Monday, 17 September 2018

Hiding Behind the Disaster Capitalist Veil: Corporates and Cholera Philanthropy

By Takura Zhangazha*

It was recently reported that Econet Zimbabwe founding chief executive officer and now majority shareholder, Strive Masiyiwa issued a social media statement that questioned the transparency of the use of at least US$10 million he/his company had donated toward alleviating the current cholera tragedy in Zimbabwe. 

And it’s fair enough.  Where colleagues and cdes were saying or acting in order to ensure all hands were on deck in order to at least prevent, as pragmatically possible, a further loss of lives, there are/were others that are now alleged sought to profiteer from the crisis.  These allegations included issues to do with the inflation of chemical ‘waterguard’ bottles as well as medical hand-gloves.

And indeed many a social media activist went apoplectic at the possibility of this happening in the midst of such an health epidemic.  Their motivations were probably genuine but had it not been for the fact of statements attributed to Masiyiwa over and about his ‘donation’, they would have probably kept quiet.  Or at least not been as apoplectic.

And sure enough, even the very rumour of the same got at least two (new) cabinet ministers concerned, at least on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation  Television One (ZBC, TV1) stating that they were shocked at the allegations being leveled at officials in local authorities.   The City of Harare also weighed in, with one or two stories being put online about the temporary/potential suspension of some of its senior administrative staffers.
 
What may have missed all good intentions at resolving the tragic crisis of an epidemic  is the possibility that it all makes for good public relations and marketing.  Even in its worst humanitarian crisis moments.  Especially where it concerns allegations of misappropriation of goodwill from the private sector.

What it means is that we must immediately forego the mistakes of the private sector.  Or their previous intentions at profiting from public capital (land, water, health, education and attendant state infrastructure). 

I had to re-read global activist Naomi Klein’s amazing book, ‘ The Shock Doctrine. The Rise of Disaster Capitalism’ in order to understand what is going on.  In Part 1 of the book, she quotes George Orwell’s novel, ‘Nineteen- Eighty Four’  wherein it states ‘we shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.’  Innocuous as the statement may seem, it essentially points to a new reality where we do not read between the lines. 

Even if it were some sort of conspiracy to undermine the Mnangagwa regime, that on its own would not be enough.  Private capital intends to make it clear that it can run things better. Especially in Zimbabwe’s national case, no matter the cost.  As far as it is concerned , it will eventually make the necessary profit.  As long as  necessary ‘curry' is favoured with those in political power.  

So bring out the water bowsers from Delta Corporation and the ‘waterguard’ chemicals from other well-wishers and we have a recipe for a corporate takeover of what should have remained public services.  That is the provision of affordable, safe and usable/drinkable water. Even if temporarily.

A point that for now, might not matter as much.  Again, its all hands on deck and we will or at least should ask questions after.  The probability of the latter happening however is relatively slim.  The intention is to reinvent our political and economic reality.  This being where we find solutions in the benevolence of those that already have money/capital  to what should be shared societal problems.  We choose to create heroes out of them in the process, while they make copious amounts of profit from  the same. 

What it means is that we have a potential reinvention of Zimbabwean society in the midst of an epidemic. 

And depending where you are ideologically seated, it may work for a while.  But the end effect is that it backfires.  And then we start to look for solutions in the same ideological neo-liberal framework.  That being, we should have done the same things better.  Hence it is behoove upon many an assumed  progressive to denounce any form of corruption against Masiyiwa’s  assumed US$10 million donation equivalent  in cash or kind without at once fairly questioning why and where such stupendous amounts of capital came from? 

Let alone hazarding that perilous guess as to why Ecocash/mobile money and internet or social media bundles rake in ((probably billions (especially in bond notes) a quarter)).  It is money that stems to the greater extent from the poor who seek more convenience than they do profit.  Or from those that would use the same on the parallel exchange rates, domestically. 

What we do know is that it appears to be open sesame for profiting out of a national disaster.  This entails putting profit on the highest possible tabernacle of either corporate social responsibility or the fact that a company or a few individuals ere able to shoulder a national burden when it ‘mattered the most’. 

For a country and government as desperate as our own., this is most likely.  A critical eye as to the motivation would be most unfortunate.  Almost as though we would have traded ourselves off.  Even if we do not know or understand it.

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


Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Life in a Time of Cholera in Zimbabwe, Again.


By Takura Zhangazha*

It is tragic that once again our country (Zimbabwe)  has to experience a Cholera epidemic in its capital, Harare.  Especially one that claims innocent lives.  And writing about it is never intended as a self righteous or attention seeking exercise.  Not for any political party or public health functionary. 

It is essentially about our own (African ) humanity and the sanctity of human life.  

And by so doing demonstrating a deep sorrow and empathy for those families and friends that have lost loved ones in the recent outbreak in a poor urban residential suburb of Glen View in Harare, Zimbabwe. 

The government of Zimbabwe, through the Minister of Health, Obadiah Moyo recently announced a state of disaster ( and its multiple implications) as a result of the outbreak.  That means the government is obliged at law to, among other things,  not only do all it can to prevent the spread of the preventable disease but also offer the maximum possible support to those afflicted or affected by it. 

The temptation for many is to politicise this tragic Cholera outbreak.  Especially in the aftermath of elections that were eventually recognized as legitimate (warts and all).  In this, the intention being to discredit one political party over the other as the root cause of the fact that, in the words of many a political activist, a ‘medieval disease’ can be found occurring in Zimbabwe’s  (and the Worlds) assumed ‘modern times’. 

In the midst of such an health crisis, what matters the most and urgently so is that all hands are on deck to prevent the further loss of lives.  So when the government announced that it is working with the country’s largest private beverage (and alcohol) suppliers, Delta Corporation  to provide clean water for those affected, one can only appreciate the corporate effort.  If only to save lives.

I personally wish I could leave this here by applauding all those that are seeking to resolve the crisis and those that will eventually offer comfort and direct support to the families of those directly affected by the outbreak. 

Not because of assumptions of individual self righteousness.  But more because there are many questions that should be asked of those in local and central government authority as to why Cholera outbreaks keep recurring in our cities.  The last major such outbreak was in 2008 in which at least 4000 Zimbabweans died. 

Many an academic of urban/local government will know that the main cause was the mismanagement of local authorities and central government interference in the same.  Ideologues , historians and anthropologists who would be more specific  will recall the colonial legacies of preferential urban planning that prioritised what we now refer to as the ‘western’ suburbs (quite literally) over the (black) ghettos. They would  more significantly understand these designs and why more poor people die of this treatable affliction.

What is however more worrying is the fact of  the lack of an urgent structural analysis of the same in order to circumvent the political, social and economic  effects of such preventable diseases.  Either by the relevant authorities (local and national) but also and most significantly the lack of a collective Zimbabwean national outcry at the cutting short of human lives beyond partisan political lines. And where in the final analysis, it is all about our collective right access to clean and safe water. As guaranteed by the state.

In having a conversation with a fellow Harare resident it struck me that he talked about the option of ensuring that the pre-paid water meter was a solution to such an unpalatable crisis. (No mention of cost and affordability) 

His point was fair enough until that point when I asked him where he lived in Harare.  And how he intended to solve his water and potential Cholera  problem.   It turns out he lives in the newer 'western' suburbs and purchases water regularly from a private supplier.  And he has a deep borehole. But he is still worried about the Cholera outbreak in so far as it does not cross the unwritten 'South of"  Samora Machel Avenue 'border' in Harare.

For him, though by default, Cholera should be a disease of the poor.  As opposed to being one about access to a basic human right,  i.e water.  (If you want that right to water, accept pre-paid water meters as far as he is concerned). 

I personally disagree with such an approach because it exacerbates societal inequality to what we should all have access to.  But then again, who will listen?  Money does not construct progressive social (socialist) democratic consciousness.  Nor should it be allowed to.  We need to solve Harare (and other cities) access to clean and safe, drinkable water challenges through a people centered approach that does not prioritise profit over access.  Even at local government level and with an intention to change the central government’s approach to the national state of affairs vis-a-vis access to water.

Finally,  may the souls of all those who lost their lives in past and recent Harare as well as other cities' much publicised 'Cholera outbreaks' rest in peace.  We will never forget.  Inclusive of the fact that we still seek retrospective justice.
*The title of this blog is taken from Gabriel Garcia Marquez' epic novel (Love in the Time of Cholera' 
*Takura Zhangazha writers here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)


Friday, 7 September 2018

Zimbabwe: Anticipating a Corporatist Cabinet, Running a Country Like a Private Business.


By Takura Zhangazha*

Following the swearing in of members of Zimbabwe’s Parliament  ( House of Assembly and the Senate)President Emerson Mnangagwa is legally obliged to appoint what is commonly referred to as a cabinet. This is in terms of Section 104 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.  This provision also gives the president as outlined in Section 104 (3) the latitude to appoint ministers or their deputies from an extra five (5) members of Parliament that he appoints for their ‘professional skills and competence’. 

The debate around who Mnangagwa eventually appoints to cabinet has been ‘corporatist’ and ‘ageist’.  The former largely because there are assumptions that the size of cabinet/government really matters.  In the lingo of those that would claim to be more entrepreneurial than others, it must be a ‘lean’ cabinet poised to replicate the power structures of multi-national corporations. 

That is to say  there is a deserving executive (president) head honcho who appoints a team of special experts to push the profits of his entity up and above the rest of the crowd.  A crowd which to his eventual regret will be competing with that of a majority of Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) countries and beyond. This argumentation assumes that for an African country to be successful, it must follow the neo-liberal (economic) free market trajectory of the west and the East.  Or to put it a little more simply, it must be run like a private corporation and for the maximum possible (private) profit. 

A decent number of middle and upper class Zimbabweans appreciate this ‘business like’ approach.  Except that it is not as political let alone as people centered as assumed.  For example Mnangagwa told delegates at a launch of a Chinese security company's products that he would like to ‘create billionaires’ in Zimbabwe.  At least by the year 2030.  And that in itself is improbable if taken literally.  Its all about business and capital with a somewhat hare-brained assumption that private capital will indeed create enough  ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ despite its  intention at maximum profit at minimum cost.

For the opposition MDC Alliance, being a minority in Parliament and least likely to be included in cabinet,  this is an issue of the proverbial ‘grapes are sour’.  Had it been them in ‘corporate cabinet power’ their strategies would have been the same.  With a  bit more of hindsight political blame games about how the country and the economy got to where it is.   

But a few pointers to the ruling establishment as well as the Zimbabwean public.  The first being that government cabinets are not mandated to function like boards of private corporations.  They are essentially executive political arms of the state.  And their primary mandate is to serve the people politically before they experiment with corporatist approaches to administration.  So even if we call for the cabinet to be ‘lean’ or full of ‘technocrats’ that does not change their political mandate.  What is more important, politically, is their programme of action at improving the livelihoods of the people they govern.  Not their ‘palatable’ appearance.  Questions that must be asked of them is what do they intend to do, not who is doing it. The latter question was answered by the election.

Secondly, a structured understanding of the ideological motivations of government/ cabinet really matter.  In the case of Mnangagwa’s government it is crystal clear that they have a neo-liberal, free market approach to how they intend to govern.  Their mantra of Zimbabwe being ‘open for business’ betrays their elitist/corporatist persuasions.  It is a huge gamble on their part as they have decided to embark on Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) 2.0.   An experiment that backfired spectacularly in the late 1990's. 

Thirdly and finally, we must always ask ourselves how we got here.  That is to say, how we came to be at a point where assumptions of ‘entrepreneurship’ and mimicry of capitalist/neo-liberal economic models are the panacea to our contextual economic challenges.  It would appear that the primary cause of our arrival here is a ruling establishment as led by Robert Mugabe (now succeeded by Mnangagwa) that worked ominously to dissipate a critical national consciousness.  First of all by acting to repress not only alternative political leaders but more importantly alternative critical ideas and perspectives  as to how the country should be run. Add to this an opposition that initially began as one of left leaning idological persuasion and allowed itself to be hijacked by the right (local and global) and you have a disastrous recipe for politics as entertainment or borderline cultist movements/organisations.
The remedy would be to seek to return to critical contextual ideas and actions.  Even at a time when it appears to be futile.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Belling Zimbabwe’s Electoral-Ideological Cat


By Takura Zhangazha*

It will take a while yet for the national after effect of the 2018 harmonised election to wear off.  Praise singers of Emerson Mnangagwa will continue justifying his eventual victory while those of the opposition will continue to cast extremely negative aspersions to it. 

What will however be a reality is that Cabinet, Parliament and local government councils’ will be formally constituted and start doing some sort of work.  As per their constitutional and respective political party mandates. 

Expectations will no doubt be high.  It will be almost like watching a football match and rooting for your favourite team or shrilly deriding the performance of your opponent.   

For the (still) ruling Zanu Pf party, it will be a question of performance legitimacy. Quite what sort of performance it expects of itself and others is not altogether politically clear.  It is however very much known behind the elite scenes that it is an ideologically neoliberal ‘performance’ that is expected.  In almost 'oxymoronic' fashion,  it promises ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’ while at the same time touting the ease of doing business and the de-unionisation of labour. 

It is the same thing with the mainstream opposition political parties.  They too made (and still make) promises about job creation while using a neo-liberal economic template that does not take kindly to decent wages let alone working conditions for workers. 

So what we have is a neo-liberal/capitalist economic ideological framework being touted as the panacea for Zimbabwe’s economic challenges.  And this across the political divide. 

Yet we are presented (by the mainstream print and electronic media) with an assumedly highly strung, ‘do or die’ political contestation between the major political parties.  All of whom have a neo-liberal ideological outlook that focuses more on global capital than adopts a people centered approach to national wealth redistribution.   All in the spirit of seeking the attention of western and eastern global economic powerhouses.  Hence the big battles about the legitimacy of the election resided not in the people of Zimbabwe, but what observer missions had to say.  At least eventually. 

What then obtains is an interesting convergence of an electoral process with a neo-liberal ideological outlook that is deemed as progressive by the local and global political elite. 

Its almost an attempt at not only ending ‘ideology’ in Zimbabwean politics but more significantly a negation of history on the part of the largest political parties that have emerged after the 2018 election.  Both have moved away from their founding values and principles without an iota of historical guilt.  Largely because they have not had internal democratic practices and pander more to personalities than people-centered and organic democratic ideas.  Their internal autocratic characteristics do not however end there (i.e internally).

It also cascades into the Fanonian national consciousness and creates a popular culture founded on elitism and borderline personality cults. The pitfalls of which become apparent with statements such as ‘we don’t care who we vote for as long its not Zanu Pf/MDC/G-40.’  Hence for many a Zimbabwean voter it is nto so much the ideas that motivate our political actors that matter but who they are and what their personality may or may not represent. By way of age or association. 
The easier route is to accept this as political reality and watch it all play itself out or join the fray.  Until the next election in 2023. 

The more conscientious route is to query these low levels of progressive, democratic and organic national consciousness in order to proffer solutions not just in the now but for posterity.  This would mean seeking to dismantle this emergent neoliberal electoral-ideological complex in favour of a social democratic one. 

And this would be what is tantamount to belling the electoral -ideological cat.  A daunting task in its proverbial as well as realistic sense.  Because it has so many backers (global and local capital),  a non-critical but highly personal electorate and potential profiteers, either side of the political divide.
The issue would be to at least set in motion the ability to put up warning signs of where the country is going. That is to an elitist political and economic permanence that is not designed to serve the majority of the people of Zimbabwe.  And that would have us in perpetual electioneering mode, not on the basis of ideological differences but on the regrettable premise of who should be in power.   For its own sake and in search of an end to popular angst at the long-duree rule of Zanu Pf. 

Two critical interventions therefore come into vogue.  The first is out rightly political in so far as it seeks to circumvent continued electioneering.  This being that the constitution of Zimbabwe must be amended in order to repeal the very idea of a ‘harmonised election’.  There has been no such thing since this was introduced fully in 2008. 

What should be considered an option is that of first of all separating local government and national elections.  And in the process introducing, for both plebiscites,  a proportional representation system.  With the elections for the national assembly determining which party in Parliament elects the executive president.  This would mean every political party gets a seat at the legislative table.  Not just on the basis of the personalities that lead them, but more significantly on the basis of values, principles and ideas that they posit to the Zimbabwean electorate and public. 

The second most significant intervention in the public sphere would be the establishment of alternative economic models as solutions to the current neoliberal dominant one we are saddled with. 

And the initial one must clearly be one that seeks first a social democratic approach to the national economy.  That is, one that protects public wealth (land, health, transport, water, education, media) from the avaricious hands of private capital while at the same time establishing a baseline social welfare system for Zimbabweans.  And with a strict understanding of our national context before we seek to emulate a dying neo-liberalism (whichever way you look at it) in the global north and east.  That way, we will have belled the cat.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Saturday, 18 August 2018

University of Zimbabwe VC Nyagura Suspension: Reviving Calls for Academic Freedom and Prudence.


By Takura Zhangazha*

University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor, Professor Levi Nyagura was recently suspended from office by President Mnangagwa. 

According to a press statement issued by the minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Professor Amon Murwira, the suspension is pending the finalisation of criminal charges laid against Nyagura.  These charges relate to allegations of corruptly awarding a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree to former first lady Grace Mugabe in 2014. (His suspension is however with full benefits.) 

This is both a political and emblematic move on the part of Zimbabwe’s government.  Political because in the first place the government did not like Nyagura’s close association with the former first family. 

Emblematic because the ‘new dispensation’ leaders do not want to be seen to be condoning or turning a blind eye to what is a widely popular alleged  corruption case.  Even if some of their associates were awarded PhDs or masters degrees during Nyagura’s tenure. 

For many a former and current student leader, especially those associated with the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)  Nyagura’s suspension would be sweet to the ear.  Not because they have personal grudges.  But more because of what he represented via his executive authority over not only academic and non-academic staff but more significantly over thousands of yesteryear and contemporary University of Zimbabwe students. 

As a former student leader at the university I also received the news of Nyagura’s suspension from a very personal point of view.   And in full knowledge of the fact that it is, after all, only a suspension pending a court of law’s determination as well as Nyagura’s own career options.  But either way the announcement was a throwback and reflective moment to what Nyagura represented within the university community and also to the country.  Whether as the then (during my years at UZ) Pro-vice Chancellor of the university or acting on behalf of then vice Chancellor Professor Graham Hill (who was not any better but never got suspended).   

I recalled the time he would bang the table in the university Council or Senate meeting room in umbrage at student leaders for raising valid concerns about students welfare (payouts, semester system) or their right to demonstrate or associate.  Or his erratic behaviour during meetings in his office when he would be trying to arbitrarily push for the UZ central administration to take over the Students Union building (a move which we successfully resisted at the time).  And how he would derisively laugh at us if we threatened to take up matters with the then Minister of Higher Education, Ignatious Chombo or then Chairman of the UZ Council and former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono. 

More significantly, how he would suspend many students and student leaders only to come up with other charges in terms of what we knew as the University of Zimbabwe ‘Ordinance 30’ statutory instrument.  One which still gives vast powers to the vice chancellor to arbitrarily suspend students from study let alone being seen on campus.   Especially those students and student leaders inclined to freedom of expression, association, intellectual thought  and as a result thereof, student activism. 
Nyagura would have the temerity and arrogance to suspend those already on suspension. Especially if they violated the terms of their initial suspension.  And I know cdes who still have not recovered from his actions.  Academically and/ or psychologically. 

But this blog is not a bitter riposte against Nyagura and actions he was responsible for against students, student leaders, critical academics and unionized non-academic staff.  On the contrary it is a blog about reminding us about the importance of democratic, utilitarian and transparent academic freedom at all of our universities.  State owned and non-state owned.

The arbitrary powers granted to vice chancellors who are effectively similar to corporate chief executives has always been inimical to the pursuit of critical, free and independent knowledge production in Zimbabwe.  Furthermore the politicization of these offices has led to creepy and unpalatable awarding of degrees not just to former first lady Grace Mugabe but many who are higher up the political ladder. And without true academic or knowledge production merit. 

So when I heard that professor Nyagura had been suspended I wanted to do a personal celebration.  Then I remembered all the other students , student leaders  and workers that were (and still are) the victims of the system of academic and political  repression that he represented.  A repressive system that still exists today in all of our universities.  One that led to many students seeking study abroad or dropping out all together.  On the basis of repression or the privatization of university education and exclusion of the poor due to state funding withdrawal. 

As former student leaders we have been accused of having had a sense of entitlement.  It may be a fair accusation to some.  But the real entitlement resided with persons such as Professor Nyagura who failed to see the democratic value of academic freedom across the board.  For the students, the lecturers and non-academic staff.  And by doing so,  failed to see it for the future and for posterity. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)


Thursday, 16 August 2018

Recognition and God's Case, No Appeal: Zim Elections 2018^


By Takura Zhangazha* 

Recognition of the result of Zimbabwe’s 2018 harmonised election was always going to be a matter of basic international relations.  One would be forgiven for arguing about which countries recognize their legitimacy. In return for either similar recognition or validation of amicable or hostile relations. 

The presidential spokesperson, George Charamba was on record  prior to the harmonized elections saying that the latter were all about foreign policy and re-engagement.  That is to imply, that the elections were a matter of international recognition and legitimacy.  Of not only the election but also an anticipated ruling party victory.  Hence all types of observers and media houses were allowed to come into the country in the run-up to the elections. 

The opposition, though less brazenly, talked about pursuing the electoral legitimacy of the election to the  maximum possible (global) scrutiny levels.  This included making claims of an expected victory that would be accepted by the international community (of course, only if its theirs). While at the same time preparing to dispute any announcement contrary to its popular expectations of an electoral victory. 

In both instances, for both the ruling and opposition parties, one thing stands out.  This election was essentially not quite about the people of Zimbabwe. Or the country.  But those that would watch it and endorse its political processes as ‘democratic'. Or a lack thereof. And perhaps at least passing some political test as they deem fit and necessary. All in expectation of their respective party's victory.  The major political and enabling technicality being that at least the people will have voted. Or gone through the motions of 'democracy and good governance'.  Which is an expected and fair enough point. 

As it turns out, the regional and continental observer missions have already expressed their opinion on the matter.  They do not have any big problem with the electoral process in and of itself.  They have their misgivings about the immediate post electoral violence but not the overall process itself. 
Those from the global north are, in the majority, at least, a bit more ambivalent.  The European Union, and United States of America affiliated observer missions are a bit more direct in their condemnation of either the pre-election period or the immediate post election period. 

In either cases the ruling and opposition parties are desperate for global attention.  Or take it a notch up, the recognition of either the 'freeness' and fairness of the elections or the exact opposite by the international community.  Especially the West.  

So the intention of the ruling Zanu Pf party to have a clean scorecard for this election has apparently fallen flat.  All based mainly on the events of 01 August 2018.  In similar fashion the intentions of the opposition MDC Alliance of ‘delegitimizing’ the election also fell flat, at least in the realm of international relations as a result of the ambiguous approach of the international observer missions. 

And it is now up to the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe to make a final decision on the matter.  Based on arguments presented to it by parties that dispute the ZEC results.  And also those of those that agree with the latter.  All without recourse to appeal the constitutional courts final judgment of the matter.  And since God featured prominently in the elections, this is almost like the proverbial 'Gods Case, No Appeal.'  

A key question that merges is that of the international observer missions, whose opinion matters more.  It is clear that it is probably the global north’s observer missions that matter more.  For both sides of the political spectrum. (We can discuss 'decoloniality' another time)  It’s a very awkward position for both sides.  But it is what obtains.  Even as they await the judgement of the Constitutional Court on the presidential election results. 

From an outsider’s perspective, the key is to measure the ideological perspectives that inform these shared perspectives (between the political parties).  First of all is a negation of pan Africanism as a political value.  And an acceptance that the global north and its governments can and will determine legitimacy of governments.  The contesting political parties are safely ensconced in the neo-liberal ambits of global superpowers.  East or West.  Therefore there are no big questions on what is the import of endorsement of electoral results.  The difference, at least ideologically was always going to be the same.  No matter who emerges as the electoral victor.

The second significant consideration is the fact that the Zimbabwean voting public does not much care for the nuances of this ‘foreign policy’ import of the 2018 elections.  And they didn’t need to.  It was (and remains) a highly personal but collective political exercise.  If you are with the ruling party you defend it to the hilt.  If you are with the opposition , you also defend it to the hilt.  No matter any assumptions of reasonable political debates on issues.  Its personal.  And highly emotional.

That leaves a third and final consideration.  One which is more academic as opposed to being reflective of contemporary reality.  This being that Zimbabwe’s political activities will probably remain binary for a while. Narratives of the ruling versus the opposition parties will continue as of old. But loyalties may not remain as personalised as they appear for now.  Issues of 'performance legitimacy' and waiting in the wings for 'next time' will take center stage. Political parties will still matter, and even more significantly so but not just on the basis of personalities.  Instead it will be more on what the party represents, how it performs at national or local government level and the issues it wants to push forward.  Popularly so.  All depending on the culture of intra-party democracy that is developed by respective party leaders.

But back to the pursuit of recognition.  Eventually this election will be about who curries the favour (recognition) of an increasingly dogmatic international community.  East or/and West. 
^ Gods Case No Appeal is the title of a book by renowned Africa author Dan Fulani http://moranpublishers.com/product/gods-case-no-appeal/ 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)



Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Zim's Immediate 2018 Electoral Aftermath: Highly Personal but Collective Political Catharsis



By Takura Zhangazha*

There was always going to be a disputed winner of Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections.  Especially after Robert Mugabe was no longer on the presidential ballot paper.  And it was always going to be very personal.  In a number of ways.  Firstly it was the personalities that were running for office that mattered to the electorate.  For ruling party supporters it was about ensuring that their candidate, no matter his flaws pipped it.  Even if barely.  For opposition supporters it was anyone but a Zanu Pf candidate and the one with the best possible chance of defeating the ruling party. (There were a very few neutrals in this one). 

Because of this, this was not an election about ‘issues’.  It didn’t need to be.  After almost four decades of Zanu Pf rule, it became personal also to the opposition voter.  They just wanted to see someone new.  Someone who is not part of the ruling establishment.  And this was a very emotional perspective.  Probably too much so.  It included a public (largely opposition supporter) rationalization of Mugabe's election eve press conference where he said he would not vote for the party he helped found way back in 1963.  And brought to where it decided to topple him from power 37 plus years after independence. 

So the ruling party also decides to make it personal.  And argue that they would give their candidate a chance, no matter his flaws. No matter the ‘popular, coup not a coup’ of November 2017. Especially after Mugabe tacitly endorsed the opposition candidate.  A development that warranted a brief but evidently disappointed response from the ruling party candidate.  And that will also be talked about in ruling party, opposition circles as well as in the mainstream media for a bit of a while yet.

However not also forgetting the ordinary urban and rural voter who also took it personally. For the former mainly in painful remembrance of the urban economic collapse especially of the mid 2000s. For the latter it would be in remembrance of both political violence but also in consideration of material gains as well as being more politically cautious and therefore conservative as a result of a consciousness that hasn't forgotten the import of political violence. And its aftermath. (An issue that is more structural/historical than just electoral.)


Add social media into the political/electoral mix and emotions not only get higher but become exceedingly personal. But also potentially ephemeral. All making for our elections becoming a national moment of 'political catharsis' or an 'in the moment' anger motivated political experience.

A moment which is not helped by the fact that in the immediate post election period there is needless loss of life after demonstrations in Harare's central business district.  Emotions, grief, suspicions and search of immediate justice solutions become even more palpable. 

This is why it remains of the utmost national importance that emotions (one sided anger/sadness/snide joy/partisan celebration) are reigned in by political and other societal leaders.  This, as advised by the regional and international observer missions, that all legal recourse, cases and those responsible for violence and at least 6 (six) tragic deaths in Harare are brought to justice. 

What is however clear to me is that in the aftermath of the (still) official Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) local council, parliamentary and more disputed presidential results it is imperative for those that would lead us to reflect deeply on what, in these elections, they all along saw as an opportunity.   An opportunity in which to bring back Zimbabwe to what they sometimes referred to as 'normalcy'.   That opportunity, even in the aftermath of the election is there. And its still up to those in political leadership at all levels to seize it.  For reasons that while varying put the democratic interests of the country and its people above political brinksmanship and narrow expediency. On either side of the political divide.

While I may not be in any advisory role to political leaders, their parties or their supporters, I am personally persuaded that those in such positions can and will do better.  That is to help their leaders or those that they are working with to understand the significance of a post Robert Mugabe and possibly post autocratic state.  That is, the need to consolidate the national consciousness into seeing and thinking beyond the moment and explaining that where they are committed to people-centered democratic and social economic justice values, 'history' will or would absolve them. Even in the aftermath of the now pending constitutional court challenge and its highly anticipated ruling on the presidential vote count.

All the while keeping in their 'democratic and posterity' minds that the legal fact of 'harmonised' elections may not be as democratic as envisioned by the parties that authored the constitution in 2013. And taking into account the serious option of separating local council from national government elections and expanding the system of proportional representation across the electoral board.  (Even though we know that when the new Parliament sits many vested interests may reject this proposition.) Or that we will need to ensure that the mechanisms of democracy must begin to reflect more its meaning beyond populism or entitlement of those that would have been in one struggle or the other.  Whether as defined by religion mixed with politics or the restoration of legacies that may in the public eye be more lost than real. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)