Thursday, 27 November 2014

Zimbabwe’s 2014 in Early Retrospect: Struggles Without the Struggle

A Presentation to the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) Public Seminar
Thursday 27 November 2014.
New Ambassador Hotel, Harare.

Cde Chairman,
As is tradition and courtesy, let me begin. by thanking you for inviting me to share my views with the respectable Douglas Mwonzora, recently elected Secretary General of the MDC-T and the respectable Goodson Nguni of the ruling Zanu Pf party.
 
I have titled my presentation Zimbabwe’s 2014 in Early Retrospect: Struggles Without the Struggle for a specific reason.  In 1999, the late renowned academic and human rights activist, Professor Masipula Sithole, who is also a founder of the organisation that has brought us here today, the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) wrote a personal note for me in his celebrated book, Struggles Within the Struggle. 

In that note he urged me, as his former student, to hopefully pursue writing my own version of ‘struggles after the struggle.’ I suspect his intention was to have me participate in a project that helps to outline what happened to the former liberation movement, in which his brother was once upon a time president, in the aftermath of independence. 

Contrary to his written expectations, I have decided to call this paper, struggles without the struggle.  The main reasons being that we have all had collective amnesia about why we do our politics.  Social democratic values, principles have long been discarded in order to promote personality cults (across the political divide), mimicry of assumed global universality in political and economic trends. 

Struggles without the struggle therefore refers to a year in which we have come to tragically accept that our politics is not only shallow, non-revolutionary and elitist at a time  when our country urgently needs the exact opposite.

I will return to the issue of struggles without the struggle later.  In order to assess the ups and downs of the course of the  year  2014 in Zimbabwe, it is necessary to access the political, legal, economic, civil society and social placement of the country as the year progressed. 

In the course of the political year and given our obsession with politics, there have been no major positives to talk of.  We have probably scored a historical first as a country where a ruling party is literally fighting within itself even after a shocking, but disputed, electoral victory over a year ago. 

Simultaneously, an opposition which should have been taking the year to reflect, re-organise and refocus in the wake of its stunning defeat in general elections, finds itself not only divided but floating in the political abstractions of personality cults as thought to mimic and compete with the ruling party. 

Newer political parties, in the wake of their formation or at least announcements of being formed, have found themselves pursing political office without any new ideas or propositions on the political future of the country.

So as it is, our national political score card is next to zero.  We have not achieved anything politically in the last eleven months.

Legally, the new constitution has sought to give us a glimmer of hope over the course of the year.  Unfortunately it is neither widely known let alone appreciated.  Even after millions of dollars were spent crafting it and putting it to a referendum.  It has had no immediate impact on the political consciousness of the Zimbabwean populace primarily because its end effect now appears to have been a power brokering arrangement between political parties, and in the run up to the Zanu Pf congress, managing presidential succession.

Our new bill of rights has not seen any changes in the attitude of government.  Over the course of the year, the right to housing, shelter and viable livelihoods have been violated in Mazowe, Manyame, Chitungwiza, Chiadzwa, Tokwe Mukosi, Gutu and Chisumbanje.  I am sure that in Lupane, the same story of displacement of citizens will emerge with the unfolding reports of gas exploration. 

This brings me to the important point of the performance of the national economy over the course of the year.  Government launched its five year economic blueprint, ZimAsset last year amid much fanfare and media hype.  It has turned out that this document is largely about government giving the impression that it has a plan.

In essence the blueprint is no more than a political manifesto and not a government programme of action.  It meets the global prerequisites of capitalism and neo-liberalism, albeit in similar fashion to the Chinese, Russian and Angolan economic models. 

These being steeped in state capitalism where it is the political elite who, like the oligarchies in the aforementioned countries run the entirety of the economy while simultaneously repressing revolutionary political dissent and giving a veneer of permanence or inevitability to the political and economic state of affairs as they obtain. 

 Let me return to the concept of struggles without the struggle.  Our political economy over the last year, and needless to say since independence have suffered from a tremendous lack of application of political and innovative mind to context.  Our actions have tended to be motivated more by a desire for personal and international recognition via mimicry without a consistent intention to address the needs of the people.  This is against the grain of the values of not only our liberation struggle but all struggles for the furtherance of democracy in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.

We have lost the heart, spirit and important placement of democratic values as was the case in the liberation struggle. 

So if we want to have a better 2015 we must become more organic and holistic in seeking to solve the country’s challenges.  This would entail a return to the organic ideals and values of the liberation struggle beyond retention or acquisition of power as is the case with our current crop of political leaders.  It would also entail that we embrace the functional democratic principle of leadership for posterity and not for the  moment. We need to embrace broad social democratic ideals that put the welfare of the people at the centre of political and economic thought processes and policies. 
Thank you.








Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Beyond Factions, Zim Political Parties Clandestinely Share $US 3 million

By Takura Zhangazha*

In the midst of ruling political party factionalism, congresses for the main opposition party and endeavours toward unity of  breakaway opposition factions of the MDC, there is the sharing of electoral spoils.  In terms of the Political Parties Finance Act, the Finance Minster has allocated US$3million to all political parties that have at least 5% representation in Parliament.  These parties are namely Zanu Pf and the MDC-T. 

According to media reports earlier this year, Zanu Pf will get or has already gotten its US$2,2 million while the MDC-T will get a total of US$ 800 000.  Reliable sources tell me that the MDC-T quota has been split into two. 

 So far, it is said that the MDC-T and MDC Renewal have each received at least US$250 000, meaning that they are still to share a further US$300 000.   I don’t have any speculative figures for Zanu Pf but given the fact that it is literally constructing a temporary conference centre for its elective congress next month (with a new tarred road) on the open grounds behind the Magistrates Courts in Harare, I am sure it has received a significant portion of its expected US$ 2,2 million. 

There are a lot of opinions on the issue of political parties getting assistance from the government.  Especially where it comes to direct funding.  Where it is done with broader accountability it makes democratic sense to assist in the institutionalization of competing political organisations.  An opinion by the ElectionsResource Centre argues that there is need for greater fairness, transparency and accountability in the fiscal support given to political parties. 

The key question that emerges however is twofold.  Firstly is the challenge of broader public accountability to the taxpayer as to what exactly the money is going to be used for by the political parties.  Secondly, internal party accountability as to the usage of the money. That is , whether party members and supporters are aware of what the money is being used for and whether it is not actually going into the pockets  of political party leaders.

The issue of public accountability in the current case of the US$3 million that will be received by the two (three) political parties in parliament is key.  None of the parties have a legal obligation to state what exactly they use the money for after receiving it.  They will fight tooth and nail to get their allocations, but they ensure there is no further debate as to what they eventually use the money for. 

Whether they use it to purchase a new car for their leader or to pay salaries, its really up to them.  In fact this has been one of the major reasons why some politicians have stayed in the game for so long.  Especially after the promulgation of the Political Parties Finance Act in 1992. 

Their motivation has been to at least get a significant presence (over 5%)  in the national parliamentary vote count. Once you get that, then there is the certainty of income.  If one were to do a material audit of the manner in which these allocations have been used over the last ten years, it will be evident that it was most certainly not to build the institutional capacities of recipient political parties.   Obviously part of the money has gone into campaigns given the fact that we have had at least four national elections in the last decade but this alone cannot be what the funds allocated can only be used for.

There is an urgent need for legal regulations that ask parties to not only account for the funds but also stipulate that some percentage of the money be used for specific capacity building projects within parties.  For example there is evident need to develop youth leadership training activities or in the current context of the country having a new constitution, training and education programmes related to constitutionalism.

There is also need to have specific obligations on internal accountability processes of political parties that qualify for this funding.  It is necessary for there to be some stipulation as to compulsory audits and reports as to how the money was used.  This would mean that there would be legal obligations for treasurers or administration secretaries to table financial reports before their congresses or conferences as to how allocations were utilised. 

The challenge however remains that our political parties now have a sense of entitlement to the funding.  It gives the impression of being just reward for the political campaigns.  That is why none of them have gone public with a report as to how they have utilised the money.  Nor have they been wont to announce that indeed the money is now reflecting in their bank accounts.  Where perhaps the initial intentions of the state financing of political parties may have been to prevent foreign funding,  it has had the end effect of leading to a lack of accountability by parties. 

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

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Pre-Paid Metering's Six Undemocratic Steps to the Privatisation of Water


By Takura Zhangazha*


Last week the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BUPRA)  held a march, together with its civil society partners, against the proposals by the Bulawayo City Council to introduce prepaid water meters. The mayor of the city, Councillor Martin  Moyo, was reported in a local daily as saying he had no choice but to implement central government’s directive in order to fundraise for water treatment  chemicals among other things.  

The minister of Environment and Water Savious Kasukuwere weighed in with what appeared more a declaration than a measured response by saying that there is no going back on prepaid water meters as a broad government policy even in the wake of demonstrations by Bulawayo residents.

The intention of government is to privatise water.  Not, as the mayor of Bulawayo assumes, to merely fund raise in order to get water treatment chemicals. The truth of the matter is that the mere act of placing a pre-paid water meter on every household in Cowdray Park and  Hlalani Kuhle as ‘pilot projects’ is an act that seeks to exclude the poor from access to water. 

But this needs further explanation.  Government, in this case, the Ministry of Environment and Water and the Bulawayo City Council, are using a model that has been proven to be a failure across many parts of the developing world.  In these models, the government decides to outsource water supplies to private players. So this generally takes six undemocratic and profit driven steps. 

Step Number 1: Government starts with pre-paid water meters.  These will be supplied by (most likely South African) private companies  to government at a cost. The latter will work out a payment plan with the private company depending on its ability to charge specific rates that cover both the actual costs of supplying water and purchasing the prepaid water meters.  So the cost of installing of the  prepaid meter will be the burden of the residents and ratepayers. 

Step Number 2: These are just the initial stages.  In the aftermath of the purchase and supply of the prepaid water meters, government then argues it cannot maintain these meters.  It sub- contracts the same or another private company to maintain them while again passing on the cost to the resident and taxpayer.

Step Number 3: At this stage the resident and taxpayer now has a triple cost.  Firstly , that of paying for water as was always the case, secondly that of paying for the prepaid meter (which can be once off- or negotiated payment plan) and thirdly that of paying, in levied form, for the maintenance, repair of the prepaid water metering system.  Put more simply, the initial assumptions that pre-paid water meters lead to cheaper and more readily available water for ordinary residents, will evidently become the myth that they are. 

Step Number 4: The fourth stage that normally follows is that government then decides that it wants to privatise the water supply system (pipes, reservoirs etc). It approaches companies to lay pipes in what it calls public private partnerships and these companies then get first call at actually maintaining or owning the pipes.  That cost is factored into the levies and commissions that are deducted every time a resident pays for water. The cost per unit increases and families begin to ration water.

Step Number 5: the entire billing system and maintenance of clean water supplies becomes the preserve of the rich and well off with costs being determined solely for profit.  Government will be getting its commissions/levies and taxes from the private companies who in turn pass on the cost to the resident and ratepayer in order to maintain their profit levels. Prepaid meters stop getting ‘juiced’ for lack of income and water becomes a commodity and not a right.

Step Number 6: Majority urban poor turn to unclean sources of water, ‘’bootlegging’’ water and in the final analysis will no longer be able to ask their neighbours for a free glass of the life- giving liquid.


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

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Imperative Need to Decriminalize Freedom of Expression in Zimbabwe – Pitfalls and Opportunities for Reform.

A presentation to the MISA Zimbabwe Stakeholders Meeting on Decriminalising Freedom of Expression in Zimbabwe. 
13 November 2014
Amber Hotel, Holiday Inn
Mutare

The contentious issue of criminalization of freedom of expression/ criminal defamation in Zimbabwe has been at the forefront of the overall struggle or quest for democratic media freedom in Zimbabwe.  It is the arrests, detention and comparatively few convictions of journalists since our national independence that has led to many of our citizens, media organizations and some policy makers remaining consistently opposed to it. 

The new constitution’s incrementally progressive provisions on media freedom, freedom expression and access to information signify a potential departure point to what has been obtaining in relation to  criminal defamation.[1]  The state now has the obligation of ensuring media freedom in a much more specifc manner than was the case in the past. 

Such an assurance will mean a review of criminal defamation laws in order to meet the spirit and letter of the new constitution of the country.

Apart from the new constitution there have been three major developments that affect the status of criminal defamation law and policies in Zimbabwe.   At law the most important has been the June 2014, constitutional court ruling in the  case of  Madanhire vs Attorney General   in which the court found section 96 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act to be unconstitutional in relation to Section 20 of our previous constitution.  Furthermore, the constitutional court found in another case in July 2014,  Chimakure vs Attorney General  parts of  section 31 of the same act to be in violation of the same section 20 (i) of the previous constitution. 

The second major development vis-à-vis criminal defamation were statements made by the Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo in April this year. He was reported to have stated that  he was not keen on keeping criminal defamation in the statute books.  This was after the editor of the Daily News, Stanley Gama and a reporter for the same paper, Fungisai Kwaramba had been arrested for allegedly publishing a false story.

The third development is that the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Emerson Mnangangwa has however been quick to inform Parliament that while government welcomes the constitutional court rulings against  criminal defamation, these have only been in terms of the old constitution.  He also went further to argue for the retention of criminal defamation in order to make journalists accountable and that until the said laws are struck down by the Constitutional Court in terms of the new constitution, government would continue to use them.

The three developments point  to a number of realities on the subject matter.  The first being that despite the constitutional court judgments outlawing criminal defamation, it is still a criminal offence to publish a falsehood, insult the President or undermine the authority of the security services.  This would mean sections that effect criminal defamation in terms of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act  and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), Official Secrets Act (among others) remain valid until, as Minister Mnangwagwa says, they are struck down by the constitutional court in relation to the new constitution.  Or until, in different circumstances, Parliament repeals the specific sections.[2]  

The second reality is the broader political context in which criminal defamation is functional.  The quantitative expansion o f the media (more newspapers and commercial radio stations) has meant that there is greater potential for media houses to get into trouble with the law on various stories they publish.  

Furthermore, the increasing usage of social media and the media has also led to a lot of potential for the use of criminal defamation laws against citizens who are not journalists.  The specific case in point here is that of the now infamous Madzibaba Chacha who paid a $100 fine for being a criminal nuisance after posting a photo of himself in police uniform. This was of course after the incident of the apostolic faith members who had attacked the police. It would be trite to note that Madzibaba Chacha is also of the same religious persuasion.

The emerging political role of the media in issues to do with succession has placed criminal defamation in the spotlight. I am certain that many an aggrieved politician particularly those in the ruling party would prefer to sometimes seek the arrest of journalists for stories that appear malicious or unfair.  The only catch at the moment is that it is the state controlled media that has taken a key role in determining editorial angles to stories and issues to do with the pending Zanu Pf congress. 

It is however a good thing that these politicians have not done so and this may portend a new trend where the media is only sued for civil defamation, as Vice President Dr. Joice Mujuru has threatened to do with the Herald. 

However, there are opportunities for the repealing of criminal defamation in existent laws.  These include the new constitution’s guarantee of media freedom and access to information.  Especially where there is the review and realignment of laws to conform to the spirit, letter and intent of the same said new constitution. 

Furthermore, the public statements of the minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services as to his aversion to criminal defamation are signs that government may eventually act on the issue.  But this is only if it is pushed to do so and that would constitute an opportunity even if the ministry of justice remains keen on retaining it.  As  Minister Mnangagwa has also indicated, there is the further option of testing the constitutionality of current criminal defamation laws with the constitutional court.

But perhaps the most important issue of all is to address the negative import of physical punishment by the state or an individual for expressing an opinion publicly.  We have to deal with it not only in terms of power and media dynamics but also in relation to the everyday opinions that are expressed publicly. Be it in good jest, seriousness or general banter, expressing oneself should not the spectre of a jail cell, wherever and whoever one is.  
Ends//






[1] Sections 61 and 62 of the new constitution’s Bill of Rights deal with Freedom of expression and access to information respectively.
[2] Please see MISA- Zimbabwe Advocacy Papers on Criminal Defamation, Censorship and Entertainment Controls, State Secrets and Access to Information for detailed summaries of the specific sections that effect criminal defamation in Zimbabwe. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Analysing the Character and Aftermath of the MDC-T Extraordinary Congress

                          

By Takura Zhangazha*

The outcome of the main opposition MDC-T Extraordinary elective congress have seen a myriad of reactions from the public and pundits.  It is a good thing. Not least because the MDC-T remains the largest opposition party in Parliament .

There were three major issues that emerged from it. The first being the fact that it was held to elect or give fresh mandates to incumbent or new leaders. The second being that it made recommendations for structural changes to its constitution. The third that it also had resolutions that sought to look at what it perceives as key challenges faced by the country.

The importance of these three aforementioned developments is however in no order of preference as all of them are closely interlinked.  The reason for this being that the party has tended to mix the three up with relative ease.  

From statements of how the party cannot do without its re-elected leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, through to its internal divisions based on the distribution of power (presidency vs  secretary general) and its intention to wrestle power electorally from Zanu Pf on a democratic change platform, the end result  was always going to be  a mixture of personalities, power distribution in the party  and eventually decrying the state of national affairs.

True to form the issue of personalities and their indispensability in the party emerged as the most triumphant.  The top three positions in the party were retained uncontested by Tsvangirai,  Thokozani Khupe and Lovemore Moyo (president, deputy president and national chairman respectively) .  This has been the leadership of the MDC –T through two major elections. One which was highly disputed (2008) and led to an inclusive government. The other which was more a shock in defeat (2013) and led to the severe weakening of the party’s parliamentary presence. 

That their congress chose to retain the same top three leaders is down to the oft repeated issue of the party president being a ‘brand’ who is still deemed to be the only one capable of dislodging the ruling party from government.  It is a characteristic  that has seen it through two successive splits with Tsvangirai remaining at the helm of the main and larger MDC. And given his lack of contestation at this recent one, it is something that is not going to change soon.  Or for at least the next five years. 

In the same vein, there were and remain assumptions of the importance of personalities in the contest for the fourth most powerful position in the MDC-T.  Where Mwonzora and Chamisa squared off for the post of Secretary General, allegations were that the former got the favour of the president in order to win. The thread of borderline personality cult and control continued to emerge.  Other views however hold that the congress electoral process was in itself free and fair with the more popular candidate emerging victorious. 

In both sets of views, one can discern a lack of an evident internal democratic culture in the party, where initially there were disputes over nominations and then disputes over congress electoral results both based on the roles played by individuals and not party rules or regulations. 

This then brings into view the issue of the recommendations to increase the role of the party president in the administration process of the party.  Some of these functions were initially the prerogative of the secretary general.  It can only be surmised that these recommendations are the end result that the party’s presidency intended to prevent a situation where the secretary general exercises power without its direct supervision. 

This intention at centralisation of official party authority around the presidency may be convenient but undermines intra-party democracy and the all important sharing of leadership responsibilities.  It is a marked departure  from the general principle of collective leadership responsibility that may not bode well for an opposition party that needs to harvest more than it discards capable and empowered leaders.  Especially where this concerns constitutionally given roles and processes.

The final import of the MDCT-T congress was in how it sought to speak to the broader concerns and challenges it deems are faced by the country. True to its long standing tradition and history as a party that originated from labour, its resolutions reflected more a tinge of  social democratic ideological outcry of the state of affairs in the country. 

These were however short on solutions and therein lies the problem.  It is not enough to claim distraction via internal processes of the party on addressing much more robustly the challenges the country is facing.

Congresses may have electoral contests but these should not overshadow immediate and urgent issues that must be placed within the public domain as emanating from a party that has the broader issues ordinary citizens are challenged with as a priority.  So their congress should have had prior meetings to discuss its broader socio-economic agenda for the country going forward, even if at provincial levels and finalised the same at their important meeting.

Finally, it is healthy to still have an opposition in Parliament. Especially one that is willing and able to hold a congress.  What is however more important is the democratic  national character it portends beyond electoral contests, personality clashes and internal distribution of power.  In this, the MDC-T and many other opposition parties still have a lot of work to do. 

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

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Rather Big Matter of the State Medical Doctors Strike and our Profit Driven Medical Industrial Complex


By Takura Zhangazha*

Medical doctors at government hospitals last week announced that they would embark on an indefinite strike on Monday 27 October.   This, after their demands for a review of their salaries and working conditions have not received what they consider an appropriate response from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. 

This is however not the only immediate challenge facing our health delivery system.  Medical Aid Societies under the umbrella  Association of Health Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFOZ) are also having their own differences with the same ministry and private hospitals over payment rates that they remit for their clients. 

The main reason this latter development has raised a lot of dust is because it is the private hospitals that have the best treatment facilities and therefore attract the most patients who are willing or will eventually pay their hospital bills.  They are also at the heart of our booming medical industrial complex whose primary motive is profit before all else.

Both developments point to a health services provision system that is in its own intensive care unit.  Except perhaps that the experts and policy makers attending to it may be ill equipped to deal with it.  Or their intentions may not be as ethical as one would expect.

In the first instance, the responsible ministry has tended to have an approach of seeking to sweep things under the carpet.  This is largely due to its inept responses to the state medical doctors demands through to its lack of a long term sustainable reform of the public health sector to make it affordable and accessible to the majority poor. 

Instead government has sought largely to inconsistently commercialise public health while at the same time relying  on donor funding to keep it afloat. 

This has meant strenuous conditions for medical personnel in state hospitals and in the long run, compromised health service delivery for low income earning patients.  As with the private hospitals, personal money is the key to full treatment of the sick.  One may get admitted but there is no  guarantee of proper treatment unless you or your family have money to pay for drugs or specialist services.

This is why the state doctors strike must be taken seriously and resolved with urgency.  It is symptomatic of the ‘it will fix itself’ approach government has to health services provision.

And this is an attitude that has perhaps been learnt more from the private hospitals and AFHOZ.  As with state hospitals but with much more evident disdain for human life, it is the money that matters.  Hence the private clinics are the loudest in condemning the medical aid companies for not fulfilling payments of their clients. 

The bigger question that emerges is that of the extent to which it is a profit matrix that appears to be falling apart.  Where the issue at hand is not so much the negative impact this has on the provision of health services even to those on medical aid, but keeping the profit margins high.  This is particularly so for the medical aid societies (companies) who have been reported in the media as giving their executives ridiculously high and disproportionate salaries.  All of which is done with alarming impunity and arrogance.

Because private health services provision has a literally permanent market due to the dilapidated nature of state hospitals, these disputes between the medical aid societies and the private hospitals can only be deemed as one of fighting over larger pieces of the cake.  As opposed to seeking to work to improve the quality of service, its affordability (even for profit) and accessibility to many.

So we have a dangerous cyclical health crisis characterised by doctors/nurses strikes, state inefficiency and disregard of citizens’ right to health and the profit motive of competitive but without innovation private health players.

What is therefore urgent is an overhaul of the health service provision system in the country to put the patient at the heart of the process as opposed to just profit.  This would include structural changes to public health administration such as ensuring an integrated local health delivery system with a central one, departing from hotchpotch commercialisation of state hospitals and ensuring a broader engagement framework with medical professionals in the employ of the state on their working conditions. 

Furthermore there is need to place a cap on the profit motive of private health services players and introduce a broader ethical regime that values human life more than it does the business aspects.  This is particularly so for medical aid societies and their relationship with both state and private hospitals. 
Above all else, government must tackle its complicity in the existent medical industrial complex with greater fortitude.  

The standards of service at state hospitals is what has led to flourishing of private services that rely on the ineptitude of the former to make a profit and have the arrogance to turn poor patients away.   And even further arrogance to be involved in a public spat about medial aid society remittances to private hospitals and doctors.

The state is therefore the primary reason why there are problems in health service delivery. Its  scant attention to the structural challenges of the health delivery sector only to emerge in pretence at putting out fires that were not only foreseen but evidently cyclical are compromising the Zimbabweans’ right to health and therefore life.

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

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

‘Resistance is Futile?’ Zimbabwe’s New Age of Tokenism.

By Takura Zhangazha*

The 'extractive' approach of the Zimbabwean government towards its citizens has never been more glaring. From the increases in toll gates, through to the further taxation of vendors and continued eviction of new farmers for grand projects and the default privatisation of education or health services at all levels,  it is evident that the state is in no way people centered. 

It is functioning like a big corporation that looks at its citizens and their economic placement more as cannon fodder for not only economic experiments ala carte the state capitalist models imported from China but also in order to reign in potential political dissent or a desperately needed new political consciousness.

The unstated intention is to develop a system of indisputable permanence of not only the ruling party’s reign in power but also making allegiance to it the only way one can either have an economic livelihood or at least political protection.

Put simply, the intention is to make peaceful resistance and active objection futile or at least token.  Whether it be from opposition political parties (who in their current state are too disorganised to win any foreseeable general election.) Or with civil society where it seeks to enhance human rights which are increasingly appearing to only be granted not in terms of democratic principle but by arrogant government benevolence.

This also extends to private businesses that have to contend with dealing with a state patronage system to acquire tenders or even stay afloat.  Where government has been in crises it has sought funding on the basis of extending either operating licenses or threatening to cancel them if businesses refuse to comply. 

So even if a company sought to function on the basis of transparency and the law, it would however need to consider its profit motive as a priority and therefore find it easier to comply with whatever demands government puts to it. 
The media is also no longer spared, particularly after the formation of the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI).  It is navigating a difficult terrain in relation to seeking reform but only at the benevolence of government. 

To this extent the media has had its ‘fourth estate’  and ‘best public interest’ role undermined by its new found proximity to the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services.  Unlike previous years, it is no longer just the state media, but also the private print and radio media that has now also sought, especially in terms of its own business interests, expansion via multi-media ownership. 

While the quantitative expansion of the media in Zimbabwe is welcome and long overdue,  its lack of a qualitative dimension leaves a sour taste in the mouth over media independence and credibility. A development that makes democratic principles that should govern our society compromised.

As it is, the combination of our government’s state capitalism economic model (ZimAsset), its patronage system with business, occasional benevolence toward civil society and editorial interference with the media, one can discern a revived systematic intention to make dissension futile or token.   Especially if the dissent challenges the structural frameworks of the current system as determined by Zanu Pf. 

In order to stem this new approach to socio-political and economic developments in Zimbabwe, there is need for citizens, civil society organisations, the media and opposition political parties to return to the democratic principle source. 

This would entail a shift from ‘incrementalism’ (the new constitution) and short term opportunism (reacting to crisis e.g house demolitions, extended taxation) to longer term principle based planning and civic engagement to stem the impunity with which government is functioning. It also means providing organic and therefore alternative frameworks to existent government policies which feed into a holistic social democratic assessment of our country’s challenges going forward. 

In all of this, we would need to get over the politics of entertainment, even if most of our celebrities are political leaders. There is more to our existence as a country that transcends pending but predictable political party congresses, succession debates and character assassinations based on no more than malice.


While we are permitted to enjoy and entertain ourselves as to the factionalism in most political parties and the evidently overdue succession process to President Mugabe, we should be wary of losing sight of the real issues negatively affecting a majority of the population.  Where we do so, we contribute to the establishment of a hegemonic permanence in similar fashion to Angola, where whatever bad thing the ruling party does, it appears, resistance is either futile or token. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)