Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Zim’s Emerging Lifestyle Crisis

By Takura Zhangazha*

A Diaspora based friend who works in the hotel and catering industry recently and happily told me that he had completed payment for an urban residential stand at a growth point. I asked him why buy an urban property that is so close to his rural home?   His answer was in two parts.  First that it was what his peers were doing. They were part of a housing cooperative that allowed what he considered relatively easy payment terms. The second reason which was a bit more nuanced was that he basically didn’t want to die without owing an urban property. 

Or even without escaping what he evidently considered the backwater that is his rural customary law governed and ultimately state owned land. Basically he had purchased a retirement home that wouldn’t have him go back to what historically we have come to call the ‘reserves’ or in local vernacular ‘ruzevha’.

And its all fair enough.  The city in our own Zimbabwean and African contexts was always going to be etched in popular imagination as being the best place to live.  Not only because of the ‘bright lights’ but more because of having been presented by the colonial state as the place where all the 'civilized' people live.  Or at least ought to. That we were to the greater extent coerced to begin to live in cities may miss our more recent historical and collective memory.

What is however more apparent is that the city or cities are increasingly more attractive to young Zimbabweans.  And the same cities portend assumptions of better living, lives or lifestyles.  With the latter meaning not only quicker access to goods and services such as electricity, water, transport, health but more significantly in search of recognition of success by lifestyle. 

And it is this latter point that is now defining our rapid urbanization in Zimbabwe.  What we are seeing is not just a physical urbanization of the country but more tellingly, an urbanization of our minds/national consciousness.  Regardless of where we are actually living. 

So a majority of us no longer desire what would be basic necessities even of urban existence.  We would want the recognition of the designer clothes (even if they coming out of imported bales of second hand clothing), the odd car, smart phone, shoe etc.  In this we have become enamoured to commodities that we think or are told should make us feel better.  Or we are suffering from what Marx and others would refer to as commodity fetishism. Except that this is particularly with the mindset of pursuing the best possible and fashionable urban lifestyle.

In this, we are not short of comparative analysis of how ‘others’ are consuming or failing to do so.  With the first departure point of this analysis being the fact of movement from rural to urban.  And then in the urban to compare, again, how much more we are consuming i.e. how many stands, cars, etc do you have? 

Or even more sinister, very base and materialistic comparisons of where your children go to school and whether you are still stuck in the ghetto or have crossed the lifestyle Rubicon that would for example be Samora Machel Avenue in Harare.    

This is why in part, with the severe reduction of the more formal economy, the scramble for recognition is no longer in specific professions or ethical considerations about income or a lack thereof.  The key issue becomes how much money you get not why you get it.  This would also explain why for example the denigration of the teaching profession comes with the greatest of ironies from those that went through the education system only to now spite it. 

Or in the medical profession, once highly valued and respected occupations such as nursing or even medical doctors themselves find themselves struggling for not only a past respect of their important work but with greater urgency, better remuneration.   This against the evidently opulent lifestyles of other previously less well paying occupations such as politics, religious ministry or being a foreign currency exchange dealer.   

This for many an admirer of capitalism and cut-throat free market economics, would not be a problem.  The only dilemma however for those of us on the left is that it demeans democracy and a people centered state.  The hedonism we are now exhibiting, as motivated primarily by highly materialistic lifestyle desires does not bode well for posterity. 

To be drowning in our own consumption, based on lifestyles that ultimately become unrealistic and at the comparative expense of those we would call others is an exercise in national futility. 

We probably need to re-balance the urban and the rural beyond the designs of the colonial and post colonial state. But probably more importantly we  just need to manage our materialism and greed.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Zimbabwean Christian Churches’ Ridiculousness In Need of a Political Sabbath.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Like any other non-state organization, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD)  is entitled to its own opinion on the state of affairs in the country. Except that its opinion is generally expected to be considered.  Its most recent one is borderline ridiculous and evidence of a misplaced messianic streak of undemocratic political overreach. Or even an assumption that with the limited levels of a critical national consciousness, Zimbabweans will probably forget the democratic principle of the separation of the Church from the State.  Or to quote Jesus, giving unto Caesar, what belongs to Caesar.  

To quote from the statement, the ZHOCD proposes what it refers to as a Sabbath that would be  ‘ national seven year Sabbath period for the purposes of establishing an emergency recovery mechanism to address the national situation’. 

This ‘national situation’ according to the ZHOCD would therefore require “the suspension of the constitutional provision of elections” that would, wait for it, be determined by a referendum. The lack of logic in the suggestion is laughable.  The ZHOCD wants the country to vote against voting.
The leaders of the ZHOCD probably prayed about issuing this statement.  Unfortunately the signal that they got from God or elsewhere is patently undemocratic that even St Augustine would be raising questions at their political theology. 

If the ZHOCD had ended there, it would have been a little less ridiculous.  In stating the problem and an anticipated result of the suspension of elections via a referendum, the clergypersons propose no actual mechanism as to who or what governs the country in the seven year electoral ‘Sabbath’. That will be determined by some sort of consultative process which assumedly, the church itself would lead.  Though it does not say so in the statement.

I am sure one of the main reasons why the ZHOCD has reasoned this way is because it knows itself to be an organization whose voice will reach the ears of the most politically and economically powerful in the land.  And because it has great societal reach, it also knows that is almost untouchable.  With millions of worshippers flocking to its affiliate churches every weekend, it can with relative ease influence public opinion in its favour.

But to influence public opinion in this way, by asking for and actively willing an unconstitutional suspension of elections, is an abrogation of the churches responsibility of ensuring peace, progress and stability in modern day nation states.  It is also probably as bad as shouting ‘fire’ in a cinema, causing a stampede, and claiming afterwards, that one was just expressing an opinion. 

There are therefore a number of reasons why progressive Zimbabweans must be able to talk back to the ZHOCD undemocratic statement.  Not only as a learning curve for that organization but a re-affirmation of a now long standing democratic value of the principle of the separation of religion from the state.  Together with the necessity of a stubborn insistence that democracy overrides religion. All the while guaranteeing freedom of worship. 

In another instance it would be useful to assist ZHOCD to recall that various religious doctrines have played important roles in our liberation struggles, they did not come to define these same said struggles. Indeed some may have been used to justify the necessity of liberatory armed struggles, others as a counter- narrative but religion remained firmly on the periphery of what in the final analysis were secular struggles.  Statements such as the one issued by the ZHOCD are a rather a vainglorious attempt to place Christianity at the centre of what should essentially be secular struggles.  Almost in messianic fashion.

Nowhere in their statement do they mention the political economic mess that has been wrought on by the ideology of neoliberalism.  Their vague generalisations about ‘healing’ without reference to structural causes of why we find ourselves where we are is not the stuff one would expect from the clergy. But then again, who wants to argue against the massive wealth that these churches preside over, their own internal dictatorships, their fraternization with the wealthy and powerful to curry favour and in this age of millennial capitalism, the devastating effect of their prosperity gospels. 

The ZHOCD  is however lucky.  The current Zimbabwean president uses religion as a political backstop.  Ever since taking over power from Mugabe and retaining it in the 2018 elections, Mnangagwa makes it a point to pop up at huge gatherings of religious worshippers.  And he makes many material promises to the leaders of these churches. 

Opposition political party leaders have also taken on the dogmatic approach to Christianity and politics. Weighing in on a fervent Pentecostalism, various politicans have put on both robes of not only being trained clergypersons but also politicians.  While it remains their democratic right to do so, the end effect is that actual church leaders at orgainsations such as the ZHOCD begin to think they and their religious inclinations are now the raison d’etre for the existence of the Zimbabwean state.
It is not Zimbabwe that must take nay sabbatical from democratic electoral processes.  It is the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations that needs a long political sabbatical.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Zimbabwe, Where Political Hope is Grounded in Pessimism

By Takura Zhangazha *

Back in 2008, a friend of mine visited the United States of America.  This was at the height of the Barack Obama presidential campaign.  When he came back he had all sort of campaign paraphernalia. Caps, t-shirts and the Che Guevara like poster silhouette  of Obama emblazoned with the word ‘ Hope’.  As far as he was concerned all of it was proof enough that he had been in the promised land of Obama hype and hope.  Or as was the given campaign slogan of that election campaign, if we still remember it, ‘ change you can believe in’. 

He remains ever enthusiastic about his experience and has also eventually fashioned his own political ambitions and campaigns around the same.

Another friend of mine visited South Africa in 2013.  He was beyond himself with awe at Julius Malema’s newly launched Economic Freedom fighters (EFF) party.  He did not return with as much paraphernalia as did my other comrade who had visited America.  He came back with only a t-shirt and beret.  But his enthusiasm was no the less diminished about how Malema and his outfit represented some sort of hope of how young African leaders can take over the reins of political leadership. 

In both instances I have cited, there were few questions about what the 'hope' portended by the same political players was. Any change was deemed to be good. Or in most cases the motivation for wanting it was a potpourri of anger, angst and a search of a political catharsis caused by  a collective emotion of political powerlessness against respective given elite establishments. 

In both examples, again, the political establishment persevered.  Obama never took the USA to the lofty liberal heights he had promised. His social media enabled populism floundered at the feet of a long duree (and Eisenhower defined) military industrial complex. And the shocking backlash that the same establishment managed to get Trump elected as Obama's successor. 

On the other side of the world, Malema not only failed to defeat the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa’s 2014 general elections  but also came third to the same country’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance. And this was to be repeated, albeit with slightly changed results figures in the same country's 2019 elections. 

Political hope, however one wanted to consider it, was reigned in.  Even in  the most supposedly democratic societies. Either in the global north or the global south. 

Where we consider Zimbabwe, one issue sticks out like a sore thumb.  There is no longer any popular anticipation let alone understanding of political optimism.  Or as in the title of this write up, ‘hope’. 
Instead what obtains is a general expectation of the worst.  As informed not only by a lack of general public confidence in political leadership as it obtains but also an assumption that suffering is our national lot. 

Depending on your political affiliation or your geographical location, it is always the worst that is expected.  If you are a ruling Zanu Pf supporter, the message from your president (and also the country's president), is to grit your teeth, suffer, continue and hold your breath a little bit longer.  That is hardly a message of political ‘hope’ by any stretch of any patriotic imagination.
Or if you are in the largest parliamentary opposition party, the MDC Alliance, it should only get worse before it gets any better.  And only if they are in executive political power.  Unless it is them governing , expect the worst, is the not so hidden narrative. 

And this assumption of political pessimism is not only the prerogative of political parties.  It’s a thread that also runs through the most powerful section of civil society, the Christian churches and religion with their phenomenal influence on the national consciousness.  Whether it’s about the payment of tithes in the now more prevalent Zimbabwean currency as opposed to the United States dollar.  Through to an awkward desire by clergy persons to influence individual political leaders and collective political parties via prophecies, unless it is their way, it is therefore doomed for failure.  

Hence the main contenders for presidential political power in the 2018 harmonized elections all had a God theme to their electoral campaigns.  Though despite victory or defeat, the churches appear to be holding fast to still trying to prove the ‘authenticity’ of their previous and contemporary ‘political prophecies’.   All of which do not portend hope. But as all ‘prophecies’ do, they carry of message of doom if their dictates are not followed.  And still be able to get away with it, either way. 

In all of this, we cannot ignore the role of social media and an increased access to information that it brings.  But make no mistake, social media in and of itself is not a problem let alone a main cause why our national politics focuses on the negative as opposed to optimism.  It is ourselves as Zimbabweans who are caught up in an emotional complex that desires more the worst than the best of our own society.  No matter what side of the political divide we are on.  All of which appears to be caused directly by the trap we got ourselves into via a desire to live lives similar to those in the global north and east. Even if we do not fully understand how those societies got to where they are (colonial wealth included). 

We seem to be pursuing a recognition that is as irrelevant as it is materialistic. To be seen in pain and in search of a rescue from a world that in any event generally despises us for not being able to run our affairs as it would but also for wanting to share the success of its neo-liberal ‘normalcy.  We want the best of the world only if the latter sees and sympathises with our pain as inflicted by our ‘lack of normalcy’ by its own standards. 

And this then becomes our own Fanonian pitfall of our national consciousness.  We are no longer being true and critical to our own national contexts.  We want the easier solution as viewed by the approving gaze of social media and the political global north and its attendant all powerful global capital.  It is however more of an historical shame that this is what we are allowing our children to learn from us.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Political and Corporate Treason Over Water in Harare.

 By Takura Zhangazha*

The Harare City Council (HCC) recently announced that it had run out of water treatment chemicals.  And with astounding ease also announced that it was therefore going to shut down the city’s largest water treatment plant.  That basically meant that it was shutting down the entire council water supply of the city immediately.  Just like that, at least 1,4 million residents of Harare would have no access to clean water. 

The shutdown of the water treatment plant, at least officially, lasted about 24 hours.  This, after central government then announced that it was taking over the plant for the city council. 
Both central and local government must have had clear knowledge that the capital city was running out of the necessary water treatment equipment.  While it was HCC that appeared to let  our water situation come to this shutdown, there’s probably no way the ministry of local government was not aware of the same. 

So as expected, blame games were thrown around with relative ease.  At the same time, and with immediacy, the supply of water for Harare, became politicized.  Central government, as run by the national ruling Zanu Pf party was quick to infer that the blame for such a potentially catastrophic state of affairs lay with the opposition MDC Alliance run HCC.   

Pundits were also quick to point out the technicalities of how HCC has not been collecting rates because of the lack of payment for a new billing system that had already gone through a tender process.  Hence it had no money to pay for the supply of critically important chemicals.  On the other hand, there is also the argument that since bills are now being charged in local ZWL currency, even if they are not being efficiently collected, there is no way HCC can acquire chemicals without foreign currency support from central government. 

There is a third but unspoken argument is the one that fits snugly into our assumptions fo economic sophistry.  That of not questioning the supplier companies of the chemicals that are required.  Not only in relation to costs but also probably their views on their corporate social responsibilities.  All of which includes the fact that because not only water itself but more importantly access to it is a human right, then these companies must be held up to the highest level of public accountability.  Together with central government and HCC on the matter. 

But we would still need to examine the matter further.  From an attitude perspective.   And here I am referring to the nature of the attitude of not only our political and business leaders to disregarding the sanctity of human life. But also that of ourselves as ordinary Zimbabweans. 

It generally now begins with us as individuals and how we perceive of ourselves together with our role within the collective that we call society.  For a majority of us water has become a commodity.  Quite literally.  It is no longer, in our own individualistic view, a right.  As it would have been in a village setting where it was unfathomable to deny a stranger a cup of water.   We no longer see beyond our own individual needs.  Hence there is no outcry about the fact that a city council can abruptly announce that it is shutting down water supply.  We all think about our boreholes. Or our status via where we live and by inference, our class. 

It is altogether awkward but a testimony to the fact that as Zimbabweans we have tragically  moved away from what would be an important understanding of collective well-being.  Not it in the abstract sense of ‘ubuntu’ but in the more pragmatic and technical sense of ensuring that whatever happens we are all given a fair chance of well-being in our society.  Through access to basic social services and in this particular instance, access to water as a right.  Not a privilege.  It is a development that should worry us all that we have sunk so low. And over water and access to it for that matter.

But then again it explains why our elected political leaders behave the way they do.  Such as those at HCC who casually announce the shutdown of water supply for the entirety of a city.  Or those in central government who then attempt to be doing a Houdini of restoring supply of an essential natural resource to score the cheapest of political points. 

The media also did not help in the matter.  In other countries this would have been an issue of epic coverage, down to the minutest detail.   The media chose instead to follow the story of a long drawn funeral as well as ratchet up an imaginary tiff between Zimbabwe and the global west at the recent United Nations General Assembly. 

It is prudent to recall that we need to change at a fundamental level, our approach and attitude to social services.  Both in urban and rural areas.  It remains the primary obligation of the state to ensure that we receive these social services (access to clean water, health, education, transport and housing).  It also remains the primary obligation of all of us to understand that we need to be consistently aware of this fact.  And to demand these services. Not via the profit seeking corporates' but the state. And to tell HCC or any other urban or rural district council that their job is not as abstract as they assume.  It is about human lives.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)  

Friday, 20 September 2019

Mbeki Remembering Mugabe: Nostalgia and Talking Back at Blair

 By Takura Zhangazha*

South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki recently gave a relatively brief speech on the legacy of the late Robert Mugabe. He was speaking at a memorial service organized by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Durban, South Africa. 

Mbeki’s speech and probable future interviews on Mugabe was always going to be highly anticipated.  Not only because as president of South Africa and in various capacities within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) he was pivotal in defending what he considered Zimbabwe’s sovereignty. 

By default this was also seen to be a defense of Mugabes leadership by Western superpowers.
And as expected in his eulogy Mbeki was always going to touch on the shared history of the ANC and Zimbabwe’s liberation movements.  Including the all important post Zimbabwe independence decision under Mugabe’s leadership to delay a radical land reform process in order not to railroad the independence negotiations of South Africa.

He however made a rather outlandish statement by saying that not a single Zimbabwean wanted Robert Mugabe deposed from power.  And that such a motive was largely motivated by ‘outsiders’.  He also made reference to the media as being key in this narrative of Mugabe’s ouster and that even the main opposition political outfit, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wanted help to help ‘us find each other’.  As opposed to seeing the back of Mugabe.   With his own emphasis as of old that the ANC during his leadership was keen on the reality that the people of Zimbabwe be allowed to determine their own destiny.

Mbeki also mentioned the Global Political Agreement for which he was SADC’s appointed mediator, as showing in part the character of the country that Mugabe wanted to leave behind as his legacy.  While not going into its details, it was evident that Mbeki valued the GPA and the reforms it brought to Zimbabwe.   However to imply that it was part of Mugabes vision might be taking things a tad too far as this was also co-authored by opposition leaders. And in any event, it was to be a short lived political arrangement that Mugabe was happy to see the back off, apart from constitutional amendments that allowed him to retain the executive presidency. 

But perhaps that is all moot and for the historians to adjudge as to the GPA’s durability and legacy.
The most controversial point that Mbeki raised in his speech was that at some point former British prime minister Tony Blair had some sort of plan to use force to effect political change in Zimbabwe.  (It would be useful to also remember that they were once very good friends espousing the 'third way' in global development policies.) 

Citing a retired general who stated in his memoirs that he was surprised that Blair had asked him of the feasibility of military intervention in Zimbabwe, Mbeki sarcastically makes the comment that Blair would deny this. 

Soon after Mbeki’s lecture, a former minister in Blair’s cabinet Peter Hain tweeted that it was ‘fantasy’ that Britain ever considered an invasion of Zimbabwe.  

The good thing for Zimbabweans, regardless of whoever is telling the truth, is that there was no military invasion of our country. Iraqi, Libya or Afghanistan style.  And for that we owe SADC and probably Mbeki himself a lot.

What I also found intriguing was the Pan African narrative that Mbeki intended to demonstrate full knowledge of.  And the inference of the necessity of compromise and learning from each other of the main liberation movements in the region.  It was almost as though Mbeki knows that what he values as the actions of Pan African solidarity of old together with an attendant nationalist consciousness is dying.

The only catch is that there are many reasons for this, which include but are not limited to the fact our nationalist leaders failed to grasp generational praxis. That is, the ability of the leaders to build organizations that function organically and with an understanding that democratic value systems transcend one person’s particular leadership. 

The deficit in this preferred understanding are glaringly clear with the continued specter of xenophobia in South Africa and undelivered promises of liberations struggles across generations.  And more significantly in our leaders’ latter day tragic embrace of neo-liberalism as inevitable and without an alternative. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Xenophobia in SA, Social Media’s Immediacy in Modifying our African Behaviour

By Takura Zhangazha*

This recent week, if I owned Facebook, Google or Whatsapp and sitting far, far away from South Africa, Southern Africa and Africa itself I would be crunching the data of those that use my applications in those parts of the world. 

Not literary mathematically crunching at it but waiting for the algorithms to give me key indicators as to how did images and videos of violence by black people against other black people in the comparatively economically rich Gauteng province of South Africa go so viral on my platforms.  I would know that some of the videos were made in real time by crosschecking again my platform for either Facebook live footage of the same or in the last resort mainstream global satellite media’s coverage with knowledge that they would also post it on my platforms for maximum impact and profit.

The key question however is would I have possibly known about it beforehand? Or at least done my very complicated mathematics or algorithms on the data to have predicted the potential violence based on what was being posted on the platforms I own?  Possibly, maybe or even probably. 
And this is where my initial anecdotal narrative ends.

All based on the happen chance that most of what I will write henceforth, in this blog, is well informed from my reading of a seminal book by Shoshana Zuboff titled ‘The Age of surveillance Capitalism, The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.’  (See review here

I am persuaded that we, in Southern Africa to be particular, are in the throes of the modification as opposed to the 'conviniencing' of our everyday behavior. Mainly via social media and as informed by the data the latter’s owners gather on us.  Not that it didn’t begin with soap, the mirror, through to paper, fixed telephony, the internet, mobile telephony, social media or as is now big data.

And this is not a bad thing in itself, even if our technological progress appears to have occurred by colonial default.  

In fact, in our contemporary ‘technological’ state of affairs, it is probably enjoyable for a great many of us who now rely on our smart mobile phones for information which most times literally has to be audio-visual to catch our increasingly limited attention spans. 

The anticipation is not in what we want to factually know but what we prefer to see, hear or say.  So when a video pops up in our Whatsapp group(s) and is shared many, many times as being a truthful event it is not for us to question its veracity. That’s an issue that does not really matter.  It’s for us to observe its gruesomeness, click our tongues in disapproval and oddity of oddities forward it to another WhatsApp group or re-share it. 

In most cases, the most violent of images are allowable on various social media platforms that we choose to use or that we can afford. 

And the outbreak of the violence in South Africa was testament to this.  Whether the images were true or false they definitively did one thing.  They raised emotions.  Not only in South Africa itself but also in the home countries of those most affected by it.  Within at least 48 hours of images urging South Africans to ensure that they shut down the ‘foreigners’ things quickly moved from the virtual to the real. The week beginning 1 September 2019 was the start of random but organized acts of violence against ‘othered’ African nationalities in the Gauteng province of South Africa.  Allegedly by South Africans. 

A couple of days later social media was awash with counter narrative images and videos (real or invented) of revenge in the cities of Lusaka (Zambia), Lagos (Nigeria) and threats of the same elsewhere. 

The neo-liberal World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) scheduled for Cape Town, South Africa went ahead amidst the reported withdrawal of a couple of African presidents who had been scheduled to attend. And that was a big thing. It indicated that for all the pretense at cozying up with global capital that WEFA represented the owners of  social media platforms  already knew, by way of data, the grumblings of the societal underbelly of South Africa.  At least in that country’s Gauteng province. By way of online behavioral data. 

The escalation and immediacy of the violence that ensued was primarily motivated by the same. Whether the South African government knew beforehand will probably be the subject of history books. The likely fact of the matter is that it is most probable the owners of social media and even text messaging platforms probably had a rough idea, based on the algorithms they own and also have probably newly developed, that the likely course of real time action, i.e violence.

What remains interesting is the almost given predictability of human behaviour even in the aftermath of the xenophobic violence.     Even some of us who have never set foot in South Africa, let alone have any particular legal or financial capability of going there were besides ourselves in anger.  The demonstrations that were held and the attempts at the looting of South African related (not necessarily owned) companies in Zambia or Nigeria was an act of angst and a vainglorious attempt at economic envy catharsis.  All motivated by what we saw on our mobile phones and the perennially present social media applications. 

What in effect got hidden between the Tweets, Facebook and WhatsApp posts was the tragic reality of the matter for Africans.  This being even if we invoke the liberation struggle to claim an evidently dying post-cold war  Pan Africanism as to why all Africans have a claim to the country that is South Africa, we know that that lure of the post-colonial metropolis is not going to go away. Particularly for many a young African. 

This means we will view the recent violence by black Africans upon other black Africans as an unacceptable but eventually passing phase.  For now. 

Those that own social media platforms know this. They are studying our data and offering predictions of our potential behavior, at a price, to our governments and those that own real capital or would want to control futures markets.  

I will end with another anecdote. If I owned my right to use a social media platform, I would retain my right to make a determination as to what it chose to show me but more significantly what I choose to believe to be the truth of what it shows me.  Not as part of a proverbial herd.  But as part of a critically conscious citizenry that knows who is trying to lie to us in order to profit from it.  Somewhere in Africa. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

A Note on Being Zimbabwean in the Now.

By Takura Zhangazha*

There are many ways of viewing one’s own country.  Or sharing one’s opinion on the same with others in direct conversation or on social media.  One thing that strikes me though, and most times I wince at it, is how often people casually make the remark, ‘If I could leave this country, I would!’
Sometimes in jest, most times in anger.  And its understandable, if not tolerable.  The only question that hovers would be ‘to leave for where?’ 

Most times, again in real or virtual conversation, the most obvious answer to the question, depending on class, is to leave for South Africa. In higher circles it is to leave for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) or North America(USA or Canada). 

In the same sort of vein, there’s one conversation that quite literally struck me when I asked a former colleague how they were doing.  You know, the usual sort of banter in social circles.  The colleague, with a completely happy demeanor told me he was fine and asked if I knew that he had quit his job?  I replied that I did not know that.  To which he explained that he had finally acquired a residency visa in a country in the global north.  I asked him if he had gotten a new job in the said country to which he replied in the negative.

So I silently wondered, ‘why are you going to a country where you will have no job?’ 
I knew he didn’t mind that particular challenge and would have probably explained that he would see what to do once he got there and lived there for a while with his brother/sister, who would already be based there.

He was relatively young (early 30s probably) and he saw greater hope in going to another country, across oceans, to initially do nothing but find work. I wished him well but I was left astounded and in a little bit of an identity crisis.
I asked myself (again), what does it mean to be Zimbabwean?  Not just for myself but for all of us who would still call ourselves Zimbabwean.

In our difficult economic times it sadly may mean departure or migration for many of our younger comrades. To be Zimbabwean may also mean to be a person who wants to leave or at least always has the intention to leave at the back of their minds.  It also sadly implies that departure is always an integral aspect of being Zimbabwean.  Almost like a forlorn testament to the realization that there is nothing at home and may never be.

I am however a perpetual optimist and also a pragmatic realist.  The estimated figure that there are over three million Zimbabweans living and trying to find work in the Diaspora is however still one that gives me the chills.   But I do not miss out on the realism that the figure portends. 
As Zimbabweans we do indeed desire to leave our own country for many reasons.  The main one being an assumption that there are better ‘worlds’ out there.  Better economies that will give us a chance at some form of decent work and livelihood beyond the rural and increasingly urbanized backwaters that we are living or have lived in. 

Of course we don’t ask many historical questions about the countries we wish to be part of. Questions such as ‘who are they?’ ‘How did they get to be who they are?’  ‘Why would they treat me as an equal anyway if we arrive where they are, albeit temporarily?’ 
We are motivated to go or to at least try and go there because we envy the made in the image of the global north ‘good life’ that we learn from television or our limited understanding of Africa’s historicity. Even if we are not wanted there . 

Yet still wanting, by some miracle, to be valued as equals in societies that we may by default have helped to physically construct via our exploitation during colonialism or our participation in liberation struggles against the same.

In an age where nationalisms are running rampant across the globe and oddly so accompanied by a rise in commitment to the God that is the free market, we need to reflect deeply on who we think we are and how we should present ourselves to the rest of an unforgiving world.
And in the wake of the recent xenophobic attacks on mainly African migrants in the Gauteng province of South Africa, we probably need to learn to understand that as deplorable as that violence of Africans against other Africans is, we remain burdened by the very real legacy of colonialism in two respects.

First as a result of assumptions that proximity to private capital and its wealth would make us exclusive breadcrumb pickers as they fall from its high table.  Almost as though we were fighting to be deemed the ablest, the smartest or the cleanest to sup with it while treading down on our brothers and sisters solely because of proximity to it.

Secondly, in relation to our naiveté to accept the colonial legacy Lugardian (even Bantustan) mentality of dividing the ‘natives’ against each other and eventually ruling over whatever identity related factions they may come to have.  When Africans fight against each other, particularly gruesomely even it be in foreign aided direct wars, proxy ones or as of late in South Africa via assumptions of greater proximity to the infrastructure of the hopefully former colonial state or global private capital’s recognition, then we are definitively simplistic in our own historicity.  Almost as though we never learn from the past and how it perpetually informs the present while at the same time repeating the latter and the former as an assumedly ‘progressive’  future.
Being African in modern times is as historical as it is a contemporary geo-political and economic construct of neo-liberal capitalism.  It is also increasingly represented, again in the contemporary, as being a return to a regressive and salvation motivated past where the nationalists of the global north save the neoliberals of the global south.  While the masses, as dictated by blind consumerism/hedonism and envy kill each other needlessly in assumedly ‘domestic conflicts’.  And in most cases hegemonically motivated by capitalism and its own contradictions. A fact that we still refuse to see.
But either way, we must progressively solve our own problems, even if with progressive allies, so long we are democractically organic about it.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)