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In defence of Fadzayi Mahere, not that she needs it

By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

Have you ever wanted to quote a song out of context? You know, when there is a line you like but it is just one line and the rest of the song has absolutely nothing to do with what you are on about? And do it so well people think you are so eloquent. Or lyrical.

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka

A long, long time ago, when boarding school study time meant time spent drafting, perfecting and then redrafting letters to be delivered at “see me” time, when English was learnt more during these sessions than in any lesson the school had to offer, we used to do this all the time. Adapting songs, I mean. (Or my classmates did l mean, I was a hard working student grateful for the fees you were paying, in case you read this; mother) This was before the tweet, before whatsapp, hell this was before mobile phones. Like I said, a long, long time ago. There were experts in this art, gurus like one late friend whose adaptations of the lyric to lyrics was legendary.

One favourite song often cited in these missives (you did not think we called them mere letters did you?) was Lucky Dube’s epic song: Slave. It was common to start a missive with “Ministers of religion have visited me many times to talk about it and are worried about my propinquity for convulsions because my heart palpitates at the thought of you but that is only because l am a slave, a prisoner, a legal slave to your heart.”

Only the song is about alcoholism and the confessions of a liquor slave.

In this life that we live, 36 years after independence with nothing to show for it except for a very well spread out diaspora, we as a people appear to have fine tuned the art of misquoting and misdirection. Only we do not call it that, in fact we do not call it anything. We just do. It has been so woven into the fabric of our society that we do not recognise that we are doing it.

We adapt.

Just as we adapted songs that did not have anything to do with what we wanted to say until they did, we adapt life situations to suit our needs. And when things cannot be adapted, we recall that when Leonard Dembo said “nhoroondo dzako, dzinondizvimbira nokuti zvino wandichembedza, ndave kukusemesa” we really couldn’t translate that into anything useful so we  merely sung it out loud. So we find those things we cannot adapt and shout them out long enough until they seem normal. Or believable.

The current sad state of our civic movements is because of a combination of these two traits. With the economy imploding, there was always going to be space for protest voices. So when Evan Mawarire took to his videocam and started paumbaring, before disappearing from the stage; it was inevitable that we would see others adapting to this form of protest.

In short order, an embarrassment of riches in elocution started to manifest, at home and abroad, as flag drapped citizens became little (and big, pretty, short etc) Evans. The art of the protest voice, our very own modern day Inzvi reanodana murenje, had been suitably appropriated.

Ebagum, like the survivor that he is, did nothing or very little curb this new form of protest. Or so it seemed. But recent evidence would seem to suggest that he never stopped scheming and plotting. Because we have witnessed a sudden worrying trend. Whispers about compromise, about abuse of donor money, about relationships with Zanu PF parents or ZimFirst leaders have started circulating.

The song, is being changed. And like Dembo’s Dudzai, when it cannot be translated; they are shouting.

We will likely never know the truth around these associations or if they are probative of anything. We will never know, even if we really should not care: l mean seriously, how many of us take cues on who to vote for from our parents, seriously? How many of us even care to talk to parents about our political beliefs?

My mum found out l was SRC President from the newspaper, because vanga vandikohomedza kuti keep your nose clean at UZ. But when she did, she did not disown me. Is it a stretch to imagine that Fadzayi might just have a mind of her own? That she can elocute without taking instructions from a father who may or may not even…..why are we even here? Whose song are we singing when we talk about this?

But the seed of doubt has been planted. And that is all Ebagum needs. Remember how Mai Mujuru once said that he keeps a file on everyone? It would be naive to suppose that his security services do not keep files on his opponents, real and imagined.

And once we accept that possibility, is it really a stretch to imagine that they would carry out a targetted release of this information to do damage to the opposition and the civic movements? Consider this: why did we suddenly start talking about Fadzayi Mahere’s parentage around the time that she tried to valiantly pull munhu wese ku road?

She has been vocal for a long time, and far as l can tell her parents were still her parents then? Now, l do not know who her father is or who he worked for, or works for, but should that be the song? Last l checked, she was talking about Bond notes. But once her credibility is put on trial, she is compromised. And we lose one more voice. And l ask you; who will talk about Bond notes now? Probably no one, and they will come.

But, knowing us, we will adapt to that too.

Just as now we are adapting again, to another reality, that these social movements are not what they claim to be. Rather than focus on the ills they are talking about, we are subliminally being asked to focus instead on where they get their funding, whose daughter is this or that person, whose proxy is so and so.

The song has been changed, and we adapt. One minute we were singing “musanete kusvikira tatora ivhu redu” and the next we are on “zvikomana zvokwenyu, zvigeza mugovera”. All very entertaining no doubt, but ultimately pointless.

In Zanu PF, ever since the beginning, conflicts have always been among equals, never against Ebagum. Muzenda had beef with Kombayi. Muzenda had a tiff with Josiah Tungamirai. Mujuru had his conflict with Makoni. Moyo fights with Kasukuwere and Mnangagwa. Now, either Ebagum is cursed with squabbling subordinates, or he is an expert puppetmaster pulling the strings to keep attention away from himself. The piper playing the tunes while we dance ourselves away from where we should be focusing on: him.

And the sad reality in all this? We adapt. And sing new songs. We make jokes. And sing new songs. We poke fun. And sing new songs.

Our entire politics adapts to these games too. Weren’t we talking about Simba Chikore’s $1,7m a month salary when we suddenly discovered that Prof Jonathan Moyo might be a candidate for arrest? Given how much the Professor has made himself popular (kkkk) would it be a stretch to suppose that whoever pulled out that file knew that our attention would turn away from the nepotism and financial profligacy of the First Family to the hapless Professor and his well intentioned largesse to his constituents? Tsve kutaura nyaya yokuti Baba Singapore Chikore vari kutambira pakati kurei pachavuraya Air Simbabwe, nanga nanga naProfessor akatengera vanhu mabhasikoro.

We think we are setting the agenda, but l think we aren’t. We are being had by a political master. The drip-drip release of information that riverts attention is too calibrated to be random. Consider this: just when Morgan Tsvangirai started addressing rallies again, we get a story (false) suggesting that he got given money by Ebagum. Just when #thisflag was about to have a credible replacement for Evan, we find out that her father may or may not have worked for the government.

Ebagum knows how to make songs go out of context. It is the art of the perfect lie: start with the truth, then add your spice. 1. Fadzayi Mahere is a good advocate. 2. She recently represented a government company. 3. Oh, and her father muCIO. Suddenly, that she represented a big client is nothing to do with 1, but all about 3. And suddenly a hard working advocate becomes compromised nezvinhu zvisingambopindirani. Shame!

It is the art of diverting the song. Of changing tunes. And he does it very well. Mitchell Jambo did a song called ‘Ndini Uyo’, in which he travels from his house to sort an issue and on his journey meets different musicians, and each time he meets them they give him advice by singing an except from masongs avo akaita mukurumbira. It is like a mixed tape in one song. It is a mishmash that works very well. It is also very entertaining.

Ebagum’s version is not that entertaining. Which is sad because knowing us, we will adapt too.  If we haven’t already.