Review of Palaver Finish - The Standard

The Standard
Sunday 16 February, 2003
Palaver Finish
by Chenjerai Hove
Published by Weaver Press
Review By Richmore Tera and Onias Chiwanja

NOVELIST, poet, Nama award-winner and one of the doyens of Zimbabwean literature, Chenjerai Hove, has done it again.The 51-year-old Hove has come up with a collection of exciting political essays
titled Palaver Finish. The essays in this book originally appeared in The Standard during Hove's twoyear
stint as a columnist. They were then collected, re-edited and published in book form last year in South Africa by M&G Publishers in collaboration with Weaver Press, Zimbabwe. The 88-page book tackles relevant issues ranging from political violence, voter intimidation, corruption and lawlessness to dictatorship and the dereliction of duty by African leaders. For example the opening essay, Africa's Abused Soldiers, mirrors the brutality and lawlessness of the uniformed forces and how they have been turned into appendages of Africa's ruling parties. The author gives us the story of four unnamed civilians-a Zezuru, a muKaranga, a Ndebele and a Ndau-who are beaten up by soldiers in a bar in Masvingo for allegedly voting for the opposition. "As institutions of violence, African armies are used to torture political opponents instead of defending the citizenry in case of external attack," says Chenjerai Hove. In another essay, The New Millennium In The Village, Hove projects African leaders as ruthless "political sharks" who only enter the political arena for personal aggrandisement and through embezzling state coffers while the ordinary
man wallows in abject poverty. He writes: "African politics is always marred by a dangerous obsession with
power and money. Our problem is that Zimbabwean and other African politicians enter politics not for the service they want to give to the nation, but to make money. They enter politics with nothing in their hands and in a few monthsbecome millionaires." The book draws its title from a humourous but sarcastic essay of the same title in the book in which the author uses football as a symbol with which to mirror
the dictatorship that has become rampant in Africa.
Although Hove writes in pidgin English commonly associated with the Nigerian people, the reader cannot help but draw parallels with the Zimbabwean leadership.Palaver Finish is a compelling book because the author, in his typical translucent language and style of writing, does not mince his words. Reading through the book, however, one gets the impression that Hove at times oscillates between a social critic and a propagandist.
He aligns himself with the opposition camp and thus becomes its mouthpiece, instead of being the voice of the voiceless. Weaver Press, the co-publisher of this book, was formed in 1998 and publishes books written by authors from the Southern African Diaspora. Palaver Finish is the first work by Hove to be published under their imprint.
?____________________________________________
All the best,
Murray
__________________________
Murray McCartney
Director, Weaver Press
P O Box A1922
Avondale, Harare
Ph: 308330 Fax: 339645
www.weaverpresszimbabwe.com

Review of Palaver Finish - The Leipzig Almanach



Painful Truth
Review by Stefan Leman from the Leipzig Almanach (April)
www.leipzig-almanach.de
translated by Stephanie Kitchen.


Zimbabwe has voted. Or maybe it is better to say President Robert Mugabe has decided how the election should turn out and swindled six more years in office. It is difficult to use the word ‘election’ for what happened between the 9 and 11 March. And even if we are to admit that exporting grown-up, democratic values from Europe to Africa does not work, this Presidential election is suspicious. Suspicious, because Mugabe and his entourage have not made the slightest effort to hide their deceit.

Naturally, we did not have to wait long for Europe and America’s anger to surface when the first results came in from the Southern African country. There is talk of sanctions; accounts have been frozen. But why are they so surprised? If you read Chenjerai Hove’s slim volume, it becomes clear there could have been no other election result. A Minister of the ruling ZANU Party is quoted as saying: “We have the right to rule this country, because we fought for it. We shall go on ruling, whether you like it or not”.

Chenjerai Hove is one of Zimbabwe’s most prolific authors. In ?Whisper of a Town: Sketches from an African Metropolis (1995) he was already painting a glum picture of the trouble and hopelessness which rule people’s everyday lives in Zimbabwe. Considering the overwhelming violence and terror against the opposition, it is a small miracle that Hove has thus far escaped unscathed his criticism of Mugabe’s regime. In Palaver Finish, Hove describes the causes of the present troubles in Zimbabwe – and not just in Zimbabwe. His extrapolates his observations to other African countries (in Kenya, there will also be a Presidential election this year).

Hove lays bare the main evil in African politics: money. It is like obsession, he writes. Striving for money and property overshadows everything. First look after yourself, and then perhaps, those who have voted for you. This is why the dominant theme of his columns is the moral decline of politicians. He is anxious about the lack of structures: freedom of expression and the right to vote, which, in his eyes, characterise a civilised society. To Hove, these structures can not just be notionally democratic. They must be universal.

Reading in his columns and essays the descriptions of callousness with which the people are being wronged and the country is being ravaged, conveys an image of Zimbabwe, which leaves the reader shaking his head. Resigned, Hove affirms that the extraordinary conditions during Ian Smith’s regime were nothing, compared with the situation under the rule of Mugabe. The difference is that the first was a colonial regime; but the other terrorises and oppresses its own people.

But in spite all the pessimism, Robert Mugabe is only really playing for time. In the long run, the people will not let themselves be deluded. And so Mugabe and his comrades should cast an eye over a saying Hove quotes so frequently in his texts: ‘Chinobhururuka chinomhara.’ (Anything that flies will have to land some time.) Or,  ‘your false sense of security won’t last forever’.

Review of Palaver Finish - Herald

Hove lashes out at 'political sharks'    

Review By Richmore Tera and Onias Chiwanja


NOVELIST, poet, Nama award-winner and one of the doyens of Zimbabwean literature, Chenjerai Hove, has done it again.

The 51-year-old Hove has come up with a collection of exciting political essays titled Palaver Finish.


The essays in this book originally appeared in The Standard during Hove's two-year stint as a columnist. They were then collected, re-edited and published in book form last year in South Africa by M&G Publishers in collaboration with Weaver Press, Zimbabwe.

The 88-page book tackles relevant issues ranging from political violence, voter intimidation, corruption and lawlessness to dictatorship and the dereliction of duty by African leaders. For example the opening essay, Africa's Abused Soldiers, mirrors the brutality and lawlessness of the uniformed forces and how they have been turned into appendages of Africa's ruling parties.

The author gives us the story of four unnamed civilians-a Zezuru, a muKaranga, a Ndebele and a Ndau-who are beaten up by soldiers in a bar in Masvingo for allegedly voting for the opposition. "As institutions of violence, African armies are used to torture political opponents instead of defending the citizenry in case of external attack," says Chenjerai Hove.

In another essay, The New Millennium In The Village, Hove projects African leaders as ruthless "political sharks" who only enter the political arena for personal aggrandisement and through embezzling state coffers while the ordinary man wallows in abject poverty.

He writes: "African politics is always marred by a dangerous obsession with power and money. Our problem is that Zimbabwean and other African politicians enter politics not for the service they want to give to the nation, but to make money. They enter politics with nothing in their hands and in a few months become millionaires."

The book draws its title from a humourous but sarcastic essay of the same title in the book in which the author uses football as a symbol with which to mirror the dictatorship that has become rampant in Africa.

Although Hove writes in pidgin English commonly associated with the Nigerian people, the reader cannot help but draw parallels with the Zimbabwean leadership.

Palaver Finish is a compelling book because the author, in his typical translucent language and style of writing, does not mince his words.

Reading through the book, however, one gets the impression that Hove at times oscillates between a social critic and a propagandist.

He aligns himself with the opposition camp and thus becomes its mouthpiece, instead of being the voice of the voiceless.

Weaver Press, the co-publisher of this book, was formed in 1998 and publishes books written by authors from the Southern African Diaspora.

Palaver Finish is the first work by Hove to be published under their imprint.

Review of Palaver Finish - African Book Publishing Review

Chenjerai Hove
Palaver Finish.
Harare: Weaver Press, 2002.
88 pp. ISBN 1779220014

Reviewed by Peter Limb, Michigan State University for the African Book Publishing Review

Chenjerai Hove, a leading novelist of Zimbabwe, presents here 21 short but tightly-focused and finely-crafted essays on contemporary Zimbabwe. Hove has written these essays in a sparkling prose that on a literary level makes for fine reading. However, at the same time, he employs humour, narrative and irony to emphasize the absurdities, as well as the crimes, of dictatorship. He does this not by use of didactic rhetoric but through poignant stories which capture the cruelty and craziness of a repressive regime dragging its people into an ever-widening crisis. The author draws on the rich treasury of African oral culture, invoking the wisdom of the elders and folktales to remind readers of the crucial need for tolerance in social life. Hove gives the reader an insight into not only the anguish of one intellectual in the face of increasing human rights violations but also into the more general socio-political crisis that has engulfed Zimbabwe in recent years.
Palaver Finish specifically highlights the corrupt role of politicians and the responsibility of the media in this crisis (the essays originally were published in a weekly column in the independent newspaper, The Zimbabwe Standard). Hove not only criticizes, he also argues for alternatives, for hope. He also engages with other issues, ranging from Western stereotypes of Africa (in the essay ‘Africa: Reality and Imagination’) to the need for Zimbabwe to develop a national book and culture policy, even during times of grave economic crisis. To him, ‘a  book is a small shrine onto which I gently deposit a bunch of flowers described in words. “A book, Oh, what a universe, it forms, informs, and transforms”’.  But the main thrust of the book is the need for an end to political corruption and intolerance. ‘Dictatorship does not simply start one fine morning. It begins in small places and spreads its long tentacles and grasping reach.’ And, Hove laments, he himself witnessed in one small town  ‘the workings of a dictatorship in motion, tyranny dished out to every homestead’.
These essays will be very useful to readers wishing to understand feelings on the ground in Zimbabwe as the political crisis intensifies. They are equally fine literary pieces. Hence, a wide range  of readers will find Palaver Finish insightful and delightful, just as it will prompt reflection, anger and compassion.

Review of Palaver Finish - The African Times

Palaver Finish
Review from The African Times



In the UK, it is difficult to get a clear and accurate picture of how bad the political situation actually is in Zimbabwe  _ especially since President Mugabe became Britain’s most wanted African. However Chenjerai Hove, newspaper columnist and the country’s best-known novelists, attempts to clear a path between a smoke-screen of bias in the British press and a coverage of the issues.
The desire for truth often leads to the truth. And nowhere is Zimbabwe’s truth more apparent than in Hove’s Palaver Finish, a selection of twenty essays which appeared in Zimbabwe’s Standard newspaper. His short testimonial  essays of Zimbabwe’s past and present bring a narrative freshness and a moral perspective to the current situation. He repeatedly invokes and applies the guidance, judgement and experience of his elders and his lessons learned growing up in a rural area, to what is right and wrong about his homeland today. His message is one of hope: a hope that African leaders and politicians will apply common sense to the reality of Africa and Zimbabwe. But as we all know sense is never common, especially political sense.
‘… you cannot argue that you are better than someone else because you killed fewer people. What a shame! If you are dirty, you are dirty – no amount of showing us other dirty people will convince us that you are clean,’ writes Hove in one of the essays.

Review of Palaver finish - Mukai

Palaver Finish
Essays by Chenjerai Hove
2002: (pp: 88) 210 x 135 mm
ISBN: 1779220014

Mukai – the Jesuit Journal for Zimbabwe

2008
Reviewer: Priscilla Mapfuwa


A Writer Mourns His Country

Africa has suffered a lot of political violence, human rights abuses, killings, rape and many others forms of violence. People have been silenced by politicians. Silence is a threat to the existence of humans. Julius Nyerere called Zimbabwe 'the pearl of Africa'. A small country shaped like a human heart, with a small dynamic economy and a hard-working, creative people. Zimbabwe has experienced a harsh and terrible political environment where people have been abused, tortured and silenced. Chenjerai Hove, one of the country’s best novelists, in Palaver Finish cannot help but point out what Zimbabwean politicians have done, not just to the country, but the people of Zimbabwe. Palaver Finish is more of a pamphlet than a book bringing together material critical of Robert Mugabe’s regime.

The first chapter is about Africa’s abused soldiers. All over the continent armies and presidential militias are responsible for mass graves, for shooting political opponents of the leaders in the vain assumption that they are serving the nation. The army becomes personalized, serving the personal interests of the leader, not the country. Zimbabwe is one such country.

Governments spend so much money on killing, torturing and intimidating honest citizens instead of using that money for development. Zimbabwe has collapsed into anarchy and lawlessness. Corruption begins with the corruption of language (5).

During the liberation struggle villagers were left with nothing, they sacrificed all they had feeding, clothing and sheltering the 'children of the soil' on the promise of a better Zimbabwe, but today they are rubbished by the so-called ‘war veterans’. The message from our leaders is that it is not necessary to live in truth (8). Zimbabweans live in a country being run by liars who have taken it upon themselves to cheat the people and destroy the national conscience, a political system devoid of human dignity.

He writes from a perspective that acknowledges history and is based in his thinking on culture, tradition and democracy. ‘Zimbabwe’s Lost Visions’ is a less than three-page essay in which Hove shows up the bad path of the political elite. The rulers of his country are thugs and vandals who have knowingly created a climate of fear in which each individual is beset with a ‘mini-state of emergency’ in his or her heart.

Rural teachers, buses and roads have one thing in common: they bring new ideas to the villagers. Politicians, even though they went to school, have started hating teachers. If you hate teachers you hate new ideas, and if you hate new ideas you hate the road and the rural bus (51).

In 1476 William Caxton invented the printing press so that ideas could be circulated far and wide. The fall of the kingdom begins with the death of ideas.

This can be done by killing the people who produce ideas and destroying the machinery by which they can be disseminated to the people (63). Power uses censorship as an instrument. It is a cultural tool and the way people relate to is crucial for the development of the imagination, the mind, the heart and soul.

In Zimbabwe today power shows itself in violence which has become part of our culture. Violence opposes freedom, but the human mind and heart need freedom if they are to bloom. The roads to new ideas through books and broadcasting are all closed. ‘Entertainment and Propaganda’ is the order of the day, this suits the government which wants no questions asked.

The best way to keep the nation ignorant is to deprive them of roads so that new ideas do not cross certain boundaries. Those who move from the city to the country easily become victims of political violence since they carry new ideas. They spread news about the new prices of cooking oil and sugar.

Silence is a threat to the existence of humans, talk is vibrant and a sign of life. This is an impassioned polemic from a writer agonizingly aware of the catastrophic path his country is taking, and he is doing his utmost to alter that course.

© The author/publisher

Review of Palaver Finish - Irene Madonko

Palaver Finish
Essays by Chenjerai Hove
2002: (pp: 88) 210 x 135 mm
ISBN: 1779220014

The African Review of Books

2003
Reviewer: Irene Madonko


Turmoil of Zimbabwe, from the inside


Palaver Finish is a collection of essays written by one ofZimbabwe’s top writers and published originally in the Zimbabwe Standard, an independent local newspaper. Having read these journalistic musings one can expect the Mugabe government to not take kindly to the writings of Chenjerai Hove.

This book was an interesting read for a number of reasons, one being that Chenjerai Hove talks in detail about political violence in Zimbabwe’s rural areas. This is particularly relevant to the turmoil the country is experiencing, considering a large proportion of Zimbabwe’s population is situated in the rural areas. The picture painted in several of the essays on this topic is one of a peaceful community suddenly ravaged not only of their scarce belongings, such as food and money, but also of their peace, dignity and democracy by ZANU(PF) militants and, in some cases, by the police who turn a blind eye to the mayhem. In essays such as ‘The new millennium in the village’, Hove explains how villagers who oppose the ruling party, especially at election time, are earmarked for torture by politicians in that area.

‘Defenceless, and isolated in his own homestead, the young boys and girls employed to kill will arrive at any time and kill the villager and his family. He is lucky if he is beaten and left for dead, maybe he will find someone to take him to the clinic on a donkey cart.’

Such essays evoke our pity for the defenceless victims who cannot stand up against militants armed to the teeth. The former are in the class of Mugabe’s notorious Fifth Brigade of the 1980s, the ‘War Vets’ of the late 1990s, and now the Green Bombers, a somewhat derogatory name for the ZANU(PF) militia.

Another interesting topic broached by Hove is how Mugabe’s atrocities are similar, if not worse, to those committed by the Apartheid government of Ian Smith. In his essay ‘The violence of Gokwe’, he describes how the troubled Gokwe of 1977–78, one of Zimbabwe’s largest districts, was a military goulash with ZANLA, ZIPRA and Rhodesian forces all hunting each other down. Then there was a cease-fire, during which time the Rhodesian army realised it could not integrate all the armed militias into the national army. So the Rhodies came up with a solution: they invited them all to assemble at the Nembudzia centre just outside the township, saying that the militias were going to be paid off and allowed home. Naturally, many youths assembled: but what they received was not the generous offer they were expecting as the Rhodesian army sent planes to bomb the centre, killing hundreds. Today, Hove says, the ruling ZANU(PF) has also established a murder and torture base at the very same Nembudzia.

Such comparisons re-surface occasionally in the book, a poignant reference being highlighted in the essay ‘Liberty, Express Thyself’, where he says ‘Bakhiti! (Guys!) We have now become an armed state just as the old days of "good old Smithie" …. we now have armed war veterans, guns all over the place. We even have a Rapid Reaction Force on the alert to react against people who might choose to express their freedom.’

Yet another issue he addresses is an assessment of the country’s censured media in the face of draconian press laws. The independent media is muzzled and propaganda is churned out on a disturbingly large scale. In ‘Collapse of Law: Collapse of Conscience’, the author explains how ‘the government-owned media has become an instrument for delivering daily untruths to its readers and listeners’. He has a point here, because even a blind man can see that national newspapers like The Chronicle and The Herald or the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation befit such a description.

Palaver Finish is worth elevating to the top rack of your bookshelf because it is one of the few books to be written by Zimbabweans documenting a transitional period in a country known for its stagnant political tyranny. In addition, it is a plausible compilation because, as mentioned above, Hove gives a reasonable accurate account of the political violence in the rural areas of Zimbabwe, which host a large percentage of the country’s population. Employing simple layman’s terms to present his arguments, he discards indirect speech opting for blazing direct reference to the perpetrators of violence. As the title hints at, it is a criticism of a politician who talks too much blabber and doesn’t deliver.

In short, this book is ideal for students of history, communications, and politics. It is also suitable for the average Zimbabwean keen to gauge a hard copy narration of Zimbabwe’s present struggle for democracy. For readers outside Zimbabwe, this book gives an inside view of the day-to-day atrocities that never make it to the main headlines. However, Hove lacks flair, but this is probably because of the medium he is using. For those readers expecting the creative genius of Hove the novelist, Hove the journalist tells stories rich with facts, but bland on presentation.

(Irene Madonko is a Zimbabwean who is studying journalism in London.)

© The author/publisher

Review of Palaver Finish - New Internationalist

Palaver Finish
Essays by Chenjerai Hove
2002: (pp: 88) 210 x 135 mm
ISBN: 1779220014

The New Internationalist
September 2002


This is a slender work, more of a pamphlet than a book, which nevertheless packs a hefty punch. Chenjerai Hove is a Zimbabwean writer whose output has included novels, poems and essays. Palaver Finish brings together some 21 of his recent columns from the Zimbabwe Standard, one of the last newspapers to carry material critical of Robert Mugabe's regime.

Hove's incandescent anger and contempt for the lies and platitudes of the time-serving politicians, opposition as well as government, burns off the page. The squandered potential of Zimbabwe is crystallized in a heartbreaking essay of less than three pages entitled 'Zimbabwe's Lost Vision' in which Hove excoriates the bad faith of a political elite intent only on self-enrichment as the infrastructure of the country crumbles and violence takes root at the heart of society.

There are words that recur in these pieces whose repetition beats out a rhythm of rage and despair while speaking of an alternative possible future: 'culture', 'censorship', 'creativity', 'control', 'conscience'. For Hove, the rulers of his country are thugs and vandals who have knowingly created a climate of fear in which each individual is beset with 'mini states of emergency which reside in the heart'. This is an impassioned polemic from a writer agonizingly aware of the catastrophic path his country is taking and doing his utmost to alter that course.

PW

© The author/publisher