Monday, 26 January 2015

Zim's Urban Land as the New Profit Frontier of the Political Elite.

By Takura Zhangazha

In the process of undertaking its radical land reform programme, the Zanu Pf government conveniently but by default retained what renowned academic Mahmood Mamdani refers to as the ‘bifurcated state'. That is a structured colonial era divisions of the rural and the urban with the latter always being the arena of the ‘civil’ in relation to not only law but lifestyle. 

A number of studies have also sought to explain the impact of this fast track land reform programme (FTLRP).  Their emphasis however has been on how it has affected the rural/peasant farmer or the overall capacity of agricultural production of the country.

What has hwoever been emerging, minus the radical rhetoric and demonstrations is the utilization of the FTLRP to acquire land that is adjacent to urban centres, not for the purposes of farming or reclamation, but for urban investment projects. Particularly for the lucrative housing market. 

The latest such case is that of Crowhill farm on the outskirts of Harare.  It is a farm that has been in dispute since 2011 when the government gazzeted it for redistribution while the ownership was retained by a private company, Crowhill Private limited. A dual process began to operate on the farm.  

A war veteran claimed the farm while a private company was claiming ownership of it as an urban residential housing development area. The matter is now before the courts with the added drama of Crowhill Private Limited owner, Cephas Msipa (Jr) being sued about the same land by the actual owner of Crowhill farm, Ozias Bvute.

In the entirety of the process and its outcomes, the most affected will be residents of the farm who may have paid for stands and are living there.

The bigger picture points to an alarming ambiguity about land use within the context of FTLRP. Particularly where it concerns land that is adjacent to major urban areas.  It is a trend that is also emerging in areas referred to as ‘growth points’ where property developers and rural district councils are converting rural land or redistributed farms to urban residential  land use. 

Given the shortage of affordable housing in the country and the much touted housing waiting list, this is lucrative business.  Property developers are getting land, both by way of local government approval and through the FTLRP, subdividing it into stands, and making a killing.

The only problem is that sometimes these approvals from both central and local government are not necessarily transparent and clear.  This was the case in Chitungwiza and Manyame where houses were demolished and the potential case in other areas where people are set to lose homes or their investments. 

It is a trend that should have policy makers quick on their feet investigating and examining what is really going on.  Some of the key questions that need answers relate to the honesty of property developers, rural district councils and central government officials in claiming to provide residential stands at premium prices without legal veracity or certainty.

Even more important questions relate to examining the link between urban land and the FTLRP.  Are there emerging land barons/baronesses who are unprofessional and take advantage of citizens that are desperate to own urban houses?  And by so doing, utilize the FTLRP to not only get the land for a pittance only to make huge profits from it.

There are many other issues that will emerge with the passage of time and the shifting allegiances in Zanu Pf linked businesses and other entrepreneurial endeavours.  The only problem is that it is the residents of these areas that will continue to suffer the brunt of eviction and loss of investment, even at a high asking price. 

It is the murky linkages of politicians, property developers and the potential abuse of the land reform programme that should worry all Zimbabweans. 

This is not to say that investors in property should close shop. Not at all.  It is however to query why investments are made in unclear circumstances or without fully explaining to residents the full import of their land purchases, together with the risks involved (eviction, loss of money).  

In some cases there is downright abandonment of residents by property developers, central and local governments. 

So we come back full circle to the urban versus the rural. The '3rd Chimurenga' may not have been as 'revolutionary' as ruling party apparatchiks claim.  We remain with skewed land ownership patterns that favour a new elite at the expense of a majority landless.  

Such patterns are increasingly apparent in areas peripheral to urban areas. Land and housing in the latter may be  profit driven endeavours but sadly are used to manipulate the fast track land redistribution programme for personal benefit.  All at the expense of the desperate homeless who remain uncertain of their tenure while, in some cases, land barons/baronesses laugh all the way to the bank. 
 *Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Key Considerations for Mainstream Zim Media in 2015

By Takura Zhangazha*^

The mainstream media in Zimbabwe has generally been functioning in difficult economic circumstances.  Apart from competition for a shrinking readership, there are stories and claims of serious viability challenges for media houses.  Especially where it concerns running costs such as newsprint, salaries and benefits of journalists and supporting staff. 

Not that the media will want to put any of this in the public domain on a regular basis but over the last year, through the government appointed Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI),  publishers, unionists and other media stakeholders have publicly pointed out these sustainability  challenges.  How the same problems, among others,   may be addressed with government assistance is something that will be seen when IMPI publishes its report.

There are however issues that the media needs to flag out on its own in its continued engagement of government and in defense of the integrity of its profession. Especially where governments across the globe while sometimes claiming to support press freedom, freedom of expression and access to information are increasingly caught up in anti-terrorist policy actions that inevitably lead to the exact opposite of their stated intentions. 

In order to retain its integrity and respect, Zimbabwe’s mainstream news media must strive to retain or regain its editorial independence and adhere to its own professional codes of conduct and ethics.  Particularly so in the aftermath of the Zanu Pf congress of December 2014 which had seen state controlled and in some instances, the private media,  taking sides in an unprofessional way.   Not that the media cannot take sides based on its own editorial values and principles. These must however not compromise its reporting on facts accurately and with the relevant balance. 

Editorial independence however is not only in relation to political interference but also due to what is increasingly a profit motive of newspapers and radio stations.  Make no mistake, media houses are businesses and are there to not only generate incomes but also make profits for their owners and shareholders.  An aspect  which in fairer circumstances should lead to better remuneration for journalists and other employees of the same said media institutions. 

What has however become an evident challenge is that mainstream print media houses now have to survive almost from ‘hand to mouth.’ This means that daily or publication day sales are a key priority for media houses and these often times can only be ratcheted up by sensational stories that hopefully will ensure publications sell out.  Such a reality affects editors on a regular basis and oftentimes forces their hand in deviating from the editorial tradition of the media house. 

This fluidity is unavoidable in these trying times for the sustainability of Zimbabwe’s media. But they can be mitigated in part by a coming together of editors, publishers/ media owners and journalist union branches on further expanding and agreeing on editorial traditions of their respective institutions.  And by so doing, also establish a clearer nexus between ‘profit’ and editorial principles and values. 

Advances in social media and mobile telephony as mediums of news have been in vogue for a while now.  In Zimbabwe’s case it is apparent that the mainstream media is still the most trusted medium of news but either way, there is the inevitability of the continued expansion of social media and mobile telephony that needs to be harnessed. 

Some mainstream papers have begun the process of doing so but only sparingly for fear of losing out on regular/familiar revenue brought  by the main print/physical publications. Given the global shift in business models for media houses to multi- media platforms and pushing numbers on website/social media account visits or followers, Zimbabwe will not be an exception.  It however requires a more holistic approach to the value of news both in its physical (paper/conventional broadcast) form and its virtual or immediate accessibility format.  

Again this requires greater collaboration between media owners, editors and journalists if news is going to be valued for its content rather than its form.  And in tandem with clearer editorial policies the numbers can be played to greater marketing effect.  This is however a herculean task that will require diversification of news content from following mainstream politics or fashionable celebrities. This would entail utilizing models of global brand newspapers by way of structure but with sensitivity to context.  

Finally, there are many other key considerations that mainstream Zimbabwean media must undertake and act upon. These would also include pursuing legal reforms in a much more unified manner and with concerted application of knowledge of our local context to democratic ideals and universal values of media freedom.  But for the purposes of sustainability, mainstream media has to undergo a mini-revolution in the way it approaches its work where it concerns editorial independence, values,  professionalism and embracing new media technologies in a less haphazard fashion. Where it fails to do so, its importance as the fourth estate and public interest role will remain tenuous going forward.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com
^An edited version of this blog appeared in the Thursday 15-22 January 2015 edition of the Financial Gazette (www.financialgazette.co.zw)  

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

We too are Human: Terrorism, Media and Africa’s 'Othering' of Self.

By Takura Zhangazha*

In reading reactions to the differences of media coverage/global outrage at the terrorist attacks in Paris and  those which occurred in the north eastern Nigerian town of Baga, one is struck by two feelings. One of deja vu and the other of complicity in the very fact of being the African ‘other’.  And there have been many articles/blogs that have picked up on these feelings. Deja vu in the sense that some writers have chosen to correctly argue that in a world that claims universal equality of human beings, sadly, some human tragedies are less important. Especially if they occur in Africa or the Orient. Or at least less deserving of coverage by international media. 

'Complicity' because in other instances journalists have cited the inaccessibility of the area(s) in which such atrocities occur in Africa and how getting to them is unsafe or geographically difficult.  Or alternatively that the governments, in this case that of Nigeria, is vague and evasive about events as they occur. Particularly where these events put them in a bad light when reported. 

What however emerges within these objectively justifiable narratives is the ‘othering’ of the African as was the case in colonial times.  Both by the West and Africans albeit for different reasons.  

With the West and its 'global' media its appears that there are limits to universality based on place of origin/occurrence and source of news.  This is entirely understandable if one looks at the current business models of the media, which exude not only values specific to countries of origin but also project the same as  the best on the globe largely due to competition for these already lucrative news markets. 

And where 'outsiders'  ask genuine questions such as ‘what about us?’, the answer may be polite but its subaltern will be ‘start your own media, do your own technologies, tell your own stories’.  Even if pragmatically the ‘others’ do not have either access to satellite media technology let alone control of the editorial intentions covered by the same. 

These hidden answers are the sum total of where global representation and recognition of the other now reside. It is almost a given mantra that if you do not recognize yourselves as you deem fit, we have no business filling the void. Or if you attempt to recognise yourselves outside of our own image, again, we have no business recognizing you in the manner that you prefer.  

Hence despite our progressive historical struggles against imperialism in its varying forms, our leaders and innovators winning global awards, the mainstream western opinion/media will always view us, in the final analysis, as the ‘Caliban’ other. 

The striking irony however is that the somewhat angry, somewhat resigned  responses from Africans or Africanists expected equal if not much more apparent recognition from a hegemonic system that has the belittling of things African as its raison d’√™tre. Even if with the best of intentions.  

That we can in any way assume the global media will cover us in a manner akin to those of of global centers of power is not only futile but to misunderstand the continued struggles for recognition as equals to the Western citizen. Mainly because it is not our media neither is it global beyond geographic reach. (Even if we were all to get onto Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc)

Our yearning for this equality, at least via qualitative representation on global platforms is with merit but it is always going to be shown to be impossible  in times where the West is in gripped by its own crises. Or in times where it matters the most to us. 

So to clamour for equal if not better qualitative recognition in the Western media  is to fall into the trap of being ‘othered’. It is also to misunderstand the global legacy of colonialism in relation to representation and recognition.  This being the equivalent of asking someone else to go public with your problem before you have adequately explained it to yourself.   

It would appear that our fault, including that of our leaders, is to want this global recognition or the telling of our tragic stories merely for the sake of it.  Almost as though our issues become issues once they appear on CNN, Al Jazeera or the BBC.

And there is a difference between this and asking for solidarity as was the case with #BringBackOurGirls.  Or with the tremendous work being done by Amnesty International, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders in helping bring to global attention various crises from Ebola through to human rights violations in various parts of Africa. In the case of the terrorism in Nigeria, we wanted it reported with as much fervor yet the reality is that it is viewed as external to the West, and therefore not nearly as significant.

So we have to contend with a global hegemony that will not change easily, even after all the anger has subsided.  Especially because it is not our, let alone a truly global media. It is  firmly grounded in its own values and place of origin. So unless we develop our own media to be organic and intrinsic to our beings as global equals, even though we are African, we will always play second or even third fiddle.

It could all end if we had a continental satellite, African owned and controlled satellite television news stations and an organic appreciation that we too, Africans, are human.

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

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

No Room for Abstract Optimism: 7 Realities of Zim's 2015 Political Economy.


By Takura Zhangazha*

There are many ways of dealing with dire political/economic circumstances. The first is always optimism, some of which will be patently false but predicated on loyalty to someone/something to eventually make everything miraculously alright. Even if for  a period as short as twelve months.  The second is to deny that specific circumstances are evidently difficult and are in need of redress. This would include stubbornly and blindly insisting that whatever previous (but obviously ineffective) formula to solve the long standing problem still works. 

The third is to claim a decadent realism/pragmatism.  This entails making do with whatever corrupt, inefficient system is in place, which would include evading the state and possibly joining the bandwagon.

In some academic circles this is referred to as ‘disorder as political instrument’ where those with power or proximity to it profit from dire political and economic circumstances.  This has been the general tendency of a majority of our political leaders, those closely connected to them and those that have vested business/livelihood interests in the maintenance of the status quo.

The fourth but sadly rare approach is that which actively seeks to construct an alternative framework to solving the holistic challenges presented by a specific national context.  This is a preferable approach but would require a firm understanding of context and reality minus the intention to profit from it. 

Where we look at Zimbabwe’s political economy for the year 2015 there are about seven broad realities we will have to confront. These can be explained as follows:

a)      Mainstream political developments will not improve the economy: Normally it would be expected that any leadership changes to a ruling party or even mainstream opposition means the beginning of a general shift in the political economy of the country. In our case this will not turn out to be a given. The leadership changes at the recently held Zanu Pf congress are no indicators of a change in broader economic policy let alone implementation of what obtains on paper. 
The same can be argued for the mainstream opposition wherein changes to the leaderships of either factions have not meant a new economic impetus let alone intention to redress issues as the emerge and affect the majority poor in the country. Or even the new constitution and all the outstanding realignment of laws.
b)      No one is going to give Zimbabwe a ‘Marshall Plan’: If in 2014 there was talk of Russian or Chinese  ‘mega deals’ these are not going to materialise in any way similar to what the USA did for Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War. Neither are any of our neighbors going to try and ‘bail us out’ in the short term except only if we demonstrate tendencies of political instability.  So yes there will be signing ceremonies of agreements but there will also be no money or visible improvement in peoples livelihoods because of the same.  The seeming evidence of investment progress will remain in road rehabilitation activities, which the truth be told, are not ‘progress’ but a restoration of the ‘old’.
c)       Elitist accrual will become further entrenched: The haves are going to continue having with impunity.  Even though because those in Zanu Pf have been reconfigured to demonstrate loyalty to their leader, they may initially be a purge but this will be temporary.  The trickle down effect will mean more state tenders, mining concessions, council land will be in the hands of fewer mafia like elites who are closely linked with the political and security system.  Unfortunately, because they do not run their businesses professionally even after acquiring tenders/permits in unclear ways, the trickle down effect to ordinary people through the creation of jobs will be minimal.
d)      Government will force privatization of social services: This will take the now familiar form and phrase of public private partnerships where deals are deliberately vague and also generally lead to shoddy services. The major target for privatization will be water via local governments and the central ministry of environment and water.  Pilot projects will be pursued in Bulawayo, Harare and Mutare.  Health services will be the next target, again with local government health services being outsourced to private operators and rising steeply in cost whilst being accompanied by a largely ineffective municipality medical aid scheme. All of these will not be people centered nor alleviate challenges of access and availability.  They will however no doubt make those that win the tenders very well off.  Education will continue being a cash cow with students/graduates continually being churned out at great cost to families only to remain unemployed or to pursue teaching as a fall back profession. 
e)      Land ownership and usage will be further politicized:  the issue of multiple farm ownership will emerge continually within the context of the reconfiguration of patronage with the ruling Zanu Pf party and the granting of 100 year leases to multinational corporations for either bio-agriculture or massive mineral extraction (as is the case with Darwendale). The landscape will also be re-imagined through the eyes of the former colonial state with the peasantry being displaced for largely elitist development projects such as the Tokwe Mukosi irrigation project in the south east. 
f)       The informal sector will continue to reinvent itself: As was the case last year, the informal sector will refuse to be harnessed by a state it remains highly suspicious of. Efforts to tax, control and even provide facilities for it will not be taken up with enthusiasm.  It is here to stay and will get more complicated as the processes of privatization continue and poverty bites.
g)      Young Zimbabweans (generically speaking) will continue to seek escape:  Youths will continue trying to leave in order to find jobs (no matter how menial) in the region. Particularly in the informal trade sector. Secondly they will also try and  seek a basic survival salary in the civil service (teaching, local government) and then work on further survival from there. The third option will be joining the security services (police, central intelligence, army).  If they are to engage in political activities it will be to either fit into the already existent patronage system.  There may be one or the other rare occasion where some of the young Zimbabweans may decide to pursue bringing the state to account on the basis of social democratic values, principles and objectives. 

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

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A New Look at Zimbabwe-USA ‘Tortuous’ Relations via the CIA.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Zimbabwe is one among a number of African countries that assisted the United States of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in its notorious rendition programme.  This emerged from a recent report that the USA Senate made public last week.  The role that our country is said to have played in these torture processes is related to transiting various terror suspects from Malawi and detaining them for a month before onward secret rendition to Sudan.

The scale of the operation is indeed shocking,  coming as it does from the worlds sole global superpower which claims to respect the rule of law and human rights. 

What is even more shocking however is that our publicly shrill 'anti-imperialist' government worked in tandem with its long standing ‘enemy’ in secretly moving and detaining terror suspects without habeas corpus and with the strong possibility of turning a blind eye to their physical torture. 
In this, some components of the US Senate Intelligence Committee indicate that ‘lump sums’ of money may have exchanged hands.

Given the fact that our government has railed against sanctions and the agents of imperialism since the passing of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) in 2001  this yet to be disputed role it has been playing with the CIA is a very unpleasant surprise.

It would immediately mean that our ministries of foreign affairs, defence and intelligence have been publicly denouncing what is otherwise a country they secretly treat as an ally in the ‘war on terror’. 
While it is the language of international relations experts to refer to such insidious situations as being a case of ‘no permanent friends, but permanent interests’, it is difficult to fathom what Zimbabwe’s interests in this case are.

Even if we were trying to curry favour and get sanctions lifted,  the very fact that there was limited movement on the same in the last fourteen years means this was an exercise in not only futility but in violation of international human rights laws.

Moreover, the fact that  our foreign affairs policies have been predicated on giving the impression that we are not only Pan-Africanist, anti-imperialist and committed to preventing liberal interventionism especially in this age of the ‘global war on terror’, this report points to serious hypocrisy on the part of our government. 

It is no way consistent with pan-Africanism, let alone any serious attempt to prevent the global expansion of neo-liberalism and liberal interventionism if we participate in the secret rendition and detention of suspected terror suspects. 

The further fact that government has not responded directly to these allegations leveled against it by the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, indicates that perhaps there is something to hide.

Perhaps the government appears to have forgotten that it was the same CIA that was involved in regularly undermining liberation movements across the continent. In some cases it has been accused of direct and indirect involvement in the assassination of African revolutionaries like Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Analysts have written of how the contemporary Zanu Pf leadership has sought more often than not to project itself as ‘Pan-Africanist’.  Well this particular version is not in keeping with what many founding fathers and mothers envisioned.  We can cooperate with any other country on anything but torture if we are to keep the humanity propositioned by Pan Africanism in its truest noble sense.

In claiming to be Pan African, our government appears to have been ‘papering over the cracks’ of its opportunistic foreign policy.  If we want to assist the ‘war on terror’  we still have and had the option of the Unitied Nations, the African Union and even SADC. And in this, to do so in tandem with public accountability, respect for the rule of law and human rights. 

Whatever ‘moral authority’ the government of Zimbabwe felt and feels it has in standing up to imperialism is lost. 

Until such a time there is a public denial together with attendant evidence put before a competent court of law or Parliament, we would be forgiven for thinking that all along our government has been working with the United States of America, contrary to claims of the latter’s  ‘imperialist machinations’.

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

Friday, 12 December 2014

Zim’s New Vice Presidents: Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

By Takura Zhangazha*

President Mugabe’s recent appointment of two male deputies in his party in the aftermath of its 6th Congress had long played out in the media in relation to succession politics. Now that the media speculation, support, denigration of the various contenders to these two (and other posts) in the ruling party has generally reached its peak, it would be necessary to assess the key realities that these two new deputies face. 

Particularly where it also concerns their roles as the President’s  deputies in government even though their dual roles in their party is the basis of their impact on the former. 

Their appointments to their coveted posts are essentially the sum total of Zanu Pf factional politics. And their functions will be informed by the same.  Whereas previous second and third secretaries have been acclaimed, after provincial nomination, at  √©lective’ congresses, Messrs Mnangagwa and Phoko are appointees who were then presented to the party’s central committee meeting.  It is only their principal who was presented before congress, making it fairly apparent where power in the party resides.

So for all the national constitutional provisions given to Zimbabwe’s two vice presidents, the new occupants of the same office will not be able to give any unique leadership character to these roles.  They essentially function at the pleasure and borderline mercy of the President.

In interviews after the announcements to the ruling party’s ‘presidium’ both men have expectedly indicated that they are not in doubt of the latter point.

Apart from their constitutionally mandated roles as vice presidents of the country (not the party), they will also carry out further functions.  Vice President Mnangagwa will remain Minister of Justice while second vice president will be in charge of national reconciliation. 

For Mnangagwa this means he remains leader of government business in Parliament.  With the combined powers of his new position and the old one, he is essentially a de facto prime minister. Albeit under the watchful eye of his principal.  He however does not have a difficult task in leading government business in the legislature given his party’s two thirds majority in the same and the ability of his principal to fire any MPs that refuse to tow the party line. 

He will however not be in a position to define this leadership role in any way that deviates from the collective responsibility of cabinet or the political intentions and authority of his principal.  This means if anything, he will have to follow through with the stalling economic blueprint ZimAsset as of old and cannot introduce any new measures to build new or better expectations of the current government by the Zimbabwean public.

Second vice president Mphoko has what is evidently an easier role to play.  Like his immediate predecessor he has been tasked with dealing with national reconciliation.  While he may not have a co-minister from the opposition to contend with, it is least likely he will proceed in any spectacularly different fashion. Especially given his principal’s wariness about the long standing allegations of genocide in Matebeleland during the 1980s. 

In representing the Pf Zapu side of the presidium, he will try to spearhead projects in the southern parts of the country but only with the express permission of the President.  So his vice presidency will largely be muted and function more on the basis of towing the president’s line to the letter while watching out for any new signs of those that may differ with the latter. 

The two Vice Presidents however face greater challenges in relation to managing their public and political profiles to progressive effect.  Being second in command by way of appointment is normally not in any way preferable for a political career.  At some point one needs national electoral legitimacy to hold such a post as important as a vice president. Be it at party or government level.  So while the two new deputies may have been  the beneficiaries of not only factionalism but also the benevolence of the President, they have their work cut out for them to be leaders in their own political/electoral right.

In the event that President Mugabe leaves office between now and 2018, VP Mnangagwa as first vice president (and second secretary in Zanu Pf)  is most likely to be his successor both in government and in the ruling party. He will however have to go through the motion of leading his party in the elections scheduled for the same year, 2018. 

And that does not work by way of appointment but by way of the electoral will of the people. A development that will occur within the context of his party continuing to be divided at grassroots levels while at the same time facing a stubborn, though weak for now, opposition.

As it is, I do not envy the two new vice presidents. Whatever they do, they can only do under the aegis of their principal who appears keen on control and continuity in his direct leadership of party and government.  And who will also not evidently hint at succession. Simultaneously, they have to become leaders in their own right within their new positions. They are between a rock and a hard place.

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

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

On Being 'Simplistic' in Zimbabwean Politics.

 By Takura Zhangazha*

On the eve of his party’s 2014 Congress, President Mugabe described his deputy, Joice Mujuru as simplistic and lacking in ‘statecraft’ . The latter term can assumedly be deemed to be the opposite of the former.

Apart from the mirth that his statements induced in the new Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association executive members present at the meeting, there are other innuendos that come to the fore.

The first being that of the meaning of the term ‘simplistic’ in politics.  In universities across the world, students of political science grapple with this term especially where and when it relates to the necessary qualities of good political leaders.  For example, how educated must one be to become a president? Or alternatively, how educated but ‘simple’ must one also be in order to meet the pre-requisites of being a leader of political processes? Or to even win elections. 

In answers to these questions there are mixed responses but the final assessment is always that whoever leads a country/state, must generally have their mandate deriving from the democratic consent of the governed. With or without simplistic notions of leadership.

The second would relate to defining sophistry and leadership. What immediately comes to mind are the Sophists of ancient Greece who were the professors and teachers who used to pose as public intellectuals.  They are also to be found in Plato’s Socratic ‘Dialogues’  as being intellectual functionaries that seek more self aggrandizement than they do ‘truth and justice’ in the public arena.

The third consideration is that of the pressures of running government or ‘statecraft’.  

In referring to it, President Mugabe is probably aware that it means the special ability to manage the affairs of government extraordinarily well .  It would also include reference to statesmanship which refers to the ability of a leader to always appear above the somewhat petty political fray and taking responsibility in the most trying of circumstances in order to take the country to greater heights or at least emerge victorious in trying political times.

These terms are no doubt key to any assessment of past, present and future Zimbabwean politics.  They are however in need of specific contextual application. 

In all of our country’s constitutional reform processes (by way of referendums , SADC mediation or just Parliamentary actions) queries on the qualifications of political leaders have been never ending.  Should the Presidnet have a degree, should a Member of Parliament have five Ordinary Levels, should a councillor have the same as an MP and so on.  Traditional leaders have however not been the subject of such debate since their leadership is deemed hereditary among other cultural considerations. 

The assumptions of such questions have been based on a quest to have ‘sophisticated’ leaders who are not only educated but ‘world wise’.  In fact I would hazard to add that these leaders would hopefully be charismatic because of their ‘sophistry’.

The reality of the matter is that most of our past and contemporary political leaders did not always have such qualifications. Especially prior to being elected leaders.  Their primary qualifications were those of being willing to serve the people of Zimbabwe in varying capacities.  Some more than others, but all the same, it was initially ‘virtue’ (the pursuit of truth and justice)  as defined by Plato  that qualified them to lead.  That they acquired degrees in prison, government or elsewhere is not enough. 

So the simplicity that President Mugabe talked about in defining his long time subordinate turned enemy is probably of limited consequence to the future of our politics.  It is the people that decide on what simplicity is or is not when electing their leaders, warts and all.

In most cases where leaders have sought to be sophisticated they have removed themselves from organic linkages with the people.  From the heady ideological post independence days of ‘scientific socialism’  through the neo-liberal years of structural adjustment our departure from ‘simplicity’ in politics is what has led to the inorganic hegemonic malaise we find ourselves in.

Our leaders must know how to lead, agreed.  But not on the basis of mere educational training.  It must, in the final analysis be on the basis of democratic values and principles that are derived from the people democratically and organically.  Our leaders should, whatever party they belong to, be the sum total of the cultural intentions of the people that select them to lead them.  Sophistry helps, but it is not the sine qua non of leadership. It never has been.

So where one returns to the President’s reference to political ‘simplicity’ it may have been in the moment of expressing a personal opinion about his deputy and that is his right to do so. But in our collective polity and politics, simplicity based on democratic values, principles that are equally democratically and organically derived from the people  brings better leadership value.  And that would be true ‘statecraft.’ 
*Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)