Friday, 27 December 2013

Zimbabwe’s Year 2014, ‘Now you see it, Now you don’t’: Unless..

By Takura Zhangazha*

Collectively celebrating the advent of a new year is risky business in Zimbabwe. Each New Year has signified more an event than the beginning of any particularly optimistic time based process. Unless of course we are dealing with the personal such as the year one tied the knot, changed a job or managed to bring another Zimbabwean into being.

But where we are dealing with broader societal questions, very limited little new or improved circumstances come in attendance with the advent of a new year.  So optimism is usually in popularly short supply in relation to the political economy. In this sphere, time tends to happen to us. We do not happen to time.

Mainly because we have had one ruling party with the same leader for the last 33 years and we have therefore learnt not to expect anything spectacularly better with each passing year. This is perhaps due to the possible reality that a majority of our country’s citizens are historically aware of the tendencies of the ruling party vis-à-vis its desire to hold on to political power at all costs.

Even where it is self evidently  incapable of bringing a necessary political optimism to the passage of time.

Or alternatively even where there is an assumedly strong opposition political party which, as it has turned out in 2013, is incapable of fully embracing its historical and generational  democratic task.

Furthermore where our private sector  has over the years enamoured itself to short term investments that are based primarily on proximity to the state, corruption, cronyism and consumerism without innovation or social democratic responsibility.

So technically, 2014 is most likely to be merely another numerical year in the lived collective realities of the people of Zimbabwe. One in which  political and economic affairs will be exercised under the aegis of undemocratic state capitalism and opposition politics without organic nor people centered character.

It would however be unfair to end it here. Since optimism is a function of all progressive intellectualism or even sometimes politics, it can turn out differently in at least four respects.

The first being that of the ability of the ruling Zanu Pf party to engage in serious processes that lead to leadership transiton and therefore the possibility of political change in the country. Given the fact that Zanu Pf celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014 and has an elective congress there is no better opportunity for it demonstrate its understanding, even if long delayed, of the fact that no one leader or leadership can rule a country for as long as has been the case.

Such tendencies are retrogressive and inimical to human progress anywhere in the world. For 2014 to be different, Zanu Pf has to select a new leadership or at least make it self evident that it is in the process of doing so pending its elective congress. Where it fails to do so, any pessimism over and about the new year will unfortunately be justified.

Secondly, for 2014 to be a progressive year, the opposition political parties must demonstrate an internal and external commitment to democratic processes. Paying lip service to democracy is no longer enough as was evidenced by the shocking (even though controversial) defeat of the MDCs at the hands of Zanu Pf after four years ensconced in the comfort of the now defunct inclusive government.

 The opposition has to disabuse itself of messianic tendencies of its individual leaders and function more on the principle of democratic collective responsibility than pseudo personality cults that are reminiscent more of blind fanaticism without democratic principles, values and belief.  Party congresses must be held, even if they are extraordinary ones and they must be held on the grounds of ideals, principles and democratic action. Where the opposition fails to do so, again, 2014 remains a bleak political collective experience of time for Zimbabweans.

Thirdly, capital or the private sector as it is commonly referred to, must do its level best to negotiate more on the ability it has to contribute not only corporate taxes but more on the creation of technological  innovation for the national economic advancement.

This would include none abstract arguments about ‘beneficiation’ but direct participation on knowledge transfer through business for the benefit of the economy and in order to stem our unemployment levels.

Capital’s extractive tendencies have to be placed within the framework of social democracy and not state capitalism as is currently being propositioned by government’s Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Social and Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).

Public-Private partnerships should not be a synonym for the privatization of basic services such as water, and Capital needs to be more honest about this if it is to stem eventual targeting by a desperate government where and when its profit motives are called into question.

Fourthly and finally, 2014, will be an honest year if civil society organizations sang less for their supper and more on behalf of the principles, values and people that they claim to represent.

From the war veterans, through to the human rights related organizations, there needs to be a new attitude toward democratic honesty that resides less in the boardrooms of resources to those that are democratically organic without false incrementalism or dictatorial sophistry. Even where it seems against the donor or political party grain.

As it is, historical precedent indicates that we have no tangible reason to be collectively optimistic as a country about the incoming New Year.  Save for what may personally occur to us, broadly spoken for, unless we demonstrate commitment toward occurring on Time, and not Time occurring on us, 2014 will be a case of ‘Now you see it, now you don’t.’
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Friday, 20 December 2013

In Pursuit of Democratically Converged Political Leaders.

By Takura Zhangazha*

For a long time now since independence in 1980 our national political leaderships have been judged either by their educational qualifications or their individual contribution to long political struggles.  What has tended to hold more sway has been measuring the capacity of someone to lead on the basis of how educated they are or at least their ability to speak the Queens language where and when representing the masses.
Going back to the liberation struggle, it was some of those that were most articulate in the English language, or those that had gone through the experience of working in the fast industrializing South African settler economy or passing through the historic Fort Hare University that came back to lead the struggle for liberation.

Upon acquiring our independence,  those that were degreed  in the Diaspora of the North (Europe, North America and Eastern Europe) were tasked with leading the technicalities of the political process that was to be referred to politically as ‘scientific socialism’  and economically as ‘transition’(conservatively so).

It is a tradition that did not generally shift through to the years that led to the establishment of a mainstream opposition culture in Zimbabwe.  With the occasional sprinkling of learned war veterans, the opposition came to be led by those that were deemed ‘intelligent’. Especially if they had not only a Masters but PhD degree or either higher education qualifications or if they were prominent but informed trade  and student unionists. 

 It is this latter combination, like that of the 1960s, that brought into being a new oppositional consciousness in the people of Zimbabwe as to the possibility of political or even revolutionary change.  It is a combination that however decided to run away with the people’s democratic project and forgot the Gramscian phrase and philosophy that ‘every man or woman is an intellectual’.

In both cases however the combination of the learned with unionists and in the case of national liberation, with the military, was to increasingly shift from the organic ideals, values,  principles and actions related thereto.  What replaced the combination of the popular with the learned was rank opportunism, cronyism and elitist economic policies. All of these  based on the politics of the belly and with limited little remaining to be referred to as virtuous politics exercised on the highest plain of social and economic justice for all.

Furthermore it became a combination that was delinked in context from contemporary Zimbabwean reality.  This by way of the fact that, unlike in the early years of either the liberation struggle or the early years of the emergence of strong post independence opposition,  it came to represent more a culture of entitlement.
Moreso  by those that either began or feel they personally own specific political processes.

 Be it either Robert Mugabe (a person with more than a handful of degrees who has not once demonstrated an understanding of Franz Fanon)  or Morgan Tsvangirai ( a man once claimed as the indisputable opposition political brand aka ‘no Morgan, no opposition’)

What however obtains as a fundamental question for the future of our politics is whether or not they will demonstrate our ability to have ideals, belief, and principle that is combined with meaningful action towards a democratic Zimbabwe.  

It is imperative that we return to this framework in understanding the revolutionary tasks of political leadership. At whatever level our country requires’ democratically converged’ political leaders. That is, leaders who do not seek power for its sake but more on the basis of democratic ideals, principles, belief and action for the social democratic good of all our people.

What has tragically become self evident over the last 60 years is that our struggles for social and economic justice cannot be achieved  without any of the four ingredients cited above. 

Where we quote Karl Marx, ‘philosophers have only interpreted the World, the point however is to change it’, it is our generational task to ensure that the link between our ideals and our actions are organically interlinked. Both as a lesson to ourselves as it is a lesson for those that will come after us.

The primary post independence mistakes of Zanu Pf and the MDCs has been that of opportunistic expediency. Or alternatively treating our politics as though it were an ‘entertainment event ‘ based occurrence merely on the number of fans that turn up, applaud and leave.

Even where we consider electoral matters concerning our politics, these two major parties no longer view elections as mechanisms of democracy. They wrongly think of them as processes of entitlement to state and personal wealth.  Hence they will either give out bags of rice or emerge at funerals, all in aide of the politics of the elite occasionally remembering the masses.

What has become apparent but however not peculiar to Zimbabwe is that we are in need of a politics that is based on ideals, principles, values and democratic action. A politics that would be as passionate and committed as that which won us our national independence but with organic, democratic and revolutionary results.  This with the full knowledge that populism, like nationalism, in these times, is no longer enough in order to move our country toward people centered social democracy.
*Takura writes here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Book Review: Liberation Movements in Power. Party and State in Southern Africa

By Takura Zhangazha*

Professor Roger Southall’s new book, Liberation Movements in Southern Africa, Party and State in Southern Africa with a specific focus on the African National Congress (ANC), the Zimbabwe African National Union and the South Western African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) is both brave and has the potential for controversy.  All however based on succinct analysis of the subject matter(s).

The book  is an audacious read in the sense that the author brings to the fore the common characteristics of the three aforementioned national liberation movements (NLMs) and tentatively seeks to demonstrate how they are in hegemonic  decline, though at varying levels.

Because the question of NLMs in Southern Africa long duree in power is a longstanding one both in relation to academia and oppositional politics (sometimes read as liberalism), this particular book is a worthy read.
It adds to significantly to the broader debate around the impact of liberation struggle politics on post independence southern African states.

The initial common ground for analyzing these three specific movements of Southern Africa is given as the fact that they all evolved within the context of settler colonial capitalism or settler colonies which remained adamant in the face of the British and other empires giving way to majority black rule in other African colonies.

 In claiming so, the book also outlines the impact of this same said settler capitalism on the evolution of gradual industrialization and urbanization of components of the three countries as a key factor in the initial political characteristics of the NLMs.

 For many a Pan Africanist, this is would be a controversial political point were it not in large part, academically and historically more valid than deniable.

Our NLMs are in part, products of the political economies of their time of genesis. Hence the book outlines the fact that most of the initial and even current leaders of the NLMs analysed either met in the initial unions established by migrant workers or at South African universities such as Fort Hare.

 Furthermore Southall outlines the commonality of genesis seen in similarities over and about quarrels concerning what would come to be effected as the next phase of the struggle, namely, embarking on guerrilla warfare to attain independence.

There is great detail in the elaboration of the historical similarities of the NLMs in the three interlinked struggles (from tribalism, factionalism, assassinations, potential secessions and electoral manipulation). But perhaps what is more significant is the explanation of how, in the aftermath of becoming ruling parties, the NLMs continued, even if by default, to share common characteristics in the direction of decline.  

For example at national independence all three liberation movements shared a common characteristic of seeking what can be referred to as ‘racial bargains’ of embracing free market economics and accommodation with both colonial and global capital despite their radical Marxist rhetoric .

They have also all sought to further consolidate power with the expiry of transitional constitutional arrangements with most consolidating it to become almost undefeatable at what they have generally claimed to be democratic elections.

There is particular emphasis on Zanu Pf’s transgressions  which are presented as both a warning of how bad it can all become or alternatively potentially as a warning that the other two (ANC and SWAPO) must avoid that same route. 

Mention is made of the nature and quality of the opposition to the NLMs but this is done more in sympathy though correctly blaming the former’s weakness on the latter’s repressive or even hegemonic tendencies.
And this is the key departure point for the explanation of the decline of the NLMs. 

It is a succinct argument concerning the decline in their hegemonic character and how it is increasingly merely the politicization of the masses without the social and economic transformation. The NLMs have moved from Marxist to socialist through to Leninist National Democratic Revolution (NDR) rhetoric as cover for their evident continued embrace of neo-liberal socio-economic policies and political elite ‘primitive accumulation’.

Even in Zimbabwe’s case, as the author writes, where there have been claims of success with the land reform programme, the corporatist and neo-imperial nature of the state’s interaction with Chinese capital remains in tandem with a continued departure from the initial aspirations of liberation struggles. 

The rhetoric of indigenization and economic empowerment, to the author, is of limited import without the requisite skills, technology or foreign direct investment for implementation. All of which, in similar fashion to the immediate post independence periods, are not readily available in all of the three countries. What appears to be more readily available is an increasing culture of elite cronyism and corruption around the redistribution of resources that are indigenised.  

In the final analysis, Southall offers a way out, but not necessarily for the NLMs. He does so broadly, but again with sympathy to those forces he may consider more democratic. He advises that the model of the democratic developmental state that is currently being utilized by the ANC is corporatist and flawed. Simultaneously he also argues that the social democratic model is not suitable given its apparent embed status  with neo-liberalism in Europe. 

What might be better, according to Southall, is a social democratic developmental state. With all its attendant risks. Whatever model is utilized what is evident for the author is that NLMs are however in hegemonic decline, specifically as liberation struggle value driven popular organizations.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela: An African Icon, in African Time, On African Terms.

By Takura Zhangazha*

In mourning former South African President Nelson Mandela, everyone will want to claim him for their own. And that is a good thing. 

Some will want to claim him as part confessionals about their own countries’ complicity in aiding apartheid. Others as participants in domestic, continental and global struggles that brought down the last bastion of settler colonialism in Africa. Others still in their own failures and fervent desire to be judged as better players in the struggles against colonialism and imperialism.

Like everyone else, I will join the queue. I will however claim Nelson Mandela as an African icon before being held in awe by his global reach. An African icon in the sense that before we were enamored to Mandela as a global brand (as they say in marketing) he was an African leader faced with decisions as tough as those that faced other African icons of his and later times.  He was never a leader to be deemed the ‘acceptable type’. Otherwise they would not have had him and others imprisoned on the infamous Robben Island for so many years.

Neither was he one to betray either his cause or his comrades in the fight against apartheid. He was not a romantic who viewed people from either a religious or a messianic standpoint.  He was a leader who was cognizant of his placement in history, even before the age of satellite television, internet and mass marketing. The ‘feel good’ portrayals of this African icon, came long after he had decided that the struggle for his people’s freedom shall be his life.

Like all icons of Africa’s broader struggle against colonialism of the post World War II period, Mandela and his colleagues (Sisulu, Tambo, Govan Mbeki, Slovo, among others)  knew that even though inevitable, liberation would require great personal sacrifice.

I do not for once think that Mandela envisaged himself becoming the iconic figure that would adorn murals, cups and t-shirts, Che Guevara (whom he greatly admired) style by the 1970s. His primary task was, together with others and in a multi-racial fashion the pursuit of the goals of the Freedom Charter.

That he was freed at a time the Cold War was ending while the global media and its attendant capitalism were reinventing perception and reality does not take away the seriousness of the historical task that was African  liberation and independence. He could have been Cabral or Nkrumah or Nyerere and the task would still have been an enormous one. Even while shaking the hands of his oppressors.

I am however aware that there are fellow Africans who will attempt to mistakenly  view Mandela from the perspective of not having achieved the goals of the Freedom Charter as though he wrote it alone. Or those that will argue that he made mistakes in relation to the CODESA talks that led to majority black government in South Africa. Apart from theirs being an opinion that we must respect, we would have to point out that this is a mistaken and ahistorical view of the man.

Mandela and even Oliver Tambo’s revolutionary and generational task was to lead the ANC and South Africa to attain independence as a first stage of what is still referred to as the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).  And because there is no politics without stages, they were correct to negotiate with the white Nationalists for an inclusive and ceasefire constitution. 

That initial task of the revolution done, it was and remains up to subsequent cadres of the NDR to continue working towards the fulfillment of the rest of the aspirations of the anti apartheid struggle. In Nkrumahist parlance Mandela sought first the political kingdom in anticipation that everything else will follow. It has been slow for the South Africans, but it is a process that remains democratic and is most definitely underway.

There was never going to be a complete departure from the past in South Africa just as there has never been a complete departure from the same in Zimbabwe. We all still grapple with the vagaries of colonialism and imperialism. We however are not beholden to them.  Nationalist sentiment alone is not enough either for South Africa or for Zimbabwe.  Mandela, like Nyerere and Cabral, taught us that we must navigate our ideals with what is most pragmatic while ensuring that future generations do not forget that their task is to take our revolutions to higher stages and within generational contexts.

And as a member of subsequent generations of Africans, I first encountered the political (not branded) Nelson Mandela via a collection of his speeches and writings edited by South African revolutionary, Ruth First in my early years of high school. It was a booklet published by Zimbabwe Publishing House tilted, No Easy Walk to Freedom.

Through reading and re-reading it, I learnt, without knowing a lot else about the ANC or his personal life, that somewhere in Africa was still a man of democratic principle and full commitment to the liberation of his people. 

When he became President of South Africa, many thought that he had become an 'acceptable' African leader either  on the basis of either the constitution or deciding to pass on the baton stick after only his first term. He however remained true to his ideological and historical origins. Even when he met with Fidel Castro and invited the latter to a state visit ( to much international superpower chagrin). 

Or where he hugged Muammar Ghadaffi of Libya and thanked him for Libya’s support for the anti-apartheid struggle. Then one knew that yes Mandela was affable to the global eye, sometimes viewed as a saint, but whatever else we might think of him as, like many others, he was an African icon, in African terms and in African time. Before he was anything else that we all wish him to be.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Gono's Departure from the Reserve Bank No Simple 'Goodbye to All That'

By Takura Zhangazha

The resignation of the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has been a rather muted affair. Not for lack of media coverage. But more for lack of analysis of the complex and controversial nature of Mr. Gono’s tenure in office as governor of our central bank.  No doubt, he has been a larger than life character in our country’s political economy.

Whether one begins by remembering his meteoric rise to influence in our country’s banking sector as the head of the Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe (CBZ) or alternatively his ascendancy to the Chairpersonship of the University of Zimbabwe Council.

The latter position was his prelude to the post of topmost financial advisor to the central government as Reserve Bank Governor. An appointment that saw him begin to have a profound and controversial influence on our national economy.

And it is a correct thing to analyse his track record, primarily as Governor of the Reserve Bank  in order to understand the influence he has had on Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes.

Whatever assumptions that can be made of his individual character, his departure from the central bank has been rather muted or alternatively under-analysed.

The truth be told, our former Reserve Bank governor had a profound impact on Zimbabwe’s national political economy. Whether one recalls the acronyms such as Foliwars, or even the Bearer Cheques, his elaborate quarterly monetary policy announcements and his somewhat forgotten book, ‘Zimbabwe’s Casino Economy’ he was never intended to go out with a whimper.

Hence it has been reported in some sections of the main stream media that he has been earmarked to replace the late national hero, Kumbirai Kangai, as a proportional representation Senator in Manicaland province. 
In writing about the outgoing governor, I am aware that there will be a lot of eyebrows raised on the veracity of my personal opinions. But what cannot be skirted is the fact that he has been an important political and economic player in Zimbabwe’s  last decade. Therefore  I would not be remiss to analyse the full import of his legacy.

I first knew him in his capacity as Chairperson of the University of Zimbabwe Council which he administered with the not so able assistance of an Australian expatriate veterinarian Professor, Graham Hill. It was under his tutelage that the 50% fees policy was implemented by central government and by default paving the way for the now existent privatization of the University of Zimbabwe  (which has eventually and by default, again, become a model for all new universities to be established by government)

What was evident during that time was that he was viewed as a rising star, together with the likes of Enock Kamushinda who also sat on the UZ Council. They were viewed as the sort of entrepreneurs the country required because they were apparently world-wise, savvy and probably knew how to do good by government. Especially if they could talk big economics and business related ideas that government was desperate for at a time of austerity and Economic Structural Adjustment  in the mid to late 1990s.  

They were a competitive lot these youngish entrepreneurs, and were very ambitious in  a free market economy way. Unfortunately in Zimbabwe at that time (probably in present day) ambition and ideas could only be recognized by proximity to the state, hence the early flirtations with state institutions.

As they say, the rest can be considered history but for now, Dr Gono’s primary legacy as Reserve Bank Governor  will always remain that of having presided over the iconic fall in value of the Zimbabwe dollar. Even if he was supposed to be ‘Mr.  Fix It’. 

This, together with the  infamous bearer cheques that signaled the certain demise of the local currency and aided a parallel market in foreign currency exchange. It also led to the expansion of informal employment via foreign currency exchange dealers who relied on a network of  mafia style local money barons rumored to be closely linked to the Reserve Bank. These informal traders were to live fairly affluent lives for a while until the introduction of the multi-currency policy by central government.

The central bank also began to act more Prime Ministerial through dealing with matters beyond its ideal fiscal mandate.  Hence it rolled out what in all our local languages has come to mean slang for ‘plenty of goods for free’. This was the national programme titled Bacossi (Basic Commodity Supply Side Interventions). The jury is still out on the impact of the latteron  people’s lives during those bleak economic years, but the reality of the matter is that it, like with other RBZ projects, created a complex system of patronage accompanied by rumours of cronyism in how it was being implemented countrywide.

With the advent of the inclusive government in 2009,  the governor was to become both an ‘outstanding issue’ for the opposition MDC-T and a less influential policy maker.  He however has outlasted the inclusive government as well as those that passionately sought his ouster from office since 2009. (It has been rumoured that he has since become good friends with most of those in the opposition that sought his ouster.)
His influence on Zimbabwean society was however limited largely to the monetary policy and only as a bit part player focused largely on the banking sector as well as assisting in preventing the latter’s immediate indigenization.

In the final analysis, the former Governor of the Reserve Bank served at the pleasure of President Mugabe (as he would often say) and his mistakes or achievements cannot be his alone. It was broad government economic policy that failed the people of Zimbabwe. The outgoing governor however played a key part in the architecture of the economic crisis. Whether history absolves him is not for me to judge.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Thursday, 28 November 2013

2013: The Defining Year of Zimbabwe?: Going Forward (Toward A New National Consciousness)

A presentation to the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) Public Seminar,
Thursday 28 November 2013, Ambassador Hotel, Harare

By Takura Zhangazha

Comrade Chairman,

As always, I must express my gratitude at being invited to share some thoughts on the political and socio-economic events of  2013 and their potential impact going into next year.

I am sure there are many reasons why MPOI  phrased this subject in the manner that they did and with particular emphasis on going forward. It assumes the necessity of a new departure point following the tumultuous political events of the last 11 months. I am persuaded that a such a search for a departure point to our national politics is indeed necessary. Not only in terms of narrating the events of a year coming to an end, but also understanding the historical import of the political economy that informed the same said events.

I must however explain that structurally, 2013 did not usher in any revolution or revolutionary moment. It did not change the economy nor improve the livelihoods of the people. Neither party that contested in the elections promised fundamental changes to our society. What instead really occurred was the reduction of those at the top by way of party presence, with an increase in central governments representatives, particularly in Parliament. 

Having said that , the year 2013 saw three significant political developments that for the purposes of debate must be mentioned, even if they appear obvious. The first significant development was the finalization of a patently undemocratic constitutional reform process through what was essentially a ‘force it down the people’s throats’ political party referendum. 

The second, which ironically was linked to the first was the end of tenure of the inclusive government through the holding of harmonised elections. These elections were to be held in the most astounding of controversial circumstances. Some of which included other political parties not having access to updated voters rolls, a cumbersome voter registration process, arrests of human rights activists, continued economic sanctions, a financially hamstrung government and allegations of intimidation or vote rigging.

In the final analysis however, these elections were held in terms of the now defunct Global Political Agreement, a controversial ruling by the newly established Constitutional Court that they be held by July 31 and tacit SADC endorsement. 

The third major political development were the election results themselves which gave a massive and widely unexpected victory to Zanu Pf both in Parliament as well as with the Presidency. Whatever the arguments or electoral court petitions that are still outstanding, it is no longer a rumour that Zanu Pf shall be in unfettered charge of government for the next five years.

But thankfully the future does not belong to Zanu Pf. It belongs to all of us as Zimbabweans.
In turning to the second and more important part of the debate, on what our country must prioritise going forward, I will make three propositions.

The first and perhaps most important one, with a little borrowing from Franz Fanon, is that we must work toward a new national consciousness that transcends the pitfalls of our contempraory political elite. We must approach 2014 with a firmer understanding and belief in our country that avoids the abstract politics of labeling each other without delivering on the needs of the people of Zimbabwe.  This just does not apply to politics and political aparties alone, but also to those in private business, public enterprises, civil society and ordinary citizens. 

We must attempt to nip the self centered culture of our way of doing things, a development that reached alarming levels during the tenure of the inclusive government where ministers amassed stupendous riches or wanted to live as though they owned the country. It is a new national consciousness that must be social democratic in intent and effect.

One in which we will not try to utilize our academic knowledge, political prowess or religious affinity in the service of the oppression of the people. This latter point has been the bane of 2013, wherein our politicians and influential people have been feeding off the state without an evident intention to lift the people out of the morass of man-made poverty that  they find themselves in today.  Hence we see a continuation even with one party in government of economic policies that center more on making the state or government function as though it were a private enterprise and not one intended to serve the people.

The second proposition that I must make is with regards to the political economy. Going forward it is imperative that all Zimbabweans refuse to have their country privatized by the very same people who lead them.  There is a deliberate attempt by our current four month old government to pursue what is referred to as state capitalism through its economic blueprint, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset). In this blueprint, the state intends to essentially centrally manage the economy while handing out private-public partnerships.

Hence for example we will consistently be berated by issues to do with tollgates, privatization of water, electricity, health and education and be told that it is progress. It has been proven time and again that such models only serve to entrench economic and political repression as opposed to social democratic government. Especially if one were to use one of its most recent success models, China. Or where it continues to fail in Egypt where even after all the revolutions, the elite and militarized leadership of that country remain not only entrenched but also have the temerity to topple a democratically elected president and call it progress.

The third and final proposition I wish to make as regards the future is that we must no longer approach our politics with the sole intention of being entertained or to entertain others. Politics, for our country must be a virtue in order for us to make democratic progress. And in it being a virtue, in our circumstances it must not be a profession. We are not an ‘arrival society’ as are some in the rest of the world where they do not question the fundamentals of their society. We are more in need of men and women who intend to serve their country more than they intend to serve themselves. And in doing so, serve the greater good of our collective society. 

Mr Chairman, I will conclude by saying that going forward into 2014, our society is faced with numerous challenges that are to be found in our politics and our national economy.  The events of 2013 did not address the fundamental structural problems that we remain faced with. In more instances than not, they have entrenched them. Zimbabweans must brace themselves to bring the current government to full account on issues of our national livelihood or else the government will run away with the country. 
Thank you.
Takura Zhangazha speaks here in his personal capacity (

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Considerations on the Future of Zimbabwe’s Media Landscape

Considerations on the Future of Zimbabwe’s Media Landscape.
A  presentation to @263Chat Live Event, in collaboration with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands An event of the Media Diversity Campaign
Wednesday, 27 November 2013, HyperCube Tech-Hub, Belgravia, Harare.
By Takura Zhangazha,

Mr Convenor, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, 

In my brief remarks, let me begin by thanking the conveners of this important discussion for inviting me to share a few perspectives on Zimbabwe’s media landscape and its future prospects. As an outgoing director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, let me also hasten to add that while the views I will express here will have resonance with the values espoused by my employer, I am however speaking largely in my own personal capacity.

There are a number of angles from which to tackle the important issue that @263Chat and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands have gathered us here and in the virtual world for. But perhaps the most important or if not so at least urgent, is that of context. Or as philosophers, academics and prophets would want to call it, ‘the now’.

Where we look at the present circumstances of our media landscape, there is a measure of optimism about the possibility of its reform. Either by way of sometimes over elaborate Ministerial statements of intent or by way of the near impossibility of keeping media space in Zimbabwe as closed as it is today given the phenomenal leaps in technology and new media that all of us are contemporary witnesses to.  Our context is therefore one that exudes more the inevitability of reform than it does the retention of the status quo.

There are however complex dimensions to this rather politicized optimism. I define it as politicized optimism because unfortunately it seems to rely on the every word of the current Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services. This may not be a bad thing, if the minister in question did not have such a bad history with Zimbabwe’s media.

Or if his own party was not at ‘sixes and sevens’ trying to explain its actual attitude toward freedom of expression after a Constitutional Court ruling decriminalizing insulting the President. But as with most stated policy intentions of government, we would be correct to hold fast to our principles of democratic freedom of expression, media freedom and access to information while negotiating whatever policy frameworks are placed before us. And as with all things political, we deserve the right to democratically refuse that which is not in the best democratic or public interest of our country’s citizens.

But again, I must emphasize that there will be some form of progress in relation to the media landscape. The government has already stated its intention to expand the media. And quantitatively so. In part the previous government did the same with the re-introduction of a formerly banned newspaper among a host of other new ones, some of which have since stopped existing. 

What we will however definitely see going forward, is an increase in radio and a sprinkling of television stations. Primarily by way of licensing. We do not know about the viability of such licensed stations, as was the case with the licensing of the print media houses, some of which have regrettably closed due to economic dire straits and multiple regulation by the state.

The quantitative increase in both broadcasters at the commercial and community level will however not occur with a simultaneous improvement in the qualitative aspect of the media landscape. Key questions around multiple, repressive and bureaucratic media regulation will remain in vogue.
I will give the example of our multiple regulatory environment where anyone intending to set up any media house has to contend with at least three statutory bodies related to the media or directly affecting the media. From the constitutional Zimbabwe Media Commission, through to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe and the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

These three interlinked regulatory frameworks are governed each by their own bureaucracies, none of which have ever demonstrated an intention to holistically meet the international best practices set up (with our governments endorsement) through the auspices of UNESCO or the International Telecommunications Union.

Furthermore, the envisaged quantitative expansion does not necessarily guarantee media diversity as defined by our colleagues at MISA Zimbabwe wherein the media landscape need not be dominated by one company let alone be characterized by one version of events or the news due to multi-media ownership. 

What obtains in ‘the now’ is not a good sign, wherein there is already evidence of multi-media ownership by bigger media related companies which in some cases own newspapers as well as radio stations. With the new calls for local commercial radio broadcasting licences, there is definitely going to be a flurry by larger companies who are already in other forms of media (including telecommunications) to cross either from production or print to broadcasting. What you will read in a paper will almost be the same as what you hear on radio. Whoever owns it.

On the brighter side for media professionals, there is anticipation that with the quantitative expansion of the media, employment opportunities will increase for the multitudes that are leaving or have long left training institutions but remain unemployed.   

In tandem with such a welcome expansion, colleagues in the media need to close ranks to defend the values of their profession from either predatory profiteering tendencies overwhelming the media or state benevolence and therefore unofficial censorship.

This they can do through remembering their own version of the Hippocratic oath, their Media Code of Conduct as collectively established by the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.  

They must also seek the highest levels of professionalism and fair remuneration through their representative union, the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists because an expansion of the media does not always mean better remuneration. It might mean more the entrenchment of corporate profit value to the media that neither improves services or enhances the media's serving of the best public interest. 

A penultimate but important point for me to emphasize in considerations on Zimbabwe’s media is the phenomenon that has become new or social media. Again, this is going to have a profound effect on the right of all Zimbabweans to express themselves by literary increasing the enjoyment of the said human right.

While large components of it remain in the realm of entertainment and non-media for development communication frameworks, it has already overcome its initial birth-pangs through the establishment of platforms such as @263Chat, Kubatana,HerZimbabwe, TechZim, ZimboJam, Three Men on a Boat among many others that are striving to give public interest information to younger generations of Zimbabweans.

There is no doubt that such platforms will soon compete as credible sources of news with the mainstream media. And that is a good thing as it will help provide not only alternative interpretations of events but significantly contribute to the resolving the problem of a lack of media diversity that we are facing in our country. I just hope the government does not decide to either ‘PRISM’ or ‘GHQ’ them.

In conclusion, Mr. Convenor, just a quick reminder on the main points of my presentation. I am persuaded that because optimism is a key function of humanity, we have to be optimistic about the future of the media in Zimbabwe. Our optimism must however avoid politicization and must not negate the democratic values of freedom of expression, media freedom, inclusive of fully exploring democratic media self regulation and access to information. Profit and quantity will dominate the media in the next year or so, inclusive of a lack of media diversity, a continued carrot and stick attitude by the state toward the media and a multiple regulatory framework. If we however stand by democratic values and principles, our optimism will not be in vain, nor reliant on the cult of personality. 

*Takura Zhangazha is the outgoing Director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe. The views expressed here are however his own and not those of the VMCZ. 

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

'Invincibility' of the Marikana Striking Miners: Reflections and Necessity of Legacy in History.

By Takura Zhangazha*

When I read in the South African media that the South African Police Services (SAPS) had informed the Farlam Commission of Enquiry that  prior to the tragic shooting of the Marikana mineworkers , the strikers thought they were invincible, I was at a loss for words.  

While the officer quoted in the reports also mentions the use of 'muthi' in other activities such as 'cash in transit' heists, my immediate reaction was one of shock at the meaning of the disclosure. That so many could have had religious belief in their invincibility at the same time and in the same place was shocking to say the least.   

But then my reaction shifted from shock to that of historical recognition as to how we have all invariably found ourselves dealing with matters relating to oppression or a socio-economic injustice in ways and means that have appeared, in their aftermath of their occurrence, to have been irrational.

Hence it was  reported that the striking miners believed that with the help of the supernatural or alternatively,  with the assistance of African traditional healers and medicines they would be able to defy the bullets, let alone physical control by the police. 

It is what in general contemporary social media and cultural parlance has been referred to as a ‘throwback moment’, tragic as it has been.  

I thought of the Maji Maji and the Mau Mau rebellions of the early and mid 20th century anti-colonial struggles in Tanzania and Kenya respectively (at least ritualistically).  

The statement by SAPS on assumptions of invincibility by the striking miners cannot however escape our collective scrutiny. Because  a number of colleagues have been correctly closely following the Marikana tragedy, not for want of being more South African than the South Africans, but more in remembrance of our collective and shared history as a region, I am inclined to add my two cents to the debate.

Whatever our varied thoughts on the matter, it stands to argument that the belief in infallibility by the strikers remains important to our collective remembrance of those that tragically passed away.

It invoked memories of the Tanzanian and Kenyan rebellions in three particular respects. First that there was an assumption that whatever the seemingly  forlorn nature of  the struggle for freedom, the then emergent nationalists  were waging,  it was done on a religious optimism of supernaturally aided victory. Secondly, that historically, there was the eventual defeat of that same said religious premise by modernity (then also known as the maxim gun). 

Thirdly, that in any event while the odds were to be stacked against them, there was no doubt that their cause was just and therefore they have left a lasting legacy, even in tragedy.   

Where we fast forward to Marikana, the differences might be quantitatively more than the similarities but the symbolisms cannot escape attention. But the three characteristics of the Maji Maji and the Mau Mau resistance campaigns, namely, religion/ritual as a key ingredient in anticipation of victory, eventual physical defeat of the same by modernity and the leaving of a social and economic justice legacy can also be found in attendance with the Marikana tragedy. 

The mixture of religion and resistance has generally been a characteristic of struggles for social and economic justice on our continent. It is however surprising that it would now appear to have had such a prominent role in the prelude to what was essentially a mineworkers strike for better wages and working conditions in 21st century independent South Africa.

It however points to a number of critical issues that must be considered across the African continent. Key among them is the possibility that for whatever our claims to independence and even economic empowerment, the structural fundamentals of exploitation of African labour (migrant and domestic) remain intact. Particularly from the standpoint of the majority poor.  

The edifice of contemporary African industrialization remains viewed as it was during the anti colonial struggles that are given as historical examples in this article.  This view reflects an attitude that there remains, especially after failed negotiations,  no other way out but direct resistance to the system, with a religious and ritualistic understanding of the possibility of death, hence the need to immunize oneself against it.

What contemporary academics have referred to as the ‘underbelly’ unfortunately still exists in relation to how the same said subalterns perceive or live out  their placement in contemporary African societies.  There is a consistent ‘them and us’ approach that is akin to that of colonialism, except that in this case, the ‘them’ might share the same skin colour as the ‘us’.  An end effect of which is an exploitative system which has been exacerbated by our contemporary governments across the continent.

 And it does not just end with the mines such as the one in Marikana. It has spread its tentacles across the subcontinent with the rise of what renowned anthropologists, Comarroff and Commaroff have referred to as ‘millennial capitalism’ where religion, capital, neoliberalism and superstition/gambling produce an alienating concoction for the majority poor. And even then, because of the sheer numbers that believe in that which is scientifically illogical together with the seeming impossibility of arriving at a better future rationally, such a system creates false realities. 

Except in the case of the Marikana strikers.  Their religious and ritualistic assumptions of invincibility  in the face of state sponsored violence, may be incorrectly labeled by some as ridiculous or borderline demonstration of ‘simplistic nativeness’.  

The truth of the matter is that if we take the examples of the Maji Maji or the Mau Mau, even in defeat, Marikana’s miners have sowed the mustard seed (to borrow from the Gospels). Not for a continuation of violence, but for the democratic arrival at a socially and economically just society. And it all begins with us saying never again shall a Marikana happen, not out of tokenism, or race replacement political economies. But instead for the reasons of addressing the continuing systematic and fundamental causes exploitation of the people. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity. If you decide to use this blog please attribute it to 

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Economic Indigenization and the Struggle for Social and Economic Justice in Zimbabwe

A presentation to the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), Debt and Extractives Dialogue Series

By Takura Zhangazha*

20 November 2013, Jameson Hotel Harare

Cde Chairman, comrades,  colleagues, students, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me begin by expressing my gratitude to ZIMCODD for inviting me to this important meeting. It is one of the few meetings where I know I would not be out of order for referring to participants here present as comrades. Mainly because we not only share the same ideals and principles around debt and development, but also because of general ideological persuasions which I assume see us regularly being labeled as those of the Zimbabwean ‘left’. 

The topic I have been asked to share some thoughts with you on is an important one in the context of Zimbabwe’s contemporary political economy.  The organizers have phrased this topic, ‘The Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act and the struggle for Social and Economic Justice in Zimbabwe,’.   It is a phrasing that correctly assumes a co-relation between indigenization and social and economic justice. But for the purposes of clarity it would be important to put indigenization in its political context.

Unlike the general reference of indigenous people’s rights in global discourse around land rights or the environment, Zimbabwe’s indigenization programme is evidently more political. This particularly because its narrative seeks to address what it refers to as colonial injustices and makes direct reference to any person who was historically economically disadvantaged on the grounds of their race before independence in 1980 as being ‘indigenous’.

So it refers to both an historical injustice, as well as a racial identity, namely, the black majority.  There are many other interpretations of this, but there is little reason to doubt that indigenization definitely talks to issues of social and economic justice.  It is however not a revolution or a revolutionary moment policy in relation to social and economic justice. It is an incremental step forward which, in as much as it is implemented generally, remains fraught with challenges.

 The main emphasis of the indigenization programme as established in terms of the law is primarily that of establishing majority shareholding in companies or corporations operating in Zimbabwe by indigenous citizens in terms of the definition described above. It is not necessarily  to change the structural nature or the reasons for an already established  business, let alone invent new forms of entrepreneurship. It is largely about enhancing indigenous participation in already existent sectors of the national economy.   This is a good thing only in so far as it relates to the politically charged nature of indegeneity.  It however misses the mark where and when it comes to achieving through its processes, social and economic justice.

This latter point relates to two main issues. The first being that of the porous nature of the ideological framework informing the indigenization policy.  Generally spoken for the main ideological premise of indigenization as envisaged in the enabling act is a nationalism that has no problems with the structural challenges of blunt capitalism.  It is also a nationalism  that seeks primarily accommodation within the global capitalist framework of extractive and consumerist production.  

Or to put it more straightforwardly, a nationalism that wants a piece of the pie. Not necessarily for the majority but more for the elite few.

I make the latter point in full knowledge of the fact that the enabling act also establishes Community Share Ownership Trusts  (CSOTs) which  have largely been established through the indigenization of mining concerns. These CSOTs do not represent either the full 51% indigenous share ownership  nor are they necessarily guaranteed a reasonable return of the profit made from the going concern back into the community.

What has since occurred with these trusts is an initial flurry of activity around building basic infrastructure without a holistic public explanation of the transparency of the CSOTs. Or whether they will not function in collusion with the corporate concern in handing out peanuts of their overall profits.

Furthermore, the leveraging of CSOTs in the Zim Asset government blueprint as investment tools into social service delivery is an unfortunate attempt at outsourcing the primary functions of government without demonstrating why government has failed dismally on the same front.

The second observation I wish to make in relation to the subject matter is how it does not address the issue of innovation or invention.  Taking over key aspects of the economy goes beyond physical presence. It also requires application of national intellectual creativity in order to meet the social and economic justice requirements of a people centered and social democratic national economy.  

This is both in relation to the short and long term. While there is a National Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Charter, which addresses some issues of knowledge transfer, the policy however remains bereft of propositions on how to promote innovation and creativity not only with entities indigenized but also within the context of a holistic approach to innovation in our society.  

The enabling act let alone the politics surrounding it rarely address this particular challenge. The best that has come out of government pronouncements even at the highest level has been referred to as ‘beneficiation’ of raw materials.

This is all well and good were it not for the fact that we neither have the technological capacity to embark on this in the short term and we have concentrated on critiquing the exportation of raw materials without addressing our exportation of intellectual capacity to other countries.  It would be remiss if we were to isolate indigenization to specifically production related entities.

In order to utilize whatever we have there is need for a holistic investment in knowledge production that extends beyond the newly established ‘psychomotor’ ministry or to be isolated to borderline colonial era reminiscent understandings of knowledge production where we label social sciences as retrogressive.  The innovation that is lacking in the indigenization project is not so much about a lack of natural science experts as it is a lack of a society that embraces new ideas with organic and democratic consciousness as opposed to repression or mimicry.

Comrade Chairperson, in my brief presentation I have underscored the reality that indigenization as a broad idea speaks to social and economic justice. In Zimbabwe’s case, the policy’s grounding in seeking to address the effects of colonial social and economic injustices cannot be faulted. What has been faulty is its ideological premise which does not address structural questions about the economy and increasingly appears to be characterized by a ‘replacement’ and not a revolutionary or even transformational framework. It is also imperative that indigenization does not happen in isolation of all other aspects of Zimbabwean society, particularly the promotion of innovation.  In order for it to succeed, it must as of necessity embrace technology, innovation or else it will remain as it is, a project inclined to serve more the elite than the masses.

Thank you.
*This presentation was made in Takura Zhangazha's personal capacity. Please attribute it to

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Zim-Asset: A Prelude to Predatory State Capitalism.

By Takura Zhangazha*

A colleague in the media recently forwarded an electronic copy of our government’s five year economic blueprint plan, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim Asset), Toward an Empowered Society and a Growing Economy.  It has not yet  been launched with as much fanfare as is usually the custom of Zanu Pf. The President has however publicly commended it and his foreword to it has been published in local print media.

Reading through Zim Asset, there is a sense of déjà vu as opposed to one of revolutionary urgency. Even in the aftermath of a recent resounding but still legally contested two thirds majority electoral victory in Parliament.  This déjà vu is evidenced by reference to Zanu Pf’s above mentioned victory and an acknowledgement of singular responsibility for the entirety of government as was the case before February 2009. It also has the propagandist hue of  past governments’  five year economic blueprints of the 1980s and 1990s.

The fact that it is written with uncharacteristic simplicity (until one gets to the Results Matrices) is perhaps intended for all Zimbabweans to understand and comment on it.  Add to this  it's reference to 'people-centered government', might be intended to charm us into assuming that the country is headed in a different and better national economic departure point.  The structural realities of the economic plan are however more complex.

Zim-Asset’s major unstated premise is essentially that of ‘state capitalism’.  Contemporary economists would immediately point to China for an example of such a system or alternatively hint at the National Development Plan of South Africa as a sign of the model beginning to take root in Africa. It is a model that presupposes the ability of the state to operate as a business corporation through centralized economic policy management or through direct control of the assets of private business entities.  Our current government’s economic plan seems to be keen on this sort of framework.  Hence its emphasis on the  role of parastatals, sovereign wealth funds, infrastructure development, public private partnerships, foreign direct investment as well as centralised management of the economy. 

Therefore if one were a free market economy advocate the reality is that for the next five years, if you want to do good business, you are better off endearing yourself to the state more than the market. Alternatively, if one were socialist, social democratic or even communist, the reality is that the state will function more to extract than to give to its citizens. Either way, whatever one’s ideological persuasion, Zim-Asset has the ingredients of an economically predatory state (or to borrow from a popular metaphor, a state that eats its own children). 

The above cited metaphor does not mean there will be a Biblical ‘gnashing of teeth’. On the contrary, the state intends to appear benevolent. At least initially. That is why Zim-asset proposes a two phased approach to its implementation. The first phase 2013-2015 has been referred to as the ‘Quick Wins’ phase in which the four economic clusters that have been identified will seek to yield ‘rapid results’. An already announced ‘quick win’ strategy has been the acquisition of a loan from China ostensibly for water infrastructure refurbishment accompanied by a simultaneous Harare City Council announcement of its intention to privatise water and hence pass on the cost of the loan to the citizen via prepaid water meters.

The short and long term intention are therefore to manage assumed perceptions of economic improvement with a simultaneous state disinvestment from social welfare via the much vaunted  private-public partnerships.  In our circumstances, where the unemployment and poverty levels are so high, this is a recipe for further economic disenfranchisement of the majority poor. 

This, being done by rationalizing these models as either the best or taking advantage of the ‘ground zero’ placement of the Zimbabwean economy where any short term quantitative improvement is seen as 'better than nothing'. Especially by a privileged political elite.

If the cornerstone of Zanu Pf’s electoral victory was indigenization and economic empowerment, Zim Asset politely seeks to avoid the former’s controversies.  Instead it leverages economic empowerment to the Social Services and Poverty Eradication where some resources will be acquired through the participation of Community Share Ownership Trusts in social service delivery/investment.  

The economic empowerment theme however does not run through its economic blueprint.  Zim Asset appears more in keeping with a document primed to seek further foreign direct investment (FDI) than it is intended to indigenize it.  This can be taken to mean that the indigenization and economic empowerment programme embarked on since 2008 (at least at law), might be more political than it is structured to deal with all sectors of the economy.  Zim Asset could therefore be referred to as either a missed revolutionary moment, if in any event, there was any revolutionary intent to indigenization or just a change of ownership. 
In conclusion, any government with a new five year mandate always tries to give the impression it has a plan. These plans will either be derived from both its election manifesto or its ideological leanings. Zim Asset is more an intention by government to be seen to being neither too extreme or too soft on its ideological pretext, namely, nationalism. The economic reality of the plan however points to an intention at predatory state capitalism and an economy that is not people-centered.

(*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity. If you decide to use this blog please acknowledge

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Chief Chinamhora 's Claim to Harare: A Symptom of Historical Contradictions in Local Government

By Takura Zhangazha*

After reading renowned Ugandan academic, Mahmood Mamdani’s recently published book, Define and Rule, Native as Political Identity,  I coincidentally came across a news item about a land claim to Africa Unity Square in Harare. This specific claim to a significant and symbolic portion of Harare's central business district was made  by Chief Chinamora, a traditional leader who also sits in Senate. On the face of it, the claim appears to be borderline ridiculous. The reality is that it is both an historical and ‘citizen and subject’ one.  Even though sometimes we might not like to be reminded of our colonial history and how it meets with the present on a day to day basis. 

I mention reading Mamdani’s latest book primarily because it seeks to explain further the interaction of our colonial past with our assumedly modern day ‘enlightened’ existence.  It does this  by outlining the genesis of colonial theory around defining 'tradition' and political identity of those that were considered 'natives, by the British empire of yesteryear.  And how both processes led to not only the invention of 'indirect rule' as well as what he outlines in another of his seminal works as ‘citizens and subjects’. 

The coincidental aspect of Chief Chinamora’s statement and my reading the aforementioned book while being mine alone gives latitude for some reflection on both the history and present day basis (theoretical and political) of local government structures in Zimbabwe.

To begin with, our local government is premised on what Mamdani correctly refers to as ‘bifurcation’.  And this is a direct legacy of colonialism. We have both the civil and the customary aspects of local government or alternatively 'modernity' and 'tradition' frameworks.  This sort of system has obtained in most South of the Sahara African countries that are former British colonies except Tanzania, an example that I will return to.  

Many former history students will remember Lord Lugard particularly for his administration of Nigeria, but also for the phrase and system of ‘indirect rule’ and the book, Dual Mandate.  This system outlined in the latter book unfortunately remains a reality in Zimbabwe 33 years after our national independence.  Perhaps for different reasons and even after the new constitution has become the law of the land. 

Chief Chinamhora’s statements are therefore reflective of both the contradictions of his traditional authority as well as its relegation to convenient political peripheries.  Chiefs in Zimbabwe unfortunately remain caught up in the realm of the traditional while being over lorded by a modern and centrist central government.   

As in the colonial era, Chiefs remain as though their primary task is to mind the ‘natives’ or keep 'tradition' intact while the central government presides over ‘citizens’ and the 'modern'. 

This political problem is further compounded by the dual legal system that still exists in Zimbabwe in the form of civil and customary law. Though the former takes precedence over the latter in terms of our jurisprudence.  Again, the similarities are all to abundant with colonial era circumstances, except that we have a majority government implementing this dual legal system.

Furthermore, the distinction in the rules of how the local is governed in the urban and the rural while talking to traditions and specific ways of life, demonstrates continued preference for the ‘urban’ than the rural.  The 'urban' can continue to be modernized while the'rural is treated like a backwater that either has no urgent need of service delivery or integrated democratic governance. That is why there is rare talk of ensuring that there is running water in any rural area without wanting to change it first into a growth point.   So perhaps Chief Chinamhora wants to lay claim to the modern not just because of history but also because Harare is a metropole and not a backwater. (His chieftancy would stand to benefit a lot from taxing the Harare city Council.)

A penultimate point in considering this state of affairs further is that there is limited reason to assume that government will act seriously to bring both local government systems at par. The political preference has been to hog the ‘traditional’ for expedient purposes without seeking its integrated transformation. 

For example, what we have referred to as devolution in the constitution has turned out to be a mere expansion of the central state's representatives (including chiefs) at local level.  This is neither democratization nor transformation of local government.  Where they exist, these institutions (such as provincial councils) remain vague in their intentions, both in relation to statute or to politically stated agendas.

Earlier on I mentioned that Tanzania is the only state this side of Africa that does not have a dual local government system. And that, according to Mamdani, was due to Nyerere’s stubborn (and at times dictatorial) insistence that all Tanzanians are equal citizens.  And that government must not be a variance with itself.  We might not need to follow the Tanzanian example but we must begin to plan for integrated local government where we merge the traditional with the modern/contemporary best democratic practices and deconstruct the legacy of ‘late colonialism’.

For now, Chief Chinamhora is historically correct in his claim. Its just a belated and somewhat suspiciously ambitious one.  As of old, however, we still have ‘citizens and subjects’ in Zimbabwe. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity. If you decide to use this blog please attribute it to

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Thomas Mapfumo’s Golden Classics Album: A Reflection on the Historical Fabric of Zimbabwean Society.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Listening to Thomas Mapfumo’s new compilation album, Golden Classics is akin to undergoing a musical historical narrative on the progression of Zimbabwean society since the late 1970s through to the euphoric early years of independence.  It is an album that makes the listener not only aware of varying phases of Zimbabwe’s socio-political, economic history but also to appreciate the evolution of Chimurenga music’s instrumentation as a global music genre. 

It is however important to expand on these three socio-economic, political  and music  instrumentation aspects of this latest Chimurenga Music Company’s (CMC) album. 

To begin with, the Golden Classics album is reminiscent and celebratory of the 1980 liberation victory as well as the challenges that we faced at the onset of independence. These challenges were to be embedded in our collective anticipation, and lack of urgent  delivery  of popularly anticipated holistic changes to our socio-economic circumstances in the 1980s.  The celebratory component s were to be largely found in the great hope that finally we had arrived at the political freedom station that was independence.

In relation to the aforementioned, the album’s themes run from ones that talk to the end of poverty (Nhamo Yapera) through to celebrating ‘Mondays’ (Zuva Guru)  as, somewhat ironically, being one of the most important days of the week. Whether be it in good humour or patent seriousness, there is the running thread of an acknowledgement of the anticipation that now that Zimbabwe has come, there shall be an improvement in the livelihood of the people. One that would be a result of the hard work and support that the people gave to the struggle.  All expressed with an acknowledgment of the importance of laboring to make these liberation dreams a reality. 

These are themes that remain relevant to our contemporary socio-economic challenges whether viewed from a national or individual citizen standpoint.  Both of which are interspersed with narratives of love that was lost due to lack of money or a reckless disrespect of marriage as an important institution(John Wapera). 

The only specific difference between the time these songs were put on vinyl and now is that we are no longer as hopeful or as enthusiastic about the national economy being steered in a direction that addresses our collective economic livelihoods.  All the same, there is a moralistic and religious tone to some of the songs on the album that  bemoan social inequality and beseech God to intervene (Pamuromo Chete) with messaging that remains relevant today.  

Where it comes to the second aspect of the politics of Golden Classics , there are songs that reflect the popular political mood of the early 1980s as well as the disillusionment that began to set in as time progressed.  It would be ahistorical to attribute such songs as ‘Chiiko Chinotinetsa’ to the time of composition alone, as the song continues to be relevant to our contemporary politics today. It questions issues to do with what the problem may be with the country for it to be so poor.

It also further queries what may indeed be the cause of our never-ending national problems. Whether  it be a lack of money, general poverty, unemployment,  the country being  too ‘opaque’ or perhaps having committed a collective crime to be in such dire straits. This is where Thomas Mapfumo’s music particularly remains timeless. Such questions could be asked by any citizen of Zimbabwe at home or in the Diaspora experiencing either the pangs of exile or a lack of basic social services in 2013 and beyond.

There’s also the third aspect to the album that relates to the musical composition and its meeting with the lyrics. The instrumentation places emphasis on both base and lead guitar, a style that is peculiar to Thomas  since he pioneered Chimurenga Music. None of the songs sound the same. Each one represents its own creative uniqueness both in terms of lyrics as well as instrumentation. As a result, and from this earlier stage in his career, he is still arguably the best composer of  Zimbabwean music to date.

Both by geographical and cultural origin. This, by way of either working with other legendary composers such as the late Jonah Sithole or composing the music by himself.  Add Mapfumo’s voice and indeed we have the finished article.

To conclude, it would be important to recognize that Mukanya’s music reflects the very fabric of Zimbabwean society. Whether one goes back to the period in which the majority of the songs on Golden Classics were composed or skips to his last released album Exile and the pending World on Fire/Danger Zone one, we are blessed as a country to have such a talent still among us. Even though he remains  in physical exile and as has been written on the sleeve of this latest one by Blessing Vava, Mhondoro yeZimbabwe (Lion of Zimbabwe).

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity. If you decide to use this article/blog. Please attribute it to 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

President Zuma, Think Like an African! (It helps.)

 By Takura Zhangazha*

South African President Jacob Zuma is generally a man who harbours little fear of the negative consequences of his words or actions. Or if he does, he exhibits a certain confidence that he will overcome any such problematic effects of what he says or does. His reported utterances at a meeting organized by his party the African National Congress (ANC) about what was essentially a domestic matter, however went on to betray his unfortunate attitude toward Africa.

As reported in the City Press newspaper, he jokingly advised the meeting that on the matter of ‘etolls’ in his country, South Africans must not “ think like Africans in Africa generally, we’re in Johannesburg.” He is reported to have further added that the Gauteng highways are ‘not some national road in Malawi’ to further buttress his distasteful humour.

If these statements were being attributed to an ordinary citizen of any African country, they probably would not have made any headlines. But coming as they are from South Africa’s President, they cannot be swept under the carpet.

 Being a Zimbabwean, I am acutely aware that humour has a general role in politics, particularly where it is used for comparative assessment of progress between countries. Or even domestically as it relates to freedom of expression. I however do not agree with humour being used to connote false stereotypes of others let alone being used in such an abrasive and far reaching manner by a sitting head of state and government. Moreso, by an African one,  at a time when the continent remains on an international back-foot due in part, to the perpetuation of uninformed stereotyping of some countries as being more 'equal than others'. 

Mr. Zuma’s regrettable comments have the specific import of implying two issues. Firstly that he believes that his country is ‘exceptional’ and therefore cannot be viewed from the prism of  being a sister African country. He may be correct in the eyes of his supporters but the premise of this argumentation is however politically misplaced.  South Africa is indeed an exceptional country but not by way of narrow, self serving comparison to the status of the development of other African countries. It is exceptional in the sense that it owes its liberation not only to the current ruling party but the contribution of many African countries and peoples that its current president finds fit to deride.

Furthermore, assumptions of any economic/development superiority of South Africa must also be premised on the knowledge that due to the colonial development of forced (political and economic) circular migration in Southern Africa, contributions to its current status are also historically grounded in the peoples of the sub-region. This is why one of the most tragic colonial institutions were the Native Labour Associations, inclusive of the notorious but heavily utilized Witwatersrand Native Labour Association (commonly referred to as WENELA by us, the African locals.)

In singularly claiming a specific un-African uniqueness to his country, President Zuma is being dishonest to himself and the legacy of African liberation struggles that his own party, the ANC, proudly lays claim to. His utterances are borderline disheartening confirmation of the unfortunate myth that the more an African country was colonized the better it turned out in development/modernisation. If that were to be true, we might as well thank the settler colonials for getting us to where we are, a development that would be a treasonous betrayal of the liberation struggles whose challenges and objectives we are still trying to overcome and achieve in contemporary time.

A second and final effect of the statement attributed to Mr. Zuma is its import on xenophobia in his own backyard. The consistent and violent “othering” of fellow Africans by poorer South Africans cannot have found better endorsement than in the utterances of its head of government.  Because there is a misconception that citizens from other African countries come to take local jobs, any insinuation, particularly at the highest leadership level, that South Africa is rich beyond the imagination of the rest of the continent does not serve to promote peaceful co-existence in volatile communities. Instead it gives wrong nationalistic premise to poorer and disadvantaged South Africans to want to falsely but violently gatekeep wealth that they do not control anyway.

Indeed South Africa is exceptional  (as is any other country) and its roads are not like those of Malawi. It however is an African country on the African continent and with its historical umbilical cord in Africa.  While we can forgive the ignorance of musicians and other artistic celebrities, President Zuma’s unfortunate attempt at humour is not funny.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity. If you decide to use this blog, please attribute it to