The Republic of Chikurubi


What passes today for good news from the government of Zimbabwe? The 100-trillion dollar note? No. The rate of deaths from cholera exceeding the rate of inflation, having topped 2000? Not even close.  “The twisted arithmetic of crumbling Zimbabwe” that makes burials out of reach of ordinary peoples’ economies? Nope. Give up?

Good news in Zimbabwe is the release of two-year old bandit terrorist Nigel Mutemagawo, abducted, held in custody for 76 days, held at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison for close to two weeks: “Medical reports show that during his abduction and continued detention for charges of banditry and terrorism, two year-old Nigel was assaulted and denied food and medical attention by his captors.” Two years old. Talk about early childhood education. Not to worry, though. The news isn’t all good. Nigel’s parents, Violet Mupfuranhehwe and Collen Mutemagawo, remain `in custody’, and Nigel was sent to MDC officials, “who are total strangers.” Zimbabwe has figured out both the national security issue and child care. Democratic socialists, take note.

Jestina Mukoko appeared in court Thursday, January 15: “Jestina Mukoko, a well-known human rights campaigner in Zimbabwe, was forced to kneel on gravel for hours and was beaten on the soles of her feet with rubber truncheons during interrogations, she said in a sworn statement recently submitted to a court in Zimbabwe.” Not to fear, the rule of law still presides in Zimbabwe: “Zimbabwe’s director of prosecutions, Florence Ziyambi, said Thursday that Mukoko’s rights were not violated by her detention.`She can ask for remedies and compensation for the ill treatment she claims she went through,’ Ziyambi said.” In 100-trillion dollar notes, no doubt.  It’s a good thing that Zimbabwe’s Attorney General had already declared Mukoko a national and societal threat and had said that she would stay in jail, no matter what the courts decide.

While the Big Parties do and don’t negotiate, people, ordinary extraordinary, are changed, perhaps forever. Beatrice Mtetwa said of Jestina Mukoko, after her two court appearances on Thursday: “It’s like she’s no longer the same person they took away.” She is no longer the same person they took away.

Where was Jestina Mukoko taken? Where was Violet Mupfuranhehwe taken?  “All the female detainees, including the former ZBC broadcaster, are being held in solitary confinement in the male section of the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison – an area of the prison reserved for only the hardest of criminals.” Perhaps this is the government’s plan, to change the name and substance of the country from Zimbabwe to Chikurubi: worthless money, rampant disease, collapsed infrastructure, feuding gangs committed to interminable conflict. Sounds right.

What if every country were renamed according to its most notorious prison? The Republic of Zimbabwe could become the Republic of Chikurubi. The United States of America could become the United States of Guantanamo. The Republic of Turkey could become the Republic of Imrali. The Republic of Indonesia could become the Republic of Nusakambangan. The Commonwealth of Australia could become the Commonwealth of Christmas Island. The possibilities of translation are endless. They form a chain, an archipelago, around the globe. Where were Jestina Mukoko and Violet Mupfuranhehwe taken? The Republic of Chikurubi. Where did they go? That remains to be seen.

(Photo Credit: Reuters / Philimon Bulawayo)

About Dan Moshenberg

Dan Moshenberg is an organizer educator who has worked with various social movements in the United States and South Africa. Find him on Twitter at @danwibg.