African liberation media: Part Three …role of critical information strategists

0
1642

By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

IN her book Sex and Destiny, sociologist Germaine Greer pointed out that, especially in the age of consumerist obsolescence, capitalism detests efficiency. 

This explained the growing capitalist hostility, first against the multi-generational family and later even against the stable nuclear family. 

The fragmentation of families through easy divorce provided scope for selling domestic appliances. 

Greer wrote:

“As a consumer unit, the mult-igenerational family is unsatisfactory because of its economic efficiency. Whatever is acquired is used to maximum capacity…(Therefore) …there is a fundamental opposition between the ethos of the family and the (capitalist) consumer economy.”

The dariro was first invented by the African family to lay the foundation for human solidarity, moral conscience, egalitarianism and loyalty. 

The African family was the first dariro. 

Compared to the column and the queue, the dariro is brutally efficient, economical. 

As a choir, it could sing and broadcast a breaking story obtained from one smuggled copy of a banned newspaper. 

As a cell, it could have the story read and analysed even for those who could not read or write. 

As a structure, it provided a mobile cave-like sanctuary or retreat as well as a 360-degree global surveillance mechanism.

It was the egalitarian efficiency of the African family and the dariro as a cell that inspired the critical information strategist and critical information strategists (CIS) during the Second Chimurenga.

Overcoming the dearth of information 

In slavery, under Apartheid or under settler-UDI, the African dariro-based cell system enabled Africans to cope with severe restrictions on information and communication intended to enhance their dignity, their enlightenment and edification, their solidarity and emancipation. 

At the very same time, the same dariro-based cell system served to defend African self-worth, humanity and identity against an overabundance of white propaganda seeking to keep them forever under slavery in the Slave South of the US, forever under apartheid in South Africa, or forever under white minority rule in Rhodesia.

Of these three conditions, slavery was the most severe because it started on a ship under conditions euphemistically called the Middle Passage, where Africans were packaged like sardines and selected on the basis of their physique and stamina. 

By the time they reached Virginia, Maryland US or Jamaica, the remaining captives were a mere polyglot of survivors speaking different languages. But all shared the same symbolic language of dariro and its variants for governance, story-telling, dance, song and ritual.

Against this rudimentary structure, pieced together out of human necessity, the white system was well organised with ready preachers, plantation foremen and plantation masters to dictate new rules, with the ‘Willie Lynch’ types stressing the need to destroy any sense of trust or dependency between the African slave man and African slave woman, between the African slave boy and his father and so on. 

Each African slave had to be taught to look only to the white slave master for relief and mercy. Each one could be auctioned off to another master at any time and be separated from the others for good. 

The ‘ring-shout’ was a dariro reconstructed to confront the precariousness of African existence under chattel slavery. It was the one shared African space the white master could not penetrate, even though he tried by all means to dismantle it. 

The drums used to summon participants to the dariro were banned in North America as well as in colonised Africa. So in Ring-Shout, the sounds originally made using drums were replaced by hand clapping and the shuffling of feet on the floor.

Therefore, the African slaves had to reconstruct the dariro as the ‘ring-shout’ to cope with this white onslaught on their sense of humanity, the dearth of any nurturing information and communication snowed under an avalanche of white racist indoctrination.

If we move to South Africa under apartheid, we see the Black Consciousness Movement, Steve Bantu Biko and the Soweto Uprisings as direct challenges to a similar situation.

We see a glut of communication channels, institutions, NGOs, and media products of white indoctrination masquerading as Bantu Education against the dearth (due to banning and restrictions) of literature channels and information products for African edification and emancipation. 

The African dariro-derived cell had to rely on trickles of information and communication products smuggled in from all over the country and all over the world. 

Jordan Ngubane’s historical fiction, Ushaba, clearly depicts the situation where even child-naming parties and rituals became occasions for sharing revolutionary messages and intelligence about the state of the scattered African nation under apartheid. 

The Zimbabwe parallel under UDI and during the Second Chimurenga I have already described under Pungwe types two and three.

It is clear that since the beginning of slavery, the African media and communication system has had to confront a dual system where there was an overabundance of unhelpful and destructive information produced by the enemy or slave master against what was left or what could be protected of the African system. 

Replace the slave master, the coloniser, apartheid man with the current neo-liberal imperialist, and you still have a comparable situation. 

There is more space within which to resist and more means available, provided these means are harnessed strategically and not just embraced by the salesman. But the comparison between neo-liberal imperialism, on one hand, and slavery and colonialism, on the other, still remains valid.

That is why I believe that critical information scouts (CIS) are needed, even more now, to monitor the overabundance of imperialist-sponsored media and communication interventions in our society and to shape our own strategic countermeasures anchored within an upgraded cell-base-ward system involving the 60 percent of the povo whom the Transform Africa Summit admitted did not have access to ‘smart technology’. 

CIS are needed in order to relate those who are zooming, trolling and otherwise interacting through cyber-based groups and social media with place-based communities at the cell-base-ward-district level.

Most of Africa has been independent for more than two generations now, but one still finds, in African countries, an overabundance of Western-sponsored NGOs, churches, publications and even radio channels. 

So it is not only through Google and the internet that imperialism remains over-represented throughout Africa. 

There are all kinds of uninvited intrusions and interventions, from AFRICOM to USAID to World Vision and Human Rights Watch (which watches everyone except its imperialist creators and their proxies). 

For instance, within the US Congress, the Republican-Party and the Democratic- Party actually compete to sponsor imperialist propaganda around the world. The former sponsors the International Republican Institute (IRI), while the latter sponsors the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), both with mandates to intervene in governance matters in the global South and East.

African definitions of CIS and other terms

These definitions are tentative and dependent on context. They are meant to invite input from readers in order to improve our understanding of African liberation media.

From ordinary conversations about information and communication during the Second Chimurenga, one is given the impression that the African media effort was limited to vanamujibha and occasionally also involved vanachimbwido. 

But, as this analysis shows, liberation media and communication involved a much bigger and more complex chain of actors. Chimbwido and mujibha do not feature in M. Hannan’s Standard Shona Dictionary which was first published in 1959 and reprinted as late as 1987. 

Professor Herbert Chimhundu’s Duramanzwi Guru rechiShona defines Chimbwido as follows:

“Munguva yehondo, chimbwido aiva musikana aibikira nokuwachira varwi verusununguko/Chimbwido was a young woman who did the cooking and washing for guerilla fighters during the Second Chimurenga.”

Mujibha is defined as follows:

“Munguva yehondo yechimurenga, mujibha aiva musori aifamba asina pfuti, aitumwa nevarwi verusununguko kundosora mafambire emuvengi/During the Second Chimurenga, mujibha was a spy who travelled unarmed in order to observe enemy movements and report to the guerillas who sent and directed him or her.”

For both chimbwido and mujibha, Chimhundu gives the original meaning of the word prior to the revolution. Both words once referred to lowly and despised people, with chimbwido being considered a plain or ugly young woman not usually noticed by men, while mujibha was considered to be an unimportant person, with little to do, who carried out errands for important people who had a lot of important business occupying them. 

Both terms originally referred to persons who were regarded as not worth noticing.

The guerrilla’s choice of such language to name their spies, cooks and laundry assistants was done tongue in cheek and it was strategic. 

The enemy was not supposed to notice these ‘lowly’ persons but their work was most sensitive and critical. 

It was a matter of life and death for the chimbwidos and mujibhas and for the guerillas! 

That is why chimbwido and mujibha have become honourable categories in our language in independent Zimbabwe. 

The enemy sought to wipe out the guerillas by poisoning their food and clothes which were handled by vanachimbwido and vanamujibha.

Now turning to CIS.

First, what was ‘critical information’ in the context of the African liberation struggle? 

Most jurisdictions define critical information as any facts that should never be allowed to fall into enemy hands. 

That would translate it into secrets of the liberation movement. 

But in the context of African liberation media, it meant more than that. 

First we use critical information here to refer to facts and communication going beyond mere native protest in order to frame the African liberation agenda. 

Often it meant information organised or communicated in such a way as to turn apparent African disadvantages and weaknesses into strengths and advantages and therefore to motivate the povo to believe that emancipation was realisable. 

Information that helped the povo to re-assert and practise African living law against colonial law and practice. 

It meant vital facts of African existence and experience which the colonial system denied or made scarce by design or omission. 

It meant information on ways to go around the overkill inflicted on the povo through the over-abundance of settler propaganda channels and products. 

Insisting on a critical African living law perspective enabled the CIS and the povo to undercut colonial propaganda without allowing the settler to set and limit the agenda.

Therefore the CIS was a cadre who had a keen eye and ear for salient facts or positions and did everything to extract or note them for relaying to those tasked with packaging messages for mass distribution or incorporation into the overall strategy or tactics of the freedom movement.

And the critical information strategist was the one tasked to advise leaders and commissars on message framing and design. 

Adopting the pungwe as an all-embracing super-curriculum for the masses was a master-stroke because this was the ancient dariro revolutionised.

As is now clear from analyses of the Ring-Shout during slavery, participation in the dariro became the African equivalent of mass in the Catholic or Anglican churches. 

The counter-clockwise movement or dance in the dariro had multiple meanings. 

For some it meant following the Creator’s steps in the acts of creation and, therefore, a statement of being glad to be alive. 

For others it meant following the path that our ancestors followed, from conception to birth, from birth to youth and maturity, from maturity to old age and death, from death to resurrection or homecoming. 

Still for others it meant following the path of the sun as it moves from East to West and rises again, blessing nature and human life with its abundant energy which did not discriminate; as it brought rain and growth, light and darkness to all corners of the earth.

The same can be said about the choice of jongwe (rooster symbol) by ZANU PF toward elections at the end of the war. 

The symbol evoked ecstatic resonance with the povo.

Pungwe as a microcosm of nation building and civil-military relations

 For practical security reasons, the pungwe in liberated and semi-liberated zones had to include everyone, vanachimbwido, vanamujibha, first aid workers and nurses, farmers, gardeners, transporters, singers and dancers. 

The liberation fighters could not afford to leave out any sector.

But at another level, the pungwe symbolised the strategic unity of those youths who had left the country to go into exile, train to fight and come back; and now joining those who remained behind, those who went to school or to work inside the country, or simply remained at home to take care of the elderly and livestock.

Pungwe symbolised the coming home of students who remained in boarding schools, urban workers coming home for holidays and villagers remaining in rural areas; now joined by the armed guerillas. 

Vanamukoma meeting villagers during the struggle.

There were times of tension, misunderstanding, violence and even abuse across these differences; but they were relatively manageable and overcome, through the pungwe, for the common good.

There was enormous risk of conflict degenerating into civil war along any of the potential divisions or differences as happened with the Taliban of Afghanistan who were students exiled in Pakistan or as happened with RENAMO and FRELIMO in Mozambique. 

CIS had to make sure that ideology and practice were harmonised. 

And the pungwe was a physical, on-the-ground demonstration of that effort. 

It is at Pungwe Type Three that the organic communal media and elements of contemporary national and global communication were harmonised into one system of public communication for the povo and the nation at large. 

Today’s cyber buffs and enthusiasts are accused of remaining isolated and dangling somewhere in cyberspace with no defined and recognisable touch-down points. 

That is why latter-day CIS are still required.

Literally, the pungwe as dariro registers growth and development by enlarging the circle or forming concentric circles. 

The vision of growth is radial. 

The message is one of growing together and this matters as communication.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here