The Sunday Mail
There is nothing that Bishop Lazarus finds as nauseatingly revolting as the holier-than-thou brigade.
Yes, those low-lives that seemingly have the uncanny ability of seeing past the girthy logs in their eyes to laugh at the wafer-thin specks in the eyes of others.
These are the kind of chaps who will laugh at the neighbour’s charcoal-coloured kids while blissfully oblivious of their own brood who look like chocolate berries.
They are like a slothful tortoise that laughs at the painfully slow speed of a snail.
No word can describe this brigade more succinctly like the word hypocrites.
Clearly, the world seems to have more hypocrites than it has people, and they come in different shapes, sizes and persuasions.
They might come in the form of the all-knowing social media “oracles” that magnanimously dish out wisdom and counsel to “lesser” mortals on Facebook and Twitter.
They might also come disguising themselves as latter-day saints who, as high priests of morality, are righteous enough to condemn other earthly beings as “evil” and “occultic”.
Even Jesus Christ — the son of God — could not stand them.
In his time, these supposedly wise chaps called themselves Pharisees.
You see, these hoity-toity folks were a sect of the Jews who prided themselves in being sticklers for the law.
They became so conceited that they began considering themselves as having absolute dominion over their subjects through imposing strict laws that they were not prepared to observe themselves, including regarding themselves as a divine nobility that was beyond reproach.
As a result, what they preached is not what they practiced.
Matthew 23: 1-12 probably summarises how Jesus loathed the wayward practices of the Pharisees.
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honour at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’”
This is the code that Bishop Lazi lives by.
Nehanda the woman
The Bishop was recently approached by some fairly concerned folks who wanted to know what kind of witchcraft the Government was up to when it decided to erect the statue of a spirit medium, Mbuya Nehanda, in the Central Business District.
“Is the Government now dabbling in necromancy?” they asked. It is a question that has been asked incessantly by some ever since the authorities announced such an undertaking.
It is quite apparent that the enquiry was not directed at Lazarus the man, but Lazarus the Bishop, as a devout man of the cloth.
Accordingly and paradoxically, the most sensible answer was to ask them if they knew Charwe Nyakasikana (Chihera) — who happens to be not only the Bishop’s kinswoman but clanswoman as well.
They didn’t have the slightest idea who she was, which was not surprising, especially in an era that is witnessing the rise of the African-less Africans. Africans become Africans first by birth before they join different religions, be it the traditionalist religion or Christianity, and Charwe Nyakasikana was not hanged on April 27, 1898 because of her religious beliefs, but because of her heroics during the first uprisings against racist, thieving, exploitative and egregiously cruel white colonial settlers.
In a largely patriarchal society, she rose to become an influential woman of steel who commanded respect among her people.
Eventually, she faced the hangman’s noose for ordering the death of the notoriously cruel Mazowe National Commissioner, Henry Hawkens Pollard, who once had Chief Chiweshe thrashed for failing to report cases of rinderpest among cattle in his area.
In this part of the world, it doesn’t get as sacrilegious and as insulting as this.
Pollard was resultantly executed in June 1896.
You might need to consider this small but symbolical last act by Charwe before being hanged: While Father Francis Ritchertz managed to convert Nehanda’s co-accused — Gutsa (the native officer who turned against his masters), Sekuru Kaguvi and Zindoga) — he evidently could not sway her.
The Bishop can only surmise that she considered it inconceivable to join a religion that seemed to condone the outrageous injustices and purely evil racist system.
It is a loud message to hypocrites: People are converted by acts, not by words.
But most importantly, Mbuya Nehanda’s burial sowed the seeds for the second uprising, which began in 1966, and her spirit of resistance became an eternal flame that provided the freedom fighters with the spiritual, moral and inspirational fortitude that culminated in Independence in 1980.
A commemorative statue for such a historical colossus, therefore, becomes unquestionably apposite. Well, this is all there is to the “witchcraft” of Nehanda’s statue.
The iron woman that Charwe Nyakasikana was always reminds the Bishop of a similar iron woman who also bestrode South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement — Winnie Mandela, who sadly passed away on April 2, 2018.
She, too, took the fight against apartheid to the coloniser’s doorstep.
However, the “saint or sinner” dichotomy largely dominated how she has been judged in the post-apartheid narrative.
It was the length that she was prepared to go to prosecute the struggle that was controversial.
Her fellow comrades, particularly Archbishop Desmond Tutu — coincidentally also a man of the cloth — had to subpoena her to appear before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which was formed in 1996 to suture the weeping wounds of apartheid, for ordering the murder of Stompie Sepei, or Stompie Moeketsi, who was killed on January 1 1989, at the age of 14, by the struggle stalwart’s bodyguards for purportedly selling out the struggle, or being a police informer.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu chaired the TRC and tried to make Winnie Mandela apologise for her actions.
Obviously as someone who spoke her mind and didn’t mind her tongue, she had very uncharitable words for the Archbishop.
“Look at this Truth and Reconciliation charade. He (Nelson Mandela) should never have agreed to it.
“What good does the truth do? How does it help anyone to know where and how their loved ones were killed or buried? That Bishop Tutu who turned it all into a religious circus came here.
“He had the cheek to tell me to appear. I told him a few home truths. I told him that he and his other like-minded cretins were only sitting here because of our struggle and me. Because of the things I and people like me had done to get freedom,” she told Nadira Naipaul in a March 2010 interview for the London Evening Standard.
These might probably be the words that Charwe Nyakasikana, as Chihera women are known for domineering, would probably be saying to those who have the nerve to consider her part of an occult — whatever that is.
What is in a statue?
But some are asking: why now?
This is a question that can only be asked by those who are myopic.
Statues are symbolic of the cultural and moral ethos, including soul of nation.
They define a people and a civilisation.
While the statues of racists and slave owners are being teared down in the US and Europe, they have been maintained in these jurisdictions because they represent the narrative of an immutable history of who these people were and are.
US president Donald Trump could not have made this more clearer in his speech on July 3 at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota.
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” he said, adding that the campaign is being led by “a left wing cultural revolution” that is “designed to overthrow the American Revolution”.
“To make this possible, they are determined to tear down every statue, symbol and memory of our national heritage.”
However, in our case, the erection of Nehanda’s statue is part of the continuum of the decolonisation process which began with the 1896 uprisings. As a people, after independence in 1980, we tore down some of the statues of the colonisers such as the two statues of Rhodes — called the Emperor’s Sculptor — in both Harare and Bulawayo in August 1980.
In October 1981, the Physical Energy statue, which was symbolically racist, was also removed.
And it seems that most people have forgotten that this process also continued after 2017 by the renaming of the country’s barracks, including the renaming of iconic buildings and roads across the country in November last year.
This process will inexorably continue until the symbols that represent our own civilisation are entrenched.
Unfortunately, in this part of the world, where we have Africans that are not really Africans but seemingly burnished black versions of the white man and white woman, these symbols are being mercilessly attacked.
The huge stumbling blocks of Africans are Africans themselves, especially those who still think that whiteness represents civilisation.