The conquered write history

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Book review by Jerry Zondo

Title of book: The Rule by Conquest: The Struggle in Mthwakazi
Author: Jonathan Maphenduka
Publisher: Multimedia Box
ISBN: 9780 7974 9615 6
Year of Publication: 2015
Number of pages: 143

History is normally written by a victor who imposes his interpretation on every event and projects his viewpoint only. The victor emphasises his achievements or creates them wherever lacking to boost his position and image. The conquered cannot write history. When ruled by conquest, a subject cannot express a single historical idea without being told to revise the text and reflect the views of the victor. The conquered Maphenduka now writes history and is not apologetic about his recording. He states undivided interest in facts and peaceful resolution of disputes. He wants instability to be avoided. He views Mthwakazi as deserving self-determination.

:Ruled by Conquest" Book Cover
:Ruled by Conquest” Book Cover

The book consists of 13 chapters which reinterpret and provide a different historical view from mainstream history that has always been taught in Zimbabwean schools about Mthwakazi and resistance. There is the usual technical inclusion of foreword, acknowledgements and table of contents. Of major interest to the reader is the passion to present a viewpoint and the jolting of Zimbabwean memories. The conviction to say it and state it runs throughout the text.

Genocide upon genocide
1893 marks the first genocide perpetrated by Zezuru-White coalition force against Mthwakazi with death toll of 18 000, 2 000 short of the 20 000 figure usually touted for the second Zezuru-North Korean genocide. Maphenduka indicates that the Zezuru have always found it necessary to partner foreign forces to wipe out Mthwakazi, first with the British and secondly having been heavily assisted by North Korean military influence.

Mthwakazi of course, has not revenged both genocides perpetrated on them by Zezuru alliances. 652 Zezuru are known to have been in the forefront of the 1893 genocide. With 652 Whites and using weapons of mass destruction, they set mercilessly on Mthwakazi people, killing, raping and burning infrastructure. They shared 150 000 head of national herd as spoils of war in addition to the 800 slaughtered in celebration of victory over Mthwakazi. The slaughter of cattle continues up to this day with some Mthwakazi folk donating continuously for Zanu PF election victory celebrations and certain February movement commemorations annually. Some elephants, buffalo and kinds of venison might now be blessing palates of celebrants too.

Readers might want to reflect further on genocide figures and note that modern armies keep numbers of all people killed – civilian or military – shot directly or in crossfire, bayonetted, buried alive or thrown down a mine shaft or a crocodile infested river. Soldiers are paid for making a body count and keeping accurate figures. Could the 20 000 or so figure have been deliberately thrown around to make light of heavy losses that Mthwakazi actually experienced and to assuage fears of evil thoughts of frightening magnitude?

What should frighten even a casual reader is the thought of genocide, arranging genocide, effecting genocide, hiding that genocide has occurred, not being apologetic about genocide and not caring a hoot that one’s original intention was to wipe out a whole nation. Keeping and using genocidal thinking and living with a mind to wipe out ethnic group(s) should scare any normal human being. A genocidal mentality is a sick condition to live with and it has no place in a modern, peaceful and democratic world. And not to have fought in the World War II, to think that killing Mthwakazi is one’s World War II is an even sicker mindset. Avid readers of Maphenduka might want to think and read further about such issues.

Matabeleland Order in Council, Rule by Conquest
The 1893 genocide ensured white domination over Mthwakazi and rule over the conquered nation. Maphenduka states that the Matabeleland Order in Council instrument – promulgated July 18 1894 – (Foreword) was to legalise Cecil John Rhodes’ imperialist enterprise in Matabeleland and further lagalise commission of subsequent genocide to be perpetrated on Mthwakazi. The Ndebele would then be ruled as a conquered people without recourse to self-determination. People would be like muzzled oxen without the wherewithal to graze on crops or grass of any form. Until the wind of nationalism taking over Black thinking, there would not even be the chance to resort to violence.

Mthwakazi killed Zezuru?
Gukurahundi has always been justified as a Zezuru act of revenge against an assumed aggression of Mthwakazi on the Zezuru. Historians including Maphenduka are yet to give a satisfactory and convincing account how Mthwakazi committed “injustices against the Zezuru” (Page 60). It is not clear how the Zezuru have taken it upon them to get angry on behalf of Mambo groups who might have had contacts with the King Lobhengula Khumalo. The Karanga, more immediate to the Ndebele would have some bone to chew with that nation, but the Zezuru seem to have accepted a sceptre of kingship and have seen it fit to avenge supposed wrongs committed against some Shona groups. Why? How? Curious readers would want more information on that.

Father Zimbabwe is Father Bulawayo
Maphenduka notes the irony of late Joshua Nyongolo Nkomo (slave to nationalistic agenda and black majority rule: Page 72), former vice-president of Zimbabwe who had brushes with the law and State assassins and took refuge in London, England, prior to signing of the unity agreement with Robert Mugabe (keen on Zezuru agenda and Shona majority rule: Page 72), being honoured in Bulawayo through the main street and a statue to his shape and name, yet he had always been celebrated as “Father Zimbabwe”. Well Father Zimbabwe might as well be “Father Bulawayo”! Nkomo is celebrated more in Harare than anywhere else in the country while the former icon was once a laughing stock of the capital.

He even earned the unlikely criticism of senility from Joice Mujuru – once celebrated in Zanu PF and a dancer of note witnessed by her unplugged celebration in 1983 when she ululated in excitement over the Tshangana River “filling up in blood” as the 5 Brigade launched the second genocide over the Ndebele. No street or statue of Nkomo, says Maphenduka, (Page 74) stands in Harare or any other city in Zimbabwe – Father Zimbabwe indeed. Readers might want to explore how a Father Zimbabwe stands only in Mthwakazi.

Colonial occupation of Matabeleland
Rule by conquest in contemporary set-up has seen rapid colonisation of Mthwakazi. Whole districts of Mashonaland have been uplifted and settled in parts of Matabeleland with administration and culture which they have gone on to impose on their neighbours (Page 59). Many Mthwakazi families have been uprooted to give way to the foreigners and to open up pastures for invaders’ cattle. Maphenduka believes that the Ndebele in the July 2014 elections voted overwhelmingly for Zanu PF. Probably they did not. Zanu PF got a thank you vote from all Shona that have been forcefully settled all over Mthwakazi. Mthwakazi has the grave tendency of boycotting elections. Historians might have to look more closely at that issue.

1979 Grand Plan
The plan (Pages 59 to 71) is one of the clearest documents that pronounce Zanu PF’s vision for the future of Zimbabwe. It paints the deep intention of the Zezuru to impose themselves fully on all organs of power and influence. And that includes uprooting Mthwakazi from land, natural resources and any forms of influence. The plan uses language, political advantage, access to education and health as the means of making Mthwakazi so uncomfortable as to want to relocate somewhere.

And when Mthwakazi has gone to South Africa, up flares xenophobia and her people are told in no uncertain terms that they are uneducated and unfit for decent jobs in that country. Historians might want to chase a little further after the implementation and effect of the 1979 Grand Plan. It has generated genocide. It justifies occupation. Its outlook is fully colonial. It is implemented through brutal force and sadistic jubilation.

Arrangement of 1980 election results
History has repeated itself since the 1980 elections. Zanu PF has won all election in Zimbabwe. The 1980 elections were arranged by Lord Arthur Christopher John, Baron Soames in a private meeting with Robert Mugabe (Page 86). Joshua Nkomo suffered for that connection with communist Soviet Union. He could only be given 20 seats out of the 100 first parliament allocations. Do Matabeleland and the Midlands still get a 20-seat allocation for parliamentary elections? Readers might want to look closely at such issues.

British compliance on Mthwakazi subjugation
“The British government . . . willfully, deliberately and consciously transferred the Matabeleland Order in Council and Rule by Conquest instruments of degradation, torture, rape and other related crimes to a government whose well-known philosophy extols revolution and violence,” Maphenduka argues (Page 123). Order in Council is an instrument established in 1894 to colonially occupy and rule Mthwakazi.

The Rule by Conquest is a system of routing and reigning over Mthwakazi as a subjugated and defeated people. The British did that and Maphenduka indicates that with independence in 1980, the Zimbabwean government took over all responsibilities of such arrangements when they should not have. The British therefore are answerable and should play a role in resolving the Mthwakazi question.

Deprive Ndebele of education
Rule by conquest in Shona domination of Mthwakazi, argues Maphenduka, entails making sure Mthwakazi is cut off from all privileges and statuses that make for decent citizenry. The approach is simple – teach Mthwakazi Shona; give her limited enrolment at universities; exclude her from presidential scholarships; give her temporary teaching jobs; remove Mthwakazi temps for qualified Shona teachers and you have immediate Shona dominance.

Maphenduka indicates that the late Nathan Shamuyarira password was the expression “deprive the Ndebele of education” (Page 69) and take over all their territories, jobs and opportunities. Shamuyarira could have been right because most of Mthwakazi is now resident in neighbouring countries and being constantly reminded in Zimbabwe that her citizenry are uneducated tsotsis with little chance of top, decent jobs, especially in South Africa.

Drop case, join Tsvangirai
Engagement with the United Kingdom to revive and administer the Order in Council and Rule by Conquest instruments has received one response – drop the case, join Tsvangirai (Page 120). But Morgan Tsvangirai is not the answer to the Mthwakazi question. Tsvangirai is too ignorant of Mthwakazi and would not have the mental ability to decipher the smallest idea of what the Ndebele want. He has shown over the years that he understands very little about the Ndebele. He might likely plunge Mthwakazi into a worse abyss.

Zimbabwe a time bomb
Maphenduka’s main worry is that Zimbabwe might be a time bomb awaiting explosion because of ignoring the Mthwakazi question. The future might be bleak and dangerous and events later might destroy what the United Nations has been trying to achieve all along through efforts of peaceful coexistence.

Could there be reparation and restitution?
Reparation could be in terms of the Ndebele national head, minerals, claims against Gukurahundi, rights of victims and survivors, compensation being made available to the whole of Mthwakazi. Would the UK or Zimbabwe accept responsibility for that?

Further reading
Authors in the Maphenduka category include Andrea Dworkin, Joshua Nyongolo Mqabuko Nkomo, Preben Kaarsholm, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Leon Uris, Sabelo J Ndlovu Gatsheni.

United Kingdom would do well to read and scrutinise Maphenduka. The United Nations could make a little peep into the book and learn a little about Mthwakazi thinking. All genocidal Zimbabwean citizens might receive the right kind of medicine from one read of Maphenduka Maphenduka’s viewpoint too might be one to ponder over – he is not apologetic about cessation or anything else. Could a sensitive reader be disturbed by the serious emotional commitment that Maphenduka makes in the narrative?