From vana hwindi to ‘Mashurugwi’…glaring lack of a peduncle to hold the fruits of ‘reform’

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By Dr Tafataona Mahoso

THIS contribution follows several that are related to it, including the following:

‘Chihwindi Against Chimurenga: Youth and the Search for the Soul of Zimbabwe’, The Patriot, March 2 2018; ‘Why the New Dispensation Needs to Clarify Its Ideology’, The Patriot, January 18 2019; and ‘The Paradox of Economic Liberalisation Rhetoric on ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ With No Peduncle’, The Patriot, May 3 2019.

The previous articles spoke to those who know what ideology is and there I assumed that most readers knew what ideology was.

Based on my reading of the local press and listening to radio, television and other discussions on the Zimbabwe situation, this instalment seeks to define, explain, the phenomenon of ideology in its various facets. What is ideology?

The best way to explain ideology is to separate its four components first and then put them back together, that is: the purpose or objective of ideology; the process of ideological subjection-qualification; the appropriate infrastructure for subjection-qualification; and the product(s) or manifestation(s) of an effective ideology.

The purpose or Objective of Ideology

Because every society, group or organisation has to have an ideology, we start with the easiest part of the meaning to explain, the part which is clearly universal.

In every society or group the purpose of ideology is four-fold: 

  • to develop the capacity to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong, what is lawful and what is illegal, what is beautiful and what is ugly; in terms of that society or group;
  •   to develop the capacity  to know the difference between what exists and what does not exist, to the extent of the development of scientific knowledge in that society;
  • to develop the capacity to distinguish what is possible from what is impossible from the best knowledge available in that society;
  •   to develop the ability to acquire and sharpen the appropriate language, the appropriate vocabulary, the necessary jargon to underpin discourse on these other capacities so that there is clear communication, understanding and growth of the ideas to be used in inducting new generations and recruiting new followers.  If an ideology succeeds in its objective(s) it becomes hegemony, meaning that it becomes common sense or it operates like common sense.

The process of ideological subsection-qualification or the process of ideological interpellation

The best word to describe the ideological process is interpellation because it combines the meanings of deliberate interruption, deliberate engagement and deliberate review, which is to say the society makes a conscious collective choice regularly to interrupt its youngsters by taking them away from family routines, taking them to mahumbwe or school or college where the youngsters must be methodically engaged and later reviewed (assessed).

In other words, subjection-qualification means that before a young person is allowed to progress from one phase or function to a higher one, he or she must have been subjected deliberately and methodically to a programme of instruction or training and thought interrogation which ends with a review or assessment which then qualifies that youngster to move on to the next level of responsibility and privilege. Whether all this can be done informally or formally or both depends on the situation of the group or society.

The appropriate infrastructure or apparatus for subjection-qualification

This part of our definition is meant to emphasise that effective interpellation (engagement) requires a proper location or ground where it takes place; appropriate agents to run the location and keep the ground secure and suitable as well as to engage the candidates; and the appropriate relationships between this location or station with other stations in the lives of the youngsters, that is: a properly understood relationship between this deliberate subjection-qualification of youngsters and other systems which may be competing or doing the same in the lives of  the same youngsters.

If our apparatus is Radio Zimbabwe, how many hours of Radio Zimbabwe programming are the youths exposed to in comparison with hours on the internet, on Voice of America, CNN, MNET, BBC and SABC?  

Is the Radio Zimbabwe content reinforced or contradicted by these other networks?  

From ancient times the infrastructure of choice for Africans was the dariro and dariro-like constructions.

We can summarise the African process of moulding and deploying collective memory by enumerating the ideological functions of the dariro as follows:

  • It links creation, pro-creation and aesthetics in the sense that the creator is called musiki or muumbi and the verbs kusika and kuumba describe the process of making fire with a stick rotated counter-clockwise like a screw in a hole in a log to produce fire; or the process of laying soft rings of clay in anti-clockwise direction around a conical tower in order to create a pot as is done among the Bukusu. The same anti-clockwise circular motion is repeated in dances in the dariro. The sexual act between a man and a woman is described in the same manner, with the woman’s reproductive organs known in Shona as sikarudzi, literally, the organs in which the human race is created. Lastly, kuumba or kusika also refer to God’s act of creation of both nature and humans in the universe. Mwari wakasika denga nenyika.
  • Joining the dariro is already a silent expression of willingness to sing or dance along; or willingness to learn to sing and dance along; or willingness to speak the language spoken in the dariro; or willingness to learn and understand that language.
  • When there are more people, the circle is widened, but it remains a circle.

For African children, the circle meant that there were always several mothers, several fathers per child in the circle. If my mother died, she was instantly replaced by her sisters, cousins, even brothers who became my mothers.  

  • At the level of the community or neighbourhood, the circle teaches that the harm inflicted on your neighbour’s child in that dariro is quite capable of being inflicted on your own child sitting in that same circle; the harm inflicted on your neighbour’s mother sitting in that dariro of mothers will sooner than later hit your mother, aunt, or sister occupying the same space in that circle.
  • Therefore, you watch what may come from behind my back, while I watch what may come from behind you.  If I face you from the south, I see the north which is your back and you see the south, which is my back. If I face you from the east, I see the West, which is your back and you see the east which is my back. In this way we have always been global; memory is global. In being global, we also remained radial not linear. We gather knowledge from all corners and disciplines and no one knows everything.
  • The circle therefore taught solidarity as daily common sense and practice.
  • In terms of generations, the dariro meant all generations sitting in the same circle. There was deliberate effort to reduce generational gaps in terms of understanding. When elders die to become ancestors, they are replaced instantly by new elders who close the gaps. This meant continuity of heritage and knowledge. It also meant that there were no sunset laws which declared that a grievance would expire after 25-50 years or even 500 years. A collective grievance of the family or community could only end by resolution, settlement, and reconciliation. In this sense slavery, colonialism and apartheid are unresolved crimes in the African relational sense.

It is obvious from the detailed description of the dariro that Africans long ago encouraged memory to break the confines of the individual’s brain in order to be deployed for collective relational benefit.

This moulding and mobilisation of memory through the symbol of the dariro at every level elemental, primordial, sexual, aesthetic, spiritual, planetary and legal was motivated by the realisation that the human being had potential to become a beast, a monster; and if that beastly nature was left to find its singular individualistic way and combine with other equally untaught human beasts, the result would be catastrophic violence, pillage and war. 

So, the dariro was meant to anticipate the potential consequences unhumanised human nature. The dariro was therefore set up as an expression of the African desire to link all social rituals to the aspiration for peace, knowing very well the violence that can ensue without the dariro and the rituals enacted therein.

The product or products of ideological interpellation

The first product of the process of subjection within the chosen infrastructure is the individual compass, the value of system or conscience of the individual.  

On a collective or national level, ideology as a result of the process and infrastructure we have defined should come out and be evident as the national map or frame which enables the nation, the group, to thread together and project coherent and consistent messages of identity, aspiration, solidarity and sovereignty at all levels and throughout most sectors of the society. 

If the system of subjection-qualification is effective, the influence of this framework or map will be obvious and detectable throughout the key instruments and institutions of the country’s national strategic communication, that is, at the levels of public diplomacy, public affairs, community intelligence, cultural exchange, strategic research and knowledge production, international broadcasting, and information operations. 

Using knowledge to test experience

One way is to say that theorising means taking what we know, what we think we know, what we have been taught, what we have been subjected to in our subjection-qualification process, including what we have heard or read from other people’s texts taking all that and testing it against what we have actually experienced in history, in daily life.

Using daily, historical experience to test, to challenge ‘knowledge.’

The other way is to use real daily events, real daily encounters, real practical tests and experiences in order to review, to test, to challenge the validity of what we know, what we think we know, what we hear, what we read, what we remember, and being ready to amend, to extend, to elaborate, to change, to abandon, and even to condemn some of what we thought we knew, some of what we were taught, some of what we read in other’s texts, precisely because it has dismally failed the test of history, the test of real-world experience.

Pitfalls of assuming neoliberal ‘reform’ to be an adequate substitute for national ideology

In Zimbabwe since the onset of the New Dispensation, several contradictions have emerged.

The first is the tacit or silent assumption among many in leadership positions that the ambition to reform in itself is a value system or contains a value system which will be sufficient to hold the society and the fruits of ‘reform’ together in one coherent whole.  

The problem is that ‘reform’ is actually a debate about capitalism which has always required an independent national ideology to force it to resonate with the culture, to serve the people.

This contradiction becomes obvious if one realises that China, Russia, India and Brazil for instance, have all each adopted ‘reform’ for itself which has resulted in different types of capitalism in each nation.  

This can only mean that reform has not meant the same thing in all these countries.

The second paradox is that the effort to justify ‘reform’ has been directed at aspirational promises or goals such as Vision 2030, when in fact the crucial question for those justifying how to get to the fruits or promises is if there is something solidly holding the society and the processes together and therefore promising to hold the resulting fruits together as well.  

The processes to be justified or to be 

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  • suffered include recognising, fighting and overcoming economic sanctions; recognising and mitigating the economic effects of Cyclone Idai as well as those of the drought which followed Cyclone Idai; recognising and mitigating the effects of austerity and using independent values outside reform itself to check whether indeed austerity ends where reform says it has ended or it should end.

The third paradox is that neoliberalism itself is a contradiction.  

It promises democracy, human rights, pluralism, choice and freedom while telling us that we are not free to reach any of the objectives or goals such as an upper middle income status through any means other than neoliberal reform!

As Noah De Lissoy has written in Pedagogy of the Impossible: Neoliberalism and the Ideology of Accountability:

“Focusing primarily on processes of competition and commodification, the discussion so far missed what is perhaps the key ideological effect of neoliberalism:  the enforcement of the idea that no alternative to the current organisation of society and education is possible or imaginable. Neoliberalism undertakes the effective subsumption of the totality of culture and experience into the logic [or illogic] of the market, this idea becomes a kind of (ideological) reality, as fewer and fewer moments of life are available to us that are not already pre-corporated into the circuits of capitalist exchange, consumption and spectacle.” 

In other words, if the greatest strength of neoliberal reform is wide choice in every sector, why should it begin by saying there is no alternative to neoliberalism itself?

From chihwindi to ‘Mashurugwi’ 

Chihwindi, ‘Mashurugwi’ and the speculative economy called parallel market which worships the US Dollars  all represent the destruction of a national compass and the national map supposed to be shaped by a national compass. The guiding slogan of these anti-social forces is the pure individual greed often expressed as “Zvangu zvaita. Hameno zvenyu.”

Examples of the Extension of the Hwindi Mentality to Business and Society

  • EcoCash agents routinely demand and receive a 15 to 30 percent premium from account holders intending to obtain cash. This is illegal and unnecessary.
  • The business sector in general is maintaining five prices for the same product of service: a price for those using foreign currency; another for those using Zimbabwe Dollar Notes or coins; yet another for those using swipe cards; a fourth for those using EcoCash; and a fifth for those using RTGs transfers. This is also unnecessary and unjust from the point of view of the customer. 
  • Most so-called businesses do not document or study the needs and requirements of their customers; they assume a take-it-or-leave it attitude.
  • There is little attention in business given to long term value-creation; focus is on short-cuts and short-term profits normally based on mark-ups on the products of others, with little attention given to sustainability or quality.
  • Relationships do not matter or they matter very little, compared to short-term gain and maximum gain in the shortest time.
  • There is no investment of the proceeds from instant gain.
  • The people interacting with customers are not trained to understand the clientele.  So customer care is generally appalling. 
  • The MDC formations for a long time promised to seize power by making Zimbabwe ‘ungovernable’. But the benefit of ungovernability for the people was never clear.  
  • Nelson Chamisa’s faction of the MDC actually made Tsvangirai’s funeral ‘ungovernable’ from the point of view of the community there. The ungovernability was meant to fast-track Chamisa and his faction. But the national benefit from that fast-tracking remains unclear.
  • At the height of the G40 faction, statements by some of the leaders demonstrated chihwindi philosophy: Saviour Kasukuwere’s outburst that he was untouchable because he happened to be ‘the biggest thug in ZANU PF’; Mai Grace Mugabe’s idea spoken at a rally to the effect that President Robert Mugabe would never retire from office because in that office he was ‘simbi yangu yebasa’ (my crow bar).
  • The G40 cabal’s commandeering of the Presidency, State House and other public institutions for the gain of G40 members. This commandeering included the sale or use of state land to buy youths or to get favours from certain individuals.
  • When Professor Jonathan Moyo was being accused of abusing ZIMDEF funds, Mai Mugabe said more or less: Kutora mari painenge iri muchiendesa kwaisiri hahusiri huori. Ndikwo kutonga kwacho. Chihwindi operates the same way. Whoever appears to have more money, more valuable goods or a better car than the hwindis must be made to give up something for the support of vana hwindi.

Chimurenga contrast 

Unlike chihwindi, African relational philosophy constitutes the progressive revolutionary as one who intervenes as the nurturer of life through the building and enlargement of long-term relationships using a communication process of kushaura nokutsinhira , which is to say unhu defines revolutionary participation in history as the  deliberate building of long-term, optimal and optimising 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:

  • Gunde repwa rinotapira, asi hariiswi mudura.
  • Mwana waMambo muranda kumwe.
  • Ambuya vapano muroora wekumwewo.
  • Sekuru vepano muzukuru wevamwewo.
  • Mbuya vekoko muzukuru wekuno.
  • Shefu wemughetto anozvininipisa kana asvika kumaruwa.

One cannot rule everyone absolutely everywhere all the time.

But this philosophy is more critical when applied to neoliberal 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.

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