By Dr Tafataona Mahoso
AFRICAN relational philosophy constitutes the progressive revolutionary as one who intervenes as the nurturer of life, through the building and enlargement of relationships, using a communication process of kushaura nokutsinhira, which is to say hunhu/ubuntu defines revolutionary participation in history as the deliberate building of optimal and optimising relationships.
In contrast, Kudzai Chipanga’s ‘Youth League’ outburst cited earlier, clearly tried to deny the organic relationship between war veterans as representatives of the liberation movement on one hand, and the youth of Zimbabwe as inheritors of the independence and freedom which liberation brought.
In other words, Chipanga re-constituted the Youth League as the dismemberer and destroyer of organic relationships.
Munhu as historical agent is a builder or restorer of relationships.
Even power, is defined in terms of relationships, so that gender or being male or female, being a youth or an elder, cannot in itself define an absolute and constant level of power.
This relational approach is well put in Shona as follows:
“Mwana wamambo muranda kumwe.”
“Ambuya vapano muroora wekumwewo.”
“Sekuru vepano muzukuru wevamwewo.”
“Mbuya vekoko muzukuru wekuno.”
One cannot rule everyone absolutely everywhere, all the time.
But this philosophy is more critical when applied to neo-liberal linear assumptions that one who is young in age represents youths; or that a woman necessarily represents women; or that if that person is a man, he represents men and only men.
All this is wrong in terms of African Relational Philosophy. One cannot represent anybody or any group, unless one has engaged them in the deliberate building and maintenance of real organic relationships of representation.
‘Operation Restore Legacy’ makes sense as revolution and as change because it restored a relationship which the 2004 US regime change recipe for Zimbabwe called ‘Operation Shumba’ defined as the ‘Fourth Chimurenga Narrative’ which is what G40 was meant to erase for good.
That revolutionary relationship and narrative of Chimurenga came from far back and it sounds miraculous every time it is narrated.
The armed freedom fighters of the 1970s came back to issue the revolutionary call, kushaura, and the Chimurenga circle responded, vakatsinhira zvakare, on November 18 2017.
This is the narrative in brief.
The armed freedom fighters of the Second Chimurenga were young men and women trained in mission schools to demonise, denominationalise and wipe out ‘primitive’ native memory in the manner of the Witchcraft Suppression Act. But they abandoned that colonially assigned role in response to the voice of the spirit mediums of Chaminuka and Mbuya Nehanda.
The most prominent medium of Mbuya Nehanda had been executed by the settler regime during the First Chimurenga in 1896 and Nehanda was not supposed to be heard ever again, let alone to be followed by missionary trained African youths 80 years later.
After abandoning Christian Mission schools to join the liberation movement in response to the voices of Chaminuka and Nehanda, the same youths had been sent out to undergo military and technical training in such diverse countries as China, USSR, Cuba, Yugoslavia, Romania, Ethiopia, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Tanzania and Mozambique.
David Lan then describes briefly what those of the freedom fighters who came back to Dande had to do as builders of revolutionary relationships upon arrival:
“Within a short period of their arrival in Dande, ZANLA guerillas were incorporated into local social categories. The category into which they were placed was ‘descendants of the mhondoro’, which is to say they were regarded as members of the royal lineages. This was not the only way in which they were perceived nor was their incorporation into this category absolute and complete.
It was nonetheless remarkable, for few of the guerillas active in Dande were born in the region or had any historical connection with the ancestors believed to take care of (this connection).
Despite this, notions of descent, by definition a closed category, were opened out to receive them.”
That opening up was the demonstration of hunhu/ubuntu as revolution practiced via Chimurenga.
The white anthropologist was surprised by this capacity of African society in Dande to assume and achieve power through the creative integration of armed freedom fighters born outside Dande and once trained by missionaries and by other outsiders.
The anthropologist was puzzled because he was operating in terms of the template of African ‘primitive’ and ‘native tradition’ invented by settlers and refined by anthropologists. The anthropologist was shocked by the contemporary dynamism of African memory in the face of the urgent necessity to liberate its white-occupied bases.
Maimire Mennasemay in his article called ‘Political Theory, Political Science and African Development’, wrote that the dominant paradigm of modernism and modernisation which influenced most political theory and development theory was flawed because it assumed that African people can be ‘developed’ outside their own time and history, which is to say, outside their dariro or web of memory.
These Euro-centric theories use linear time which reduces African development to any imitation of the white North in terms of linear time defined by past Northern history:
“However, such a conception of time imposes very serious limitations on the study of politics, the most important of which is the negation of the notion of the human being (here the African) as a historical agent. (That is a builder of new revolutionary relationships).
If time is assumed to be independent of social practices, (African) men (and women) are reduced to being spectators engaged in involuntary movement which is unidirectional (linear), objective, and mechanical.
By negating men (and women) as historical subjects, their capacity to be free is simultaneously denied.”
David Lan saw the African liberation movement as following a line which came to boundaries, walls, fences and cliffs which in the colonial view of ‘traditional society’ could not be crossed or penetrated, just as the spirit of Nehanda was not supposed to penetrate the perimeter walls and fences of the foreign-sponsored missionary school or seminary.
But African memory is modelled after the ubiquitous dariro (circle).
The guerillas on arrival in Dande joined the dariro or circle of memory which at once integrates past, present and future.
The circle was adjusted creatively and the freedom fighters were defined in it as part of the royal lineage precisely because of their role in rescuing the three bases of memory and therefore helping to reconstruct the collective African memory of Zimbabwe.
One of the bases was the land, stolen, occupied and defiled by the settler.
He or she who reclaims the land and possesses it becomes royalty.
The second base was the African body surviving the white chattel plantations of slavery, the African body surviving the single-sex labour barracks and compounds of apartheid and Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (WNLA), the African figure now able to stand on its own ground after abolishing the Vagrancy Act and its no-trespassing signs.
The third base for this African memory was the African institution, that is the engine for creating relationships.
On arrival in Dande, the freedom fighters introduced the African institution which was going to reclaim and reconstruct lost institutions while also creating new ones.
That one institution was the African liberation movement. That institution is still, to this day, the target of the whiteman’s on-going onslaught on Zimbabwe.
By restoring these first three bases, the freedom fighters deserved to be incorporated into the African circle of Dande as royalty.
What surprised Lan was the native dynamism and contemporary flexibility of this African memory.
In short, ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ succeeded because the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF), as the successor to the liberation fighters, has nurtured its relationship with the community in the form of optimal civil-military relations and in the form of international peace-keeping missions within the United Nations systems.