Why me, Comrade Chininga?

Bill Saidi


A COUNTRY whose capital city has able-bodied citizens crowding the pavements to hawk anything from condoms to salted peanuts cannot claim to have a booming economy.

Potential foreign investors would not rush to buy plane tickets to scout for prospects.

But last week, Zanu PF was apparently given a massive electoral victory.

Like many others, I was inclined to side with the view of a Zanla war veteran, Dzinashe Machingura, who shared his views on an independent South African TV station.

Speaking as he was accompanied to a polling station in Mbare township, Harare, Machingura told of how the army and the police had threatened people with violence if they did not vote for Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF.

It was not just Morgan Tsvangirai who was aghast at the paltry performance of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Many others, including foreigners, were shocked that the people of Zimbabwe had chosen Zanu PF to lead the country for another term.

Others said they felt sorry for Zimbabweans, they would be entrusting the political and economic future of their country to a man of nearly 90 years of age.

Such desperation was staggering in its enormity, some said.

Machingura was a Zanla commander in Mozambique during the struggle.

The TV footage showed him looking healthy, not at all like a former freedom fighter denied assistance for having bolted the party.

We first met in The Netherlands, at a conference of the Netherlands Institute of Southern Africa (NIZA).

We were both invited there shortly after Mugabe’s government banned The Daily News in 2003.

But while musing over this election, my major attention was riveted on a Facebook invitation in June to be friends with a Zanu PF Member of Parliament, Edward Chindori-Chininga.

He was reportedly driving alone when he died in an accident.

The immediate reaction of many was that the MP had been the victim of a “black dog” accident — a euphemism for mishaps in which a number of politicians have perished over the years.

I had first met one of them Sydney Malunga, at Empandeni mission in Plumtree in 1953.

For me, Chindori-Chininga’s death had a heart-wrenching element.

The day before his accident, the former Minister of Mines, had sent me a message on Facebook, inviting me to be friends.

I had immediately accepted.

I knew of his candour, how he called a spade a spade — even if his party insisted it was a hoe.

We had met among crowds, but knew of each other’s positions on the political direction of the country.

He would not have been unaware that I had had my own brushes with the leadership of his party.

He also must have known of my record in Zambia, where I had spent 17 years and had had “trouble” with the politicians there as well.

I looked forward to a frank exchange with him.

I doubted that this message was an evil prank by someone. The thought did occur to me.

I have received other invitations on Facebook, some of which have freaked me out.

A colleague I told of the message, asked: “Do you know him personally?”

When I replied in the negative, he shook his head.

“One day after he has asked you to be friends on Facebook, he dies in a ‘black dog’ accident — weird?”

Throughout the election period, I tried hard to dismiss the thought of a plot.

I reviewed the news bulletin featuring Dzinashe Machingura. He mentioned his detention in Mozambique, with other commanders, on Mugabe’s orders.

After independence in 1980, he remained outside Zanu PF and was critical of its policies.

I had a chance to interact with him when we were both invited to the NIZA conference.

In his interview with the ENCA, he told of how the army and police had been ordered by Zanu PF to intimidate the people into voting for the party — or else.

He was accompanied by the TV crew to the polling station in Mbare.

He was still alive, I thought to myself.

The “landslide” victory which Zanu PF boasted of could not have been a true reflection of the people’s choice.

That too would really be weird.


  • Bill Saidi is a writer based in Harare

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