The Sunday News
Richard Runyararo Mahomva, Pivot
The inherent Western footprints in the ontology and epistemology of African nationalism in the past has stagnated the dream of realising how we can reconstruct the past and re-imagine the future.
To this end, Pathisa Nyathi’s contribution to truth-telling, peace, healing and national reconciliation is crucial in advancing the professed ethos of the Second-Republic. In his view, peace-building is a mandatory benchmark to validating the merits of the military aided democratic transition witnessed in November 2017:
“It has taken a national programme, “Operation Restore Legacy” to have the Bill signed into operation and the Commission established. One is persuaded to say it is better late or never. The costs to an unresolved conflict are high. They come with the cost of shattered peace, structural violence, fear and inability to think innovatively.
Equally, lost is the sense of belonging, hence tinkering with the idea of cessation (Nyathi 2018:11).”
Nyathi’s ultimate despatch is that beyond the polarities that have been invented by the faults of the past, the Second-Republic must reaffirm the values of unity which supersede the hegemonic prominence of the tribe, nepotism and partisan polarisation.
A copious proposition to this debate has been centred on our ethnic and partisan tensions which can be traced to the “Struggle within a Struggle” narrative. This perspective has formed the key basis for the divided normative points of dissent which have kept us grappling with what it means to be a people united by a common destiny. The abundant drives of split patriotic consciousness continue to confine us to the polemic and the punitive.
In the past, I have highlighted how the narrow use of the Northern-Problem phenomenon has justified academic amnesia aimed at limiting the historical analysis of Zimbabwe’s problems to tribalism. For long, this giant misrepresentation of our crisis by some celebrated philosophical doyens of regionalism has not been challenged. As such, when Nyathi writes he brings in a more unifying and all-encompassing diagnosis. To him, the creation of dissidents and their operations was not exclusively tribal; in as much as the development of Matebeleland was not stagnated by deliberate ethnic charged motives.
The themes in Nyathi (2018)’s book are interwoven with Ngwabi Bhebe (2016)’s landscape analysis of the tragedy to peace-building in Zimbabwe over the years. Bhebe (2016 ix-v) notes that:
“ . . . achieving consensus on how communities should heal and reconcile seems difficult to achieve in most societies in transition. Oftentimes, such societies confront a complex mixture of divergent political ideals, divided memories, conflict ethnic and political histories, contesting definitions of political harm and victimhood and legal loopholes . . .”
The intermingling of the aforementioned incongruent interests towards national healing frustrates the establishment of comprehensive national peace-building projects and all-inclusive state-making.
Therefore, Nyathi’s contribution to the national-healing debate is significant as it gives a well-balanced explanation of the points of contention which have raced with the many noble initiatives by the Government in the promotion of national unity since 1987. Nyathi’s publication subtly questions the morality and the integrity of externally aided peace and reconciliation advocacy initiatives whose trace in conflict resolution cannot be located in the matrix of nation-building since independence.
Through the same advocacy initiatives, all state-driven processes to peace and reconciliation have been presented as agents of facilitating superficial convergence around national belonging without sincere emotive commitment to creating lasting premises for peace and reconciliation. On the contrary, Nyathi mirrors the strategic path that national healing project must assume.
His book is instructive on the course that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) must take in implementing its mandate. The NPRC commission was established to audit the unresolved issues of socio-economic conflict. This follows Zimbabwe’s deep-seated past in conflict. The liberation struggle had numerous frustrating facets to the cause of unity.
Whilst the nationalist movement had been fragmented as early as 1963, Nyathi (2018) highlights how the rise of Frolizi further widened the rifts of the nationalist movement. This rift capitalised the West to ragingly stab opportunities for the nationalist movement to be in unity. To the British, this was a great opportunity for them to incentivise ethnic tensions.
Their primary mandate was clear, ethnicity was just a cover-up for them to crush Zapu’s pro-Eastern European leaning which was an antithesis of Britain’s fronted Western supremacy. On that note, the Gukurahundi must be understood as a deliberate target on Zapu’s influence in giving prominence to communism. This is because Zapu’s alliance to the ANC in waging resistance to the apartheid system was treated as a threat to the spread of the third wave of liberal democracy.
Therefore, any analysis of this grotesque part of our past in isolation of these and many more other realities highlighted in Nyathi (2018)’s book is mischievous.
The thematic contents of this book positively complement the current administration’s drive towards social cohesion as an integral part of Zimbabwe’s current political-culture. Against a backdrop of the Gukurahundi and other cases of political disturbance in Zimbabwe, the NPRC has to abide by the principles of its inception agenda of uniting Zimbabwe.
The state’s drive for social change has a large scale incentive for economic growth and this is key in reaffirming the industry revival possibilities and synergies in the Southern-Region, particularly Bulawayo. Matabeleland stands to benefit more. This also comes at the wake of the implementation of the constitutionally assigned terms of devolution. This is also in line with implementing the roadmap for activating the capacities of Bulawayo as a Special Economic Zone.
This is because the re-tooling of industry can thrive in an environment that is peaceful to attract Indigenous and Foreign Direct Investment. The establishment of the NPRC is also alive to the mandate that Government has with regards to Section 235(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, “. . . the State and all its institutions and agencies of Government at every level, through legislation and other measures must assist the Independent Commissions and must protect their independence, impartiality, integrity and effectiveness”.
The post-new-dispensation Commissions of Inquiry reflect a clear march towards a rational modus to engaging the past. Therefore, Nyathi’s contribution is a poignant starting point and expression of toxic nationalism of repressing and restricting access to ‘truth to power’ should be stuck in our past and not in the future. Nyathi’s book calls for sincere dialogue on the contested notions of power, nationhood and how unity as a seamless characteristic of posterity remains a need. Taking Nyathi’s proposed direction provides a building block for re-membering — which is framed by Bhabha (1989) as a process of “. . . putting together of the dismembered past to make sense of the trauma of the present”.
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]