Zimbabwe’s Zugzwang situation: The need for superlative wisdom

By Mutsa Murenje 

Although born and bred in Chipinge, Manicaland Province, I have also spent some time in Bindura, Mashonaland Central. Much of my time in Mashonaland Central was spent as a student at Hermann Gmeiner Secondary School (1997-2000) and Ruya Adventist High School (2001-2002) respectively. At Hermann Gmeiner, I happened to have passed through the capable hands of one man, Mr Chiedza Mafukidze, who was the Headmaster. Mr Mafukidze was an upright man who wanted the best for us as students. There was never a time that I felt I had to rebel against his leadership and authority.

In fact, I respected all the teachers we had at the school. Discipline was strictly enforced and hitherto, discipline still occupies a central place in my life. I was politically conscious when members of President Robert Mugabe’s party, ZANU PF, harassed Mr Mafukidze towards the June 2000 parliamentary elections. They accused him of being our political educator and he eventually left Zimbabwe for Botswana where he became a Principal at one of the schools in that country.

We kept contact over the years, largely via Facebook, and his encouragement kept me going. Ill-health forced him to abandon his job in Botswana and return to his country of birth, Zimbabwe. He loved his country so much that although he might be unknown in some parts of the country, his love for Zimbabwe was immense. We left Zimbabwe for different reasons but we were always brought together by our common love for our country. It was this love that we kept sharing till the last time we communicated. He communicated the hopes that we have held for a long time as the oppressed people of Zimbabwe. We want change, an upward improvement in our situation as opposed to the political doldrums we have been plunged in by the dictatorial Mugabe regime. Sadly, Mr Mafukidze succumbed to his illness a couple of weeks ago. He died before Zimbabwe could be totally free of the dictatorial tendencies we have gotten used to. As we are facing elections in 2018, I hope that we will remember that many perished fighting for a free, just and democratic Zimbabwe. We mustn’t forget these. Otherwise our struggle will be hollow should we not remember where we are coming from.

We also have wounded people in our midst. They are carrying the scars that have been inflicted on them by the oppressive Mugabe regime. Like Walt Whitman in Song of Myself, “I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded.” People in pain need love. Wounded people, broken by suffering ask for only one thing: a heart that loves and commits itself to them, a heart full of hope for them. A different kind of wisdom is required, a superior kind of wisdom called superlative wisdom. It is only this kind that can restore our hopes and help us work towards a common national vision.

We have suffered for a long time and we believe that “It is by those who have suffered that the world has been advanced” (Leo Tolstoy). We need to take our rightful place, stand up and be counted. Mugabe’s hold on us should be broken. We can’t allow his tight grip on power to continue at a time when his ruinous rule has destroyed our lives. We don’t have to mince our words. Dictatorship should be called by its rightful name and it’s something we ought to be ashamed of. It’s never right that a man who became Prime Minister in his 50s will still want to hold onto power in his 90s. There are a lot of capable people who can change Zimbabwe for the better and make our country a force to be reckoned with in this 21st century.

I am not a chess player but I have watched people play chess from a distance. My own interest in the game has been severely-rationed. I can’t deny though that I have dug deeper to understand how chess games are won. It was in this process that I came across the German word zugzwang which refers to a situation where any move by a player will significantly weaken and worsen their position. It has been argued by some experts that putting the opponent in zugzwang is the surest way to aid the superior side win a game and that in certain cases, this is necessary in order to make any win likely.

Looking at the Zimbabwean polity, especially since 2000, I would like to proffer that we have been put in zugzwang by the Mugabe regime. For the avoidance of doubt, ZANU PF and its leader have never favoured free, fair and credible electoral contests since February 2000 when the government-sponsored draft constitution was vehemently resisted and rejected by the Zimbabwean electorate. Although violence has always been Mugabe’s default mode, this however became worse after that defeat in the February 2000 referendum. Since then, we haven’t known peace in Zimbabwe. And although some of us would want to argue that the March 2008 and July 2013 elections were peaceful, I would like to argue that the elections were violently manipulated thus putting us in zugzwang and any win by the opposition in Zimbabwe should turn the tables against ZANU PF. For 17 years, we have been in this untenable position and this calls for superlative wisdom.

How do we unfetter ourselves from the fetters of the Mugabe regime? What do we need to do? I don’t claim to be the wise man that Zimbabwe is in need of. It could even be a woman although I doubt that Joice Mujuru is the woman that can carry the Zimabwean project forward. She partook in the liberation struggle but that doesn’t have to entitle her to the leadership of the country. Far superior wisdom is required and thus far she has demonstrated that she wants to appeal to those who benefitted from the grief and wounds inflicted on us by her former party, ZANU PF.

She believes war veterans, those in the army and the police force can only trust someone like her just because she fought in the liberation struggle. For me, that’s a parochial way of understanding why Zimbabweans fought for her independence. Independence is meant to benefit every one of us including those who never participated. I don’t quite understand why Mujuru would be comfortable in shielding criminals. Is it sufficient that people fought in the liberation struggle and should therefore be left alone even if they are known criminals? This isn’t the Zimbabwe that we want and definitely Mujuru isn’t the leader that Zimbabwe wants. We want a leader that will assure us that there will be truth and justice in Zimbabwe. We don’t want a situation whereby the electorate will begin to believe that they suffered in vain. No, this isn’t the way to go. I agree with Thomas Jefferson that: “The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”

In conclusion, we have been put zugzwang and whatever we try to do seems to be against us. I don’t think we should lose heart though. It’s always darkest just before dawn. After all, “All that the downtrodden can do is go on hoping. After every disappointment, they must find fresh reason for hope” (Alexander Solzhenitsyn). May God help Zimbabwe! The struggle continues unabated!

  • Mutsa Murenje is a political analyst.