Friday, 25 November 2011

An ambiguous change of gear : Zimbabwe Budget 2012: .

An ambiguous change of gear : Zimbabwe Budget 2012: .
By Takura Zhangazha.
Zimbabwe’s proposed national budget for the year 2012 is now formally before the Parliament of Zimbabwe for approval. Its functional political premise, according to Finance Minister Biti, is the promotion of what the inclusive government calls a ‘democratic developmental state’ (DDS).  And this is the departure point for any analysis of the 2012 budget. The DDS is described in the Medium Term Plan (MTP) as that characterized by ten definitive points. These being, good governance, macro-economic stability, a diversified economy, maintenance of political stability, access to social services  accelerated rural development, equal opportunities for all, development and utilization of modern science and technology, a vibrant culture, and sustainable natural resource management.

To measure the 2012 budget against these objectives of the MTP and the intentions of the inclusive government’s vision of DDS would be well and good were it not akin to the biblical accusation of  ‘healer, heal thyself’.  This is because the national budget is not there to massage the rather grandiose plans of a sitting government. Its primary purpose and function is to make pragmatic the priority needs of the country, in real time and for people centered reasons.
The current budget proposal is the second annual one to be proposed and most likely implemented as is by the inclusive government. Its fundamental proclamation of seeking to work toward a DDS is not as obvious as it should be. 

In fact the question that arises immediately upon reading the priorities, is what does the government mean by this?  Is it similar to the years of popular economic programmes such as ‘gutsaruzhinji’ or ‘gore revanhu’ and further still where did the model of DDS emanate from? If it’s a borrowed concept, it would be most helpful for the government to inform the public from whence it was borrowed so we can all have a general idea as to how the national economy and our livelihoods will look like by 2013.
This will also assist citizens to understand the extent to which the inclusive government is working on the budget on the basis of collective responsibility, and not on the basis of political competition over an expected election.

Regardless, the 2012 budget is a different one from the previous one. This is in respect to its theme which is very similar to that espoused by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions in one of their recent publications, that of a transformative economy. To be specific, the theme of the 2012 budget is ‘Enhancing a democratic sate anchored by a growing, and transforming, socially just economy’. Unlike previous budgets under the inclusive government, this one gives the distinct impression of being left leaning, but is more firmly within the ambit of general recommendations that are to be found in nascent World Bank related documents as well as mainstream sustainable development knowledge systems.

Such themes are usually the stuff of ‘five year plus’ national  plans, and where the inclusive government has chosen this theme, it has not necessarily indicated how it can achieve these very broad objectives within 12 months. Moreover, this sort of narrative is more template than political reality driven. This is to say, while there was consultation on issues that members of the public would expect in a national budget, the final version suits more a pre-determined framework than the real expectations of the public.

It is the latter point that brings me to the pragmatic nature of the interventions that are proposed by the inclusive government. In the 2012 budget there are six very significant proposals to the everyday person. These are a proposed fund for jobs, a proposed fund for small to medium enterprises, another for vulnerable agricultural households, an intervention into the livelihoods of ‘rural women’ and a youth fund. The nature of the distribution of these funds is essentially left to the relevant line ministry. This in itself is a problem that must be mitigated directly and in relation to the contested party politics of the inclusive government.

It would have been preferable that there be a much more evident, independent, well thought out and transparent distribution agency for these monetary resources. As it is for example,  how the youth fund shall be distributed is a vague matter. The nature of the ‘creative projects/ideas is also unclear within the current framework. Unless it becomes clearer as to the standards and measurement of what sort of business/social/economic ideas the 2012 budget will fund, there is the risk of creating a seriously patron-client loan acquisition system between those in the inclusive government and their supporters. 

This is also increasingly evident with the first such fund under the aegis of the inclusive government, that of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) which at one time saw some members of parliament prioritizing the wrong matters (such as buying generators for police stations without Home Affairs sanction)  because they had no central guideline as to how to utilize the resources.

A further point of concern with the 2012 budget is that of the ambiguity of public-private partnerships within the context of the delivery of social welfare needs of the country. Where it comes to health, education (tertiary included) the government is pledging money in partnerships with either private companies/banks, development banks and the donor community as to the implementation of these social welfarist programmes. These are models that have been tried before and depending on the profitability of the endeavor generally end with the private component of the partnership pulling out, and doing so rather abruptly.  The same can be said for the international donors who are funding most components of our health services provision, who when the global recession affects their funding, also scale down their operations leaving our citizens at their most vulnerable (this is the current risk with the Global Fund on HIV/AIDS). In order to mitigate these issues, the state should have at least indicated the minimum standards that it must meet to ensure key achievables in the provision of health services, education for all and water provision, wherein the engagement of the private sector or the international community would be an added benefit.

On the matter of industrial production, land, manufacturing and trade, the 2012 budget, skirts dealing directly with the issue of indigenization and its impact on the same. This is probably because of the disagreement on the policy in the inclusive government, but it must be noted that the same policy is now a political and economic reality. It is therefore imperative that the 2012 budget takes this matter directly into account, after all, some of the public-private partnerships under this policy are the ones that, by default, are funding the very much competed for Community Development Trusts.

A penultimate point is that of the the budget making provision for democratic processes around national healing, the constitutional referendum and constitutional commissions but not factoring in the matter of elections. Essentially this points to three possibilities. Ther first being that perhaps the elections budget is factored into the allocation is factored into the allocation for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission or secondly  that the government does not want to fund its own country’s electoral processes and thirdly that there are no elections in 2012. It is the third point that is most likely to be true, mainly due to the political competition in the inclusive government and also due to a general disdain by government at not wanting to upset the apple cart that is the inclusive government.

There are many other areas of the budget that are of importance that this short analysis cannot undertake due to the limitation of space as well as the reader’s attention span. It is however imperative that the inclusive government comes up with a clear plan of implementation of the 2012 budget for all of its ministries and their related parastatals. Failure to do so will lead to a budget that may be high sounding on paper but completely vague and politicized in implementation. Simultaneously civil society organizations must also take into account the fact that where the budget makes provisions for social welfare and social service delivery, it is the methodology of implementation that is now most important.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

‘Beyond the Enclave’ and ZCTU’s revisited 'sustainable development' social contract for Zimbabwe.

‘Beyond the Enclave’ and ZCTU’s revisited 'sustainable development' social contract for Zimbabwe.
By Takura Zhangazha.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) recently  launched a new book, Beyond the Enclave, Toward a Pro-poor and Inclusive DevelopmentStrategy for Zimbabwe  The book, which has been well received by members of the affiliate trade unions, is an important and timely academic reminder of the broad socio-economic challenges that Zimbabweans are facing. 

It is also a book that must be read with patience and attention to detail because it outlines what can be considered fundamental flaws within our national economy, both in relation to immediate post-independence Zimbabwe, the Economic  Structural Adjusment Programme (ESAP) years and in what has been described as the crisis years in the 2000’s through to the ‘transitional years’  from 2009 to present day.  
It must also be noted that the study was also compiled with the assistance of Zimbabwe's labour think tank, Labour and Economic Development Research Institute (LEDRIZ) as well as the Alternatives to Neo-Liberalism in Southern Africa (ANSA), organisations that both have strong links with labour issues in the Southern African region.

The primary analysis of the book is that Zimbabwe's national economy faces the challenge of being characterized by a 'dual'  and an 'enclave' economy.  By this, the ZCTU argues that the ‘dual’ nature of our economy is to be found in its formal and informal components, wherein, there is a large unused labour force in the informal sector and a privileged few in the formal. Either way, as the research contends, such a framework leads to a continuation of poverty of the many and the perpetuation of privilege for the few. The ‘enclave’ economy, to attempt at simplification, is referred to as that which is more or less the gate-keeping of the benefits to be accrued from the national wealth by the few on the basis of not only the inherited colonial economy but also the liberalisation of the 1990s.

And it is because of such a skewed economy that the book calls for a re-think of various facets of the national development policy. It therefore itemizes land, trade, mining, agriculture, gender equality, social welfare, education, trade, the labour market and manufacturing amongst others, as key areas that are in need of urgent attention and reform if the country is to return to a path of sustainable development.
On the issue of land, the ZCTU calls for a comprehensive land policy in tandem with a land audit. There is mention, in part, that the land reform process, is now irreversible, as agreed to by the three political parties in the inclusive government. In the proposal for a new land policy, there is the proposal that the issue of land tenure be finalized in order for the administration of land to be less driven by politicians but by democratic and people driven local government structures.
In relation to social welfare, the book urges policy makers to be cognizant of the importance of investing in health, education, and general infrastructure that relates to public transport in order to diminish poverty as well as to create employment.

On trade, it urges that there be a much more cautious approach to foreign direct investment (FDI) where there is less of an open sesame approach and one that takes into account the lessons of the ESAP years. For the ZCTU, any trade related investment in the country must be tied to infrastructural development, commitment to good governance, as well as the importance of all stakeholders accepting that the state must intervene in the market to ensure that social welfare is not undermined in the name of 'free market' capitalism. Instead, the argument of the labour body is that it remains imperative that the state be allowed the right to intervene in the market in order to keep poverty at bay. It however recommends that any changes to the multiple currency regime in Zimbabwe should be long term policies and should be premised on either making Zimbabwe part of the Rand Monetary Area or pegging the new Zimbabwe dollar against gold reserves.

The study  also emaphasises the importance of prioritising gender and gender related issues in all national economic programmes with particular emphasis on protecting women from the scourge of endemic poverty as well as understanding the importance of reigning in the informal economy which affects women the most. The proposition given is that there should be a national gender policy, the engendering of all national policies, the stepping up of social welfare funding and the improvement of property ownership/tenure and access to resources by all women.
In relation to social welfare, the study insists on the expansion of social protection mechanisms to prevent people from sliding further into poverty. These would include a much more comprehensive social security cover scheme, a national health insurance framework, all to be funded by a partnership between government and donors.

Further still, the book also goes on to cover areas that include mining, financial services and  science and technology frameworks. All of which are alluded to in what can be described as the 'sustainable development' model, a-la-cart the new World Bank and IMF thinking around the same issues. 

As evidence of this new approach, the study emphasizes the need for Zimbabwe to learn from international experiences and knowledge production around economic reforms, liberalization as well as the role of the state in a national economy.

All of the arguments presented in the book are well argued even though they are primarily aimed at a new negotiated approach to economic reform in Zimbabwe. The approach of the ZCTU is now one that can be considered less radical, and more in sync with global thinking on what is sustainable development and economic  reform.
Most of the recommendations in the book appear to be Social Democratic in ideological intent but are cautious on making this point patently clear.  This is probably because the book is intended for audiences beyond the workers, and therefore essentially assuages any fears of further radicalism emerging from the national labour union.  It is a well thought out attempt at a new approach to the economic crisis that the country is facing. 

Occassionally it appears to borrow a lot from the World Bank, at other times it remains grounded in the historicity of our national economic crisis. It is however interesting to measure whether the inclusive government will act beyond having merely attended the launch of the book. And it also remains to be seen whether the ZCTU itself remains united or strong enough to carry out the necessary policy lobbying, advocacy to ensure that the set ore recommendations in each chapter of the book are at least seriously considered by the government as well as members of the public.

Friday, 18 November 2011

An urgent call for media freedom in Zimbabwe

An urgent call for media freedom in Zimbabwe.
By Takura Zhangazha.
The Zimbabwean government has an obligation to listen to the concerns of its citizens. In order for it to listen, the people of Zimbabwe must be allowed to speak. And this they do in various ways but the most important platform for speaking truth to power in Zimbabwe remains our media. 

Regrettably in the three years since the formation of the inclusive government, our media has remained under siege by the state via repressive legislation.  And it is this repressive legislation that has led to the generation of an unfortunate culture of impunity against media professionals, where it is a general habit by politicians and others to seek to have journalists arrested.  This is a point that government ministers, particularly the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity will invariably try to deny but it remains an unfortunate and dismaying truth. 

Since the formation of the inclusive government, there has been incremental change to our media landscape. Some elements of this change include the Zimbabwe Media Commission’s (ZMC) licensing a number of private print media players, most of whom have gone on to publish. There has however been no change to the undemocratic practice of criminalizing the media profession via a number of pieces of legislation that protect public officials, the police and national security services from media scrutiny. Further still,  there has been the maintenance of a political culture that wrongly views media freedom as a privilege and not a right. This latter point has been evidenced by the Minster of Media, information and Publicity, Mr. Webster Shamu who used the occasion of World Press Freedom Day in 2011 to wrongly insist that media freedom is a privilege. 

Most recently, there has been the harassment of the Standard Newspaper editor, Nevanji Madanhire and journalist Nqaba Matshazi by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on charges that are related to a raft of notorious pieces of legislation that permit our courts of law to consider  not only defamation but freedom of expression  as criminally punishable offenses. The majority of criminal defamation charges have been largely resorted to by persons of influence either by way of politics, business or religion. It is most unfortunate that those that are personally or politically aggrieved by the media may believe that the most effective port of call to seek redress is a police station as opposed to amicable resolution of the grievance in terms of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ) Media Code of Conduct. 

Resorting  to the ZRP in order to seek media redress is patently undemocratic and inimical to media freedom and freedom of expression, whichever way one looks at it.  It not only connotes detention for expressing one’s self but also carries with it the fear of what happens in holding cells to those that are deemed to be undermining government or government related authority. This is not to say journalists are above the law, but no one should be imprisoned or physically harassed for expressing an opinion or writing a story that some may consider unfair or inaccurate. There are mechanisms available for redress, such as the VMCZ or the civil courts in addressing issues related to grievances over media stories. 

Where our politicians have retained laws that criminalize freedom of expression, they have been the main actors in the continuation of a culture of arrests that the media profession is now confronted with.  The three parties in the inclusive government, against better advice, decided to amend and not repeal the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) in 2008. In doing so they did not remove the clauses that continue to target journalists for criminal charges if they write a ‘false’ story. The same political leaders also retained the Public Order and Security Act together with the notorious and now law of first resort for the police when charging journalists, the  Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act. The former has undemocratic clauses that punish anyone, and in particular the media, for undermining the authority of the President and the state security services.  

When members of the inclusive government  or parliament get arrested on charges stemming from these laws, they expect the media to make a lot of noise about the injustice of it all, yet when media professionals insist that these laws are causing the undemocratic harassment, arrest and detention of journalists, the politicians turn a blind eye and start talking about ‘necessary compromises’ or citing similar legislation from other jurisdictions.  In one instance, at a media stakeholders conference called for by the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity in Kariba in 2009, unconfirmed but reliable information indicates that the MDCs and Zanu Pf, together with media stakeholders present, discussed the clauses in POSA that criminalize insulting the President. The end result of that particular debate was that the law must include criminal charges against those that also insult the Prime Minister! 

This limited understanding of the importance of freedom of expression and media freedom by the inclusive government is not only disappointing but has dire consequences for the collective national quest to make our society a democratic one. It also essentially points to the necessity of a new urgency by all media stakeholders in fighting for media freedom and freedom of expression in Zimbabwe.  No single Zimbabwean must express gratitude to the government for licensing more newspapers because the government should not be doing so anyway. Neither must media stakeholders continue to be saddled with the burden of accepting incremental and minimal media reforms simply because the government has asked them to do so. Those that are in power or positions of influence consistently seek to posit that media freedom is a privilege that can be taken at any time, an assumption that is not only wrong but one that violates Section 20 of Zimbabwe’s Constitution.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Presentation to the Protest Art International Festival (PAIF),Civil Society, Protest Arts and Culture: Past, Present and Future in Africa and Beyond’

Civil Society, Protest Arts and Culture: Past, Present and Future in Africa and Beyond’
Sub-Title: The New and Urgent Necessity of a Creative, relevant and organic form of Protest Art in Africa and Beyond.
Presentation to the Protest Art International Festival (PAIF), Monomotapa Crowne Plaza, Harare, Zimbabwe, October 27 2011.

By Takura Zhangazha, Executive Director,
Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.
Website address; email:; facebook username; TakuraZ; personal email:;

The Organisers of the 2011 Protest Art International Festival,
The Board Chairperson of Savanna Trust,
Representatives of the Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture,
Representatives from the National Arts Council,
Artists Groups and Artists Organisations,
Journalists and Media Organisations,
Civil Society Representatives,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Artistes, Comrades and Friends,
Let me begin by expressing my profound gratitude to the organizers of this important festival for inviting me to give a presentation despite the fact that I am not a Minister of Government or a representative of a state body established either by an Act of Parliament or a statutory instrument. As the programme suggests, I am the Executive Director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), which is a media self regulatory body that has been in existence since 2007. Its primary function is to promote the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and access to information through implementing and promoting media self regulation. This is done through the VMCZ Media Code of Conduct as well as a Media Complaints Committee.  Since it is the general trend amongst contemporary artistes to be internet savvy, details of our work as well as our constitution can be found on our website

In my correspondence with the organizers of PAIF, I was informed that this year’s theme is ‘Civil Society, Protest  Arts and Culture, Past Present and Future in Africa and Beyond’  I will try to address the same theme in my presentation, with a deliberate focus on art and artists in relation to cultural hegemony, democratization and struggles for identity as well as social and economic justice.

The nature of art is such that it is generally an enacted, written, drawn and even lyrically composed re-representation of society and societal issues in a manner that is creative, relevant and organic. The definition of creativity, like that of beauty generally tends to be in the eye of the beholder, that of relevance is straightforward though at times it can be politicized, and that of being organic is perhaps the most important. This is because the term organic, generally derived from a great Italian thinker, Antonio Gramsci, refers to the sum total of the individual or social activist who is firmly rooted in democratic  ideological grounding and understands the counter-hegemonic imperative of his or her work. And in this definition, I have added another fairly complex and often misunderstood term, that of hegemony, which refers to,  if one were to use Gramsci’s poignant analysis, the maintenance of cultural domination of one group over another through systematic cultural production of the state and its societal meaning while inducing continued subservience of the dominated group. Counter hegemony would therefore refer to a resistance(and in Gramsci's instance, 'socialist' ) cultural struggle against singular dominance of society by a group that is not there to serve the democratic interests of the entirety of the society. 

Because the name of this festival is Protest Arts International Festival, its very name suggests a ‘struggle’ against cultural and other forms of undemocratic dominance. Based on my interactions with the organizers, I understand that this struggle is a struggle that is rooted in the pursuit of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and social and economic justice. It is also safe to surmise that this festival, is therefore a meeting of minds (from civil society, the arts, Africa and Beyond) that are conscious of the challenges of a world in which a contrary hegemonic agendas to a democratic one exists, and a world in which we must consistently seek to challenge these contrary dictatorial hegemonic agendas via important artistic forums and festivals such as this one.  

It is therefore important that from the start we delineate why exactly it is we, or anyone else for that matter, are engaged in protest art. This is because protest, cannot be protest for its own sake. It must be grounded in meaning that reflects the aspirations, realities and contexts of people’s everyday lives. And when I refer to context I am no limiting my argument to the political contexts alone but the broad economic, social, gender and youth spectrum of all of our respective societies.

Furthermore, protest art eventually ends up influencing political processes in so far it is reflective of the concerns of a population, and in the process influences policy makers, public opinion as well as collective national, continental or even, in the aftermath of even the Occupy Wall Street Movements and the demonstrations by our African colleagues in Tunisia and Eygpt, global futures. 

In this sense therefore, we must be clear in our minds that in seeking to undertake protest art in its various forms (music, painting, drama, media products, the internet) we must be representing a creative, relevant and organic art form in order to influence the arrival of our societies to full democracies that are people centered and social welfarist. 

This is particularly so in Africa, where the protest art form is not necessarily a new development, but one that when it has emerged, tends to be hijacked by elitist political processes. I argue this way in the sense that the evolution of protest art is as old as the emergence of colonialism on our continent,  via all of the tales told by our forebears’ at the rural fire hearth through to our urbanization processes where via our burial societies, dancing clubs, choirs, drama groups we learnt new methods of how to use art as a means of resistance. This was in terms of either literal, subtle and abstract protest art.

This protest art  was not however purely African, because as you might be aware, there is no longer, if there ever was, any such thing as purely African art. Due to the same processes of colonialism and the expansion of globalization,  African art forms have been borrowed from as much as they have also borrowed from others across the world. They have negotiated new forms of representation, interacted with new forms of technology, for example, they have tried to catch up with Hollywood, Bollywood and dominant genres of music such as the digitalized versions of Rhythms and Blues.  This mutation of the African Art form was and is as welcome as it is inevitable , but all the same, we now have to negotiate for the retention of components that are uniquely African from an informed perspective. 

This negotiation must begin from understanding the three tenets I have outlined in my introduction, creativity, relevance and organic linkages. 

To be specific, by creativity I mean that the art form must not subject itself to self censorship either by way of fear of controversial ideas, politics or falling out of favour with business or with donors. This creativity is that which resides and defines the talent of the artist, that makes her/him particularly unique in the manner of their work. Sometimes this creativity comes with its own specific ideological and historical baggage, but all the same it must reflect the true fulcrum expression of the artists creative intentions. I can give examples of the creative artists that I have come across either by way of reading, watching of listening to their works but  it is adequate that we speak as generally and without passing contested judgment on the works of artistes here present who have their own role models.
By relevance, please take it to mean that the protest artist must serve to motivate public knowledge and engagement on any of their particular artistic concerns and in the broader societal pursuit of freedom of expression and access to information is in its widest possible democratic definition. This is to say, whereas relevance is determined by particularly topical issues in any given society, for example and in Zimbabwe’s case the policy of indigenization of the economy, the artist must not seek relevance that is inimical to the enjoyment of freedom of expression by deliberately becoming a part of what can potentially be a propaganda apparatus intended to stifle further public debate and knowledge on any particular societal matter or issue.
Whereas art and being an artist should be recognized as a profession and indeed be duly remunerated at commercial rates and by professional standards, it is imperative that the artistes understand that one of the fundamental predication of their work is the public enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and access to information. Once this is understood and a voluntary agreement by artists and for artists on codes of conduct are established then can there be latitude for the artist to participate in assisting particular organizations, political or otherwise  carry forward their messages for commercial payment. If we do not recognize the principle that our work in protest art is based on the need to maximize the public enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression as well as that of access to information, then we are not relevant or creative. Without such a premise, the artist is irrelevant to the societal good, because they begin to serve more the needs of she who pays the piper and who therefore also calls the tune.

The third and final point, is that of the organic artist and in part organic art. This necessary characteristic which must be viewed in Gramscian terms is that which reflects a necessary consciousness of the unfairness of the current global media and artistic hegemony that seeks to tell more one side of the story than a story based on commitment to the truth, recognition of diversity  or to the principle of freedom of expression as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To be particular and relevant, I must emphasize that it is increasingly Africa that is the victim of this hegemonic intention, wherein, the very welcome expansion of information communication technologies may easily be a tool to re-invent the African in the image of the other as opposed to sharing a collective understanding of our equal global humanity.   

The organic protest artist must be conscious of this reality and actively seek to create a counter-hegemony that is characterized  by a commitment to universal democratic principle, a understanding of art as one of the last vestiges of common identity of many African peoples, an understanding of the utility of the continually expanding ICTs in promoting African art in all of its forms and the realization that the art, artist are agents of progressive,  democratic, social and economic justice, cultural diversity and broad societal transformation. Without these people-centered values, art would cease to either be creative, relevant or organic.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Comrades and Friends, Thank you for this time you have afforded me.