Is Chess Just a Game? ( What hold do our leaders really have over us?)

Some time ago I had a conversation with a military man, about the plight of the people during the Cholera epidemic that gripped Zimbabwe in 2008/9. I was really passionate about the topic and what the government had done to bring the crisis to a swift end with the aid of outsiders and tried to put my point across effectively and at the same time be sympathetic to the thousands who lost their loved ones. With a dodgy laugh and an uncompromising tone of voice, the military man said,’ Young man, there is no revolution without victims.’ I was taken aback at his coldheartedness and couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of his mouth. Later, as I reflected on the conversation we had had, I thought to myself, so we are just like pawns on the chess board. Our role is to give our sweat and blood to the Royals or leadership at the click of their fingers, but the same can’t be said about them for us.

Now I was thinking and asking questions like:

1) Who invented the game of chess? He must have been a military strategist.

If you look at the chess board, every piece is strategically positioned, with the King and Queen in the innermost core of the palace. In the inner core they are surrounded by the bishops, who represent the religions that every kingdom puts their trust in, be they the spirit mediums (Masvikiro) or other gods or the Almighty God Jehovah. These would be consulted largely as instruments of the state to serve the interests of the royal class. Then you have the knights, who make up the second layer of protection for the kingdom and are located just inside the walls of the palace and at the gates. These would be the equivalent of our Service Chiefs who will defend the status quo because they are benefiting. In our case, of course, the Generals would say they will not accept any changes. Lastly, you have the pawns who form the first layer of protection, and who are usually found outside the castle walls. These are the ordinary soldiers who after protecting the royals will go to their high density suburbs and live amongst the people. These pawns have the nerve to spy on the people they live with and my late Professor Masipula Sithole described them as “those who get angry on behalf of the president”.

2) Why the distance in between and the difference in the colour of the pieces?

Different kingdoms do not share the same dwelling and are usually located far away from each other. Imagine the distance between the pawns from the Whites and the Blacks before the game starts. So, for a war to break out there have to be differences in ideologies which are represented by the differences in colour of the pieces on the chess board. ZANU PF and MDC have different ideologies. As the two sides decide to commence the battle, they usually seek a battlefield far from their castles. In our case the war is taken to the rural communities who have nothing to protect, far away from the expensive, posh mansions in Harare. The battle is taken to the high density suburbs where the ordinary people reside, lest they will damage the property of those staying in Borrowdale. And funny enough, the pawns are sent out to rape women, children, beat teachers, and every citizen suspected not to be supporting the ideology of those in power.

The battlefield

3) Do the pawns, sent into harm’s way, have the same conviction to protect the Royals as do those who comprise the inner circles.

Whether this conviction is there, I don’t know, but what I know is that it differs from individual to individual. Having said that, in a time of war whether you have conviction or not will count for nothing because firstly you need to fight for the kingdom to survive, or else you might lose your life in the process and secondly, you could lose your identity under another king’s rule. But off course Zimbabwe is not fighting a conventional war …

This takes me back to the military man’s statement that, in every revolution there are victims. It is quite hard to understand yet it is so true. Some may call their fantasies revolutions, but there are true revolutions where I believe the conviction of each individual is with those leading the revolution.


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