SOCIAL media is a not all bad. It is in a sense a barometer of the times, at least insofar as the discourse around topical subjects in a society is concerned.
This is exactly why any journalist worth his proverbial salt will want to browse through it for information purposes daily to keep abreast. There is a symbiotic relationship between social media and mainstream media. The social media space is riddled with fake news bombs/ However, this is really not what my instalment today is about. Something has been trending this past week and it reminded a friend of mine of a quote from a Bob Dylan song.
It's Not Dark Yet
"Shadows are falling…if we are in denial of the truth. How many years will it take to heal us? We have been here all day and time is running away. There's not even room enough to be anywhere. It's not dark yet, but it's getting there."
A little about Dylan…He is the first songwriter to win the much-coveted Nobel Prize in Literature. Dylan received the award in 2016 amidst a lot of hoopla. The award he received is a gold medal with an image of a young man sitting under a laurel tree who listens to the Muse. It carries an inscription: "Inventas vitam iuvat excoluisse per artes" which translates into "And they who bettered life on earth by their newly found mastery". Dylan is not Zimbabwean but he wrote for all time and clearly all people. This is the artist's power when their muse is truth. What is our truth as Zimbabweans?
Right now the Gukurahundi chronicles are being churned out and by chronicles I mean the narrative around what happened at the difficult period of our nation's history between 1983 and 1987. It was a time of suspicion; it was a time of slaughter.
That there was disputation between political gladiators in the nationalist movement is not under dispute. That there was a one-party state obsession by the ruling party is also not under dispute. That the revolution ended up cannibalising this nation's children is also not disputed. My understanding of the period from talking to victims and those who lived through those difficult times gave me what I must humbly concede is a glimpse of the gaping hole in our nation's soul. So that the two main political parties fought a vicious war whose collateral damage was the citizenry is again a matter of historical record. The justification for the atrocities in the internecine nationalist theatre of politics boggles the mind and can only be informed by an awesome leap in logic.
Nothing will ever justify the wanton destruction of human life. The pretext of curbing insurrection is hardly justification, but what do I know except maybe the Nuremberg trials or The Hague trials of the Rwandan genocide? Yes, it is easy for me to say with hindsight that the decision to kill thousands of civilians is not justifiable.
Actually, we need a full account of the history and why it was deemed necessary to take that route. Proper attribution must be made of who did what, why and where.
There is a reason why, with thorough investigation, there have been trials for war crimes after wars really. This is hopefully a self- correcting mechanism for combatants in conflicts to understand that the future will hold them accountable for the innocent blood of their fellows dripping from their hands. Our nation can longer afford to hide behind sweeping generalisations about all the players. We need the specifics. All of them.
What I have heard over years are the expressions of sentiments by those who have not delved deeper to face victims at a personal level to dismiss the cries of the aggrieved. You really have that luxury in your armchair. You are not affected. You lost no loved ones. Thus it is just easy to dismiss to horrific annihilation of whole communities in retribution by those who had arrogated to themselves the power to do as much. I do not like politicians for the reason that people are treated cynically like pawns in a game of chess. Both sides of the current political divide in our country have made stunningly insensitive utterances where human lives were concerned. One said that the people who marched after the July 31 elections were stupid to do so or words to that effect. People died on that dark day. People. Another politician is on record as saying that Cyclone Idai was a blessing in disguise.
The context of the latter comment was really the American donation to the Chimanimani victims' effort. The donation was taken as a sign of thawing relations.
But what did that even matter in that moment? These examples show you that people do not matter as much as the grabbing and hoarding of power. No one is clean in politics, do not be fooled by the rhetoric. People were used cynically in this nation's past and will continue to be. Still, the blood of Abel calls out to Cain. Where is thy brother? Cain counters that he is not his brother's keeper. As Dylan puts it he: "Do not even hear the murmur of a prayer, it's not dark yet, but it's getting there."
The Gukurahundi chronicles
This past week the country has been seized with a ghost, a blast from our past. The skeletons are literally tumbling out as social media is awash with tales of what happened. After all, the discussion of the terrible time is no longer "criminalised".
The problem we really have-and I spoke to a former Zapu combatant about the matter-is that there is not enough documenting of what happened from both sides. Zapu by the way had both Shona and Ndebele people in both leadership and at ground floor contrary to what some may think.
During Gukurahundi, both suffered greatly from the terror with varying degrees of course because of ethnic considerations. The veteran I spoke to told me that he knows Shona as well as Ndebele people who were killed for their ties to ZAPU.
I am also aware that there were tribalists within both parties whose actions caused the death of innocents across the divide.
Those who lived through those times will tell you what they went through within Matabeleland and the Midlands. Generally speaking, Zimbabwe was not a safe space for anyone because of political and tribal intolerance. The natives read from the colonial script and played out its most hideous and malevolent vision of Africa: the heart of darkness.
We cannot deny the truth like fumbling toddlers, the unvarnished truth of our nation. We must talk and stop shifting the buck. The truth does not have to look the way we want it to look and, in this cycle of history, we have a moment to reckon with it courageously. It is coiling out anyway.