideas.

It is ironic that while you seek to promote the idea that President Mugabe has been a competent and infallible leader of the post-colonial dispensation, your continued reference to the existence of some kind of permanent residual Rhodesian power and influence seems to confirm an element of a sense of helplessness and defeat of the majority by a minority.

If you genuinely believe that the Rhodesian hand is pervasive then surely you would be the first one to advise your boss that it is time to exit. After 33 years of independence, one must accept that the memory of what it was like to live in Rhodesia has faded sufficiently to discourage any opportunistic interpretation of the squandered opportunities that independence offered in order to secure to a diverse but inclusive society.

I am sure you will also agree with me that it is utter foolishness to still use the race card in trying to explain the divergent views about the post-colonial scorecard especially having regard to the fact that the frontiers of poverty, unemployment and inequality have expanded under the watch of a majority government.

You will also be aware that the white population has been declining, so the credit you seem to give this diminishing species in undermining the interests of the majority is conceptually and intellectually bankrupt. It is bankrupt thinking that would premise the fate of the majority in the commissions and omissions of the majority.

In the make believe world it is often easy to manufacture excuses for failure and there could be no better convenient modus operandi than to continually use the tired argument that a white conspiracy is the real elephant in the room when ignorance could be the real culprit. It begs the question whether you have really grasped the role of the citizen in a constitutional democracy as well as the role of the state and its actors in securing a safe and prosperous future for all.

You make the point that Rhodesians have for the past 35 years grouped together in networks throughout the world: “with those they shared bitterness over the fall and passage of Rhodesia.” What may not be clear to you is that the post-colonial government has not been under any real or imagined threat from this group. It is difficult to imagine what kind of person would keep an idea of Rhodesia alive for such a long time in the knowledge that the law of political gravity will always favour the majority.

What would a rational person seek to accomplish by clinging to a past when the present exhibits signs that Rhodesia in whatever permutations is practically impossible to recreate in a country where the majority rules? Zanu PF and its office-bearers have kept the hegemony over the state and its organs not because of the benevolence of whites but authority flowing from the very majority you seem to be insulting by suggesting that the ghosts of the colonial era were not killed by the restoration of civil rights to all the people.

It would be clear that the idea of the restoration of Rhodesia exists or can only exist in the minds of the delusionary. It would be clear to all rational persons that to keep an idea of Rhodesia alive and keeping for 35 years would be an exercise in futility. You will agree with me that it is the case that the majority of the people that have climbed the rough side of the independence mountain are black people yet independence promised an escalator to prosperity.

While it was possible to assert the argument in 1980 that the effect of the colonial legacy was of a limiting nature, it is impossible to sustain an argument that in 2015, the same argument that white power stood in the way of sovereign and independent blacks to chat forward their economic freedom agenda.

You also make an uncorroborated allegation that white power is omnipresent in the media industry without providing any cogent facts to support this. Your propensity to generalize anything in order to drive home a meaningless point that blacks are perpetual victims of historically determined race relations must necessarily be tempered by a reality check.

Since you are and have been privileged to be a key state actor, one would expect, at the very least, for you to name and shame these “ghosts-like” white characters who you recklessly accuse of controlling black minds. Who are these white persons who would be stupid enough to put faith in the ruins of Rhodesia?

Some sloganeers often state that: “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again,” precisely that any forward-leaning person would have known in 1980 that the political winds had changed forever and any investment in the past, however, glorious or painful would be or would have been an exercise in futility.

It has been suggested, opportunistically, by you that anyone who does not subscribe to your philosophy, ideas and values is surrogate of external forces and, therefore, unpatriotic and assassin.

You will agree that a rebellion of ideas is not such a bad thing. There are black Zimbabweans who have not and have never been persuaded that the systemic failure of the post-colonial dispensation to capture the imagination of the Zimbabwean human spirit is not because of the ghosts of the past but the failure by the few like you from whom so much was and is expected to appreciate the true purpose of a government and its role in society.

You also evidently seem to give too much credit to this fellow you call Rhodesian without describing what the person looks like. What does a Rhodesian look like? Ian Smith is no more yet you seem to give his ghost so much credit for shaping and defining the minds of free thinking Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans are capable of knowing when an idea fails to speak to their aspirations.

The idea that you subscribe to evidently is so foreign to what is expected by ordinary citizens to deliver the promise. You will agree with me that you are a free operator unlike your boss who has been living and operating in a glorified prison naturally relying on briefs and even outrageous and untested ideas framed in the context of assassins. The real assassin without a gun is a person who refuses to see the objective conditions of life as they are by trying to interpose an imagined ghost in the mix.

You then advance the point that: “One such ghost-writer uses a Japanese name and masquerades like some scholar from that country,” as if to suggest that it is important to play the man and not the game of ideas. It should be irrelevant if the author of ideas that may be repugnant to what you consider to be the universe of what is to known, is Japanese or any nationality for that matter.

We would benefit tremendously if you attempted to use God’s time to debate issues rather than atmospherics. What are you really hiding and for whose benefit? You must be rest assured that the truth will always be there and no matter how you may wish to characterise the post-colonial experience, it cannot be denied that it has been painful for the very people that were supposed to benefit from it.

You then seek in your article to draw a distinction between this targeted Japanese with the so-called white people as follows: “But unlike the white hacks, these expose themselves by being too African, too Zimbabwean in sensibility.” It is clearly evident that there is need to improve literacy on identity issues for it is self-evident that sensibility has no relationship to what it means to be African let alone Zimbabwean.

In terms of the Constitution that your boss took an oath to uphold, even white persons qualify to be Zimbabwean. Zimbabwe is a constitutional state and it cannot be acceptable that a civil servant like you would have the courage to openly undermine the basis on which the state is founded.

You will be aware that Zimbabwe belongs to all who live in it. If this is the case, President Mugabe is the head of a representative government of all Zimbabweans. What it means to be Zimbabwean simply means that it is only those who choose to be Zimbabwean and are eligible in terms of the laws of the country, who can be Zimbabwean.

I sincerely hope that you will pause and reflect on what you are doing to undermine the promise in the mistaken belief that you and you alone can think, better than anyone else. It would be a good starting point if you could begin by respecting and saluting those that disagree with the direction the country is heading and in so doing appreciate that it should never be the case that one man, however, intellectually gifted can know everything.

I would encourage you to slow down on giving people weekly propaganda messages but to use the space to engage diverse groups and interests solely driven by a desire to enhance social cohesion and progress.

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