Saturday, 27 September 2014

Chitungwiza, Epworth and Manyame Home Demolitions by Predators of the Homeless


By Takura Zhangazha*

The Ministry of Local Government  has done what is sadly familiar.  It has sanctioned the demolition of homes, not just houses, by local authorities in Chitungwiza, Manyame and Epworth.  As though to spite the families of these households, these undemocratic actions were undertaken in the middle of the night or early hours of the morning last week Thursday and Friday respectively.


With the assistance of demolition vehicles and the Zimbabwe Republic Police, local councils were at their most callous.


Watching some of the directly affected residents being interviewed on the state broadcaster’s evening news bulletin, a number of issues become apparent.  The first is that the reasons being given by both the responsible ministry and the local councils appear rational on paper but are essentially dishonest, arbitrary and elitist in import. 


In statements attributed to Deputy Minister of Local Government Biggie Matiza the media reported that the government is persuaded these houses were built illegally on land that in original town plans were intended for clinics, schools and churches. 

This is in tandem with declarations also made by the local authorities in the areas concerned but with the caveat that they were following orders from central government. 

The reality of the matter is that these undemocratic actions are not the result of people centered local or central government for a number of reasons.


In the first instance, the houses were constructed with the complicity or even direct participation of elected officials in both local and central government.  Building a house is never an overnight process.  And it requires plans, resources and general approval by a given authority.  Some of the houses that were demolished have been standing for over five years. 


For government, at both local and central levels to want to claim a Damascene moment by turning around and saying the land allocations were illegal all along is to demonstrate a peculiar insensitivity to the plight of citizens.  Primarily because, not only have these houses been built under their aegis but also because there is no tangible option of alternative housing for those that have since been not only evicted but had their houses brought down.

So both local and central governments are trying to give an air of rationality to what is essentially their deliberate undemocratic misleading of home seekers.

The other more significant consideration is that these demolitions, apart from being undemocratic, are symptomatic of  new battles for land in urban and peri-urban areas.  Both by elected local councils and traditional leaders. 

The character of these land contestations are related to the profitability of getting councils and central government to approve the conversion of previously state or traditional leader controlled land to urban usage. 

In the cases of Chitungwiza, Epworth and Manyame, it is evident that there was corrupt collusion between local government officials, construction companies( even if they are small), ruling and opposition party provincial politicians and central government to offer stands to the homeless without the guarantee of peramnce. Even at great cost to poor families. 

All in quick bids to make quick money at the expense of the homeless and economically vulnerable. That is the real reason why these residential stands were allowed to exist for prolonged periods of time.  It was and remains a complex web of kleptocracy  involving the central state, local government, wannabe real estate agents and corrupt politicians. 

At a national scale the problem is continuing to emerge with rash decision to give town status to previous growth points in order to aide the purchasing of land by large contractors who then on the basis of political affiliation and connections sell these to the desperately homeless.  This regardless of the fact that local councils  do not have final long term planning frameworks for establishing these new residential areas.

Given the acute shortage of housing in Zimbabwe, particularly for young families, it becomes understandable that the desperation leads to quick uptakes of these illicitly acquired residential stands.  And this is undertaken with very little questions asked except for party card affiliation and the prospects of either running a little business or building a house in which one can place lodgers in order to raise much needed revenue.  No matter whether one is with the ruling Zanu Pf party  or the mainstream MDC oppositions.

As a result, what we have obtaining is a housing system that relies largely on the money making intentions of national/local  politicians, private building contractors and corrupt local councils. These demolitions are not the last nor are they the first.


From the infamous Operation Murambatsvina through to the tragic events of last week, what we have is an evident housing system based on political patronage which unfortunately is ephemeral, corrupt and in the final analysis being treated as a money making enterprise.  It would do well if the residents associations reminded government, both local and central that housing is a human right.  Even after the event of tragic demolitions. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com) 

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Grace, Joice and the Ordinary Zimbabwean Woman Without and Caught In-between



By Takura Zhangazha*


Last Friday two of Zimbabwe’s arguably most powerful women, Vice President Joice Mujuru and First Lady Grace Mugabe, received doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees from the University of Zimbabwe.   It was an occasion that was both as celebrated as it was controversial. 


Not least because of the current public and private debates concerning Zanu Pf’s  electoral congress and its attendant succession politics. But also because over the last month or so, the First Lady’s almost given ascendancy to the post of  Zanu Pf Secretary for Women's Affairs  has been touted as a key move to stop Mujuru either retaining her current post or preventing her from succeeding the incumbent. 


So perhaps these doctorates are being acquired in pursuit of perceived (or even real) academic competition/ ascendancy between the two and on behalf of their alleged factions.  And in positioning either of the two as fully if not over qualified to either retain or take over national leadership positions in Zanu PF.


The awarding of the PhD's to the two ladies has also courted controversies in its own right.   A number of media reports have queried the unusually short period the First Lady took to register and graduate for a degree programme that usually lasts at least three official academic years.  Or alternatively,  but far less controversially, the timing of the qualification of the Vice President to coincide with an electoral congress year.


All of these issues as they have emerged over the last week are symptomatic of a number of key issues that are demonstrating the true character of their leadership bids, their party’s internal dynamics as well as the status of women in our society.



To begin with, their leadership bids, which they are since their party has an elective congress, have had to be structured within a highly male dominated political framework.  This is both because of the history of the liberation struggle as well as the significance of being in proximity to the incumbent leader, President Mugabe. 


Vice President Mujuru’s narrative has been carefully tailored to demonstrate not only liberation war credentials but a post independence capacity to not only to be a longstanding cabinet minister but an educated and commitment one too.  Just like those who dominated leadership in the liberation struggle, Zanu Pf and government.  


The First Lady on the other hand  has also had to link her ambitions to her proximity to her party’s leader who incidentally is also her spouse.  She has however also sought to demonstrate her intellectual capacity and acumen not only through her recent PhD acquisition but by trying to develop a persona of being ‘Mother of the nation’.  The latter point only within the ambit (and permission) of a male dominated framework. 


That they operate within such a misogynist environment is no fault of their own.  It is something that perhaps can be blamed on the historical genesis of many a liberation struggle on our subcontinent. The sad truth is that they are most likely to be successful if they do not seek to revolutionize such a status quo Sankara style.


The much more interesting question and issue therefore becomes, what exactly do these two women stand for.  One ostensibly representing herself while the other alleging representing a rival faction to the other as led by a male.   The answer to this might reside in the reality that they do not so much represent any potential shifts in Zanu Pf policies or intentions.  Neither are they keen on proposing anything different to what obtains.  Especially where and when it comes to women. 


In their many years of influence, one as First Vice President and the other as First Lady, they have never claimed to be progenitors of any overall new policies that have benefited women in Zimbabwe.  Where one checks with what Zanu Pf has claimed as its most successful policy in the last decade, the fast track land reform programme, it has turned out that women felt short changed.  Even in their own party. 


This is an important point to make because it must be remembered  that in all of these political manoeuvres, there has rarely been  a moment where these two highly influential women so close to power in their own party have demonstrated an organic linkage with the plight of ordinary women across the country.  Nor have they been brought to direct account on that score.


 It is not as if they would divide the country by doing so. They would only stand to not only gain better leverage to relieve women of the myriad social and economic challenges affecting them but also be in a position to demonstrate that leadership should essentially be un-gendered.  And that everyone’s interests, including those of women, matter.



So in the midst of the PhD graduations, the factional fights and shifting allegiances in their party as well as in government, they would do better to take into account the fact that perhaps, only perhaps the ordinary Zimbabwean girl, woman, mother and grandmother are not too sure as to what is really going on up there where power is kept or allegedly being fought for. Hence the narrative of who women support is neither popular beyond party structures nor in the hearts and minds of a majority of our population (women).

After all, they as ordinary women are still faced with unaffordable maternal care, poor health infrastructure, lack of land tenure/security, domestic /gender based violence and unequal access to education (unless their parents are well to do and alive).  

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

Friday, 12 September 2014

Jonathan Moyo’s Dangerous Liasons with the Media


By Takura Zhangazha*


The Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services, Professor Jonathan Moyo is evidently in a good place with the media.  Apart from having it under his ministerial purview, he also has the luxury of having it at his beck and call. 

Only this week he summoned editors and other media stakeholders to his office. Apparently it was to sort of read a mini-riot act to the press for covering issues that he feels are not accurate. Or at least are not in the interests of his party or its leadership.

It was said that at this particular meeting he took umbrage with the Newsday for publishing a story based on a MISA-Zimbabwe statement that became the basis of a story that appeared in the Newsday.   In the statement  MISA Zimbabwe had expressed its concern over comments attributed to Zanu Pf leaders on the private media.

Apparently Moyo disagreed with not only the statement but also the fact that it was then covered in the mainstream media.


Obviously there were a number of options for the minister to put across his point to the media. These would have included writing a letter to the editor of the Newsday, held a press conference to deny MISA Zimbabwe’s assertions or to approach the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe for redress.


The minister chose instead to summon the media and related stakeholders to his office.  A move which demonstrated his evident  hold on the media. He can summon seasoned and busy journalists to a meeting in which he has no big policy pronouncement but some stern words on the basis of what he views as unfavourable media content.


That he can do this is in itself dangerous for the freedom of the media as well as the editorial independence of both state and private media houses.


Perhaps it is because he has distributed some sort of largesse via the rather mute Information and Media Panel of Inquiry (IMPI) that has made the media more pliable to his demands.  Or it could be that he is under pressure from his superiors to rein in the media’s reportage of Zanu PFs  succession politics.


Either way, this does not bode well for the media’s independence from political interference. Especially where ministers seek to remind the same that they are in overall charge of whatever ‘freedom’ they may be enjoying at present.


In  all of this, there are a number of issues that the media must take up with greater urgency.  First is that the media must be much more cautious in its engagement with minister Moyo.  It is not employed by him or by government directly and therefore, save for when he wants to make policy announcements, it must deliberately avoid being treated like children.


Secondly, the media must defend its editorial independence to the hilt.  It does not have to justify its editorial decisions to arbitrary authority.  Nor should it tolerate having a government minister read it some sort of riot act over a story that he found unfavourable to his political party’s interest.


Thirdly, there is need for solidarity and depolarisation of the media to be based not on political opportunism but on democratic values and principle.  While government can extend olive branches, these should be taken from the firm placement of media freedom and editorial independence as key measurements of sincerity.  That Moyo chose to attack a media institution and an editorial decision should be evidence enough to justify dealing with his ministry with scepticism and abundant caution. 
 

Fourthly, the dire economic circumstances affecting the print media industry should not cloud the continued need for editorial independence of newspapers and journalists.  The relationship between editors and their publishers should be re-examined with an intention of ensuring that the pursuit of profit does not impede the public interest role of the press.  Because Moyo is at the height of his influence over the media, publishers have  been keen on not upsetting him or the ruling party,   This to  the extent of ensuring that their papers do not write stories that may upset the potential apple cart of multiple media house ownership (print, radio and television).

In considering all of these issues, Zimbabwe’s media must protect its fourth estate role  much more concertedly and without having to wait for the blessing of cabinet ministers. 

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

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Perspectives on Zimbabwe’s Economic Recovery.



A brief presentation  to the Sustainable Economics Forum (SEF)


 by Takura Zhangazha
Wednesday 10 September 2014.


Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation (FES)  Zimbabwe, Head Office, Harare


Discussing the economic prospects of Zimbabwe has invariably had to be linked to the state of our politics. Mainly for two reasons. The first being that the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) that began in early 2000 (by default) led to some sort of economic shock therapy. 


While what was more apparent on the minds of many pundits of political economy was the infamous ‘ Black  Friday’ on 14 November 1997  where the Zimbabwe dollar tumbled heavily after the awarding of ‘unbudgeted for’ increases in the allowances of war veterans together with the expensive military assistance we gave to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997 , the latter’s structural impact on the economy would have been short-lived. 


It was the FTLRP that changed, in part our economic outlook, not least because it directly affected our economic base, agriculture, but because it also had other economic consequences which would include economic sanctions on the state and companies directly linked to government business. 


The second reason is because of the intentions of our political leaders.  Especially where these are linked to electoral prospects and  retention of political power.  They have also had a tendency to approach the economy from a centrist command point with five year economic plans that are essentially a throwback to our initial years of independence where the state was intended to have an historically grounded role in social and economic development of a repressed black majority.  


The major ideological motivation for this has always been nationalistic before it is based on much more structured ideological frameworks such as socialism or capitalism.   And this was probably deliberate in order to court foreign direct investment from the then and now re-emergent  Cold War global divide. 

So the essentials of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis reside primarily and for now, in the nature of the structure of the state and the intentions of its political leadership.


The character  of the state in relation to what has been referred to the ‘enclave’ and ‘dualism’  in a recent collaborative study  by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) , Alternatives to Neo-Liberalism  in Southern Africa (ANSA) and the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute, Zimbabwe (LEDRIZ).   


This is with specific reference to the inherited legacies of the Rhodesian settler state political economy which according to the study cited above, was racialised into the formal and informal.  It is a dichotomy that exists today with most formal economic activity being the preserve of major cities and in the hands of the elite while a greater majority, particularly women remain in the informal and rural components of the economy.


The intentions of the political leadership in so far as they have, since independence, sought to change the enclave and dual nature of the economy. Furthermore, whether in the process of seeking to do so, their intentions were in any event intended to be revolutionary or ended up mimicking global economic models without proper application to context. Both in the short and long term. 

While this paper cannot go through the structural details of various economic policies that have been implemented by government over the last 34 years, it would be instructive to note that key structural and ideological tenets that inform our contemporary political economy have neither been revolutionised or holistically and organically changed.  Both in relation to a more efficient economy or in enabling the same to serve to the greater extent the livelihood needs of our country’s majority poor. 

Where a big departure was expected through the formation of the SADC mediated inclusive government in 2009, that government’s policies became more keen on a return to a ‘stable’ economic past in the midst of the FTLRP.

 Its intention was to return the Zimbabwean economy to acceptable global practices while at the same time avoiding holistically dealing with structural challenges that have afflicted the Zimbabwean political economy since independence. 


With the advent of a two thirds majority in Parliament and an attendant local government and presidential election victory (contested as it is) for Zanu Pf, again we would be forgiven for assuming that the economic trajectory would at least look up. 


Not least because the incumbent government is not as contested as the previous one but also because a holistic overhaul of the predications of our national economy have been long outstanding. 


In saying this, I am aware that mainstream economic thought on how to develop not only the Zimbabwean, but African economies, is long standing and continually being renewed. Both at the instance of independent academics but largely with the influence of global financial and economic institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and to a limited extent leftist institutions/governments.   


The key question has been our relative African and in particular Zimbabwean government’s ability to harness these globally generated epistemologies to our own local contexts.  This has been the bane of our domestic economic policies.  From the neo-liberal Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes of the late 1980s through to contemporary state capitalist models of √°rrival’ or permanent hegemonies, such as China and closer to home, Angola, we have failed to grasp that mimicry alone is not adequate especially where it has no domestic social democratic context.


In our immediate context, this is the primary challenge of the much lauded but little implemented new economic blueprint, Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Social, Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).  Not only in its typical mimicry of the economic blueprints of countries that are perceived to be friendly but in its ideological impetus which would have us all fawn at the alter of state capitalism ala carte China, Angola. But more because it has no ideological or revolutionary intention to the structural challenges our national economy faces.


It is essentially a programme that  continues to pursue the path of not only externally sourced modernisation programmes, but also retain the structural tenets of a neo-liberal economy imbued with elitist and hegemonic aspirations of existent ruling classes or bourgeoisie.  Both in terms of ideas as well as material investment.


So when one analyses the recent visit by President Mugabe to China in order to seek bilateral agreements in line with ZimAsset, the key issue is not so much to seek repetitions of cold war rhetoric.  Instead it is to measure how these bilateral agreements are contextual and in line with the specific economic challenges that the country is facing.  Furthermore, it is to examine not only the economic model of state capitalism, which is what China has implemented since the late 1980s, but to scrutinize its relevance to our own national context.


As it is, the model of state capitalism, which is the basic ideological premise of ZimAsset, is primed at primarily entrenching a specific hegemonic era in Zimbabwe wherein a ruling party related comprador bourgeoisie  virtually runs the state like a personal business.  In doing so they appropriate state resources in pursuit of making wealth that is predicated on their being in power while at the same time keeping the masses at bay. Preferably by way of quasi performance legitimacy but primarily through benevolence and repression.

So the prospects for the national economy are bleak, especially if one uses social democratic measurements.  There will be some forms of FDI but largely of an infrastructural kind in order to fortify the ruling party’s benevolent but repressive rule.  The realisation of social and economic justice be it in relation to historical grievances such as land distribution or basic social services will  be continually subjected to elite capture and the creation of vacuous public private partnerships.  And in this, politics will again be a key determinant as to what direction the economy takes.

To conclude, I would posit that we perhaps need to begin to attempt to think beyond what we have leanrt as mainstream economics and models of economic development.  I know that there have been attempts to do so, particularly through local, regional and international think-tanks that have called for what they have referred to as the “democratic developmental state”.  It is by and large a proposition that fits into the ‘third way’ framework as has been discussed in the West. 
It is a noble idea except for its assumption of internationalisation and immediate fitting into the lexicon of the Non Profit Industrial Complex.  

The primary challenge is for African states and Zimbabwe in particular not to escape direct ideological questions that are required in order to frame holistic solutions to the economic challenges that we are faced with. And even more-so that these definitions stem from contextual historical, political and economic analysis.

It is therefore imperative that in order to improve the prospects of our economic  recovery in a holistic fashion we undertake the following steps:
  • 1.      Embarking on contextual knowledge production and exchanges within the ambit of greater academic freedom and promotion of innovation.
  • 2.      Determining clearer contextual  ideological praxis upon which our economic development models are formulated and implemented with a bias toward a social democratic framework.
  • 3.      Dismantling the dual/enclave state primarily through addressing our land reform programme’s challenges around the  bifurcation of rural and local government, bio-agriculture, security of tenure, mining, the environment, wildlife
  • 4.      Concertedly integrating the provision of social services (health, education, transport, shelter and food) to the majority poor at little or no cost altogether into all alternative frameworks that are produced.

ENDS.