Monday, 14 September 2020

Misunderstanding Democratic Local Government in Zimbabwe

By Takura Zhangazha*

 It should not have been this urgent for Zimbabweans to re-examine their thinking of what ‘local government’ is. But given the recent spate of recalls of elected Harare and other city/town councilors at the behest of the evident factionalism in the mainstream opposition MDC-T and MDC Alliance parties, it can rationally be considered necessary. 

Even if, as we are now wont to expect, there will be a myriad of court cases going all the way to the Constitutional Court, on the legality of the recalls.  Or if the ruling Zanu Pf party, decides in its political opportunism wisdom, to effect its central government powers, in the interim,  to attempt to run specific local governments’ directly via appointed commissions.  Especially the capital city of Harare. 

What remains apparent is that in the immediate, local government in Zimbabwe is facing severe challenges of democratic relevance or legitimacy as a direct result of recent recall political developments.  

In between what we know to be ‘harmonized’ general elections that are due every five years.  These are elections in which we do the equivalent of a ‘bambazonke’ electoral system of voting for an executive president, a directly elected member of the House of Assembly, a proportionally elected member of the Senate, a proportionally elected member of the women's’ quota of the House of Assembly and probably as a last consideration, a local government councilor. 

The fact that we may prioritise the presidency over the member of Parliament and the latter over a Councillor may be understandable in relation to what we can consider ‘power dynamics’ of the title of an office that one would electorally hold. 

In this brief write up I would like to focus on local government and its political meaning for those that would hold office therein.  While at the same time taking into account the fact that most cities and town councils, the opposition MDCs (in their varied factional formations) have had a hold on them for a significant amount of time. And also that the riling Zanu Pf party has generally been the one with the final say as to whether these opposition run councils are allowed to operate independently and with limited central government interference. 

In this, there would be many ‘moot’ points if it was all just political or politicized contestations of power.  Except for the fact that dating back to the settler state of Rhodesia to present, local authorities do yield a lot of power over the lives of ordinary people.  They are quite literally authorities that hold sway over both public and private financial capital investments in society.  At a local level.  From your local clinic through to your local school, football stadium, public toilet and bustops, these are important power brokers over the urban and rural livelihoods of many Zimbabweans. 

The main reason why these local level leadership positions are treated with a general disdain/casualness is because they are considered low-rung levels of leadership.  Yet they have a direct and immediate impact on the lives of many of us.  This being a direct result of a political culture of assuming that power and or leadership is always ably demonstrated at the highest executive levels (presidency) and not where it directly interfaces with the people, i.e local government/ councilors. 

So when we track back to the decision by one faction of the mainstream MDC to fire 11 Harare City councilors after an in-council mayoral election contest we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.  

Not only to their factional motivations but also their evident misunderstanding of the democratic importance of leadership at a local government level.  

This would include the fact of the central government’s responsible minister in charge of local government, July Moyo’s, legal acquiescence to the same wherein he obviously knows that he has basically agreed to causing a crisis of legitimacy for the still remaining Harare city council leaders. 

With the likelihood of this immediately benefiting the ruling Zanu Pf party, causing further divisions within the mainstream MDC factions but more importantly demonstrating a tragic nonchalance of the importance of organic democracy at local government level in Zimbabwe.  Either side of the political divide(s).

What comes into vogue is the fact that we need to respect the democratic process at every level of leadership in our society.  It does not really help us if we can casually get rid of elected leaders at local government levels when we cannot do the same at national/central government levels.  Or even if we can recall members of Parliament, the ease with which we do so becomes arbitrary and not based on the actual public interest performance of these initially directly elected leaders. 

Where the ruling establishment has been touting devolution as key to our national development programmes, it is ironic that there would be no assumptions of an accompanying democratic culture to the same.  Indeed there may be local government leaders caught on the wrong side of the law (corruption etc).  Or others considered to have arrived at leadership without the necessary expertise.  The key point however remains that those that voted for them, even at that lower level tier of government, matter.  Not only in relation to their votes but more importantly to their expectations.

What is apparent is that we need to re-think our local government governance and accountability systems much more organically and with the people directly affected by the same in mind.  This may include the democratic possibility that we may need to separate local and national elections once again. But as always, we may not think beyond the immediate and harass the political partisanship out of local perceptions of what progressive, democratic leadership should be. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

 

 

 

Friday, 4 September 2020

What It Now Means to Be Black. Globally.

By Takura Zhangazha *

I first encountered Steve Biko’s collection of Black Consciousness articles via the book titled ‘I Write What I like’ in 1997 at the Dzivaresekwa District Council Library in Harare, Zimbabwe.  I was initially drawn to it on the basis of its somewhat stubborn title.  Being young and looking for some sort of intellectuality to my personal existential circumstances, I took to it like a duck to water. And as is now generally known, one of the striking lines in an article in which Biko writes, “The greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor, is the mind of the oppressed.”  This was probably as borrowed from Franz Fanon.

Biko was writing within the context of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa but spoke for many people of colour on the African continent and beyond. 

By the time I got to understand the intellectual writings of other luminaries such as Cabral, Nkrumah, Gramsci among many others on not only African liberation struggles but also the psycho-social perspectives on ‘blackness’ Biko still rung through my mind.  Especially because he sought to assert a specific understanding of how being black should not be defined by the ‘white’ liberal gaze.

In the contemporary, we are now oddly and unexpectedly faced with the dilemma of having to discuss and re-understand racial inequality based on events that are occurring in the United States of America (USA). As mainly led and framed by the #BlackLivesMatter nascent movement and the attendant counter narratives seeking to re-affirm some sort of ‘white’ supremacy or ownership of humanity. 

The question that emerges in the now is, “What does it now mean to be Black, globally?” The easier answer would be that being black is always to be ‘bodied’ and ‘othered’. In a Fanonian sense.  Hence the shootings and in most cases killings with impunity of multiple black men by the police in the USA.  It is almost a throwback to the times of looking at the black African body as an aberration and as something to be harnessed/ controlled or eliminated.

From a contextual African perspective however the more difficult answer points to a return to the Biko argument about that metaphoric greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor. This being our minds, perceptions and aspirations. 

And this is a somewhat complicated argument to make.  Being black in the contemporary remains an historical construct. Especially in Africa. Colonialism, post-colonialism, neo-imperialism, neo-liberalism are essentially about putting us, as black people, in our inferiority complex ‘place’.

The primary challenge is the extent to which we counter the narrative of being put into the same said “inferiority complex place.”

What has been a problem with this is that we have a false admiration of societies in the global north. Even as they implement policies that point at exclusion and discrimination against us as black immigrants. We would still want to cross the treacherous Maghreb and drown in the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach Europe. While at the same time, the Europeans do not want us there at all. 

What we probably need to understand is the fact that there is no ‘Jerusalem’ in the global north. Though the latter perpetually present themselves as the same.

But the more important question remains. What does it mean to be black today? I have four relatively casual perspectives on this.

Firstly, being black means being perpetually ‘othered’.  To be seen as an aberration as opposed to the norm. Hence we are generally expected to be the harbingers of disease and violence.  That’s why it is morally easy for global corporate media to show our dead bodies. With the added complexity of the fact that a majority of us accept this perspective and narrative. Including our inexplicable desire to be recognized as citizens of the global north. Hence we are easier to shoot or at least have our deaths accepted as run of the mill.

Secondly, being black now also means that you should essentially have special physical prowess as derived from a the mystical ‘dark continent’ that Africa entered global discourse as. From our sports stars through to our mythologized physical prowess, we remain unique in what is physically and mentally expected of us by our ‘white’ others.  Where we demonstrate intellectualism we are presented as unique and the exception, not the rule.

Thirdly, being black in the contemporary, means that to get to any point of recognized success, we have to do mimicry.  And this is essentially to mimic what ‘white’ people do. In this our psychological dilemma has been the fact that we want to not only mimic but also claim legitimacy on the basis of a false reflection in the mirror.

Fourthly and finally, being black in the now should mean that we understand the global political economy. Even though we generally, based on point three, in the majority of cases choose not to. And this is where Biko and Fanon’s ghosts return to haunt us.  Global financial capital is fundamentally racist based on its history of slavery, colonialism, post-colonialism, neo-imperialism and neoliberalism. 

Our racial identities should not have had to come to matter this much in the contemporary.  But as events in the global north show, they regrettably do.  

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Muting Structural Economic Inequality, Blurring Class in Zimbabwe.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Within the context of the Covid 19 pandemic in Zimbabwe there are increasingly many social and economic injustice issues that are being muted.  Most times deliberately and in rarer cases by default.  In the process there is also the rarely mentioned factor of class that emerges as a result of the fact of obfuscation of our current economic realities.

And by economic realities here I mean what we would consider lived realities of many Zimbabweans in the current moment. In the same way, by making reference to ‘class’ I mean the at least four tier class system we have by default in Zimbabwe.  Namely and in an order that reflects the powerful to the powerless respectively; the bourgeoisie (global financialised capital- mine, financial/stock exchange, agricultural property owners), the comprador bourgeoisie (retailers, bankers, politicians, religious leaders) ; the aspirational middle class (academics, medical doctors, small scale farmers/business owners, Diaspora, NGO workers, drug dealers) , the urban working peoples (formerly proletariat, i.e teachers, nurses, artisans, informal sector workers/vendors, unemployed youths), rural working people (formerly peasantry: i.e women, war veterans, resettled farmers, unemployed but somewhat self-reliant youths). 

For regular readers of this blog, this may appear to be a mouthful and slightly complicated.  But the key element is to understand that within the context of Covid 19, Zimbabwe remains a highly economically stratified society.  A state of affairs which has been obscured by our high levels of political polarization as it has occurred in at least the years since the December 1987 Unity Accord between Zanu and Zapu. And accelerated from 2000 to the present between the current ruling Zanu Pf and opposition MDC formations. 

In this, there would be many Zimbabweans who would mistake similar political emotions and biases for equality. All based on the assumption that if one's relative/friend from a wealthier class or section of society holds and imparts an opinion, despite my current vastly different economic positioning then we are equal.  Moreso if they demonstrate a specific material benevolence that enables one to occasionally access ‘nicer’ things in additions to what should not be patronage motivated other basic commodities that they occasionally provide. 

This basically means if one belongs to any of the top three aforementioned classes (bourgeoisie, comprador bourgeoisie and aspirational middle class) there is greater likelihood, in our Zimbabwean context that one holds greater sway over populist public opinion among what we would in the Marxian sense consider ‘lower classes’ (urban and rural working people).  And in the process always argue in favour of a specific privileged perspective on the preferred state of affairs of mainly the politics but underlying economic state of affairs of the country.

I will give an example. In the wake of the economic crisis that began in the 1990s until present, the argument for liberalization of the economy was given by our best and brightest minds (comprador bourgeoisie and aspirational/transitional middle classes). It is an opinion that has venerated private capital and hedonism to God-like status in Zimbabwe.  So the (urban or rural) working class Zimbabwean, swayed by such an inorganic populist opinion begins to think that the problem is not one of the economic or wealth distribution structure of our society.  Instead it becomes their own individual fault that they did not have the political connection, the religious vision or the multiple degrees to own a property in an urban settlement.  But, in an ironical twist, still seek to manipulate the political economic system as far as is possible to live lives beyond their economic let alone sustainable means. 

So what is raised high is the so called political bar and not the economic equality and social justice one. In this the priority questions are around party affiliation and material experiences in between elections with same said preferred party.  As opposed to queries on values, principles and perspectives on the collective well-being of our society. 

And all of this remains understandable if not repetitive with the passage of time. The top two classes outlined above have an unwritten but default understanding of the need to maintain their neoliberal hegemony over Zimbabwean society.  No matter their political differences or competition for support and allegiances with global private or state-controlled financialised capital.  And to perpetually give the majority working urban and rural poor a false impression that they can not only aspire to live that fabled good life of the rich and famous/shameless.  Hence in many instances the songs of Zimbabwean version of dancehall or hip hop music sound exceedingly contradictory by way of the music videos in which they present and re-present a desire for a materialist and ‘departure from the ghetto’ life they may never have or value.    

It is the third, fourth and fifth tier class (aspirational middle class in organic tandem with urban and rural working people) that perhaps in a Cabralian sense remains most important. In the moment. So long the third stops having false assumptions of superiority or as they say in the global north, ‘curbs its enthusiasm’ for inequality motivated consumerism/materialism.  And sees the country as one that should be constructed on democratic values that guarantee social and economic justice for all. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

Imagining, Desiring Many Zimbabwes : A Brief Conversation

 By Takura Zhangazha*

There are many ways of perceiving, imagining and even desiring Zimbabwe.  Be it from lived experience in-country, assumptions of enlightenment (education) or an outsider/external comparative eye view.  What is evident is that the narratives hitherto and thereto are many. Some more historical or organic, others more populist and others that may be considered to be somewhat condescending. 

Because this is a relatively complex subject matter, I will try to be fairly straightforward.  In the contemporary narratives on what sort of country Zimbabwe is, there are many versions and perspectives.  Either as propagated by mainstream global media or as portended through social media platforms by different individuals, 'influencers' and above all else, permitted algorithms.

The most dominant narrative particularly since the neoliberal economic reforms by Mugabe in the 1990s  has been that of imagining Zimbabwe as a completely failed/failing state.  This initially was a relatively organic, even popular, perception of what Zimbabwe was becoming as led by the trade unions, grassroots and student movements of the time.  Culminating in the formation of what was then referred to as a working peoples' opposition party, the then Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).  

At the turn of the 21st century and arguably due to the highly political, nationalist and arbitrary Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) this real or imagined failing Zimbabwe was accentuated and became almost run of the mill in global narratives. Largely from the perspective of a liberal interventionist global hegemony as led by key Western superpowers such as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UKGBNI), the United States of America (USA) and the European Union (EU).  Because of Mugabe’s long duree rule and insistence on defying what were accepted international human rights norms as given by global liberal interventionism, this narrative of imagining or even desiring a continually failing Zimbabwe under Zanu Pf rule has not gone away.  Particularly where in the last twenty years, Zanu Pf has retained a hold on power despite its perceived and real sins. 

A stubborner imagining of Zimbabwe is to be found in the ruling party Zanu PF and an historical/ ideological Pan Africanism found mainly in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and significant pockets of the African Union (AU). In this, it links the liberation struggle past with the present in an almost Manichean and even binary fashion. While the historicity of such an approach is understandable, its primary fault lies in its inability to recognize its own faults and complicity in having Zimbabwe still being imagined and perceived in powerful circles as failing. Arguments around human rights abuses, flawed electoral processes are not without merit or proverbially, there would be no smoke without fire. Despite the historical significance of liberation struggles against settler and global colonialism.  It however remains an important counter-hegemonic narrative because it reflects an irrefutable fact in the development of nations anywhere in the world, that is, a people cannot either wish away their own organic history. Warts and all.  It is a narrative and imagining of Zimbabwe that should always be taken into account.

In the third instance, there is a less ideological but highly materialist re-imagining of Zimbabwe. And this is largely found in relatively young people in and outside of the country.  Or as motivated by those that are influential and that also understand the changing political demographics of Zimbabwe.   It is an imagining of a Zimbabwe in which, never mind the ideologies’ or the historicity of events/issues, there is a desire for jobs, commodities and recognition of individual wealth accumulation.  It is also a fashionable one as enabled by social media and the medium itself determining the message and/or contrived realities.  At its heart is a desire to be part of any success stories as the relate to globalization, entrepreneurship and the accumulation of wealth in its many commodified and even temporal forms.  In this, its most convenient default ideological home remains neoliberalism and an intrinsic admiration of societies in the Global North, inclusive of ardent and at most-times tragic efforts to emigrate there.   Not necessarily because of the latter’s, for example, education or social welfare systems but primarily for the ‘good life’/ consumption that those societies exhibit. Again via mainstream global media, social media or in the latest case, streaming platforms such as Netflix.  As a result, young people’s activism and imagining of Zimbabwe shuns history or ideology.  It seeks more the immediate from multiple platforms, multiple heroes and again a recognition of ‘belonging’ from the global north in one form or the other. Regardless of the contradictions that are apparent about ‘universality’ as evidenced by for example the rise of radical nationalism in the global north or the startling reality of the need for a #BlackLivesMatter movement in the same countries.

Depending on either one’s consciousness or sense of belonging and preference, we have many imagined Zimbabwes.  I have only outlined three that I consider to be in vogue over and about the story that is Zimbabwe.  As presented in the mainstream global media.  As preferred by ruling party apparatchiks or as argued by global superpowers.  And even as probably imagined by young Zimbabweans at home and abroad via social media and other online streaming platforms. The key however might be how to retain context and be able to look ourselves in the mirror. Without asking someone else to judge our own reflection and imagine a people-centered Zimbabwe for everyone who organically claims it as their own.. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Critical Conversations with Zimbabwe’s Diaspora: Beyond the Money

By Takura Zhangazha*

It is an interesting historical fact that most of the newer/modernist thinking around Zimbabwe’s liberation emerged from the Diaspora.  Or at least from experiences by those who were to become leaders of the same either as nationalists, war veterans and activists in one form or the other.  This was mainly via them either getting their education, military training or in some cases jobs (such as in hotel and catering, teaching) outside of the country.   

In their lived experiences of being in the Diaspora many liberatory ideas, experiences and new understanding of the situation back home emerged. So if you are looking at the first major waves of emigrants from Zimbabwe to South Africa mainly to work in the mines, hotel and catering as well as in some cases to get an education at for example Fort Hare university among other vocational training institutions that were allowed to enroll black students, you find a new consciousness.  

It was from this first wave of our Diaspora, upon their return to then Rhodesia that we encountered more and more waves of unionism (for example Clements Kadalie or subsequently Benjamin Burombo), nationalism and even by the 1950’s a youth led urban radical nationalism (crosscheck the City Youth League).   

Even as the liberation struggle progressed and changed formats from nationalism to ideologically socialist guerrilla warfare, the Diaspora not only as a community but in relation to actively being hosted by friendly neighboring (Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia) and distant countries (USSR, China, Egypt, Algeria, Yugoslavia, selected communities in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Nordic states, among others). 

In post independent Zimbabwe, there was an initial natural return back home for many of those based in the Diaspora.  Not just as former liberation fighters or activists but also those that found hope in the promises of independence.

By the early to mid-1990s however this confidence in the post-independence project had begun to wane largely due to difficult economic conditions as caused by the World Bank sponsored Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP). Combined with an attendant repression of political dissent by the state. 

It is around this time, and in particular at the turn of the century (2000s) that a significant wave of emigration by Zimbabweans to countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Australia, the United Kingdom, USA and some Middle East states began. And has not really stopped ever since. Save for when the aforementioned countries have fortified their borders against immigrants. 

For a greater majority of those who left Zimbabwe during that time it was the definitive desire for better livelihoods, job remuneration and opportunities that motivated their departure. A significant number nevertheless left on the basis of seeking political asylum, particularly if their intended destination were countries in the global north. 

And this contemporary Zimbabwe Diaspora has done wonders in relation to sending remittances back home and also investing in housing and other properties. To the extent that they are now a very important player in our national economy and the everyday lives of many Zimbabweans. 

I have given this elaborate historical background largely because it is important to try and put issues into some sort of historical perspective.  But more importantly and in the contemporary, recent conversations with colleagues and friends based in the Diaspora have indicated a visceral anger at what is currently obtaining in Zimbabwe.  Particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Questions such as ‘what sort of country is that?’ Or in other instances highly personal and emotional narratives about how relatives and friends are unable to access health care despite having received money sent to them for treatment. And it is all understandable. 

These conversations inevitably take a political turn with a majority insisting that only a change of government will make Zimbabwe better.  But at the same time expressing misgivings or even disappointment about divisions in the mainstream opposition.   All the while trying their best to push specific pro-change narratives on social media, particularly WhatsApp, where they get more immediate information on what is happening politically or with their own families.  

In some of these conversations however I have begun to ask questions about their holistic vision for Zimbabwe.  Because the colleagues are wont to comparative analysis of the societies they currently live in, I also ask about whether the equivalent of what they experience around say for example, if they are in the UK, how a National Health Service (NHS) would work in Zimbabwe?

Or their views on public education, public transport, land,  national housing and even social welfare programmes for the poor.  In most cases the answers I get are ambivalent but again understandable. Mainly because there is a deep mistrust of the Zimbabwean government and also government led initiatives to engage the Diaspora.  Most of it based on their experiences with  Homelink or the latest  Diaspora Zimbabwe initiative  administered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. 

The key issue that emerges for me is that the positioning of the Diaspora as important primarily in relation to their ability to send remittances is unsustainable and unjust. Especially given the fact that a majority remain either technically or at heart Zimbabwean citizens.  Even more significantly is that historically the Diaspora has always led to new perspectives on an envisioned better Zimbabwe for all.

This entails interacting with the Diaspora beyond remittances and beginning with values and principles around a fair Zimbabwean society for all.  A proposition that would also require the Diaspora itself to begin to interact more with values and principles as the Zimbabwean opinion leaders that they are.  This entails outlining their propositions on for example health, education, transport and social welfare in Zimbabwe.  Either as they have experienced it in better frameworks in the countries they reside or as they ideally and pragmatically prefer it to be back home.  More like the equivalent of establishing a Zimbabwe Diaspora Charter of values and principles to share with those back home.  Given the diversity of our Diaspora, this may be a hard ask but it is worth a try.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Monday, 3 August 2020

Zim's Land Compensation Deal: Ahistorical Sanctification of Private Property and Inequality

By Takura Zhangazha*

The Zimbabwean government in July 2020 signed what it referred to as a Global Compensation Deed (GCD) with ‘former farmers’.  The latter being mainly former white commercial farmers as represented by, in the agreement, the Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), Southern African Commercial Farmers Alliance (SACFA-Zimbabwe) and Valuation Consortium (Private) Limited (Valcon). The GCD was signed after what can be considered an exclusive 24 July 2020 referendum where members of the above cited organizations with a whopping 94% vote count (2801 voters) accepted the Zimbabwe government’s offer.

This agreement, it turns out, has been long in the making including previous negotiations that involved the late Robert Mugabe’s administration. All as a result of the international political and private capital outcry over the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) at the turn of the century.  

While a full summary of GCD's contents and timeline are available on NewZWire website, there are some that I will highlight for the purposes of this short write up. For example, the GCD establishes that  Zimbabwe will ‘compensate’ the white former farmers for physical farm improvements, biological assets and land clearing to an agreed cumulative total of US$ 3,5 billion.  With half of it expected to be raised and paid out in the next twelve months. And thereafter quarterly payments depending on the funds raised. With the expectation that some of the money will be raised via a debt instrument with a 30 year guarantee on the international market from the Zimbabwean government, a development that immediately turns colonial injustice into public debt of those that struggled against it. And that the CFU will be key in assessing claims by the former farmers. 

Current Zimbabwe president Emmerson Mnangagwa also described the GCD as being one that, “brings to closure the national land question, while affirming our government’s commitment to rule of law and respect for property rights…”  He adds, ‘Our land has been permanently reunited with the people and the people permanently reunited with their land.  The land reform programme is thus irreversible.”

In the midst of an escalation of Covid19 and clampdowns on political protest, the GCD has understandably but unfortunately not elicited much public interest or debate.  Although some social media influencers/activists have referred to it as a betrayal of the objectives of the national liberation struggle. In official opposition circles this one has generally been an avoided topic.  For the probable reason that they would not necessarily have a different approach to this issue of ‘compensating’ white farmers.  In one or two instances the key question raised by some opposition activists was the rhetorical “Where will the government get the money?”

What remains more important in my view is the ideological justification of the GCD which is a full on embrace of neo-liberalism by the Zimbabwean government.  And the intention by Mnangagwa and globalized financial capital to treat this particular development as inevitable. While forgetting that inevitability does not make for historical social and economic justice. 

On this I have to make reference to French economist, Thomas Piketty’s latest book, Capital and Ideology because of the manner in which he ably illustrates the ideological elite alliances between those in power and those with the greatest share of capital or in our case, a hold on the national wealth.  And also where he illustrates that in historical moments of political ‘revolution’ or significant political change, there is always the fear of doing away with the right to private property.  No matter if the previous ownership frameworks of the same would have led to the revolution. With a litany of historical examples, including, that of Haiti or even closer to home, South Africa.  All in which the revolutionary expectations of the masses are eventually arm twisted, in one way or the other, by global (in our case) or state capital to compensate previous holders of capital acquired via historical political and economic repression.  With limited attention as to how they actually acquired it. 

Mnangagwa’s re-engagemgent strategy/approach, contrary to opposition disparagement is fundamentally about a re-engagement with global financialised capital in the contemporary. It is a commitment to what Piketty refers to as the ‘sacralisation of private property’ in protecting the idea that eventually, individual ownership of things within the context of the free market triumphs.  The elite desire for stability in order for private property to prosper becomes the sine qua non of all societies.  As opposed to revolution. And in this, societal inequality becomes justifiable in so far as it relates to the fundamental protection of private property by those who historically may have been unjust as long as they work in tandem with the contemporary wielders of power in its intellectual/political, military, propertied or religious formats.

The touted ‘irreversibility’ of the FTLRP is therefore essentially to lay claim to a nationalism that panders more to historical identity than it seeks organic social and economic transformation. And the key justification for this approach is evidently the Constitution of Zimbabwe (Section 295) which technically allows for white former commercial farmers to be compensated for ‘improvements’ to the land the lost under the FTLRP. 

Without a doubt, at some point within the proposed first payment period of twelve months the public debate on the GCD will become a bit more apparent. It will however be couched in the neo-liberal discourse that the ruling Zanu Pf party now prefers.  With an assumption of inevitability about it based on wanting Zimbabwe to be perceived as a ‘normal’ private property respecting country by global superpowers and hegemonic private capital. 

This also means historical and popular/populist assumptions of ‘race’ being an enabler of inequality will probably not go away in the short and long term in Zimbabwe.  Where GCD is presented by Mnangagwa as an economic necessity so too will other perceptions from within his own ruling party and others emerge as counter-narratives. But I guess the key will be the ability of the people of Zimbabwe to seek a more equitable society outside of the lenses of neo-liberalism and the ‘sacralisation of private property’.  And that is where the alternative will be found.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)


Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Netflixing Perceptions from the Global North to the Global South.

By Takura Zhangazha*

I would not have thought of it had it not been mentioned by a young comrade in relation to new ways of ‘socializing’ for young urban Zimbabweans. I had asked him how his weekend had been and he casually replied that he had managed to do something called “Netflix and chill.” 

Now I know and when I can, watch Netflix.  I did not quite get how it would be all ‘chilled’ since it has so much content at a comparatively high cost in Zimbabwe. 

It turns out that it is a fashionable or even a status symbol habit among young urban Zimbabweans to have occasional access to the online streaming platform Netflix and watch the content from the comfort of the home.  All one needs is a laptop, Wi-Fi/data or even a smart phone and you are good to go. 

It would be a little different from my youth days where a small stereo player, electricity (supplied directly or via batteries) to play cassettes would have made the weekend fairly special. 

With a key discussion point eventually being what did you listen to the whole weekend?  Or the contemporary equivalent question would be,  “So what did you watch?”  All preferably in bi-lateral intimacy as opposed to Solomon Skhuza or Leonard Dembo ‘with the boys and Chibuku scuds’. 

Upon a little more reflection I have come to consider that what entertains urban young Zimbabweans in audio visual mediated format is mostly via new accessible streaming platforms such as Netflix. 

Even if they do not have regular access to it, they actively work toward and aspire to acquiring it in the present.

In all probability Netflix, Showmax and other online content streaming platforms are probably ‘status’ symbols.  Almost like having a video cassette recorder (VCR) or access to satellite television and Music television (MTV) back in the 1990s. Together with World Wrestling Federation (WWF) choreographed for television shows which at some point became bigger than even the international religiosity around European broadcast football.   As was the case for some of us comparative oldies (no ageism intended) 

And we could argue for a while about the class/social ramifications implied by access to these new online platforms or the older analogue ones.  The more important matter would be the content that the new digital content streaming platforms such as Netflix and others convey in the contemporary. 

What is interesting in the latter regard is the fact that a majority of the content that we would access via these new internet based platforms in made for television or movie theater formats is both old and new.  Old in the sense that it represents the past about representations of the global south (juxtapose Black Panther with Tarzan) 

And new in relation to the reality that it represents the quantitative expansion of a globalized understanding of how societies in the global south and global north can come to regard each other. In what remains a largely one-sided/lopsided manner.

In some instances, the latter point can be considered as a democratization of perception.  When we, in the global south watch Netflix programmes as they are availed we often do so in as real time as a person in the global north.  Especially if the content is new in the form of documentaries, new drama series or movies.

Expectedly, based on the amount of content we consume as it comes in the quantitative majority of cases from the global north, we in the global south may not be in a position to say that platforms such as Netflix in their global reach are balanced in relation to this democratization of perception.  In some cases, and in the wake of the Black Lives Matter nascent movement, we have seen the removal of some global north oriented content (even if it was produced in the global south) that was deemed as promoting racist stereotypes. 

What matters more however is the fact that because Netflix and similar streaming platforms are not going to go away nor do they intend to, given their huge profit margins, those of us in the global south need to come to a more holistic understanding of how the content presented therein reflects how we are potentially viewed in the global scheme of things.  Especially in the age of Covid 19.  While we may have addictions to specific content about drugs in South America or glossed over political dramas on political systems in Western Europe, we would still need to be grounded in our own realities.  Beyond the mediums.

This includes the fact that we need to be able to create content that reflects on our own contextual realities and aspirations.  From documentaries through to made for television series’ and movies. Not only for our own contextual cultural appreciation but also in order to occupy these new platforms as enabled by the internet and access to it.

In this, a key question that emerges is always how do we capture our own imaginations outside of the cultural grasp of the global north?  It is a question that I do not have an answer to.  What I abstractly know is that the mediums through which we seek entertainment come with a significant amount of baggage (historical, economic, political and social).  And one sided perceptions except in relatively unique circumstances such as when these streaming platforms allow ground breaking historical/political documentaries or made in the image of the global north soap operas or television shows.

Harnessing these online and rapidly expanding in African urban areas content streaming platforms may be a long way off.  For now.  It may also controversially require state/government subsidies that we are able to sustainably produce content for emerging online platforms such as Netflix.  And in the process learn to truly ‘chill’.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)