by Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana
AT one level Zimbabwe has finally hit its true Dickensian political and historical moment. That moment is “the spring of hope” and at the same time “the winter of despair.” Zimbabweans have everything before them, nothing before them and all roads seem to lead to heaven and hell at the same time.
At another level Zimbabwean politics has retreated from true history and degenerated to its religious and biblical moments. The last few years have seen prophets, witchcraft and witchcraft stories dominating the Zimbabwean national imagination.
A country going through the last days of the reign of a monumental figure and a big dictator should be like that. If we had our ears up and our eyes open nothing that is happening now in Zimbabwe and that is about to unfold should surprise us, but it seem to me that we did not hear the sounds of history nor did we see the signs of posterity as we continued sleep walking through time.
Even the “spitting at Nelson Mandela’s grave” that Robert Mugabe is presently doing in rubbishing the legacy of the late South African statesmen as a treacherous legacy should not have come to us as a scandal or a surprise if we understood Robert Mugabe as a head of state with a certain state of the head.
The refusal by Robert Mugabe to be succeeded by anyone except by himself was not going to hit all of us as hard as it is doing and as cruelly as it is to continue to do if our eyes of the mind were open. In this article I undertake a semiotic observation of Robert Mugabe as a product of a history and one that has also produced some history to the tragic effect that his power has allowed him to develop a sad messianic mind-set that is eating him and the whole of Zimbabwe up.
The man has been compared, by fawning supporters, to edible substances like “Cremora” the coffee creamer and mainly to the “son of God” and “the other son of God” whose disciple-like followers among the ministers call themselves “obedient” sons and docile daughters. In the process a theological and messianic illusion has planted itself not only in Robert Mugabe’s historical and political mentality but also in the Zimbabwean political system, in the ruling party and its political opposition, where messianism has been naturalised as an ideology of power. Thanks to our lazy slumber, Robert Mugabe is about to succeed himself in Zimbabwe.
What the Funk is this Semiotics Nonsense
Even my venerated editors have raised hell over my preponderance on semiotics when much more serious issues are supposed to be afoot. Admirers that proudly disguise themselves as critics have called it my attempt to bully readers into taking my banal and mundane opinions seriously using the fancy name of semiology. All the stated might be accidental truths, unintended effects and consequences of my elected method of political observation and analysis.
Semiotics began as a trick of bored linguists that chose to regard spoken language as meaningful sound-signs in the air and written language as meaningful shape-signs on paper and other surfaces. The enterprising literary critics relished in reading imagery and symbolism to deduce meaning from speeches and texts. Psychologists like Freud Sigmund started reading phobias and philias of the human psyche from patients as mental signs and clues to traumas and sicknesses.
Not to be left out, sociologists, historians and philosophers began to read signs of the times in historical incidents, events and people’s actions and activities, and here we are. This is just an expanded and creative tool of reading and analysing history and observing the actions of human beings. Because of the versatile and daring resources of this method, which feeds from both social sciences and humanities, we frequently outdo the prophets themselves in descriptions and predictions. So here we go, and the journey is not exactly for the light minded or the faint hearted.
I allege that Robert Mugabe has become what he has become and done what he has done because of a tragic Christ-consciousness and god-complex. Political supporters and disciples have added to this creature that like any other god-figure frequently demands heavy sacrifices of and from the faithful.
Robert Mugabe in the Garden of Gethsemane
Theologians have failed to illuminate how the Son of Man himself totally refused to be succeeded by any of his trusted disciples until after his crucifixion, death and ascension. It took Paul the violent philosopher from Tarsus almost who almost did it well ahead of the chosen disciples.
In the Garden of Gethsemane (Mathew 26:36-46) the Christ put all his disciples to various tests that they all jointly and severally failed and proved to be unequal to the task of taking after him. Traps and snares were put before the faithful who fell into them to their disappointment. The trusted disciples such as Peter the Rock and Judas the competent accountant and treasurer of the pack failed even more inspite of having been with the Son of Man through thick and thin, trials and tribulations. The whole lot of disciples fell asleep while he agonised and prayed in his last hour. Peter the Rock denied him three times before the crow of the Cock. Judas used his financial skills and commercial acumen to literally auction him to his enemies. Peter tried to use violence, cutting the ear of the Roman soldier with a sword to impress his loyalty upon the Christ and that too did not work as the Son of Man disappointedly restored the ear. Peter’s long term loyalty and preparedness to kill for the Messiah did not guarantee him leadership, he failed.
As the self-appointed revolutionary messiah, the one who was there before all of them, Robert Mugabe is going through his Garden of Gethsemane political moment where he will trap, test and fail all potential successors until he remains as the irreplaceable deliverer and gallant owner of Zimbabwean history.
The Christ who was crucified was a Christ that had been let down, betrayed by his trusted ones who were not capable of the grand mission ahead. Christ became the first and the last man standing to the end. The faithful were all dismissed as willing flesh and weak spirits.
Presently Robert Mugabe is reminding those that went to the war with him, to prison, and those that have violently killed one and masses of people for him and in his name that they are unequal to his name and job.
In boxing the grave of Nelson Mandela, calling him a fragile leader and sell-out Mugabe is not destroying the legacy of Nelson Mandela, he is only trying to build his own. He wants, not to be forgotten as a venal dictator, but to be remembered as a gallant leader in the league of Kwame Nkrumah but more than that, he defeated whites. Equipped with a Christ-mindset and worse a strong messianic illusion, Robert Mugabe cannot suffer anyone that is called greater than he or that is worthy of his shoes. He is living his last days as a betrayed, disappointed and let down revolutionary and deliverer.
Like the true Christ who had to leave his followers with the Holy Spirit to guide them Mugabe, in his Christ-mentality and messianic delusion, hopes to leave an inspiration and an example to be followed not by one successor but a group of feuding gladiators that will only be united and work together by his name and teachings.
Robert Mugabe sees and experiences his fast coming end as not a natural end but a true crucifixion of a persecuted and betrayed deliverer. If only his aspiring successors knew, this Man wants to hear prophecies, professions and predictions of how he will be irreplaceable, and how the whole world will one day soon sigh and say : Only if Robert Mugabe was still alive !!. Robert Mugabe aspires for the Jesus effect, where he will be more powerful, more followed and more loved in death than he was in real life. Anyone amongst his loyalists that dreams or wishes for the same is the anti-Christ, a traitor like Judas or a denialist like Peter the unfortunate Rock.
How History Killed them All
In his mind, someone like Peter the Rock believed himself assured by the history he had with the Christ that he was to be the leader of the flock. But that history became his undoing as it was that of Moses who believed that he was to be the governor of the Israelites in Canaan by virtue of the history of delivering them from Egypt. Joshua came from the dark. Intimacy to God totally finished Moses, for God was a true jealousy God that will not have any man claim to have been in close proximity with him.
A god-mindset rules Robert Mugabe. History as in “his story” has been important in Zimbabwe and the war veterans, some of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s supporters have been trying to use “his story” with Mugabe to anoint him as a definite successor which has led to his defined political peril. Instead of showing how Robert Mugabe will be remembered when he is gone, much thoughtlessly, the doomed Mnangagwa camp has been showing exactly how Mugabe will be forgotten.
To make it worse, some of Robert Mugabe’s wounded victims amongst billionaire white commercial farmers have been coming forward to worship Mnangagwa materially and otherwise, to soften him in preparation for the great festival after Mugabe’s death, when he will be expected to deliver back the lost land. Which would be a miracle and a wonder. True messiahs do not allow their true disciples to perform miracles and wonders, at least in their lifetime.
So many excitable and excited fellows amongst them political speculators and merchants have, right in Robert Mugabe’s eyes, started worshiping Mnangagwa as a leader and thereby effectively burying him as a failed traitor, a Judas who can as well commit suicide. Interestingly, which is how political systems work, a few of Mnangagwa’s disappointing and also disappointed supporters were already starting to present him as another messiah, a persecuted and even poisoned deliverer.
All potential successors who claim a history with Robert Mugabe and who possess and are possessed of dreams to succeed him are one by one being tested and failed of the task, dismissed as willing spirits and weak flesh. Robert Mugabe is not in struggle to acknowledge history and reward longterm loyalty, he is in the political mode of personal legacy making hence people like Nelson Mandela and other departed legends are the true competitors not some ambitious and loyal disciples. 2018 elections are important but Robert Mugabe is already campaigning for leadership amongst the departed legends of the world.
A big philosophical difference exists between Robert Mugabe and Emmerson Mnangagwa and this difference makes all the difference against the imagined crocodile. In their management of the memory of the Gukurahundi genocide this political and philosophical difference is made clear. Robert Mugabe called the genocide a “moment of madness” in a long history of great achievements. Emmerson Mnangagwa ill-fatedly calls it a “closed chapter.”
A moment of madness in political terms is an incident that must be remembered and known but, wishfully, not used to make a permanent judgement on the perpetrators that want to be remembered for some other achievements. A closed chapter is politically dangerous in that it is a suspension of memory and a closing of a chapter that can be conveniently opened at an opportune time, when Robert Mugabe is safely dead, in this case.
In word and in deed Mnangagwa has shown the opportunism and intention to, after Mugabe is gone, use history to destroy his legacy and build his own on the ashes. Jesus Christ, like any Messiah, wanted Christianity after his death, and not Peterism or something like that. Mugabe has learnt to live with two types of Gukurahundi victims, those that have forgiven but not forgotten and the most dangerous ones, those that have forgotten but not forgiven, for these Gukurahundi is a future event. For Robert Mugabe this event must be managed not closed lest it explodes and erases his legacy.
Amongst many, one of the strong reasons Mugabe will never allow Mnangagwa to succeed him is the fear of the closed Gukurahundi chapter being later opened at the expense of his personal and political religion when he is gone. A closed chapter is always a postponed chapter.
The Opposition that is Opposame
Lovemore Moyo and Thokozani Khuphe are brave and honourable fighters in the struggle for a new Zimbabwe. Abednico Bhebhe too has been visible and can be counted. Their joint present situation of opposition to a much awaited political coalition of opposition political parties is sadly the proof that people can be in political office for many decades but still not be politicians. And that, people may think they oppose a political regime like the Mugabe one when they unconsciously support and affirm the thinking and practice of the regime.
The trio and their group have provided reasons for their opposition to the much strategic political coalition and the reasons include the name of the coalition, MDC coalition, which they believe validates Welshman Ncube. They are aggrieved on the distribution of seats as they feel they control Matabaleland and Ncube is becoming an opportunistic beneficiary in being brought into the winning side. And the big one, succession, who is to be the first vice-president who stands to replace Tsvangirai in case of death or incapacitation, by the heavens it should not be Ncube or Tendai Biti, they cry.
They have been with Tsvangirai and the MDC-T through thick and thin and so must they be rewarded for history and loyalty. In other words the same system of politics of history and of political messianism is at play in the opposition. Those that have been in the political religion with the Messiah have to be rewarded for their troubles in the years, and rewarded at all costs, including that the opposition may not unite and therefore fail to capture state power. Khupe and Moyo make beautiful but not powerful political arguments, they advance moral thinking where political thinking is most needed.
Political coalitions by their nature are coalitions of enemies and opponents and not friends. Political coalitions are for powerful political and strategic reasons towards such an ideal as to capture state power from a stubborn regime. Political coalitions are unholy and unhygienic business that involve the true habit of dinning with Lucifer and turning the back on the messiah. Sadly, some coalitions are made by willing politicians while others are forced upon them by history and circumstances.
The point that Khupe, Moyo and Bhebhe miss by a wide margin is that political coalitions amongst parties are for bringing together the numbers of voters that already exist and are owned by some politicians based on previous elections, what coalitions have been known to do in the world is to create new voters to add to existing numbers, even apathetic voters that had given up on political activity are inspired back to the game by the unity of opponents towards one major goal.
Sadly, political parties in Zimbabwe seem not to have invested much in the political education of their operatives, even very senior ones. Where are the true politicians when politics needs them most? As the opposition toys and toddlers ZANU-PF led by Mugabe is getting into real “last supper” politics, deadly politics.
A Kingdom of this World
Jesus, the Son of Man chose to be succeeded by his Inspiration hence the great Pentecost of the spirit that united all and sundry after his ascension. His Kingdom was not of this world and from out of this world came the power. But what sustains the political messianism of Robert Mugabe whose kingdom is clearly too much of this world.
He is able to silence armed generals and legendary soldiers some that have killed masses on his behalf shiver and kneel before him. Mugabe is not the one who just holds power, he wants to see his power lived and publicly performed by loyalists.
A coup against Robert Mugabe is unthinkable, those closest to him know this better than distant observers. Most of the disciples of Robert Mugabe are beholden to him out of massive fear and immense guilt. Using the name of Robert Mugabe some people have become richer than the country. Others have pegged massive yards of state land and sold it as private property to make billions of United States dollars. Others own half of the towns in property that they have gained using the messianic machinery of political patronage.
All these looters do not imagine a world without Mugabe and without political power and its material fruits. In the opposition and the ruling party, individuals that could not have been anything in the world became political leaders by luck.
Political office instead of being a vocation became a profession. Once political office is a job and a professional career such political strategies as political coalitions do not really make sense.
Over years Robert Mugabe has understood this and used it to full advantage to advance a full kingdom of this world in which he owns everything and everybody.
Some big people that spiritedly wish to succeed Mugabe do so not simply for political power but for the need to secure massive ill-gotten wealth that they would lose if they lose the protection of powerful political office.
When it comes to this both the ruling regime and the opposition have become one where lucky politicians sell their support to one strong political messiah that secures their fruits of the kingdom of this world.
Mugabe’s power is power that in one way or another he has bought, and bought it in such a way that he keeps the clients perpetually beholden to him for fear of death and loss.
Behold the Political Pentecost
The myth that in Zimbabwe we have a democratic political opposition that is fiercely challenging a venal dictatorial ruling party is exactly that, a myth. The simple division between ruling party and opposition party itself is a false division as the political system in Zimbabwe is that of a strong political messianism across the board.
Much like the Christ who did not consider any of his disciples becoming an individual leader of the pack of disciples after his death and ascension but wanted Christianity to thrive, Robert Mugabe wants his political legacy and personal religion to flourish, as much as he will have no individual strong replacement.
He is going to reduce his political disciples, humiliate them, one by one prove their imperfections and then force them to work with each other for the love of him and the party in 2018.
Eventually Robert Mugabe will be succeeded, not by one strong men or strong woman, but a group of friends and enemies, in the name of the Father and the legacy. In that way Robert Mugabe will succeed himself, even the figurehead that will eventually come, she will be nothing but one who always refers to what the Father wants or wanted, said or wants done.
After his death Robert Mugabe does not even want a strong ZANU-PF, he dreams of a struggling group that will be forced by its weaknesses to miss him everyday.
The love for the things of the Kingdom of this world, fear of loss of power and the revenge of enemies and victims will unite feuding ZANU-PF politicians. If the political messiahs in the opposition continue to lack the stamina and gravitas to discipline or sacrifice some of their faithful a ZANU-PF electoral victory in 2018 is already secured.
Left unchecked, ZANU-PF will achieve a real political Pentecost where even opponents and enemies will publicly perform some kinds of working together. We once thought that ZANU-PF will be forced to unite in fear of a united opposition political front, now we pray that the political opposition will be forced to unite in fear of a uniting and strengthening ZANU-PF driven by the spirit of Robert Mugabe, a living political messiah.
Careerists and political professionals in the opposition do not fear defeat as much as those in ZANU-PF hence the reluctance to coalesce. For ZANU-PF careerists loss of state power means the end of the world, death and long prison sentences.
Opposition professionals have the sad luxury to cling to constituency power at the expense of state power for personal wages and allowances as they have not yet looted land and properties to secure.
Knowingly and unknowingly, politicians in both the ruling party and the opposition are working overtime to secure the political messianism of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
The way religious Messiahs like the Christ and self-styled political messiahs like Robert Mugabe tend to diminish their trusted disciples and eliminate them from the succession line opens the way for inspired outsiders.
The man who almost successfully succeeded Jesus the Christ was Paul, a former persecutor of Christians who went on to build Christianity after almost destroying the religion with the fundamentalist habits and views he brought from his violent past. Zimbabwe needs a Paul effect, an effect from outside persons that have not been disciples of any political messiah.
Dinizulu Mbikokayise Macaphulana writes from South Africa: email@example.com.