BY KENNETH MUFUKA
The passing away of Alex Magaisa, the late lecturer at law at Kent University in the United Kingdom has left a void which is difficult to fill.
I knew WaMagaisa (son of Magaisa) and communicated with him, sometimes in jest and at other times on profoundly serious issues affecting our country. Since the brilliant brothers, Taona Denhere and Stanley Mushava had beaten me to writing his funeral oration, I turned to my longtime advisor and friend Fabian Mabaya for wisdom.
“Surely, if you considered Magaisa your friend, you have a duty to witness at his funeral. You do that as a matter of record.” Mabaya advised me.
At 46 years of age, Magaisa was a generation younger than me. As is our custom, he was deferential and he is the one who stretched out a hand of friendship, with the outmost respect. The fact that there are so many witnesses who regard him as a friend, testifies to his superior quality. If he had enemies, it was not his intention to make enemies. Nevertheless, the enemies of truth would naturally gravitate towards those who harboured ill-will towards him.
During the government of national unity, he extended a special invitation to me from the US. He wanted, as was his habit, to collect as much information as was possible as to the way forward for Zimbabwe. In assessing the needs of a future Zimbabwe, he hoped that we could provide a guide for a brilliant future. Little did he know that in 2013, Zanu PF would regain the levers of powers and we would return to the status quo ante.
He was a good listener. I made two contributions. My observation was that the Zimbabwean government often put its foot in the mouth needlessly because it was ignorant of government practices, the way we do things, called modus operandi.
Here is a most embarrassing example. When Major General Godfrey Chanakira died, the president’s office rushed to announce a provincial status and funeral arrangements. Obviously, the Vice-President, for whom Chanakira worked was not consulted. After a week, and a protest from the generals, the decision was reversed and Chanakira awarded a higher status.
In the US, a chief operating officer employs a runner who goes around to all the senior staff, making them read, sign and comment on new impending decisions and press statements. In this case, Retired General Chiwenga should have been involved in the announcement. In that way, leaders avoid back biting and second guessing as to what decisions have been made, and by whom.
I made a second suggestion. I wanted Zimbabwean professors to be given a chance to exchange with US universities. That simple gesture, even if it is for a semester, will go a long way to broaden their horizons. A professor should hold his ground anywhere on earth. Magaisa took the suggestion kindly and eventually the late Sibusiso Moyo at Foreign Affairs picked it up and wanted to know more about it.
Critics of Magaisa flat out suggest that he was an imperialist plant by the UK government. I too would be regarded as a US plant. This is a misunderstanding of the nature of patriotism.
Magaisa is accused of being indifferent to the disastrous effects of Zidera, the American Congressional sanctions against Zimbabwe. Our brother Moses Makoni wrote to me yesterday arguing that the “trouble with you professors, including professor Gift Mugamu, is that you ignore the effect of Zidera.”
Sanctions are real. The example of the effect of sanctions against Russia is there for everybody to see. We also agree that the imperialists did not care what happened to Gukurahundi victims. They care more about white farmers, and they want them compensated, or there is no deal.
The present situation is that the Zimbabwe government and its leading financier, Professor Mthuli Ncube, think it will get away with flirting with the European Union and making false promises of compensation.
Magaisa was concerned with making things simple. We agree that the value of the Zimbabwe dollar is being affected by US hostility to the present government. Magaisa’s position, as indeed is that of the patriots like Mugamu, is that the government must KISS itself. KISS means Keep it simple, you sluggard. Either you compensate white farmers, or you do not. Do not hide behind econometrics.
Magaisa, like Masiphula Sithole before, was able to interface and fellowship with the humblest Zimbabwean and weave their desires and ambitions in his writing. The best writers, professors tell us, are those who are observers of the life and manners of their time.
And more, such gifted writers, can feel the suffering of the subjects of which they write. Denhere has already alluded to his immortal essays. In his honour we should one day make a collection of some of his essays. The essay on “post power syndrome” was aimed at the mortal enemy of truth, the quintessential intellectual prostitute, Professor Jonathan Moyo, PhD.
Moyo, who belongs to the Philistine ethnic group, was awarded this title by Ghana’s George Ayitei who was impressed by his weasel ways of wending in and out of power in season and out of season like the French Bishop Talleyrand. In his essay on Jestina Mukoko, Magaisa was almost driven to the lunatic asylum by the cruelty meted out against the sister. The sister was compiling a list of victims of Zanu PF thuggery in an election cycle. A mbaramatodo (thorn brush applied to the underside of her feet) left her with impaired ability to walk.
Magaisa and I shared the title of Mukoma (Big Brother). I was given the title by the staff of Manica Post. I had visited to see my brother John Gambanga. I was surprised that in his absence, I was greeted with such enthusiasm, as Mukoma Ken from America. Mukoma is an honorific title among the Manyika.
Magaisa, with a kind heart, appreciated the fact that I had walked in the forest with the likes of Masiphula Sithole and Willie Musarurwa.
A befitting memorial would be to make a collection of some of his immortal essays and introduce them at our next International Book Fair. I pray for peace and mercy to abide with his family at this time of most need.
- Ken Mufuka is a Zimbabwean patriot. He writes from the US.