Veneration of ‘heroes’ is incomplete


The Late L Jongwe

I have long been critical of the veneration of ‘heroes’ past and present because it is often misdirected. It obscures the significant contributions of other actors and whitewashes the shortcomings of ‘heroes’. Thus, we are left with an incomplete picture.
For these reasons, I found Blessing Vava’s “Obituary: In memory of Learnmore Judah Jongwe, 1974-2002” (The Zimbabwean, 20 October 2009) a troubling composition.
Without detracting from Jongwe’s noteworthy role in the resurgence of the national students mother body ZINASU and the MDC’s rise, it is imperative to bear in mind that these developments were not handed down by Jongwe or any of the other leaders involved for that matter. The leadership skills Jongwe and others exercised were buttressed by pro-democracy cadres’ activism, the material and moral support and sacrifices of various supporters and sympathisers. By focusing on Jongwe, almost to the point of martyr creation, Vava loses sight of the contribution of these actors. He also overlooks fortune, chance or luck – a factor Machiavelli was preoccupied with in The Prince. To paraphrase Machiavelli, leaders only ever control 50% of their actions. The other 50% is controlled by fortune, that restless river over which we have no command.
Zimbabwean politics and history telling is replete with the practice of exclusion. For instance, the role of spirit mediums such as Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi was played up in Zanu (PF) historical interpretations, at the expense of the sacrifices of rural peasants and traditional chiefs, in order to conscript their martyrdom and spiritual attachment to land for the legitimisation and mobilisation of support for the Third Chimurenga.
This conscription has also served to cast Robert Mugabe as the modern heir to Nehanda and Kaguvi in the struggle for land reclamation. Mugabe and Zanu (PF)’s roles in the liberation struggle loom so large in official history that the importance of Charles Mzingeli, Reuben Jamela, Ndabaningi Sithole, Guy Clutton-Brock, Wilfred Mhanda, Joshua Nkomo and others is obscured.
Vava claims that Jongwe was ‘assassinated’ while in Chikurubi Maximum Prison but has no evidence to show for this. If his ‘assassination’ charge is based on conjecture then I will venture to engage in some guesswork of my own here. Simply put, what did it profit Zanu (PF) to ‘assassinate’ Jongwe who was already in prison and guilty of homicide? Zimbabwe’s politicised judiciary could easily have seen to it that he was sentenced to prison for a long time – long enough to effectively end his political career. Why risk public suspicion and rebuke over a man who had done himself in already?
However, the most troubling aspect of Vava’s piece is the fact that he ignores the naked reality that Jongwe fatally stabbed his wife during a domestic dispute. Nowhere in his article does he make reference to this, which is the reason why Jongwe was in Chikurubi in the first place. Without taking anything away from women’s agency, the greatest form of violence in Zimbabwe today and historically is not Zanu (PF) violence against the opposition and civil society but Zimbabwean men’s daily violence against women in homes and workplaces, which cuts across party or civil society divide. Jongwe was guilty of fatal domestic violence and any obituary that does not mention this is bigoted and insensitive to the plight of all women. It is ludicrous for Vava to declare that ‘as ZINASU, we demand that an independent commission of inquiry be established to look into the death of Jongwe’, as if the circumstances of Jongwe’s death, and indeed the value of his life, matter more than that of Rutendo Muusha.
Moreover, the fact that Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai simply blamed the Zanu (PF) government for Jongwe’s death, without fully considering the problematic implications of that allegation reflects his and the MDC’s lack of gender sensitivity. It goes without saying that women have been marginalised in a masculine and violent Zimbabwean opposition and ruling party politics.
As ZINASU, the Friends of Learnmore Jongwe Trust and some in the MDC commemorate Jongwe’s death seven years ago this month, they must, for once, look back on his life, warts and all. It is not enough to eulogise, ‘we want to remember Jongwe for the light he shed that others might see; for the life he shared so selflessly; and for the vision, the wisdom, the dedication, and compassion he dispensed so generously’ when he was not so selfless, visionary, wise and compassionate in his dealings with women. ‘We want to remember him for the cause that he espoused, which turned into his own life’s quest for a humanity liberated from the stranglehold of tyranny, fear, hatred, prejudice, ignorance, and rapaciousness’, Vava writes. Does this remembrance also include freedom from tyranny, fear, hatred, prejudice and rapaciousness against women, who constitute the majority on this earth?


~ by wanderer and his shadow on October 29, 2009.

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