THE Big Saturday Read (BSR) was the official online blog of the late Alex Magaisa.
It was a platform where he incessantly and religiously provided in-depth, objective and factual weekly socio-legal, socio-economic and political commentary on the affairs of his beloved motherland Zimbabwe.
Accordingly, since 2014 the BSR had become the socio-legal and political reading staple diet for many Zimbabweans. Consequently, on almost every single Saturday of the year, that is 52 Saturdays of the year, a lot of Zimbabweans would conduct their weekly pilgrimage to the social media accounts of Magaisa, in order to get a fair share of their BSR weekly meal.
During that eight-year period, Magaisa, like a seasoned legal and political chef or cook, never disappointed his ever-demanding, growing and hungry client base, by continuously producing and providing them with thought-provoking, socially enriching and intellectually stimulating dishes of BSRs.He was always adept at knowing the types of political, social and legal spices and ingredients to apply to his weekly BSRs meals in line with prevailing and pertinent socio-economic, political and legal developments within our body politic.
Accordingly, his legion of followers had become so spoiled by his innate generosity of never disappointing them with his BSR opinion pieces. Therefore, his untimely and tragic death has cast a huge shadow of doubt and uncertainties as to the future or lack thereof of the BSR. Thus, followers understandably fear that they are going to be educationally and politically malnourished and socially and legally emaciated in the absence of their regular weekly BSR meals. This debate on the future of the BSR was given fresh impetus due to the unexpected overwhelming favourable feedback generated by the obituary I wrote in his memory.
Unwittingly, I find my name being put forward as the potential heir apparent to the late Magaisa`s weekly BSR sociolegal and political commentary. Suffice it to say that, when I wrote the late Magaisa`s obituary, it was never part of my intention to act as a sociolegal intellectual Joshua of the BSR. However, since the cat has been thrown among the pigeons, I therefore attempt to provide an objective analysis on how the issue of perpetuating the legacy of WaMagaisa through the adoption of his BSR can be tackled and addressed.
Thus, I shall be taking into consideration the personal and professional principles and values that informed and underpinned the humanity and mindset of WaMagaisa. Furthermore, I shall highlight the centrality and importance of involving the Magaisa family in this whole matter of attempting to preserve the BSR. Also, I shall provide useful guidelines and possible initiatives that can be crucial in resuscitating the BSR for posterity.
Magaisa’s untimely and tragic death did not only rob his family of a father, leader and a son, but it also left his BSR followers fatherless and opharned. The BSR was Magaisa`s intellectual and academic child. The quality of the weekly BSR opinion pieces clearly demonstrated that WaMagaisa had profound love and undivided attention to his online blog. Therefore, in terms of our socio-cultural values there is a practice of providing guardianship to orphaned children, which is known as “sarapavana”. Applying the same principle, we can therefore consider that there is a need to look and search for a suitable sarapavana for the BSR. Moreover, there is a proverb which counsels: “Kambani haivhare nekufa kwemu Joni”, which literally means that a company will not shut down for business for good because its owner has died. Figuratively, it means that a good initiative or worthwhile venture should not be abandoned due to the loss or departure of one of its senior members or leaders.
Therefore, the legion of fanatical followers of Magaisa`s BSR have been left shepheredless and are in desperate need of a sociolegal and political Joshua who will take over from their departed Moses, so that they can continue to be shepherded by the BSR into the Canaan of intellectually captivating legal and political commentary and analysis, especially with the 2023 general elections slowly approaching.
Needless to say that, what the former followers of Magaisa`s BSR have been advocating for is not a novel or a new concept at all. In fact, by arguing for the perpetuation of the BSR they are actually talking the language associated with the setting up of foundations, fellowships, memorials and annual memorial lectures for public figures or public intellectuals. For instance, there is the Steve Biko annual memorial lecture, Chinua Achebe literary festival and memorial lecture, Dumiso Dabengwa Foundation and its series of annual memorial lectures.
However, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change MP for Hwange Central, Daniel Molokele, has been doing quite a lot of good work in immortalising the legacy of the late Learnmore Jongwe, through the “Friends of Learnmore Jongwe ” initiative. Unfortunately, this progressive initiative by Molekele has not been given the attention it deserves by a lot of Zimbabweans
Therefore, I am going to suggest the following mechanisms as a starting point for objectively and comprehensively opening this debate on how best to tackle both the legacy of the BSR and that of Alex Magaisa.
Firstly, I would suggest that any serious attempt to continue with the BSR must involve the late Magaisa’s closest family members, notwithstanding the fact that he was a public figure and public intellectual, who automatically became everyone’s father, brother, son and an uncle. However, the Magaisa family should be consulted and actively involved in any discussion centred around the preservation and perpetuation of his political and legal works.
This is crucial because the closest family might be privy to what he might have told them or probably left in his last will, on how he would like his intellectual and academic legacy to be handled and managed. Therefore, we should not go ahead of the family and impose our wishes with neither their involvement nor consent.
Secondly, the BSR was a very well-crafted, logically sound and well-thought-out sociolegal and political weekly commentary blog. Thus, it became an impeccable scholarly brand that became associated with well-researched , well-written, factual and objective sociolegal and political commentary and thoughts of Magaisa. As a perfectionist, he was always attentive to detail, thus setting high, robust and impressive standards in terms of how to produce weekly online legal and political commentary. Accordingly, this public intellectual legacy should be neither desecrated nor soiled by people producing half-baked, untruthful and mediocre legal or political commentary under the auspices of the BSR.
Therefore, I would suggest if the Magaisa family were to give greenlight to the perpetuation of the BSR, there must be an editorial team that must edit and examine every single opinion submitted for publication under the BSR. Accordingly, Magaisa`s personal and intellectual friends like Sipho Malunga, Brian Kagoro, Chofamba Sithole and Deprose Muchena would be suitable candidates for the BSR editorial board. This way, they can provide effective editorial guardrails.
Thirdly, writing legal, sociolegal and political commentary on a weekly basis is a very emotionally draining, physically demanding and mentally stressful venture. Accordingly, not many people possess the intellectual stamina and academic gravitas of WaMagaisa, that made him capable of taking on the huge responsibility of producing the BSR on a weekly basis. Therefore, in order not to destroy and soil the legacy of both the BSR and that of Magaisa, there is a need to clearly assess and see whether there is a team of intellectual and academic personnel that is prepared and wholly committed to take on this very challenging task.
Moreover, I would suggest that there is a need to explore whether a weekly BSR is going to be feasible and achievable and, if not, they should look into maybe doing it on a fortnightly basis or monthly basis.
Lastly, I would suggest that, if the perpertuation of the BSR in its weekly format is going to be difficult and impossible, however, there are other forms of immortalising and memorialising the legacy of the late Magaisa. For example, close family members and friends may look into setting up a foundation in the name of Alex Magaisa. Also, they can come up with an annual memorial lecture in his name, whereby progressive Zimbabweans who have distinguished themselves in the fields of human rights, advocacy, academia and governance will be annually invited to deliver a lecture.
Furthermore, I would suggest the concept of having even a joint Dewa Mavhinga and Alex Magaisa foundation. We must consider that they were both from Chikomba district, coupled with the fact that they were both lawyers by profession and were deeply involved in the struggle for the upholding of human rights and respectability of civil liberties within Zimbabwe. This will entail the input and output of both the Mavhinga and Magaisa families.
About the writer: Taona Denhere is a human rights and international development lawyer based in the United Kingdom.