Friday, 23 February 2018

The Emerging Supremacy of the Political Party in Southern Africa


By Takura Zhangazha*

Southern Africa is politically unique on the continent.  A majority of its countries underwent anti-colonial liberation struggles or directly assisted those that did so.  This also meant that these liberation struggles had a direct effect on the regions peoples and continues to do so to this day.
And this influence is purveyed through former liberation movements and parties that have retained state power in the post-independence and post-colonial era. 

Of significance these parties are the Peoples Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the African National Congress (South Africa), Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Tanzania), Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo), the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), South Western African Peoples Organisation (Namibia) and the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu PF).  Other parties such as the Patriotic Front of Zambia also claim to be offshoots of former liberation movements. 

Over the years these parties have fortified their political hold on their respective countries and the region through formal and informal regional bodies as actions of solidarity.  The most formal of these regional bodies is the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which in the beginning was the Frontline States (again a bloc established to further the liberation struggle cause in the in regional and to counter apartheid South Africa’s regional dominance).

It has generally looked out for its own in relation to how the region formerly interacts with the rest of the continent and the world. And in this, it retinas a relatively strong liberation struggle solidarity and value system.  Hence it has peculiarly found ways to prevent direct innervation in Zimbabwe during Mugabe’s last twenty years in power.

The more informal side to these ruling parties and former liberation movements is that they have regular meetings based on who they define themselves as. And there was an intention to set up a liberation struggle institute for the region which at some point former South African president announced in one of his state of the nation addresses.

I have illustrated the formal and informal elements to these regional former liberation movements cum ruling parties because of tow key developments.  The first being their acceptance of the resignation/removal of Mugabe from power in Zimbabwe and the resignation of Jacob Zuma in South Africa. Both of which appeared to be against both leaders' wishes.

One thing that these parties now appear to have embraced is a template that ensures that there is a regular change of party leadership.  There now appears to be an aversion albeit reluctantly and in controversial circumstances to long duree leadership of the party.  In this, the probable new dictum is that the party is supreme. And that it is the party that is in power, not the individual at its helm.   

Further to this, there is a resurgence in some parties of the narrative of ‘veterans’ of the struggle being the close equivalent to custodians of the party and ‘revolutionary’ history.  And this is a key element for now with almost every other leader having either been in the liberation struggle or very close to those that were/are its iconic figures.

But this does not mean that these parties are preoccupied with the past.  It is primarily an internal legitimation process that also helps them to establish some sort of power hierarchy to determine who is next in line for leadership. 

Externally the attempt popular appeal through government programmes that either lead to patronage or allow them to be viewed in good light by the international community.  On the latter point, they appear to have agreed on neo-liberalism as their economic selling point.  And they are willing to utilise their political power collectively to make it a regional reality. But also to ensure that their political policies at home are not over scrutinised by global capital and its parent powerful governments.  Essentially their angle is to present to global capital the Southern African region and its peoples as a ‘market’.     

In all of this, the parties that are ruling and also former liberation movements are intent on being hegemonic, at least politically.  They are working with younger politicians to ensure continuity to their long rule and ensure that while opposition to them may exist, it will hardly be strong enough to challenge them for power. 

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


Friday, 16 February 2018

Countering Neoliberalism by Embracing Contextual Social Democracy In Zimbabwe


By Takura Zhangazha*

A friend once vehemently argued that neoliberalism was good.  This was at an afternoon lunch with other activists where I had made what I thought were fair points on the new importance of what I referred to as contextual social democracy.  Both as an ideological mechanism of understanding the current challenges Zimbabwe faces  as well as a key pointer as to the nature of a preferable people driven and democratic state.

What I however did not immediately discern was that my friend had used the ‘liberal’ part of ‘neo-liberal’ in relation to arguments about human rights.  That is, his assumption was that as long as there was the word ‘liberal’ it related to human rights, a subject that was very close to his heart. 

And its not my friend alone.  It is a general and probably somewhat genuine mistake a lot of people make.  At least in Zimbabwe where they conflate issues to do with political ‘liberty’ and economic neo-liberalism. 

It however helps to put issues into perspective. The first being that liberalism is indeed about the individual.  And their rights to exactly that, being individuals.  In Eurocentric narrative, it means that the individual is always wary of the role of the state. And how it affects their (very) individual well being.  So liberals are generally skeptical of the state in respect of their rights.  As individuals. 

But this does not end in the sphere of political or civil liberties.  It also extends to the socio-economic sphere where liberalism then refers to how individuals must be allowed to undertake economic activities with limited interference from the state.  In this, the ‘free market’ becomes supreme and the state must retreat. 

It is closely tied to capitalism and regrettably in our African context tied to repressive political orders where certain rights were more significant than others in pursuit of profit/happiness.  Hence the slave-trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism. 

So when we discuss 'neo-liberalism' in our own African context, we need to understand that the concept is as political as it is economic.

Political in relation to its philosophical underpinnings of the democratic rights of the individual.  Economic in so far as it has become part of a hegemonic discourse that not only protects but also promotes global capitalism and its attendant free market (liberal) economics.

As we fought it during our own liberation struggles and our post independence struggles against poverty and (comparative) underdevelopment.

But if I revert back to my colleague and his (with respect) simplistic understanding of neo-liberalism, there are broader perceptions or lack of them that relate to the same political-economic concept.  Because we are so enamoured with an admiration of individual success that comes with assumed individual effort, we are prisoners of a false and non-contextual consciousness. (Ditto our new found popular and alarmingly superstitious religiosity.)

My colleague's acceptance of neo-liberalism as a progressive ideological pretext to resolve Zimbabwe's ( Africa's) economic problems essentially point to a trapped consciousness that does not intend to think outside of the postgraduate university qualification, economic conference and a ubiquitous consumarist lifestyle television/ social media output.

In itself that is not a bad thing.  The only problem is that when it comes to leading public opinion makers (such as my friend), it has a tendency to muddy the waters of a necessary search for progressive social democratic consciousness.

The rhetorical question that is asked by those that would accept neo-liberalism not only as an ideology but a way of life is what is the alternative?

In our Zimbabwean and African context, the alternatives are limited due to (again) the global hegemony that neo-liberalism has become.  Especially as maintained by global capital(ism).

But they exist and there is one key one that would take into account both the historical social and economic injustice that was colonialism and also the contemporary socio-economic challenges of our post independence polity.

I refer to it as contextual social democracy. That is an ideological framework whose characteristics are the organic intention to establish a social welfare state that respects human/individual rights but embraces a purposive belief of giving every Zimbabwean a fair start in life.  The latter would be an access to social and enabling services such as health, education, transport/communications, water, land and energy.  Such a fair start then enables the broader  pursuit of innovation that does not undermine the broader public interest in its democratic economic and political form.

At its heart is a people-centered understanding of our common humanity and equality.  And a society in which receiving medical treatment, going to school/university, moving from point A to B, talking on the telephone/internet and owning basic housingor turning on the tap for water is not viewed as the privilege of the few. But the rights of the many.

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





Thursday, 1 February 2018

Saving the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC)

By Takura Zhangazha*


The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) is a public asset. Initially moulded along the same sort of lines as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as the then Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation (RBC) it sought to serve the news and entertainment interests of a white minority.  These latter interests took on a propagandist tone during the war of liberation. When the struggle against settler colonialism ended our new liberators decided to prioritise the propagandist elements that they had seen with the then RBC. 

And they have never looked back. ZBC has had many things done to it since independence.  It has been commercialised, left for broke (amid allegations of corruption) and above all else, made to abandon any pretences at being a public service broadcaster.  Its role, as defined by those that have been in charge of government and the state owned media has been to prop up the ruling party at all costs. 

This is despite numerous advocacy and activist attempts to change its role from being a state propaganda outlet to being one that serves the broadest democratic public interest. 
Such attempts even led to a court challenge by Bernard Wekare and Musangano Lodge as to the constitutionality of a mandatory payment of license fees.  While the court challenge ruled in favour of the state broadcaster (yes its compulsory, at law, to pay ZBC license fees) it was a judgement that made and still makes it more urgent that it’s management and purpose be democratised.

But that did not happen in the Mugabe era. Instead ZBC became more embedded in the urling party’s factional fights and its electoral campaigns that specifically sought to malign the mainstream opposition. In this, ZBC became more apolitical broadcaster than it sought to provide public interest balanced and fair information/news or entertainment.

In the aftermath of the military intervention/coup it would appear ZBC has also not changed.  Or that there are no quick intentions to do so on the part of the ‘new’ administration. 

The only sign of potential change as indicated by the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, George Charamba, is to bring in new players into the television broadcasting sector.  In early January 2018 he was quoted in the local media saying, ‘In a matter of months from now, I'll be dealing with licenses for new TV stations, such that this whole fascination with ZBC with cease to matter, to ensure the playing field is level".

The reality of the matter is that Zimbabweans are correct to be ‘fascinated’ with ZBC.  Not just because they must pay licences for it a t law but more significantly because its role is not akin to would be private and for profit television stations that are now set to be licensed.

The public service role of ZBC-TV should not be sublimated with profit motivated or market driven arguments. Especially before it has been changed from a state/ propagandist broadcaster into a democratic public service one.  

We have witnessed what has happened with the licensing of free to air radio stations that now compete with those run by ZBC.  The news content and angles is largely restricted to target audience entertainment and little time is committed to either investigative news or content that does not push the numbers and the profit margin. 

The evident intention of government is to make television commercial and to fundamentally treat the media as a business.  And in this it is increasingly evident that those poised for private television station licenses are already in other forms of broadcast and print media.  For example the Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (Zimpapers) already owns other radio stations such as Star FM (national free to air) and Diamond FM  (local commercial). 

Private players in the media also intend to do the same or have at least tried to do so.  AB Communications the proprietors of ZiFM national radio have not hidden their intentions to go into television as well.

What all of these manoeuvres by already established media companies’  and government's policy thrust point to is an emerging elite (and political) consensus on sharing media market spoils and creating media monopolies that are never in direct contradiction to the political wishes of government as the regulator.  It is also an undemocratic consensus of would be and existent media oligarchs in Zimbabwe.
In order to do this, they intend to get away with the democratic media value that is public service broadcasting.  Banking on a clear lack of popularity of ZBC, they would have us believe that their intentions to subject it to direct competition will improve it. This is a regrettable case of powerful persons being dishonest to the public. 

ZBC needs a radical transformation from within. It needs to embrace the democratic values of a public service broadcaster.  These values would include a democratic and transparent public service broadcasting charter, a legal and political guarantee to its editorial independence and maximum public accountability for its state and license fee funding. 
    
To put it out to the wolves is to commercialise and privatise the public interest dimension of news and entertainment.  It is also to seek to stave off responsibility for biased political content on our airwaves with the obnoxious reply, ‘its what the market wants’. A phrase that already is oft used in mainstream print media to the great detriment of independent, ethical and professional journalism. 

We already know that ZBC is coming from a bad place. And that the public’s trust in it, let alone its ability to get that trust beyond political partisanship, is a difficult ask.  But we cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Transforming ZBC into a true public service broadcaster will not only help Zimbabweans remain true to themselves but will help deliver public interest information and entertainment for all sectors of our society regardless of class, gender and age.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Monday, 22 January 2018

#Davos2018 :Zimbabwe is Not for Sale, Mr. President.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Zimbabwe’s president is in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum (WEF2018).  And the run up to his visit has been characterized by a significant amount of state controlled media fanfare, private media encouragement and a decent amount of optimism by the  business sector.  One or two opposing parliamentarians have joined the praise-singing band wagon of the trip (and Mnangagwa's presidency) while broader civil society activists have chosen to avoid critique of the same. 

The broader public have not had much of a say on the matter but it is not expected that they would debate beyond what is presented to them via the mainstream and social media.  But suffice to say those of ‘middle class’ and our own version of a comprador bourgeoisie (wannabe rich) will no doubt celebrate the attendance of a president who is probably closer to their hearts after he announced that his administration is a free market oriented one.

In left leaning and altogether progressive local and global circles this is read as meaning that the Mnangagwa government is  ‘neo-liberal’ in intent and purpose. 

Its primary template as he and his advisors are on record as having said, is global capitalism’s mantra of the ‘ease of doing business’.  A template which basically means that the primary political function of Mnangagwa’s government is to enable the flourishing of private global capital in the country.  Or to treat the country and its population as one big market where profit by those that already have some spare ‘capital’ to invest, will invariably do so. 

So Davos 2018 is emblematic of Mnangagwa’s economic (and political) policy intentions in the short (electoral) and long term.  It makes it relatively clear that his is a neo-liberal but, to use his ruling Zanu Pf party phraseology, ‘commandist/ military intervention' (led) in implementation of open sesame 'free' market economics.  

He is promising a reversal of his predecessor’s badly thought out indigenisation  policy and introducing laissez faire to mining, manufacturing, financial services and with la slightly nuanced political radicalism, agriculture.  The latter is more couched in state capitalist ethos akin to China’s model as it will also applied to the intentions of infrastructural development (road, rail and air). Again via Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) and long term mortgaging of same said public services to private capital.   

Social services (health, education, public transport, energy, access to water)  will be placed into the hands of private capital and ‘tenderpreneurs’ (cdes linked to the ruling party)  via  PPPs.  The primary value in such processes is ‘profit’ and not lives.  It is rare for any private company involved in social service provision to forego profit in order to serve the greater public democratic interest by providing a public good/service at a loss. 

Despite the multiple examples in the global north where neo-liberalism is not only on an ideological backfoot but basically failing, our government still insists on it as a panacea to Zimbabwe’s economic challenges. 

In reality we have been on this path before. Such an approach is Economic Structural Adjustment (ESAP) 2.0. 

But to explain to the new leadership of the ruling Zanu Pf party is to speak to a wall.  Not just because they are too eager to please capital but also as a result of their evident inability to think outside of an old box that is also coincidentally ahistorical. 

Where they have referred to their current leadership as one that resulted in ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ of the liberation struggle, their embrace of neoliberalism is neither historically grounded in people centered values nor by dint of the latter progressively revolutionary. 

Not that Mugabe’s approach was any different.  Leading by the spur of the global neoliberal moment that is the WEF 2018 or seeking a place at the table of global inequality and colonial legacies. 

So perhaps someone should tell  President Mnangagwa (and advisors) that #Davos2018 cannot be Zimbabwe’s own version of the Berlin conference of 1884/5.  Even with the exception that it is our own leaders that are making offers of land and other known/unknown resources .  Our country is not for sale.  Never has been. No matter the assumption of the false promises of a dying global neo-liberalism. 

Seeking to parcel out key national resources to the highest bidder may appear like progress  in am immediate post Mugabe era but that would be naive.  The 'market' has no friends, no values except profit.  the neo-liberal governments and private capital that we are seeking to curry favour from are seeking to re-confirm their economic approaches, together with their colonial hangover effects on us. Again.

So a well publicised moment in the neo-liberal sun will occur for President Mnangagwa at Davos 2018.  But it’s a moment that may not be as warm as anticipated.  It may signify the onset of a winter of austerity. Courtesy of playing to a neo-liberal and wintry Davos global capital gallery.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)





Thursday, 18 January 2018

Dangers of an African (Un)Consciousness in Trump et al Era

 By Takura Zhangazha*

As an African, I tend to wear my consciousness on my sleeve. By consciousness I mean my own sense of self-worth and political placement as, you guessed it, a black African from Zimbabwe (in Africa).  This is despite the many years of being influenced by global western and eastern dominant cultural trends as a result of the onset of colonialism, the apex of the Cold War (global capitalism vs socialism) and African liberation struggles that led to various forms of what we now refer to as national independence, in its various guises.

My consciousness as a black African is essentially liberatory because it functions outside of the specific pursuit of recognition as an ‘other’.  By dint of both historical and/or contemporary racism.
So when the current president of the United States of America , Donald Trump was reported to have referred to African countries as ‘s###oles.  I was not angry.  He does not define what it means for me to be an African.    Let alone how I view my physical and human geographical surroundings.  Even at the worst of African times. 

But his influence obviously transcends my own personal sense of  (stubborn) African self worth.  His statement stirred up a mini African diplomatic furore whose significance goes beyond the domestic American uproar.

The African Union, following the lead of one of its member states Botswana and others (which summoned the US Ambassador to explain) condemned the alleged statement(s).  Zimbabwe’s new regime, precarious in international relations legitimacy as it is,  also issued a statement condemning the same. 

Such condemnation of the statements attributed to Trump was only necessary but in sync with a general global (media) outcry.  Not least because of the latter’s political correctness but also because it is fundamentally unacceptable for any political leader to say such things about the peoples of other countries.  Particularly those who still suffer the long duree effects of what was colonialism and in some cases what remains as contemporary political and economic global apartheid.

But as it is, it is almost inevitable that Trump's unpalatable statement(s) will turn out only to be a diplomatic incident.  At least from an African perspective.  And his government will ensure it does not go beyond that.  Especially by reminding African leaders of how much they need aid and military support from the United States. Or threatening the rest of the world at the United Nations General Assembly with aid cuts over a vote on Jerusalem (and Israel,  a state that we, as Africans, have felt acutely well to be far from how it is portrayed in the bible or in history.) 

The greater challenge from this ongoing debacle is how ordinary Africans have reacted to it.
Mainly via social media, a lot of us, have taken to either initial (and in my view) correct condemnation of the evidently racist statements. 

As time has lapsed, others have sought to analyse its full import by claiming that it is as expected and therefore not surprising from an American president who has been viewed as not only bigoted but also insensitive to global equality and progress.

Others have gone further to argue in favour of Trump’s alleged perception of the continent. Their main argument being that indeed African countries are so backward and laden with corruption, inefficiency and youth unemployment to the extent that it becomes affirmative to their being ‘sh##tholes’. 

It is specifically the last two above cited arguments that posit that it is to be expected of Trump to say such things or that the parlous state of African societies is true to his potential views that point to a tragic ‘un’consciousness of being African in contemporary times.

These arguments tend, deliberately or by default, to blur the lines of our own complicity in the denigration of our humanity, as Africans, in the eyes of  (at least) the politically powerful and those that elect them in the Global North.  Couched in the language of ‘real talk’ and ‘blunt honesty’, they reinforce the preferred assumption that the African migrant is leaving home solely for the 'promised land' (global north)  that would be found via  the treacherous journeys that are for example those undertaken across the Sahel through to the watery graves of the Mediterranean seas. 

In this we must come to terms with the fact that when an American president refers to African countries in the way this current one reportedly has, its an uphill battle to recapture a consciousness that defies his views not only by word of mouth but by way of historically grounded contemporary African action and thought.  Whether through our own African governments' actions but also our own inability as ordinary Africans to defy a de-humanizing social media discourse that has the end effect of ensuring we rarely consider ourselves as our own definers, describers of self,  country and continent.  Or a social media discourse that seeks to perpetually have in our sub-conscious a debilitating awareness of the 'white man's' racist gaze with us still willing 'him' to (please) change his mind so that we, once again, feel validated.  Again, by 'him'.  

So we could argue non-end via social media as to how Trump's comments were racist or try and place justification or even accusations as to why they may have a tinge of truth to them.  But it essentially points to a dying Pan Africanist perception of ourselves that it would require that statement from the president of he United States for us to find or remember an intention for us to be perpetually be placed on a global back foot.  Merely because we are African.   

We must therefore be careful about what we expect to hear, want to hear and how we hear when it comes to the not so new 'white' nationalist and in some cases racist perceptions of us as Africans or our countries by political leaders in powerful countries such as the USA.   Talk back in anger and  condemnation of such views we must.  Lapping  up these debates without understanding that in the final analysis they will always 'other' us will be a clear sign yet of our own loss of a necessary and liberatory Pan African consciousness.  Even on social media.  
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 


Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Rain and Zimbabwe's 2018 Harmonised Elections

By Takura Zhangazha*

Zimbabwe’s rainy seasons always signify anxious moments for its ruling establishment(s).  This is because when the heavens open up (generously), it is considered, across many of the country's sub-cultures, that the ancestors and Mwari, Unkulunkulu (God) has blessed the land and its people.  Not because of expected regular geographical (scientific patterns) as to the regularity of rainfall but more significantly because the land and its people have deserved the blessing.  By way of the deeds of its political leaders in congruence with those that represent deities and the ancestors that were once affectionately referred to as spirit mediums.  Even those that are now prominent Christian or other minority religion leaders understand the significance of a bountiful harvest as a result of plenty of rains across the country. 

And in most cases, the link between good political and religious leadership where the rains fall abundantly for a bumper national harvest between November and February of the next year, is always celebrated.  It is a sign of not only provident blessing but more significantly approval by the ancestors and God (in his various forms), at the direction of both the political and social morality of the land and its people. 

Where it does not rain adequately across the entirety  of the country, questions as to why emerge across the political and religious spectrum.   Spirit mediums and in the now, Christian religious leaders/prophets are consulted  to find cause, meaning  and effect. 

Not only by way of the immediate but because this was the way of our ancestors before the onset of colonialism.  A point that does not need to be laboured.  Rituals involving the king, chief, subjects, spirit mediums and beer were always held to determine the potential of the rainy season and to try to predict its eventual outcome.  Sometimes the warnings would be stark and could only be remedied if the ruler or his people changed their ways (one of the reasons why marriage ceremonies in November are mythical taboo).

So the 2017-2018 rainy season is one that will cause a significant amount of worry for the 'newish' establishment as led by President Mnangagwa and his 'military-political' establishment.  Technically because the country needs a good harvest to improve its economic fortunes.  More significantly because upon Mnangagwa’s assumption of power, he claimed not only the good fortune of the rains of the 2016-2017 season but the ability to ensure that the best was gotten out of it through the national ‘command agriculture’ programme. 

The rains fell mightily well that 2016-17 season.  And the government augmented the opening up/ deluge of the (natural) heavens with inputs and technical support that was popularly supported.  This led to former President Mugabe government’s  claim to the success of 'Command Agriculture' and the 'Presidential Inputs Scheme' despite the vilification of the fast track land reform programme.  As well as, at that time ‘against sanctions’. 

Due to rampant Zanu Pf factionalism (G-40 vs Lacoste) the sole claim to the success of the 2016-17 agricultural season was always going to be publicly disputed.  Until the eventual ‘victors’ of that succession battle on 15 November 2017.  And in this victory it has already become clear that they are persuaded that command agriculture's assumed success had been on the basis of it having been led by the military. 

The fact that the November 2017 military intervention was referred to as ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ (ORL) of the liberation struggle, makes rain become even more important.  Not only because of its own centrality in determining the cause of the loss of land and resultant droughts or rinderpest, locust attacks but because it was always a key reference point that transcended the first and second Chimurengas’.  Both of whose legacies are now ostensibly under 'restoration' via Mnangagwa’s takeover of the ruling Zanu Pf party (as a former long duree liberation movement).

In this, the former liberation struggle fighters that are now in charge of the state are all too aware of what any potential drought would mean to their political prospects for the 2018 harmonised elections.  They have already claimed success for the bumper harvests of the 2016-17 harvest as a result of their intervention. And they would want to ride that crescent of assumed agricultural success almost as a ritualistic coming to their own process of national leadership without Mugabe at the helm.   

But if the rains do not fall as anticipated (not by way of modern scientific calculations) or at least in similar fashion to the previous season, their ‘restore legacy’ intentions will face a crisis of historical, cultural and popular political legitimacy. 

Not that they are lost for options such as a ‘command drought relief’ programme, if they can raise the money, but more importantly in order to defy the possible myth that Mugabe ‘went with the rain’.  An issue that may become even more problematic if the spirit mediums, that they are so familiar with from the liberation struggle, decide that a wrong was done to the ancestors.  And that they might be to blame for it because of their ‘intervention’.

What is clear is that the assumption of their potential and likely 2018 election victory on the basis of their ability to ‘command’ a bounty harvest in the 2017-18 agricultural season  is not as simple as anticipated. 

Mnangagwa’s government  will need a significant 'plan b’ in the event that the ‘dura’s’/ silos are not full.  This will include a populist harnessing of spirit mediums, traditional leaders, the Christian clergy in order to demystify the perception of a drought having been caused by the ancestors and God not being in their favor.  This will also require ensuring the media does not depart from their ‘restore legacy’ narrative to the establishment's electoral detriment by putting out a narrative that reverts more to natural science than it does the mythical ‘blessings ‘ of the ancestors and via them, God.

In simpler parlance and from a political perspective, rain and its harvest(s) will matter in 2018.

Not least because the major political stronghold of the ruling party has been the rural / agricultural vote.  But also because without resort to political violence it must seek to ensure that its support base is satisfied to work for a legitimate electoral victory.  

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



Thursday, 4 January 2018

Zim Churches' Risky Lack of Caution on Political Loyalties

 By Takura Zhangazha*

These are probably awkward times for Zimbabwe’s ‘African Pentecostal/Apostolic’ church leaders.  Only a couple of months ago some of them were fawning before the former first lady and her cohorts and praying for the long life and rule of her husband. On new year’s eve some of them organised a national prayer meeting with the new president and his wife in Bulawayo that was broadcast live on state television. 

While the president was different, the script was the same.  A lot of praise and endorsement for the new president and significant recognition of the first lady.  And the old habit that will probably never die, declaring electoral support for the president in the now much more imminent harmonised election of this year.

Throw in a couple of quips about the fact that most African churches pray in the open and require governments intervention to allocate them ‘stands’ and the script is complete in praise and worship. 
In other media stories there is as expected, positive prophecies about the new president and how he will, with the help of God and the intervention of the self styled prophet, lead the country to greater things or prosperity.  All in the space of a year (2018). 

The orthodox churches have been a little bit quieter on the praise front.  Though one of their clergy and specifically from the Catholic church, Fr Mukonori was instrumental in the negotiations to get  ‘confined’ Mugabe to resign. 
Others, through the Zimbabwe Council of Churches helped organise a National People’s Convention of civil society organisations to set out a list of demands to the ‘new’ government. 
What is evident in all of the above cited actions of the churches, whatever their hue (African, orthodox, Pentecostal) have some sort of stake in our national politics. And they also have both an affinity and proximity to political power.  Especially to those that would yield it.
And this is not an historically new thing in Zimbabwe or the world. What must however be considered is the extent to which the role of the church contributes to further democratisation of our society or comprises it.

And this is a key consideration because our society while it has always been religious via the (still) dominant orthodox churches, it is also keenly pursuing a modern (and popular) Pentecostalism.  And religion tends to affect political perception in one way or the other. 
Prior to the coup/military intervention a majority of church leaders (not sure about their followers) actively positioned their churches to be aligned to the ruling establishment.  The possible reasons for this are many but would largely relate to seeking access to state sanctioned privileges (land, avoiding the taxman, or the law).

In the ‘new era’ this is least likely to change. And for historical reasons.  The church and the state have always had a quid pro quo relationship in establishing a mutually beneficial hegemony/dominance.  A rapture with this arrangement occurred during the liberation struggle but was restored with independence.  And has not really been significantly challenged or changed ever since.

The church looks for the state and the state finds the church.   Even in a period of reinvention such as national independence.

But the coup/military intervention on behalf of the ruling party startled the church.  It meant a realignment with the new dominant political power over the state.  And true to fashion the church is currying familiar favours from the establishment. A pure case of seeking survival or at least to be left to continue with its oft times lucrative religiosity. 

The dilemma with this this is that the church will avoid speaking truth to power with very few exceptions.  And in the process lose any claims it may make to political morality on behalf of its followers or in the name of democracy itself. 

In the process it negatively impacts a ‘necessary critical national consciousness’. One in which political views and debate is deliberately overwhelmed by superstitious narratives of prophesy and biblical quotes.  All in order to give a veneer of religiosity to a rapacious neo-liberalism/ millennial capitalism  where the politically connected (church leaders included) get wealthier at the expense of the religious poor. 


Where we have freedom of worship guaranteed in the constitution of Zimbabwe, we must also be aware of the importance of not looking at it in isolation from broader democratic values and principles.  Even in the aftermath of a military intervention/coup.  
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (tkura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)