A Presentation to the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) Public Seminar
Thursday 27 November 2014.
New Ambassador Hotel, Harare.
As is tradition and courtesy, let me begin. by thanking you for inviting me to share my views with the respectable Douglas Mwonzora, recently elected Secretary General of the MDC-T and the respectable Goodson Nguni of the ruling Zanu Pf party.
I have titled my presentation Zimbabwe’s 2014 in Early Retrospect: Struggles Without the Struggle for a specific reason. In 1999, the late renowned academic and human rights activist, Professor Masipula Sithole, who is also a founder of the organisation that has brought us here today, the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI) wrote a personal note for me in his celebrated book, Struggles Within the Struggle.
In that note he urged me, as his former student, to hopefully pursue writing my own version of ‘struggles after the struggle.’ I suspect his intention was to have me participate in a project that helps to outline what happened to the former liberation movement, in which his brother was once upon a time president, in the aftermath of independence.
Contrary to his written expectations, I have decided to call this paper, struggles without the struggle. The main reasons being that we have all had collective amnesia about why we do our politics. Social democratic values, principles have long been discarded in order to promote personality cults (across the political divide), mimicry of assumed global universality in political and economic trends.
Struggles without the struggle therefore refers to a year in which we have come to tragically accept that our politics is not only shallow, non-revolutionary and elitist at a time when our country urgently needs the exact opposite.
I will return to the issue of struggles without the struggle later. In order to assess the ups and downs of the course of the year 2014 in Zimbabwe, it is necessary to access the political, legal, economic, civil society and social placement of the country as the year progressed.
In the course of the political year and given our obsession with politics, there have been no major positives to talk of. We have probably scored a historical first as a country where a ruling party is literally fighting within itself even after a shocking, but disputed, electoral victory over a year ago.
Simultaneously, an opposition which should have been taking the year to reflect, re-organise and refocus in the wake of its stunning defeat in general elections, finds itself not only divided but floating in the political abstractions of personality cults as thought to mimic and compete with the ruling party.
Newer political parties, in the wake of their formation or at least announcements of being formed, have found themselves pursing political office without any new ideas or propositions on the political future of the country.
So as it is, our national political score card is next to zero. We have not achieved anything politically in the last eleven months.
Legally, the new constitution has sought to give us a glimmer of hope over the course of the year. Unfortunately it is neither widely known let alone appreciated. Even after millions of dollars were spent crafting it and putting it to a referendum. It has had no immediate impact on the political consciousness of the Zimbabwean populace primarily because its end effect now appears to have been a power brokering arrangement between political parties, and in the run up to the Zanu Pf congress, managing presidential succession.
Our new bill of rights has not seen any changes in the attitude of government. Over the course of the year, the right to housing, shelter and viable livelihoods have been violated in Mazowe, Manyame, Chitungwiza, Chiadzwa, Tokwe Mukosi, Gutu and Chisumbanje. I am sure that in Lupane, the same story of displacement of citizens will emerge with the unfolding reports of gas exploration.
This brings me to the important point of the performance of the national economy over the course of the year. Government launched its five year economic blueprint, ZimAsset last year amid much fanfare and media hype. It has turned out that this document is largely about government giving the impression that it has a plan.
In essence the blueprint is no more than a political manifesto and not a government programme of action. It meets the global prerequisites of capitalism and neo-liberalism, albeit in similar fashion to the Chinese, Russian and Angolan economic models.
These being steeped in state capitalism where it is the political elite who, like the oligarchies in the aforementioned countries run the entirety of the economy while simultaneously repressing revolutionary political dissent and giving a veneer of permanence or inevitability to the political and economic state of affairs as they obtain.
Let me return to the concept of struggles without the struggle. Our political economy over the last year, and needless to say since independence have suffered from a tremendous lack of application of political and innovative mind to context. Our actions have tended to be motivated more by a desire for personal and international recognition via mimicry without a consistent intention to address the needs of the people. This is against the grain of the values of not only our liberation struggle but all struggles for the furtherance of democracy in Zimbabwe and elsewhere.
We have lost the heart, spirit and important placement of democratic values as was the case in the liberation struggle.
So if we want to have a better 2015 we must become more organic and holistic in seeking to solve the country’s challenges. This would entail a return to the organic ideals and values of the liberation struggle beyond retention or acquisition of power as is the case with our current crop of political leaders. It would also entail that we embrace the functional democratic principle of leadership for posterity and not for the moment. We need to embrace broad social democratic ideals that put the welfare of the people at the centre of political and economic thought processes and policies.