By Ken Mufuka
The passing away of Stanley Mudenge brings some sense of remorse to all of us.
Mudenge was my classmate at the University of Zimbabwe, and over the years, our paths crossed, in ways, some pleasant and some not so pleasant. Suffice it to say that, he was a direct cause of my leaving my homeland in 1984 and also for the dismissal of my mentor at The Sunday Mail, Willie Musarurwa.
Mudenge saw himself as lord over all he surveyed, including humans over whom he had no legal or direct responsibility. He was famous for assuming that he was the only man blessed by much learning, including Greek and Latin.
In the famous encounter, while taking Prince Charles around at Great Zimbabwe, he instructed me to interpret the “Great Zimbabwe as an edifice built by the heroic Shona stalwart revolutionary cadres,” an interpretation that was both bombastic and far-fetched.
He was then permanent secretary at Foreign Affairs under his uncle Deputy Prime Minister Simon Muzenda. He ruled the roost there, telling the peons who worked there whither they shall come and whither they shall go as he willed, without challenge.
But I do not wish to fight old battles with the deceased. The great Professor George Fortune, once confided in me this wisdom. “Ken, the duty of a scholar is to explain why things are the way they are, to quantify and to create structures.”
It is my intention in this letter, to quantify, explain and create structures, using the career of Brother Stan (as we lovingly called him) as an example par excellence. Brother Stan’s ideology and attitude towards the universe is typical of ZANU-PF officials.
Understanding Stanley Mud-enge and the generation of politicians whose demise is now at hand, not by man’s hand, but by nature, one must understand what they studied and what theories were prevalent during their formative years.
Mudenge, a BA Honors major at U-Zee, was brilliant, handsome, ambitious and gregarious. He loved to give us lectures on the Green at Manfred Hodson Hall about African politics and about his great historical obsession, French bishop Charles Maurice de Talleyrand.
To be called a Talleyrand today can be an accolade or a reprimand. Talleyrand, a Catholic bishop in France, under Louis XVI, is by some regarded as a statesman of great resource and skill. By others he is regarded as an atheist (a bishop) a perpetual intriguer who served four governments, from 1791 till he died in 1838.
With no permanent friends, he used power to self serve, expected to be rewarded for services he was supposed to perform as a state official, was famous for his feminine tastes, for his comprehensive gourmet repertoire, and spending an hour each day with his super chef, Careme. Power and life were to be enjoyed.
The measure of success is longevity, no matter what the price. Brother Stan enjoyed life, was amply rewarded for his services, and grabbed whatever he laid eyes on, including Tim Buchan’s farm, a man who regarded him as a friend. All this fits the image of a Talleyrand.
The issue here is that power is its own reward. There are no sissified theories about servant leadership. In his world, like the gentiles, those who were lords expected their subjects to bow down before their lordships, or face severe thrashing or reprimand. Power is maintained by power not by legalities or niceties of religion or philosophy. The man of power is loyal only to himself. Talleyrand became the richest man in France by requesting bribes from German nobles whose lands had been grabbed by Napoleon, either to keep them or to acquire new estates.
We were introduced to this ideology at university. Like all ideologies, it sank slowly among the African intelligentsia and eventually took root.
To this day I am not sure whether Professor Terrence Ranger’s contribution to Zimbabwe nationalism has been fully appreciated. Mudenge’s contribution was that he was an early disciple of Ranger, and he shared these new ideologies with us.
The stalwart secretary in his ministry, Washington Mbizvo, described him as a happy man and a historical god-like figure. Mbizvo may have been correct, except that he was happiest when surrounded by admiring acolytes.
We all extrapolated Ranger’s theory, which became the nationalist narrative. Cecil Rhodes was a godless, lawless gay desperado, who stole 600 000 cattle from the Matabele and grabbed our land well. Death to the wealth-grabbers (vapambi vepfuma).
The significance of this great discovery was the loss of all colonial legitimacy to moral authority. When this is taken together with the ideology that power serves itself and that all power is self-serving, one can see the foundation of the land Chimurenga.
There were no rules, as there were no rules in the first land grab by Rhodes. To remind our readers of Professor Fortune’s wise advice, the duty of the intellectual is to explain why things are the way they are. Mudenge played a part in revolutionising our minds as students and in helping us understand the nature of power.
I was Mudenge’s nemesis. By using Rhodes as a role model, we have recreated the Rhodesian society with a black face.
This of course fits the mantle of Talleyrand, of which Mudenge talked about at U-Zee incessantly. The structures which Talleyrand built by intrigue and treachery all fell apart after his death. They are blamed for the First World. We have learned nothing from Rhodes or from the past.
Farewell my brother.
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