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“Kunyepa! It’s a lie!” That was one of the first useful phrases I learned in Shona. I was intrigued by the difference between the more direct and accusatory “You’re lying!” that one would use in English. In Shona that is very impolite, I was told. Kunyepa! is the polite response to a false statement - and surely much more diplomatic. No one’s integrity is being directly questioned, only the accuracy of the facts. It’s a fine distinction perhaps but it says a lot about the cultural pitfalls that lie in wait for a second language learner. One of the major problems is that language is about so much more than vocabulary, grammar and syntax. There’s a whole cultural background to be understood if one is to use the language correctly. A highly educated person such as Professor Jonathan Moyo would understand that very well but, as we see from the following example, the learned professor is above all else a spokesperson for Zanu PF and his political allegiance over-rides all other considerations, even the truth.
In a Hot Seat interview with Jonathan Moyo, Violet Gondo had asked Moyo a straight question. She was referring to a scheduled meeting that was due to be held last Friday between MDC and Zanu PF negotiators to discuss the way forward after the Summit in Maputo. SADC had been very firm on the question: there must be reforms before elections can be held in Zimbabwe. The MDC had claimed that their delegates, drawn from both MDCs, waited for three hours for the Zanu PF delegation led by Robert Mugabe to arrive for that meeting. There was, they claim, no phonecall, no message or apology to explain their non-arrival; Zanu PF simply failed to turn up. So, Violet Gondo asked the MP for Tsholotsho, “Are you saying they (the MDC) lied?” and Jonathan Moyo replied, “Yes, I’m saying that they lied and not for the first time, they have lied many times before.” As the old saying goes, ‘It takes one to know one’!
The level of trust between Zanu PF and their coalition partners must be rock-bottom but then as we saw this week, the results of telling the truth in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe can be fatal. There have been too many fatal but ‘convenient’ road accidents for any normally intelligent person not to question the accident that killed Zanu PF’s Edward Chindori-Chininga. He was the brave man who had dared to tell the truth about what was really happening in Zimbabwe’s diamond industry. The consequences for anyone who tells the truth about matters in which Mugabe and Zanu PF have a vested interest can be fatal but Chindori-Chininga chose to do the right thing. He told the truth about the corruption in the industry and paid with his life.
With just a few hours to go before the nomination deadline, Zanu PF is rushing to complete their selection of candidates. While the opposition completed their nominations in six weeks with no problems, Zanu PF has had a torrid time with stories of irregularities and violations as well as a host of logistical issues. All the selected candidates will have to pass some very strict nomination rules as announced by ZEC. Each candidate must sign two copies of the Code of Conduct and not less than ten registered voters from the same constituency must sign their nomination papers. Perhaps honesty really will be the watchword for the next election? If Mugabe is indeed ‘living in fear’ as Simba Makoni claims, that might explain why he rushed off to Singapore again for a medical check-up. All this worry and stress must be very bad for his health…and that’s no lie.
Yours in the (continuing) struggle, Pauline Henson.
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