Forthcoming elections, Wiztech, SINGLE-MOTHERHOOD and Feminist Politricks: A conversation with my 12year old son Part 2
7 am. TALKCITY cyber cafe, Joina City mall, Harare. A long windy queue forms from the Jullius Nyerere entrance, past the Edgars shop, across Jason Moyo, stopping right at the corner of the main post office in Nelson Mandela street. It’s mostly young people of both sexes, and middle aged women people. They await the opening of the Multi-choice shop.
South Africa’s broadcasting signal distributor Sentech recently scrambled Wiztech decoder satellite channels in accordance with a court order in the same country. Sentech distributes free-to-air channels such as South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) 1, 2 and 3 among others, which are popular among Zimbabweans who use Wiztech, Philibao, Fortec Star and Vivid decoders to gain free access to the channels. Statistics indicate that there are about three million viewers on Wiztech alone regionally. In Zimbabwe these viewers would have no option but to go back to Zimbabwe television (ZTV) or switch to the more expensive Digital Satellite Television (DStv). The majority of Zimbabweans may not afford subscribing to DSTV, meaning they have no choice but to resort to Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation (ZBC). In a repressive and partisan state the state controlled media is the major foot soldier of a form of patriarchy called MILITARISM. ZBC’s record of partisan broadcasting has left many in Zimbabwe with little confidence in its credibility as a source of news. This scrambling of the free alternative channels available to Zimbabwe ahead of elections due later this month will deprive the majority of voters who cannot afford DSTV of alternative sources of information, simultaneously giving ZBC, broadcasting monopoly as the majority who cannot afford DSTV will resort to its channels.
I stand there stupefied, not knowing whether to join the queue or not. My son has boycotted dinner for three days now, he wants to watch alternative channels. And this morning, before I dropped him off for school he touched me on raw spot.
“Mummy, Tinashe’s dad has subscribed for DSTV. I told Tinashe my mum will too. I know you will mummy.”
I hear the words loud and clear, deliberately emphasised. This is enough for my feminist pride. The verdict is passed; I have been blackmailed and I find myself at the entrance of this Multi-choice shop. Dads are good but moms are better oh! But seeing the long windy queue, my citizen journalist demons get the hold of me and before I know it, I am interviewing the women, pen and journal in hands.
The story is the same – “Our children cannot watch ZTV oh! We want alternative voices, we want soap operas, we want world sport, we are tired of jingles and lies, we want so many things that we cannot get - but alternative voices we will get oh! We will send our money to South Africa for Sentech to chop because we don't care as long as we get alternative information!”
A feminist’s mind is a wonderful thing – it talks. I hear Marx and Engels, “It is not the consciousness of man that determines their being, but their being determines their consciousness.” I also hear feminist epistemology, “The personal is political!” I think of these determined women, and of my son too. At his age I never wished to vote, and had no idea of how best to hypnotise my parents. At age 12 my country was slowly evolving out of colonialism, and I remember the queues as our parents, brothers and sister put pen to paper to over throw the Smith regime. I was content with my parents voting – I trusted their vote. Our politics was common and shared. The white rulers had to go, we wanted our ‘sovereignty back’ (kikikiii). I was tired of the bloody war, of seeing my elderly sisters giving birth to ‘fatherless’ children nine monthly back in the village. They were children of war, vana vana mukoma. No one understood it as rape, dzaive nyaya dzemuhondo. (They were war stories)
Women, casualties of history,
Their bodies, war battlefields
We gave away our integrity
We donated our sweetness
To secure their freedom
The babies were given telling names – “Gift, Chipo, Talent, Hondo, Bazooka, Rusununguko, Nyikayedu.” They were children of war – vana vana mukoma.
We had been politicised enough. We were all hopeful, and shared a common vision. I was hopeful to witness my family move from Njube township to go and occupy one of the Aristocratic houses in Morningside. This was my politics as a young girl, this is how I had been politicised. I was contented with my parents voting, and trusted their vote would bring change home. Were things better then than now? Obviously no, things were bad bad bad then as now. No bad is good enough for women. Maybe better because I knew nothing about Wiztech, and better because I had gotten it all wrong. I had so much hope in what Independence would bring, but did not realise that the Freedom train would be too small to accommodate all of us, especially women – because their places are with the kids in the kitchens and with the fowls in the fowl runs. Independence came and gave my son free international television channels on Wiztech with the right hand, and with the left it slowly dispossed him. Independence has allowed my son to transcend border barriers and identify with basket-ball stars like Kobe Bryant, but Independence has snatched that privilege away from my son overnight. As a result my son can’t trust the elders’ votes anymore, but fathoms a world where the young should be allowed to peacefully cast their vote and make ‘things change.’
I rarely discuss politics with my minor children at home for two reasons: Firstly because the politics of my country has for long bordered on betrayal and neglect of its populace, and as a result I am greatly disappointed and have lost faith in current political leaders. Feminist ideology has taught me the importance of constant reflexivity of my positionality to avoid imposing my ideas on others. This being said, the only way I can avoid painting a very gloomy picture of the future of my country as well as of the current political leaders in a way that can be detrimental to the development as young children is to avoid where I can, engagements on political developments of Zimbabwe. Yet my son’s politics is very clear – he knows the truth from lies, and truths from lies. No one can teach anyone consciousness because one’s being or material conditions will determine it. When Sembene Ousman’s women took to the railway line and staged a demonstration that changed the politics of the whole country overnight their husbands had not given them any lectures on capitalism, their material conditions, what they were suffering day to day determined their transformative politics.
Tahir Square! No one taught people to revolt, their being determined their consciousness. And rightly so, when Zimbabwean women reach lowest point but continue to remain silent whilst peacefully engaging in different modes of survival for their families they are not silent and stupid, NO, they are not. They are busy speaking, because their silences can be deafening too in certain spaces. They are using their silences and peaceful engagements as agency to navigate a political system that can overnight turn violent against women, rape and impregnate grandmother, mother and daughter – three generations of women in a single minute, and on the same floor. Quitely, women are occupying the queue to get birth certificates for themselves and for their children, some are completing affidavits for the relatives, silently in the long and slow queues. Yes, they know these people were born here, but their particulars were burnt during elections, their parents were killed, and their particulars got lost when they were forcibly removed from the farms in which they grew up. This year they must vote, the women will help them register. Is silence all about fear? Is silence also not about talking? Is it not a coping strategy?
When I asked mbuya Diedricks (not her real name) why she looked so determined standing in the long line awaiting her turn to be attended to at one district office last week she sadly and slowly formed words in her mouth, “Chakachenjedza ndochakatanga mwanangu, gore rino tinodawo kuvhota. Iyo size yangu ino kunyengiwa novarume vatanhatu nguva imweyo? Vana vadiki vezera remuzukuru wangu chaiye. Hupenyu hwemukadzi hwakaoma zimhandara. Ndakarwadziwa, ndichiri kurwadziwa. Dai tavhotawo tese tese zvapfuura! ” (We have learnt from our past mistakes my dear. We must definitely vote in our numbers this year and put an end to this. Can you imagine an old woman my age getting raped by 6 young men at once? Its hard to be a woman. I was pained, and I am still in pain. I wish we could all vote and put an end to all this.)