Hopewell Chin’ono and Gramsci’s Theory of Hegemony

By Dumisani Muleya

Without hyperbolically insinuating Hopewell Chin’ono is like the famous Italian philosopher, journalist and activist Antonio Gramsci, his letter from remand prison (like Gramsci’s prison notes) raises important issues touching on key themes, including authoritarian political hegemony, of what’s wrong with Zim.As Nkosana Moyo said, one of the most instructive things about Zimbabweans, in fact the tragedy, is that some of them are not fighting to change the system, but to be part of it. We saw that after the coup; there was a scramble by many to jump onto the regime’s gravy train, but some, as it later turns out, jumped in without knowing where the train was going. Now they are stuck in there like a ship crew stranded at sea. Indeed, the regime’s leaders, cronies and apologists are now at sea; clueless on the way forward so to speak. At least Chin’ono is not fighting to jump onto the train.”I do not seek to be accommodated at the feeding trough like many amongst us, that is why I turned down the offer to sit on a parastatal board when it was made last year, what I am after is a better life for all,” Chin’ono wrote in his Gramscian letter from prison.”A life that gives all hard working citizens of this country a fair chance to live a decent life. They will never get it at the rate at which this government is destroying our country, they will never get these opportunities if elites continue to seek accommodation instead of CHANGE in return to keeping their business interests going.”Talking of jumping on the gravy train and getting a slot on the grubby Zanu PF feeding trough or patronage network, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime has been coopting sections of the political and civil society, including workers, business and opposition, to maintain hegemony in its various manifestations.The distinction between political society (police, army, intelligence – security apparatus, legal system, etc.), which dominates people directly and coercively, and civil society (family, education system, trade unions, etc.) where leadership is constituted through ideology or by means of consent is important.In Zim, the political society is maintaining hegemony for Mnangagwa; civil society has rebelled, hence the fear of July 31 despite ukuthi besa umnyama ongela mpisi (literally fearing night darkness without lurking hyenas; and figuratively meaning cowardly fears).Ayesaba amagwala (the cowards are afraid)!

Dumisani Muleya is a senior Zimbabwean journalist