ZHUWAO BRIEF: Of narratives, regime change: Imagining national community, identity for progress

18 Jan, 2015 - 00:01 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

Shallow minded people, of the likes of Kerina Mujati, are oblivious of the tremendous strides that Zimbabwe has made in various fields. Such ignorance therefore means that they cannot relate some of the innovations in far off lands that they encounter to real-life conditions and circumstances in Zimbabwe. An awareness of the wonders of Zimbabwe becomes the foundational basis on which we can be able to further develop our country.

A few weeks ago, the Zhuwao Brief diverted from expounding on the values that guide the appointments of the Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries of Zanu PF as espoused in Section 35 (1)(b) of the Zanu PF Constitution as amended in 2014. These values are stated to be values of “skill, experience, probity, integrity and commitment to the Party, its ideology, values, principles and policies”.

The Zhuwao Brief undertakes to come back to these values shortly. Hopefully, there will be no major event more worthy of the nation’s attention.

The delusional rantings of a former Secretary of Administration that seeks to censure an organisation whilst signing himself off as the Secretary of Administration of that same organisation will not be sufficient to warrant a diversion from such an explanation.

Such actions are typical of those who are one finger short of five senses.

In this article, the Zhuwao Brief submits that the prerequisite for a person to be adjudged to have the values of a National Leader such as the President and First Secretary is an abiding sense of nationalism and patriotism that facilitates for visionary leadership.

That visionary leadership needs to envision “an empowered society and a growing economy”; in line with ZimAsset (that cliché once again!). This calls for an imagined community, and its concomitant partner, an imagined identity.

This article will firstly recount a spirited debate by a certain Kerina Mujati for her perceived need for a sea-life aquarium in Zimbabwe as a basis for discussing Benedict Anderson’s concept of created communities and imagined identities.

The article will submit that the Zimbabwe’s development and transformation needs to build on the success of the National Constitution by imagining a progressive community and a progressive identity in the future.

The imagining of our community and identity needs to focus on providing better lives for ourselves and our compatriots.

The narratives of regime change have been forcing us to imagine communities based on factionalism and tribalism.

These concepts are divisive and retrogressive.

However, because as human beings we are highly creative and imaginative, the Zhuwao Brief posits that our imagining must revolve around empowering our society and growing our economy.

“You don’t need a sea to have sea-life” – Kerina Mujati

Last week, my wife and I went on a holiday to Dubai as part of commemorating her birthday and l photographed her as she stood in front The Dubai Mall Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. After posting the picture on my Facebook wall, a certain Kerina Mujati posted as follows; “If your uncle was organised we could have those as well in Zimbabwe without travelling abroad for that …..”

I responded to Kerina Mujiati’s post by sending her images of the holiday that my wife and I had just come from at Malilangwe Game Reserve, Chiredzi in December.

The images included inspiring pictures of buffalo, elephants, giraffes and views of the Malilangwe Dam from the pool deck and from the bathroom of the suite we stayed in.

The images were accompanied by messages that highlighted that Zimbabwe believes in conservation that enables wildlife to live in their natural habitat as opposed to confining them in zoos and enclosures.

I went further to highlight that we don’t do aquariums in Zimbabwe because we are land locked.

I have chosen to reproduce Kerina Mujati’s re-joinder to my responses in full without editing it, lest I misrepresent her:

Do you need a sea to create a sea life? Patrick Zhuwao you got the message about miserable uncle Bob who has turned Zimbabwe into a village…why travel all the miles …..just get it your uncle is an incompetent man who is holding on yet the nation is suffering, remember every dog has its day.”

I am sure you are asking yourself what all of this has got to do with narratives of regime change.

Kerina Mujati represents the loss of identity that has been occasioned by narratives that have sought to eliminate the reality of our existence as the indigenous Bantu people of Zimbabwe.

These narratives hark for anything foreign to the point of wistfully wishing to create sea-life adventures that ignore such stubborn realities that we are land locked.

These narratives ignore such facts as the pre-eminent role that Zimbabwe has played, continues to play and will play in the future with regards to the conservation of natural resources and bio-diversity. Zimbabwe created the world recognised concept of the Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE).

Shallow minded people, of the likes of Kerina Mujati, are oblivious of the tremendous strides that Zimbabwe has made in various fields.

Such ignorance therefore means that they cannot relate some of the innovations in far off lands that they encounter to real-life conditions and circumstances in Zimbabwe.

An awareness of the wonders of Zimbabwe becomes the foundational basis on which we can be able to further develop our country.

But what is it that blinds us to ourselves, our achievements and our opportunities?

Why do some, within us, become poster boys and poster girls for afro-pessimism?

What stops us from being proud of whom we are?

The Zhuwao Brief believes that we may be able to understand this malaise by interrogating Benedict Anderson’s concept of imagined communities and imagined identities.

Imagined Community and Imagined Identity

Benedict Anderson came up with the concept of imagined communities where an imagined community differs from an actual community in that there is no direct face-to-face interaction between members of the community.

An imagined community is socially constructed and imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group.

When Anderson coined the term in the early 1980s, he specifically referred it to nationalism.

He defined a nation as “an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign”.

A nation’s citizens hold a mental image of their affinity to their nation. They may have similar interests or identify as part of the same nation.

According to Anderson, the community of being, say, Zimbabwean is imagined in the minds of all Zimbabweans because we never know most of our compatriots, meet them, or even hear of them.

However, in all of our collective minds live an image of our communion as Zimbabweans.

In most instances, that mental image is positive, but in a few cases it is negative.

But what form does your image of being Zimbabwean take?

What are the implications of those images?

Do they further and support the vision of the nation as encapsulated in the ZimAsset vision statement for example?

Anderson opined that the media created imagined communities by generalising, targeting mass audience and addressing citizens as the public.

Even though we may never see anyone in our imagined community of the nation of Zimbabwe, we still know they are there through the media and communication.

According to Anderson, creation of imagined communities became possible because of what he referred to as “print capitalism”.

Capitalist entrepreneurs printed their books and media in the vernacular (instead of exclusive script languages, such as Latin) in order to maximize circulation.

As a result, readers speaking various local dialects became able to understand each other, and a common discourse emerged.

Anderson argued that the first European nation-states were thus formed around their “national print-languages.”

It therefore follows that language becomes a central part to the imagining of community and identity.

The creation and invention of tribes according to dialects emphasizes the imagining of communities and identities within Zimbabwe.

Dialects such as Karanga, Zezuru and Manyika took on a bigger role than was required as they came to define identity.

An individual whose roots and origins can be traced to the Shawasha people took on their totemic identity of Ncube as their name because they sought to fit in amongst mostly Ndebele speaking neighbours.

As is the norm with most pretenders, such individuals appropriate a so-called Ndebele cause to levels higher than those of the so-called proper Ndebeles.

The imagining of communities goes beyond intra-national delusions.

The late comedian, Safirio Madzikatire, did a magnificent sketch of Mukadota coming back from a trip in America having been Americanized.

He changed his dressing. He changed his accent.

He changed his diet and could only eat American Goulash.

This is the same with poor Kerina Mujati except that there is no comic element.

Poor Kerina Mujati is imagining herself as a Briton in the sea-enclosed island.

For her, it is natural to have aquaria and underwater zoos.

The absence of such entities in a land locked country conjures in her poor mind images of under-development and primitiveness.


She fails to appreciate that Zimbabwe is landlocked, in the African tropics and has a vast wealth of wildlife.

She bemoans the absence of sea-life and requires that President Mugabe creates it.

How foolish.

Imagining Community and Identity for Progress

Kerina Mujati is a very important person. She is influential and powerful. She has a circle of influence that starts around her and grows outward to her family, community and work place.

Kerina Mujati is just as important as you and I.

She has the power to influence the success of Zimbabwe in the same manner that you and I have.

But does Kerina Mujati have the where-with-it-all to influence the direction of Zimbabwe in a positive way?

The Zhuwao Brief believes that she does.

The Zhuwao Brief also believes that you, yes you the reader, have the power, capacity and capability to influence the direction of Zimbabwe in a positive manner.

What is required is for all of us to recognize the endowments that God gave to us when He placed us on the piece of ground that is now known as Zimbabwe.

It is on this piece of ground that God requires us to subsist and thrive.

The Good Lord also gave us brains to think with. It is now incumbent upon us to figure out how we will survive and prosper on this Zimbabwe that our God gave to us.

As social creatures, we are given to imagining communities and imagining identities.

But as we imagine these communities and these identities, we must imagine them in ways that add value to our lives.

We must imagine communities and identities that are real; we cannot have sea-life in a land locked country.

We must imagine communities and identities that unite us and not divide.

We must imagine communities and identities that resonate with our value system of Hunhu/Ubuntu.

We must imagine communities and identities that give life and effect to our national aspiration as encapsulated in the National Constitution. We must imagine communities and identities that exalt the Good Lord our Creator and give thanks for the endowments He has bestowed upon us as Zimbabweans.

To imagine communities and identities that are contrary to the exaltation of God would be blasphemous.

To imagine communities and identities that are contrary to our national Constitution would be treasonous. Imagined communities and identities based on the created and invented notions of tribe and tribalism are both treasonous and blasphemous.

Are you being tribal?

Are you being treasonous?

Are you being blasphemous?




About the writer

Honourable Patrick Zhuwao is the Chairman of Zhuwao Institute which is an economics, development and research think tank that focus on integrating socio-political dimensions into business and economic decision making, particularly strategic planning. Zhuwao is the holder of a BSc honours degree in Computer Systems Engineering and an MBA degree in Information Technology Management (City University, London). He also holds BSc honours and MSc degrees in Economics (University of Zimbabwe), as well as a Master of Management (with distinction) degree in Public and Development Management (University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg). [email protected] or [email protected]

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