LETTER FROM AMERICA
Brother Patrick Zhuwao has four master’s degrees and is the chairman of his own think tank company in Harare. He has the ear of the high and the mighty. He is bright, young, ambitious, and as such may yet earn the right to walk tall among God’s children, making himself to be somebody. But not yet.
While Zhuwao and his intellectual entrepreneurial cohorts have jumped on the governmental bandwagon, they are missing an opportunity to chart a new direction in the African discourse. If Zhuwao takes my advice, there will be plenty of accolades waiting for him. He could very well influence the future course of Africa.
During my days at the University of Zimbabwe, 1964-1968 we sat down at Manfred Hodson hostel green, discoursing about the future of Africa. Stanley Mudenge was always the one to lecture us but there were bright stars there too. I remember Simba Makoni, shy and always polished. Justin Nyoka was always looking for a news scoop for the Guardian newspaper. Problems we discoursed then are still with us.
Presuming that Rhodesia would soon fall into our hands, we discussed the problem of capital accumulation. Our white and Asian friends already possessed capital. We had zero. In fact, we sent part of our student stipends home to support our families. Ubuntu dictated that elder siblings must support their younger siblings. There was no opting out.
We need creative thinking. My experience in the United States taught me that, wicked though the capitalists are, their idea of a family trust can solve our problems. Family members who have done well designate funds for the education of their family members provided these members get good grades and remember to return the water to the well from which they received their blessings.
How many of our readers have, after excruciating labours spent on supporting their siblings, received some relief when their own children went to school. We must assume, Brother Zhuwao, that Ubuntu has been embraced mainly by its abuse. After educating 33 students in the US, only two, namely Allan Manyika (whom we gave a half scholarship) and our own Ngoni seem to have caught the dream. Their phone calls are always a blessing.
Brother Zhuwao, we need a new interpretation of Ubuntu. My family is regarded as rather “soft” by thinking of those who blessed us when we were poor.
On a national scale, Ubuntu generally throws aspersions on those who are doing well. My uncle Gutsa Mufuka was a great farmer. Scientists have discovered that the Zimbabwe rainfall pattern has a two-week window shortfall during January and February when corn is at its most vulnerable stage. Gutsa supplemented this moisture shortage by using a four-cattle span to draw water from the river. It did not help that there were rumours that Gutsa washed in the nude during the high moon. That he had a divisi (witchraft) He was the most hated man in the village. It was assumed that his divisi (muti-magic) drew fecundity from neighbours’ crops.
This thinking is embedded in ZANU-PF philosophy. No man can and should do well, unless he has a special dispensation from the party, for a season. I am sure Didymus Mutasa and Joice Mujuru have realised that even as we speak.
A memo, which became part of ZANU-PF philosophy, originated in discussions in Mozambique. In the ZANU-PF Code of Ethics, 1984, you will find these words, derived from Ubuntu philosophy. “Leaders shall not own business for profit or acreage more than 50 acres intended solely for self-beneficiation.
However, a stalwart was allowed to engage in raising chickens, vegetables and fruit trees within at his revolutionary cottage compound. The requirement is fully explained. “ZANU-PF believes that a leader who concentrates on acquiring property, or who personally engages in the exploitation of man by man rapidly becomes an ally of the capitalist and an enemy of socialism, and of the masses of the population.”
This code is entirely congruent with the attitude taken towards my uncle Gutsa. It was assumed that Gutsa committed immoral acts.
My political guru in Masvingo told me that when Mutumwa Mawere’s application for the Shabani Mines came before Cabinet, there was some concatenation derived from the following information. “At full capacity the mines can contribute about 10 percent of the country’s foreign exchanges, employ about 4 000 people and it is estimated that 60,000 people in and around Mashava and Zvishavane towns benefit directly or indirectly from the mines.” I am convinced, even though Mawere himself said that my interpretation is wrong, that the idea that a fellow African, mastering such an enormous amount of economic power, was as unacceptable as the Gutsa episode.
The behaviour of our government is entirely agreeable to Ubuntu. That ideology guarantees the next assumption. It is alright for the Chinese to own and operate Shabani Mines. The London Guardian says that Nicholas Van Hoogstraten is the largest landowner in Zimbabwe, with 1 600 square miles of land and 30 percent of Hwange. Zisco has gone to the Chinese. This, according to Ubuntu, is perfectly in order, because no muntu should rise too far above his neighbors.
Herbert Munangatire and James Chikerema took me under advisement one day and said: “Ken, you are a free thinker. You will be better off in the US.” Zhuwao, we fought our battles, it is your turn. If you look at Ubuntu dispassionately, the accolades you seek are yours.