18 April 2014.
Published by: Committee of the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter (CPC)
Contributors: David Chidende, Blessing Vava, Prince Tongogara, Takura Zhangazha
Contact Details: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.