Thursday, 25 August 2016

Thinking Beyond the Immediate in Zimbabwe: Embracing the Future with Social Democratic Consciousness

Remarks to the Alumni Conversation and Networking Event of the Zimbabwe United States of America Alumni Association (ZUSAA)
Thursday 25 August 2016
By Takura Zhangazha*


I would like to thank you for inviting me to share my views with members of your respected association this evening.  The topic under discussion is very much similar to that used by a journal that is published locally by the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe). It is titled 'Thinking Beyond: Journal for Alternatives for a Democratic Zimbabwe.'

I distinctly recall that at the time of its launch, the journal was looked down upon by some within the pro-democracy movements in our country.  Mainly because it did not fawn and favour individual personalities.  Instead it sought to critically examine the contemporary issues affecting the struggle for democracy across the political spectrum and within civil society. 

It is this publication that motivated me to share my views on this topic. (Please enquire with Misa-Zimbabwe for your own free copy.)

An immediate question that arises is what exactly are we thinking beyond and particularly in Zimbabwe’s case for whom? 

To answer the first part  of the question, we are thinking beyond the immediate political, social and economic challenges that our country faces and trying to place our everyday actions  into a broader inclusive social democratic vision for our country. 

In other words, our progressive and non-violent struggles for the complete democratization of our country are not tied to a singular course of action but have always been part of a multiplicity of coordinated actions that act in tandem with a stated, accepted and publicly accepted vision of what the state and the rights of its citizens should be. For examples of such a vision we would all be advised to cross check the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter of 2008.

It therefore follows that in order to think beyond our immediate realities one needs a holistic plan and dream of the desired future.

This is what we should do where and when we consider Zimbabwe’s political, social and economic challenges.

In our politics we must think beyond the current crop of national political leaders.  That is not to say we must say they are illegitimate or on the opposite end worship them in cult like fashion.

 Thinking beyond them instead would mean accepting not only their fallibility but assessing them on their primary agenda and how it suits a social democratic future.

Especially where their contemporary actions begin to sway even in minimal part from our commonly held vision of a democratic Zimbabwe. Because leaders come and go, even where others overstay, but the country remains. 

This is an element that cannot just be left to the political realm alone. It also applies to those that are in civil society, in the public service and in part in the private sector, at least at management levels.

We must measure each other and our leadership roles not by the manner in which we distribute patronage but the progressive ideas and innovative ways that we make our society progress to an inclusive social democratic future.  

Where we consider our economy we must, while working for our families, think beyond our own immediate needs.

And this in part is the essence of a shared economic future.  In a number of forums we read about the term social contract largely as one that is between the state, private capital and labour.  We forget that we too as ordinary individuals and citizens are part of that same said social contract.

 In this sense, we must strive for a national economy in which each and every citizen is given a fair start in order to live a decent life.  So we must ensure that our economy while promoting meritocracy, individual and collective innovation, transparency and accountability, also fairly and equally provides health, education, public transport, land and social welfare for all regardless of age, race or gender. 

This, we must think about in keeping with the full knowledge that the national economy we inherited from the colonial and settler state was essentially intended to serve the few as opposed to the many.  It therefore needs to be democratized not in the name of political opportunism but in order to establish an organic tradition of the equitable distribution of basic wealth and welfare before we all try to become merited millionaires.

The penultimate 'thinking beyond' point I wish to raise is more about the need to think beyond ourselves as specific generations and to stop claiming easy victories when we should be thinking about passing on the baton stick and sharing struggle knowledges and experiences.

Selfishly pursuing an agenda without allowing younger comrades to take the lead in some aspects of our politics and economics is to be blind to the need for struggle continuity, capacity building and newer innovative but conscious approaches.

In conclusion, I would like to make some comments on contemporary events. The recent civil society, opposition protests and current factionalism in the ruling party are important occurrences that must be analyzed with an eye on an inclusive future for all of us.

The immediacy of these aforementioned events does not mean we should not be careful about defining the future Zimbabwe that we envision in the best democratic interest.
For this, we need to understand our collective and individual democratic  consciousness, examine where its lacking and strive to understand  how we must improve on it.  In other words, while we are caught in somewhat exciting times our struggles consciousness must alyays be grounded on democratic principle and value more than it is informed by opportunism.

Indeed, social media consciousness while being of the utmost importance, still needs to be defined by clearly outlined ideas and visions.  Otherwise it will eventually always remain exactly that, social.  Using the internet, normal books, greater interaction with ordinary people, consulting each other across age, gender and class while avoiding political patronage, we will better define and think on our  collective national and democratic future together. 

*Takura Zhangazha presents/writes here in his personal capacity (

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Remembrance, Nostalgia, Recognition and Zimbabwe’s Circular Small Change Politics

By Takura Zhangazha*

There is a lot of political remembrance, nostalgia and contestation for recognition across Zimbabwe’s political spectrum.  Occurring against the backdrop of the national heroes day holidays, political and military actors who participated in the liberation struggles as guerrillas have been laying claim to authenticity. Not so much remembering the pain of the struggle but claiming and defending how ‘genuine’ they were or who they were with during the struggle for national liberation.  The most prominent to do this were Vice President Mnangagwa from a video shot in his office, Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Chiwenga via the Sunday Mail where they both pledged allegiance and loyalty to their principal President Mugabe.  

Not to be outdone was former vice president Joice Mujuru who also took to the media to defend not only her credentials, slander those of her former principal and express shock at the denigration of the legacy of her late husband, Solomon Mujuru.  

In opposition circles, though with lesser prominence, there has been the explaining of MDC-T president Morgan Tsvangirai as being still the only one with the most popular appeal to the voting public and the strongest credentials of the struggle for democratisation.  This is argued as being the main reason his decision to appoint two new vice presidents becomes unchallengeable. This also includes some within the same party’s ranks also laying claims to their long record in the pro-democracy struggle and a right to ascend or prevent the ascension of others who are deemed to be less superior or authentic.  This trait is also panning out in whatever talks towards establishing an opposition electoral coalition that have been touted recently in the media.  

The nostalgia and remembrance however does not just end with personalities.  It also translates into issues and actions.  

There is in part the revival of issues that were assumed to be largely resolved via the new constitutional dispensation.  Some of these come from the opposition and others from long standing civil society activists.  These include but are not limited to issues to do with seeking a ‘national transitional authority’ or taking the lead in calling for further electoral reform.  

There is also an evident desire to have a stronger civil society once again, one that is able to mobilise beyond political parties and around issues as opposed to personalities in a manner similar to what occurred for ten years after the turn of the century. This would be for both older and younger activists though the latter would also want to take control not necessarily of a specifically new agenda, but take the lead in organising whatever must be organised. 

Other issues such as calling for the resignation of the incumbent president have been in vogue for a while but have been recently re-energised by the emergence of social media as an important tool for imparting and receiving information.  The same can be said for messages on the state of the economy, sometimes more wishful for its total breakdown, than a solution being found. i.e ‘you cannot rig the economy’.

All of these acts of remembering, nostalgic reflections are essentially about pursuing recognition for political actions and issues that also relate to the same where either political loyalties or values were formed and are stubbornly insisted upon. Regrettably some of these are largely about positioning and not principle.      

What however crosses the mind is the real possibility that the end results will once again not signify holistic and organic democratic change to our political culture. This is not least because the incumbent government has retained a firm hold on power despite its factionalism, but also because the alternatives to it are focused almost exactly on the same issues/events/personalities that it too is concerned about.  From the tenure in office (protecting or reducing it abruptly) of President Mugabe, through to displeasure at the state of the economy, and how elections are eventually conducted (including the introduction of biometric voter registration, by-elections and the 2018 harmonised elections) 

The only catch is that the ruling Zanu Pf establishment is comfortable with itself in all of the above.  Even if it is fighting over succession.  And regrettably continually sets its state capitalist/neo-liberal agenda to which very few comrades across the political divide or in broader civil society have an effective reply.  In fact some who should be speaking out against this evidently long term hegemony project only disagree who is leading it, not with its structural premise. 

Where all of this remembrance, nostalgic reflection and pursuit of continual or perpetual recognition of individual roles in various struggles occurs for its own sake, then we having the makings of a cyclical politics that may eventually become our default permanent government and opposition system.  Were it all based on key social democratic values and principles, it would perhaps be better. But for now, it puts the country between a rock and a hard place. 
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his own personal capacity (