Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Grace, Joice and the Ordinary Zimbabwean Woman Without and Caught In-between

By Takura Zhangazha*

Last Friday two of Zimbabwe’s arguably most powerful women, Vice President Joice Mujuru and First Lady Grace Mugabe, received doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees from the University of Zimbabwe.   It was an occasion that was both as celebrated as it was controversial. 

Not least because of the current public and private debates concerning Zanu Pf’s  electoral congress and its attendant succession politics. But also because over the last month or so, the First Lady’s almost given ascendancy to the post of  Zanu Pf Secretary for Women's Affairs  has been touted as a key move to stop Mujuru either retaining her current post or preventing her from succeeding the incumbent. 

So perhaps these doctorates are being acquired in pursuit of perceived (or even real) academic competition/ ascendancy between the two and on behalf of their alleged factions.  And in positioning either of the two as fully if not over qualified to either retain or take over national leadership positions in Zanu PF.

The awarding of the PhD's to the two ladies has also courted controversies in its own right.   A number of media reports have queried the unusually short period the First Lady took to register and graduate for a degree programme that usually lasts at least three official academic years.  Or alternatively,  but far less controversially, the timing of the qualification of the Vice President to coincide with an electoral congress year.

All of these issues as they have emerged over the last week are symptomatic of a number of key issues that are demonstrating the true character of their leadership bids, their party’s internal dynamics as well as the status of women in our society.

To begin with, their leadership bids, which they are since their party has an elective congress, have had to be structured within a highly male dominated political framework.  This is both because of the history of the liberation struggle as well as the significance of being in proximity to the incumbent leader, President Mugabe. 

Vice President Mujuru’s narrative has been carefully tailored to demonstrate not only liberation war credentials but a post independence capacity to not only to be a longstanding cabinet minister but an educated and commitment one too.  Just like those who dominated leadership in the liberation struggle, Zanu Pf and government.  

The First Lady on the other hand  has also had to link her ambitions to her proximity to her party’s leader who incidentally is also her spouse.  She has however also sought to demonstrate her intellectual capacity and acumen not only through her recent PhD acquisition but by trying to develop a persona of being ‘Mother of the nation’.  The latter point only within the ambit (and permission) of a male dominated framework. 

That they operate within such a misogynist environment is no fault of their own.  It is something that perhaps can be blamed on the historical genesis of many a liberation struggle on our subcontinent. The sad truth is that they are most likely to be successful if they do not seek to revolutionize such a status quo Sankara style.

The much more interesting question and issue therefore becomes, what exactly do these two women stand for.  One ostensibly representing herself while the other alleging representing a rival faction to the other as led by a male.   The answer to this might reside in the reality that they do not so much represent any potential shifts in Zanu Pf policies or intentions.  Neither are they keen on proposing anything different to what obtains.  Especially where and when it comes to women. 

In their many years of influence, one as First Vice President and the other as First Lady, they have never claimed to be progenitors of any overall new policies that have benefited women in Zimbabwe.  Where one checks with what Zanu Pf has claimed as its most successful policy in the last decade, the fast track land reform programme, it has turned out that women felt short changed.  Even in their own party. 

This is an important point to make because it must be remembered  that in all of these political manoeuvres, there has rarely been  a moment where these two highly influential women so close to power in their own party have demonstrated an organic linkage with the plight of ordinary women across the country.  Nor have they been brought to direct account on that score.

 It is not as if they would divide the country by doing so. They would only stand to not only gain better leverage to relieve women of the myriad social and economic challenges affecting them but also be in a position to demonstrate that leadership should essentially be un-gendered.  And that everyone’s interests, including those of women, matter.

So in the midst of the PhD graduations, the factional fights and shifting allegiances in their party as well as in government, they would do better to take into account the fact that perhaps, only perhaps the ordinary Zimbabwean girl, woman, mother and grandmother are not too sure as to what is really going on up there where power is kept or allegedly being fought for. Hence the narrative of who women support is neither popular beyond party structures nor in the hearts and minds of a majority of our population (women).

After all, they as ordinary women are still faced with unaffordable maternal care, poor health infrastructure, lack of land tenure/security, domestic /gender based violence and unequal access to education (unless their parents are well to do and alive).  

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

Friday, 12 September 2014

Jonathan Moyo’s Dangerous Liasons with the Media

By Takura Zhangazha*

The Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo is evidently in a good place with the media.  Apart from having it under his ministerial purview, he also has the luxury of having it at his beck and call. 

Only this week he summoned editors and other media stakeholders to his office. Apparently it was to sort of read a mini-riot act to the press for covering issues that he feels are not accurate. Or at least are not in the interests of his party or its leadership.

It was said that at this particular meeting he took umbrage with the Newsday for publishing a story based on a MISA-Zimbabwe statement that became the basis of a story that appeared in the Newsday.   In the statement  MISA Zimbabwe had expressed its concern over comments attributed to Zanu Pf leaders on the private media.

Apparently Moyo disagreed with not only the statement but also the fact that it was then covered in the mainstream media.

Obviously there were a number of options for the minister to put across his point to the media. These would have included writing a letter to the editor of the Newsday, held a press conference to deny MISA Zimbabwe’s assertions or to approach the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe for redress.

The minister chose instead to summon the media and related stakeholders to his office.  A move which demonstrated his evident  hold on the media. He can summon seasoned and busy journalists to a meeting in which he has no big policy pronouncement but some stern words on the basis of what he views as unfavourable media content.

That he can do this is in itself dangerous for the freedom of the media as well as the editorial independence of both state and private media houses.

Perhaps it is because he has distributed some sort of largesse via the rather mute Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) that has made the media more pliable to his demands.  Or it could be that he is under pressure from his superiors to rein in the media’s reportage of Zanu PFs  succession politics.

Either way, this does not bode well for the media’s independence from political interference. Especially where ministers seek to remind the same that they are in overall charge of whatever ‘freedom’ they may be enjoying at present.

In  all of this, there are a number of issues that the media must take up with greater urgency.  First is that the media must be much more cautious in its engagement with minister Moyo.  It is not employed by him or by government directly and therefore, save for when he wants to make policy announcements, it must deliberately avoid being treated like children.

Secondly, the media must defend its editorial independence to the hilt.  It does not have to justify its editorial decisions to arbitrary authority.  Nor should it tolerate having a government minister read it some sort of riot act over a story that he found unfavourable to his political party’s interest.

Thirdly, there is need for solidarity and depolarisation of the media to be based not on political opportunism but on democratic values and principle.  While government can extend olive branches, these should be taken from the firm placement of media freedom and editorial independence as key measurements of sincerity.  That Moyo chose to attack a media institution and an editorial decision should be evidence enough to justify dealing with his ministry with scepticism and abundant caution. 

Fourthly, the dire economic circumstances affecting the print media industry should not cloud the continued need for editorial independence of newspapers and journalists.  The relationship between editors and their publishers should be re-examined with an intention of ensuring that the pursuit of profit does not impede the public interest role of the press.  Because Moyo is at the height of his influence over the media, publishers have  been keen on not upsetting him or the ruling party,   This to  the extent of ensuring that their papers do not write stories that may upset the potential apple cart of multiple media house ownership (print, radio and television).

In considering all of these issues, Zimbabwe’s media must protect its fourth estate role  much more concertedly and without having to wait for the blessing of cabinet ministers. 

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

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Perspectives on Zimbabwe’s Economic Recovery.

A brief presentation  to the Sustainable Economics Forum (SEF)

 by Takura Zhangazha
Wednesday 10 September 2014.

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation (FES)  Zimbabwe, Head Office, Harare

Discussing the economic prospects of Zimbabwe has invariably had to be linked to the state of our politics. Mainly for two reasons. The first being that the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) that began in early 2000 (by default) led to some sort of economic shock therapy. 

While what was more apparent on the minds of many pundits of political economy was the infamous ‘ Black  Friday’ on 14 November 1997  where the Zimbabwe dollar tumbled heavily after the awarding of ‘unbudgeted for’ increases in the allowances of war veterans together with the expensive military assistance we gave to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 , the latter’s structural impact on the economy would have been short-lived. 

It was the FTLRP that changed, in part our economic outlook, not least because it directly affected our economic base, agriculture, but because it also had other economic consequences which would include economic sanctions on the state and companies directly linked to government business. 

The second reason is because of the intentions of our political leaders.  Especially where these are linked to electoral prospects and  retention of political power.  They have also had a tendency to approach the economy from a centrist command point with five year economic plans that are essentially a throwback to our initial years of independence where the state was intended to have an historically grounded role in social and economic development of a repressed black majority.  

The major ideological motivation for this has always been nationalistic before it is based on much more structured ideological frameworks such as socialism or capitalism.   And this was probably deliberate in order to court foreign direct investment from the then and now re-emergent  Cold War global divide. 

So the essentials of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis reside primarily and for now, in the nature of the structure of the state and the intentions of its political leadership.

The character  of the state in relation to what has been referred to the ‘enclave’ and ‘dualism’  in a recent collaborative study  by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) , Alternatives to Neo-Liberalism  in Southern Africa (ANSA) and the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute, Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ).   

This is with specific reference to the inherited legacies of the Rhodesian settler state political economy which according to the study cited above, was racialised into the formal and informal.  It is a dichotomy that exists today with most formal economic activity being the preserve of major cities and in the hands of the elite while a greater majority, particularly women remain in the informal and rural components of the economy.

The intentions of the political leadership in so far as they have, since independence, sought to change the enclave and dual nature of the economy. Furthermore, whether in the process of seeking to do so, their intentions were in any event intended to be revolutionary or ended up mimicking global economic models without proper application to context. Both in the short and long term. 

While this paper cannot go through the structural details of various economic policies that have been implemented by government over the last 34 years, it would be instructive to note that key structural and ideological tenets that inform our contemporary political economy have neither been revolutionised or holistically and organically changed.  Both in relation to a more efficient economy or in enabling the same to serve to the greater extent the livelihood needs of our country’s majority poor. 

Where a big departure was expected through the formation of the SADC mediated inclusive government in 2009, that government’s policies became more keen on a return to a ‘stable’ economic past in the midst of the FTLRP.

 Its intention was to return the Zimbabwean economy to acceptable global practices while at the same time avoiding holistically dealing with structural challenges that have afflicted the Zimbabwean political economy since independence. 

With the advent of a two thirds majority in Parliament and an attendant local government and presidential election victory (contested as it is) for Zanu Pf, again we would be forgiven for assuming that the economic trajectory would at least look up. 

Not least because the incumbent government is not as contested as the previous one but also because a holistic overhaul of the predications of our national economy have been long outstanding. 

In saying this, I am aware that mainstream economic thought on how to develop not only the Zimbabwean, but African economies, is long standing and continually being renewed. Both at the instance of independent academics but largely with the influence of global financial and economic institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to a limited extent leftist institutions/governments.   

The key question has been our relative African and in particular Zimbabwean government’s ability to harness these globally generated epistemologies to our own local contexts.  This has been the bane of our domestic economic policies.  From the neo-liberal Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes of the late 1980s through to contemporary state capitalist models of √°rrival’ or permanent hegemonies, such as China and closer to home, Angola, we have failed to grasp that mimicry alone is not adequate especially where it has no domestic social democratic context.

In our immediate context, this is the primary challenge of the much lauded but little implemented new economic blueprint, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Social, Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).  Not only in its typical mimicry of the economic blueprints of countries that are perceived to be friendly but in its ideological impetus which would have us all fawn at the alter of state capitalism ala carte China, Angola. But more because it has no ideological or revolutionary intention to the structural challenges our national economy faces.

It is essentially a programme that  continues to pursue the path of not only externally sourced modernisation programmes, but also retain the structural tenets of a neo-liberal economy imbued with elitist and hegemonic aspirations of existent ruling classes or bourgeoisie.  Both in terms of ideas as well as material investment.

So when one analyses the recent visit by President Mugabe to China in order to seek bilateral agreements in line with ZimAsset, the key issue is not so much to seek repetitions of cold war rhetoric.  Instead it is to measure how these bilateral agreements are contextual and in line with the specific economic challenges that the country is facing.  Furthermore, it is to examine not only the economic model of state capitalism, which is what China has implemented since the late 1980s, but to scrutinize its relevance to our own national context.

As it is, the model of state capitalism, which is the basic ideological premise of ZimAsset, is primed at primarily entrenching a specific hegemonic era in Zimbabwe wherein a ruling party related comprador bourgeoisie  virtually runs the state like a personal business.  In doing so they appropriate state resources in pursuit of making wealth that is predicated on their being in power while at the same time keeping the masses at bay. Preferably by way of quasi performance legitimacy but primarily through benevolence and repression.

So the prospects for the national economy are bleak, especially if one uses social democratic measurements.  There will be some forms of FDI but largely of an infrastructural kind in order to fortify the ruling party’s benevolent but repressive rule.  The realisation of social and economic justice be it in relation to historical grievances such as land distribution or basic social services will  be continually subjected to elite capture and the creation of vacuous public private partnerships.  And in this, politics will again be a key determinant as to what direction the economy takes.

To conclude, I would posit that we perhaps need to begin to attempt to think beyond what we have leanrt as mainstream economics and models of economic development.  I know that there have been attempts to do so, particularly through local, regional and international think-tanks that have called for what they have referred to as the “democratic developmental state”.  It is by and large a proposition that fits into the ‘third way’ framework as has been discussed in the West. 
It is a noble idea except for its assumption of internationalisation and immediate fitting into the lexicon of the Non Profit Industrial Complex.  

The primary challenge is for African states and Zimbabwe in particular not to escape direct ideological questions that are required in order to frame holistic solutions to the economic challenges that we are faced with. And even more-so that these definitions stem from contextual historical, political and economic analysis.

It is therefore imperative that in order to improve the prospects of our economic  recovery in a holistic fashion we undertake the following steps:
  • 1.      Embarking on contextual knowledge production and exchanges within the ambit of greater academic freedom and promotion of innovation.
  • 2.      Determining clearer contextual  ideological praxis upon which our economic development models are formulated and implemented with a bias toward a social democratic framework.
  • 3.      Dismantling the dual/enclave state primarily through addressing our land reform programme’s challenges around the  bifurcation of rural and local government, bio-agriculture, security of tenure, mining, the environment, wildlife
  • 4.      Concertedly integrating the provision of social services (health, education, transport, shelter and food) to the majority poor at little or no cost altogether into all alternative frameworks that are produced.


Friday, 29 August 2014

Ebola Virus Outbreak and Africa’s Continuing ‘Nativity' (That Natived Us)

 By Takura Zhangazha*

The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa evokes both sadness and self introspection for many an African. The loss of lives both to the fact that the virus is incurable as well as due to poor health facilities in the areas directly affected.  These factors have been compounded by the fact that the citizens affected have limited knowledge about how to prevent the disease.

In Liberia there have been forced quarantines of residents of some cities that have led to demonstrations and riots.  President Johnson-Sirleaf has also had to fire government officials who fled their own country for fear of catching the dreaded virus.  Elsewhere on the continent, governments have been trying to calm concerned and panicky citizens that they are doing everything in their control to prevent any infected persons crossing borders. 

Globally there is a narrative that is familiar to many and largely purveyed  through the media. This being the projection of Africa as a place of disease and death.  Partly because the Ebola virus is killing many innocent souls but also because this is how the global West and East prefer to view our continent.

It  however does not end there.  Africa also needs help to stem the epidemic in providing both the medial personnel as well as medicines that are urgently required. 

So once again Africa is in sadly  familiar territory wherein we are unable to respond to crisis that affect us not for lack of will but for lack of capacity and preparedness. The latter two stem largely from the fact that we do not have adequately contextualised knowledge production systems or governments that function conscientiously on behalf of the people they claim to lead. 

In considering our lack of knowledge production as well utilisation capacity of the same it is important to remember that this is not the first time Ebola has affected the continent.  The first outbreak which was officially recorded in then Zaire, now Democratic Republic of the Congo should have seen us learning from that experience and crafting the right responses.  The truth of the matter is that we never took it seriously. 

Because then Zaire was considered a Conradian backwater it is possible that the  initial outbreak was not taken as seriously as it should have been. 

Where we fast forward to recent years, the greatest challenge in combating the disease from an African perspective has largely resided in our continually poor medical knowledge and facility infrastructure.  This state of affairs has been blamed largely on the lack of resources. 

A different and better way to look at it is the lack of prioritisation of health service provision by governments not only in the West African region but in most parts of the continent.  Add to this the lack of not only academic freedom but over reliance on foreign medical knowledge production systems, inventions and technology. 

Moreover our models of health service provision because of our wholesale adoption of privatisation and neo-liberal frameworks have now become the preserve of those in upper echelons of society.  Hence a government, as did the Liberian one, can quarantine those in poor, crowded places.

So when arguments are raised about how the economic impact of the current epidemic relate to the loss of markets, these ironically miss the essential point that it is because of lack of public health services to poor communities and regions that it has spun out of control.

The biggest indictment for our continental failure to manage the current outbreak in a much more concerted and holistic way falls squarely on the shoulders of Africa’s political and  business leadership.   The political leaders in the sense that they have sought more personal aggrandizement and pandering to de-contextualised economic development models than they have been people centred.

The business leaders in not only taking advantage of these proclivities of the political leaders but also being a comprador bourgeoisie that mimics with little contextual production or social democratic intent the practices of transnational companies. 

With this approach by business and the scramble for either a cure or a vaccine what we are faced with are the ominous prospects of disaster capitalism, where instead of rectifying the actual problem of lack of health service provision, the outbreak will be used to fortify elitist privatised healthcare. 

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

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

A Third Way to View the Recent Zimbabwe -China Investment Deals

 By Takura Zhangazha*

The full details of  ‘mega deals’ that President Mugabe is said to have been signing during his state visit to China are yet to emerge.  From the snippets that we have read in the state controlled media, these deals range from infrastructural investments pacts through to a greater number of memorandums of understanding.

The latter will require feasibility studies while the former are largely related to Chinese corporations investing in our railways, roads and in the extraction of gas from Gwayi-Shangani in Matebeleland North.

The reception to these deals has been dual in tone. The state media has generally lauded these deals not only by describing them as major, but also referring to them as historic. The private media has urged caution and also sought to emphasise the point of how the country may now be beholden to the Chinese by mortgaging the meagre mineral resources that we have.

For ruling party supporters these  bilateral investment agreements are something that they have celebrated even amidst their own factionalism. While on the other hand opposition party members and supporters have decried what they have referred to as the ‘selling of the country to the Chinese’.  

Some civil society activists have also sought to  frame these investment in the same manner as the opposition but perhaps for different reasons given the general public suspicion of the role of China in assisting Zanu PF maintain a repressive state apparatus.

There is however a third way of looking at these Chinese investment deals.  And in order to do so, a key departure point is to consider the economic inevitability that, like our sister African countries, we would turn to China for economic assistance.  Whether Zanu Pf celebrates or the opposition castigates the deals, the truth is that we have to engage and court Chinese investment.

Our only particular uniqueness in SADC and the African Union is that we do not have the political capital to also court such deals with the West. Largely due to the good governance and neo-liberal conditions the latter insist on. This is as opposed to the Chinese who do not put governance conditionalities to their aid even though they pursue neo-liberal frameworks couched in the rising hegemonic ideology of state capitalism.

What we must accept as Zimbabweans is that China is here to stay. Primarily because of its long history of direct support to our liberation struggles but also in search, as is the case elsewhere on the continent, for natural resources and new markets for its booming economy.

The problem that has always  emerged with these sort of  deals in Zimbabwe however is the ineptitude of our government in either implementing them according to  specific development plans and allowing them to become part of our generally corrupt culture around state tenders, mining concessions, infrastructure development and elite aggrandisement via the state. 

Add to this the utilisation of such investment deals to distribute political patronage has led to failure before launch of most of these investment packages or loans.  The caseof the City of Harare loan from  China for the refurbishment of Morton Jaffray waterworks  is just one case in point at local government level. 

The more pertinent issue is therefore not so much that these deals should not be made with China. Given the fact that every other country is flocking to the same seeking investments  or intending to invest there, it is folly to argue plainly against Chinese investment in our economy. 

The main problem instead has been how our government has not only negotiated these deals but even more importantly how they have been implemented.

Particularly with regards to infrastructural investments which should basically be self evident in their impact on our society.  For example if we get investment (though not from the Chinese) for the dualisation of the Joshua Nkomo Highway  from Harare International Airport in order for it to be ready before the world cup in South Africa in 2010, it must be completed.  It is a road that five years after that and another world cup tournament in Brazil, is yet to be completed.

So it is not in itself a bad thing that President Mugabe is signing investment deals with China on behalf of the country. And the Chinese hold no brief for those that come to it seeking assistance.  In the end they want their returns, in as far as we have promised those returns and by way of mutual agreement. 

What matters is that these investments are used for what they are intended for instead of  political patronage after the money comes or the tender application processes are opened.  The Zimbabwean government has to depart from its unfortunate culture of cronyism, corruption, inefficiency and elitist economics if these ‘mega deals’ are to have any domestic meaning. 

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

Monday, 25 August 2014

Five Not So New Tasks for Zimbabwe’s Opposition Political Parties.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Zimbabwe’s mainstream political opposition is in serious trouble.  Its continued diversification or factionalism would have been viewed as progressive if ours was already a democratic society.  Unfortunately it is not. But neither is the call for democratic change in the country universally accepted. Especially on the basis of democratic value or principle. Add to this, the lack of acting for posterity and we have a recipe for disaster in the opposition rank and file. 

Arguably there is much in common between the opposition and the ruling party.  From personality cults through to longue duree political leaderships spiced up by ambiguous rhetoric about development, most times it is difficult to discern one from the other. 

Bu the mainstream opposition has had to forge a character of its own over the years. A character that saw it enter parliament and even government after SADC intervention in 2009.  The defeat that was mutedly predicted and publicly decried  in the 2013 general election should have been a cause for serious introspection for the opposition. 

After all, it had been part of electoral and constitutional reform processes that it publicly defended to the hilt against better advice.

As to be expected in the aftermaths of heavy political losses, no matter how controversial, opposition parties tend to split. Ours have been no exception.  The reasons for their new found factionalism appear to range from blame games for losses through to desires for what are largely cosmetic changes to leadership and even just basic but often times dangerous cult-like personality clashes. 

All of which neither improve nor serve even the minimal performance tenets of a democratic opposition or a continuing struggle for people centered democracy in Zimbabwe.

In order for the opposition to find its bearings once again, there are five tasks that it must undertake in order to be directly relevant to not only the general political economy but also to remain as viable alternatives to the ruling Zanu Pf party.

  1. 1.    Being Grounded in its own Historical Genesis and Remaining true to the Founding Democratic  Principles: All opposition parties have a past or reason to exist.  It may be an event or an ideological consideration that led to their formation or eventual strengthening, but all the same, it is a past that must be remembered continuously in the work of the opposition parties.  Remembering it however entails a continuous recognition of the founding democratic values, principles and actions to seek to achieve the intentions of seeking power.  A continual thread of remembering the past without being imprisoned by it will mean that the actions taken by subsequent leaders remain organic and contribute to the creation of not only a democratic culture but an historical accountability of both opposition leaders and members.
  2. 2.       Embracing Internal Democracy : Our opposition has generally argued that it is in a struggle and that they cannot fathom changes to founding leaderships.  In the aftermath of their electoral  performance in 2013, the opposition leaders would be well advised that the age of long term struggles under a leadership that is not accountable to its members while convenient does not in the end bring the desired results. Mimicry of the ruling party in this regard does not work either, especially if one is claiming to be a credible alternative party. Disputes must be resolved amicably and policy differences must be measured on the basis of founding ideologies, values and principle of the party.
  3. 3.       Continual Engagement of Members in Policy Formulation and Organic Actions: It is not enough to seek to run a party on the basis of popular events.  Party policies must be regularly debated, linked with economic and social realities at basic party structure level as opposed to occasional lip services by national executives.  This would entail that individual and especially grassroots members are regularly empowered to debate policy positions and to respond to socio-economic conditions with contextual perspectives. It is also a mechanism where ordinary members are given an opportunity to lead on issues of broader concern to the public.  Where members are left to wait for rallies and the holding of by-elections, the party generally takes the undemocratic path of event based activism which is breeding ground for vote buying and the creation of internal oligarchs.
  4. 4.       Ensuring Organic Cross Generational and Gender Representation- In most opposition movements, there is limited scope for the participation of young Zimbabweans in key policy making processes.  A successful opposition party will respond with urgency to the needs of Zimbabwe’s young on the basis of their socio-economic concerns and with the intention of ensuring that these are represented at the highest levels of important party documents or structures in the party.  This in order to not only to keep in touch with young citizens but also to ensure the development of a future leadership in the party that is grounded in democratic values and principles from an earlier stage.
  5. 5.       Linking Policies with Civil Society Concerns:  In order to understand broader society, opposition parties need to look beyond eh pursuit of power and understand the aggregation of interests in the societies in which they operate.  Where research is done into what non-political actors (churches, labour unions, students unions, residents associations, youth groups, womens groups, war veterans, farmers unions, civil servants unions, business associations, informal traders interests) party policies must respond to these in order to not only incorporate them but to  demonstrate a greater understanding of the challenges Zimbabwean society faces.  

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Zimbabwe's Chairing of SADC: In from the Cold and an Attempt at Normalcy.

For the first time since the Southern African Development Coordination Conference became the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in 1992, Zimbabwe hosts the latter’s 34th Heads of State and Government summit.  

We have previously chaired the SADC Organ on Politics,Defence and Security, a post which saw us leading the incorporation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo into the regional bloc in 1997. This also provided the pretext for our costly intervention in the same country ostensibly on the basis of that government's request. 

The South African government, then led by Nelson Mandela and chairing SADC was to differ with us on that particular regional flexing of our muscle but nonetheless we triumphed  and got our way. 

In the aftermath of that intervention we have never managed to influence SADC directly. 

Never mind the fact that we were the hosts of the inaugural SADCC summit in 1980.  And that in part, the Frontline states, a regional conglomeration of liberation movement supporting governments led by former Tanzanian, Zambian and Mozambican presidents, had been established primarily to help us, South Africa and Namibia achieve our independence. 

We shifted from being a Southern African powerhouse to one that was, in the considerations of an expanding  globalisation discourse, a pariah state.  Largely because of the manner in which our then (and even now) government dealt with internal politics through repression and also sought to justify the same through recourse to previously  long abandoned liberation struggle value discourse and radical land reform.
Furthermore, the deterioration of our domestic politics and economy to levels that were unprecedented for an assumed to be stable government only compounded our regional status for the worst.

It was to be the intervention of Tanzanian and South African Presidents, Jakaya Kikwete and Thabo Mbeki respectively that was to make  us a direct responsibility of SADC in an age of global liberal interventionism in April 2007.   Our government probably does not understand the full import of that SADC intervention on the stability of Zimbabwe, warts and all, but the truth be told assisted us to get out of our self made political and economic  morass.

For that all Zimbabweans must be grateful. The tradition that was begun by the Frontline states of looking after one’s neighbour assisted us to remain a peaceful country despite the odds stacked against us. The political violence and the perpetrators of the same may remain unaccounted for but either way, we are definitely no longer a ‘failed state’ as is given in Western parlance. 

We are returning to ‘normalcy’ in SADC with the burden of our mistakes regardless of how populist our government’s policies may appear in the region.  

However the fact that we are going to chair the regional bloc does not mean we are going to give it the character of our country because none of the member states want to learn from us in a positive way. Instead they have learnt what not to do. At least for now.

Zimbabwe is therefore not primed to make a big impact on SADC during its tenure as chair. Neither is it remotely expected to do so.  It will be asked to hear out regional grievances, of which there are currently few, but beyond remote facilitation of resolution of the same,  we will not be regarded as having specific moral authority to do so fairly.

We will try to posit our model of indigenisation together with our radical land reform as exemplary but this will fall on deaf ears.  Our foreign policy traits will not rub off in the region but we will have the benefit of a regional platform to seek the removal of Western sanctions on the government and select businesses.

In similar fashion we will be scrutinised for our human rights records and our adherence to standing SADC protocols and treaties in relation to the same.  Because we will be expected to lead by democratic example in the region, our government will not seek unnecessary attention through wanton acts of repression as it has regularly done in the past fifteen years.  

Because we are in from the cold, it is likely we will try to take the lead on major SADC development goals. So we will most likely speed up our digitization programme, improve our road networks to meet regional standards (even at great cost), and generally pay populist service to every major SADC secretariat policy announcement.

But in the final analysis, our tenure as SADC chair will not be particularly unique.  It will raise the 'scrutiny stakes' as to whether our domestic politics are exemplary for the region but it will still be largely a return to normalcy.  

We will occasionally need to be defend  a majority of member state  countries on the basis of previous support they gave our  past inclusive government as well as the informal regional grouping of former liberation war movements. 

Sadly however, the regional solidarity that was given to our local civil society on key issues of human rights will not be replicated from our side. As already been the case, our domestic civil society organisations have not had as much enthusiasm for the challenges faced by colleagues in Swaziland, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

But at least for now, while Zimbabweans may have mixed views on the significance of the 34th SADC Heads of State and Government  Summit in Victoria Fall this weekend, at least we are not as bad off in the region as we were two years ago. And for that, we have the very same SADC to thank.

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