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 (