Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Dear EPL, UEFA + Global Media, for Us Africans, AFCON is Not a Backwater Tournament

 By Takura Zhangazha*

In early January 2017, Africa will hold its premier football tournament, the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Gabon.  And we are eagerly anticipating it.  Not with the same media driven fervour that accompanied Euro 2016.  But we will be happy to see our best football players competing for what is African football's highest honour. 

There is however an apparent dilemma. This being  that the majority of our best players ply their trade in European leagues. And the AFCON tournament is held during Africa’s summer when most European leagues are at their fiercest levels of competition.  So many European clubs tend to wish they could hold on to these star players during this period.  In turn some of the players choose to stay away from their national teams in order to keep their places in the much more lucrative leagues because essentially the Afcon does not pay as well and its not as reputable as the Euros or COPA America. 

The sports media and commentators also tend to treat the AFCON as an unnecessary aberration to what they deliberately present as the better football of their premier leagues.  For them, it would appear, losing African star players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang,  Sadio Mane, Yaya Toure, Nkolo Kante  or Andre Ayew (to name a few) to this ‘inconvenient’ tournament compromises the quality and competition of their premier leagues.  And references to how in January the fact that the African football stars that chose to play for their counties will ‘disappear’ to Africa this coming January (see commentary on Liverpool vs Stoke match on 27 December 2016), smacks of subtle derision of the tournament. 

Unlike the COPA America or the Euros, the Afcon is determinedly derided and treated with the significant disdain.

True, football is about the money more than it is about global solidarity or feel good moments.  The FIFA 2010 World Cup held in South Africa was clear testimony to this.  Never mind the fact that Nelson Mandela was there in person at the final announcement of the winning bid of his country on behalf of the continent. The 2010 edition still turned out to be too expensive for African pockets.  We ‘waited for Kaka’ but didn’t really get to see him.  At great cost and scandal to the South African government.  The end effect then became that even the hosting of that global tournament did not give greater value to African football and its footballers. Hence our own tournament continues to be treated with appalling disdain. Both by European clubs and mainstream global media.

And yes, we have had tragic incidents at previous tournaments such as the shooting of the Togolese team bus in Cabinda,  Angola at Afcon 2010.  This does not take away the commitment of players, football associations and fans from supporting the tournament.

But its obviously up to us as Africans (and those of African origin) to give greater value to our football (and other sporting disciplines).  Prejudices against our sporting capacities, including the disdain shown over and about our continental sporting tournaments will remain with us for a while.  Regardless of this  we have to value them better for ourselves from our local football leagues and other local sport. 

This however must include an understanding that the behemoth that is global football is always going to create and find  preferences.  And corporate sponsorship will always follow the numbers and the lucrative markets.  And that the tradition of our own football clubs and how we administer them will be a key determinant of where these preferences and numbers are found.  

More often than not we choose the easier option because after all football is football.  It can have its moments of racism such as when Yaya Toure  was racially abused in Russia and was to issue an African boycott threat to the 2018 FIFA World Cup to be held in the same country . And as Africans we will continue to admire the great players and football of the European leagues including our own.  But we cannot accept the belittling of our own African Cup of Nations. Be it by coaches, leagues and sports commentators from the same said soccer leagues.  If we are to say no to racism, we have to also respect each other’s continental football showcases. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Zim's Politics and Jurisprudence: Whose Chief Justice is it Anyway?

By Takura Zhangazha*

The Judicial Service Commission recently undertook public interviews for the position of the Chief Justice of Zimbabwe. This was done because the current chief justice is retiring in early 2017.  It was also done in terms of section 180 of the current (new) constitution which empowers the JSC to independently determine who occupies the office. 

A few days prior to the public interviews, a University of Zimbabwe law student, Romeo Zibani filed an urgent high court application seeking to annul the process that the JSC had already begun undertaking in terms of the Constitution.  The arguments given in the court papers were that the JSC could not impartially appoint a nominee to its most important post.  The court papers filed also included an unsigned memorandum of intent to amend section 180 of the constitution to give the president powers of appointing the Chief Justice  from the permanent secretary in the ministry of legal affairs.

The interdict to stop the interviews was granted by Justice Hungwe.   The JSC filed a notice to appeal the interdict and used that as the basis upon which to proceed as planned with the public interviews. The latter were shown live on state television and made for both decent public scrutiny of the candidates that attended (one candidate, Justice Chiweshe did not attend).

Over a week later, Justice Hungwe issued his full judgment in the matter.  In it he indicated his strong persuasion that the JSC had erred in refusing to wait it out and allow the executive to make amendments to the constitution.  This he argues, is in the interests of accentuating transparency and accountability as part of the values that are cited in Section 3 of the constitution.  He also further averred that the constitution itself is a ‘work in progress’, a point that is not only interesting because its coming from a judge but one that underlies perceptions of the supreme law of the land not being perfect.  His view is also that too much independence of even the judiciary may not be a good thing for the doctrine of the separation of powers since, he argues, the former does not ‘function in a vacuum’. 

The case itself has led the media to conclude that the process has been politicized by Zanu Pf factional fights for the office of Chief justice.  Claims that the G40 and Lacoste faction were angling for their preferred candidate hence the court action have however not helped the public image of the judiciary.  And this is regardless of whether the JSC process is confirmed  or dismissed at the Supreme or constitutional court level. 

Social media too has had its say and the verdict is largely similar to that of the mainstream media.  Prominent political personalities have indicated not only their disdain at the Hungwe judgment but insinuated that the maneuvers to stop the JSC process are the work of ‘successionists’. 

These allegations have had a conspiratorial ring to them since the manner in which the challenge has emerged was bound to raise a lot of political eyebrows from the opposition and supporters of  judicial independence. 

There are however a lot of issues to consider beyond the evident politicization of the matter of who becomes Zimbabwe’s next Chief Justice. 

First is the fact that while we as ordinary citizens cannot wade into the legal merits or demerits of the matter which is now the subject of an appeal to a higher court, we can at least note its impact on the meaning of judicial independence, the doctrine of the separation of powers and the democratic meaning of the constitution. 

We can also ask questions as to the veracity of the selection process of the Chief Justice and wonder how the judiciary has come to be in sixes and sevens over section 180 of a relatively new constitution.  

And we must ask just how important is section 3 of the constitution that outlines national values over and above other sections of the constitution. (We should be mindful that some cabinet minsters have used the same section 3 against the freedom of the media)

Furthermore, we have to ask whether the constitution should be amended so soon after a referendum and specifically for what would appear to be expedient purposes.

While we know that eventually it comes down to the judiciary interpreting what the writers of the constitution intended when they wrote section 180 that is used to appoint  the Chief Justice,  it is imperative that it puts on its best legal minds on this particular case.  This is because it can open the floodgates to constitutional amendments as well as elite capture of the judiciary.  And we would do well to always remember Julius Nyerere’s  warning that ‘the mechanisms of democracy are not always the meaning of democracy.’  
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com0

Friday, 16 December 2016

Struggle Fragmentation and a Failing Incrementalism in Zimbabwe.

By Takura Zhangazha*

The furtherance of the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe is getting a little bit more complicated now.  And as we end 2016, with the prospect of an elections pre-occupied 2017, it is bound to become even more so.  An immediate question that one may ask is ‘what is this struggle’ that I am referring to?  There is no one answer to this question.  Neither is there still one person (charismatic or otherwise) who is able to give an all embracing definition, for now.

Understanding what it is to ‘struggle’ in present day Zimbabwe now range from perspectives that vehemently want to topple/remove the current government (not clear on how) to those that want to fight for their own sectoral interests, to the many  that just want to survive every day and finally to a very few that struggle on ideological pretexts.

The reasons for this ‘struggle fragmentation’ are also many.  The immediate ones are for example the splitting of the main opposition MDC party on what are arguably personality differences than principles (even after initial splits, the opposition continues to split).  Another reason is the fact of sustainability challenges for mainstream human rights civil society from causes that include donor fatigue, competition for resources and lapses in transparency and accountability. 

But these are pretty much straightforward reasons that address more the symptoms than they deal with the actual illness. 

The primary reason for ‘struggle fragmentation’ in the pro-democratic forces in Zimbabwe relate to what I consider three fundamental causes.

The first is a direct result of the constitutional reform process (COPAC) undertaken by the inclusive government from 2009-2013.  COPAC culminated in a massive ‘yes' vote, a victory which was initially presented as the ultimate embodiment of the struggles of the people for democracy. A lot of its flaws were put aside for mainly partisan reasons and the result we have, though few of us talk about it, is a constitution that remains unknown and instrumentalised for political power games by the ruling party.   

But this isn’t really the problem.  Instead it is the fact that we as activists of one persuasion or the other, are stubbornly refusing to grasp the ‘incremental change’ reality that the new constitution ushered in.  Hence some of us continue to undertake our activism in absolutist terms without taking into account that the supreme legal document with its contrived popular mandate is the current centerpiece of how the state is now being run.  And conveniently forgetting that a greater majority of us ushered it into existence, even if for various and eventually problematic reasons.  In the process we have failed to make the best of this incremental phase that now characterizes our national politics.  Examples of this include but are not limited to the surprising current calls for a national transitional authority which essentially would abrogate the constitution.

Or why we are increasingly pre-occupied by factionalism within the ruling party while forgetting that we neither control it, or that it is also the ‘sunset clauses’ within the constitution that are partly perpetuating  it.

The second fundamental reason why we are where we are is that of ‘election cycle activism’.   Not that it is in any way wrong.  In fact it is quite necessary.  But the challenge has been to place within the context of a whole body of activism and not over-emphasise it as though we are all in pursuit of power.  Its downside became very clear in the post 2008 political context in which the MDC(s) as a natural political ally of progressives became their nemesis.  After being helped and supported as part of a broad though poorly defined alliance, it ignored the principles and values espoused in tandem with labour and human rights organizations, for example as outlined in the Zimbabwe People’s Charter. 

From the economy, through to the constitution and social justice, the MDC(s) in the inclusive government forgot its founding values and principles.  Instead it embarked on an aggressive muting and co-option of allies that were previously independently contributing to the collective struggle (the controversial means it used to do this are well known).  This also explains why being honest about the 2013 election potential and eventual defeat of the opposition was generally derided.  A majority of us had simply begun to believe our own lies.

The third and final reason relates to our collective failure to understand the ideological pretext of the Zimbabwean state and its political economy.  While initially we understood, with the help of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the imperative need for contextual social democracy as the ideological framework for change in our country, we got too quickly co-opted into the neo-liberal global economic prescriptions of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Thabo Mbeki (third way).  With it of course came resource support and knowledge production systems that did not truly fit our context.   And this was a narrative that the ruling party had already embraced with ESAP and all of its subsequent economic reform programmes such as the current ZimAsset. 

This also explains in part why the ‘No to Bond Notes’ protests have failed.  Mainly because we failed to understand the economic helplessness of a majority of our people, we thought they would literally spill into the streets to support a currency they do not always have but also one they do not really feel they have power over. We failed to posit an organic economic argument around key issues of social welfare to the extent that our default argument has now become a ‘wait and see’ attitude which suits neo-liberal arguments of how the market is king. 

There are many counter-arguments to the reasons I have presented here. But I am certain they will not be at complete contrast to the same.  What I would like to conclude with is to return to our failure to understand the current ‘incremental’/small  change context in which we are operating in.  We may not need to accept it in principle, but we have to function within it, for now.  We need to address our historical trajectories and national political economy with a new candidness, allow young leaders to learn a new organic activism, think about but beyond the electoral cycle and establish organic social movements that understand Zimbabwe’s realities while continually embracing contextual social democratic values and principles. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Monday, 5 December 2016

(No) Nationalism and Money in Zimbabwe

 By Takura Zhangazha*

The introduction of bond notes in Zimbabwe has not been as apocalyptic as predicted by critics. Nor has it been as positive as anticipated by those that support their introduction.  And in both cases, the politics of the bond notes has been muted.  Despite some demonstrations planned and threats of arrest and detention of those opposed to them, no political party has gone full throttle in favour of or in rejection of them.

In fact most of the opinion battles have occurred largely through the media.  This was done mainly through editorials, columns and biased hard news stories.  But even the private mainstream media moderated its anti-bond note tone as the date of their introduction drew closer.  Not least because they were also now accepting revenue from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) promotional advertisements.

The default verdict of many Zimbabweans however is while suspicious and mistrusting of the government remains that of a ‘wait and see’ attitude. 

One security guard I recently talked to explained with reservation that if it doesn’t work, then he will cross the rejection bridge when he gets to it.  For now all he wants is an end to the bank queues and by dint of the same, not preoccupying his ‘off time’ in them.

In kombis, the key issue is always about the change that is returned and whether its in bond notes or in actual United States dollars.  But there is no rejection of change.  There may be a bit of consternation, a bit of grumbling about a lack of ‘fair’ aggregation of bond notes over the actual currency.  I assume that this would also apply to the exchanges in flea markets and other informal trade arenas. 

What is arguably true is that there is no nationalism that is accompanying the bond note.  Even from ruling party supporters and policy makers.  The big debate is about their utilitarian (or lack of it) value and nothing else.  From issues of shorter queues for cash, through to unpredictable exchange rates on the streets or via electronic money transfers, there’s no immediate sense of national ownership of the bond note.  It is currently being viewed, and understandably so, with derision, humour, and to the greater extent, resignation. 

In other words, the bond note is viewed as money, but money that is inferior and money that does not reflect any popular national acceptance.  For the government it does not have to. As long as it serves what Finance Minister Chinamasa has defined as the reduction of the import of US dollars and preventing the externalisation of those that are already in circulation.   

The default acceptance of bond notes is therefore an indicator of how far and the extent to which our nationalism is no longer defined by what would be conventional measurements. Having a national currency would be an easy one to point out.  Rejecting one proposed by government, even though not by popular dissent, would indicate that our nationalism is no longer conventional by a long shot.
And this does not matter to the ruling party.  It never claimed to have a brand of popular nationalism.  Instead it is clear that its view of nationalism leans heavily toward being ‘patriotic’.  The latter being a state of affairs that, in its probable view, does not require popular consent but a latter day version of democratic centralism (i.e the few deciding for the many). 

The downside of this lack of popular support for the bond note is that it is indicative of how the general view of the national economy is no longer determined by contextual factors.  Zimbabweans are increasingly global in their economic outlook.  This means that they tend to accept the economic systems/outlook of countries that they admire, including the USA whose currency they stubbornly want to hold on to.  As a result, and largely due to lack of economic trust in their government, there is a tendency by most Zimbabweans to defend neo-liberal economic policies even if the world and global financial institutions such as the World Bank are increasingly questioning their progressive economic impact. 

It is this sort of approach that the Zimbabwean government is also taking advantage of.  It knows, probably, that we will not question its economic policies beyond what they do to our individual pockets as citizens. Or at least as a national collective.  Nor in relation to social welfare and trying give every citizen a fair start in this cutthroat and individualistic/atomised national economic (dis)order.  Hence its tenacious and in part arrogant introduction of a currency no one really understands but will eventually end up using even if under some sort of protest or with an intention to fuel parallel money markets for illicit profit purposes.

Until such a time we approach our national economic challenges as holistically as practicable, and we stop having isolated responses to what we perceive to be challenges as they affect us individually or on the basis of our narrow class interests, we will remain beholden to a central government that believes it can always get its way. Even with money.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Africa's Struggle History Absolves Fidel Castro

By Takura Zhangazha*

Cuban revolutionary Commandante Fidel Castro’s passing was not a sudden shock for the world nor for us here in Africa.  We already knew he was unwell and at his age, we knew that his revolutionary life was near its end.  He even let us know it and advised that the ideas of the Cuban revolution will go on long after he has passed.  Those ideals, much maligned by American media and its presidents bar Barrack Obama, were unapologetically socialist.  And by dint of their humane precepts also African. 

And Africa knows who Commandante Fidel was. And even if one is not part of the liberation struggle generation of the continent, his name was at some point whispered, his political exploits  and his colossal revolutionary reputation referred to in our schools, universities and progressive political organizations.  Even where we resided in our African countries that were avowedly anti-socialist and in the ambit of the West during the Cold War, we knew that if you mention Fidel, you mention a revolutionary. 

My first encounter with his world, his thought, his country was not through a book.  It was through a Zimbabwean teacher who had recently returned from Havana to teach us chemistry in high school.  Sometimes the chemistry was difficult but the admiration the teacher had for Cuban society was self evident.  In fact it was idealistic to a fault.  I didn’t understand socialism or communism proper nor why in any event, there was such a chasm between USA and Cuba relations.  Even after skimming through the history books of the Cuban missile crisis. 

Encountering Fidel at university was a different ball game. In the late 1990s, with the Cold War effectively over and all but one African country being free (remember the Saharawi Republic), it was all about Fukuyama’s infamous ‘end of history’ dictum.  We were taught, not all the time, that communism is dead and liberal democracy and economics are the definitive fulcrum of human (western) history.  Ye the lecturers couldn’t fully explain the stubborn island that was Cuba in this lexicon.  But we would debate it at International Socialist Organisation meetings at the University of Zimbabwe Campus.  As wannabe revolutionaries we would cite all the Lenins, Fanons, Nkrumahs but eventually end up referring to a living revolutionary in the form of Fidel Castro in awe at how he could possibly be holding ‘socialist fort’ on the island that was Cuba. 

Overwhelmed by economic structural adjustment programmes and forlorn about the receding global possibility of global socialism, we would debate Castro is smaller spaces and occasionally watch video cassettes of Cuban life and his very long speeches. 

The South African and Namibian cdes, that we would meet as activists at the turn of the century, would perpetually remind us of the painful but legendary battle of Cuito Cuanavale and how it was the Cuban defence forces that helped not only spur on their struggles but prevent apartheid South Africa from having a stranglehold on the region. 

And we were perplexed at why the American media at some point raised eyebrows about African struggle icon Nelson Mandela’s state visit to Cuba.  We knew the Cuban people had helped us throw off the shackles of colonialism, settler states and apartheid.  We knew of the Tri-Continental conference that occurred in 1966 that Fidel hosted in Havana after Che Guevara’s abortive trip to the then Zaire.  We know he met and was impressed by the African revolutionary  Amilcar Cabral at that meeting that re-enforced his revolutionary commitment to assisting African liberation struggles from colonialism. 

He was also to meet a majority of African liberation and post independence leaders inclusive of icons such as Samora Machel and Julius Nyerere among others.

And he didn’t end there. He continued, at great cost to his own country to assist Africa in health and education.  And he continued to be a moral voice against the imperialism, neo-liberalism, liberal interventionist wars and global unilateralism that has characterized the post Cold War global order. 
As Africans we knew that Cuba’s differences with America were not our creation nor ours to solve.  But like the solidarity that the Cuban people gave to us we returned it at the United Nations and other global for a. Not in obligatory gratitude but more form the lived experience of how our humanity binds us together regardless of race, colour, creed or continent of origin. 

And yes we read the biographies, watched the movies, documentaries and even witnessed a handshake between Raul Castro and Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. We saw the continually negative coverage of Cuba (as will be the case during Fidel’s memorial services) in the now global media and argued over why his socialism wrongly curtailed freedom of expression. But there is one thing that we as Africans will always know, from liberation generations to post independence ones and post Cold War ones. This being that African liberation struggle history is clear. To paraphrase his treason trial courtroom speech in 1953, ‘condemn him, it does not matter,’ our African struggle history absolves him.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Friday, 25 November 2016

Africa and the Global North: Limiting Admiration, Focusing on Progressing Better

 By Takura Zhangazha*

I once had a extended argument with a fellow African who vehemently supported the invasion of Iraq by the United States of America and its allies.  Not only that, he was a George W. Bush aficionado. He liked the gung-ho ‘you are either with us or against us’ foreign policy that the then American government was pursuing. 

When Obama was elected he was a bit more muted, but somewhat going along with the global admiration of the American political system that could against many odds choose a black person as president.  But he stuck to the idea of a rapacious America that where and when it chose, it would militarily annihilate its enemies.

I tried to find the source of his admiration of the military might of the USA. It turned out, like for many of us Africans, to be embedded in the images and representations of that society in movies, television, music, computers and other cultural products (clothes, religion and the like). 

And true enough, as Africans we rarely view the USA from ideological or even honestly analytical lenses.  In fact we rarely view the global north with an intention to objectively critique it.  Not that we don’t have opinions on what happens in America or Western Europe. 

They are however opinions that are more inclined to admiration, envy, entertainment and tragically to viewing those countries as the ‘promised land’. This ‘promise land’ view also explains why the Mediterranean has become a watery grave for so many of us Africans. It is also the reason why Europe and North America are voting for those that promise to keep not only us as Africans out, but also those from the Middle East, Latin America and South East Asia.

In dealing with these complexities we also turn to our comrades in the global north to help us understand what it is that is going on with their global superpower governments and systems.  As a leftist, I have also sought explanation from my fellow ideologues in the USA, the United Kingdom and mainland Europe.  Asking for example, why would ‘Brexit’ happen?  Or how the USA’s president-elect could have possibly won a free and fair election?  

I however don’t ask my questions in admiration. I ask with ideological empathy, with the full knowledge that the election of Donald Trump is indicative of how progressive ideas are on the back foot when they are subjected to popular democracy in both North America and Western Europe. The not so new nationalisms that are emerging there and acquiring power on the regressive basis of discrimination and exclusion of the non-white other are evidently a global concern.  They hark back to what Africans that are conscious of their continent’s colonial history have said ‘never again’.
And this is the key lesson for us as Africans to draw from the political events and trends in the global north.

While what happens in North America and Western Europe affects us politically and economically in relation to those regions’ foreign policies, we need to learn that we should not always mimic their domestic politics or political cultures.   

We don’t have to anticipate the emergence of a candidate similar to Donald Trump and call it a democratic process if they win an election on what are arguably racist, sexist and pretentious grounds. Nor should we allow our media to be captured by the elite few who seek more to believe their won lies than hold those that seek political power to account. 

And we should always undertake our politics with an honesty that understands that good, progressive ideas do not always move the majority of our citizens if they are not accompanied by organic mobilisation and actions. As Amilcar Cabral once wrote, ‘no matter how hot the water from your well is, it will not cook your rice’. 

Nor should we be in the habit of shunning those that we think are on the periphery of our political systems. Or those that we think are either ignorant or malleable to our views without either engaging them or seeking to take their views into political account.  And this relates in the greater parts of our continent to our rural citizens who are treated in part as though they are still colonial subjects.  Both by way of the attitudes of our political elites and the remnants of colonial administrative infrastructure. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Friday, 18 November 2016

Zimbabwe’s Civil Service Urban Land Offer: Capital and Co-optation?

 By Takura Zhangazha*

The Ministry of Local Government in consultation with Apex, the umbrella body of civil service associations, announced that it is rolling out a residential stands allocation scheme for government workers.  While not mentioning the commencement date of the scheme, the government  outlined that it had identified land that could be allocated for residential use by civil servants on the outskirts of some of our major cities.

The land will however not be free.  It will be given to those that are on the Salary Services Bureau (SSB) payroll.  Depending on the size of the residential stand that they want, they will pay a maximum of U$4 per square meter per month for the smaller stands that will be deducted from their monthly salaries. 

The task for the civil servants though appearing to be a 'no brainer' due to the severe shortage of housing in the country, is to accept this sort of ‘housing loan’ while at the same time having less money in their pockets at the end of the month.  

Given the fact that those already on the list are at least 113 000 (and probably rising), it would also mean that governments wage bill, in real cash, is reduced fairly significantly.  And also civil servants will feel, with ownership of urban land/capital, that their salaries are giving them fair returns for their labour.

The impact of this new government facility for its workers are multi-fold.  The obvious one is political.  Allegations of the ruling party seeking to endear itself with the civil service ahead of general elections in 2018 will soon, if they haven’t started already, emanate from the opposition political party ranks.  And understandably so. The allocation of land to so many government workers will not doubt have a significant political impact, not only in terms of establishing new demographics to the voters roll, but also inducing loyalty to the party that has gone the extra mile of providing elusive and expensive urban land/capital. 

It is also a loyalty that will spill over into the economic sphere by not just mitigating any intentions by the civil service to undertake national strike action similar to that of July 2016. 

It will also lead to increased economic activity and employment, depending on how transparent the tender processes of support services (engineering companies, mortgage giving banks/building societies,) or the ease with which small scale businesses can be allowed to flourish in the new ‘suburbs’.

Socially it will mean a rapid expansion of urban population and land use, a process which has been underway by default via housing cooperatives and controversial ‘land barons’. 

It will also make the civil service much more close knit socially (almost setting them apart as a distinct social group) because of geographic proximity. This may induce a strong sense of community among citizens that work for the government and with that may come a certain pride (or restoration thereof).  That is if the envisioned new residential areas for them can be immune from the urban vagaries of poverty, unemployment and lack of social service delivery.

Perhaps the more significant off-shoot of this policy is the conversion of the focus of the fast track land reform programme from agriculture to urban use.  It may not be as violent, racially and politically charged as its predecessor but it is a direct consequence of it.  And it has its fair share of violent evictions, demolition of houses, distribution by patronage and political affiliation (Norton, Harare South). 

With this new scheme the civil service is being sprung up the ladder of privilege. And even in that it is not necessarily all about equality.  The different categorisations of land size and probable housing structure/plans means that despite being blanketed as ‘civil servants’, they remain viewed through class and seniority lenses by government.  For the lower paid civil servants go the ‘ghetto’ size equivalent stands, while those that earn more get the ‘suburb’ size ones. 

So in essence while the civil servants and the leaders of their associations/unions welcome this particular move by government they must be wary of the fact that they are essentially being co-opted into a materialistic silence.  The land that they get should not be a political burden nor a sign of their specific uniqueness above other citizens through proximity to the state.  Every Zimbabwean should have the right to shelter.  We hope they know that. We hope they will remember that.

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

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Harare City Council: Rule By Diktat, Worshiping at the Altar of Elitism and Money

 By Takura Zhangazha*

The Harare City Council (HCC) recently issued an odd equivalent of an edict or decree.  It announced, rather ominously, and like an arrogant overlord of our urban life, that it is shutting down house water supplies in at least eight residential areas of Harare. The reason it gave for doing so is that there are too many defaulters on paying not just for water but other charges such as refuse collection, sewerage and other amenities. 

It turns out that the announcement is intended to have at least two effects.  To scare residents/ratepayers at the prospect of having no water at all and therefore scramble to largely pay part of the amounts due. Even if they have queries or issues about the bills they have received.  The second effect is to ensure that with the fear of further water supply disconnections, residents of Harare will increasingly opt for the pre-paid water meter option (which is already in pilot phase in some suburbs).

It is an interesting strategy that is being used here.  It involves not only convoluted and abstract importation of ‘business models’ as to how to run a city and dismissing democratic values in favour of technocratic ones. The latter also includes statements from incumbent Mayor Manyenyeni that implied that he views elected councillors (who also elected him) as being too ignorant to run a city.  How he remains in office after uttering such remarks in the first place remains an oddity.  Such views are throwbacks to local councils that were run under the Rhodesian regime that continually refused majority poor residents of the then ‘African’ townships the franchise on the basis of ignorance, downright racism, assumptions of superiority by class and a lack of education.

This is the sort of attitude that informs decisions such as the one announced on water cuts by the HCC.  It is an arrogance that wrongly appropriates for itself a specific superiority based not only on irrelevant educational qualifications and the ridiculous assumption that having studied a business degree or worked in some sort of managerial position in a private company is what it takes to run a city. 

This strategy also involves the collusion of the HCC with central government and private capital.  The local government ministry protects council from further scrutiny and public accountability only if it does its bidding.  Especially with regard to the awarding of tenders and adhering to specific directives.  Private capital then wades into this undemocratic and opaque relationship by angling for the tenders that it produces.  And the big prize for private capital is that of the prepaid water meter supply and distribution tenders.  There is also that of the electronic billing system for rates that will be linked not only to mobile banking but also the internet. It would therefore follow that private capital would not want to upset its convenient positioning in the apple-cart.  

With all of this in mind, what the HCC, with the permission of central government and excited anticipation of private capital, has ordered is an assault on the right of Harareans to water. 
From whichever angle one looks at it, the threat of the denial of access to water in lieu of lack of payments for other amenities is an assault on human dignity and livelihood.  The actual act of disconnecting the water is an inhumane act that even if it occurs next door, it would make our own rainmakers weep and worry whether indeed their libations for rain will be heeded. 

Someone might ask but what is the solution? It certainly is not denying residents access to water  en-masse or even threatening to do so.  It lies in discarding elitist notions of what it means to be a resident of any urban settlement, shaking off our colonial hangover understandings of what is best practice of urban local government and integrating a people-centred and democratic approach to policy making and administration of councils.  It also means making the HCC abandon its neo-liberal privatisation projects that seek to turn what is public capital into private profit. 

To do all of this, residents, either through their associations or other forms of community based organisations (churches included) with a special concern for the livelihood and well-being of not only their children but also their neighbours must question the HCC more than they are currnelty doing.  This means having a greter understanding of the city that they want, one that must be inclusive, welfarist, people-centered and democratic without the evoking of notions of a ‘qualified franchise’.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Friday, 4 November 2016

Zanu Pf's Complex Dominance Without Persuasion

By Takura Zhangazha*

A comrade in the academic world recently sent me a copy of a New Left Review article entitled ‘The Heirs of Gramsci’. Largely focusing on intellectuals who furthered the Italian philosopher’s thoughts and views on hegemony, the article brought Zimbabwe into vogue particularly through its examination of the ‘dominance without hegemony’ concept as introduced by Indian organic intellectual Ranajit Guha.  In this case dominance would relate to coercion while hegemony would point to persuasion of the governed outweighing their enforced submission to power.

In Zimbabwe this is a salient point that we must consistently analyse if we are to understand how the ruling Zanu Pf party has continued to hold power (dominance) for so long.

The simplest of explanations has been that it is because of the military and other ancillary security arms of the state.  Political violence, militarising of civilian arms of the state have been valid examples of the mechanism of power retention by Zanu Pf.  But to pursue that analogy on its own is not enough.

What appears to define Zanu Pf’s dominance is a combination of its ability to coerce, induce collaboration, submission with limited concern for democratic persuasion of those it currently governs.

Coercion comes largely through repressive tendencies of limiting freedom of expression, association and assembly through both political violence and the partisan positioning and use of state security.

Collaboration is through its own members who are also beneficiaries of state largesse through land redistribution, employment in the civil and security service, protection in the informal sector and allocation of urban land/capital as well as issuing of state tenders. 

Submission relates more to the fact that in the greater parts of our rural areas, there is resignation to Zanu Pf rule as informed not only by the threat of violence but also the political culture that is informed by a fear of challenging dominant power (traditional and political). 

This is however not to say alternative political parties and formations have not tried to challenge this Zanu Pf dominance without persuasion.

The opposition MDC-T has come close electorally to defeating Zanu Pf as evidenced by the 2008 harmonised election that eventually resulted in a SADC mediated inclusive government.  The co-option of the MDC-T into this government under regional pressure ensured that its counter-hegemonic project was to flounder at the altar of collaboration. 

It also fell victim to what Guha in the above cited article refers to as a ‘revenge of the repressed’ also took on characteristic of coercion that were key aspects of the very same party they wished to remove from state power electorally. Political violence, though not as prominent as in the ruling party has also reared its head in opposition politics while the prevalance of splits and factions has indicated a culture of intolerance of divergent views and an inability to focus on strengthening the counter- hegemonic project.

 In the opposition therefore, its ability to persuade has not overcome its preference for coercion and exclusion. 

While the blame for mimicry of the ruling party lies essentially with the leaders of the opposition, it cannot also be overlooked that the dominant political culture produced by Zanu Pf remains shared across the political divide.

Hence opposition leaders hold on to power no matter how small or big their political outfits are and retain a coterie of hangers-on while suppressing intra-party democracy.

For organisations that claim to be outside of the political realm and in the aftermath of the new constitution which they energetically campaigned to be passed in the 2013 referendum, they can only now collaborate with Zanu Pf’s dominance.  By way of supporting the implementation of the new constitution and also defending their own sectoral interests and shunning broader, inclusive counter-hegemonic agendas. 

And Zanu Pf understands the weaknesses of the political opposition and the fragmented, incrementalism of non-state actors.  Hence it is pre-occupied with re-arranging its own internal power dynamics in preparation for its own inevitable succession from the leadership of its incumbent leader Robert Mugabe.  Where protests have occurred, it has used coercion and in some cases submission (war veterans) to retain a relatively comfortable hold on state power. 

 Assumptions of the poor performance of the national economy compromising its hold on power may lead to the opposite. That is increased collaboration with the state in order to retain livelihoods, acquire capital (e.g. land).

To state the obvious therefore, Zanu Pf  does not have the hegemony that it would want.  Nor does it appear too keen on working on a key component of a democratic hegemony which is that of persuasion being greater than coercion.  And in this, it is being assisted by a weakened opposition that seeks more to mimic the ruling party’s understanding of power than it seeks to fully establish a counter hegemonic struggle for social democracy. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( )

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Flying African Airlines: Colonial Travels and Travails

By Takura Zhangazha*

Travelling by airplane across borders on the African continent is an interesting experience.  It is always an encounter with what we have always been politicized with as Pan Africanism, even if it is no longer as ideological or identity driven.  Especially if it’s that typical flight that leaves one capital for another before it arrives at a major air transport hub such as Addis Ababa, Johannesburg or Nairobi.  And I will confess to a feeling of pride every time I hear pilots announce an approach to OR Tambo or Jomo Kenyatta international airports.

Sometimes, circumstances such as airline inefficiency or bad weather prolong the encounter with fellow African travelers.  These delays, postponements or cancellations make being an African in transit in an African country the more interesting.  Travelers are compelled to talk to each other.  Be it  about final destinations, professional interests, family or  complaining about the landing or the take-off. Or even to try and find alternative routes, solutions or make the culprit airline pay by threatening to sue them or how such a thing would never happen in a persons country of origin.

Their reasons for being on a flight will however differ in interesting ways.  A couple of decades back, flying was perceived by many an Africa as a status symbol.  By way of class, prestige or seeking to be as ‘modern’ as our human colleagues in the Global North. 

These days, and probably into the future, being a frequent flyer is no longer seen as evidence of sophistry let alone as a sign of wealth.  Not only because there are more airline companies that are (exorbitantly for now) seeking out the African market but because of that oxymoronic term ‘globalisation’.  This is not to say that flying is affordable let alone availed for a majority of Africans.  Far from it.  But it is increasingly something that more and more Africans across class and social status can claim to know at least one of their close family members has experienced at least once. 

As Africans, we fly across our national borders mainly for business and trade.  And this is not only for corporate business.  Any flight you take and if you are in economy class, the majority of Africans on board will be doing so to go to either South Africa,  China or Dubai to transact in buying goods (clothing, cloned technological gadgets, cars)  to sell back home. 

Other African passengers are also Diasporans going back to former colonial capitals where they have ‘made it’.  In tandem with their children who have citizenship of the countries of destination, these Diasporans save a lot of money to make these travel and travail arrangements.  Hence their trips are not always frequent but when they do happen, they help demystify flying significantly.  If its not them travelling it is their relatives (parents/brothers/sisters/aunts) who are paying them a long planned (and expensive) visit.

And our African airlines know this.  Hence their priority has never been inter-Africa flight for its own sake.  It is always the more lucrative cross continental flight that they prioritise in a manner that not only reinforces the Global North as the ‘promised land’ but also undermines the pursuit of positioning African lives as normal.

It is an astounding reality that African passengers in Africa are not necessarily treated with as much respect as African travelers travelling to the global North or even the far east.  The courtesy and professionalism of airlines and their staff is markedly different between a trip to Abuja and a trip to London. 

The derision with which airlines treat a threat to sue after a delayed flight between two African destinations and the seriousness they imbue a similar threat for a flight in for example North America  is not only sad but dehumanizing  to the African traveler. 

Africans want to fly. The only problem that because of the complicity of the airlines, flying is still considered the exception rather than the rule.  That is why it remains so expensive and why airlines (state owned/commercialized or private) tend to treat the African flyer as second class passengers.  The more professional flights are those to the global north.  Not those between African countries.  It is a throwback to colonial times that a flight from Harare to Lusaka can be casually delayed and passengers forced to stay overnight without due explanation and diligence.  That would not happen on a flight from Berlin to Paris with such nonchalance.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity ( 

Friday, 7 October 2016

Zimbabwe Bond Note Panic, Class and Other Considerations.

By Takura Zhangazha*

We are all default economists in Zimbabwe now. Or at least some sort of experts in asset management and financial services. Mainly because of the collective national panic  over the introduction of bond notes at the end of this month.

 It all begins with those that have savings of one form or the other. Whether it be in the form of a small business interest (shop, car sales, cleaning company, medical practice, combis or small estate (residential stands), a high density completed or partly completed house, rural-based cattle or farm property related to the fast track land reform property).

There are those that are in more panic than others. Not by way of wailing and thinking all hope is lost. But by way of frantically trying to retain the original value of their capital in original United States Dollar terms. An inherited house, FTLRP farm, colonial legacy property or a post independence or post 2007 acquired business.  So in the next two weeks and beyond there are going to be more and more frantic money transactions and transfers of physical and financial capital between individuals, banks, corporates and political players.

The most vulnerable will as always be those that hedged their bets on a stable political economy to protect their pensions or other meager savings. Let alone those that will not be able to navigate survival in a highly privatised and fairly corrupt national  social service delivery system. 

The hardest hit will be the propertied in terms of urban real estate. Houses are going to go on the cheap just to retain a semblance of original US $ value. Both by way of rentals and by way of sales. But those Zimbabweans on the property market will face the behemoths that are our local banks and asset management companies. Whatever they try to sell in the short term will still give the capital/income ratio return expected by the banks, building societies to whom they already owe mortgages or other loans.

The catch however resides in the role of the state in this induced panic and disaster capitalism that it will purposefully  pursue based on the fact that  we have a drought anyway. The intention is to introduce a much more rabid economic dispensation in Zimbabwe where the next citizens ceases to care for the livelihood of the other.  This, as people panic about the limited wealth that they actually cannot save or are in severe panic about losing.  Exceptions will only be found with those that are politically correct or closely  connected to the ruling establishment.

In our panic and seeking out how to keep the US dollar value of savings we skirt what is evidently the bigger picture. This essentially being that it is the state in collusion with African Export-Import Bank that has willed the bond note.  As they both did with the bond coin. Deliberately defending this new monetary policy on the basis of nuances of nationalism and economic rationalism, they overlook the fundamental lack of trust that Zimbabweans have of these new notes, limited in distribution as they are for now.

Their confidence however stems from the strong possibility that despite the protests from the opposition and public disgruntlement, they will eventually be accepted as were their smaller coin denominations. All of this while not actively plugging the holes in the economy that have been caused by ambiguous economic policies, corruption and privatisation by 'tenderpreneurship' and self evident cronyism.

Our under pressure aspiring middle or 'buffer' class (by lifestyle not necessarily capital) is perhaps the most panicked. Questions of what to do with pensions or insurance savings and  immovable property are foremost in their minds. And understandably so. Some of them lost money and property value during the period of bearer notes in the late 2000s. They however do not want to think from a collective stand point.  For this 'middle class' it's each person/family for themselves and with a great deal of self centeredness.

The urban small business trader, whether they sell wholesale bananas or clothes, run urban kombi transport or retail businesses or $1 sadza takeaways have always been accepting the small change cumulative advantage that the bond coin has to the South African rand.  The bond note will cause initial consternation but so long it has value, it will be accepted at this particular class level. For the small scale businesses that appear more informal yet are part of a a rapacious network of formal national and regional suppliers including those that run informal airtime vendors supply chains,  resurgent tuck-shops,   vegetable vending the argument for now is that so long the bond note does not affect the day to day limited subsistence and basic income that they make, it will be business as usual.

For the communal area residing citizen the panic is a bit more muted. Their view of their savings is less to do with monetary issues.  Its their land (even if they do not have title to it),shelter,  livestock and grain.   They are waiting to hear what happens in the urban centers about the bond note.  They will however not resist it, so long it works to get them to buy basics, pay school fees or go to the grinding mill.

What is evidently clear is that the bond note will not change the 'state capitalism 'ideological framework of the national economy.  Those that are poor will remain exactly that.  Those that are close to the state and private capital will stay better off.   Bond note or no bond note.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Friday, 30 September 2016

‘Capital’ and Inequality in Zimbabwe.

By Takura Zhangazha*

A friend who lives and works in the Diaspora recently gave me a copy of the highly regarded French economist Thomas Piketty’s bestselling book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’.   Because of Zimbabwe’s Marxist/Leninist ideological history, the term ‘capital’ consistently rings a socialist bell in the consciousness of a greater number of political actors of the liberation struggle, the 1980s and 1990s.  Mainly because their first encounter with it was probably through Karl Marx’s writings and the subsequent left leaning scholars and leaders it helped spawn.

Reading Piketty’s work however may not be taken to with as much enthusiasm as in the past.  Largely because in the age of neo-liberal/ free market economics,  fewer activists, intellectuals, entrepreneurs and political actors have the patience to read between the lines of globally accepted economic orthodoxies in Zimbabwe.  And that is fair enough given the fact that the left has receded in its global influence.

This however does not mean Zimbabweans should not talk about capital or as defined by Piketty in his book, the ‘national wealth’ or the ‘capital/income’ ratio.  The latter is defined as being equal to the combination of  public capital (what is owned by the state) and private capital (what is owned by individuals) and the ‘national income’ that is derived from both.  

Nor should Zimbabweans shun from debating and acting upon who, between private and public capital, takes the greater share of ‘national income’. Especially where we know the private capital to not only be that acquired by way of inherited wealth but also as it relates to transnational corporations (mining, financial services, internet) or public capital (land, state enterprises) as being the preserve of political patronage. 

The most important question we must therefore ask is, who owns Zimbabwe’s national wealth and why?

Where we examine public capital in our national context we know that the state owns most of the physical land that we inhabit.  This state ownership of land  was rapidly expanded by the fact of the fast track land reform programme (FTLRP)  that took away private capital from individuals on the basis of rectifying colonial social and economic injustice.  The FTLRP has however not been exactly that in effect.  The Zimbabwean government has recently pledged to compensate some of the private owners of the land (capital) that it forcibly took. 

And there is an increasing tendency toward changing the use of the same land/capital from agricultural purposes to real estate and private land use. That is to say, this initial public capital is increasingly being converted to private capital through the issuance of residential estate on the peripheries of every urban/peri-urban center in Zimbabwe.  So the primary claim to ‘public capital’  which is given as land by the state, is increasingly no longer as public as assumed. Instead we have an increasing share of what should be public capital in the hands of private capital as a result.  And the private component here is not necessarily without political patronage. It is ruling party officials that are scrambling over what is considered public wealth (land) for private profit.

The state’s wealth however does not end there.  It also owns capital in the form of public enterprises that it is increasingly ceding to private ownership via ‘public private partnerships’ as learnt from the World Bank and IMF.  The contribution of these public enterprises to national income in Zimbabwe has not really been measured.  Instead it has been derided as not being enough and must therefore be privatized. 

With regards to our national income tax which also contributes to public capital, there is too little of it due to evasion and externalization of income by private capital as well as the diminishing numbers of taxable incomes.  So where our taxes are at least meant to guarantee access to basic infrastructure and services such as health, education, transport and water they are woefully inadequate in that regard. The ‘public’ in public capital therefore diminishes in democratic effect in that regard. Public capital in Zimbabwe is not longer effectively serving the very public from which it is supposed to come from.  Nor is private capital contributing effectively to a democratic distribution of what should essentially be national wealth.

For private capital, we are witnessing corporate and private individuals that are keen on retaining their top earning status within the polity.  These actors are largely involved with the mining/extractive industry and the financial services sector.  As is the case globally, most of these have generally had an increasing share of national wealth.  Peculiarly this wealth is not necessarily re-invested into the national economy to contribute to a more shared national income but externalized to tax havens and other investments that the Zimbabwean government has failed to keep track off let alone circumvent. 

Private wealth in Zimbabwe also means that which is owned by less influence, working class  private individuals.  Often we talk of the ‘middle class’ as a key component to economic advancement. We don’t really have one in Zimbabwe. At least not in terms of what is globally given.  But we do have those that want to be and in some cases are a minimal ‘cut above the rest’ in relation to their property and savings (capital).  They generally work hard for what they have and think globally in relation to how they must save their capital (largely houses, cars, pension savings). Their share of the national income, on the face of it, remains minimal and disproportionate to those at the top tier or the politically connected. 

The  common person found mainly in the rural areas and the urban ghettos does not understand the full import of ‘capital’.  Largely without real ‘savings’ they depend on the ability of the state to at least provide education, health, transport and water, an expectation that has since become a fantasy.   Living on the economic periphery, they are susceptible to being at the mercy of the wealthier tier of society for jobs and patronage. Even where they are part of the informal economy, they rely on economic elite supply networks for good and services which are both domestic and foreign.   Either to re-confirm, by default, their oppression or to pander to elite contestations that  help their livelihoods in the short term. 

In conclusion therefore, ‘capital’ in Zimbabwe is largely controlled by those in political power, those with inherited businesses/wealth, those linked to the political elite and their collusion with global actors often without democratic local context or pursuit of a modicum of economic equality.  Even where we look at the FTLRP which should have changed the dynamics of inequality we will find that it has not.  Instead it has led to a new replacement capitalism that still, as in colonial times, expropriates capital to the elite few and perpetuates inequality. Both by way of inherited wealth and continually limiting social mobility.    This is the same with what is essentially an abortive indigenization programme.  We would do well to heed the advice of Piketty.  Not only globally but more significantly to our national Zimbabwean context. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The State and Status of Ideology in Zimbabwe

By Takura Zhangazha*

The recent economic policy contradictions that emerged in the aftermath of the mid-term fiscal policy review by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa were odd but familiar.  The minister had announced that the government is going to trim down the civil service and forego bonus payments at the end of the year.  Less than a week later, his colleague and assumedly cabinet spokesperson and minister of information Chris Mushowe announced that government had no intentions of doing so. 

Political and economic pundits veritably and correctly took to social and other media to explain how dysfunctional this all appears or really is.   Especially because the executive arm of government was presenting something that it must have collectively approved to the legislative arm, Parliament.
The arguments are however run of the mill global ‘best economics’ discourse as advised by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.  These range from issues to do with limited government and reduction of the civil service wage bill through to the privatization of essential services such as provision of health, education and transport. 

The debate that is however not occurring both in public and private is one on the ideology(ies) that informs these proposed and now rejected economic measures.  And its not out of ignorance but more for political and economic elite convenience that this is not happening. 

For the Zanu Pf political elite, the political ideological framing is a radical black nationalism that is really an embrace of neo-liberalism when it comes to how society should function, especially in between elections.  Hence Chinamasa will accept the frameworks prescribed by the World Bank but never contradict the populist nationalist narrative that has emerged after his presentation to parliament.  This ruling party embrace of neo-liberalism as a functional ideology however does not connote an equivalent liberalism with regards to the political framework.  It is couched in retaining political power at all costs, including repression, while reducing the economic role of the state and embracing the ‘free market’. 

Beyond the arguments of the size of the civil service, the realities point to the prevalence of a nasty ‘state capitalism’ .  This includes but is not limited to state ‘tenderpreneurship’ (thanks to South Africa), the perversion of the fast track land reform programme to establish an urban and rural  crony capitalism, the externalization of huge sums of money to offshore bank accounts (Panama papers), corrupt manipulation of the mining and extractives industry and finally the exploitation of the petroleum industry. 

The opposition political elite having emerged, just like their counterparts, from a leftist ideological perspective, have long abandoned pretense of commitment to the same.  

Having begun as progressive leftists with the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and keen social democrats when there was class amalgamation for democratic change, they have drifted to the neo-liberal right (not even center).  From their time in the inclusive government, through to their current economic policy pronouncements, including Zimbabwe People First’s ‘Build’ , they seek more to be part of a global neo-liberal ideological narrative.  Their search for international support and funding has made their ideological propositions lack context and contrary to popular expectations.
But because of the long duree nature of neo-liberalism and the attendant real-time negative economic effects of the withdrawal of the state and its current lack of popular legitimacy,  we are living in an increasingly individualistic/ atomized society.  One in which the public democratic interest is personalized and framed in messianic as opposed to pragmatic, contextual solutions. 

As a result we do not measure our aspirations against a truly social democratic vision and ideological context.  Our struggles become ones in which the agenda shifts from being about one personality or the other and short term issues that also change with each passing day/week/event.   

If I was to be asked if there is an ideological framework that can counter this current state of affairs I would answer that we require a clear social democratic framework.  One that is characterized with a stated intention to give every Zimbabwean a fair start and a fair chance at a decent life regardless of race, gender and class.  Accompanied by an understanding that there can be no economic fairness let alone prosperity without the enjoyment of human rights by all, our contextual social democratic framework should promote innovation, entrepreneurship, accountability and transparency.

Where counter ideological persuasions occur, as they persistently will and should, the key challenge is not that they imprison us from progressing as a society, but be put to democratic test via free and fair elections.  But the fundamental values must always be that everyone gets a fair start or is pulled up to a fairer place in relation to living a decent life where education, health, transport, shelter, water, security of person and basic employment are not a pipe dream but a reality. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Augmented Political Realities in Zimbabwe.

 By Takura Zhangazha*

There is always interest in assessing how the interaction of new technologies affects everyday human realities.  In the age of the internet, this is referred to as ‘augmented reality’.  It refers in part to how computer and internet based technology has with the advent of the smart phone and attendant applications, influenced our senses of feeling, seeing, hearing and smelling.  

In Zimbabwe’s case we are not yet at the stage where we can fully claim that we are in any full  throttle experience of this ‘augmented reality’.  This is not only because we lag behind in newer technologies and applications such as Pokemon Go but also due to the limitations we still have with accessing the internet. 

But in our urban and peri-urban areas we certainly have our realities being increasingly mediated by social media applications that come with smart phones, especially Whatsapp.  And there are certain signs that depending on the expanded reach of mobile telephony, these technologies will be available to our rural areas sooner rather than later.  

And it’s a good thing that many more Zimbabweans are able to receive, impart, feel new information as it relates to how they perceive their own realities.  With social media, as I have noticed over the last few months, it is a combination of the reality that one experiences or wants to experience that urges people to use these platforms with new vigour and energy.  So much so that Zimbabwe’s government has issued serious threats against those that would use it for human rights activism or even political ends and purposes such as calling for the resignation of the current president.

The latter point is indicative of the emergence of augmented political realities. That is to say, political perceptions and actions that are increasingly supported  by social media platforms and access to the internet via mobile telephony. 

At the moment social media is much used by civil society and political party activists to express varying views on the state of human rights or political affairs in the country.  It is also used to widen the reach of the target audience of their actions, who are within the country as well as in the Diaspora. All done via the medium of social media.  Very few civil soceity activists now undertake any activity or action in the absence of a smart phone that has access to the internet. 

Those that dispute these particular versions of 'augmented' political reality have also been trying to augment their own using similar platforms.  These are largely pro-ruling establishment/party supporters who though not having as significant an internet reach as their opposite numbers, are indeed also acting out what they know, perceive or wish to be real using social media.  Some members of Parliament have taken to showing images of themselves in rural hinterlands to demonstrate their political legitimacy and what they consider 'real' politics. 

There are also others that want specific realities in their own right and that have used social media to augment these.  These realities are not evidently political though they remain the primary targets of political actors.   The actors here, largely defined by class interests, are composed of family, church, financial savings groups, traders associations, teachers unions, civil service associations, artists and student associations using social media platforms, especially Whatsapp.

Their political interests tend to be ephemeral/temporary as driven by what they see, read or feel in the immediate about issues such as bond notes, non payment of salaries or violence via social media. They are also not consistently politically active and tend to lean more toward familiarity than radical or holistic change.  They just want their lot not to be interfered with.

All of these outlined 'augmented' realities are about what is in effect 'real' and also what is 'desired'.  The pro-opposition and pro-ruling party political perceptions/understanding of reality will ratchet up their contests for dominance.  In these, it is the augmented reality that takes care to closely link up what occurs off line with what is preferred online, that will be most successful.

This is because however we are using social media and newer technology (when it eventually/inevitably arrives here) to augment our respective political and other realities, it is not the singular sum total of the same.

To achieve whatever it is that we are pursuing, social media alone is not enough.  It needs to be grounded in lived reality more than it is about outlining a desired future.

Hence the success of the not so political augmented realities of church, school civil service associations, informal trade and family related social media groups.  They clearly combine value systems, principles, institutional capacity, physical organisation and planning with social media applications.  The latter does not replace all of the former. It augments it.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (