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