Opinions Politics

Seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth

Nelson Mandela was arrested for the greater part of his political career

By Nqobizitha Khumalo (PDP Spokesperson)

View From The Peephole

Many of the world’s freedom fighters came through the jail – Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo to name but a few. In the struggle for liberty jail is the baptism of fire for many politicians.

But l have made an interesting observation on the issue in Zimbabwean politics. In our Opposition circles many people who get arrested usually go on to change their political parties after incarceration.

Solomon Madzore became some kind of Mandela after he was arrested in connection with the murder of a Police officer, together with Yvonne Musarurwa and Last Mayengahama. After their release, Madzore and Mayengahama left together with Biti.

Mayengahama however was on bail and was later convicted and sentenced for the crime and is still inside. He is still serving.
Yvonne Musarurwa remained behind bars and she was released to receive a heroine’s welcome in the party. It was even suggested that she be given a free seat to contest on an Alliance ticket. However, she jumped ship and joined Thokozani Khupe’s faction of the MDC-T.

Ishmael Khauzani was arrested many times in the struggle, but when Tendai Biti broke away from the MDC-T, Khauzani went with him.

Soon after the 2013 elections in Epworth, a youth was arrested allegedly for committing acts of violence. He was sentenced to five years in prison and served a greater part of his sentence. He received a hero’s welcome on his release but became rather lukewarm in his political activities.

Later, he crossed over to Zanu-PF.

The list is endless and one is tempted to ask why this has to be so. Is there some kind of Herbert Chitepo School of Ideology orientation in jail that turns the minds of those jailed? Is there some intimidation of some sort in there leading to some kind of bargain? We release you on condition that once you are out there defect to ZanuPf and confuse the party? Or perhaps some are recruited to come out and spy for Zanu-PF?

Someone once noted that during Tsvangirai’s time people who got arrested and incarcerated for a time were usually transferred from more sensitive posts to less sensitive ones. Was it a security measure?

But there could be other factors too as to why people defected after incarceration. Chief of these l think could be disillusionment. To begin with, there is no glory in a prison cell; for inside there you are crammed with nasty characters squeezed together like sardines in a tin. At the corner is that single obnoxious adjure hole half full of foul-smelling excrement “kunge sadza ririmubhodbo.” All thought of chivalry comes out flying through the window.

This disillusionment can come out from another source – a feeling of neglect. Many imprisoned politicians have felt this. You go in there as a hero cheered and hailed but once there you are slowly forgotten. The man whose name you shouted and for whom you were prepared to lay down your life hardly even talks about you let alone visits you. Life goes on outside there and your place is usually filled by someone else.

Far From The Madding Crowd, prison is usually a place of meditation and introspection. Alone at night among hardened felons, it is time one comes face to face with themselves. The so-called “mob psychology” is gone. When Siddarta Ghautama meditated under the bhodi tree seeking enlightenment, the tempter spirit, Mara came in the form of a pretty woman and told him the folly of trying to save the world; he should rather save himself Mara said.

It is at this time that the Tempter comes and says “l will give you all this….just kneel down and worship me.” Yes, they will point out the futility of suffering for the masses who care nary a bit about you and of that particular politician for whom you are prepared to barter your soul. Like Pedzisai Ruhanya has just done they will point out to you how very little was done to save you and like a version of the prodigal son you start thinking “here l am, the son of a good mother and father, here l am a graduate, a socialite, and yet in my father’s house even the dogs have something to eat and here l am sharing coarse prison fare with felons and sodomites.”

After two gruelling years, you come out and all your dreams are shattered. The world has gone on without you and you no longer have a place in it. The most painful part in sections of Opposition is that they will always ask you “do we eat you, do we wear you, do we drink you?” All your sacrifices mean nothing to them.

All your illusions go whoosh through the window.

One factor of importance is the fact of the Leader himself. The leader and close circle may not themselves have been arrested at any one time. When you come out as a kind of Nelson Mandela, posing as a rival to the dear leader, rest assured the first opposition to you will come from leadership itself who will seek to put you in your place.

“Seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannon’s mouth!”- Melancholy Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The cannon is real, but the reputation is a bubble. The police on the road are real, the guns are real, the prison cells are real, but the reputation is a bubble. When that realisation finally comes, disillusionment becomes real.

Not that l am against sacrifice. We are what we are because of sacrifice, our own, or that of others. I myself was arrested and assaulted more than once and l don’t regret those moments.

But when we throw ourselves before the cannon’s mouth do we ask ourselves if at that particular moment the risk is worth it and the cause real?

I know an Opposition woman who hit a Zanu-PF patron to death and when she was arrested and no one visited her she started complaining that the party was neglecting her. Are you a hero when you fight a ZanuPf patron at a bar over a scud or when as a client he quarrels with you over the price of your services? Perhaps this new struggle needs to define its heroes.

Politicians should never be persecuted for being politicians. The Zimbabwean judiciary should be impartial and dispense Justice without fear or favour.

And that also means that politicians should not be immune to prosecution, those in Zanu-PF by using political muscles and those in Opposition by crying political persecution even in cases where we are clearly wrong or when it has nothing to do with politics.

May God open our eyes so we see real heroism when we face it and separate it from counterfeits. And may we not in vain seek THE BUBBLE REPUTATION EVEN IN THE CANNON’S MOUTH.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende