by John Eppel
The University of Lupane is a stretch of open field. It was here in the Month of May, 2008 that ZANU PF officials held a pungwe presided over by Senior Assistant Commissioner Happyboy Gava. He told the exhausted villagers that, according to the constitution, only a war veteran could be made president of “our sovereign nation.” Whenever he used the word “sovereign” he dabbed his plump cheeks—all that pork roast—with a white hanky, in the style of Kenneth Kaunda.
Attending the meeting was ardent ZANU PF supporter, Willibald Nyoni. At thirty years old he was the proud possessor of twenty hectares of land, part of a white “owned” farm, which the Third Chimurenga had restored to the indigenous peoples of Zimbabwe. For three months Willibald had lived like a king: meat, beer and girls; day after day, night after night. Then the firewood ran out; suddenly Willibald was destitute: no meat, no beer, no girls. For the second time in his life, Willibald was rescued by the government. They offered to feed him and perhaps even pay him for services rendered, in short, to help the war vets and the militias terrorize opposition supporters.
“Never again will we be a colony!” shouted the Senior Assistant Commissioner. (It seemed that the higher echelons of government shared the same speech writer.) “We are a sovereign entity.” Dab of hanky. “Let Brown and Bush beware! Let that homosexual across the border beware! Let puppet sanctions-mongers beware! We are of the fist!” At this point he incongruously waved his hanky. “If His Excellency, R. G. Mugabe, does not win the run-off, there will be conflict in our sovereign land [dab, dab]: black against black. You must defend the revolution; otherwise we will go back to the bush and fight.” He was sweating profusely even though there was a chill southeaster blowing from Johannesburg. His belly was so huge—he found pork crackling irresistible—that he had to wear his belt around his bum.
“Democracy is only for the educated. There is no day on which this sovereign [dab, dab] country will be handed over on a silver platter. How can we give power to those who have no knowledge of governance and no support from you, the local voters, but has (sic) support from puppets and homosexuals?” He went on in this manner for hours.
The next speaker was a war veteran (much too young to have fought in the Second Chimurenga) called Comrade Hotstuff. He was armed with an AK 47, which became an improvised guitar in a dance routine that combined toyi-toyi and kwasa-kwasa. When he began to speak, the rifle was restored to its original purpose, and he discharged a few rounds into the air—to revive audience attention. “Be warned: the soldiers are watching to see the polling station returns. Pasi ne Tsvangirai!”
“For every MDC vote in this constituency one of you will be shot dead. Pasi ne Brown!”
“Remember Gukurahundi! We have lists of MDC supporters. We know who you are! Pasi ne Bush!”
“If you want to die, if you want to have your homesteads burnt down, go ahead and vote for that puppet of the west, Tsvangirai! Pamberi ne Mugabe!”
“Pamberi ne sovereignty!”
“Pamberi ne Operation Vote Wisely!”
Comrade Hotstuff then called upon voters to surrender their MDC cards and T-shirts, and gradually a small pile of these items grew at the size thirteen boots of the war vet. A youth wearing a ZANU PF T-shirt arrived with a tin of paraffin and a box of matches—and the pile was soon blazing merrily.
Willibald Nyoni was assigned to a group of militias from Mashonaland who had recently been deployed to the region. Their brief was to intimidate the rural folk into voting “wisely”! Since he was native to that area, Willibald was given the task of providing the militia with meat, beer, and girls. This he did with commitment and enthusiasm. His greatest achievement, which earned him high praise, not only from the militias but from none other than Comrade Hotstuff, who partook of the subsequent spoils, was to commandeer an ox from the kraal of a successful re-settled farmer, indeed a neighbour and distant relative, Ndabazinhle Nyoni. Single-handedly Willibald drove the ox to the abandoned primary school where the militias had set up a torture centre, slaughtered it, gutted it, and skinned it. Then he chopped it into workable pieces and shared it out. Single-handedly he rounded up willing (i.e. hungry) girls, and a forty gallon drum full of opaque beer. What a feasting was there that night, what hanky-panky, well into the next day! Willibald Nyoni became a hero of the Struggle. Aluto continuo.
The strategy set up by Joint Operations Command worked: His Excellency R. G. Mugabe was voted, unopposed, back into the driving seat, so to speak. Now loyalists like Willibald who had done the dirty work for the Party, were no longer required; indeed they had become an embarrassment. What was Willibald’s surprise when, a few days after the presidential run-off, three policemen armed with batons arrived at his plot and arrested him for stock theft? In court he admitted he had taken the ox as part of the continuing struggle. He was providing for patriots who were defending his beloved country from the evil machinations of the west. The magistrate, without once looking up, sentenced Willibald, without right of appeal, to nine years in jail, a veritable death sentence.