Thursday, 17 August 2017

Africa and Threats of Global Nuclear War: Its Time to Talk Back. This Time Bluntly.

 By Takura Zhangazha*

When the first Gulf War occurred in 1990, there was limited satellite television access for many a Southern African, let alone a Zimbabwean.  I was in my last year of primary school at that time and our headmistress, walked into the class with a seriousness that we would only come to understand with the benefit of hindsight.  She pulled out a map of the world and pointed somewhere to what we now know as the ‘Middle East’ and talked of something referred to as ‘nuclear war’.  Or at least the dangers of it and the potential ‘global apocalypse’ that would occur. 

Her warning, for the age we were, obviously had a very religious tone. But she did make mention of a ‘dangerous cloud’ that would move all the way from the Middle East to where we were in Africa, killing everything in its wake. 

It is a primary school ‘lecture’ that always pops up in my mind whenever there is talk of nuclear war or where nuclear powers are reportedly at loggerheads.  Ditto the recent and hopefully subsiding diplomatic rows and military threats between North Korea and the United States of America. 

They had me in a silent panic. Not only because the leaders of the two nuclear countries are reportedly erratic and prone to act on whim. But also because of the catastrophic devastation to not only human but all forms of life that a war of that nature would bring on to the world. 

Another thought that struck my silent panic mode was the reality that the general imagined narrative where a monumental catastrophe occurs in the Global North, there is always the option of mass movement of survivors to, you guessed it, the Global South or in some specific cases, Africa. It’s a narrative that is found in some movies on climate change, where after massive flooding, ships find themselves docking in some Africa port or the other.  And in most cases Africa will have had a minimal role in causing a specific climate crisis (this is also the reality, Africa has a comparatively miniscule role in causing global climate change).

And again where we look at the current nuclear power impasse and its consequences, Africa and African countries will be nowhere near trigger ‘red buttons’ or special codes and keys. In fact, it would be trite to note that no single African country has a nuclear warhead. The last and probably only country to have these was apartheid South Africa which got rid of them in the run up to national independence in what some have described as controversial circumstances. Suffice to say we have a non proliferation treaty to show for it.

I am glad no African country has these weapons, even if by default or in keeping with the interests of global superpowers.  Even if some will argue that having them may keep liberal interventionists away, the proliferation of nuclear weapons is an absolute ‘no-no’.

The key consideration however is that given the reasonable probability that should a major man-made catastrophe such as nuclear war occur between the belligerent USA (plus allies) and the even more stubborn North Korea (plus allies), there would be an initial global trek southwards.  At least to where a liveable environment would still exist, even if temporarily. This, I might add, is a point that has been raised by renowned Australian journalist, John Pilger in one of his most recent articles.
This is why Africa has to talk back to the nuclear superpowers.  And very loudly so about any threats of ‘fire and fury’ from the world’s  holder of nuclear weapons. 

Our talk back, in keeping with the progressive world would, as we have always done, be calling for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  But it would also be diplomatically to say, we know what will happen to us and our people in the event of nuclear war decimating cities and populations in the global north.  It would be a return to occupation and depending on what of the superpowers remains, a return to colonialism.  Not as an option, but as a life and death matter. 

This is because in Africa’s placement in the world, we are not negotiating hard enough to make our own interests and stance against nuclear war patently clear. On paper and in practice.  Sometimes to the extent of viewing or thinking that its well-nigh impossible that there would be a nuclear war. Or that it would only between those that have these dangerous weapons or those that live in close proximity to them.  In extreme cases, I know and regrettably so, some colleagues who have viewed wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia) and threats of wars (even nuclear ones where this is no winner) as though it were like watching a random American movie. 

We must therefore deal our own hand before we are dealt with. We need a united people centred voice that says no to nuclear war not only because of its decimation of humanity but also because it is never going to be in our best interests as Africans.  Nor have previous wars of global super/nuclear powers.

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

Thursday, 10 August 2017

'Smash, Grab and Profit' Zimbabwe's Local Government Elitist Collusion with Private Capital


 By Takura Zhangazha*

The Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing recently held a national ‘Local Government Investment Conference' which it conveniently dubbed with a catchy acronym, LOGIC.

It was pretty high profile with a brief opening address by Vice President Mphoko and a keynote one by finance minister Patrick Chinamasa.

According to the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe's (UCAZ) organising committee for the event, the theme was ‘Local Government: Promoting Investment and Industrialisation for Socio-economic Development.’

The underpinning ‘logic’ of the conference was as its title suggested, ‘investment’.  And this, from a very corporatist (World Bank) perspective.

This was evidenced by the announced themes of the conference which included, ‘embracing the ease of doing business’, ‘investment opportunities in urban local authorities’,  ‘SME’s as engines for local economic growth’ and ‘gender mainstreaming in promoting investment for socio-economic development’. 

I am sure a myriad of other types of ‘investments’ were discussed under the pretext of the much vaunted but clearly private-profit motivated ‘public private partnerships’( PPPs).

Judging from the key note speaker's address, the most keenly followed type was that in housing or property ownership.

Even though Minister Chinamasa  called for a stop to what he referred to as ‘land barons’, he would know all too well why the former are the greatest investment that local governments (urban and rural districts, including some chieftancies) are in most cases conveniently accepting despite allegations of corruption.  

This is largely because of downright greed and distribution of political patronage.

More significantly it is because ever since the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP), farmland in close proximity to urban or peri-urban (inclusive of 'growth points') has become easy money for those that are politically connected.   

Or in some cases, as evidenced by the developments in Mazowe district, those at the highest levels/levers of political power such as the president and his family can convert vast tracts of land, ostensibly with the state’s permission, into an orphanage, animal park and as announced recently, a university (to be named after the president).

All this while conveniently close to some more former agricultural land, once controlled by a rural district council, that will be converted to national government use due to the pending re-location of the Parliament of Zimbabwe.

What we essentially have, even under the guise of ‘orderly investment’ as being prescribed by 'Logic', is a ‘smash, grab, own and profit’ privatisation of public capital.

A 'public capital' which should have been democratically primed to be converted into public wealth.

Land barons, politicians, politically connected elites are angling to divert public capital (land, water, flora and wildlife) from public wealth (health, clean water, education, transport, communications) into private capital and private wealth.

And they are not hiding it.  All the while taking a cue from what’s happening at the national level with the ongoing privatisation of electricity/energy, national health services (government is considering allowing doctors to advertise their services as the best), education, transport (including the national railways) as well as land (bio-agriculture and Chiadzwa).

But the softest spot for this neo-liberal approach is local government.  At national level the elite of the ruling party prefer a state capitalist model (i.e to have a direct stake in major state capital with an aim to make humongous private profit).

So local government is essentially a 'share of the spoils' of those that would leverage public capital for private profit. 

The main reason for this and  why this trend has emerged and continues to do so is that the ruling and opposition parties clearly function from the same neo-liberal and private wealth accrual template. By way of ideology and also by way of practice.

The ruling party as the one that oversees local government and the mainstream opposition MDC-T as that which controls a majority of urban councils. 

Furthermore, the fact that civil society while being aware and in part fighting against corruption in local authorities, has not put up a clear counter-ideological narrative to neo-liberalism ala-carte Zanu Pf.

Not necessarily because they cannot mount cogent arguments for alternatives such as democracy or democratic socialism.  They can but they will not for reason that vary from fear of loss of funding or  not really wanting to ruffle the feathers of private capital.

And this is the same for 'public intellectuals' and a majority of academics. 

The end effect of these approaches to local government is that there is no social and economic justice for a majority of poor Zimbabweans who are the worst affected. 

It will not only be government extracting from them through rates and taxes, but private companies that receive tenders to supply pre-paid machines for water as well as those that win opaque land development tenders even if the state owned Urban Development Corporation (UDCorp) claims that it is overall in charge of the same. 

At the moment, there is little or no democratic public interest in the way our local government is being run. Even if  state and private capital collude under hollow sounding acronyms such as ‘Logic’. 

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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Amending a Constitution Using a Constitution: Basic Politics’ Triumph Over Law in Zim

By Takura Zhangazha*

Zimbabwe’s Parliament had to be divided to vote on constitutional amendment bill number 1 of 2017.   And it was pretty much a foregone conclusion as to how it would all turn out. Zanu Pf has not only a two thirds majority (required to change sections of the constitution) in the National Assembly but a currently unassailable ‘super majority’. 

Unless it had turned on itself, that the bill was going to pass did not need further analysis.  And true to its form, Zanu Pf did not turn on itself at a crucial political moment.  Especially when the Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Affairs who also happens to be the country’s vice president and one of those eyeing the national presidency in a post Mugabe era, had a political point to prove.  A point that specifically would be to prove that he is able to cajole enough Zanu Pf MPs, ministers included, to tow the party line and come to Parliament to vote on a crucial matter.

The opposition was always going to put up a Parliamentary fight.  Not least because they wanted to be in the news headlines but also in order to lay some sort of claim at being on somewhat ‘holier’ constitutional(ism) ground.   And they did try.  From resisting adjournment of a debate on the budget review statement by the minister of Finance through to requesting a secret ballot (which was rejected by the Speaker) and asking for Parliamentary vote recounts. 

The actions of the opposition MDC-T MPs turned out to be of limited political import.  But credit to them for doing what they had to do, that is, to oppose the amendment. 

Except that there are intriguing issues that are emerging over this amendment. 
The first of these is that the argument over the appointment of the Chief Justice (which is what this amendment no.1 is really about) was never not going to get a ‘push back’ from the executive arm of government.  The Judicial Services Commission (JSC) had decided to stick to its guns and insist, under the leadership of the late Chief Justice Chidyausiku, on presiding over the process of the latter’s successor.  The executive conceded (at least sort of).  And it returned, as promised in written letters to the JSC, with an amendment to the supreme law of the land.  And for this, it used another arm of government that it directly controls, the Legislature/Parliament. 

Requiring a two thirds majority (which it already has), Zanu Pf decided to change the rules of the game and demonstrate to the judiciary that the latter’s moment in the sun was effectively over.  When President Mugabe signs the bill (as is expected) into law, it will be apparent that politics can always trump the law. And with a great deal of disdain too.

The second alarming issue that emerges is that a newfound idealism that the constitution represented  (sort of)  when it was supported by the political parties in the then inclusive government, has come to naught.  Whereas the opposition would have had Zimbabweans believe that a new ‘democratic’ era of national politics had emerged in the aftermath of the 2013 constitutional referendum victory (warts and all), they forgot to mention that it did not signal a revolutionary moment in Zimbabwean politics let alone in our national history.  As the saying goes, ‘the old is always in the new’ in political narratives and this is where we are.  Euphoric moments of assumed complete victories are always drawn back by a more organized and long ruling establishment.  Especially if the opposition has no follow through actions and has a false sense of political arrival. 

The third lesson from amendment number 1 is that there is a difference between understanding  political reality and having your head in the clouds.  The 2013 constitution is essentially an incremental change document.  Not just by way of wording (crosscheck the sunset clauses on presidential elections in schedule 6) but by way of the intentions of those that wrote it.  At least those on the side of the ruling Zanu Pf party.  It was a way in which to mange expectations of change without delivering change.  Hence when the opposition agreed (after a lot of haggling as reported by the mainstream media) to its final contents, there was none the happier than President Mugabe. 
This is because in its actual intent the new constitution was intended to be a ‘transitional’ document for the political parties involved. And this transition was meant to be, for all parties, a ‘transition to full power’.

 For Zanu Pf it was a way to manage as well as weaken the mainstream opposition and retain unbridled power. For the MDCs (divided as they were and still are) it was a way in which to call Zanu Pf’s bluff and win the election and manage their own internal succession politics via sunset clauses (again check Schedule 6).  As it turns out the opposition lost (controversially) dismally in the 2013 election. And by that, the opposition had been hoist by its own petard. It was to make this worse by firing its own members from the National House of Assembly after yet another spit in its ranks and refusing to participate in by-elections it had caused. 

But this amendment number 1 of the constitution is not one in which I, as a person who voted ‘no’ in the 2013 constitutional referendum, can claim any self righteousness or have a ‘we told you so’ arrogance.  After that referendum vote, I accepted defeat and sought to understand the new constitutional reality better and pragmatically.   From the new rules on the separation of powers, through to the bill of rights and devolution, there was one thing I kept in mind.  And that was that in the final analysis, this is an elitist incremental ‘change’ constitution whose progress or lack of it would be determined by whoever would be in power (which was the opposition’s hope).  And true to form the ‘victor’ ruling Zanu Pf party has used its power to make the constitution exactly what it is, a document for the exercise of power.  Not for the realization of ideals or perpetuation of truly democratic values.  And for this, we have the opposition to thank, no matter how many points of order they raise when the constitution is used to amend the constitution.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Zim Govt's 'Comfort + Control Zone' Over the Media

 By Takura Zhangazha*

The Zimbabwe Ministry of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services is in a comfort zone that its leaders probably didn’t think was realistically feasible a couple of years back.  This can be explained by the recent statement that the responsible cabinet minister Chris Mushowe made threatening to withhold parastatal advertisements from 'critical private media'. Or oddly that he would encourage Zanu PF supporters not to buy any private papers (I am not sure how many supporters of the ruling party actually do that voluntarily.)  

Whichever way one looks at it, the minister is making these statements not without elements of being in a comfort and control zone over the media but also with an arrogance that belies his mistaken perception that media freedom is a privilege and not a right. And it is fair to ask where is the government getting this arrogance from?

Or where the rather snide language of the permanent secretary in the same ministry to equate commercial radio stations with community radio stations comes from?

In some circles there has been debate in slight mimicry of South African political parlance, of ‘media capture’.  Not only along factional lines in the ruling or opposition parties but also in relation to business interests that affect editorial policy.  The jury is still out on the validity of this ‘media capture’ assertion but suffice to say it is worth looking into, even if briefly.

It all began with what it referred to as the Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI), then under the leadership of the another minister, Jonathan Moyo who was officially the progenitor of the notorious Access to information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). 

He had sort of resurrected from his initial label as a ‘media hangman’ and with IMPI sought to endear himself with the mainstream media, an endeavour that on the face of it, was quite successful especially with the private media.  Never mind the stories and disputes that emerged from those members of Zimbabwe’s media profession that were to eventually be part of the panel. 

Beyond IMPI, which Moyo’s successors at the ministry are yet to allow to come to full policy implementation, there was another element that brought a new comfort zone to government in its relations with the mainstream media.  This was that of media ownership. 

The most recent example has been the launch of a couple of local commercial stations owned by AB Communications.  The others that are also now broadcasting are owned in part by the government controlled Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (Zimpapers). And in media analysis circles this is called multimedia or even cross media ownership especially if we consider the fact that Zimpapers also has a dominant newspaper division and that AB Communications has made public its intention to start a newspaper.

And both companies are angling for the yet to be issued national television licenses.  And they do have the makings of television production divisions, a sign that they have enough confidence (I don’t know from where) that they are likely to also acquire these licenses at a date to be determined by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ)/ government.

The other major player in Zimbabwe’s media industry Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) tried to branch into radio, particularly the local commercial aspect but was denied a license in what it considered controversial circumstances.  I am not sure if they are going to also try for television (a much more costly endeavour).

The end effect of these processes is that Zimbabwe’s media is under siege by existent and soon to be ‘media moguls’ in the form of Zimpapers and AB Communications. And due to serious challenges of viability and sustainability of private media as a business, independent and objective journalism is getting harder by the day.  Even those journalists that would wish to be effective freelance reporters and pursue their democratic public interest role to the hilt are now stymied by economic challenges and lack of resources to effectively do so.

It is those with resources that are not only spreading their wings across differing media platforms (newspaper to radio to television) but are also beginning to have uniform editorial policies that disable media diversity and in the final analysis determine what is ‘news’ in favour of their own political or economic interests.  While at the same time lauding ‘converged newsrooms' as technologically progressive when in  reality they stifle news diversity and place greater commercial pressure as opposed to public interest on the shoulders of editors and journalists. 

The immediate latter points are also then responsible for allegations of ‘factional capture’ of the media.  This is where it is a combination of business and political interests that determine news content.  Hence Minister Mushowe’s threat that linked a purportedly ‘over critical’ of government media with blanket advertising bans.
This is the background that informs central government’s media  ‘comfort and control zone'.  And the media has to urgently shrug this government off its back sooner rather than later in the interests of democratic free expression in our country.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)


Monday, 10 July 2017

Zim Opposition in the 2018 Election: Class, Consciousness and Normalisation

*By Takura Zhangazha

Zimbabwe’s opposition political party landscape has, as expected, become much more interesting as the 2018 harmonized election approaches.  And approaches at relatively breakneck speed though very few of us are noticing this.  Especially because a lot of political actors are essentially pre-occupied with the immediate than with broader strategic considerations as to the full import of the election itself.  By this, the general approach by many an election stakeholder outside of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission  (inclusive of political parties) is that they will handle each day/event as it occurs.

And a lot of events are happening especially for those that would run for political office via being in opposition.  From the still to be resolved issue of coalitions and now to the emergence of independent candidates for the presidency , opposition politicians have a lot to work on. Especially if they are going to be in a perpetual panic about the impact of social media and individuals that are using the latter platform as a key mechanism of trying to reach out to younger voters.

There are some clear patterns that are however beginning to emerge around the opposition as the harmonised election in 2018 draws closer. 

These are as they relate to how the opposition is configuring or reconfiguring itself.  And this is not just in relation to what is officially the mainstream opposition in the form of the MDC-T.  But also new players (at least via public announcements such as that by former cabinet minister Nkosana Moyo). 

The main opposition MDC-T has some officials who are clearly not too pleased with the latter type of candidates.  They have accused them of attempting to split the opposition vote.  And given the 2008 experience with the Simba Makoni presidential candidacy, their concerns are quite understandable if not logical. 

But so are those of those that are arguing against the MDC-T having a culture of entitlement to the opposition vote.   Indeed the more the candidates, the more democratic things may appear.  But sadly also the more opposition parties/candidates there are, the least likely it is that they will defeat even a faction riddled Zanu Pf.

These squabbles over ‘entitlement’ or ‘splitting’  the vote point to the lack of a unified understanding of the primary purpose of the mainstream opposition.  Whereas in the 1990s and early 2000s being in the opposition was viewed as being a ‘virtue’ or a ‘people’s struggle’ against dictatorship, now it is seen more as a competition to be the first or most popular individual or party to confront Zanu Pf.
That basically means that the current opposition leaders including the new ones and those that will certainly emerge as the election draws much more closer are no longer bound by a ‘struggle’ unity but more by rank opportunism and political brinksmanship.  The reasons for this are many but I will hazard a few.

The first is that our opposition leaders no longer share a similar consciousness.  Very few of them come from a similar background by way of political experience and motivation.  Even fewer of them exude any sense of self confidence that transcends desiring international recognition and mimicry of other sort of revered opposition leaders elsewhere.  And even fewer of them adhere to a set rules of political principles or values.   This is both for their internal and external political actions.  But they all, perhaps correctly, want to be recognized for ‘having tried’ and in most cases for ‘continuing to try’ to fight the ruling  party.

The second emerging issue within our current opposition ranks is that of class.  Its relatively subtle but it was something I noticed with every major split in the main MDC-T.  It would always be those leaders with a somewhat well to do economic or educational disposition that would be the first to announce a split.  Those that are not necessarily of the MDC-T but have also set up political parties/outfits definitively  have the same well to do backgrounds, even if they may have initially been part of the liberation struggle.  In short, they can afford it (at least the initial stages of their movements/parties).  

Even a majority of their followers will come from our still wannabe middle classes and upper classes (religious leaders included). 

The third interesting element is that of age becoming a ‘wow’ factor in the opposition ranks.  Not necessarily that you will find a young person seeking the highest office in the land via the opposition.  Instead, what has emerged is an increase in young people in opposition ranks wanting to seek office in either parliament or local government.  And its not just in the mainstream MDC-T but in a whole host of political parties and with efforts from some independent candidates.  This will be especially the case in urban constituencies that are deemed ‘safe’ seats for the opposition.  It is least likely independent candidates will win many seats but again no doubt they will undermine opposition numbers in any previously safe seat. 


In the final analysis what is occurring, probably by default, is the normalization of our opposition rank and file.  There is no major ‘struggle for democracy’ to talk about as of old.  At least not with so many nodes of leadership that would lay claim to the same.  Its all about electoral contestation and seeking political office for its sake.  Hence the diminishing demand for the actions of the opposition to be couched in the virtuous language of ‘struggle for democracy’ or being ‘people-centered’.  Its not a bad thing that this virtue has gone away.  It is however na├»ve to act as though the current electoral framework is indicative of arrival.  Or that by merely mimicking the ruling party, electoral victory can be had.  But as always, one can only wish all political contestants all the best. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Prez Mugabe's AU Donation, Addressing a Symptom to Avoid the Cause


 By Takura Zhangazha*

President Mugabe recently donated US$ 1 million to the African Union (AU) reportedly in his personal capacity. And no, the money was not sourced from Zimbabwe’s national treasury.  Instead it came from auctioning at least 300 head of cattle from his own personal herd. At least we are told.  It is a promise he had made two years ago when he was serving as the chairperson of the African Union as well as SADC.

I remember asking myself, how does he promise cattle to the AU?  What would the latter do with them? Or even more significantly how would he get the cattle to Addis Ababa and where would then AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma put them?

It turns out he had a plan. First of all add to the herd by asking for donations from chiefs in his own country and other well wishers.  Then cash the herd in.  And shock everyone by keeping a promise made in what was initially deemed to be populist posturing. And still get a populist result by appearing to be true to your pan Africanist intention of working to make the continental body financially self-reliant.

I am not sure what the AU is going to do with the US1 million it received from President Mugabe.  I also do not know how much Zimbabwe officially contributes to the continental body.  Or to SADC. (yes I also tried to Google it). 

What is however beyond doubt is that I agree with the principle that our continental bodies must seek to be self sustaining and that their member states must demonstrate their commitment to their existence by regularly contributing to it.  Regrettably they do not make regular contributions.  Or their contributions are completely overshadowed by those that come from other continental bodies, countries and non African philanthropists.

On the face of this is acceptable because it fits the global characterisation of Africa as poor.  Not only in material terms but also as the ‘other’.   

It also turns out however that the myth that Africa is ‘poor’ is beginning to be challenged.  A number of researchers point ot the fact that we are quite well to do. Its just the multinational corporations that make the profits.

And our political leaders and comprador bourgeoisie that externalise the dubious breadcrumbs that they are given by the lauded ‘investors’.

So the primary problem with President Mugabe’s donation is not that he made it despite his own country facing may economic challenges.  It’s that it addresses a symptom, not the actual problem. And even then, still after a long time of asking. 

The actual problem is that whereas during the liberation struggle the Organisation of African Unity was probably the most popular continental organisation on the planet because it exuded values that resonated with the people, many functional governments deliberately contributed to its sustained existence, the AU is not.

Where we have the post liberation AU we have a rupture of popular support and understanding of the raison d’etre of the reformed continental body.  Wrapped in corporatist language and neo-liberal intentions, the AU has lost a greater part of its liberatory value to many an African.  And that is why someone needs to advise President Mugabe that his gesture, even if well intentioned, does not begin to address this larger ailment.

And its not just with the AU.  Regional bodies generally face popular legitimacy challenges and again and again, fail to live up to popular expectations.  SADC, which is the former liberation struggle alliance that we knew as the Frontline States does not exude people centered values. Its major projects after South Africa’s independence have remained couched again in neo-liberalism and seeking to protect members states sovereignty without taking into full account the wishes of the people. 


So its no surprise that our own continental bodies are generally dependent on foreign funding.  It is a primary result of the challenge of their depreciating popular legitimacy. And how global political and corporate powers have deliberately taken advantage of this to seize greater control of  what should have been a continually emancipatory agenda. Indeed the world changed after the end of the cold war and international relations, interests sought to control our continental agenda.  But it remains a hard truth that we have to return our continental bodies to their source. That is the struggle for freedom,  And I promise, we will not be begging nor will we have presidents donating personal cattle to a body that would not need such a gesture.  No matter how symbolic.   
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Are We Valuing Death More than Life in Zimbabwe?

 By Takura Zhangazha*

In some regular conversations with a colleague discussing the state of the national economy, we make mention of one of the striking ironies that one of our country’s most successful companies  (at least visibly) is a funeral services one.  And so is its marketing (yes, it has the audacity to sponsor football teams). 
And that is not a bad thing in itself.  Its just ironic.

It regularly brings me to my own personal reflections on how we, Zimbabweans perceive of life and death.  Not in the religious sense.  But just what we value more. 

I once attended a meeting a while back where there was a discussion about workers' welfare.  This had been spurred on by the sad fact that one of the workers had passed away and there had been difficulties laying him to rest because he hadn’t had funeral insurance.

So it was sort of a given that all workers would henceforth be required to have funeral insurance.  Or at least be required to make a part contribution to it via deductions from their salary. 

That was fair enough I remember saying in the meeting but also quick to ask if the workers were on medical aid/insurance.  Regrettably it turned out that they did not and it was an anomaly that was immediately rectified. 

I however mention this incident because it has stuck with me ever since it occurred.  And it has repeated itself in other ways which are not obviously similar to it. 

For instance we all know that the likelihood of getting immediate life saving treatment in a medical emergency is very limited in Zimbabwe. Especially if you do not have money.

And the harsh reality of the matter is that it places ‘life’ and ‘death’ in stark contrast.  And one of the most obvious reasons why people would opt for funeral insurance is that its simply cheaper than medical aid.  By far.  Accompanied of course by the culture trait of  funeral policies wherein the refrain as one pays for it is ‘At least I will not bother my family’.  And that’s all fair enough. 

What is significant is how this attitude to the inevitability that is death has come to cloud our collective sense and value of the importance of life itself.

That it was always going to be more expensive to live than to die is a global given.  But that the majority of causes of the loss of many lives in Zimbabwe are glaringly due to human error is something we must seriously reflect upon and urgently seek remedial action. 

And it begins with a people centred assessment of our everyday lives.  Especially the social welfare aspects of the existence of the people of Zimbabwe.  This assessment must be driven by social democratic values that shun the withdrawal of the state from being the guarantor of the well being of the people. 

This means we must take back our social services from those that are privatising them for exactly what that infers, private and not public profit.  This entails having the state providing up to standard social services and not outsourcing them to what are evidently not so competent private players at every other turn.  Whether its for electricity, water, health, education, transport, communications and social support, the state must not be allowed to continue its extractive and dehumanising privatisation of public services.

This is what’s getting us to where we are.  A situation in which hope for the better is no longer collective but individualised.  Where your urban neighbour is potentially a person that you may not offer free water for fear of cost (if anyone mistrusts the water billing from the city council, fix the billing system, do not privatise water).

Or a situation in which you may have a relative in hospital when they should have been discharged because they cannot pay the bill. Or where they are still unwell and in hospital  but cannot afford the requisite treatment at what should be a public hospital.

And where we have horrendous road traffic accidents that point not only to the brazen inhumane treatment of passengers but also a state that will not take the basic responsibility of re-introducing train and bus services that are secure, safe and affordable.
So where we are is a bad place.  And try as we might to shrug it off, to wish away, our reality is not only depressing but dehumanising. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)