Don’t be fooled | The Zimbabwean 16 July 2014 by Magari Mandebvu
It should be fairly obvious that I reserved judgement on Baba Jukwa from the start.
It is always worth asking what ideas and ideals anyone stands for, especially if they are trying to impress you. Baba Jukwa certainly tried hard to impress us, but to what purpose?
He had a nice line in gossip about personalities, but I couldn’t figure out where he stood on the most important issues. Even when party lines have hardened as they have done here, it is not enough to label somebody as a member of such-and-such party. Placing him in a particular faction within his party does not tell us much more about what he believes and what he would do if he had the power.
Those are the important questions. Who he associates with means a lot less. In a civilised political culture, parliamentarians of widely different opinions can still come out of a heated debate where they have been slanging each other for half the day, and go to a quiet bar where they can have a drink together.
Another good principle that has saved me from committing even worse mistakes in life than I actually did, is to ask carefully where any news or rumour is coming from. “They say” is meaningless if you don’t know who “they” are. The same goes for unnamed “political commentators”, who seem to like to remain out of sight in the shadows, and self-publicists like Baba Jukwa, who might be called some kind of an exhibitionist, even though it is not his real identity that he is exhibiting.
If he says who his friends and enemies are, or lets you know that from your reading of who he spreads gossip about, that is very little use. What we should want to know is: what would his policies be if he won an election? And it would be nice to be able to judge whether he has the capacity, the intelligence, courage and persistence, not to mention the negotiating skills, to carry his programme through. If he doesn’t claim to be any more than a commentator, does he give thought to the impact his opinions or rumours will have?
If he simply tells stories that seem designed to boost particular people or to embarrass others, he’s not revealing his own ideas or plans. I wouldn’t vote for anyone like that. I’d want to investigate further for myself before believing what he says. If you can size up his real personality, that would be a step forward, but even if he hides behind a mask, he might be able to offer enough evidence for what he says, so that you can make a good guess at what he believes and what causes he would promote if he had a free hand.
I haven’t found that in Baba Jukwa. I have, along with a lot of other people, got a few good laughs out of the way he has transformed himself into something like the hydra of ancient Greek legends. One of their mythical heroes had to defeat it, which proved difficult because if you cut off one of its many heads, three more would grow in its place. And that’s without even counting Amai Jukwa, “Sithembile, small house of Baba Jukwa”, who says he is Gideon Gono and “Nthombi, small house of Gideon Gono,” who says he isn’t.
In itself, that is fun. It’s even better when we see him creating division and confusion among the people who for so long have been trying to confuse and divide us. But that doesn’t mean we can accept anything he says without checking the evidence for it, whoever he is.
As we move into transition, there will be plenty of people we should treat like that.