MATHABELAZITHA/THE ANVIL BY ZIFISO MASIYE
And so it was in those deep dark days of dog-eat-dog brute force and brawn, the days of fear and violent courtship, that the beautiful and most desirable girls of the village would face the sad “choice” (if choice at all) of either enduring routine harassment, violation and rape by that commonly known thuggish village bully, UMlahlwa, or “willingly” to surrender themselves, their “love” and their bodies to the motherless thug, in some weird exchange for security.
Always it amounted to some peace pact, a love trap structured to buy their protection and save themselves under the wing of the thug, from the high probability of repeated abuse by the self-same thug! [ungangala ngiyakugwaza!] In that monstrous, prehistoric environment of man in-the-state of nature, consensual romance and free will in love seemed to be a rare luxury for young ladies. So often, they were simply whipped into submission, force-marched into love, and every day they “consented” to a softer form of rape, becoming grudging accomplices to their own, often lifetime of “peaceable trauma!”. Like Mheri, the donkey they herded in the vlei, only the arrival of a more aggressive donkey- bull would ever release the beautiful young girls from the clutches of the braying village bully.
Whats more, once dragged into those fear-inspired arrangements of “consensual rape”, the captured beautiful village girls would be transformed into willing praise-singers and goodwill ambassadors of their terrorist-tormentors. Against all informed evidence and the concerned warnings and wise counsel of the entire community, the “brave” girls would defend their knife-wielding Boko Harams with their lives, hapless and numb to the obvious fangs of the snake, yet dazzled by its aggressive charm.
I thought those patronising, dehumanising attitudes, so underpinned by primitive instincts of terror, coercion, and recourse to fear happily belonged to a discredited social museum of the 1950s, until my daughter alerted me, rather sternly at the dinner table last night, “Not quiet daddy. The setting may have changed somewhat. The fears of the women haven’t. The insecurity and terror of the beautiful young ladies hasn’t. The conditions haven’t changed. The thugs and social bullies and their instruments of terror in urban romance have not changed. The knife-wielding thug, Mlahlwa, has only been replaced on the stage by a wallet-wielding thug–The Blesser…!” And so our conversation drifted into an intense awakening to me of the shocking depths of indignity endured daily by the girl-child and our women-folk whether in war or in peace time, in pre-history or modern civilisation alike, at the hands of men. But that subject of gendered social inequality, I reserve for another day.
What really struck me about the primitive scortched-earth romance strategy of those 1950 love-rogues is its glaring similarity with the Zanu PF approach to dialogue, consensus-building and the pursuit of unity.
Lest my point is lost, let me underline upfront, as indeed I have always done here, that at the very heart of Zimbabwe’s multiple quagmire of challenges is a morally decadent and bitterly divided, angry and dysfunctional society. It doesn’t help that the critical values worshiped and purveyed by leadership across the board are equally corky, divisive, lopsided and simply wrong. Let me already underline my considered conviction that, in the absence of effective national goodwill, frank and sincere dialogue and a commitment to effective conflict management and founding the nation on a firm foundation of consensus-building and robust independent institutions — the spirit and energy of the nation is working in counter-streams with every beautiful plan or endeavour at recovery, rendering this, a vain, glorified dance in futility.
Now back to fear, stone-age romance and Zanu PF.
The values free-will, individual liberty, rational disputation, open competition, and dialogue and consensus-building are all beautiful values that underpin a democratic society. You feel and breathe these anchors and adornments of democratic domains everywhere in civilised, modern society. The very factory settings of Zanu PF, however, so embedded in centralised power, absolute authority and their compelling, underlying vision of a one-party command state sit at direct cross-purposes with the fundamental motivations of democracy. In dealing with democracy, Zanu PF finds itself at war with its own soul.
In the early 1980s, when their pursuit of a one-party state was bold and unapologetic, and when the consent of Ndebeles wasn’t forthcoming and their legitimacy was always in doubt, the ruling party went all out to employ the worst possible of strategies in their toolkit of tyranny to subjugate and break the spine, the alternative citizen voice. Back then, Mlahlwa carefully concocted a cunning cocktail of real and imaginary dissidents, branding south-western Zimbabwe a terrorist enclave. The village thug, in search of 200 malcontents callously decimated a whole community — incarcerating, raping, torturing, burning, butchering tens of thousands of Zimbabwean citizens, innocent men, women, children and beautiful young village ladies! The end game was one. Joshua Nkomo and Zapu, in a weird exchange for an end to the wanton murder of citizens by their own government, had to sign himself into an abusive marriage with Zanu Pf and become its willing emissary and the chief ambassador of his tormentors. To this day, the so-called accord of unity, failed to unite the citizens and left a sour after-state in the mouth and lives of many. It was a glorified signature of politicians, driven by selfish political expediency and motivated by fear. It carried the politicians, but left the citizens out and behind.
The swift recourse to tyranny, the excessive use of military power, the determination to whip the citizens into a shocked and resigned numbness and the resultant commitment to then secure wicked legitimacy by helping themselves to a supine, virtual corpse of citizenry was as consistent a pattern then, as it is today.
The incredulous orgy of violence that reverberated with chilling consistency and supreme efficiency on the morning of 14/01/19 left the average citizen in a numb disbelief. The scale and pattern of destruction could only be effected by a structured, well drilled and institutionalised organ. Even at their angriest, ordinary citizens from Mabuthweni couldn’t up and destroy community infrastructure of their fellowmen that cruelly. Ngiyala! (i refuse). The footprint and hallmarks of Mlahlwa are all over the trail of the war-mongering plunder. Any rational resident anywhere in hungry Africa, lured, in a deliberate choreograph of chaos, to “thwal’okukwanisayo” (carry what you can manage) in readily destroyed shops would have “looted”.
It is the after-party, where perpetrators of disorder swapped roles to become begrudged “defenders of order” which was as spectacular as it read “Mlahlwa!” all over. The trail of harassment, incarceration, killings and torture of citizens was the well-known pre-amble to the famous invitation to dance. To save the citizens from further bleeding, other champions had to come and acknowledge Mlahlwa on their knees, earn their supper and proclaim to the waiting world what a beautiful rapist he is!
Dialogue is only as sincere as its setting Mr President. How is it that parties to a marriage of two people do a better job at preparing the scene for the deal, than a whole government does at setting the scene for a nation — building tete-a-tete?
Be they Ndebele, Shona, white or Karanga name it — in convenient turns, citizens have allowed Mlahlwa to coerce and rape them repeatedly into fruitless submission. The pattern is glaring, the motivation unmistakable and the method in the madness can be predicted.
Zii Masiye (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.