A crisis of leadership? I don’t think so.

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“It is a duty of loyal vassals to tell their lords the truth in its proper shape and essence without enlarging it out of flattery or softening it for any idle reason. I would have you know, Sancho, that if the naked truth were to come to the ears of princes, unclothed in flattery, this would be a different age. “ Cervantes, Don Quixote.

By Shaun Matsheza,

Imagine you are part of a scientific  expedition, and you  are lost somewhere in the jungle.  You have lost your bearings, and you have to figure out what to do.  There are various choices available to you as a team.

You could all split up, and hope one or some of you go(es) in the right direction- though breaking up into individuals or smaller teams also means that you are all more vulnerable to whatever dangers may lurk in the undergrowth. It also means that those who go the wrong way are doomed to die. 

Or you could stick together, and choose to make a decision to move in one direction as a group, helping each other out. The entire group’s survival depends on making the right decision, and effectively following through on it. Everyone makes it, or everyone dies: one for all, and all for one.

The question is; if you are all equally leaders, with equal opinions, whose word determines which way you go? Do you all stand there bickering over who should lead, or wringing your hands, until some search party-or more likely a hungry carnivore- finds you?

Crisis of leadership

“There are many things wrong with this country. But it’s easy to fix them. All that’s needed is some real leadership. When we have leaders who clearly explain what’s wrong — and what needs fixing and how, by whom and by when, the people will follow. Easy!”

If only Zimbabwe had the right leaders, the argument goes, we would be in a much better position. There’s much truth to this statement. But as is the case with most truths, there is another side of the coin that is just as true: our country faces a serious lack of  good followers.

Our leaders need good followers

Leadership, not matter how inspired or effective it is, is just one part of the whole. The other half of the equation is good followership. The problem in Zimbabwe, I believe, is limited understanding and practice of good political followership: everyone wants to be a leader.

Anthony B. Robinson states that ‘(political) followership may be defined as the ability to effectively follow the directives and support the efforts of a leader to maximize a structured organization.’  Sounds simple enough.

However, he also notes that the term “followership” is often linked to negative and demeaning words like ‘passive, weak, and conforming.’ For this reason, everyone wants to be a leader, but hardly anyone wants to be a follower. 

Zimbabwean followership: Urimunhu wani?

A prevalent view of political leadership is that it is a  top-down and agency-driven process.  Zimbabwean politics, in particular, is overly fixated on the capabilities of leaders- such that joining a political program appears to entail unthinking subjugation to the will and intellect of a single man, as opposed to joining a long term plan with a broad, clear vision and strategy that supersedes the identity of whoever leads it at the moment. In a prefiguring of what we later term dictatorship, a single man is supposed to have all the answers. Think of it as signing up with the Israelites, but only because Moses is the leader, not because the point of the trip itself is to reach Canaan. Zimbabweans have had so many Moseses, that we’ve forgotten the point of our own journey. And this example makes it abundantly clear who Pharoah is.

In our current setup, it is not the merits of a political program that determine its success, but rather the surname it carries. Our current crop of opposition political leaders cannot imagine themselves ever being followers, as this would demean them. Unenge waakunzi munhu wani? They would rather hold on to their- admittedly hard won- fiefs, than make the hard decisions that will entail personal loss, but contribute to the greater good: a new democratic dispensation that will heal the country from the ravages that the clueless ZANU PF regime has wreaked upon it. 

Any surprise then, at the tug-of-war that characterizes our contemporary political scene?

Not submission

Good followership should not be equated to ‘passive submission’. Rather, it means taking good care of leaders, done out of a sense of gratitude for their willingness to take on the responsibilities of leadership, and a sense of faith and hope that their capacities and their potential will be enough to achieve the collective goal. 

It comes from a recognition that successful leaders get to be so with help from good followers (who may be more technically skilled than the leader in many areas, but choose to put the overarching goal over and above their own egos, and trust that the leader acts in the interest of that goal.)

A team made up entirely of strikers

Whenever I have conversations with compatriots, I get the impression that everyone feels they have the capacity to lead just as good as, or even better than, all the current crop of leaders.  But if everyone is a leader, who gets to play the other roles?

We want leaders to deliver, but do we expect ourselves, as followers, to deliver too? We have to realize that good followership is demanded of us; supporting leaders, and assisting them to lead well. This in no way diminishes us, if the goal is big enough. 

And those who understand good followership are bound to become better leaders-even simply from being able to,in their own decision making, better understand and leverage the perspectives of those around them.

We are in it together

One of the most crucial characteristics of an effective follower is the willingness to tell the truth, because bad followership breeds tyrants.

My aim is not to undermine the importance of having good leadership, and neither is this a rallying call to sycophancy – a quick scan of the Herald will let you know that we already have enough of that. It is that establishment to whom the quote at the beginning is directed, as well as those people who bafflingly maintain that all is fine in Zimbabwe- refusing to tell the emperor about his clothes.

No one person will lead Zimbabweans to their freedom. We apparently expect an omniscient messiah, perhaps like how some members of ZANU PF feel that they have found theirs in Robert Mugabe. But that is bad followership, and look at the bad leadership it has wrought us.

I write this merely so that we can evaluate where we stand as a nation. We have to make peace with the idea that no leader will have all the answers, and it is the role of some of us to become followers, and use our contribution to bridge that gap.

Subjugation to the idea, and not the man

It is like the exploration team in the jungle: recognizing the need to subjugate their egos to the most capable, with the overarching goal of saving everyone.

And capability is a very fluid and context-bound concept: Winston Churchill was a great war leader for Britain, but not so much in peace time. Perhaps striking the rock twice had nothing to do with Moses not arriving in Canaan: perhaps God knew that he was a great trek leader, but would have failed to capture Jericho and lead the Israelites forward, like Joshua. However, while Moses led, the Israelites followed, and when Joshua led, they did the same.  They reached Canaan. The goal of arriving superseded the identity of the leader.

The expedition has a very clear overarching goal: finding a way out of the jungle and back to civilization, otherwise everyone rots in the jungle.

The success of the expedition as a whole depends on everyone playing their role in making sure that the team makes it back to the basecamp : one will know how to find water along the way, another how to trap birds, and yet another will lend his strength to carry those that are fatigued-but everyone makes it to basecamp together.

They may argue about how to get out of their predicament, but there is no time to debate whether there is a predicament or not; not when you can hear the beasts roaring in the distance. 

This is not much different from the situation facing this great house of stone today. Yes, we are all born leaders. But until our political leaders themselves learn how to be effective followers, I’m afraid we’ve got a much longer stretch in this driest of wildernesses.

27 Years 27 Lessons

Super cool thoughts!

Imantumelo

Things I learnt in my 27 years of life

Yes! I will be turning 28 in just a few hours! And well, just 2 years before hitting the big 30! I really do not know how to feel about it really. Part of me is freaking out that I am getting older, but the other part of me is like “hey … the older the wiser and the more sophisticated right? I mean, like wine …some things get finer with age…”  I hope that’s the same in my situation. Anyways, 27 years on planet Earth, I have learnt a lot of things, here are some of them in no particular order.

  1. FAMILY IS IMPORTANT

I cannot stress this enough, no matter what you are going through, bad or good you have to share it with family. They are your rock no matter what and they can never let you down…

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A look in the Cashbert Mirror

Image courtesy of The Herald

Cuthbert Dube: This man is all of us.

A battle lost or won is easily described, understood and appreciated, but the moral growth of a great  nation requires reflection, as well as observation, to appreciate it. – Frederick Douglass

I remember this one woman in the township, a friend of my sister’s, that everyone knew was HIV positive, though she never admitted it, understandably to escape the stigma that the disease carries. Yet, she was known to seek solitary time after meals, presumably to take her ARV’s. Regular visits to the hospital were explained away with another chronic disease; I can’t remember whether it was diabetes, or cancer, or athritis; but anything else except what it really was. This is understandable, as social stigma can be an even more debilitating effect of the disease than the physical symptoms. So everyone played along, and asked how the “cancer” treatment was progressing.

What was not so easy to comprehend though, was her husband, who kept insisting that it was not HIV he was suffering from, that he was not sick at all, even as the lymph nodes on his neck ballooned out and his weight dropped at terminal velocity. He refused to take ARV’s and would rather take his ‘dignity and pride’ to the grave than be seen queuing at the local clinic.

We are that second guy, fellow Zimbos. We are terminally ill; and unless we accept the proper diagnosis of our condition, we will continue to be ill and to suffer from a disease that could be, if not cured, at least managed. Before we can embark on a treatment regime, we need to have a thorough and accurate diagnosis, and we have to accept it for what it is, for better or for worse.

We are a conflicted lot who have yet to make full sense of who we are and what we stand for. This is best illustrated in how we consider ourselves to be so very conservative and traditional, and the model proponents of Ubuntu. So much so that when we look at our neighbours in Southern Africa, we put our noses up in the air as the regional paragons of virtue (inhema here?), and  indeed this is true in how we talk. Yet our actions say otherwise.

I have only my experience, and no statistics or studies to back up my claims (hey, I’ve got just as much right to an opinion as the next man)…but visit any of the popular night spots, which are usually packed, and observe our accepted version of exotic dancers, some of whom have barely reached sixteen years of age. Ask yourself how Bev and Zoey became household names, despite everyone swearing that they couldn’t stomach their antics. Who goes to the shows, then? How many people are at church services on sunday praying for a miracle hangover cure, in addition to the miracle money they expect the “prophet” to  magically conjure? Attend just one kitchen tea party, or a stokvela; join any Zimbabwean dominated Whatsapp group, or any of the multiple facebook pages that share obscenities in Shona and Ndebele.  Go there, and come back and preach that conservative talk with conviction. I would have to call you a liar. We are a nation full  of repressed desires, like adolescent school kids.

Sex sells, this is the case in almost every human society, so Zimbabwe is not unique in that regard. But what is striking is how much we try to deny what we find fascinating. A glance at our media landscape will tell you that Martin Gumbura is probably the most spoken about individual in Zimbabwe, taking the spot from a formerly unknown Pokello, and we all know what she became famous for. We are enthralled by the tales told of Gumbura’s exploits, and we have heard, in breathtaking high definition detail, of the activities he is alleged to have engaged in with his haremful of spouses.

Of course, I in no way condone the man’s actions: a predator, whether donning church robes or wearing glasses at the State House, is still a predator. But the tragedy is that the story has been spun as less about addressing the rape allegations and the misogynistic tendencies of the man, but more as fodder for a nation’s deprived, and consequently depraved, sexual imagination.

Reading the comments under the numerous articles about the case, one can’t help but notice the envious tones that obviously underlie some of them. The vilification comes with a begrudging sort of envy. I cannot count how many comments I’ve read, of men drooling over the disgraced pastor’s bevy of beauties. The eyes covet, yet the tongues lash the man for living a fantasy that many would embrace with open arms.

This moral ambivalence is not unique to the realm of sexual matters.

Since the story of Cuthbert Dube’s excesses came out, almost everyone has been rushing to make some form of capital out of it: to vilify Dube and make it seem like he is an aberration of human nature, a Frankensteinian creature, some supernatural monster disinterred from the depths of hell itself. The opposition has found a talisman, a living breathing example that indeed after the July 31st elections ZANU PF has failed (ironically, as if a corruption case is something newsworthy in our beautiful land). The media has found a topic to rival the Gumbura case in tittilating their readership, and is busy at it like a hungry dog tossed a dry bone. (Look at me, I’m penning an article too) . And while these irrelevant distractions occupy our attention and act as a political pressure release valve (much to Jonathan Moyo’s delight), the real story remains out of the spotlight.

Zimbabwe is struggling.

I don’t mean to say we should condone this vulture’s behaviour. Unlike Matthew Takaona’s baffling piece, which I found akin to someone exonerating Hitler simply because he also built Germany’s envied highway system, the autobahn, this is not an attempt to cleanse Dube’s character. He is already too soiled, even for the renowned waters of the river Jordan.

Instead, I’d just like for us all to see ourselves in the fitting mirror that he provides. The honest truth is that Cuthbert Dube is the face of all of us, as Zimbabweans. We are so quick to point out the speck in our brother’s eye (a huge one, in brother Cashbert’s case), yet we fail to admit that had most of us been in his shoes, we probably would have done the same. Or worse. Truly, to paraphrase Achebe, how can we expect the man to spit out the juicy morsel that the gods put into his mouth?

A major problem that our decade-long sojourn in the economic wilderness has created: we are not fazed by large sums of money. If you’ve handled a hundred trillion dollars before, then what is a mere half-a-million? Our dance in the doldrums has also left a legacy of entitlement, and the desire for quick bucks. During the “dark times,” if you had the foreign currency, it was possible at one point to generate a thousand dollars in the space of a day. Seemingly, we are all still looking for that one zhet that will leave us set for life. No, Cashbert was no aberation to the norm. He was just luckier than most, and found a convenient spot at the trough.

We have been fed the lie that our high level of education, lauded as one of the best in Africa, will guarantee us the posh lifestyles that our heretofore baases had. We see the flashy lives of the noveau riche as they cruise the streets of the sunshine city, and pour ciroc down clogged city drain pipes, and we feel entitled to the same. Our sense of entitlement is the reason why ZANU PF’s indigenization drive has garnered much support at the expense of the MDC. While the MDC was busy offering people jobs,  ZANU PF was offering them mining claims and the ownership of shares, regardless of whether those people understood what a share is, or whether those promises have materialized or not.

In Zimbabwe, no one wants to work, not really. People want to be the boss, the one who steers the vessel, and not the rugged sailor who tugs at the oars and provides the kinetic energy for the ship. Bhora Mugedhi makes everyone a striker, but you can’t have a football team of only strikers. The shot has to be built elegantly from the back. We can can’t all be bosses. But unfortunately, we have seen the perks that people can get simply from being at the right place at the right time, and from singing the right political tune. If Zimbabwe was a merit-based society where hard work paid off, would Chenjerai Hunzvi be such a familiar name? Would we know anything about Jabulani Sibanda? Would all these people we  publicly hate, and secretly envy, be where they currently are?

We remain victims of the quick-buck syndrome. ‘Let’s chase out the foreigners’ ,we say, ‘they are taking everything from us.’ How about taking a moment and learning from them instead? The Pakistani businessman with his small shop full of trinkets  understands the idea of delayed gratification. He understands the fact that while hard work rarely ever pays off in a lump-sum, you can still make a million dollars if you sell millions of needles at ten cents each. But Zimbos? No. We want the quick deal, and then we want to get into a private jet and gloat to everyone else, like the now-legendary “Sir” Wicknell ‘Biggie’ Chivayo, who is just one of the symptoms of a sick society, molding from within.

The Chinese philosophical concept of yin and yang emphasizes the importance of balance and unity in the face of apparent duality. There are always at least two sides to a story. Esteemed compatriots, maybe this is one case where it helps to look East. Perhaps I’m misguided, and barking up the wrong tree, but I think we need to take a close look at ourselves and acknowledge the inherent paradoxes we encapsulate. Only with brutal honesty can we really deal with the problems besetting our country. While we cannot take the time to meditate collectively as a nation, we can at least use the media we have, to reflect and to introspect. This is the only way we will reach a deeper understanding of the problems bedevelling us, and reach a better diagnosis of our current predicament.

It is only when we all realize just how complicit we all are in  creating the current shoddy state of our nation that we can take effective action. An honest and proper diagnosis reveals that what Cuthbert Dube did is just an amplified version of what the same civil servant who is complaining about his PSMAS contributions did this very morning, when he asked for a bribe to simply enter a bona-fide Zimbabwean into the national registry; an action that takes a few minutes, and for which the civil servant draws a salary. The same policeman whose medical bills were not paid last year, regardless of the fact that he was a fully subscribed member of a medical aid scheme, is the selfsame guy who is accepting a $5 bribe on Luveve road in Bulawayo as you read this article. I would also not find it hard to believe that there are some in Zimbabwe who are, in comparative wealth, to Cuthbert Dube what he is to the civil servant. We are a spectacularly wealthy nation, despite what the analysts and polls say. Ask Obert Mpofu.

Zimbabweans are a resourceful people, and the last decades have necessitated an admirable craftiness. Despite all prognostications, we weathered the storm of a hyper-inflationary environment, and we lived to tell the tale from houses that still stand. It took a lot of creativity, but tattered as it was, our will as a nation weathered the storm, and we still stand, like the silent stones at Great Zimbabwe that have weathered many a rainy season. But many adaptive behaviours can also turn into impediments when conditions in the environment change. We have gotten used to bending the rules. So much so that, even when it’s easier to just follow the rules, we improvise ways to make it less straightforward. Everything has to be a zhet.

Our behaviour as a nation is so corrupt, that to put people like Happison Muchechetere and Cuthbert Dube up on the altar is a pitifully inadequate sacrifice. We must sacrifice our current way of life, where we move like vampires, seeing our fellows as means to a fast buck. We have to sacrifice the petty convenience of having your passport processed a bit faster just because you “know a guy who knows a guy.” We have to sacrifice the foolish bravado that makes us disregard the rules, even to our own detriment, when we vouch that we drive better when we are drunk. Corruption begins with smalls things, and grows to envelop the whole nation, like an insidious fungus that first assaults one potato before ruining the whole crop.

Compatriots, we are all complicit.

And as we all rush to lay blame everywhere else except on our own doorstep, and everyone tussles to be the one who gets credit for slaying the beast; the beast himself sleeps easy, assured that as long as there is disagreement about who wields the spear, that spear will not come. In a real-life  tragedy of the commons, and a poignant example of a failure to apply game theory, all our best minds want to lead.  We have a whole football team made up of Luis Suarezes.

Our moral fabric is in tatters, and we’re busy  trying to make something with it, instead of examining the integrity of the material. We are a sick nation, and we continue to skirt the issues and politicize every minor thing. Like the Easterners, we need to take time to examine ourselves, to meditate on who we are as a nation, and move past the artificial divisions that divide us.  Many a commentator wants a commission, or a committee, or some taskforce to solve the current endemic corruption. What we fail to acknowledge is that corruption isn’t a monster that’s out there, like a dragon waiting to be slain. No, corruption is a set of practices, to which we are complicit , and which we continue to tolerate. the years under ZANU PF have left us so damaged, we fail to realise just how aberrant our behaviour is.

A new dawn is on the horizon for Zimbabwe. I see it. But I’m afraid that as we begin to rebuild,  it will be much easier to fix the sickness of our economy.

Our moral life?

Well, that will be a whole other matter.

Marange July 2013

Marange July 2013

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Did you see, in that sea of white in Marange, the face of a woman sitting there in the crowd, wearing her white garments with a little less pride in them than before? She was there seeking a spiritual solution to the problems that had befallen her, only to find that the very architect of her suffering was going to address the crowd! Usually he wore a rosary, but it was either time for  elections, or he had had a “spiritual awakening”,sure enough; he was here clad in the white robes of her sect.  She was having  a hard time concealing her anger

She had held a steady job at a flea market in the city. It wasn’t easy work. Every month, she would make the long overnight journey to Johannesburg for shopping. Enduring the discomfort of being on a bus for fourteen hours at a time. Days and sometimes weeks spent away from her two year old child.

Many times she had endured the four-hour delay at the Beitbridge border, and  the nonchalant way with  which the border officials approached their work. She remembered the agony of deflecting the jibes, the slurs thrown your way as you tried to navigate a foreign culture that thinks that they are better than you simply because their economy hasn’t bombed (yet). The pure physical torture of hauling dozens of Shangani bags full of merchandise. The work was hard, but her infant never went unfed, and she  could even afford to have a new hairstyle every now and then.

 But then the Chinese had come. At first it had been little stores that sold toys and fire-crackers,cheap clothing and shoes that only lasted a few weeks before they were in tatters. It didn’t bother her. People soon learned to avoid Chinese apparel and instead buy good second hand items from the flea market. But the number of Chinese stores grew, and soon, she and all the other traders in the flea market had been served with notice. The entire space of the market that had employed thousands of traders was given over to a single company that soon had it covered with all their oriental trinkets. And she was suddenly without a job.On the day of final trading before the market closed forever, when she was carrying all her merchandise back home, she had burst into tears in the Kombi,and all the passengers had looked at her as if she were mentally disturbed.

 

Asi marambwaAmbuya?’, the windi had quipped, sending some of them into open laughter.Yes, she felt dumped, like the trash the government had so desperately tried toget rid of, and wondered what she would do from then to make a living.  She had decided to find a place in the rural areas, where it was cheaper to stay. And now she was in Marange, seeking answers for her misfortune.

 

Now here they were, adulterers the both of them, talking about creating a country where the citizens could be entrepreneurs. Didn’t they realize that they’d already impeded the entrepreneurial spirit? She would raise her fist in the air, and her voice would be one of the loudest at the prayermettingrally.

 

But she knew that on the election day, her vote would be a secret. She wouldn’t be looking East, she would look to a place that seemed to her, best.

 

She would vote for the future.

Murambatsvina 31 July 2013

Murambatsvina.

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Taking out the trash ha? Our turn soon.(Image credit: ZImbabweelection.com)

Standing there at Nzvimbo, listening to them talk of indegenization and empowerment, one man had experienced an unpleasant flashback, recalling the events that had led him back to that desolate rural home with nothing but the clothes on his back. Standing there and braving the cold July wind, he thought about his business, trashed in deranged chaos instigated by a paranoid government.

He recalled the overwhelming feeling of impotence that had engulfed him as he had once again had to call a wealthy friend to ask yet another favour. He had been trying to make ends meet, and had set up a good backyard carpentry business in Kuwadzana in Harare. He shared a space with two other friends; Marve, who described his business as ‘leather works’; and Fatso, who spent the day churning out miniature giraffes that he would later sell to the tourists the Avenues. The three of them had built up a functional workshop in the backyard of his property, where they could all work. He didn’t make a lot, but business was steady. Every society needs a carpenter; even if he’s one of the regular ones that don’t later rise from the dead and carve themselves a niche in great leather bound books. Besides dealing in the vessels of the deceased, he would sometimes find clients who needed home fitting services, a wardrobe here, a cupboard there, and at the end of the day he managed to keep food on the table. All that had changed when the government decided to clean up the city. They called it Murambatsvina.

He remembered that he had been making his way up the dusty path lined with burry grass, with his hoe slung across his shoulder, back from tending the small garden he planted with sweet potatoes and some maize. His little daughter, the younger one who always had her thumb in her mouth at the ripe age of nine, no matter how much he or her mother told her not to, was running towards him. She was shouting something in her squeaky voice but he couldn’t make out the words. By the time she got to him, he turned onto his own street, he could already see what was the cause of her distress. Three police vehicles, two santanas and a 40 tonne truck emblazoned with the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) logo, were parked on the street. More than twenty policemen and municipality workers were systematically destroying what they called “illegal constructions”.

When he got to his own property, he found three policemen starting on the third wall of his workshop. They had already made short work of the front wall, which was really just a bunch of metal sheets. What were these people thinking?! He tried to rush them to stop them, but his neighbours restrained him. They had already seen many people get beaten up and thrown into the Santana; arrested for ‘Public Disorder’ and ‘obstructing police from performing their duties’. As he had stood there, watching the tall young police officer with the large ears swinging a sledge hammer into the walls of his working space, the only source of his income, the only way he had managed to put food on the table after many years of failure; his mind kept projecting images of what the next morning would be like.

What was he expected to do when he got up the next day? His little daughter would have nothing but her thumb to put into her mouth. What kind of government considered depriving its people of a means of making a living, a form of taking out the trash? Of course his industry generated its fair share of waste, but most of it wound up on the fires to cook under the moon when the electricity went out everyday.

As the last part of the wall had come crumbling down in a cloud of red dust, and the policemen set their sights on the next illegal structure, he had wiped a tear from his eye, and felt greatly afraid of the future. He had had to move to a rural area, to Nzvimbo. A place whose name means literally, when translated; ‘Place’, only seemed to mock his placelessness.

He listened to them talk, and like those around him raised his fist in the air. Everyone here knew you would get in trouble if your enthusiasm for the great leader’s presence was ever in doubt. And besides, there was going to me meat and beer after the rally, they said the first lady had truckloads of bread and sugar. Well, he would do what they wanted to see in public, and he would have some of those goodies for his family as well.

But come election day. He knew his vote was secret.

Now it was his turn to take out the trash.

By Shaun Matsheza.

To New Beginnings.

I have to admit, I have always been skeptical of proclamations of newness, like how I find it difficult to believe the recently baptised Christian who can’t stop humming ‘I’m a new creation’, and keeps telling everyone of his newly found salvation. Or the guy who decides to join the gym as a new year’s resolution and can’t help telling everyone about his newfound understanding of the benefits of working out. Usually the Christian guy enthuses about his religion for a few weeks, and the fervour wears off, and I guess the owners of fitness centres are well aware of the new year boom in subscriptions, which usually wanes after two or three months. So it’s with a slight sense of trepidation that i decide to pen a ‘newness’ article.

Renewal and Regeneration

Renewal and Regeneration

However, there is something exciting about change, about embarking on new adventures, and beginning new tasks. For me,  today marks the beginning of something new. After almost five years studying in Maastricht, today marks my first day in Hilversum. It’s not so huge a change, still the same country, and still a small city in the same small country; but the change is more psychological than it is geographical. Today for me marks a new beginning.

There are things that nature does that we human beings should learn to emulate. Every once in a while,  many organisms undergo a sloughing/moulting period. Snakes rub against rough surfaces and shed their skin, anthropods lose their entire exoskeleton, and even mammals such as dogs moult their fur once or twice a year. It is the ultimate embodiment of regeneration, the casting off of the old, and the donning of the new. Losing an old skin and letting a new one take its place. The new skin is not ‘put on’ or placed over the existing one; rather it is already there, underneath the old gnarly one, simply awaiting a chance to be allowed to shine through when the old one falls away.

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A snake shedding its old skin, and letting new colours shine through

The image of a new skin beneath an old one has been with me ever since I considered the thought of moving to a new city, a new job, and new challenges. As human beings, we easily fall into routines and habits, because life is generally too complex for us, so we generate schemata that help us simplify. While extremely adaptive at the beginning, the routines and habits that we create can begin to stifle us if we stay in them for too long. What was once a crutch becomes an obstacle, but it is so entrenched within us that we find it difficult to rid ourselves of it. Some of our habits are like old skin, grown too tight, too constricting. As the seasons change, like other parts of nature, we should learn to cast off the old and let the newer, fresher aspects of ourselves, which we have stifled with our old roles and habits, to shine through.

Consequently, I have decided to make my move to another city not only a movement in geographical  space, but also a movement in mental and spiritual space. To cast off some of the old skin, and let the aspects of myself that have been struggling to shine through do exactly that. And the metaphor remains relevant when I consider that what is shed is nothing more than just the skin, the outer covering, the adornment of the body and not the real thing itself. So change does not mean metamorphosis in the sense of a transformation, it is not the tadpole growing legs and turning into a frog. Rather, this is a change in outlook, the adoption of new habits, new, more adaptive routines, new ways of being. I remain, under my new skin, the same Shaun. The same person I have (n)ever been.

Here’s a toast to new beginnings.

And the beat spells ‘DOOM’

I recently wrote an article in response to Tendai Maraire’s new video for his track ‘BOOM!’, off his Pungwe mixtape. My sentiments seem to be at odds with what some people may feel about his message, but I will stick to my guns. The main points are made in my article are these:

-Tendai should have removed his rosy glasses before penning the lyrics to his track. His message is characteristic of Diaspora Zimbabweans who have not had to live under the oppression Zimbabweans in the homeland have had to suffer under the hands of a domestic regime. It’s easy to praise the system from a distance when the experience you have of it is one based ideology and not experience.

Tendai’s track, though touting economic emancipation, totally ignores the negative externalities that have arisen from the process of emancipation as the callous ZANU PF party under the tutelage and guidance of Robert Mugabe Regime has carried it out. Furthermore, his video seems to go against the message, showing images of Zimbabweans wallowing in poverty; living in mud huts and cooking on fires. I bet he shot that video and then went back to a fancy house somewhere in the ‘dale-dales’ ( Affluent parts of the city).

My intention is not to trash his music, or what he considers a crusade to speak for the downtrodden Zimbabweans. I just wish he would realize that it’s not all Zimbabweans who have benefitted from the actions of Robert Mugabe, ask the Gukurahundi survivors in Matebeleland and the victims of Murambatsvina. Young Zimbabweans are fed up with talk of liberation while their stomachs grumble. We need emancipation now, in our lifetimes. We need an inclusive plan for the future, and we are tired of being told to look at how bad the past was in order to appreciate our still miserable present. An oppressor, of whatever race, colour or creed, is still an oppressor.

I would really love to hear what Maraire himself thinks about this perspective. Unless we learn to be critical of our leaders, and to seek the middle ground, we will always move around in circles…