It was coming to that gutter level in this toxic political atmosphere sooner rather than later – and so it happened this week. CONWAY TUTANI
Source: Who really doesn‘t have a ‘past’? – NewsDay Zimbabwe August 26, 2016
One supposedly family weekly newspaper crossed the line by publishing a totally unsubstantiated story – because there was only one real eyewitness, George Rutanhire, if he may be called that – accusing former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, then a mere village girl aged 18, of having caused the death of a senior Zanla commander by luring him into the bush and, thus, distracting him from the impending danger of approaching Rhodesian forces during the liberation war in 1973, leading to his death almost in flagrante, in the midst of sexual activity, as he heroically, somehow still managed to down a helicopter.
Before this latest of many versions, Mujuru was romanticised as having single-handedly downed the chopper. Now she is being demonised for causing the death of a gallant freedom fighter. How the truth changes depending on which side you are!
This “true recollection” was kept under the lid until Mujuru publicly joined hands with main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, all but sealing the strongest pact against Zanu PF with the real potential of finally toppling the regime. So, in that context, the over-the top reaction is explainable.
What is at play here? It is more to do with her forming a party against Zanu PF than actually “causing” the death of the gallant fighter? We should be highly suspicious of stories that are released after so many years and in instalments, for that matter. The story keeps changing depending on who is telling it and at what point. If, by any chance, Mujuru is re-integrated into the system, the story will change again. And in that event, you cannot bet against none other than Rutanhire himself recalling Mujuru’s heroic deeds.
One could immediately discern that the story was ready-made for rebuttal by Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association leader Christopher Mutsvangwa – and he did not disappoint in this escalating war of words.
He said: “The war was not a nunnery.” Indeed, there were no virginity tests because they had no bearing on one’s commitment to the cause at all.
Going to war was not like entering a convent in which nuns live as a religious community, but still fall foul of the chastity rule they are sworn to. What more in the wider world where they are no such strictures? When men and women are brought together – as happened during the liberation war – a sexual situation arises. It’s only natural.
It’s inevitable. So, nothing new under the sun happened on that day, if ever it happened. Everything did not stop just because of the war. They still had time for wine, women and song. They indulged in leisure and pleasure. Not this myth that has been perpetuated for 36 years that they had no time for anything else except the war. It was not bang! bang! bang! 24/7 until the end of the war.
But you can punch a million holes into Rutanhire’s current story. For one, the story implies that only those combatants who broke the no-sex rule perished in the war, but even those who did not still died, and some of those who broke the rule survived. I have friends who fought in that war who can attest to that.
So, the very foundation of the story is shaky.
It is another legend from the liberation war. The storyteller appears to be suffering from false memory syndrome in order to validate and strenghten the current unsubstantiated wild accusations against Mujuru as having been of evil intentions right from the beginning.
Such fabrications and myths, presented as humorous or horrific stories or pieces of information circulated as though true, especially those purporting to involve someone vaguely related or known to the teller, are not new.
And the State media would not be seen to be left out of that onslaught. Yes, everybody gossips, but it’s a pity when such cheap, salacious rumours and smear campaigns are peddled as news. And not just that, but grace – no pun intended – Page 1 of a newspaper. Is that how you put your best face forward?
The storyteller and the paper came just short of labelling Mujuru a slut. She was depicted as a femme fatale – a woman who lures men into dangerous or compromising situations, who manipulates poor helpless men into doing what she wants. No wonder Mutsvangwa thundered: “It is abhorrent historical revisionism. Tichaona Freedom Nyamubaya and many brave women combatants would take the gravest offence to this desecration of their sacrifice.”
Indeed, history is being constantly rewritten to suit the favoured faction in Zimbabwe, extolling those being unprocedurally parachuted to the top, who haven’t even fired a gun in anger, as having played a bigger role than genuine fighters.
The urge to control is most threatening when it is applied to news – when current events get drafted into political narrative – as has been scandalously happening in the State media. “But it is even more threatening when applied to our history – our understanding of who we are and where we have come from. If political correctness prevents us from learning the truth about our past, in a real way, the past disappears,” writes American commentator Callista Gingrich. Yes, our history is disappearing before our very eyes.
But then, who does not know that the State media is the home of stereotypes? Anyone who does not dance to the regime’s tune is an enemy and a traitor. This proclivity to stereotyping is what led them to depict their contempt for Mujuru as a woman, not as a person. Women rights activists should not take this lying down. It’s an attack on womanhood itself. Insult is a powerful patriarchal or misogynistic tool.
It’s the opportune time to resurrect the long-suppressed debate about the widespread sexual abuse of female combatants in camps in Mozambique during the war. There is burning need for closure.
But such attacks as the unbridled one unleashed on Mujuru do not work. They have, at the most, insult value – no more than that. As the saying goes: “For you to insult me, I must first value your opinion.”
Yes, it’s impossible to insult someone who doesn’t value your opinion. And many Zimbabweans have grown to be dismissive of the propaganda from officialdom passed as news reports. And most of the responses to that “story” on that weekly paper’s website emphatically and firmly point to that, making it more laughable than sickening.
That said, who really doesn’t have a “past”? You cannot be labelled by your past. You are who you are now. Didn’t the late national hero Edgar Tekere mention in his autobiography, titled A Lifetime of Struggle, his former political buddy (name withheld) jumping over a fence before sunrise at some nondescript house in Kambuzuma, Harare, in 1975 presumably after a night of passion? “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future,” wrote celebrated 19th century Irish author Oscar Wilde.
Guess what? That “sinner” in Kambuzuma is now the President of a certain country in Africa.