By Takura Zhangazha*
A decent number of us of adult age at least have had some sort of experience of at least one cause, a campaign, or significant memory of either. Or even a shared perception of what the future should look like in experiencing both. Some of these considerations are highly personal. These four elements (causes, campaigns, memory and future) can be individualistic, which they now largely are, a point I will come back to later, or they can be part of a collective and organisational grouping.
It is important that we look at each one of these fundamentally from the organisational and collective angle as likely defined or experienced by many in our Zimbabwean context.
If we begin with what we know to be ‘causes’ they are alternatively referred to as ‘long term struggles’ for overarching/holistic progressive values, principles and ideologies. While at the same time being ‘do or die’ matters at great personal and collective cost to those waging them. They also tend to be long term with an almost undefined timeline and they tend to also end by default. Either through negotiation or assumptions of a total victory against those that opposed them. The easiest example of this in our Zimbabwean context would be our liberation struggle for independence.
Other causes and struggles do emerge in our post-independence history but these are shorter and more legal than they are essentially or directly counter-hegemonic. In most cases they talk about the betrayal of the initial fundamental cause/struggle that was the one for national independence. In doing so they borrow from the contested values and past of the first and retain many similarities with it. And they are more fixated on peaceful transfers of power through the electoral cycle than they would be with fundamentally changing society.
Where one analyses campaigns, there are more of these in assuming/desiring shorter term specific changes to various sectors of society. Campaigns generally accept the fundamentals of the political and social environment in which they occur. Be it perhaps issues to do with constitutional reform, fair labour and gender equality practices. They come in the form of what we have now come to refer to as lobby and advocacy of central and local government policy makers. They are occasionally radical (demonstrations, highly personalized, religious or even populist) but their time-span is almost always shorter depending on the manner in which policy makers and the public respond to them. Which in most cases is to nip them in the bud by incrementally acceding to some of their demands or co-opting their leaderships. They however tend to have greater universal characteristics that relate to events and expectations as they occur globally in countries of preferred comparative choice.
Now let me turn to why I have also alluded to memory. All activism learns from a chosen past. Be it local, national or global. And it all chooses what pasts to admire the most. Be it in the political, economic or social/religious dimensions. In fact it depends on it. That is why the ruling Zanu PF party is quite stubborn about its historical record, while the opposition makes reference to its former great leaders. Or other activists remember what they did in either pursuing constitutional reform or labour equality in order to justify their contemporary actions.
Even neo-liberal activists in their historical amnesia make the ridiculous argument that the Rhodesian settler state had a better political economy. All the while missing the point of its fundamental fault of being a repressive and racist state.
Memory to me therefore connotes the passage of time in struggles/causes and campaigns. Together with the assumption that we learn from what the past teaches us in order to arrive at a better future.
So where I make reference to the future(s), it is again in direct relation to causes/struggles and campaigns as they define what is to come. And this is based on the contemporary form either have taken. In the immediate Zimbabwean context we have a mixture of assumptions of causes or campaigns that almost interchange based on the political convenience they bring to the table for interested parties. Some disappear as quickly as they emerge for many reasons which also however reflect their ephemeral nature as much as the character of their most important newfound medium of social media. With some campaigns waiting for the next electoral cycle in order again to repeat similar characteristics of the initial campaign mixed with cause elements.
That means the future of causes/struggles in Zimbabwe’s context is precarious. Not that one must always have a cause. But if one should claim to do so, that claim is not necessarily based on an organic understanding of reality. Including an uncomfortable likelihood that many cdes may also not be comfortable with. This being the fact that some struggles quite literally reach their peak/end (such as independence). And that going forward need newer formats and more organic, approaches to cause and effect.
What appears brighter for now is the future of campaigns. Based on not only the general electoral cycle motivation attitude of activists across the board. But also the fact that campaigns’ are easier and can always be abandoned midstream if newer more attractive ones emerge. This means there are likely to be a lot more campaigns’ going forward toward the next general or any other election or as issues emerge around either the role of the state or the national political economy.
Let me in conclusion return to the point I had made about individual struggles/causes, campaigns as they relate to material well-being. This is the one that appears to be the most prevalent. Mainly because the state has left each and everyone to our own individual devices where we need to access health, education, transport, water, energy among many other livelihoods related activities. If we want to return to a more equitable society, we have to undertake what Cabral refers as the struggles against our own weaknesses and I will quote him at length as borrowed from his speech from the Tri-Continental Conference in Havana, Cuba, 1966
“We refer here to the struggle against our own weaknesses. Obviously, other cases differ from that of Guinea; but our experience has shown us that in the general framework of daily struggle this battle against ourselves — no matter what difficulties the enemy may create — is the most difficult of all, whether for the present or the future of our peoples. This battle is the expression of the internal contradictions in the economic, social, cultural (and therefore historical) reality of each of our countries.”
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his own personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)