Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Africa and the Dispute over Crimea: Avoiding Repeating Calamitous Cold War History on the Continent.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Africa’s weak placement in contemporary global politics has never been so starkly demonstrated than in the wake of the ‘international’ dispute over the 'breakaway' Ukrainian  region of Crimea.  It was somewhat understandable when during the live broadcasts of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) deliberations on the unfolding events on live international television, the Rwandan representative was cut off from the live feed.

While international broadcasters have their own editorial briefs and perhaps they already knew beforehand the position (perhaps inconsequential?)  that Rwanda would take on the matter, it was a painful but anecdotal reminder of Africa’s rather small role in global political disputes.

This is not to say that Africa has not had any useful or instrumental role in the global political economy. On the contrary. Respected academics such as J F Bayart, have analysed the role of Africa in international relations since before the slave trade in what he has defined as a ‘history of extraversion’.

In our contemporary international relations, Africa’s placement is however more influenced by its pandering to the market demands of a globalizing/globalised economy.  Especially in the aftermath of anti-colonial struggles as exemplified by South Africa’s independence and the attendant end of the known ideological Cold War on the continent.

Since then, the continent has sought to function on the basis of the universal equality of continental organisations and states via the United Nations. 

So when a dispute between the worlds’ nuclear superpowers occurs, there should be an understanding that Africa must have an influential or at least some consistent say on it.  Not only because of the ever existing threat of a nuclear war that might occur and affect the entirety of the globe, but also because Africa also has a vested interest in global peace and security for its own development. 

Sadly, the African Union has remained rather muted with an almost ‘its none of our business’ approach to the saga in Eastern Europe.  While it has urged all sides to resolve the issue amicably and through diplomacy, its message has not been consistent nor has it demonstrated serious concern at the possibility of global politics returning to the bipolar nuclear character of the Cold War. 

And perhaps this is where Africa repeats the mistakes of the past.  In the West, there has been debate about a ‘new Cold War’ as the crises in Ukraine continues. In Africa, while there has been no broad public debate either via the media or in political capitals, what is evident is that we are again returning to the 'bifurcation’ of African foreign policy by way of country interests. The only difference is that the reasons for bifurcation are not as ideological as in the past. They are literally about percentages of foreign aid in cash or kind received from either the East or the West. 

So the mute button has been pressed over the African continent for reasons that can only be understood as vested self interest.  For analysts of international relations and politics this is probably the best thing to do in the circumstances.

But when China and India supported Russsia’s annexation of Crimea the implications become even more global and affect Africa’s foreign relations. Both China and India have a strong presence in Africa with the former having  stronger historical ties with the liberation of the continent and simultaneously rivaling Russian influence on the continent.  And so African countries now have to juggle their vested interests with two differing blocs of nuclear powers.  And largely without ideological justification save for reference to the UN Charter’s principle of respecting the sovereignty of other countries.

There is however one significant matter that the African Union and its member states must consider. This being that it remains imperative that the continent also makes its voice heard over and about international matters of concern.

Particularly if the potential belligerents are nuclear powers.  In so far as the West expresses concern over humanitarian crisis in Africa, we too must be able to express continuing concern over the potential fall out that is reminiscent of the Cold War in a world where we have increasing numbers of nuclear weapon owning states. 

Where Kwame Nkrumah made mention of seeking first the political kingdom, he may have been loftier in his idealism but the strategic considerations that informed his famous saying remain relevant for the African continent.  We cannot claim global equality without consistently voicing our concerns at potentially calamitous global conflict.  Even if we do not have a single African country with nuclear weapons, we at least a have a global moral authority to prevent war. Both in our territories as in the rest of the world.

As an African I can only say, and as a personal perspective  from a citizen of a country called Zimbabwe,the international  dispute in the Crimea is not about a return to the Cold War. At least it should not be so for Africans and the African continent. And African does not have to side with either the USA/EU bloc or the Russia, China and India one.  

Africa must side against a repetition of a calamitous Cold War global  history which sought ideological sides much to the detriment of universal democratic values and principles.

Africa must take the side of peaceful resolution of the Crimean dispute and call for a toning down of the military rhetoric or action on both sides of the global nuclear weapon divide. We may be a weaker continent but we are not weak global citizens. And we must consistently lay claim to this global citizenship by shouting from Mt Kilimanjaro, ‘no return to the past of the Cold War. It does not help the world to move forward.’

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Mazowe District Farm Evictions: Demeaning the Legacy of Mbuya Nehanda in Pursuit of Elitist Land Reform

 By Takura Zhangazha

Central government, through the Mashonaland Central resident Minister, Martin Dinha, has been evicting settlers on newly resettled farmland that is in the Mazowe District. The latter district is now publicly known to be the home of two major projects linked to the First Family.  Media reports have also indicated that the First Lady, Mrs. Grace Mugabe has a vested interest in the establishment of a game park in the area where families are being evicted.

Even more importantly, it is also known that the spirit medium of our national heroine from the First Chimurenga, Mbuya Nehanda resided in the same area before being forcibly relocated to Rushinga.

There are therefore a number of striking contradictions in the actions of central government and their tragic result of homelessness  of over 300 families in the Mazowe District. 

In claiming to have led a successful land reform or in its more politicized term, Third Chimurenga, the three last Zanu Pf governments have given the impression that they are on course to a people centered and historically organic land revolution. 

This would have included not only reversing the land tenure system created by the infamous Land Apportionment Act of 1930 but also use the land as much to reflect our knowledge of our history (the first and second Chimurenga’s included). 

So the acquisition of land would have been intended to not only be the acquisition for the purposes of essentially copying the land practices of the Rhodesian settler state.  Either by way of repressive agricultural practices informed by the colonial myth that the natives were destructive to the environment (the lie of the land). Nor by way of arbitrary disenfranchisement of a majority population in the name of  ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’. 

I raise these points particularly because what is occurring in Mazowe unfortunately reflects the same colonial approach to both the land and the poor that live on it. 

The fact that central government has brazenly evicted citizens of this country from land without either adequate preparation of alternative land or at the beginning of the harvesting season is reflective of the traditions of the settler state and not a democratic one that claims to have led a successful land revolution. 

So for example, when Resident Minister Dinha refers to the spirit medium's relocation to Rushinga by saying
 I am sure she (Mary Kazunga) is now happily practising her traditional healing work back at her home in Rushinga,”  he essentially reflects more the arrogance of a colonial native administrator than one who serves a democratic and recently elected  government .  Both by way of the lack of sensitivity to a national icon but also by way of the typical forcible removal of people that would have been deemed to be an influential leader, in similar habit to the colonial state.

Furthermore, the reported plans to establish a game park in the same area reminds one of the numerous other ‘game reserves’ from which thousands of black families were removed to make way for ‘wildlife’ and settler ‘tourism’.  The central government’s priorities are therefore somewhat out of sync with the interests of the intended beneficiaries of land reform.  Their wholesale eviction defies the known government policy of CAMPFIRE where these now evicted families would have at least been guaranteed  of not only tenure but also becoming gradual beneficiaries of the envisioned tourism.

Because the same said area is close to small scale gold mines, the evictions can also be viewed as intended at displacement in order to establish mining monopolies.  Even though Mazowe has a reputation for illegal mining, evicting families living in the vicinity of the mines without public explanation and preparation is undemocratic. It is also exposes the evident hypocrisy of the governments indigenization and economic empowerment community share ownership programmes. This now evicted community has not been offered that sort of opportunities either as standalone or in the greater Chinamhora chieftaincy area.

In taking into account, once again, the specific eviction of the spirit medium of Mbuya Nehanda from Mazowe, we cannot forget the historical record that during the Second Chimurenga, she is said to have fought from the same hills against mercenaries of the British South Africa Company. It is the patent symbolism of her eviction today that makes the Third Chimurenga appear ironic. The evictions thereby  becomes not only a dismissal of the legend of one of most iconic images of our initial struggle for liberation but also the geographical area in which one of the bravest battles against colonialism was fought.

Finally, the tragic and arbitrary evictions of families from parts of Mazowe district reflects that central government in pursuing its land reform programme, has not embarked a departure from the actual land policies of the settler colonial state.  What these evictions demonstrate is that our new land elite are more interested in replacement land economics than a revolutionary understanding of land redistribution. 
Perhaps the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda will inform those in power that land belongs to all the people of Zimbabwe, and not in order to merely replace one elite race of landowners with another, but to ensure that its distribution does not reflect more our repressive past than a democratic  land ownership future.  And God forbid that Mbuya Nehanda should have to again say, ‘Mapfupa Angu Achamuka’.

 *Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capcity (

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Econet, Telecel, Netone: The Three Fighting Brothers of Zimbabwe’s New Telecommunications Industrial Complex.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Zimbabwe has three mobile telephone companies, namely EconetWireless Zimbabwe , Telecel Zimbabwe and  NetOne.   These three companies, in the last two years have been the key actors in mobile telephony war in Zimbabwe.   It is a war primarily for primacy in the small but lucrative market for telephony.

The battles were initially about the sharing of onward transmission towers and inter-connectivity fees. In the last year, these battles  have become more about mobile cash transactions among themselves as  competitors, as well as with orthodox banks (also known as the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe).In these same said battles, the overseeing moderator has been the government, primarily through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (POTRAZ)

There have also been uncorroborated whispers in the corridors of public opinion that the three brothers have been regularly arm twisted or borderline blackmailed by government, to provide revenue for key national processes such as the March 2013 constitutional referendum and the July 2013 general election. This being done, allegedly, in return for license renewal  or some guarantees of lack of further direct interference in any new products to be placed or already in the market. 

What this all points to already is a potential collusion between the state and our existing major telecommunications’ companies in order to protect vested interests, either by way of seeking inadequately budgeted for functions of the state or protecting the all important and lucrative telecommunications licenses. In the process, what gets created is a telecommunications industrial complex (TIC) in  a manner akin to the infamous Military Industrial Complex referred to by former American President Dwight Eisenhower, post the Second World War. The only difference with our Zimbabwean context is that we are not reliant on our military for new technological or war related inventions.

What has however occurred is that our mobile telephone companies have found themselves closely ensconced with the state in order to keep making their super profits. 

This is not to fault the global notion that companies or individuals should not be rewarded for either introducing new and progressive ideas to their given societies.  The three brothers are all within their legal right to do so. The only challenge is that they may be doing so in collusion with a potentially ‘mafia like’ state and solely in the ephemeral pursuit of super profits.

In the process, they take on the character of the system that permits them to operate.  They now know the ‘politics’ of their survival given the general lack of transparency of the Zimbabwean government where and when it comes to their linkages between private corporations and state institutions or functions.

This operational framework has been advantageous to them because our central government is not evidently following developments and new inventions in the field of information communication technologies. If it does, it conveniently ignores such knowledge in order to ensure its trump card is direct control in relation to licensing and borderline economic/profit blackmail of the existent companies. 

Where one looks at the character of the TIC in Zimbabwe,  one would be forgiven for thinking it is at the pinnacle of invention. The truth of the matter is that it is more to do with the importation of technology than inventing it.  While there is nothing wrong with importation of technology or innovation, the major issue in Zimbabwe has been its specific lack of context coupled with its mimicry of its usage in other countries. 

Moreover,  the ideological pretext of this importation of technology has been unbridled capitalism whose functional premise has been lets ‘make the hay while the sun shines’.  Needless to say, it is a sun that shines only on the commodification of existence, and not on the base and superstructure effect mobile telephony has had on Zimbabwean culture, political economy or even the future. 

It would not be far from the truth to argue that while our mobile telephone companies have had the end effect of increasing the right of all Zimbabweans to receive and impart information,  they have not necessarily created a proportionate amount of jobs let alone offshoot manufacturing industries. The greater percentage of support services to this sector are outsourced from other countries.  This would include not only technological knowledge production and innovation, but also things as basic as the printing of air time top up cards. 

Simultaneously, the sector has also sought to swallow already existent other sectors of the economy such as banking and retail services.  By dint of the same, TIC is now fast evolving into borderline monopolies in relation to not only dominating mobile banking, but also social service delivery, agriculture and mining. All by dint of their ability to provide the one service no one else can provide; mobile communication. 
So when the Harare City Council or the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority offer prepaid meters as mechanisms of payment for services, it not just about their privatization. It is also about the management of the transaction by a mobile telephone company affiliated or rent paying affiliate, every time we punch in numbers into a computer box.

Furthermore, apart from the beer brewing monopoly that is Delta Beverages, TIC has become integral to the survival of the mainstream print and broadcast media.  This has been through their ability to provide advertising revenue on a phenomenally regular basis to the extent that they cannot be criticized or rendered directly publicly accountable. Unless any media house that decides to do so is confident it can survive the harsh media political economy without TIC’s revenue.  (It probably also explains why this blog will not be re-published in any Zimbabwean mainstream media)

In the final analysis, what we have emerging is more default and non contextual progress on the ICTs front.  It’s a progress that was initially resisted by central government for reasons that can be assumed to be the state wanted to be the first to dip into the ‘kitty’ of ICTs by virtue of monopoly.  It appears to have come to pass that the state has come to a firm understanding that it does not have to fight for a monopoly. All it has to do is to make sure the three brothers, in making hay while the sun shines, pay their dues in regulatory cash and in ‘profit certainty’  kind. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Harare’s "Wring them Dry and (still) Make Them Pay ” (Wired) Water Privatization Plans

By Takura Zhangazha*

The Harare City Council (HCC) has announced via the media that it is at advanced stages of entering into a deal with an as yet unnamed  South African based company to refurbish the capital city’s water delivery system. The deal is estimated to be at a cost of close to US$3 billion.  HCC officials are on record as referring to the pending transaction (subject to Cabinet approval) as a prime example of public private partnership. 

In the same deal, it has been publicly indicated that residents are expected to have an added benefit of  internet broadband connectivity that the South African company would provide. This is regardless of the fact that we already have three mobile phone companies and multiple internet service providers sharing a stake in the fiber-optic cables that are being dug into the soils of Harare. 

But this somewhat inexplicable benefit in relation to water  is somewhat besides the point until one reconsiders previous announcements by one of the very well paid directors in the HCC that they intend to privatise water service provision in Harare through prepaid water meters.  So it will be a combination of internet/broadband technology linked to ensuring that water is privatized (which is the actual intent of HCC and central government.)

And this is not the first lauded loan/investment deal  around water reticulation that the council has indicated it has entered into.  There is the still unresolved matter  of the Chinese National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export Corporation loan guarantee that was also reported in the media as having been abused. Especially where it came to matters to do with procurement. 

So even if the latest   arrangement with the yet to be publicly named South African Company is at advanced stages of finalisation, the HCC seems to be keen on papering over the cracks of a very murky approach it has taken to public private partnerships. 

This is specifically in relation to the evident lack of context that the HCC is functioning in. It appears as though they are ‘open game’ to almost any proposal from whatever company has come their way. So long the proposal appears to make them appear as though they are ‘rationalising’ (also read as privatizing) local government social service delivery.  

Apparently including another one on public transport which was reported in another newspaper. All of which have come back as either done or almost done deals with the resident and ratepayer not having full cognizance of them. Or how these will literally make access to water the right of only those that can afford it. 

The lack of context is even more evident where and when those at the helm of the HCC are as arrogant as insisting that the extravagant salaries they pay senior employees are not only in order but never explain how they fit in the broader scheme of things.  (All of this while simultaneously sponsoring a Premier Soccer League football team  on the basis of  what former finance committee chairperson has referred to as irrational grounds.)

What therefore obtains at the HCC is an unfortunate if not deliberate intention to sweep scandals under the carpet under the guise of ‘work in progress’.  That the media chose to write stories of unnamed companies investing in the capital city without evident deals of the full import of the same on residents and ratepayers is also most unfortunate. 

For instance, who really carries the burden of the US$300 billion investment cost?  In any event, if it is an investment and not a debt, does the respective and unnamed South African Company start owning the city’s water?  And how many jobs is this project expected to create for Harare or any numbers as to the number if ancillary manufacturing industries to re-emerge?

Furthermore, if there is interaction between central and local government on broader economic policy how does this specific investment deal fit into the still controversial indigenization and economic empowerment policy?

What is probably continuing to obtain, as has been the case in the last decade, is the literal ‘selling’ of the capital city's resources for a song.  Without adequate policy research or democratically arrived at understanding of context.

Such  ‘sales’ of council property have come in the form of either properties in return for liquidity or in terms of outsourcing council mandates with the evident intention of privatizing  basic social services beyond the reach of a majority poor resident or ratepayer. 

In the case of the HCC’s proposal to Cabinet with regard to the unnamed South African company, we are witnessing more of the same. That is, a city council without policy context or even the specific ability to explain its intentions to its primary constituents.  Instead, the whole proposed project, broadband and all, is indicative more of a ‘model privatization’ project intended to establish city oligarchies without either the best public interest nor maximum public accountability.

I refer to it as a ‘model’ because, should cabinet approve this investment/indebtedness deal for Harare, it shall be taken to our remaining major cities and towns.  Almost, like the prepaid water meter, which is already symbolic of the classic  ‘haves and the have nots.’  All over a glass of safe to drink water.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity: 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

On the Other Shore of Tokwe Mukosi: Tragedy, Colonial Legacies and Disaster Capitalism

By Takura Zhangazha*

I have a number of friends and colleagues who have gone to the site of the national disaster flooded area of the still under construction Tokwe Mukosi dam wall.  Some for journalistic reasons.  Others in aide of humanitarian relief efforts.

In both cases  the concern is genuinely in the best public and humanitarian interest.  The humanitarian aid campaign has helped raise national awareness of the tragedy that has been unfolding in the south eastern lowlands of Zimbabwe.  This has helped initiate public and corporate contributions to the direct welfare of displaced citizens of our country. 

In fact, a Tokwe Mukosi Trust has since been established to help the flood victims together with various private corporations (in some instances with public contributions) helping by providing much needed material assistance.  Such sterling efforts, particularly on the part of private citizens cannot be faulted and must be praised. 

The only other major issue to consider where it comes to the entirety of the project that is the Tokwe Mukosi Dam Project (TMDP) relates more to its history and contemporary placement in our national understanding of ‘development’. 

Originally the TMDP was one of the grand dam building initiatives of the then Southern Rhodesian government. Its primary blueprints are therefore informed by the modernization policies of the settler state.  This would not be a problem if we were to consider modernization as progressive, with or without context. 

Because its genesis resides in the same said settler colony that was Rhodesia, its pretext is also founded on the basis of economic exclusion.  Particularly that of the peasant farmer.  In fact, the TMDP is reminiscent of the Kariba Dam project and its effect on those that resided in its catchment area, at that time.  They were arbitrarily relocated within racist frameworks and in the then repressive and racist  name of modernization and tourism.

Because the TMDP blueprints had the intended dimension of bringing water to an arid lowveld, the water was not for application in the local. It was water largely intended for the large scale sugar cane farmers/companies  further downstream.  Tourism would then have been an additional benefit in the same way that Lake Kariba is imagined, largely as a holiday resort for those who can afford it.

Where we fast forward to our contemporary context, some of the fundamentals of the idea of that dam as at colonial inception remain unchanged. It remains a blueprint suited more to the settler state economy than a broader democratic and national one.  Hence prior to the unexpected rates of flooding (it was expected), government ministers were talking in praise of the project on the similar grounds of how it will irrigate downstream agriculture and promote tourism, the latter in similar fashion to Kariba’s hospitality industry. 

The compensation that was reportedly given to some of the families that have lived in the basin for decades has been described as not only minimal but also without adequate context. The cash handouts that were given did not have a specific utilitarian element to them in relation to actual relocation. Those that managed to acquire the said compensation stayed exactly where they were and utilized the money for livelihood concerns because there was no holistic relocation plan. And it is also reported that there still appears to be none in effect. 

The current relocation as a result of the rapid flooding does not indicate any preparation by provincial and central government in relation to a long term relocation plan. Or if it is there, by now there should have been a publicly announced place of relocation for the displaced families. 

In the long run, the humanitarian disaster that continues to unfold in the lowveld becomes a crisis created by an inefficient government which then seeks to give the impression that it did not foresee these tragic developments occurring, regardless of the unexpected amounts of rainfall. 

It was known in the 1970s, as it is now,  that once embarked upon, that whole area would eventually be submerged under water.  What the post independence and contemporary governments failed to do was to not only fail to change the definitive framework of the social impact of the dam but further retained colonial notions of development and modernization.

Tragic as it is at the moment, the Tokwe Mukosi Dam story will unfortunately be told from the high offices of those that failed to prevent  the negative impact that the  rapid flooding has had on peoples lives. They will however, in true fashion with what a renowned academic and activist has referred to as ‘disaster capitalism’ relegate the majority poor to the economic periphery and still insist the dam project is a phenomenal  post independence ‘modernization’ success story.

The reality of the matter is that the project remains mired in the legacy of colonial perceptions and understandings of modernization/development  with little regard of its impact on a majority poor. Instead of learning from history, we have unfortunately chosen to repeat it. And sadly, the  Tokwe Mukosi Dam Project  is the current evidence at hand.

*Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity (