Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Morgan Tsvangirai, At the Deep End: A narrative of an historical arrival?

Morgan Tsvangirai, At the Deep End: A narrative of an historical arrival?
By Takura Zhangazha.*

Morgan Tsvangirai, At the Deep End is a very brave and somewhat surprising book. It is brave in the sense that the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, who is also the president of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) decided to give a very personal account of his life and experience in Zimbabwean politics. This is a rare phenomenon in Zimbabwe given the fact that seldom do incumbent leaders in government write memoirs, let alone while they are still in office. The last prominent Zimbabwean leader to do so was Joshua Nkomo whose memoirs, ‘The Story of My Life’ were published while he was President of Zimbabwe African Peoples Union in the aftermath of our national independence.
Preview of Tsvangirai book: At the Deep End The surprise components of the book are to be found in the revelations that the Prime Minister makes in reference to his party’s history and his interactions with other leaders. He also surprisingly refers to the ‘no vote’ in the constitutional referendum as a mistake ‘with the benefit of hindsight’  a point that is controversial on its own.   Some of these revelations have already been published locally and on the internet in the print and electronic media.  
In reading Mr. Tsvangirai’s account of his political experiences there is an evident sense of arrival in the tone and language of the book. The narration of his life history interspersed with historical data is essentially one that seems to reflect the author’s intention to tell the story of a journey travelled against many odds, but with a successful outcome.  In part, the success of the journey is metaphorically hinted to as being ‘the mountain has finally accepted that it needs to have a bath in a tiny pond down the river’[1].  This is made with reference to Mugabe’s capitulation and agreement to talk with Tsvangirai after the disputed June 2008 presidential election run-off.
Furthermore, the sense of arrival and achievement is augmented by the writer’s general confession to being ordinary in relation to what other heads of states and government and parties would normally be like. This is illustrated vividly in the sections of the book where Mr. Tsvangirai describes his mistrust and despair at members of his party’s national executive who were proposing together with the Zimbabwe African National Union, Patriotic Front (Zanu Pf) negotiators that there be a degree requirement for presidential aspirants. This together with his character judgment of now Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara  where he writes, ‘ the narrow technical traits our universities prize as higher learning can easily block our access to wisdom, deform our morals and deplete our intuitive gifts  to a point where common sense ceases to be common’[2]. In this it is fairly apparent that the author is aware of the judgment call that has been made on his levels of education, and he feels somewhat vindicated that for all the education of his colleagues in the inclusive government, he seems to be grounded in a better understanding of politics.
In the book it is also apparent that the author has some disdain for some non-governmental organizations as well as those he refers to as ‘desk-top revolutionaries’ who were being impatient with the ‘struggle’. He also accuses some civil society organizations of being motivated more by seeking to secure donor funding than they were to the struggle. It’s a harsh judgement call on non-state actors, and perhaps some of them will respond, given the fact that they too were party to the National Working Peoples Convention (NWPC) that he vividly describes.
Moreover, in relation to civil society organizations, Mr. Tsvangirai makes the bold, and in my view thoroughly wrong assertion that 'the no vote’ in the constitutional referendum of 14 February 2000 was a ‘strategic mistake’.  While his opinion echoes that of his rival Professor Welshman Ncube, it is an opinion that is more conjectural than it is based on a full understanding of the importance of the ‘no vote’ to his own party’s interests. The assumption given in the book is that had the draft constitution been passed at the referendum, President Mugabe’s succession would have been easier is not necessarily true for speculation. The ‘no vote’ being the first national defeat for the incumbent ZANU PF in a national plebiscite had deeper political meaning than Mugabe’s succession. It was the coming into a new consciousness of the people of Zimbabwe and was therefore a necessary historical event and outcome.
In relation to the media, the book praises in part the arrival of the Daily News and other media for helping spread access to information and Mr. Tsvangirai also expresses his sympathy for the harsh treatment meted out on the paper. He expresses his commitment, in part, to a free media, but this may not be as apparent in the aftermath of the formation of the inclusive government in which he is the Prime Minister. Media freedom remains a  challenge that he must evidently address in contemporary Zimbabwe, particularly by pushing for the repeal of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
The most telling narrative however is that of ‘victory’ over his political rivals as it were. Where he gives accounts of the leadership styles of other leaders he has interacted or worked with, he seeks to emerge as the eventual winner, regardless of what they may have thought of his leadership style or education. And this is a key point of the book. It is basically to say, that regardless of the odds put out against him, the personal grief, the political challenges set by ZANU PF, SADC and some of his own members, he, Morgan Tsvangirai overcame them, and is not going anywhere soon.

 *Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity If you would like to use this article in any other publication or forum please use the entire version. Where you edit it please acknowledge that you found it on takurazhangazha.blogspot.com  .

[1] Page 499
[2] Page 467

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Re-thinking and re-debating the Zimbabwean Diaspora

Re-thinking and re-debating the Zimbabwean Diaspora.
By Takura Zhangazha.

There are many Zimbabweans that are no longer resident in the country for many reasons. It is now generally agreed that it was mainly the political and economic crisis of the late 1990s through to present day that caused their phenomenal exodus into the Southern African region, Europe, North America, the Australian subcontinent, North America and the Middle East . The overall effect of this emigration in Zimbabwe has been fundamentally the weakening of the state’s popular legitimacy via the process of its own citizens seeking better lives in foreign countries, particularly with regards to better employment opportunities,  social service provision and the enjoyment of human rights.
The effect of this emigration on Zimbabwean domestic society, as documented by international non-governmental organizations, the media and academics, has been equally phenomenal. And because it has been almost fifteen years since the massive exodus of Zimbabweans began, it is necessary for us to place into perspective what the Diaspora means for  those that constitute it and to those that are still in Zimbabwe.
To begin with, the Diaspora is a Zimbabwean political, social  and economic  reality no matter how many times the government seeks to deny it the right to vote, dual citizenship  or easy access to passport renewals and applications. Further still, it is an established fact that the Diaspora helped the country through its worst post independence economic crises via remittances to relatives and friends at home.  Even the government tried to take advantage of these remittances by setting up schemes such as the now somewhat forgotten ‘Homelink  and allowing a thriving parallel money market in the mid 2000s and onwards.
In this regard, the Zimbabweans citizens who were and have been in the Diaspora over the last fifteen or so years were part of the solution to the country’s economic crisis of that time, even though they may not view it that way. They were also new standard bearers of societal ambition and living the potentially full or ‘good life’ as it were due to the fact that it became a common Zimbabwean standard for its young and middle aged citizens to aspire to leave their country of birth. This equivalent of the ‘bright-lights’ syndrome affected all of us in the early 2000s and at some point every young adult Zimbabwean considered the option of following relatives in other parts of the world. 
For others still, other peoples countries proved too  difficult to live or find work in permanently but they retained opportunities such as cross border trading and the buying and selling of manufactured products (clothes, car parts, basic commodities) to the extent that they added a new dimension to ‘Diaspora’ that also now included it being considered a status of being ‘in-between’ countries. 
But what primarily concerns this article is the issue of the more or less ‘permanent’ Diaspora. I call it ‘permanent ‘because most of the colleagues and fellow citizens I have talked to have stated that they have no particular intention to come back to Zimbabwe on a permanent basis. They will occasionally come to visit, attend the odd wedding or funeral, but after all is said and done, will never come back to call Zimbabwe home in the manner they did before they left. This is because  a number have since either acquired permanent resident status or citizenship in their host countries or are too committed to trying to get either to rule out the possibility of a permanent and voluntary return to Zimbabwe.  
Taking into account the above cited issues, the citizens that are still resident in Zimbabwe together with the government need to seriously begin to look at the bigger picture of how to re-intergrate the Diaspora into our society.  This would entail understanding our fellow citizens that are resident in other countries holistically and not just for their ability to be able to cast a ‘vote’ in favour of one or the other political party. We must begin to consider the necessity of starting a new ‘big debate’ on this very important national matter if we are to retain some semblance of loyalty from those that have left our borders permanently of the new generations of Zimbabweans that have ties with us, even though they have been born or have  grown up abroad.
A few pointers as to how this debate can be begun is by zeroing in on the policies of our ministries of Foreign affairs, Home Affairs, Finance and that of Labour and Social Welfare, not only about dual citizenship,  but also about initiating a formal and broad consultative process about the concerns of the Diaspora vis-à-vis their country of birth. This includes a review of the economic investment mechanisms that the previous government had put in place, the establishment of a retirement/pension plan for the Diaspora as well as family intergration and responsibility social welfare unit to ensure that families left behind are not exposed to the vagaries of poverty and societal abuse. And these consultations must be underpinned by the truth that Zimbabwe values all of its citizens wherever they are, and is actively seeking to invite them back. Primarily because, it is indeed their country too. 

Thursday, 13 October 2011

2012 Zimbabwe Budget: Toward A New Social Democratic and Social Welfarist Deal for Zimbabwe.

THEME: A New Social Democratic and Social Welfarist Deal for Zimbabwe.
SUBMITTED TO: The Ministry of Finance, Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe
Cc: The Prime Minister’s Office, The Speaker of Parliament’s  Office, The Public Accounts Portfolio Committee, Civil Society.

Contact Details: 348 Herbert Chitepo Harare, Zimbabwe,
A. Introduction.
(i)   This is our considered input for consideration by the Ministry of Finance as it prepares the projected national budget for the year 2012.  It is important at the onset to make it apparent that in presenting this alternative peoples budget framework it be made apparent that the Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) submissions are not made out of particular economic or financial expertise but commitment to our country and commitment to democratic people centered government. And in  so doing, we wish to make it clearly understood that these submissions are premised on our intention to see the government prioritize the establishment of a Social Democratic ideological underpinning to the state, and a Social Welfare oriented national economy.
(ii) We are also persuaded that any Zimbabwean annual national budget should fundamentally serve the citizens of this country. This makes such a policy document one that must have the approval of the people of Zimbabwe, must talk to their collective national and individual aspirations, address matters related to the livelihoods of contemporary and future generations of the country and above all, seek to promote democratic, people centered and accountable government within a Social Democratic and Social Welfare framework.
(iii)  Furthermore, in the three years that have lapsed since the formation of the inclusive government, it is publicly acknowledged and recognized that the inclusive government, through the Ministry of Finance has, to its credit, sought to ensure that there is public consultation over and around the formulation of key performance priorities of the national budget. It is such an approach to the national budget that has prompted the Committee of the Peoples Charter (CPC) to make its input to the Ministry of Finance on this important national issue. The CPC, in the interest of public transparency has also copied these submissions to all the relevant portfolio committees of the Parliament of Zimbabwe and civil society organizations with the intention of appraising fellow Zimbabweans on our views on matters related to the 2012 national budget.
B. Founding Premise of our Submissions.
(i)  The CPC  is formed from the processes that led to the establishment of the Zimbabwe People’s Charter that was penned by civil society organizations in February 2008 at the Peoples Convention held in Harare, Zimbabwe. Over 3500 representatives of civil society organizations attended this meeting with the express intention of bringing to the attention of national political leaders, in particular those that had been involved in the SADC mediated negotiations in the run-up to the March 2008 elections, the priorities that any Zimbabwean government should consider henceforth.  The character of the output of this convention was Social Democratic as well as keenly focused on the deliverance of a state that is a Social Welfare state. This is as outlined in the 7 key tenets of the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter which cover the political environment, the national economy and social welfare, the constitutional reform process, the youth, women and gender, elections and our national value system. [1]
(ii) With the passage of three years since the formation of the inclusive government we are firmly aware that the ideals enunciated in the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter have not been met for reasons that include political contestations in the inclusive government; the overwhelming of the initial signatory civil society organizations by the politics of the inclusive government either by way of cooptation into government programmes or through  the continued lack of enjoyment of their and fellow citizens fundamental human rights to assemble or express themselves. 
(iii) Regardless of these developments over the last three years, the CPC has remained committed to the Peoples Charter in so far as it provides a Zimbabwean Social Democratic and Social Welfarist standard of measurement of the performance of the inclusive government or any other Zimbabwean government of the past or of the future.
(iv) This standard, as outlined in the Charter is premised on the history of our struggle for liberation and our post independence struggles  for full democratization.  Both eras of struggle hold and still hold it dear that all human beings are created equal, have the right to life and a life of dignity,  must be accorded the full enjoyment of political and economic freedoms in any bill of rights as well as universal suffrage and social and economic justice .
C. The Attendant Principles and Ten National Guiding Points and Actions That Should Inform Our National Budget.
(i) We realize that the inclusive government is contested policy terrain given the different ideological backgrounds of the three political parties that comprise it.  This has meant that the national budget has been characterized by politicized contestations as to how to reform and revitalize the national economy. These contestations have also been characterized by an unfortunate political party grandstanding at laying claim to the incremental improvements that have been evident in the supply of goods and services in the country.
(ii) In our view, it is therefore imperative that the inclusive government considers re-thinking the national budget in a different light. While it is accepted that the member parties of the inclusive government are strange bedfellows and the workings of government are generally informed by the politics of party positioning, the inclusive government is failing to demonstrate the requisite ‘common ground’ that led to its formation. And it is this ‘common ground’ with particular regards to the section of the preamble to the GPA that states, “committing ourselves to putting our people and our country first by arresting the fall in living standards and reversing the decline of our economy[2] that the CPC wishes to draw to the attention of the Ministry of Finance and the entirety of the inclusive government.
 It is also in the following Section D of our submissions that we emphasize that the inclusive government  must of historical necessity take into account the imperative that the national budget must be Social Democratic and Social Welfarist in intent, purpose and practice.

D. Defining ‘Common Ground’ In The National Economy.
(i) It is generally held as important that national budgets should seek to address in a holistic manner, the livelihoods and aspirations of all citizens in a given country. This includes the responsibility of the government to provide health, shelter, education, general welfare, employment, opportunity to be inventive  and public transport for all,  while at the same time providing for the necessary expansion of the national economy to not only meet these needs but also compete regionally and globally to be a developed and democratic people centered state.
(ii) Because of our country’s history of the liberation war and the continuing post independence struggle for full democratization, both in relation to the full realization of envisioned political freedoms and the realization of a people-centered national economy, we hold it imperative that the inclusive government actively seek national ‘common  ground’ on the national economy.  This is because where we have analysed the politics of the liberation struggle and those of the struggle for full democratization of the state as led by the labour unions in the 1990s, there are threads that are common to both struggle epochs. The values of the liberation war movements remain in tandem with those of the post independence struggles for full democratization with particular emphasis on all players having initially sought differing versions of a social democratic ideological thrust to the state, upon independence or upon attainment of full democratization.
(iii) Evidence to the latter point resides in the public knowledge that the main protagonists in the inclusive government have generally referred to important national matters such as land reform or indigenization as issues that they agree to in principle but differ in the area of the methodology of implementation. It is our considered view that the necessary compromise and in any event, the historically determined common ground is that of having a national budget presented within the context of social democratic ideals.
(iv) This would preferably be termed and themed,   A New Social Democratic and Social Welfare Deal for Zimbabwe and would be characterized by the following 10 (ten) national principles:
1.     A re-affirmation of the liberation struggle and post independence struggles for full democratization ideals based on the aspirations enunciated in these same struggles which were and are primarily aimed at achieving universal suffrage, democracy, political and economic freedoms, social welfare and gender equality for all Zimbabweans.
2.     A commitment to upholding the democratic truth that in the formulation of a national budget, a sitting government of the day must ensure that there is full declaration of the country’s assets, its actual revenue and its potential revenue together with the sources of the same.
3.     A continued commitment to seeking Zimbabwean solutions to Zimbabwean problems within the context of a globalised World. This would take into account the fact that it remains Zimbabwe’s national prerogative to negotiate with the World in what is democratically held to be in the country and citizen’s best social democratic interests.
4.     A commitment to the re-establishment and improvement of a social welfare state. That is, a state that understands and implements the provision of health; education for all;  public transport;  basic nutrition for children according to UNICEF standards; access to water;  employment creation; social welfare grants for the unemployed; specific social welfare grants for  women;   and natural or human made disaster support for all its citizens.
5.     A commitment to the full enjoyment of universally accepted and acknowledged human rights;  the rule of law and the separation of powers that are expected in a democratic state.
6.     An understanding that it is obligatory upon the state to ensure equitable just and accountable re-distribution of the land for the benefit of the majority rural and urban poor in order to guarantee their food security. This would entail that the state establish an independent Land Commission
7.     A commitment to the democratic imperative that all national wealth acquired from our natural minerals must be harnessed primarily to provide resource support for the social welfare needs of the country’s citizens i.e education, health, public transport, access to water and basic nutrition. In tandem with this commitment that the government must commit itself to public disclosure as to the amount of revenue it has acquired and will acquire from all of our national mineral wealth for the full knowledge of the public.
8.     A re-commitment and pledge to gender equality in all spheres of Zimbabwean society  and the active promotion of women’s rights as well as the protection of the rights of young females. This includes giving preferential treatment to young females in the arenas of health, education (both basic and tertiary), and in employment. It also includes ensuring a special social welfare grant be given to all women headed households and disadvantaged women in general.
9.     A re-commitment and pledge to ensure that all young people of Zimbabwe have access to free and quality education up to tertiary level, access to health, access to employment and access to social welfare grants where they are economically disadvantaged.
10.                        A re-commitment to solidarity with the peoples in the Zimbabwean Diaspora, the peoples of Southern Africa and the African continent premised on accepting the ideals and principles of democratic governance grounded in a firm understanding of our shared struggle histories and our continued struggles for the assertion of African identity, unity and solidarity with the rest of the world. This understanding will also reaffirm our commitment to the United Nations Charter as well as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights with its attendant Conventions.

E. The Pragmatic Urgency of the 2012 Budget Minus Political Expediency.
(i) We are aware of the urgency of the 2012 budget in relation to our ongoing national economic crises wherein our social service provision has remained low, unemployment levels remain high and our industries are yet to regain the momentum that was lost in the last 15 years.
(ii) We are also cognizant of the political decisions that will inform the allocation of resources for a national Constitutional Referendum and a General Election.
(iii) It is however our considered view that the national budget should not be beholden to these two processes without addressing the nine principles enunciated above.
(iv) To ensure that this does not happen we strongly recommend a clear demarcation in the national budget to matters related to the functional components of the national economy from the political ones that have been pre-determined by the GPA. This is to say, where the government has budgeted for the political processes of referendum and elections, the political implementation matrix unlike in the last two financial years, should not evidently cause unnecessary stagnation in the provision of the social welfare needs of the people of Zimbabwe.
(v) It is therefore our considered proposal that the Ministry of Finance makes the following distinction in the national budget:
1.     The ‘Common Ground’ Functional Economic Provisions: these budgetary provisions would take into account what we have highlighted as the ‘common ground’ that the budget must address. These provisions essentially point to matters that should not be directly beholden to any decision by the three principals in the inclusive government post their agreement to these same said ‘common ground’  principles. For emphasis, these provisions should also include budgetary allocations for the enjoyment of our human rights and political freedoms as well as the rule of law and be firmly grounded in Social democratic and Social Welfarist ideals.
2.     The Contingent GPA Provisions: These provisions will be set aside to ensure that political contestations via democratic elections are provided for without undermining the national economic ‘common ground’. This would mean where and when the three principals to the GPA decide to call for elections, these political processes should not stop the functioning of the state in relation to its ability to provide essential services as occurred in the contestations between 2000 and 2008.
3.     It’s Our Country too. Such provisions will make it clear to the people of Zimbabwe that whereas the politics of our national leaders remains important in relation to who is in charge of our government, in the event that they disagree as they have done in the last two and a half years, our country should not be permitted to collapse on that basis alone. It is the prerogative and duty of all citizens to remain committed to the Zimbabwean state, hold it to account on broader and non partisan values that assert our collective humanity and where possible, avoid the proverbial circumstance of ‘when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’.
F. The Proposed Priorities for the 2012 Budget.
(i) For emphasis and with due consideration of the economic circumstances that the country is facing we humbly propose that the inclusive government prioritizes the following in its 2012 Budget:
(ii) ‘Common Ground Provisions’
1.     Restoration of full functionality and professionalism at all major referral government and local government hospitals in Zimbabwe inclusive of free treatment and medication for the majority poor; free and guaranteed access to electricity for all of these hospitals, fair remuneration for all medical personnel and the re-launch of a health for all nationwide awareness campaign.
2.     Provision for free primary school education for all, subsidization of all government secondary school budgets, restoration of the student loan schemes for tertiary education in collaboration with university and college administrations and the establishment of a national education policy that is much more sensitive to the aspirations of Zimbabwe’s Generation Next.
3.     Provision for Parliament that relate more to its oversight role than it does to the remuneration of Members of Parliament without being over-reliant on donor funding. This will serve to guarantee its independence.
4.     Provision for a fully functional Judiciary, with permission for greater decentralization of its functions for the full implementation of the rule of law and guarantees to its independence.
5.     Provision for the land reform programmes hitherto, with access to agricultural inputs and infrastructural  developments remaining a priority; the land audit becoming a reality; the establishment and full functioning of an independent land commission as well as compensation for those who unjustly lost their livelihoods during the various phases of the land reform programmes after independence.
6.     Provision for the revival of a electricity, road/ rail  and telecommunications systems in order to improve public transport and communications. This would entail an revised incorporation of the National Railways of Zimbabwe and its national rail network with particular emphasis on urban passenger services as well as urban-rural passenger services; a revitalization of our fixed telephone networks to intergrate them with our mobile telephony for greater communication between citizens and the urgent refurbishment of outstanding power stations.
7.     Provisions for the utilization of revenue from the entirety of the mining industry into the national health system to purchase modern and up to date medical equipment,  drugs as well as input directly into the revival of our national emergency response systems such as the Fire Brigade, Civil Protection Unit, and ambulance services.
8.     Provision for the expansion of the ability of Zimbabweans to receive and impart information through the establishment of a separate Media Development and Diversity Fund to assist in the establishment of independent private and community radio stations, boost transmission capacities of the same and assist the print media in their viability challenges.
9.     Provision for a holistic review of all state enterprises within the context of having their functions fulfill the New Social Democratic and Social Welfarist Deal for Zimbabwe.
10.                        Provisions for a ‘Bridging the Gap’ Re-intergration and Linkage  Fund for the Diaspora with the express aim of ensuring that we communicate and integrate the Diaspora into our national debate and our national planning processes.
11.                        Provisions for the revival of our industrial sectors in relation to basic commodity production, mining, agriculture, tourism, industrial and mechanized heavy duty production, information communications technologies, all premised on the understanding that their operations are predicated on a Social Democratic and Social Welfarist societal vision and reality.
12.                        Provisions for the on-going global efforts to tackle the global problem of Climate Change which will include a much more comprehensive funding programme for the Metrological Department, the re-invigoration of our public awareness campaigns on clean and eco-friendly environmental usage, that also is cognizant of the dangers of seeking Foreign Direct investment in bio-fuels that damage the environment.
(iii) ‘GPA Provisions’
1.     Provisions for the finalization of the constitutional  reform process with acknowledgement that it remains the right of Zimbabweans to reject or accept the draft constitution being written  by COPAC. Further still, to provide necessary resources for knowledge dissemination on the end result of the COPAC constitution as well as potential re-engagement with the Zimbabwean public on the aftermath of the COPAC process regardless of its outcome.
2.     Provision for the continued reform and full functioning of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the attendant enabling  legislation with the express aim of fully democratizing electoral processes in Zimbabwe.
3.     Provision for a national elections referendum, i.e to hold a national referendum on whether or not the country is ready for elections given the pace and progress of reform.
4.     Provision for national elections in the aftermath of a national referendum to determine the nation’s satisfaction with the relevant electoral reforms.
5.     Provisions for transitional justice processes in the aftermath of a national election.
G. Conclusion
The significance of the national budget cannot be more apparent in our country, wherein, it represents a binding statement of intent by the inclusive government to continue to seek solutions to our national political, economic and social crises. Our submissions may, in some instances be deemed idealistic or lacking in pragmatism. Where we are accused of being idealistic we humbly submit that it is from our ideas that we become pragmatic just as it is from believing in God, that we learn to bend on our knees in prayer. Our submissions do not cover all aspects of the national budget, neither do they undertake technical analyses of the National Fiscus. They do however take into account, the realities that are faced by millions of Zimbabweans (at home and abroad) and by so doing, offer a perspective that is intended to inform the policy intentions of the inclusive government for the year 2012. As explained in the first sections of this document, the basis of our submission is the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter. This is not to say that the latter is a perfect document, but it demonstrates a necessary understanding of the importance of accountable and democratic government particularly so, in the context of our country’s historical, contemporary and future challenges.

[1] Please see attached, the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter.
[2] Agreement on the Formation of An Inclusive Government, Preamble

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Don’t Rush to ‘Unbundle’ the National Railways of Zimbabwe.

Don’t Rush to ‘Unbundle’ the National Railways of Zimbabwe.
By Takura Zhangazha.

There is a lot of media and political attention over state parastatals and their performance of late. It is fair to say that this sort of attention being given to state enterprises is important and necessary in order for them to be reformed or at least scrutinized for their failures or their successes. The most media and politically prone state enterprise has been our beleaguered national airline, Air Zimbabwe with various sections of our society calling for its privatization. Close on the heels of the national airline is the National Railways of Zimbabwe with calls for its privatization (read ‘unbundling’) reaching a new crescendo in the light of a strike by its workers in the last two weeks.
There are distinct problems with what can be considered as a ‘knee-jerk’ response by way of calling for the ‘unbundling’ of the NRZ as a panacea to its functional problems. While we are all entitled to various opinions on the advantages or disadvantages of privatization, our country’s disastrous experience with the ‘privatization’ phenomenon under the Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes(ESAP)must be instructive in how we find a solution to the shortcomings of the NRZ.

I have specifically chosen to discuss the NRZ because it is a very important parastatal of national strategic interest. Its network links our major cities and it is a key mode of transport for citizens as well as commodities. This is regardless of how it remains critically underutilized at the present moment.  It is unfortunate that it may become an easy target for privatization because no one really talks earnestly about it and its importance to our economy and our public transport system.
On first glance it is evident that things are not well with the NRZ and they have not been so for a very long time. The reasons cited as to why such a state of affairs exist have varied from poor management, the economic crisis that has straddled Zimbabwe for the last 15 or so years and where one asks World Bank economists, an intrusive government. And it is the former that tends to be blamed primarily on the premise that it does not have the capacity or innovation to run the railway company in tandem with the needs of the ‘market’.

Such an argument is classic neo-liberal economics, an economics which  is now increasingly discredited across the world due to the global financial crisis. This is however not to absolve the government of any blame at the state of affairs at the NRZ. And before we all rush to the technical details of the failure by government to run the parastatal, it is important to initially examine the national transport and communications policy of the government either via the Ministry of Transport and Communications or even the Ministry of Parastatals and State Enterprises. 
I know there has been debate around such a policy but to this day it is unknown (if it exists) to members of the public and probably Parliament. So before we take up the easy argument of selling one of our country’s most strategic assets, we must ask central government for an explanation and our approval of the national transport policy together with how the potential commercialization or privatization of the NRZ fits into it.
Even where the government explains its national transport policy, there are other options besides privatization of one component or other of the NRZ. There is the option of  commercialization of the entity which will be predicated on a national understanding of why we need to make the parastatal work in the national interest. 

This national interest would relate to its ability to expand its public transportation services to include the sadly abandoned urban transportation network and the still underutilized Masvingo-Gweru railway line. This would also entail internal reform of the NRZ to ensure accountable management as well as efficiency of the state company. It is agreed that this would need a lot of investment and resources that the government has argued it does not have. But this is a matter of priorities and it should be a paramount priority for the NRZ to work again, initially with direct state funding, and eventually on the basis of its ability generate and manage its revenues in the provision of a critical national service. 
It is evidently a difficult endeavour to find solutions to the myriad of problems that our national economy and our parastatals are facing, particularly for our inclusive government. This however should not be seen as easy permission for us or government ministers to find solutions in templates that have a history of making things worse. To seek to privatise the NRZ at this juncture is either to be incorrectly over confident in the World Bank’s understanding of ‘liberal economies’ and ‘economic reform’  or it is to be lacking in conscientious commitment to working to find sustainable and people centered solutions to our economic challenges. 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Remembering Samora Machel this October

This October should be Zimbabwe’s Samora Machel Month.
By Takura Zhangazha.

We all cried on October 19, 1986. I was nine, my brother was eleven and my sisters were seven and three years old.  It had just been announced that Samora Moises Machel, President of the Republic of Mozambique, had died in an aeroplane crash in an area close to the border between his country and then apartheid South Africa.  Too young to be knowledgeable on the extent of how Zimbabwe grieved, I experienced the impact of the death of Samora via my family and the black and white Phillips television set. The Mutare based ‘Run Family’ musical group brilliantly composed two songs that forever remind us of Machel (one of the songs has since been self appropriated by Zanu Pf when it commemorates its heroes). Even though I was too young to be politically conscious, I have since been told by my elder brothers, sisters and friends that that year on October 19 and 20, the whole of Zimbabwe wept. They wept for Samora and they wept with Mozambique. Our then Prime Minister in what I remember to be a visibly emotive speech promised that Zimbabwe would ‘never-ever allow the MNR (Renamo) to take over Mozambique’.
In the years that have passed since, Samora Machel is revered by those that knew him and vilified by those who argue that his socialist leadership of Mozambique was a failure. In Southern Africa, it is the South African government that regularly demonstrates commitment to the memory of Machel.  Presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Zuma (when he was still vice president) have given moving speeches at the cite of the plane crash in Mbuzini, South Africa. Zimbabwe’s government has done no such thing to remember Machel even though our liberation history with Mozambique is more direct. This in itself is not to take away the significance of the solidarity that was demonstrated by the people and government of Zimbabwe during the civil war in Mozambique which also affected parts of our country. The big issue is how our government (inclusive or otherwise) has opted for amnesia as regards the political legend that is Samora Machel and the historical triumph that is the solidarity between our two countries. This article is therefore meant to be a reminder to those in government and those that care for our collective history of the necessity of remembrance.
Whereas some of my peers have expressed misgivings about seeking to remember Machel in a country that is still struggling for full democracy, I have insisted on doing so for three primary reasons. The first reason being that we, as citizens of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, must avoid falling into the trap that academics have called, ‘organised forgetting’. Governments have a nasty tendency of wanting to determine what is to be remembered as ‘history’ by citizens that they preside over. In Zimbabwe’s case our collective history is beholden to what our past and current government want us to recall. Be this in relation to the liberation struggle or to post independence struggles for full democratization of our societies. They even tell us who to call a hero and who not to call a hero.
The second reason why we must remember Samora Machel is because of the fact that in him we had a great and committed African amongst us. And such individuals are rare. Other countries/regions will celebrate their Bolivars (Latin America), Lincolns (North America), Maos (South East Asia), Churchills (Europe) based on what they perceive to be the historic contributions of these individuals. Machel’s leadership role in the Frontline States together with his insistence that Mozambique cannot be free until Zimbabwe and South Africa are free is the stuff of legends. Machel was a liberator without an equal in Southern Africa. And he deserves specific recognition beyond having his name evoked by our ageing nationalists. In fact, if I was in government I would insist on making October 19 an officially recognized Samora Machel Day.
The third and final reason why it is necessary to remember Machel is that of posterity and the passing on of knowledge from one generation to a successor one. The particular solidarity between the people of Zimbabwe and Mozambique is something not only to be celebrated but to be told to those that have come and will come after us. This is in order that they continue with a solidarity that is organic and grounded in positive historical experience. Where we fail to do this, we will be witness  the horrific and ahistorical xenophoibic attacks that are similar to those we have seen in South Africa over the last two years.
To conclude, it is imperative that we, from the Southern African region, and in particular from Zimbabwe and Mozambique, continue with the solidarity of yesterday. It must become a solidarity that is grounded in our shared histories of the struggle for freedom, democracy and justice. And this October, it begins with us recognizing and remembering Samora Moises Machel of Mozambique, Southern Africa, Africa and of the World.