Kicking a bullfrog across the Grand Canyon

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US Grand Canyon

WIKIPEDIA tells me the US Grand Canyon is 446km long; 29km wide and attains a depth of over 1 857m. By all counts, these statistics point to a formidable barrier. Here in Zimbabwe, we have a saying which distills age-old wisdom of our forbears. It says: kukava dzetse kuri yambutsa.

Lexis and human chores, milieu 

One never quite accurately captures a saying, however good one is in translation. There is a lot that is lost as aphorisms migrate from one language to another in search of equivalent meaning.

The difficulty increases insuperably if the expectant language belongs to another culture, a culture quite distant from the donating one.

Linguists remind us that a language develops intense lexis around areas of everyday chores and breakthroughs.

Anthropologists like Franz Boas and linguists like Benjamin Lee Whorf went as far as claiming the Inuit or Yupik (Eskimos) for whom snow is a homely milieu, have more words for those frozen waters than does English! Such claims gave rise to the theory of linguistic relativity, which I have no time to discuss here. My main point and lamentation is on how much is lost in translation.

Between Mapungubgwi and Great Zimbabwe

Literally translated, kukava dzetse kuri yambutsa, means kicking a bullfrog might just render it to its yearned-for destination! As a figure of speech, this means a cruel punishment may just deliver or bestow an unintended benefit to the victim.

The saying comes from a culture which is incurably disposed towards seeing the good side of adversities, indeed some resilient and achievement-prone culture.

Archeology is yet to settle who is who between Mapungubgwe and Great Zimbabwe. Conventional archeology says Mapungubgwe is the older sibling, with Great Zimbabwe having been founded years later by the same Civilisation whose architects gave up on the dry and thus hardy Limpopo basin for a more yielding clime.

But we also have new research which disputes that, stressing Great Zimbabwe is the parent site which crossed into present-day South Africa in search of more land. I don’t know; I am not so sure I quite care to know.

When Nature kicked a bullfrog

What I do know and am ready to discharge a nuclear warhead over, is any claim which suggests both civilisations were alien to Southern African blacks, to cede these epic structures and civilisations to Phoenicians or some other people. Such reading must be fought and fended off.

Anything and everything else amounts to a scuffle between siblings. Twins, after all, do scuffle over their mother’s breast.

But any despoiling intruder unites them. My main point is that when nature decided to kick Mapungubgwe or Great Zimbabwe, the result was that the bullfrog landed on a new site for another stone settlement, a new site of impregnably brittle and lasting civilisation.

In place of one such site, such great Civilisation, we wound up with one, two, three, many more, making Zimbabwean agency for this great stone Civilisation just to many to dispute, or to treat as a fluke.

A civilisation in search of salt 

The same archeology also tells me salt was key to that great civilisation and hunting settlement.

Then, the land teemed with wildlife. Until marauders like Frederick Courtney Selous and Randolph Churchill — Winston Churchill’s father — descended upon our fauna to destroy it. Still salt was scarce in our Land.

Nearest salt pans were found in neighbouring Mozambique, in Botswana or further afield in Namibia.

All these were vast distances from Great Zimbabwe. Again need kicked the bullfrog.

Zimbabwe’s salt DNA

Empires are never built by whim; they are creatures of pressing collective need, salt in this case. The Mwenemutapa Empire became so far-flung basically because it needed to secure sources of key raw materials, foremost salt.

Indeed, the Great Zimbabwe settlement had to be abandoned for a new site in the Northeast – beyond present-day Mt Fura – as architects of that Empire searched for salt.

To this day, a key trait of any genuine Zimbabwean is adding salt to their dish even before tasting it. Such is how important salt is to our past and our present-DNA. It seasons all our dishes, our tongues. We went far in search of it.

The lands God created in anger! 

My main point is that when nature kicks a civilisation — and it does that quite often — it tosses that civilisation in the direction of, and towards a once hard-to visualise yet beneficent destination.

My teaching stint at Mt Makomwe High School — better known as Marange Secondary School in Manicaland — at one point got me to think here was one piece of Zimbabwe which an upset God created in anger.

Years later, diamond deposits were found in semi-arid Marange. Equally, anyone who has traversed Guruve, pushing past Matuzviadonha Mountain Range to descend into the dry valley, to Mushumbi, Angwa and Kanyemba, will be forgiven for thinking this is Zimbabwe’s worst part.

Yet today those seemingly hopeless parts, right down to the low-lying, floods-prone, malaria-infested Muzarabani, have now given us huge oil and gas deposits!

The story of Mavangwe 

My own home area Vuhera instructs no less. From Gaza, a centre renowned in colonial times as a groundnuts buying centre, down to Mavangwe, the weather gets sweltering hot, forcing even the most resilient vegetation to droop helpless and hopeless like a willow.

Yet only this week, the President of Zimbabwe commissioned the latest lithium mine there, billed to make at least USD2bn annually from its 300 000 annual concentrate output.

And much more if we factor in tantalite which is co-extensive with lithium. One big lesson in life: no curse is without a chorus! Know ye men and women.

Going senseless for broke

On the eve of the United States-Africa Summit, the Biden Administration decided to remove the dead, the retired and defected from its inglorious sanctions list.

Apart from the grim humour which such mean act by a whole superpower generates, there is little else to be read from such inane recent action by the Biden Administration.

But the Administration did more, and worse! It added a few more names to its infamous sanctions list, among them Emmerson Junior, eldest son of our President.

Nephew of Madhara Chihombe 

Then there was one Obey Chimuka, whose family ties links him to the late veteran freedom fighter, Jonah Chimuka. Madhara Chihombe was Jonah Chimuka’s wartime name. Brother to the eminent Zimbabwean physician, Madhara Chihombe was well known to Makumbe Mission’s 1976-79 Class, of which I was a part. He led the first band of freedom fighters ever to reach the school, towards the end of 1976 and again in early 1977.

This was our first contact with freedom fighters. The Chimuka now sanctioned by Americans is a nephew to this great fighter whose life was cut short in a car accident while on his way to Nyazura, his home. It must have been in late 1980s or early 1990s.

When Biden fought the hapless 

The superpower went further. It took notice of, and aim at young, genial Nqobile Magwizi, the lad from Gokwe’s Chief Njelele of the Gotami sect of the Hera clan. You ask yourself how and what value is to be got when Biden singles out such a lad for his sanctions list. Yet single him it did.

Then you also had Sandra Mpunga, wife to Kudakwashe Tagwirei who is already on Biden’s sanctions list. Biden has decided to go to war with this poor woman, putting paid to its claims as a gender-sensitive Administration!

 The sin of being linked to!

What one found both humorous and staggering were reasons given for the new additions. In the case of Sandra, the only woman victim on the list, the reason given in the sanctioning memo was: “Linked to: Tagwirei, Kudakwashe, Regimond”! The same phrase held for Nqobile Magwizi. In the case of Emmerson Junior, the reason was worded as follows: “Linked to: Mnangagwa, Emmerson Dambudzo.”! Reason for sanctioning Obey Chimuka though wordy, was comparably sparse: “Linked to: Tagwirei, Kudakwashe, Regimond; Linked to: Fossil Agro; Linked to: Fossil Contracting”!Both entities have also been added to the sanctions list, each with some description of its purpose or mission.Fossil Agro, claims Americans, does “post-harvest crop activities”, whatever that means! Fossil Contracting, says Biden, does “construction of other engineering activities”, again whatever that means!

Weep not, sanctioned Zimbabweans!

I write this piece as someone who has been on American sanctions from the first day they were illegally promulgated. It is interesting I not only live; I live well enough to write against them and against Americans.

But I have also lived long enough to see most victims of those sanctions live longer or die from causes other than those related to sanctions.

I thus exemplify the stark fact that there is life sanctions. A life of honour, in fact. So, weep not sanctioned children of Zimbabwe! History will absolve you for your cause is just and thus worthy of honour. Come to think of it, Biden and all his predecessors: Trump, Obama, Bush (jnr) in that chronological order of infamy, have provided the first draft of history on Zimbabwe’s who is who!

When even God mocks America

I also write like someone who has seen how even God mocks America’s efforts. No sooner is a character on the sanctions list called by his/her Maker than is America scurrying to delete them; wasting its stationery! And trying to use such deletions to prove that the sanctions are indeed targeted! Which is to say, hey, we quickly lift the sanctions on you once you elect to die! Or once you retire or are retired from Government. Which is to say God, age and Zimbabwe Government tenure refine the targeting of America’s sanctions. Or, defecting from Zanu PF! Which means the four Ds: Diety, Death, Dismissal or Defection! Until any of the four Ds and sanctions doth make you part!

Why harry the dead?

Just recently, Vice President Chiwenga scoffed at one American Embassy official who bragged about sanctions targeted by any one of the four Ds. He said: Daily my Comrades at Heroes Acre came to me in my sleep, crying: why won’t these Americans leave us to rest in eternal peace? Why do they harry us through their stationery? The poor American woman dwindled as never befitted an agent of a superpower!

Even Churches are sanctioned

Again, I will not mention names of persons or organisations. There is a Church which raised a substantial amount of money overseas; something close to USD48m, for livelihood projects targeting the poor of Zimbabwe. Unfortunately the money took a wrong banking route, and found itself in one of the British banks.

OFAC quickly acted by freezing those monies meant for the poor. In utter consternation, the Church went to America’s compound here to ask: aah, you say your sanctions are targeted, yet our monies towards humanitarian interventions have been frozen; is the Church part of entities you target? To this day, Biden’s OFAC is yet to unfreeze that money! America’s lovely message to the Church is poignantly clear: leave the dead to bury the dead, we are Americans: in God we mistrust!

Weaponising sanctions

Coming to this latest outrage, one asks: why would America weaponise sanctions against food security in Zimbabwe, if they wanted their claim that their sanctions are targeted to appear to hold?

You target an entity which supplies chemicals to kill weeds, nematodes, creepy crawlies, ticks, worms and Rhodesian-manufactured anthrax, which reduce a peasant farmer’s harvest and destroys his livestock?

All that to get at Mnangagwa, Tagwirei and Zanu PF?

You sanction an infrastructure-laying company which repairs, modernise and builds roads along which even American diplomats ply?

And you dare call that targeted sanctions? Much worse, the entities you sanction alongside individuals also become the reason for sanctioning those same individuals?

You create causality through simultaneous sanctioning, with one side providing reason for taking action against the other?

Is this how superpowers build logic to their unilateral measures against smaller nations?

America’s war

The corpus of activities of sanctioned entity, whether current or in the past, clearly prove America is at war with Zimbabwe.

It is aggressing us as a people and as a country, even being brazen about it.

Why would America choose to draw up such a stupid list on the eve of a Summit with Africa?

To suggest what, given that the call to remove illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe is now a continental one?

Alienating Africa

A bullfrog is pushed towards its chosen destination through a hard kick.

Today Africa knows America is not seeking friendship with the Continent. Zimbabwe can hardly overstate this fact now.

Africa now has to decide on its next step. Happily, the African voice at the America-US Summit was quite strident. The Continent matters as a voting bloc; now America has alienated it.

Exposing America’s lie

Second, here at home America’s spiteful and indiscriminate sanctions are victimising persons and institutions which shape and drive national opinion.

No longer can America tell Zimbabweans, including the conscience wing in the country that their sanctions are targeted.

Not even a peasant whose produce is lost to pests and weevils, both before and after harvesting. Such a peasant now knows that as before, America’s fight is that of colonial imperialism.

It rests on the two Ls: Land and Labour. Land in that until the Land Reform is reversed to benefit former white farmers, America will find holy cause to fight black Zimbabwe.

Labour in that destruction of peasant livelihoods through land-focused sanctions, will create an exploitable proletariat to whom land is a dead asset; for whom only unpaid or underpaid labour is their salvation.

Building National Cohesion

Third, in that here at home America’s mindless sanctions are helping with the forging of national cohesion.

It is interesting that even the likes of Hopewell Chin’ono who normally are found fighting in the corner of Americans, have been forced to rethink on the utility of those sanctions.

Monies which Chin’ono raised under his GoFundMe have been caught up in the American sanctions dragnet! What happy news! This realisation isolates politicians like Chamisa and Biti whose politics have been built on the goal of making Zimbabwe’s Economy scream, as desired by their American handlers. Through these latest measures, Zanu PF’s campaign message is cut out for it.

New decibels to our mantra

Fourth and last, the mantra Nyika Inotongwa neKuvakwa Nevene Vayo today acquires extra decibels by way of resonance! The Second Republic was launched on the mantra of Engagement and Re-Engagement.

It sought to win new friends and conquer new diplomatic frontiers through engagement; it sought to regain lost friends through Re-engagement.

Both policies were and remain noble. They cannot find validation by what America does or does not do to Zimbabwe. America, after all, is but a country; engagement and re-engagement is about the world about Zimbabwe.

Nothing appeases America

The latest hostility by America brings out three distinct facets to engagement and re-engagement. First with regards to America, lessons come from the village where laughing hyenas and hooting owls portent witches and witchcraft.

Out of this eerie universe of the nocturnal, the Shona people evolved an instructive saying. The Shonas know witches prefer and take a dead toddler’s flesh for sumptuous veal.

From that gory realisation, the Shonas developed a grim saying: kugona muroyi kumupa mumwe mwana adye! Roughly translated it means the only way to appease a witch is to give him/her one more child to eat! Put differently, nothing short of another toddler’s grave settles the matter with a witch!

Denying America excuses

This enjoins us to recalibrate and reset our re-engagement goal and expectations with America, namely to deny her an excuse to provoke or escalate further hostilities.

In other words, to make America safe or less dangerous to Zimbabwe’s rise, which she cannot and should not be allowed to obstruct.

Keeping our friends, allies

Second and more important, it means we cannot and should not sacrifice our friends, allies and alliances with whomsoever, hoping to placate America.

If anything, we should use our Engagement to deal with those friends we lost and are determined to deny us any room for rapprochement.

It is clear such national postures and foreign policy verge on the existential, in which case nothing appeases them.

They can only be countermanded through offsetting friendships and alliances.

Building National Capacities

Third, we must build national capacity to survive, live and prosper in a milieu of American hostility.

Our Nyika INOVAKWA Nevene Vayo and Brick by Brick mantra is quite apt as a response to unrequited re-engagement overtures and as a call to summoning national will towards self-reliance.

We have rich minerals, known and yet to be known.

We have the land; we are building skills. All these, in combination and through beneficial partnerships, should see us move forward, certainly without the goodwill of hostile states.

Tell no Lies

Fourth and perhaps last, we must gird our loins and politics for a long haul.

Nothing beats building a nationally conscious Nation which knows the state it finds itself in.

Nothing beats a correct characterisation of odds ranged against us, and opportunities open to us.

Nothing, too, beats rallying our people to politically shun and isolate anti-nation politics, including during crucial plebiscites.

Amilcar Cabral warned us against telling lies on easy victories. Our own Liberation Struggle coined the phrase “Protracted Struggle.”

We should teach no less to the current generation. Until final victory. I brayed enough.

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