Some truths are self-evident.
The world ain’t flat. You are your mother’s child. President Mugabe will win the next elections. Single malt whiskey is for men, beer is for boys. Dynamos is God’s own team. And Charles Mungoshi has a beautiful mind.
Think of this little line by Mungoshi in “Letter to a Son”, part of the “The Milkman Doesn’t Only Deliver Milk” anthology published in 1988.
A mother writes to her son of her father’s ailments: “Your father’s back is back again.”
A speaker of the Shona language will appreciate the indigenous beauty of that one line in a poem that begs revisiting whenever the slings and arrows of urban modernity threaten to chip away at the family unit.
That said, it is quite hard to determine a “best Mungoshi” work. His pen has dreamt too many good things in his years for one to point to any particular writing as being head and shoulders above all else.
But I can never tire of reading “Waiting for the Rain”, in particular that memorable conversation between the Old Man and his grandson Garabha about the Second Chimurenga raging around them.
“Now we — we were defeated (in the First Chimurenga — Editor’s note) but ours was a clean fight. We still had our own gods of whom we were proud. And because these gods meant the same thing to all of us, we rose like one man to fight the white man.
“And we didn’t fight them just for the sake of fighting — no. They misunderstood our hospitality for stupidity. We received them with food and they thanked us with guns . . . “Today we ask: Where are we? Who are we? What wrong did we do? How many stories do we hear of the white man humiliating our people? Again and again and again.
“We hear it, but do we see it? We might be blind. We hear it, but do we listen? We might be deaf.
“And why? Playing the enemy’s drum, that’s why. Making so much noise with the enemy’s drum that we can’t even hear the beating of our own gullible little miserable hearts.”
Fine intellects — like Rino Zhuwarara and Memory Chirere — have done amazing jobs of reviewing this masterpiece and expounding on the meaning of “making so much noise with the enemy’s drum that we can’t even hear the beating of our own gullible little miserable hearts”.
But I will still add my two cents to the matter and ask, when we allow other people to write the Zimbabwe story, and when we take those narratives as Bible truth simply because we do not write our own history, whose drum are we dancing to?
The nationalists in our midst are always quick to cry blue murder when the Heidi Hollands and Patrick Bonds say what they will about us. We have given them the space to tell our story and they shall tell it as they please.
David Coltart did his bit recently. Yes, his is a narrative that sticks in the gullet and leaves a sour taste in the mouth, but that’s his prerogative as a writer of an alternative history that well could become THE history in the absence of competing historiography.
Which is why I welcome Professor Arthur Mutambara’s contribution to mainstream discourse by way of his three-volume autobiographical intervention titled “Chasing the Elusive Zimbabwean Dream”.
I am yet to read it.
So why should I welcome it when it well could be as rabid as “Mein Kampf” or as poisonously disingenuous as “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”?
For the simple reason that he is trying to do something, to record history as he lived and interpreted it, to shape a national discourse.
For that alone he deserves a Bell’s — never mind that it’s not a single malt!
Prof Mutambara was all over the Durban International Convention Centre in South Africa last week, promoting the June 14 launch of the first volume in his series.
He will tell anyone who stops to listen that the book will be available in Zimbabwean and South African bookstores, as well as on Kindle and Amazon.
He will tell even those who will not stop to listen that the first part of his effort covers his early years, growing up poor, supporting the one-party push of the late 1980s, falling out with Zanu-PF and entering student politics at university, and finding his way to Oxford in the United Kingdom and then Nasa in the United States as part of his pursuit for academic excellence in his chosen field.
He is excited about what he has done, and no one can begrudge the child-like enthusiasm that still bursts out of him as it did when as Deputy Prime Minister he left the country bemused whenever he was let loose near a microphone.
The second part of his effort picks up from 2002 and ends before the formation of the inclusive Government, and part three looks at the period when he was in the coalition Government up to the present.
Prof Mutambara has been quiet since the inclusive Government ended with an outright Zanu-PF victory in the 2013 harmonised elections, and he has reincarnated as a media executive — quite a journey for a barefoot boy who started out in rural Manicaland, found himself as a robotics engineer at Nasa, and then hit the political jackpot of the century when he sprang from nowhere to become a Deputy Prime Minister.
If there are distortions in the book, if there are outright lies, if there are the seeds of subversion and the makings of a counter-revolution, let no one who is still playing the enemy’s drum not make a squeak or raise a hackle.
Write your own story, play to the beat of your own drum.
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