11.11.2001 Feature Article

November - a month for hard thinking

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November - a month for hard thinking
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by Dr Reginald Matchaba-Hove (Zimbabwean) for Financial Gazetta CENTURIES ago, the Roman senate offered to name the month of November after Tiberius Caesar, since July and August had been named after Julius and Augustus Caesar respectively. The modest Tiberius declined, saying: "What will you do if you have 13 emperors?" Wise words from a humble leader. More recently, Union Avenue was renamed Kwame Nkrumah Avenue. "What's in a name?" you might ask, quoting William Shake-speare. Nkrumah of Ghana, like Cecil John Rhodes before him, wanted to see a union of all of Africa. It is perhaps no coincidence that our own first prime minister and first executive president married a Ghanaian and spent crucial formative years in Ghana before fully entering the political scene back home. So perhaps it's no ordinary name change; maybe it's a magical political talisman ahead of elusive presidential elections! Are we seeing visions of a new pan-Africanist giant who will finally complete the pan-Africanist dream of "Uhuru na Umoja" (freedom and unity) with the added new testament of "gutsa ruzhinji" (economic prosperity for all) propelled by "land to the African people!"? Meanwhile, Brother Muammar Gaddafi shouldn't be envious. He should be advised that oil or no oil, his brother is still studying his reference from ruling party stalwart and businesswoman Nyasha Chikwinya before any street is named after him! Although Nkrumah was unquestionably a great a pan-Africanist, we should not forget his more sinister side. Obsessed with power, he amended the constitution so as to become executive president after three years as prime minister. His Convention People's Party (CPP) spawned the Young Pioneers, the Workers' Brigade, the Trades Union Congress, the United Ghana Farmers' Cooperative Council, the National African Socialist Students' Organisation and the Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute. He distrusted the British-trained military and so created a separate President's Own Guards Regiment. The government-controlled Evening News spearheaded a personality cult around Nkrumah. Corruption was rife and the CPP extorted donations from businesses. Following protests against corruption and economic hardships in 1961, Nkrumah forced the resignation and exile of finance minister Gbedemah. Other internal potential rivals such as CPP secretary- general Tawiah Adamafio, CPP executive secretary Coffie Crabbe and foreign minister Ako Adjei were arrested following a bomb attempt on Nkrumah in August 1962. When the court acquitted them, a major clash between the judiciary and the executive ensued and Nkrumah sacked Chief Justice Sir Arku Korsah in December 1963. The colonial Preventive Detention Act was used to detain political opponents. Having cowed his opponents, a sham referendum for a de jure one-party state was then held in February 1964. Hmmn . . . does all this sound familiar? He was eventually overthrown by the military on February 24 1966 while on a trip to China to pursue an elusive peace in Vietnam. Such a great nation reduced to rubble! Thereafter, Ghana went through a vigorous de-Nkrumahisation process. So Union Avenue's new name may not be a good omen after all! Nevertheless, there is a lot we can learn from Ghana's sad past. One of the lessons is not that Nkrumah was overthrown because he did not have a strong women's league like Kamuzu Banda of Malawi and other clones further south! There is much more to learn! (By the way, where is Joshua Nkomo Street?) Also, when are King George VI (KG 6) and other army barracks going to change their names? Imagine one being re-named "Cde Chinotimba Barracks"! That's not as preposterous as it sounds. The man was on television last Sunday bragging: "Jesus said if you see me you see the Father who sent me, and vice versa. Similarly, if you see Chinos, you see Mugabe; if you see Mugabe, you see Chinos!" So opposition MP Paul Themba Nyathi can stop harassing the hapless Minister of Foreign Affairs as to who authorised "Cde Chinos" to welcome and hug visiting Southern Africa Development Community leaders at Harare airport. Also, Solomon Mujuru and other ZANU PF chefs need not wonder anymore why "Cde Chinos" has been offered a Cherokee and other privileges. November is also a month of rebellion. This is the month Ian Smith and his rebels declared their disastrous Unilateral Declaration of Independence. Also, the October Bolshevik Revolution that saw the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II of Russia was actually in November 1917 (October in the old Russian calendar). So, will there be thunder and lightning that will fast-track some into office in November before the presidential elections? Or are we likely to see more fireworks in the opposition following the cowardly assault of female MP Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga and the cheeky attacks on security chief Job Sikhala and his family? What happened to tolerance? And socialist MP Munyaradzi Gwisayi is calling for more land designation with no compensation for farmers while finance guru Eddie Cross calls for the opposite! Similarly, will there be more "dhisinyongoro" (discord) in the ruling party? What with Eddison Zvobgo and Dzikamai Mavhaire holding their own "victory" rally on the same day their top party leaders were at a VIP birthday bash-cum-presidential campaign rally in the same province? Will the new (umafikezolo) appointed party propagandist step into Father Zimbabwe's big shoes without causing tremors in Matabeleland? Only time will tell. However, both parties make the biblical Tower of Babel pale into insignificance in the face of such modern-day confusion! Machikichori! On a brighter note, thumbs up to the youth leaders of both parties for calling upon the youth to avoid being used in violence by unscrupulous politicians. Finally, on his last international visit, the President visited Vietnam, the same country Nkrumah had hoped to visit before he was deposed. The President visited the famous 11th century Temple of Literature and Learning in Hanoi. I have also been fortunate to visit this ancient university during one of my public health visits. In the courtyard stand two arched doors at either end, one representing the path to intelligence and the other the path to wisdom. In the old days, initiates would be asked to choose which door to enter. Only the truly learned few who had fully imbibed in Confucius (Kung Fu-tse) thought would ask for the middle door, so that they could inherit both intelligence and wisdom. It is all to do with balance. Intellect without wisdom is dangerous. Those who think they are clever by murdering with impunity fellow Zimbabweans in the opposition and black and white farmers, extorting money from business and generally harassing the media and others in civil society lack wisdom. Similarly, while some may appear cleverer than those who write "Wo vetsi ahedi!", care needs to be exercised when appealing to our foreign partners to help, avoiding measures that would further damage our nation. So to the radicals on both sides, it will be futile to shout "I've won! I've won!" like the gent in one of the adverts for a popular local opaque brew dubbed "scud" when the country ends in tatters. Winning at what cost? You will have won nothing! We would all have lost immensely for generations to come. We do not need more clever ways to destroy each other. What is required is a little humility the size of a mustard seed and love for our country which transcends petty hatred. We must walk together through the middle path, with the support of our external friends, if we are to be successful masters of our own destiny in the new global village.

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