The Sunday News
Richard Runyararo Mahomva
Exactly 10 days after the independence of our great nation, on Wednesday, 28 April, we launched a reviewer collection of Dr Obert Moses Mpofu’s autobiography titled On the Shoulders of Struggle: Memoirs of a Political Insider.
As the co-editor of the launched title, Memory and the National Question in Zimbabwe: A Re-Reading of Obert Mpofu, I felt humbled to be part of the group of academics who congregated at the University of Zimbabwe to dissect this seminal volume which probes the political life and times of a foot soldier of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, Dr Obert Mpofu.
His story published last year, 40 years after independence, epitomises the long silenced part of our national memory.
Such silence(s) –whether orchestrated or not invite intense intellectual interrogation. In other words, we need to research why there is silence on some subjects of national interest.
As part of rewriting ourselves to history and the future, we must (de)silence the past and the present to make the future speak of our nationhood journey situate our aspirations to posterity.
In the process of doing so, we must be reminded of the words of Amilcar Cabral: “Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories . . .”
Reflecting on these words, the nationalist insider has a role in this retrospective process of re-membering the nation through candid accounts of how we evolved to be a sovereign.
With Zimbabwe having grown to a 41-year-old girl, those who parented her must now retell how she came to be. We must have more stories about this 41-year-old teenager –her successes, trials and in the process map her ambitions to topple the erstwhile imperialist humiliation and the continued neoliberal molestations.
Through Memory and the National Question in Zimbabwe: A Re-Reading of Obert Mpofu, the editorial goal of the book was to give a retrospective journey of Zimbabwe’s independence through a process which ‘‘tells no lies and claims no easy victories’’.
As a new submission of its kind, the launched book is an invitation to other scholars alike to reconstruct and deconstruct the interrogative path we have taken.
Contributors of this book (several of whom are established academics) have deployed the life story of Dr Mpofu as a discursive conduit to unpack: The formative/founding idea of Zimbabwe anchored on the ethos of African liberation.
The pragmatic acquisition and consolidation of the idea the called Zimbabwe through a deeper conceptual understanding of sovereignty and territorial integrity. The essence of national wealth and the unity of Zimbabweans.
National Contradictions and Restorative Nationalism.
The book’s coincidental launch in the month of Zimbabwe’s independence is alive to the spirit of the restorative nationalism of the Second Republic under the leadership of His Excellency Dr E.D Mnangagwa whose leadership has allowed academic freedom to flourish.
This book launch gestures in good light the Second Republic’s acknowledgement of the fact the national liberation agenda is being consigned to history as the nationalist founding fathers depart to the next world. Thus their wisdom must be tapped into posterity.
Based on the seminal text, On the Shoulders of Struggle: Memoirs of a Political Insider, Dr Mpofu addresses the pertinent task of reclaiming Africa’s liberation memory.
His autobiographic self-location is predicated on pan-Africanism which serves as a political, epistemic, cultural and economic apparatus for substituting imperialist memory with organic revolutionary memory — a process referred to by Homi Bhabha (1991) as Re-membering Africa’s dismembered memory to make sense of the post-colonial trauma.
One may ask, what are these symptomatic manifestations of this post-colonial trauma? This is the philosophical, spiritual and political disconnection of Africans from the African continent.
This trauma is the neoliberal disconnect of Africans from the principles of African liberation existentialism.
Through the imperialist uprooting of memory, Africa was made not to only become a Zone of Non-Being, but Africa was decimated into a tragic site of memorilessness and idealessness.
Meanwhile, the trauma of the post-colony is celebrated and preserved through the consistent donor-funded emphasis on nationalist contradictions and problems with a totalled systematic silencing of nationalist victories.
While the narrative of ‘‘genocides and impunity’’ in Africa by our merchants of democracy, anti-land reform civil society academia are not bothered about the criminality of neoliberal Memoricides manifesting through the sponsored forgetting of Africa’s liberation story, Africanists must expose the lies deployed by coloniality to divide us.
The Africanist has the mandate to uproot the colonial memory which has collapsed African memory to death and arrogantly planted itself as a homogenous commodity of defining what it means to be human; of policing knowledge production, democracy, governance and human rights.
As an Afro-Rebellion institute, the publisher of the book, Leaders for Africa Networks affectionately associates with Dr Obert Mpofu’s literary work because it serves the function of uprooting colonial memory.
The imperialist dominant memory, its technological and ideological infrastructure, imposes itself as the major source of authentic memory.
This explains the hegemonic biases of post-colonial historiography which is characterised by the conflicting perennial binary identities of the coloniser and the colonised.
It is from this perspective, that the essays contained Memory and the National Question in Zimbabwe assess how Mpofu’s book traverses between the ideological chasms of colonialism and anti-colonialism; decolonisation and neo-colonialism; coloniality and decoloniality.
Therefore, the text is predicated on the thematic evaluation of Mpofu’s autobiography to unpack its ideological underpinning.
There is consensus among the contributors that Mpofu’s autobiography is founded on the post-colonial competing ideological paradigm of imperialism and anti-imperialism.
The obvious imperialist and anti-imperialist contrasts of imagining the post-colony survive in an atmosphere of mutual prejudices as clearly expressed in Mpofu’s self-account.
In maintaining the anti-imperialist stance to memorialisation, On the Shoulders of Struggle: Memoirs of a Political Insider is preoccupied with exposing and redressing past injustices whose presence in the post-colony bluntly substantiate the inherent character of neo-colonialism. The conviction of Mpofu’s authorial ideology radically determined to counter the neo-liberal sponsored systematic silencing of the nationalist/anti-colonial/pan-Africanist past.
In negotiating his space into this contested space, Mpofu (2020) presents his autobiography in the category of repressed memory struggling to find its way into the public domain to affirmatively assert the national question:
“However, not much has been said by those cadres who bore the brunt of the real combat operations against the vicious enemy. I represent that group of liberation fighters whose story of involvement in the fight for independence and the consolidation of its values has not been fully chronicled.
“Not much has also been exhaustively recounted about the countless men, women and children who came face to face with the full wrath of Rhodesian violence directed at obliterating the continuity of the nationalist struggle,” (p. 7).
This tension between the dominant and repressed memories of the nation form basis of the debate generated in our reviewer collection.
As a voice of repressed and marginalised memory, Mpofu (2020), has demonstrated the competition to define the national question by both actors in the construction of dominant and repressed memory.
At the same time, Mpofu’s writing substitutes and contests dominant memory narratives on Zimbabwe’s past. Mpofu’s input to national memory is crucial as it invites a multiplicity of other repressed sources of memory in balancing the supremacy of the dominant and homogenising official accounts informing the Zimbabwean national question. The time is now for our liberation story to be told by our liberation fighters!
Richard Runyararo Mahomva (BSc-MSU, MSc-AU, MSc-UZ) is a Political-Scientist with an avid interest in political theory, liberation memory and architecture of governance in Africa. He is also a creative literature aficionado.
Feedback: Twitter: @VaMahomva, Email [email protected]