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 (