Real Deal: BY GEOFFREY NYAROTA
A good number of those outstanding Zimbabweans who have chosen to serve their country as doctors, accountants, teachers, clergymen, lawyers, journalists, businessmen, politicians, documentary film-makers or whatever else, derived tremendous benefit from spending their childhood or part thereof, while growing up in the village.
Some will remember the invaluable life experiences that they acquired while herding cattle out in the pastures in the company of other boys, while the girls fetched water or firewood.
Those who spent part of their childhood with our founding president, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, at Matibiri village near Kutama Mission in the Zvimba district of Mashonaland West, people such as the mercurial James Dambaza Chikerema, now late, narrated details of how the young Robert was very quiet in those early days of his existence.
They characterised him as a loner, who spent much of his time while sitting all by himself in a secluded corner of the pastures.
He, therefore, missed out on many of the adventurous boys’ games that made the herding of cattle such an exciting and unforgettable experience.
I remember one game in particular, which was the cause of the many swollen eyes or bloodied noses that were easily conspicuous on the faces of the youngsters when they reached home at the end of the day.
This popular but agonising game was called, “Mazamu AnaMai”, Shona for the “Breasts of the mothers”.
The village bullies derived much unmitigated pleasure as they organised the younger herd-boys to participate in this game.
This happened at that time of the afternoon when the cattle had grazed their fill and now settled in the shade of the musasa trees, while chewing the cud.
The regular bully would build two small piles of sand, amid the rising excitement of the spectators.
“This,” the bully would announce menacingly, while pointing at one of the mounts, “is the breast of Jakopo’s mother.”
The said Jakopo would step forward.
Then, turning to the other pile, the bully would say, “And this is the breast of the mother of Chatunga.
“Now let’s see who will demolish the breast of the mother of the other boy first.”
The outcome was always the same, whoever pulverised the appropriate pile of sand first — an instant fist fight ensued as each warrior sought to pound the countenance of his instant enemy.
Quite often there was a mismatch and the fight ended in no time.
On other occasions the boxers were more or less equally matched and all hell literally broke loose, as the fight continued relentlessly; while the combatants punished each other mercilessly.
That was, of course, until the bully finally stepped forward, his craving for inflicting agony now satiated, and pulled the exhausted juveniles apart amid the uproarious laughter of the rest of the herd-boys.
Of late, as the 2023 harmonised elections draw inexorably closer, I frequently relive those performances of old out in the pastures, but now wholly trans-located to an urban setting.
The pastures have now been extended to embrace Zimbabwe’s fiercely polarised political environment, especially Harare, the hotbed of political contestation.
Where the Jakopos and Chatungas of the day reigned supreme back in those days, today’s vainglorious politicians now hold sway, under the glare of social media publicity.
Where the pugilists of the pastures were young boys, the warriors of today are mature and boisterous adults, learned lawyers many of them and some with millions of faithful but excitable followers behind them.
The modern fighters, who will now go to often ridiculous lengths to defend the symbolic honour of part of their mothers’ anatomy, have such household names as Nelson Chamisa, Douglas Mwonzora, Emmerson Mnangagwa and a host of others who are peripheral players in the game of politics.
As for the bullies; whereas in the past they were always the big and mean-looking boys out in the pastures, the persecutors of today have diminished in size, many of them being surprisingly quite diminutive in stature.
They derive their power from their poisoned pen on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp or elsewhere on the vast social media landscape.
It is they who, at the stroke of their pen, and relying on their creative mind, will set up one powerful politician against another, perhaps an even more powerful and cunning opponent, to the delight of amused spectators, including their same loyal followers.
It is my sincere belief, however, that there are easier and more guaranteed strategies for winning elections than being turned into punch bags by young newspaper political reporters or by often clueless social media keyboard warriors.
Instead of fist fights, the intensity of which becomes more vicious amid increasingly vacuous promises as election day approaches, I am offering here a list of strategies that will make winning an election a much easier affair than what most politicians think or fear.
Strategy Number One for both ruling party and opposition politicians involves treating the electorate with respect.
The most visible sign of disrespect is for the politician to disappear completely soon after winning or losing an election, only to re-appear five years later on the eve of the next harmonised poll.
Strategy Number Two is never to make promises of such easily detectable naivety that even the most imbecile of voters can identify as being unachievable, especially on issues that are clearly remote or irrelevant to the daily lives of voters.
To make promises to the voters of Makoni South Constituency, for instance, of urgent construction of an international airport outside the town of Nyazura is to apply for dismissal by them as a candidate for instant admission to a mental health institution, such as Bulawayo’s Ingutsheni.
As for Strategy Number Three, it involves the art of never devoting all of a candidate’s time when addressing a political rally, to the mounting of personal attacks against his opponent.
If the rival candidate is as terrible as claimed then the electorate will know about his shortcomings already.
Instead, focus on those realistic development projects in the constituency that you will treat as paramount if elected.
Turning to Strategy Number Four, bribing the voters is no guarantee that the electorate will remember you on election day.
Buying generous quantities of liquor and other consumables such as by slaughtering fat beasts or purchase of coffins for the deceased relatives of prospective voters can easily lead to disappointment or post-electoral stress.
If you are a good, hard-working and honest candidate the voters will vote for you.
Some will even buy you a drink instead as the foundation of a long-lasting and happy relationship.
The losing candidate in one Harare constituency in 2018 was reported to have gone around after the shocking election results were announced.
He allegedly angrily demanded back all the pairs of tennis shoes that he had jovially disbursed among the women in exchange for promised votes that never materialised.
The remaining two strategies are, well, political party specific and in this instance the MDCA and the MDC-T will be treated as one and the same united political party.
For that strategy to work it is absolutely necessary that the two major MDCs as well as the host of other minor off-shoots of the party re-unite.
I can see both Mwonzora and Chamisa hardliners pointing their furiously wagging fingers at me.
But if the identity of the leader has become the stumbling block to opposition unity and final opposition victory then, perhaps, the time may have finally come to consider replacement of the irreconcilable culprits.
I am convinced that the likes of Nkosana Moyo, Simba Makoni, Noah Manyika or even Tendai Biti would require little persuading to step in, in the national interest, so long as they choose their advisers carefully.
Finally, onto Strategy Number Six, as offered to the ruling Zanu-PF party of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Of necessity this one has to be the most strategic and drastic of all the strategies in my bag of tricks.
If the sitting president is anxious to be voted without doubt back into office in 2023, here is the prescription or recipe for success.
Working with a team of dedicated anti-corruption strategists he must:
- Completely eradicate all forms of corruption from the surface of Zimbabwe by the end of 2022, even if this entails dealing ruthlessly with trusted cronies;
- Recover all corruptly amassed funds and material assets, including those stashed offshore;
- Devote all the recovered funds to the construction or reconstruction of Zimbabwe’s road network;
- Pardon all the newly impoverished formerly filthy rich politicians.
Just leading a normal life and riding in a mushikashika daily will certainly constitute sufficient punishment for their misdemeanours.
The mushikashika is a tiny car that plies the roads of Harare, while packed with miserable passengers
As for the rest of us Zimbabweans, we will live happily ever after.
- Geoffrey Nyarota is the founding editor-in-chief of the original Daily News.
He can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org