Tuesday, 29 April 2014

May Day: Remembering, Reviving the Zimbabwean Labour Movement

By Takura Zhangazha*

Commemorating Workers Day in Zimbabwe is no longer as ideological as it was in the past 20 or so odd years.  There will be no big catchy slogans nor radical programmes of action to be announced by labour leaders or even from what remains of the Zimbabwean left. There will also be limited grandstanding by politicians of the one time working peoples’ party, the MDC.

Some of its leaders will be invited to address whatever events will be called. Their messages will however  be more about themselves (and their factions) than about setting out an emancipatory agenda for Zimbabwe’s workers.

It is trite to remember that the second and decisive phase of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle began with labour unions. The same is true for the further democratization struggles that took place in the 1990s.  Labour, to date, has always provided both the initial consciousness as well as the grassroots mobilization numbers in our historical struggles for social and economic justice.

Unfortunately, this role has however always been hijacked at one point or the other by elements more loyal to elitist politics and rather primitive accumulation in capitalist settings.  From the early 1980s where labour ministers of the majority government were quick to condemn workers strikes in defence of settler capitalism through to the late 2000s when previous labour leaders, then ensconced in an inclusive government  derided workers for querying government priorities in an age of austerity.

There has also been the further undermining of workers by the utilization of broad economic terminology to divide them. Terms such as ‘informal sector’ have essentially run rings around organized labour to the extent that the latter has never had any effective strategy of unionizing the former. 

So to state the obvious, the labour movement in Zimbabwe is at its lowest ebb. Both in relation to its ability to make effective demands on capital as well as its political influence on government and political parties aspiring for power.This however does not mean it has ceased to exist

Nor should it come to mean that labour is irrelevant in an age of high unemployment, privatization of the state and entrenched systematic corruption.  Instead, it remains relevant in both the national consciousness as well as the lived realities of a majority of Zimbabweans. It just has to reinvent itself.

Firstly by incorporating with greater seriousness the ‘informal worker’ into its very definition of who is a ‘worker’.  This would also include the labour movement deliberately seeking to unionize the civil service beyond the comfortable mechanics of getting government to agree to deduct union fees from the salaries of its employees.  It must set out a new agenda that reverts back to the old union adage, ‘an injury to one, is an injury to all’ by roping in all sectors that have labour as their backbone. From mining, to farming, education, health, civil service and domestic services, a revived labour movement must embrace both the formal and informal workers in all of the aforementioned.

Because memberships to unions are not token, a revived national labour union, in this case the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU),  would have to offer specific member-centered services.  These would include but are not limited to knowledge production and dissemination about government policy that affects workers. Such action would then be fortified by relevant training programmes that are both professional as well as grassroots based.

There must also be the proffering of policy alternatives that are based on firm social democratic ideological footing. This would mean that before these alternatives are anything else, they must be people centered. They therefore must  articulate socio-economic rights such as the right to free and affordable health, education, water, land, transport and energy as non negotiable. 

In order to avoid the mistakes of the past where labour was upended by the false sophistry of neo-liberalism, there is further need to base these alternative policy frameworks on wider consultative grounds in a manner akin to that of the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter of 2008 to which the current Zimbabwe ZCTU  is a signatory.

Finally, the labour movement needs to revert back to its own values and principles with greater honesty. It must out of necessity articulate its own position without recourse to political formations that have since betrayed it. Where it fails to do so, a rampant state capitalism will invent a new Zimbabwean elite reality in which it will not have any meaningful role.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blgospot.com) 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Zanu Pf’s Three (3) Leadership Succession Plans.

By Takura Zhangazha*

Watching and listening to President Mugabe’s  Independence Day speech there was one line that struck me. It was brief  but it made mention of succession. Paraphrasing it, the President said something akin to succession being sorted out by the new constitution.  He did not make evident reference to his own party. But one can hazard an assumption that given the apparent divisions the issue has caused, he was indeed referring to his own party.

The last time succession was broached in Zanu Pf was prior to national independence. It was not placed on the table because of the incumbent leader’s advancement by way of age, but more because of differences in strategic considerations as to the direction the liberation struggle should take. Agreed there were personality differences, but these came to be expressed largely through the lenses of ideological and strategic values and principles.

At the moment however, the succession debate in Zanu Pf appears to be motivated by the fact that its leader is now advanced in years and therefore will inevitably have to pass on the leadership baton stick of both party as well as executive government.

 And, given the slight hint by President Mugabe at the 34th independence commemorations, Zanu Pf has three succession plans. One that resides in the constitution and another two to be found in a direct political reconfiguration of itself.

The first and most evident plan is initially premised on Section 101 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. This section states, among other things, in the event of the President’s death or resignation, the First Vice President assumes office for the remainder of the term of office of the previous incumbent.  It is however circumvented by the Sixth Schedule, Part 4 (14), which gives transitional provisions for the first  ten years after the July 2013 election. Especially as regards, the succession of the President.  In this Sixth Schedule , the successor to the President must be elected by the party  from which the previous president emanated from. In the current case, this party is Zanu Pf.

 So as it is constitutionally given, unless she fails to get the ruling party to send her name as presidential nominee to the Speaker of the House of Assembly within ninety days, First Vice President Mujuru between now and the next general election in 2018, is the apparent successor to President Mugabe. Even more-so given the fact that there is currently one Vice President in office.

The second succession plan is perhaps the one that is causing the factionalism in Zanu Pf.  Its key factor and trump card would be a change of the personality that currently holds the First Vice Presidency of the party.  This, before the current incumbent departs from political office for whatever reason. 

In this regard, the faction that is resisting First Vice President Mujuru’s potential presidency has its sights set on the next Zanu Pf elective Congress which is due later on this year.  In this, they intend as far as is permitted by President Mugabe to campaign for a new First Vice President of their party. Should they succeed, their candidate would then be in a stronger position line to ascend to the post of president of Zimbabwe between now and 2018.  Especially after receiving party endorsement, a matter that has great value in Zanu Pf. 

In this same said second option, there would be the possibility of getting a second Vice President (a vacant office both at national and party level)  elected at their congress.  This candidate would then be able to be appointed Acting President prior to the departure from office of the incumbent and therefore serve for at least 90 days before having to face approval by the ruling party and the House of Assembly. 

It is an option that however has high political risks, which include exacerbating already existent divisions but also not having the blessing of the incumbent.  It is one that they are least likely to explore to the full. Instead, they will use it as a negotiating platform for the third succession plan.

This third succession plan is dependent on the ability of the two major factions within Zanu Pf to agree to share power after the departure of President Mugabe.  It also entails the ruling party’s willingness to amend the Chapter Five of the constitution in two respects.

Firstly, they could take the model of their erstwhile allies, the Russians, and introduce the office of a Prime Minister that works concurrently with that of the President.  This would mean the contesting faction would need to accept an initial Mujuru presidency in exchange for a potential reversal of roles as has been the case with Russian President Putin and Prime Minister Medvedev.

Secondly they could amend the constitution to share powers between the offices of the President and the two deputies.  This latter amendment is less likely due to the evident inability of the Zanu Pf leadership to want to share the spoils and its longstanding tradition of having a singular executive authority.

In the final analysis however the incumbent leader of Zanu Pf has made it apparent that succession is inevitable. Both by way of his public statements as well as in his signing of Constitutional Amendment Number 20 into law.  The three succession plans I have outlined here are mere analysis based on the structural tenets of the constitution as well as an analysis of the existent factional politics in the ruling party. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) If you decide to use this article, please advise of any amendments by emailing kuurayiwa@gmail.com

Friday, 18 April 2014



18 April  2014.

Published by: Committee of the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter (CPC)
Contributors: David Chidende, Blessing Vava,  Prince Tongogara, Takura Zhangazha
  Blog:  peoplescharter.blogspot.com

Zimbabwe@34: Base, Superstructure and Democratic Posterity.
By Takura Zhangazha

Considerations on Zimbabwe’s independence rarely acknowledge the significant role the success of the liberation struggle owed to Socialism/Marxism. Both as an ideological premise as well as a pragmatic tool of linking ideals with the harsh realities of waging a protracted people’s war.   Its key contribution was the accentuation of a critical national consciousness. As the liberation war expanded, so did structural analysis of the state that was being supplanted as well as its envisioned replacement. 

While the same ideological pretext was never organically intertwined within our political culture or structures of the state, analyzing Zimbabwe’s 34 years of independence would take a much more serious perspective if the one time ubiquitous ‘base and superstructure’ Marxian analysis were to be applied in the contemporary. 

Because the base and superstructure theory relates largely to an understanding that every society has a foundation upon which all else is structured, in these mid 30s years of Zimbabwe’s existence, it would be trite to borrow this specific assumption on the basis of the departure point that was 1980.

It was one characterized by a base that was the settler state’s racist and intrinsically capitalist economic mode of production.

Granted, no departure is clean cut. Previous journeys always inform the next one. In our country’s case, as has been ably demonstrated both by politicians (of all hues, socialists, capitalists, communists) we realized the harsh reality that we could not shake off the structure of the colonial state.

Not only because the Lancaster House ceasefire agreement had an 8 year moratorium on changing settler state land ownership patterns or the electoral system.  But also because, while the liberation struggle was both painful and historic, its victory was not going to be succeeded by utopia. 

But the political  ‘base’ had been established by way of its intentions, its execution and the popular expectations of the majority of Zimbabweans. 

What was however to become more urgent was to construct a political-economic superstructure that would succeed that of the Rhodesian settler state.  In building this different and democratic superstructure to the base that was independence, the ruling party made the political mistake of not being visionary enough. Or alternatively, failed to adequately and democratically plan for what was coming.  It emphasized more the political than the holistic basis of Zimbabwe’s independence. This holistic basis would have entailed organic linkages between the politics, the mainstream economy and the sociology of Zimbabwe. 

What we have had, as we have progressed to the 34 years that we now commemorate, is a country that has forgotten its base and reinvented a superstructure that feeds an elitist and corrupt political economy. 

One that does not ask if the people have access to basic socio-economic rights (water, health, education, transport, housing).  And with a political leadership that lives in the moment.  By doing so, it has forgotten the base and subverted the superstructure. Its singular consistency has been the popular but inorganic mandate of reminding the masses of the historicity of independence without marrying it to the contemporary. 

And this is where young Zimbabweans are beginning to ask questions. They no longer  understand the pragmatic and contemporary meaning  of the historical ‘base’ (aka independence) let alone the superstructure that is the existent political economy. Neither do the necessarily want  to. In fact they do not have to because the relevance of the same is lost on them.

Probably because contemporary national leaders exhibit such a profound ignorance of ‘base and superstructure’  they do not see any specific hope of pursuing as revolutionary a path as that of their forebears. Not that it’s necessary by way of action. But a similar consciousness would help. And seriously so. 

So as we celebrate 34 years of independence, while listening to readings of President Mugabe’s speech and all opposing  leaders counter speeches, we will remain burdened with the fact that we have lost sight of the ‘base’ and are in danger of foregoing a social democratic superstructure.

As a result the Zimbabwean state, at 34, is in limbo.  It makes sacrosanct reference to its past, but does not hold its future in awe. It functions without collective national vision nor a leadership that understands the imperatives of functioning for posterity.  Instead they function largely as each day comes. If they make mistakes, they revert to the assumed sanctity of the liberation or even post independence democratic struggles.  They invoke memory more than they evoke passion for the future.

In order to counter such a retrogressive national leadership, the question is no longer the Leninist ‘what is to be done’. Instead it must be, ‘what is to be understood’ before taking action. 

Where we understand, in considerations of the way forward that national independence was intended to be holistic, we begin to discern patterns of what should be a social democratic future.  Indeed there were urgent matters such as universal suffrage, land redistribution at the onset of independence. The broader framework was always for socio-economic justice, economic prosperity and continually democratic leadership.  This with an understanding that politics cannot happen without the economy and the latter cannot happen without the former. Instead, the two have functioned almost by default as has been the case since 1980. 

What is therefore required are no longer abstract five year development programmes such as the much lauded but inorganic ZimAsset. 

Instead we must look at the structures that have made Zimbabwe a state that is running away from the immediate and future needs of its people.  These structures relate not only to what we carried over from the Rhodesian state but that which was constructed with the greater  intention of retaining power.  While at the same time seeking to keep the madding masses at bay.
To change this sort of politics and elitist approach to the economy, we must bring the present government to account. Not just by way of its current policies but with direct reference to the ‘base’ that was independence and the ideals that currently inform our superstructure. And this will begin with re-emphasising the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter.

Zimbabwe at 34: Regrouping for a People Driven Way Forward.
By Blessing Vava.
Zimbabwe turns 34 month with its President,  Robert Mugabe making history as the Africa’s oldest Head of State at 90 years of age. The generation of Mugabe, Chitepo, Tongogara, Nkomo and all those who participated in the struggle for independence must be honoured and saluted for the selfless sacrifices they made to liberate Zimbabwe.

The coming of independence was a joyous moment for all the citizens, who for a long time had been subjected to a racist colonial regime that denied the black people political and economic freedom. With the struggle of liberation have been long and protracted, the pulling down of the Union Jack at Rufaro Stadium in April 1980 marked the beginning of  a new stage to the revolution to full freedom for the people of Zimbabwe.

The reasons why Zimbabwe went to war are quite important for us to understand the concept of national liberation. The national liberation of the people entailed the destruction of political and economic domination of the racist supremacists Rhodesians. The questions we ask today are- was our liberation struggle about removing the white man? Or it was about addressing the political and economic system for the benefit of the majority.

Our revolutionary task after independence was for us to strive to achieve those goals for the benefit of the citizens of this country. For years after independence Zimbabwe adopted a transitional constitution negotiated in Lancaster England. It is that constitution that guided Zimbabwe’s political and economic trajectory until 2013, with the first amendments in 1987 together with 19 other amendments that followed.

The Lancaster House document guided Zimbabwe to its first democratic elections which were won by President Mugabe’s ZANU PF and he became the country’s premier, with the late Reverend Canaan Banana, assuming a ceremonial presidency. The Zvobgo amendments abolished the post of Prime Minister and created an executive presidency with Mugabe assuming office as the ultimate leader of the Southern African country.   Already this step in itself was a clear negation of the values and principles of the liberation struggle. This marked the first step in reversing those gains. The constitution in itself should protect its citizens from absolute rulers

Ironically, the late Edison Zvogbo, the then Minister of Legal Affairs master-minded the amendment to Executive Presidency.  However the shortcomings of our national constitution was its hollowness in addressing the term limits for a president of the country, and it is this gap that Mugabe later abused to stay in power. It also failed to adequately address social, economic rights. With unlimited term limits and excessive power at his disposal, Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. And I argue that Zimbabwe’s problems emanated from the constitutional order that allowed one man rule and not majority rule. Suffice to say, aided by the executive powers, the state security apparatus have been Mugabe’s trump card for the past thirty four years.

 As we reflect 34 years down the line, Zimbabwe now boasts itself for having finally authoring its own constitution, which however was controversially sponsored by the inclusive government. The liberation struggle was about freedom, it was about democracy, it was about land, the national economy.  The struggles for a people driven constitution of by the constitutional movement in the late 90s were a fulfilment of the goals of the liberation struggle and total independence, not of a few black elites by the majority of Zimbabweans.

  Despite Mugabe’s attempts to cheat us into accepting a flawed constitution in 2000, the pro-democratic forces armed with the National Working Peoples Convention resolutions mobilised Zimbabweans into rejecting that constitution in the referendum. However the rejection of the Chidyausiku document meant that we were back to square one and again the constitutional debate escalated to the extent that ZANU PF could not ignore anymore. Even during the negotiations that led to the crafting of the GPA, the issue of the constitution was topical and a whole section of that agreement was crafted as a result.

Alternatively, the civil society had gathered earlier that year in February 2008 just a month before the harmonised elections to come up with Zimbabwe Peoples Charter which outlined a framework writing a new constitution in its Section 3.

To address the challenges affecting our country I pose to the young generation to embrace the people’s charter. The historic programme which has evolved to express the common immediate aspirations of all the classes of the oppressed people is the Peoples Charter. This document is in itself, a programme for social democracy as it can provide a basis for uninterrupted advance to a social democratic future.

Moving forward, we must accept the mistakes of the past generations and put it to ourselves to address that. The GNU promised us about the so-called incremental gains have actually turned out to be a decrement. The thirty four years of independence should be equated on the basis of the state of progression of the laws that govern us, the political will and the success of our economy. The framework is brilliantly captured in the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter. The fulfillment of the charter will be the completion of the revolution towards a social democratic state. It is no longer a doubt that the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter aspires to fulfill and safeguard the values, principles and gains of the liberation struggle and our national independence. To achieve that we need not just political statements, neither do we need cult leaders to safeguard the values of the liberation struggle and our national independence. It now requires fortitude, selflessness and discipline, a clear programme of mass mobilisation action in the fight for total freedom from the ZANU PF regime.

Our generation should lead a guided struggle which like  the Freedom Charter in South Africa and adhere to those guiding principles so that we do not end up personalising the peoples struggle like what happened with ZANU PF and what is currently happening in the MDC. Internal democracies or peoples struggles should be challenged based on a set of principles which have to be agreed upon by the people. Our generation should move towards fulfilling the Peoples Charter and the National Working Peoples Convention. Going forward there is need to regroup and merge the Peoples convention and peoples charter to come up with a framework to guide our generational struggle- create a social democratic movement of young energetic people to fulfil its provisions and principles.

Zimbabwe@34: The “Nervous Condition” of the Youth
By David Chidende
18 April is a memorable day in Zimbabwe’s history as the country celebrates its independence from white colonial rule. The day represents the beginning of a new nation born from the womb of oppression and race-based politics of exclusion.  The journey to Uhuru wasn’t an easy walk as it was characterised by a protracted armed struggle in which sons and daughters fell, homes were destroyed and livestock stolen in the quest to address the wide inequalities in national wealth distribution, address the land question and attain majority rule.

And so the dawn of independence in 1980, after almost a century of oppression and exploitation, was greeted with an electrifying atmosphere of hope from the black majority who vested trust in the new black political leadership to fulfill the aspirations of the liberation struggle.

However, it is sad to note that after 34 years of independence the Zimbabwean citizens have not yet progressed on the independence value chain. The people are still facing the same problems they faced under the Rhodesia Front as the Zanu PF government and leadership diverted from the original agenda of the liberation struggle. Politics of greed takes toll with those in the echelons of power feasting on the national cake, distributing wealth amongst themselves whilst the masses starve.
In this entire ‘jinx’ young people and women struggle to understand the importance of independence especially when a small clique hijacked state power and controls the means of production. The government has turned a blind eye on its citizens as it failed to address the issue of unemployment, which has seen many youths flooding the streets due to the shrinking job market as industries close down almost every day.

This, coupled with poor infrastructure development, high cases of corruption (especially in government’s parastatals) poor health services in almost all government hospitals, deteriorating educational standards and poor sanitation (lack of clean water) resulted in rampant outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid which further darkens the gloomy picture of an independent  Zimbabwe. 

Young people bleeds as the country celebrates 34 years of independence. They are not given the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their fathers’ sweat and blood that brought about this independence.  Fundamentally, the youths have not been guaranteed the right to education as the State fails to fulfil its promises on providing free basic education from primary to tertiary level.

The government has failed to release the cadetship fund through the Ministry of Finance to help university students resulting in approximately 45% of students dropping out of tertiary institutions while a further more than 50% fail to enrol at any college.

The same extends to primary and secondary levels where many children are failing to go to school because the State has failed to build more schools while the few that are available are charging fees which are far beyond the affordability of many parents.  This is in total violation of Article 7(i) of The Zimbabwe People’s Charter which states that the youth shall be guaranteed the right to education at all levels until they acquire their first tertiary qualification. 

After thirty four years of independence, the state of youths still remains a “nervous condition” even in decision making processes where they are barricaded outside and denied space to make decisions especially in political parties due to the current leadership’s quest to stay in power forever.

This is done through denying the youth political independence in any political setup despite their political consciousness and to this end; main wings of political parties in across Africa have created ‘dumb and mute’ Youth Leagues and Assemblies to subjugate the youth voice the idea being to cripple  the political consciousness of youths making the League/Assemblies more or less of political robots, rubber stamping and embracing bad leadership at all levels as decision are always made by the main wing.

Politicians have a tendency of undermining the value of young people in national development and they don’t see them as leadership material but tools for counter-productive activities such as violence in which they feature most as both perpetrators and victims. 

Unemployment, poverty and other social stresses have disempowered the youths, making them more susceptible to manipulation by the political leadership who for 34 years gobbled the wealth of this country. And as we celebrate independence, young people across all political divides must start being proactive and take charge in their communities, political parties and even churches. 

They must regroup and strategise to form a formidable social movement, try to engage people in their small groupings about the social ills bedeviling our country as a way of fighting against the personalisation of the country, and resources by a few individuals. They must tell the political leadership that they deserve much better not scrambling for a few crumbs that fall from their tables.

Zimbabwe @34, A country of Old Men

By Prince Tongogara

Zimbabwe marked 34 years of independence from the colonial British regime this Easter holiday. And  after gaining its independence and tomorrow’s celebrations take one back to the old adage – the more the things change, the more they remain the same.

For the 34th time, President Robert Mugabe will give a keynote address. The emphasis in his speeches could vary as they have over the years but to a discerning audience – his theme has largely remained the same archaic one – Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again.

Mugabe has become Zimbabwe. He has straddled over the nation’s history for close to two generations since he assumed the mantle to lead the liberation struggle in Mozambique. Since then, his legacy is synonymous with Zimbabwe’s triumphs and losses. He has seen it all but forgot to leave the stage to give a new impetus to new politics and new visions.

For 34 years the country has remained steeped in the war mode, trying to solve our problems as if we are still in 1980 when the world was still bipolar – cleanly divided between the East and West. In that time warp, the Zanu PF government continues to fiddle while the economy regresses and a whole generation has never known any other leader beside Mugabe. This is a whole generation that has been locked out of the political discussions and decision-making as they wait for the older generation to exit the stage.

After the chaotic land reform and economic empowerment programmes, the majority still remain outside the mainstream economic activities while a small, new black elite – the noveau rich – has developed in a fashion that replicates the colonial era.

The big liberation struggle questions still remain unanswered. Can Zimbabwe take a new socio-economic trajectory? Is Zanu PF ready for leadership renewal as opposed to succession? (Succession is simply taking over without making significant structural changes while renewal is having a new distinct structurally different leadership with a defined new vision and economic model for the country.)

Mugabe and his government over the years have remained on the same political-economic paradigm despite that their claimed ally China renews its leadership every decade. This renewal has given China a new economic impetus and a positive international relations compass.

It remains a moot case that Mugabe, one way or the other despite his liberation credentials, social programmes and pan-Africanism, has failed in this one great respect – to lay a foundation or even encourage leadership renewal.

It is unfortunate that that this same weakness has become pervasive in Zimbabwe – in opposition politics and even in private enterprises. There has been no significant change in the political leadership and company boardrooms for the past 20 years.

One can safely conclude, as we celebrate the 34th anniversary of our independence, that Zimbabwe has been caught in a time warp, living in its own bubble that sooner or later will burst with devastating effects for the country. Renewal could be a new word in our politics, economics and social lives or soon it becomes a country of Old men and women.



Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Emerging Informal Political Consciousness of Young Urban Zimbabweans

By Takura Zhangazha *

Explaining the contemporary political consciousness of young Zimbabweans is little explored social commentary in the country.  Except where issues relating to  levels of unemployment, pursuing technical courses and sexual/reproductive health are placed on the table. Where there is an increasing dearth of information is the character of their political consciousness and how it affects their understanding of the broader state of affairs in the country. 

It is a consciousness that has as its initial measurement point, their right to express themselves.  And in political matters, they have not sought so much to independently portray their views as opposed to finding homes in the mainstream political party youth wings, church organizations and civil society organisations.

In these latter organizations, their voices have been muted either by way of structured discourse that relates to what is seen as their mainstream but peripheral roles. Alternatively they are limited to the straight-jacketed discourse that comes with the globalised human rights narratives or understandings of ‘development’.

This has left them with little option but to discover new, informal and much more easily accessible means for organizing and seeking to explain their socio-economic predicament.  This is also reflected in the way they have taken to the informal sectors of the economy with greater enthusiasm and vigour. 

But because whatever they do they tend to find ways of expressing their views of it, it is this key measurement of their national consciousness that is the subject of this article. 

Contemporary younger generations of Zimbabwe rarely get platforms to express their own views on how they are governed or whatever direction their country is taking.  With universities and tertiary colleges functioning like personal fiefdoms of Vice Chancellors, schools being semi-privatised, churches remaining conservative in outlook,  the price tag for exercising their right to assemble or express themselves in these spheres remains too high. 

And this is where the not so new but increasingly ubiquitous phrase ‘ghetto youths’ has come into being.  It is also a quasi informal movement with common characteristics particularly for the sprawling high density suburbs of our major towns and cities.  It borders on representing ‘pop culture’ while at the same time being expressions of how realties, ideals and roles are envisioned by an urban majority of young people in our country. 
The latter youth have taken to social media via both mobile telephony (smart(ish) phones, Whatsapp, Facebook) or fixed internet to express their views of the society in which they exist.  It is haphazard usage but it is a new means of expression their new consciousness all the same.  It’s a medium that has been used both for serious issues but largely for entertainment purposes. Especially where it comes to music and videos that are distributed either via social media, including YouTube or DVDs.

Common themes that emerge in this new social consciousness that is becoming apparent are about pursuit of recognition (ma fans), money, love, football, unemployment and departing for the Diaspora.
There is limited direct reference to political matters in the main forms of expression about their existential circumstances. Except where it concerns some party activists and civil society activists.  This means broadly spoken for, politics is no longer at the fore of what young urban Zimbabweans consider significant.

The reasons for the nonchalant attitude toward politics is probably because it no longer speaks directly to their lives as experienced on a regular basis.  It only tries to do so during elections, and even then, its presentation is so materialistic, it does not exude any specific values.  It therefore takes on the character of temporary fashion, momentary material benefit impact. The t-shirts, mobilization allowances are welcomed but with the understanding that politics is essentially about those that have the money seeking to purchase those without. 

After that, its back to social media and the urban subculture of struggling to survive while making the most apolitical sense of their lives.

This in itself is not a bad thing.  The only problem is that most of the solutions to the current socio-economic malaise that is affecting their consciousness requires principled social democratic politics for it to be resolved holistically.

As it is, this new but haphazard  social consciousness of Zimbabwe’s urban young has taken on a life of its own.  It is multifaceted but also essentially no longer has confidence in politics as a vehicle of organic change.  The young do not really expect specific positive changes to the health, education or even economic circumstances that obtain. 

They expect to continue to hassle for the dollar, engage in escapist behavior that will straddle varying extremes which include the informal economy, leaving the country, religion and even materialist politics.  Their vision of their own country however remains limited in its optimism.  Each day may be indicative of them getting older but their lives not getting any better.

*Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Zimbabwe’s Not So New Oligarchs and the Decadence of our National Political Economy.

By Takura Zhangazha*

A couple of years ago, I wrote on the quiet transformation of Zimbabwean society. It was not only a transformation that has dominated our language of pain and suffering due to the phenomenal downturn of our national economy.  It was a transformation that, when I wrote about it, was informed more by the evident change in the character of the Zimbabwean state. From being one that was imbued with an understanding of our shared and equal humanity as citizens, to being one that was increasingly to be defined by an unprecedented pursuit of survival and individual wealth via politics and proximity to political power as opposed to democratic values or principles. 

The only difference between 2007 and seven years later, in 2014, is the reality that the system of self aggrandizement without any obligation to a 'collective social contract' within our political economy is now more systematically entrenched.

Whereas, in the first decade of the millennium, our politics was in part driven by contestation by major political parties and economic players to place politics on the popular pedestal of serving the ‘need’ of the majority, with the passage of the inclusive government and the default one party state we now have in 2014, the major elements of our political economy are now primed to serve the ‘want’ of the few. 

And the timeline can be discerned beginning with the mustard seed of the now existent colossally disastrous system with economic structural adjustment (ESAP) in the 1990s. 

The subsequent effects of ESAP have been well documented, particularly within the context of global economic knowledge production.  What was however not done with as much concerted effort has been the negative impact of the same on our economic value systems.  Especially to the majority poor. 

So while initially, a decent education was seen as the path to economic prosperity for a majority of Zimbabwean families, it eventually turned out that even that did not matter as much as the informal sector of the economy.  Success in the informal sector however was to rely heavily on proximity to state power, or at least an ability to shadily circumvent a lot of its red tape requirements. 

By the time we arrived at the politics of the new millennium and the existence of a labour backed opposition, the political economy had shifted from expecting the state to protect the many to protecting the few. 
This, even in the context of the new land acquisition programme that occurred from the year 2000 to present day which has been touted as a revolution. (It is turning out more to be replacement land ownership than it is transformational.)

Where the analysis is extended to the lifespan of the inclusive government, what stands out more is that the latter sought to return the national economy to the ESAP period, except this time with a multi-currency exchange system.  The end effect has been a mini-scramble for state tenders or permits either in outsourced functions of parastatals or in the individually  lucrative sectors of  mining, safari hunting/tourism and importation/ retailing of finished goods. 

In most of these endeavors, the functional principle was and has not been that of feeding into a broader national economic development programme or value system. It has been about maximizing whatever little profit could be had at any given time and by a majority of individuals with a direct link to the state.   Or as our socialites would call it, ‘living in the moment’ without a care for any long term considerations on key aspects of the economy such as employment, social welfare provision or equitable infrastructural development. 

So what we now have obtaining in Zimbabwe are multiple oligarchies in all facets of the national economy. And in being almost omnipresent in these, they have now created a new undemocratic societal reality. It is a reality that does not cede to the rule of law, separation of powers nor respect the people as the final arbiters of who should govern the country.   They can now enter politics with evident monetary impunity and almost literary purchase their way up political leadership ladders.  Or even that of national sports associations. 

And because they straddle both worlds of politics and the economy, the media stories over and about their alleged corrupt activities rarely lead to any significant legal action against them. Instead, as protection mechanisms, they continue with their tried method of not only proximity to political power, but also to creating mini-gods of themselves at grassroots political levels through the distribution of largess.

It is to this extent that the politics of economic desperation then becomes self evident in Zimbabwe.  The state has been gradually abdicating its role of socio-economic responsibility in favour of individuals that have benefited from its resources at the expense of the majority. 

Sadly, this has led to no one really expecting the government to do anything serious to help their plight. Even in man-made disaster zones such as the Tokwe Mukosi basin.  Instead for a majority of Zimbabweans, the only hope tragically resides in semi messianic figures who, if they come from your home area or are your relative, distribute obscurely acquired wealth .

So our national economic value system no longer obtains popular relevance.  We scamper from one oligarch to another for services that should be directly acquired from the state.

* Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)