Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Africa in Social Media: Terror Victims Minus Viral Global Empathy

 By Takura Zhangazha*

There was a terrorist attack in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu this week.  Over 300 Somalian citizens were murdered and scores more were injured.  Social media did not explode with emotion as it has done with other terrorist attacks on innocent civilians in the global north.  There were no Somali flag coloured backgrounds to Facebook images.  Neither was the story covered with as much fervour and thorough analysis as global media is wont to do.

African social media acolytes did express twitter solidarity.  Some tried to put out/ post  streams of anger, solidarity with the victims and even consciousness on the callous incident.  In this they were also quick to remind anyone who cared to check out their social media feeds the evidently different attitudes to social media solidarity when it concerns tragic and callous incidences of terrorism in Africa. 

Regrettably such comparisons have never had an actual impact on how African lives are viewed.  And how no matter what happens, global social media’s reaction will always be more sympathetic to events that affect the global north.  Not only because it is where social media’s centre is but more as a result of an historical solidarity and togetherness.  A solidarity that has failed to transcend artificial social borders.

Add to this our own propensity, as Africans, to demonstrate this emotional solidarity with the global north in its times of tragedy and things become a little clearer.

For all of this there is never a singular explanation.  Social media has come to mean many things to us as Africans who have acess to it.  It has changed our ability to receive and impart information within our own contexts and it has connected us to the world.  It does not however mean that social media is not without its own baggage with regards to racial bias or negative profiling of people of colour globally but even more if they are African.

And this, in a similar manner to what Palestinian academic  Edward Said referred to as Orientalism, is the result of historical/colonial biases against the African continent that persist even after we appear to have arrived at liberation.  And its not our fault that undercurrents of negative views of Africans and their ways of life exist.  These are biases that have been brought to being not only through direct or indirect rule as it occurred during the colonial era but also through language, imposition of cultures. 

Indeed this topic remains uncomfortable in the global north especially given the rise of the right and in some cases ultra-right to power or at least close enough.
Where we add the wide and hegemony crafting reach of social media, these views are generally fortified as opposed to being undermined. 

And as Africans we have to understand that this new age of negative perceptions on migration, race and nationalism in the global north, aided by social media, is not a push over.  But we must be wary of seeking recognition from such bigotry and pursue social media solidarity based on shared values and principles than a desire to be seen to be going with the flow.  

This would require that we should also have our own strong social media solidarity and be quick to show it.  Not in mimicry but in meaning. The latter being a reflection of what we would have referred to yesteryear and partly today as Pan Africanism and a realisation that our placement in the global order of political and economic things requires that we retain such a consciousness.

In the case of us Africans on social media, the medium does not have to become the message. That is to say, we cannot use this tool in order to be co-opted into a lifestyle and value system that is not reflective of our realities and aspirations. 

We may not be the owners of social media as a medium but we can most certainly influence its content while we are at it.  This requires a return to understanding ourselves and our contexts and not always being swayed by events as they occur via social media in the global north. 

In this we must be careful to avoid viewing issues in binary terms and repeat the very mistake that has brought us to a social media that reflects more sentiment from the global north. We must avoid ‘othering’ those that would want to ‘other’ us. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)   

Friday, 13 October 2017

Zimbabwe's Dying National Consciousness

 By Takura Zhangazha*

There are a lot of ‘political’ events that leave a sour taste in the mouth at the moment in Zimbabwe. And sometimes even the thought of writing about or accepting a request for an interview on them appears abstract. Or more like partaking in a cyclical ‘politics as entertainment, gossip and soap opera’  debate that in the end will re-invent and repeat its own mistakes.  Almost in similar fashion to how politicians (though not the only ones) are perpetually late for their own meetings and still get applauded for it.

And in the age of social media and the internet the general advice is never to take oneself too seriously.  Or to seek and  perceive of everyday events beyond their actual occurrence and ephemeral public perceptions. The same perceptions  also do not generally accept long term perspectives to political processes or events that are either structured or ideological in their search for solutions.  Unless of course they follow a neo-liberal narrative that suits the current intentions of the ruling party and the regrettable political mimicry of the same to be found via our mainstream opposition. 

So when there is a cabinet reshuffle by the ruling Zanu Pf party and social media goes apoplectic (with the aide and confirmation of mainstream media) it is already apparent that there will be politics by entertainment (humour, gossip and conjecture).  A development which while understandable is a sure sign of the powerlessness of the many that eagerly scroll their social media feeds waiting for the latest gossip or news on the developments in the factional fights of the ruling party.  

And given that these factional fights/events are now an almost daily occurrence their effect is to dominate national discourse with, again, elitist rumour and conjecture.  As well as to reinforce the retrogressive narrative of power residing solely in Zanu Pf and building a default public support for rival factions in anticipation of some highly unlikely structural change to the state of affairs in the country.  


One may immediately ask the question, 'What is national consciousness?'.  

To put it briefly, it is the sum total of the revolutionary awareness of a people of their struggles and pursuit of a just, equitable society that transcends a repressive (colonial, tribalist) past and embraces the idea that human dignity for all (regardless of race, gender, ethnicity) is possible. Not only in the now but in perpetuity. 

 As Fanon predicted in his seminal chapter with the same title in his globally famous book 'The Wretched of the Earth'  our national consciousness has come to be dominated by a self serving leadership that claims the past as its sole right to rule.  And in this, Fanon argues, while all the while protecting the narrow interests of a rabid bourgeois (and global capital) and keeping the masses in their poor place and resorting to use of the military to repress them. 

In our national case, we are be-straddled by an aged/ageing political  elite (and its families, ethnic groups) that uses the state to not only enrich itself but also to co-opt the masses into a specific silence that leaves them with no choice but to appear to accept the invincibility of the ruling party. Or to accept that change of leadership can only be found by being part of the ruling establishment.   

Where we look at the opposition it finds itself in a bind through its default mimicry of the same ruling establishment that it opposes.  By way of how it does its own politics and how it seeks to manage its own internal political processes of ideological grounding and leadership renewal.  It offers  just like the ruling party abstract notions of what is political change without becoming enamored to a revolutionary national consciousness that keeps the country before its own variegated material and class interests.  

If you add to the mixture the emergent Pentecostalism as enabled by millennial capitalism/ neo-liberalism  you have a national consciousness  that is no longer aware not only of its values but more regrettably, one that does not know where it is headed.  

That is why each event in Zimbabwe's political life has as the only singular consistency the theme of what’s going on in the ruling establishment and little else by way of national discourse.  And why every other emerging conflict is a return to a retrogressive past of ethnocentric (tribalist) narratives of would be paths to power and profiteering from the state.
  
If you were to ask me what is required I would quickly retort that its as complicated as it is simple.  We must begin with a much more organic and structured analysis of our country (throw in class and revolutionary theory) and actively seek to be visionaries of a people centered social democratic state.  Or remain saddled with watching/seeing a bad (really bad) soap opera defined by the politics of a self serving ruling elite. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 





Thursday, 5 October 2017

Church, Faith and Politics in Zimbabwe: Recalling the Secular

By Takura Zhangazha*

Religion has always been a key aspect of Zimbabwe’s national consciousness. And its points of entry into this national consciousness are many. From the very indigenous African Traditional religion and its uniquely liberatory  role in the 1st and 2nd Chimurengas through to orthodox Christianity and its mixed legacy of conservatism and literacy.

Not forgetting other versions of faith such as what is referred to as African Christianity together with the now very popular and materialist Pentecostal movements.

The interface between the church, faith and politics has also taken a particularly unique turn in the last year or two.

This is largely due to politicians either courting prophets, making direct reference to church leaders or in unique cases arresting those that would ‘prophesy’ their deaths. Add ruling and opposition party succession fights to the mix and biblical references in political speeches and social media posts and it becomes visceral. 

Regretably such courtship between religious and political leaders is least likely to end soon.  This is largely because what is often overlooked is the fact that the church needs the state to survive or expand (infrastructure and avoiding taxation altogether).

In keeping with colonial administrations of yore, all rural and urban councils, with central government approval, tend to ensure that the majority of church/faith organisations land is for free.

You just have to apply on time or wait for the next new urban settlement (and they are many now).  So the church will rarely bite the hand that feeds it. Rarely.  Except where its own interests are threatened as has been happening with some Pentecostal churches who have seen their income reduced due to the introduction of bond notes (the US$ has been the lifeblood of many of these churches through tithes). 

This is not to say the church and faith based organisations have not been part of broader civil society activities or been involved the now less energetic pro-democracy movement.  It has played a facilitator role as in the case of the Christian Alliance and the Save Zimbabwe campaign of 2007.  Or the critical letters that occasionally emanate from the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC).

But to a greater extent the church and faith based organisations have steered clear of courting the ire of government.

What is however more important is to look at how the church/faith based and political actors (in power and those in opposition) are comfortably taking up joint narratives that essentially begin to crowd out a more critical national consciousness. 

It begins with politicians using the bible to either dole out messianic innuendo about how they are the only ones who are fit to rule.  And churches that welcome these into their religious spheres in order to not only help mobilise political support but also to curry material favour. 

Or when politicians literally invade the faith realm to not only appear pious but endear themselves to a narrative that suggests that they are predestined by ‘God’ through a prophet or spirit medium to be the rightful heirs to one throne or the other. 

It is also two way traffic with a number of clergy/prophets/pastors and their supporting institutions ensuring they get the ear of powerful political figures to either get ‘protection’ and obfuscation about their massive wealth. 

The end result of this sometimes deliberate but most times convenient relationship between the church, faith and politics is a one way narrative that crowds out objective national consciousness.  And in the process limits a critical and fair examination of the national question and challenges that Zimbabwe is faced with (beyond the narrow succession narratives of the political parties). 

It also then creates fanatics of political leaders who are also no longer viewed as exactly that but more of specific faith loyalists as opposed to secular leaders.  An element which has also contributed to the cult status of the current Zimbabwean president. 

However it is also important to note that this nexus of religion and politics is a result of an unrepentant neo-liberal economic framework in which the market (and private wealth) is seen as ‘God’.  Faith then becomes the escape route of a critical questioning of the state of affairs of the national economy let alone the privatisation of public capital and public wealth.

So you will not find a single church that decries the privatisation of health to the fullest extent possible (it may lose land, a school) nor a church that will denounce those that amass wealth without a trail of hard work behind them except for political slogans and proximity to power.  This is because these are some of their biggest and best ‘tithers’.  And also the ones who dangle a near impossible to get  carrot to poor young Zimbabweans via the  crass and superstitious language of the  ‘prosperity gospel’. 

So next time a politician in tandem with a pastor/prophet does the biblical thing in reference to his/her politics kindly remind them that while they have a right to freedom of religion like all of us, they should not mix the two.  Or if you are cheeky remind them to render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity  (takura-Zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Zimbabwe's Political Economy: Panic, Class + Memory

By Takura Zhangazha*

It is always going to be a hard ask for Zimbabweans to forget the economic meltdown that began in earnest with the advent of (neo)liberalisation of the economy in the mid 1990s and reached an inhumane apex in 2007-9.  The brief interlude to the crisis overseen by the inclusive government brought into being new expectations of economic performance legitimacy for any future government (including this current one).  

That interlude however also gave the false impression that as long as no one touched the US$ and related free market fundamentals, everything would be fine.  It sort of ushered in a default new normal.  It was however underpinned by a rampant neo-liberalism that has morphed into a much more rabid state capitalism under the current government.

So when ‘news’ broke out on social media about bond notes printing and selling the reversion to serious mistrust of government by the public was to be expected. So was the panic buying by the relatively well-heeled of the cities (you have to already have some money to panic buy). 

For poorer working classes of our society there has been no panic buying.  Just shock and awe at how sudden the upward change in prices of some goods and services or lack of their affordability can be.  And in this there is the fear of a return to the tumultuous years of 2007 largely in relation to livelihoods but with less of the political partisanship. (Fewer Zimbabweans are looking to the mainstream opposition for economic salvation). 

But because the currency that a majority of Zimbabweans have come to value dearly (US$) is not ours nor are our leaders (political, economic/business, social/religious) able for various reasons to live by its 'free market' dictates, these part real/part wished for incidences  are set to become a recurrent part of our national economic existence.

What then comes into vogue again, is the fact that there are classed based perceptions and realities of the current but long duree economic crisis.  

Regrettably this angle of analysis will be drowned up by the dominant neo-liberal narratives as they are carried out by private capital (including church related capital) and state actors.  The latter will want to give the impression they are people-centered when in fact they remain committed to what they now refer to as the ‘ease of doing business’ and sharing the spoils of what should be public capital and public wealth.

Be that as it may in Zimbabwe, public sentiment is exactly what it is, a mixture of a dire economic reality which is also motivated by wishful (political) thinking.

The general mood of distrust of the central government is pretty much everywhere (even among ruling party supporters).  It’s a mood that has been spurred on by the medium of social media (augmented by mainstream media) and its sometimes true and oft times exaggerated content. It is also highly binary or partisan. 

It will be reduced to either opposition politics or eventually a strenuous (and oft times illogical) defence of the ruling establishment.  Including blaming sanctions and saboteurs. A familiar government line since the turn of the century.

I would however hazard a couple of key considerations around the recent fuel shortages for those with a keen eye on the political economy of the country and or its now multiple political dramas as they relate to either the incumbent ruling party and those that politically oppose it. 

The first is that emotions over and about the state of the economy are good.  In fact they are helpful especially if they allow you to catch the attention of the government.  They will however not topple it before an election.  Not least because of the example of 2007-2008 but more because of the structural complicity and shared interests between private capital and state capital in our country.  So the state of the economy is not about a feel good or bad moment.  It is about understanding how we got here and what we should really be up in arms against. 

And from my own perspective its not so much the fuel queues or the panic buying or the susceptibility to memory (2007) alone that should get us to this holistic understanding of what is troubling our national economy.  Its about understanding, especially at leadership level the ideological underpinnings of the national economy and the profiteering  collusion between private capital and those that are in charge of government/state. 

This also includes a firmer realisation that the culture of consumption as opposed to the questioning of the structural dimensions of our national economy may lead to ephemeral ‘victories’.  But even these on their own tend to be drawbacks than the beginning of an economic future that gives every Zimbabwean fair and equitable livelihoods.

So there is an urgent need to move beyond the understandably class based reactions such as panic buying (middle classes), artificial shortages of fuel and even the attendant crisis in our national politics (comprador bourgeoisie) or a majority's wait and see attitude (working class/communal farmers).

Instead we must strive for a people centered economic narrative that transcends ephemeral crises such as the recent/current one. And in order for that to happen the labour unions (even if they are struggling), organic social movements (urban and rural) and social democratic businesses must take center stage. Together.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blgospot.com)


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Notes on Blogging in Zimbabwe.


A brief presentation to Journalism Students, Media Studies Department, University of Zimbabwe,
Thursday 21 September 2018

 Perspective from an independent blogger.
By Takura Zhangazha*

First of all let me begin by thanking you for the invitation to share some ideas on blogging. Just by way of definition, blogging, before the age of the internet and social media (the two are not the same thing), is basically writing, speaking, drawing for a wider audience. Essentially it is fundamentally about freedom of expression as a democratic value both for the individual, a collective and/or the world.

It has a specific uniqueness in our contemporary times because writing, speaking or taking an image has been transformed by the advent of new technology in the form of not only the internet but also the mediums through which the latter is conveyed.  Be it via mobile telephony and its ancillary applications that we now refer to as social media. 

In effect therefore blogging is about freedom of expression and access to information on a super highway with multiple vehicles, passengers and even by-standers.

So to begin to talk about blogging in Zimbabwe’s context, one must understand one key point.  It is all about freedom of expression and access to information.  Not only as guaranteed by Zimbabwe’s constitutional bill of rights in Sections 61 and 62 but also as globally accepted democratic norms. 
If therefore one was to be asked the specific question, what is the history of blogging in Zimbabwe, I would argue that it is the history of how we have all along expressed ourselves.  The only difference now is the speed with which we receive and impart information.

This is a development that comparative to the rest of the African continent, we have not taken to with as much enthusiasm as say the Kenyans or South Africans.  The reasons are many but they can also be brought down to issues that relate to our lower numbers when it comes to accessing the internet or social media platforms due to not only cost but also a fear we have of expressing ourselves on various matters.  Not just the political but also the social and economic aspects of our everyday lives as Zimbabweans. 

What is however certain is that a lot of younger Zimbabweans, yourselves included as students, are taking up use of social media (also read as micro-blogging) to express their views. Especially if they manage to get access to a smart phone, laptop and of course cheaper access to mobile telephony or wireless internet connections. 

A question that emerges is that which relates to what is the content of what is Zimbabwean blogging about?  The apparent answer is that most of us express ourselves and actively seek to access information that relates to entertainment.  Not only in the strict sense of the term but also to while away idle time.
We also dabble in politics and political activism largely from a partisan perspective on whatsapp groups and share information on the same.  And this where in recent times we have had a number of young activists taking to social media to share their views on what they consider the state of affairs of the country.  

And they have not looked back since then to varying but limited political effect.  The good thing is that they have chosen to overcome their fears and learnt to express themselves.  The remaining impediment for the full enjoyment of their right to do so remains the state and its undemocratic criminalization of free expression especially on matters political. 

Blogging has also had the end effect of affecting mainstream media through introducing competition in the news industry. There are some young Zimbabweans who run what are essentially news blogs though some of them do so unethically through ‘stealing’ news from the mainstream media. 
But there are others that break news faster than mainstream media and in the process allow the public access to information at a faster speed.  And they also break news that otherwise would not have been covered by mainstream media and therefore contribute significantly to media diversity.

The risk that is attendant therein however has been the rise in fake news by those bloggers that would want to clickbait and make more money from the godfathers and mothers of social media such as Google and Facebook.

Let me now explain why I run a personal blog.  The main reason for my doing so is in order to share my own consciousness in the now and for posterity.  A consciousness that is not only derived from my own reading/education but also my experiences in our country as well as my understanding of the world.  It is a consciousness that I share in order to bring to the fore my own social democratic values as they relate to social and economic justice as well as freedom of expression and access to information.  It is a consciousness that also brings me here to the University of Zimbabwe, media department as a former student leader and to share it with you. 

It is however not a self-righteous consciousness that claims my own opinion to be correct. I try always to be factual and balanced in my views though sometimes, as a social democrat, I am firm on what I consider the way forward beyond neo-liberalism and/or state capitalism.  What I however hold most dear is the right of everyone of us, even if we differ, to express our opinions and to access information.  And to use the latter in the best democratic public interest.
Thank you cdes and all the best not only in your studies but also in your pursuit of a democratic national consciousness.

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

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Harare City Council’s Crisis of Legitimacy, False Entrepreneurship + Crony Capitalism.

By Takura Zhangazha*

The Harare City Council (HCC) has recently decided to embark on a a 'name and shame' advertorial campaign of its debtors in the local press. This is an additional course of action to the already deployed and very unpopular private debt collectors called 'Wellcash Debt Collectors' (ironies never cease).  In its rabid pursuit of those that owe it rates, HCC has chosen not to hide its new 'business oriented'/profit  approach to local government.   Never mind the fact that it is an elected council and yet not one of the Councillors  can remotely claim to be be high up in any objective opinion poll, either at ward, district or city level. 

But all of this did not begin with the current administration of the city (I will come back it later).  It was in the topsy-turvy days of the mid 2000s when central government appointed commissions to run the city.  And when all political parties displayed their great disdain and belittling of local government and those that would run for local level office.  

This was after the first executive Mayor of Harare, Solomon Tawengwa (1996-1998) was kicked out because of allegations of corruption.  The next elected executive mayor, in between a commission  of inquiry and a hotly disputed 2002 local government and presidential election, was to be Elias Mudzuri, the opposition’s first for the capital city.  Amid direct political interference from central government  (as directed by then Local government minister Chombo) and divisions within the opposition council, he too was to be fired.  Oddly enough he was replaced by his deputy Sekesai Makwavarara.  She was to go further and survive the disbandment of the entire council and serve as chair of a central government appointed  commission.

The harmonised election (again controversial) of 2008 ushered in a non-executive mayor in the form of respected businessman Muchadeyi Masunda.  He surprisingly lasted his entire tenure and as generally expected steered the HCC to a more businesslike approach to its affairs.   Though this did not dent the culture of  corruption (controversial land deals, high salaries). And he didn’t help matters by calling his fellow councilors ignorant and uneducated. 

After the 2013 harmonised elections the MDC-T gave the city Ben Manyenyeni as Harare’s new ceremonial mayor until present day. Taking a cue from his predecessor’s elitist and business like style, he too was quick to call councilors uneducated and pursue an elitist ‘entrepreneurial’ approach to city affairs.    All under the aegis of a still ever interfering central government this time as orchestrated by now Local Government minister, Savious Kasukuwere.

I have specifically mentioned these mayors, a commissioner and local government ministers to indicate one specific thing about the state of affairs at HCC.   This being that over the last 17 years the blame for the dysfunctional council which is falling more and more into the hands of what we now refer to as land barons is the direct result of a regrettable complicity between the ruling party (central government)  and the mainstream opposition MDC-T (local government). 

On its own this is a controversial point.  But it is clear that despite the ups and downs of previous years concerning the nature of the relationship between central government and its local version, there has been  a default/unwritten convergence around ‘milking’ the HCC’s public capital and wealth by converting it to private use. 

And coincidentally it began with the HCC’s vainglorious and in part pretensive pursuit of public private partnerships while at the same time deliberately dis-investing in specific social services such as education, health and public transport. 

In the process the city and its public property became open sesame for wannabe businesspeople connected to largely the ruling party and an influential few to the opposition to claim quid pro quo's.  Th most infamous of these was to be Phillip Chiyangwa  who reportedly in return for ‘helping council to pay salaries in mid 2000s got vast tracks of council land for personal ownership/use.  Not to be outdone were a number of opposition MDC-T Councillors who also took council/public property and converted it to their own private use. 

Since then HCC property has almost been for sale to the highest bidder or the most cunning gof councilors.  Land and other council properties are perpetually under the gaze of ‘entrepreneurs’ or the World Bank exhausted/exhausting neo-liberal language of PPPs which only serves to be taken advantage of by greedy central and local government politicians. That is why against better judgement the HCC is still keen on privatising water. 

And it is this haphazard background that informs the current leadership of the HCC, inclusive of its town clerk (s) and support staff, who according to media reports  are very well remunerated.

Because it is failing to be more democratic, conscientious and transparent in its leadership approach the HCC would be hard pressed to be re-elected as is. Let alone happily welcomed in many of the ghettos it is targeting with its default austerity measures.  

A development which may be attributed to its seeking vainglorious approval by ether central government  or political party and private sector leaders.  Hence sometimes the HCC has completely out of context calls for investments in ‘golf estates’. 

Or when  the HCC decides that it must pay debt collectors to pursue hard pressed residents in the poorest neighbourhoods of the city for council rates bills.  A practice that makes it a city that lacks democratic legitimacy and chooses instead to act like a private company.


And this is the point that must be driven home to those that would seek to be the next city councilors for not only Harare but any other elective local government authority.  City, town or rural district councils are not to be run like private corporations.  They are public bodies tasked with democratically delivering social services to the people of Zimbabwe.  The may borrow ideas from the corporate world but these they cannot turn into the reason for their own existence.  

Nor  must they function solely for monetary profit because the measure of their worth is never in how much money they squeeze out of hard pressed residents (who by the by have always been willing but in recent years unable to continually pay).  Instead it is to serve the public interest as true examples of the  meaning of democracy in the everyday lives of ordinary Zimbabweans. We must therefore work to prevent Harare  becoming a city of oligarchs, land barons and pre-paid politicians.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Mugabe + Private Business' New(ish) Interface: Collusion, Carrots and Elections

 *By Takura Zhangazha

After a hiatus of at least ten years, Zimbabwe’s government recently had what the state media dubbed an historic interface with business leaders/representatives.  From the follow up media coverage one of the most surprising revelations of this meeting was by President Mugabe.

He indirectly disclosed that he was an ardent supporter/follower of former British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies.  In fact he praised her, in his own words,   “There was great improvement, the economy of Britain started looking up, Margaret Thatcher had succeeded.  I am not sure if Reagan succeeded on the American front.”

Tellingly Mugabe said these words where he was making reference to state owned companies and what he considers their inefficiency and corruption.  He went on to call for some of them to be thrown into coffins and be buried ‘with the words rest in peace’. 

On the face of it this would be vintage Mugabe trying to get some sound bites out there.  To focus on that would however be to miss the point. 

Looking closer at his comments and the context in which he made them, Mugabe was probably making an offer that private capital/business cannot refuse.  Especially on the eve of an election year. 

In mentioning Thatcher and Reagan favourably in one sentence, Mugabe is essentially indicating to Zimbabwean private capital that he is game for the privatisation of state owned companies/enterprises.  As did the two leaders of the United Kingdom and the United States of America in the mid-80s with their rapid and historically unparalleled embrace of free market economics which we now refer to as neo-liberalism.  And if there were any doubters as to Mugabe's deep seated ideological grounding, look no further than Thatcherism and Reagonomics with a sprinkling of  some radical African nationalism.  

Not that the Zimbabwean government has come late into the neo-liberal game.  It did so with the Economic Structural Adjustment programme and has not looked back.  And this was implemented at the beginning of the end of Thatcher and Reagan’s controversial economic reign in their aforementioned respective countries. 

The only difference with then and now is that Mugabe had become more radical in his black nationalism, having forcibly repossessed vast tracts of land (dubbed the 3rd Chimurenga) from white farmers at the turn of the century. Both as an election survival strategy as well as a claim to fulfilling a key objective of the liberation struggle. 

Except that this appears not to have been done for the primary purpose of broad socio-economic justice and restitution but within the ambit of a now apparent high regard for neo-liberal economics. 
To explain this point further is to point out that for all the assumed radical nationalism that was the fast track land reform programme, the governments’ intention was never to make the same a revolutionary act. Either in distributive terms or on clear ideological grounding that systematically takes the country’s economy forward on behalf of the many.

With hindsight and on the basis of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zimasset) neo-liberal thrust around the ‘ease of doing business, Mugabe is now remaining true to capitalist and neo-liberal ideological form.  

However, the most interesting element of this state 'interface’ with business is probably its timing.  Factually it is toward the end of this government’s tenure and the political intention,beyond a sharing of the spoils with private capital, is to retain  power in 2018.

Reading between the lines the Mugabe government and ruling party are probably angling for the support of business in next year’s harmonised elections. Not because they never had it.  There have been a number of direct and indirect donations from private capital to Zanu Pf’s electoral campaigns.  The point may however be to preempt private capital’s support for the opposition and make it clear to the same that Zanu Pf  is the only game in town. 

And in order to make this evidently clear there is the subtle offer of state capital such as parastatals to, you guessed it,  private capital. But even beyond these parastatals there is other state capital in the form of land and/or infrastructure investment tenders.  Hence Mugabe’s exhortation that private capital, again in his own words, ‘ must not disentangle itself from Government’. 

In reality the latter statement essentially means that as long as private capital endears itself to the ruling establishment, the strongly hinted promise is that its profit interests are protected.  At least going forward and with elections in mind.

So the collusion between the state and private capital is likely to continue under a Zanu Pf government if it wins in 2018. A collusion that will see the ruling party retaining power and influence while private capital is left to pursue profit not only via the privatisation of state capital (in all its forms) but also expand its already considerable private wealth. Not for the many. But for the already rich few. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)