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 (