BY REASON WAFAWAROVA
Of all hunting expeditions scapegoating or the search for a scapegoat is the easiest. In the wake of serious allegations of fraud levelled against Professor Jonathan Moyo and his deputy, one Godfrey Gandawa, the learned and witty Professor’s ready excuse has been directing the accusers in the direction of his constituency in Tsholotsho, and also towards village rallies once popularised by ZANU-PF’S Women’s League.
He claims these were the beneficiaries of the loot, and he accuses whoever has a problem with the issue of being part of “stinking tribalists and successionists.”
The serious criminal allegations involve close to half a million US dollars allegedly looted from ZIMDEF coffers – a statutory fund meant for manpower development under the trusteeship of the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technoloty, a post currently held by Prof Moyo.
The scapegoating over what happened to the money extends to activities of ZANU-PF’s youth wing, including its counter-demonstration solidarity march in support of President Mugabe, carried out on the 25th May this year. That one must be a very convenient excuse, impressive even.
The use of the term scapegoating can be traced to the Judaic ritual found in the Bible’s Book of Leviticus. The passage goes something like this:
“On the Day of Atonement a live goat was chosen by lot. The high priest, robed in linen garments, laid both his hands on the goat’s head, and confessed over it the iniquities of the children of Israel. The sins of the people thus symbolically transferred to the beast, it was taken out into the wilderness and let go. The people felt purged, and for the time being, guiltless.”
The term scapegoat, however, has evolved to refer individuals, entities, or peoples who are symbolically or concretely made to bear responsibility for the problems of others. By claiming that the looted ZIMDEF funds were used to by bikes for village headmen and chiefs in Tsholotsho the Professor is not only trying to contrive complicity implicating the poor villagers of Tsholotsho, but also misdirecting his pursuers in the direction of the villagers, hoping the deflection gimmick will make Tsholotsho bear his cross – becoming the sacrificial beast that carries his alleged iniquities all the way into the wilderness.
My personal opinion is that Moyo’s defence is to save his own skin, not that of Gandawa, or any other person allegedly implicated in these serious criminal allegations of fraud. In this context I will be treating the allegations as they apply to Professor Moyo, since he is the one who has offered a somewhat public response in his own defence.
ZANU-PF is the untouchable beast that can carry crimes of criminal offenders into the wilderness with no one pursuing, it is presumed.
Didn’t Munacho Mutezo once say he looted $40 000 from ZESA on behalf of ZANU-PF’s functionaries in Manicaland?
There is something very repulsive about the idea of vicarious redemption. Someone wants to throw their numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass for the sins of others. Society must rightly sneer at the barbaric characters that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There is just no moral value in this kind of gesture, no dignity, and no integrity whatsoever.
I do not know how prepared ZANU-PF is to take on the debt of one of its prominent members, or if the party has some means of taking his place in prison, or avoiding it on his behalf. The fact is that neither ZANU-PF nor anyone else can assume the crime of others as if they belonged to the party itself. The party did not commit any crimes at ZIMDEF, and even it so wished to extend some kind of apparatus of absolution and forgiveness, the gesture would strike me as positively immoral, if not outright unlawful.
The revealed truth about this looted fund is degrading, and those implicated have found their intelligence, dignity and public demeanour in ruins. It is fairly understandable. But the truth is Prof Moyo and his co-accused must embark on the hard task of working out the ethical principles of correcting their own mistakes, including paying the due price for their shortcomings, as may be determined by the due process.
For individuals, scapegoating is a psychological defence mechanism of denial through projecting responsibility and blame on others. In the case of Prof Moyo, he has even portrayed himself as some kind of a Robin Hood, the heroic criminal who steals on behalf of the deprived and the poor.
It appears ZACC have their own version on the proceeds of the crime committed, with the Investigations Commissioner Goodson Nguni hinting that the looted money was actually used for illicit personal gain, including immoral leisure.
Scapegoating allows the perpetrator of a crime to eliminate negative feelings about himself; and it provides a sense of gratification. It justifies the self-righteous discharge of aggressive rhetoric, and our Professor is a master at that, be it in personal defence or as a propagandist for his party ZANU-PF.
Professor Moyo understands that there has to be a firm separation between good and bad amidst these damaging allegations, and he is doing his very best to draw up that distinction. Very good try one must admit, but perhaps not good enough to save his skin.
Scapegoaters are generally insecure people, usually motivated by the selfish desire to raise their own status. They believe they can convince themselves and others that the scapegoat is responsible for their own sins, and that logically the subsequent punishment is equally transferrable.
There is this other harebrained scapegoating that Professor Moyo has tried to push forward. He argues that the allegations being levelled against him and his co-accused should be blamed on “tribalists and successionists” within ZANU-PF.
Professor Moyo, just like any other sane person would, knows very well that this claim does not even rise to the level of nonsense. He knows for a fact that no tribalist nor successionist ever got anywhere near the said missing funds, and that the perceived agenda of such people against Prof Moyo’s political career has absolutely no bearing on the fact that the said looting of the fund indeed occurred, and remains criminal.
While scapegoaters are insecure psychologically, this explanation does not necessarily translate to the social level. So Professor Moyo in this regard remains intellectually secure, politically clever, and perhaps somewhat socially confident.
There is obviously a group that seems to be supporting the scapegoating by Professor Moyo. The man has a significant fan base by way of political supporters and sympathisers, within and outside ZANU-PF.
At group level scapegoating does not reflect mass psychosis, but it is true that there could be underlying psychological issues involving some members of the group. The aggregating of individuals to produce scapegoating at the societal level is certainly a complicated process that may involve a number of personality types and other psychological processes. Simply put group scapegoating creates a stark “us and them” dichotomy. Professor Moyo does seem keen to exploit the tribal “us and them” route, and he clearly hopes the tensions that come with such a dichotomy will take away the blame he is facing in regards to the missing funds.
It does not matter the scapegoating is individual or at group level, usually the bottom line is that scapegoating is based on real social, political, ideological, cultural, or economic power struggles.
Scapegoaters target less powerful and more marginalised people as their scapegoats, like the Professor is doing with Tsholotsho villagers, or what he is trying to achieve by claiming tribal victimisation.
Scapegoats need not be the marginalised ones. We know that some of them are actually privileged, at least in relative terms. The Jews throughout Europe are largely privileged, much as they serve well as a good excuse for scapegoating. There are also the Chinese in South East Asia, or the Koreans in Los Angeles.
These are privileged minorities, just like Moyo himself is a privileged professor from a minority tribe that he personally views as hopelessly marginalised. He has got his strong political ally in Vice President Pelekhezela Mphoko, and the two men seem to use the historical tragedy of Gukurahundi as a tool of survival in the rough terrains of politics.
Assertions of unfair advantage provide an explanation for the inferior economic position of others, and that is why Professor Moyo wants to convince us that in Tsholotsho nothing has changed since “the time of Lobengula.”
The sentiment of economic marginalisation is a very convenient one for politicians. It is often used to deflect blame from personal shortcomings, and what we have seen so far from Prof Moyo is just part of that.
We hope we are not going to have more politicians from the Matebeleland region trying to join the bandwagon of those fuelling the anti-Shona sentiment as a way of attracting support. There is abundant evidence that Indonesian government leaders and the military fuelled the ant-Chinese sentiment after the economic collapse of 1998. Even Adolf Hitler has become a convenient excuse for the personal failures of some Jewish people.
Scapegoating often becomes an important part of conflict. Once scapegoating is perceived to be successful in generating positive feelings in perpetrators, there is likely to be reluctance to give it up.
The scapegoated provide a ready explanation for troubles. Therefore, there is relatively little incentive for the perpetrator to give it up. For the scapegoated, they are left with few good options: to flee, to assimilate, or to fight back.
Scapegoating worked well wile it still had religious powers behind it. In the civilised world o today, it is not that easy to get away with scapegoating. Then one just loaded the sins of the city on the goat’s back and drove it out, and the city was cleaned.
In today’s religion preachers of the Christian faith tell us that a person can load their sins on the crucified Christ, and thereafter they can consider themselves scot-free from sin. It works well with everyone who knows how to read the ritual, just like it did in the past when the sacrificial animal was the goat or the lamb.
In Rome the gods died, and all of a sudden the city had to be cleaned without divine help. After the cleansing ritual real actions were demanded instead of symbolism. In Rome the censor was born. Watchfulness became the watchword. It was the watchfulness of all over all. Purgation was replaced by purge.
After Professor Moyo’s self-cleansing ritual in the social media, a time for the purge must come, and indeed has come.
This is a time of watchfulness, where all of us are watching over all of us. Vice President Mphoko must get to comprehend and understand this for his own good.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!
•Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia. Article appears in The Herald. This excerpt was taken from his Facebook Profile.