Friday, 2 October 2015

Zim, Zambia’s Man-Made, Colonial Legacy Electricity Crisis.

By Takura Zhangazha*

It was always going to be a man made crisis. That is the power shortages being experienced by Zimbabwe and Zambia due to the sharp drop in water levels at the worlds largest man-made water reservoir, Kariba Dam.  The government of Zimbabwe and it electricity supplier Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) are at pains to explain the primary cause as being that of a low rainfall last year.  

Well, it turns out that this is not entirely true.  It was former Zambian vice president and current member of that country’s parliament, Guy Scott, who removed the paper over the cracks.  He accused the electricity regulators of both Zimbabwe and Zambia of mismanaging the water in the lake. 

Further media reports are increasingly revealing the fact that contrary to general assertions of a drought causing the water levels to drop, it is actually the fact of the expansion of the electricity generation capacity undertaken almost simultaneously by both countries that is the primary cause.  The addition of new turbines appears to have led to a disproportionate increase in the water exiting the dam wall.

And now there are long periods of electricity load shedding in both Zambia and Zimbabwe that are affecting not just industries but more importantly ordinary citizens. From hospitals that now have to find alternative sources of power, through to regular cooking, lighting and security,  the inconvenience for small enterprises (butcheries, home furniture manufacturers, small supermarkets) schools, universities and colleges, this is a major crisis. 

President Mugabe’s response to the crisis has been rather curt.  Apart from blaming last years low rainfall, he told his supporters that businesses must operate during the night where he believes electricity is most abundant.

But the Zimbabwean public has reacted by scrambling for alternative sources of energy, at least for their domestic needs.  Satire too has become a way of coping with the frequency of the load shedding. Social media is awash with comments ranging from downright mockery of ZESA to just downright good pictorial humour.   

There is also now grandiose talk of solar energy as an option. At least via licensing more private solar energy companies.  Experts have also weighed I accusing government of failing to expand or upgrade coal based electricity production in Hwange. 

All of this points to the ostensible fact that our power crisis is a man made one.  It has very little to do with the drought that government officials keep mentioning and repeating.  Furthermore, it is also a key fact that we are faced with an electricity supply infrastructure  that is to all intents and purposes still colonial in nature and therefore intent. Kariba Dam was built in 1965 and Zimbabwe’s other power stations such as Hwange Power Station date back to the 1970s and Munyati Power station was built in between 1946 and 1957. Further expansion and refurbishment of these power stations has still failed to meet the ever growing demand for electricity.

In our post independence statehood we have failed to create new sources of power and relied heavily on those that were effectively part of the colonial modernization project.  This has meant that our governments in the region but particularly those of Zimbabwe and Zambia  have patently failed to see what was coming. And this includes the fact of the weakening of the Kariba Dam wall, which again is another elephant in the room. 

In such circumstances of a crisis, the all too familiar route likely to be taken is the opportunistic one of disaster capitalism. That is, there shall be strident calls for the further privatization of electricity and motivation of supply by way of profit.  This will mean in the long term electricity is going to be a costly commodity. Even if it is generated via our generally ubiquitous sunlight or the natural waters that are  tributaries of the Zambezi River basin.

In such circumstances and because electricity is a finite resource, it is those that can pay for it that will always get first preference.  And it will not be as cheap or as affordable as many would hope for.  Unless the ordinary people of Zimbabwe and Zambia start a broader public debate about electric energy sources and usage that is both contextual, futuristic and above all geared toward promoting access for all. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Neo-Liberal Economic Blueprints versus an Urgent Pursuit of Contextual Social Democracy

Neo-Liberal  Economic Blueprints  versus an  Urgent  Pursuit of Contextual Social Democracy

A Presentation to the Media Center Roundtable Discussion           
By Takura Zhangazha*
Tuesday 29 September 2015, Harare.

Cde Chairperson,
Thank you for inviting me to this particular discussion on the matter of economic blueprints as they have been presented to the people of Zimbabwe largely through the media.  I specifically mention that they have been presented mainly through the media because of their technocratic and inorganic origins. This is because they, to all intents and purposes,  have been drafted in boardrooms and with the general intention at demonstrating knowledge of global economic trends and serving what would be referred to as the Zimbabwean ‘market’ on a platter to international investors.  Sadly that platter is not at all silver.

Perhaps this is understandable given the commandist structure of our political culture.  Things generally come from the top and by way of instruction or coercion are given to the masses as concluded frameworks.

The main political party economic blueprints can be outlined as  Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zimasset- ruling party Zanu Pf) or the alternative ones Jobs Upliftment Investment and Capital  (Juice, MDC-T); Holistic Programme for Economic Transformation  (Hope, PDP);  Access to Resources, Control, Transformation, Innovation, Organised Institutions, New Technologies and Sustainability (Action-MDC) and of late Blueprint to Unlock Investment and Leverage for Development (BUILD-Joice Mujuru).

There is one that was recently announced by the pressure group Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition referred to as Zimbabwe Social Market Agenda for Recovery and Transformation (ZimSmart).
The one common thread in all of these blueprints is their indubitable praise of the neo-liberal economic template that is commonly referred to as the ‘free market’.  So one will find common phrases in these documents such as ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘public-private partnership’, ‘beneficiation’ and ‘property rights’ and of course ‘the market’.

A peculiar difference between governments Zimasset and the alternatives proposed is that the former does not specifically laud  ‘good governance and democracy’ which appears to be integral to all the others.

What is however particularly interesting is the fact that there is general agreement, probably by default, that the way to go with Zimbabwean economics is to embrace neo-liberalism. For the purposes of clarity, neo-liberalism refers to the ideological template in which the role of the state is generally diminished in favor of the free market in all spheres of economic activity including social service delivery.  This is the same philosophy that informed economic structural adjustment and continues to guide the Word Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its dealing with not only Zimbabwe but the world.

Only one manifesto directly mentions its neo-liberal intent, and that is the BUILD one done by Joice Mujuru.  The others, have varying forms of commitment to neo-liberalism.  In the case of government via Zimasset, it has decided to embark on a state capitalism version of the same.  This is where the state functions essentially as a private business entity.  In the process it creates a new state and ruling party affiliated elite businesses and investments accompanied by political control and in most case direct repression of dissenting voices.  For an example of such a system, one need look no further than Angola. 

The other variation which has been in vogue for some time now and is largely a revisionist ‘third way’ approach that is facing resistance in parts of Europe and north America.  It is referred to in some of the alternatives under scrutiny at this meeting as the ‘democratic developmental state’.  This concept as referred to in some of the manifestos that are being proffered as alternatives refers to a state in which there is the embrace of democratic values as a functional pretext for free market economics.  

A key component of such a state in Africa’s context is that of public private partnerships and foreign direct investment for infrastructure building and agricultural development.  Transparency and accountability are touted as key components of this model but in the final analysis it falls squarely into the fold of neo-liberal economics that respond more to capital than the needs of the people. It essentially ends up as centralist and as repressive as is the current case in Ethiopia.
Essentially therefore the blueprints that are fully or partly in the public domain and stemming from political parties and components of liberal civil society speak more to established notions of free market epistemology as a panacea to Zimbabwe’s economic crisis. 

My own view however is that these propositions are as opportunistic as they are primed to fit into a de-contextualised global economic progress narrative.

They miss the historicity of our economic challenges in relation to the fact that we are still under the aegis of the structural settler economy where it concerns distribution of goods, services and jobs. 
What we essentially require is a contextualized social democratic economic template that understands that if we are to have a fair, equitable and just society, everyone must be given a fair, equitable start.  I specifically mention ‘contextual social democracy’ because our liberation struggle was predicated on the same said values of social and economic justice.  And we have not fully explored this social democratic pretext of our liberation struggle.  We have experimented with commandist socialism, neo-liberalism but have rarely sought to imbue our national economic policies with a people centered ethos and framework.

To explain contextual social democracy further, it is necessary to outline a few points.  The fact of our current economic crisis is that the gap between the rich, politically connected elite and the majority poor has grown wider.  Not just in monetary terms but also in relation to the basic necessities of life such as access to health, education, public transport and basic employment.
So we need to re-establish common baselines to our collective economic livelihoods.  And this is what contextual social democracy would entail. 

The state must have a direct role in the provision of health, public transport, education, water, shelter and electricity.  Such a role would steer clear of public private partnerships in order to ensure that these services are not subject to the profit motives of companies.  This basic contextual social democracy will require organic accountability from the state to its citizens.  It is from such a pretext that we can have a broader understanding of our national economy and negotiate much better with global capital and in the interests of the majority.  All in the interests of functioning not only in the immediate but particularly for posterity.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Burkina Faso and the End of the Soldier as a Revolutionary.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Burkina Faso holds a dear place in many a young Africans heart and mind.  Especially if they have come across the name Thomas Sankara, the young revolutionary and army captain who after a popularly supported coup, took over the reins of power in the then impoverished country in 1983.  

Where one has access to his collection of speeches both written and audio visual, it is apparent that even though he had a military background, this was an African leader with the characteristics of a true revolutionary.  Then he was assassinated allegedly by his contemporaries in 1987.  And one of these alleged assassins of Sankara was his deputy and friend who was to eventually succeed him and become president of the country, Blaise Compaore.  The latter is now in exile following an unsuccessful bid to extend his term of office as president in October last year.  His ouster after mass protests has now come to be known as the Burkina Faso revolution.   

But now at the time of writing, there has been another attempted coup against the transitional government by those who are alleged to be Compaore loyalists.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to its credit was quick of the mark not only condemning the coup but instigating a mediation process that appears to be bearing fruition after the main army has asked for a peaceful surrender of the Presidential Guard that led the coup in the first place.  

Thus far the mediation appears to have put pressure to bear after interim President, Michel Kafondo recently announced that he is back in charge. It is still a tentative peace that hopefully with continued ECOWAS mediation as supported the African Union and the long suffering Burkina-be people will lead to planned democratic elections for a substantive national leadership. 

An important aspect of the current crises in the land of upright men, as that country’s name implies, is the role of the army(ies) in creating or trying to bring an end to what are essentially  internal political conflicts as opposed to external military threats to national security.  This has been the case in a number of countries namely, Lesotho, Burundi and now, Burkina Faso. 

There are good and bad sides to these political roles of armies. The most important progressive thing is that they come in to restore democratic or at least civilian rule and order as is hoped the national army of Burkina Faso will do.  And it is hoped that in the aftermath of such restorations of civilian (democratic) order, the army will return to the barracks and not want to assert its newfound political role. 

The negative side to this is that the army and individual leaders begin to find that there are what they perceive to be inherent weaknesses in leaving civilians to determine the political and reinvent itself to be specifically a kingmaker, if not a default executive authority in itself. 

And not necessarily for revolutionary purposes as most armies sometimes claim.  It will, as in the case of Egypt, be in order to retain a military political complex that supports a dishonest intention at establishing political stability minus democratic values and principles.  This is sometimes now commonly referred to as an ‘oligarchy’.    

This is different from the general role Sankara would have envisioned for a people’s army. And a key lesson is that the age wherein we can expect our armies to defend our internal democracies from perceived civilian threats with genuine democratic intent should now be put behind us.  It should never have to come to any division of the army rolling out the tanks against a civilian government.

But where it does, and a counter division of the army goes out to release or negotiate the release of detained civilian leaders, there must be a firm understanding that this is a transitional act and not a revolutionary one. And an act that to all intents and purposes must be guided by civilian instruction as opposed to military intent at overall control of civilian affairs of the state.

Admittedly there are many arguments that posit the significance of the stabilizing factor a ‘progressive military’ can bring to a ‘transition’ to democracy.  Some credit Jerry Rawlings of Ghana for such a feat. Ye the ‘Cold War’ circumstances in which he arguably achieved this are instructive as to how there is continually a thin line between an ideologically favoured international acceptance of success and stability than a people centered and democratic civilian one. 

And this is the key challenge of looking for ‘revolutionary soldiers’ in present day African contexts.  Once they become political, they become amenable not to the unique values that Sankara as a revolutionary soldier and leader had for his country and the African continent.  In many cases they become conduits of global forces that prize stability at almost any cost to the democratic aspirations of civilian leaders and ordinary people they will claim to have liberated and made subservient to the gun.  An issue that contradicts the Maoist dictum which informed many a progressive guerrilla liberation struggles,  the gun must always follow the politics and not the other way around. 
*Takura writes here in his personal capacity (

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Church and Secular Civil Society: Speaking Together Over Lived Realities of the Zimbabwean People.

  A presentation to the Zimbabwe National Agreement Platform (ZiNAP)

Thursday 17 September 2015, ZCTUHead Office, Gorlon House, Harare
 By Takura Zhangazha

Cde Chairperson, 

Thank you for inviting me to be part of these deliberations and to share a few thoughts on the participation of the Church (in its broadest sense) and secular civil society in Zimbabwe in our country’s national development agenda and processes.  I have deliberately referred to secular civil society because in my view,  the Church is also occupying that broader space we refer to as ‘civil society’.  Both by way of existence and action.

However defining these two important aspects of Zimbabwe’s social, cultural and political landscape is not very difficult.

Also, separating them by way of intrinsic shared common and even transcendental good is harder.  This is because the church and secular civil society are structured to serve a broader public  good.  Albeit in different ways, but in the final analysis, with an intention to best advance humanity and the societies it exists in for the good of all. 

In Zimbabwe’s particular context, the Church has always worked closely with secular civil society to ensure that social and economic justice for all are achieved.  Such collaboration predates independence with the Church in its various forms also informing not only the value systems of liberation struggles but also technical capacities through providing education and employment for those that would become nationalist leaders and enhancers of democratic governance and universal suffrage. 

In the aftermath of our national independence this tradition would be continued both at national and community levels with the intention of ensuring that the ideals of not only our national liberation struggle but the universal common good of mankind are successfully realized. 

More recently in the last two decades, the church and secular civil society have sought to complement each other’s efforts through working together toward a national push for democratic and people driven constitutional reform, dealing with various humanitarian crisis as they occurred and trying to provide common platforms of establishing a new shared vision for a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe.   This is evidenced by the Church’s the Zimbabwe We Want declaration, various ecumenical/pastoral letters to government and worshipers,  and its participation in other processes that would help establish common positions with secular civil society.  

The more recent case was that of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign of 2007. Such efforts have had their incremental successes and arguably helped lead to the establishment of an inclusive government after direct mediation by the regional body, SADC.

Where we fast forward to 2015 and Zimbabwe’s contemporary political economy and social circumstances, there is again evident need to continue the path of complimentarity between the work of the Church and secular civil society.  This as it relates to the advancement of human rights, social and economic justice as well as the building of a democratic national value system as it relates to posterity or the passing on of democratic knowledge from one generation to the next. 

The realistic baseline that this new common ground can be founded on is the new constitution and its incremental advances in relation to human rights, the rule of law and the doctrine of the separation of powers, inclusive of decentralization of power.  Moreso, after a controversial but widely accepted constitutional reform process in which components of the Church and secular civil society played an active if not directly supportive role.

It is in this context that the church and secular civil society must work together.  But in doing so there must be caution over an over-emphasis on legality, wherein the pursuit of good governance as we all know is not limited to the court rooms but must be part of a holistic and shared value system based on democratic principles.

So, as the title of this presentation suggests, there is need for a new trajectory in the developmental process and collaborations between the church and secular civil society organizations.  That essentially means that there is need to take stock, re-evaluate established common principles from the past and apply them organically to our contemporary national context and in response to what the Church and secular CSOs know to  be at the hearts and minds of the people of Zimbabwe.

And an honest assessment will inform us that the primary concern of most Zimbabweans in the immediate, short term and long term is the state of the national economy.  There may be political blame games as to who is responsible for the economic crisis that we are faced with but that invariably remains the forte of those that contest for political office.

It is the role of the Church and secular civil society in relation to the national economy and its value system that is perhaps most important today in Zimbabwe. 

I say this because in relation to democratic values as they concern good governance, free and fair elections, rule of law and gender equality, common values and principles have been established in key consensus documents such as the ‘Zimbabwe We Want’, ‘Beyond ESAP and the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter documents. Where there has been a lack of emphasis, at least consistently so,  has been the arena of our common vision of the national economy in a holistic people driven context. 

So if one wants to establish a new trajectory to the role of the church and secular civil society collaboration going forward, it is of paramount importance that there be a concerted attempt to find common ground on values and principles that both feel should inform the national  economy. This in a people centered and driven process that will at least help set broad civil society parameters beyond the narrower narratives of functioning to challenge government actions without setting out ideals and values to measure such actions against.

In conclusion therefore, Cde Chair,  if we would like a new common trajectory between the church and secular civil society there must be common values and principles established around the lived realities of Zimbabwe’s citizens.  Particularly where such values outline not only ideal but pragmatic solutions as to how there is an intention on the part of stakeholders to get the economy out of the morass of poverty, lack of opportunity and the fear over our children’s future. All of which currently negatively instruct our economic livelihood landscape.

*Takura Zhangazha spoke here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Censoring Parliament is Censoring the People (An Exercise in Futility)

 By Takura Zhangazha*

This week President Mugabe opened the 3rd session of Zimbabwe’s 8th Parliament.  It was generally going to be routine until the Herald newspaper  published a front page story alleging an intention by opposition members of parliament to ‘heckle’ the president.  Little did Zimbabweans know that contrary to the general tradition, that story would be a prelude to a blackout of any live coverage of this particular opening of our Parliament.  

Previously, the president's motorcade, mounted military cavalry escort, guard of honour and walk into Parliament together with the actual speech would have been broadcast live on the state braodcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation television and its radio stations. 

In fact, so routine is such coverage of Parliament's opening, that Zimbabweans have a tendency to watch it out of curiosity, entertainment, even respect for the process. Or they may chose to take it for granted because it generally is ‘business as usual’ that the opening is live on state television and radio.

This time however, there was to be no such routine coverage.  For some citizens this may not matter much.  Not least because there was nothing particularly new that the president did not say to parliament last month in his state of the nation address.

But the key issue here is not in so much the content of his speech but the democratic meaning of the event of opening parliament and defining not just the government’s but even ruling party’s legislative agenda.

But the public have the right to know it, as it is outlined, and as it occurs. It is a general democratic practice the world over that executive and even ceremonial presidents or head of states presentations to legislatures are treated with the utmost national seriousness in relation to citizens witnessing them live, getting informed commentary on their full and possible import, as well as commenting on how they view the issues presented.  No matter how divergent these latter views are, they deserve to be heard and known by members of the public.

Today that opportunity was lost because of the state broadcaster’s blackout of the ceremony and speech both on radio and television.  Whatever reason the Speaker of Parliament,  ZBC or the ministry of media, information and broadcasting services may give for such censorship is not only a denial of the right of all citizens to access information, freedom of expression but a demonstration of utter contempt for the people of Zimbabwe. The latter being the ones who elect not only parliamentarians but also the president who constitutionally opens and sets the general agenda of the legislature.

The people of Zimbabwe have an inherent right to see for themselves what goes on with those they elect. Whether they jeer each other or respectfully defer to the president is something that they must see for themselves and contribute to further public debate on. 

It does not help foster national democratic consciousness let alone culture if we cannot see what happens in Parliament, especially with key events such as its national opening or budget presentations and question time. And if parliamentarians allow such censorship to occur in their chambers, it bodes ill for freedom of expression and access to information in other spheres of our society.

While we have come to expect that the executive, through the Official Secrets Act, keeps a tight lid on what it says and does in its meetings, it can never be a democratic trait for Parliament to follow suit. Especially when most MPs want to lay claim to being direct representatives of the people or even just their constituencies.

What happened on 15 September 2015 will go down in my book as one of the darkest days for Zimbabwean media freedom, freedom of expression and public access to information. Our pretense at being a parliamentary democracy was laid bare for the weaknesses that are inherent in it. We might not all want to see or hear what the president says to parliament in real time, but we have a right to do so.  Even if we agree or disagree with whatever is said and done. Parliament belongs to the people of Zimbabwe and not to the Speaker, the executive or the parties that have members in it. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Zanu Pf’s Plan for 2018: Reordering its Disorder in Pursuit of Permanence of Power.

By Takura Zhangazha*

There is an arrogance to the recent cabinet reshuffle by  President Mugabe.  It is an arrogance that is less motivated by a desperation but an intention to instill a new order within his party’s rank and file. 

The fairness or lack of it is for those directly affected to determine.  But there is a reconfiguration which is obviously part of a major plan instituted by those within the party and state intelligence services in the aftermath of a dramatic purge of former leaders.  

If such re-configurations were limited to internal party processes they would be of limited consequence. That they have spilled over into government means they have a bearing on the state, its citizens and its future. 

The overall initial import of these ongoing changes in Zanu Pf appear to be more personal and ambition laden.  The reality is they go beyond succession and are in search of a new permanence to Zanu Pf’s long duree rule.  Inclusive of attendant and emergent ethnocentric dimensions.

Purging the former vice President Joice Mujuru and her allies, unprecedented in that party’s history as it was, is not the actual focal point of its new shift.  With more than a two thirds majority in parliament and a 61% presidential vote count, it is using its 2013 electoral victory to set the standard for the 2018 harmonised poll. With or without its incumbent leader, Robert Mugabe. 

It wants to emerge equally if not more victorious in 2018. But in a less factionalised manner.  Not that there will be no factions among its rank and file.  They will just be more manageable and less about alternative centers of power.  And as some of its own media columnists have been arguing, it is not that it will not want an opposition.  Instead it will want an opposition that will never have as real a chance of ousting it from power electorally as was almost the case in 2008.

So it has no problem cajoling or setting up stages where other political leaders feel they can challenge for power.  Especially if they have been expelled from its membership.  The intention  is to consolidate its current hold on functional power through use of repressive tactics while attempting to court global capital, with lessons from China, and retaining full political control in a free market, neo-liberal economic ideological setting.

This latter point of a neo-liberal, free market economy is particularly interesting given the fact that Zanu Pf’s political raison d’ĂȘtre has been a radical nationalism that is both historical but largely elitist in output and endgame.  In fact, any other measurement of the success of this radical nationalism have largely been by default and not necessarily planned organizational intent.  Hence the increase in occurrences of reversal such as the eviction of settlers from ‘prime land’ earmarked in colonial state blueprint plans for modernist ‘development’. 

So essentially, Zanu Pf has ended the populist phase of its Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP).  It will however insist that the latter is irreversible and also insist on it being revolutionary. The jury is still out on such an assertion.

What is now apparent after President Mugabe’s state of the nation address last month is that these radical national economic policy phases are basically over and that Zimbabwe is open for business.  So long one does not raise the issue of property rights prior to the FTLRP.  And so long one understands that the indigenization policy is neo-liberal.  It must just involve black Zimbabweans in the process of making money off state/public assets such as water, land, health and education among others.

The primary intention is therefore to make Zanu Pf the only successful political organisation, despite its internal upheavals, in the country going forward. That is why the ruling party has its fingers in every major pie of the political economy. From housing schemes (land barons), convoluted reform processes (IMPI, constitutional commissions), redesigning the capital city, privatization of basic services (water, health, electricity, public transport, education) and retention to the greater extent the base and superstructure of the settler state political economy, and you have a recipe for the hegemonic retention of power via state largesse.

This would mean even those who campaign against the ruling party will eventually mimic its strategies and materialism. Unless they are indeed revolutionaries of a new ilk and with the firmest of political convictions.

The end effect, if not already evident, shall be clearer by 2018, that is the individuation of Zimbabwean society. It remains evident that with the tragic demise of the extended family, the fissures between the rural and the urban, emigration and exportation of our youngest and brightest minds,  the material value placed on common existence has become individuated. Common values, shared beliefs are fewer and far between, especially if there is no anticipated material benefit. Unless they fall into the ambit of Zanu Pf’s understanding of its own hegemony.

Given the shared neo-liberal ideological grounding of the opposition parties manifestos with Zanu Pf, a thing the latter party is completely aware of, our politics toward 2018, will be routine with personalities dominating the agenda as opposed to issues.  That is, an anticipation, that yes, there will be political opposition, but it will never accede to executive power through being fundamentally different from the incumbent ruling party. So long it remains abstract and panders to global best practices without application to our national context. And as in Orwell’s Animal Farm, we all run the risk of eventually looking not being able to tell the difference.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

In Defence of Zim Teachers, Only if they get Organised.

By Takura Zhangazha*

It is the opening of the final term of Zimbabwe’s primary and secondary education calendar this week. As usual, there is the threat of strikes by teachers via their unions. And in turn, government is stubbornly refusing to accede to their demands.  This is a routine battle that plays out in the media and boardrooms every quarter year.

Its symbolic effect is that teaching as a profession is in the throes of negotiating retaining its national importance against a government that is intent on its national devaluation.  And there are many reasons for this. 

The teaching profession is as important as any in the country.  Historically it was the bridge between ignorance and knowing the ways of the modern world.  Most of our nationalists dabbled in this profession before deciding to pursue the politics of liberation.  Every other Zimbabwean even in the aftermath of our national independence will always recall their coming into full consciousness via one teacher or the other.

With the advent of economic structural adjustment, teaching began to lose is luster. Not only in relation to the material benefits of being a teacher but in terms of societal respect.  It was beginning to be viewed as a fall back profession for many young Zimbabweans who could not make it to university or other tertiary institutions. 

The pay and working conditions were also so poor particularly in rural areas that it was mainly vacationing university students would take up temporary teaching posts.

Teachers were to also suffer the brunt of political violence in the aftermath of the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change in the late 1990s.  The ruling party felt that they were not only too sympathetic to the new opposition but also viewed them as the primary drivers of its organizational capacity in rural areas.  In the process the teaching profession and teachers unions eventually became politicized, as was the case with the main Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and became key battlegrounds for political party interests.

In contemporary times, these political battles have somewhat dissipated.  In their stead there are now new breakaway unions from the mainstream Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) such as the Progressive Teachers Union and the nascent Zimbabwe Rural Teachers Association all of whom are competing for members and their ‘stop order’ subscriptions.

Beyond these historical characteristics, in contemporary times, teaching has also become once again, a highly sought after profession.  This is manila due to the fact that a lot of young and middle aged  Zimbabweans, suffering from high unemployment rates, have decided to pursue the almost definite employment that a teaching qualification brings. Even in the private education sector, so long one is accredited with the relevant ministry. 

It is however this desperation in the teaching profession that has seen it struggle to defend its autonomy and professionalism.  Because of divisions within its rank and file, and the motivation of largely wanting to get that pay check, government has been able to target teaching and teachers as the first arena of its intentions of downsizing the civil service.  The reasons that have been given are largely quantitative, that is, removing ghost teachers from the government pay roll. Or arbitrarily reinforcing teacher qualification criteria in order to reduce the wage bill. 

Rarely has debate around teaching focused on the qualitative and public interest aspects of the profession.  True, the unions have focused on working conditions and remuneration out of necessity but are always cautious in their threats of strikes. Not least because it is difficult for them to organize such mass action but also because their members are wary of losing their jobs. 

It is a hard ask to see the debate within the profession shift to issues of the very model that we are using in education such as the semi privatization of government schools through school development associations and its attendant high costs for the poor. Or the evident schools as businesses profit motive that now informs access to education in the privately run education institutions.

The profession itself rarely puts out position papers, analysis of the entirety of its work and its input into the national political economy.  Even government has not had an education blueprint since its 1999 Nziramasanga Commission of Inquiry into Education, a telling sign that the teaching profession is caught in a retrogressive time warp.  

The challenge is for the teaching profession to get itself organized in a much more holistic fashion.  Beyond its unionism around wages, it needs to demonstrate not only its democratic public service value but also its firm commitment to the noble values of its existence summed up in the popular African American phrase, ‘each one, teach one’.
Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (