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Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye: Like the biblical Legion , ED has taken residence in the graveyard

You have praised the gods of silver and gold , bronze and iron , wood and stone , Which do not see or know , But the God who holds your breadth in his hand , You have not glorified ( Daniel 5 ; 23 )

By Luke Tamborinyoka

The strident effort to exhume former President Mugabe’s body and the public display of idolatry early this week at the unveiling of the statue of iconic spirit medium Nyamhita Nehanda Nyakasikana in Central Harare mark the culmination of a tenuous blood-soaked tenure in which the Mnangagwa regime has shown a macabre affinity for graves, human blood and cadavers.

Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye with Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka
Luke-ing the Beast in the Eye with Luke Batsirai Tamborinyoka

As the national crisis begins to bite all and sundry in our world of the living where ordinary Zimbabweans are struggling to put food on the table, the callous government has instead shown a strange penchant to worry only about the dead. It is a witchly disposition which only a heinous regime given to consulting diviners and sorcerers could achieve.

From the concerted government effort to exhume the rotten remains of Robert Mugabe to the lavish statue of Mbuya Nehanda amid a tenuous national crisis, the regime has displayed an unstinting witchly concern only for the dead—and not an iota of care for the living. Indeed, like the biblical Legion, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has taken up permanent residence at the graveyard, deciding on a daily basis whose body to exhume, what rituals to undertake and whose image or statue to sculpt.

We may well have carved out our own niche in the Guiness Book of records as the only people in the world with a government that cares more for corpses than its living citizens. A regime whose budget and expenditure patterns are determined by what the graveyards dictate and never what the living citizenry desire or aspire for. The other day, as civil servants made shrill calls in their legitimate demand for a living wage, this deathly regime promised a whopping US$ 500 terminal package for every dead government employee. They wouldn’t care for working civil servants. They were more enamoured to their corpses. Given the regime’s unstinting fixation with the dead, it appears the guiding Orwellian dictum was that the only good civil servant is a dead one!

The concern for dead and not living beings is plain gothic logic, to say the least.

The current administration was christened through death in a coup in which several people were reportedly killed outside the public glare. The regime kicked off with death, has been sustained by death and will most certainly kill to protect an incumbency so desperate to slip away from their deathly grasp come 2023!

Only on 1 August 2018, barely 48 hours into a stolen tenure, Mnangagwa’s government callously murdered six people in downtown Harare. Sylvia Maphosa (53), Gavin Dean Charles (45), Ishmael Kumire (41), Jealous Chikandira (21), Brian Zhuwawo (26) and Challenge Tauro (20) all had their lives brutally snuffed out by the State. A Commission that Mr Mnangagwa himself instituted revealed that the country’s security services, to which he is Commander-In-Chief, were liable for the gruesome murders.

Indeed, the biblical Legion’s graveyard spirit had kicked off in earnest. For Mr Mnangagwa, it was a grand, grotesque Entry through Death (ED) into his pilfered tenure.

But the vampires’ thirst for human blood was not quenched by the blood gulped during that infant stage of his administration. Five months after the fiends had tasted blood, State Security agents were again implicated in the callous murder of 19 people in January 2019. And this according to none other than the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, an independent body created in terms of the Constitution of the country.

The Legionic death and graveyard spirit continued to linger in the corridors of power and many Zimbabweans believe—and probably rightly so—that the successive deaths of a contingent of military generals starting with the death of Retired Air Marshall Perrence Shiri last year had more to do with human effort than the global pandemic that has been blamed for their demise. On my part, notwithstanding his history, I had created quite an amiable relationship through scholarship with Retired General Douglas Nyikayaramba, a classmate for five yeas since our undergrad days in 2015. He was to remain a companion in scholarship until we graduated with Master’s Degrees in International Relations at the University of Zimbabwe on the 4th of December 2020, just a month before his death.

The regime is always at the graveyard; musing on the next corpse candidate to exhume, to sculpt or to send there! .

A Legionic, graveyard spirit indeed!

Now some one-and-a-half years after his interment, the regime wants to exhume the rotten body of Robert Mugabe. These are people not related to him at all who are so desperate to have in their hands the rotten innards of a decomposing nonagenarian, even against the wishes of his immediate family. The motive only be for ritual purposes. The perennially dangling scarf must have given us adequate warning that the citadel of power was now occupied by a superstitious man deeply stuck in the strange world of sorcery, divination, rituals and perhaps witchcraft.

For this lot, Mugabe must be Exhumed for Divination(ED), perhaps to yield longevity in office for this superstitious lot now in government.

Who would have ascribed this primitively archaic aptitude for sorcery, rituals and divination to a purported new dispensation exercising the power of governance in this brave, digital 21st century? In the era of zoom, twitter and Instagram?

But then we are talking of an administration that has a fiendish affinity for blood, death and the graveyard. A regime divorced from the world of the living who are slugging it out every day under very difficult circumstances.

Perhaps there is nothing shocking that Mnangagwa would so much revel and gloat about cadavers. After all, he is the same man who glowingly spoke about a mortuary as if he were talking about a five star hotel, to the point of offering a prize to the bereaved family whose deceased member would first receive the mortuary’s services.

When you have a “President” of such a grim aptitude who revels in opening mortuaries, the deathly penchant that has gripped the corridors of power begins to snugly fit into context. No wonder, if one were to carry a word-census, the most uttered words under his tenure are, “arrest”, “abduct”, “human rights”, “national hero” are “exhume” and “statue”. It’s a worrying deathly fixation that could be pointing us to a very disturbing fact: Could all this deathly disposition be confirmation that we have a dead government in office?

At a personal level, it was the optics at the unveiling of the iconic Nehanda’s statue that really got me disturbed.

True. No sane Zimbabwean will doubt that Nehanda is an iconic figure in the story of struggle in this country. Nehanda, Chaminuka, Sekuru Kaguvi and so many others across the tribes have always been the backdrop upon which our many struggles have been inspired.

But saluting and revering heroes is one thing, worshipping them is another. Some of us will always salute and render veneration to Nehanda but will never worship her. Worshipping is an exclusive preserve of the Almighty God. The sight of grovelling men, firmly gripping their snuff while murmuring incarnations at the foot of Nehanda’s statue was just something else! It spoke to worship and not veneration, to which some of us draw a line beyond the sand!

I have always argued that the sculpting of Nehanda’s statue is a vain attempt by the regime to freeze time; to immobilise the quest for freedom in this country by making her aspirations static. For Nehanda’s statue figuratively denotes a frozen quest, nay a chilled aspiration.

Nehanda cannot and should not be frozen because Nehanda is a living idea, an enduring quest for freedom and dignity. Nehanda is ubiquitous in the story of struggle in this land. She represents a stubborn and arrogant but fluid desire for freedom by the sons and daughters of this land, a desire that must never be immobilised or statue-tized. Perhaps the statue is an attempt by those in power to halt that desire; to freeze the Nehanda spirit in both space and time.

Yet the spirit of Nehanda can and will not be statue-tized. The national quest for freedom, the Nehanda spirit, cannot be tamed. For it is the same spirit that has driven and inspired young people in the mould of Takudzwa Ngadziore, Tawanda Muchehiwa, Allan Moyo, Obey Tererai Sithole, Makomborero Haruzivishe, Joannah Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri, Netsai Marova and so many others to continue to persistently knock at the patient portal of freedom!

Nehanda, the idea, is alive. Nehanda cannot and should be statue-tized. For Nehanda is a free-spirited, enduring aspiration by the sons and daughters of our hallowed land to be free and to live in dignity and in peace.

The penchant for blood, death, murder, graveyards, statues, exhumations and other deathly vocations is just too astounding to be ignored. It has become a religion of our government. Legion’s graveyard spirit has simply run amok in the very cockpit of our cursed land.

Indeed, the aptitude in government has become exceedingly deathly (ED).

While Zimbabweans, the majority of them Christians, have found Mnangagwa’s statue-making crusade to be akin to a similar enterprise by King Nebuchadnezzar in his last days, I respectfully beg to differ. ED’s macabre, statue-making vocation is more akin to that of Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son who succeeded him.

It was for Belshazzar that the verse that opened this piece was made. For Belshazzar, just like his father Nebuchadnezzar, also engaged in idolatry and comported with sorcerers, diviners, astrologers, magicians and soothsayers. He also grovelled at and worshipped idols and statues. . It was to Belshazzar that the famous words in the bible ” Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin” were scribbled on the wall by a body-less hand just before his tenure was summarily ended through death the very night that Daniel interpreted his dream.

Are we similarly nearing the end of this blood-soaked tenure? Are these increasing paganist tendencies of idolatry a harbinger of our own Belahazzar imminent fate? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Legion’s spirit runs riot in the cockpit of the State as the national leadership takes permanent residence in the graveyard. No one is here to assist us in the world of the living. Our leaders are busy at the graveyard. The despondent nation eagerly awaits the cry from the cemetery to tell us the next corpse to be exhumed or the next spirit medium to be immortalised through a multi-million dollar statue while our clinics and national referral hospitals struggle to acquire bandages and painkillers.

May the good Lord save this our beloved land.

Luke Tamborinyoka is the Deputy Secretary for Presidential Affairs in the MDC Alliance led by Advocate Nelson Chamisa . You can interact with him on his Facebook page or on the twitter handle @ luke_tambo .

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