Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Causes, Campaigns, Memory and Futures in Zimbabwe.

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)

 

Saturday, 19 June 2021

Celebrating #Juneteenth Commemorations from Africa With Global Meaning


By Takura Zhangazha*

Experiencing African-American culture and history from the viewpoint of being geographically located on the mother continent of Africa has largely been almost to desire it.  Not just from the vantage point of how the same has strongly influenced contemporary young Africans’ cultural, political and economic perceptions of who they are or who they may in one way or the other desire to be.  Collectively and individually.  

Even as we also know that these perceptions are also influenced significantly by the organic historical struggles against the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and the repressive inhumane long-duree enslavement of black Americans.  

As well as in the now by the contemporary #BlackLivesMatter movement which is almost global except not so much on the African continent. 

This to me means that no matter which African American film, sports or music stars we in the Diaspora or at home on the continent admire the most, we cannot wish our shared history away.  Both its global anti-colonial struggles and more specifically for this short write up the Emancipation Proclamation that Juneteenth 2021 commemorations are essentially about. 

These are held on 19 June every year mainly in the USA and essentially mark the national remembrance of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 that legally freed all African American slaves.  It however only became federally effective with the defeat of the southern slave owning state of Texas on 19 June 1865.  But until recently it had not been universally recognized as a public holiday across all of the United States.  On the day there are however many state supported or independent events to mark its historical importance and ongoing relevance to the struggles against inequality by African Americans. Be it in the form of marches for example as was the case last year 2020 for #BlackLivesMatter.  Hence the commemorations are referred to as the Juneteenth celebrations.  

From a Pan African perspective these commemorative events are important in reclaiming the global placement, struggles and emancipation of all Africans across the world.  Be they in an historical or latter day African Diaspora in the ‘West, East, South America and Australasia.  And also where we on the motherland itself.  

Even as our various black emancipation struggle contexts differ either by way of geography or social contexts, it is the common thread of our shared historical struggles for revolutionary emancipation and equality that binds us all together.  As opposed to any assumptions of tokenism, black people all over the world have always stood more in solidarity with each other and other oppressed peoples’ of the world as our struggles for equality have had small and large victories.  

It may be time that we begin to expand a reclamation of emancipation to younger Africa’s consciousness.  And it begins by enabling them to recognize their own organic and historical struggles for emancipation. An emancipation that as evidenced by global struggles today, is one that remains incomplete. And it therefore continues, in many different forms. As it has to. And as handed from one generation to the next. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity. 

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Predicting Zimbabwe’s Future(s)

By Takura Zhangazha*

In Zimbabwe we rarely talk about the future.  Our focus is at best on the present.  Or even more callously the immediate.  Almost as though our lives are defined by shrugging our shoulders each day as it passes and helplessly waiting for the next one. 

There are many reasons for this.  Not least among them the fact that our political economy is highly individualistic.  And that individuals rarely think beyond themselves. Or at best beyond their immediate families. All aided by the fact that our present day economic system is designed in the same way with not only individualism as a preferred way of living but also its accompanying materialism and consumerism. 

We however do have a penchant to discuss the past as far as it affects the immediate.  And again at very personal levels.  For example a lot of cdes are wont to discuss what occurred in the past as it relates to their immediate material well-being.  And often times this is done on the basis of religion and assumptions of not being successful or facing individual challenges because of a lack of one faith or the other.  And basing any assumptions of individual futures on the same.  

We rarely think of our collective national future in an organic manner.  Its either based on our individual political preferences or even more stubborn assumptions or our individual ‘feelings’ as mediated by social media to 'algorithmically' point us to its owned preferred future.

However this is not unique to Zimbabwe.  ‘Ephemeralism’ is now almost a universal given.   As are assumptions of the significance of the individual as being most superior in society.  

What is important however is that we need to always consider Zimbabwean futures beyond our individual concerns, material desires and ambitions.  Mainly because where we think of the future with our own personal children in mind we can never run away from the reality that they too will live in one society or the other.  Be it in Zimbabwe or other countries where a decent number of parents continually, and wrongly in my view, continue to encourage young Zimbabweans to depart to. 

In discussing Zimbabwean futures we need to remind ourselves of that key word, ‘posterity’. In whatever leadership positions we hold. Wherever we hold them, we must understand that we never lead for ourselves but for others.  And particularly others that are already and will inevitably come after us. 

It is therefore on this initial 'posterity' principle that we can then understand that because the past informs the present as the latter does the future, we can still imagine and try to predict our collective futures.

Whereas our own individual circumstances of existence may have made us particularly sensitive to certain things such as political repression, individual health, education, jobs, intellectualism and even gender inequality, we are always obliged to think beyond our own experiences. And to think for others and their betterment. 

So what are Zimbabwe’s futures given our past and our contemporary context?

In the political it is relatively apparent that we are caught in a whirlwind of a lack of organic national consciousness. One in which we are almost schizophrenic because of our divisions and our own lack of national self confidence.  It is a dilemma that we run the risk of passing on to the next generation because in many instances we cannot confront our collective historical realities. But be that as it may our collective political future looks like it will most likely be typically nationalist in identity but not necessarily in economics. Like a number of other countries we will be captured by global political events and discourse because of our penchant for mimicry/admiration of the global north societies. We will likely move further away from Pan African discourse to a universalism in which we will not recognize our inequality.  And sadly we will still pander to philosophies of life that are not intended to make us universally equal. 

On the economic front we are likely headed to neo-liberal global integration and subservience to private capital.   All based once again on our own individualist materialism that suits the same said neoliberal economic frameworks.  It may however suit us now to pursue this path but it will most certainly not suit those that come after us because it essentially creates a narcissistic value system that is unsustainable. Mainly because we refuse to learn from history that existence is not singularly about our consumption and enjoyment but also for future generations. But as the adage goes, ‘the only thing we learn from history is that we never learn from history.’

On the social front Zimbabwean society is likely to evolve, based on our economics into even more individualism.  Where almost everything including water, education, health will eventually be pre-paid.  Not necessarily via a pre-paid meter but all the same via our own convoluted sense of individual self-importance.   The signs are already there.  And the sings will remain with us for a while.  And we will rapidly urbanise our society so the rural folk are quite literally living on borrowed time. 

To conclude, writing this short blog was about my own personal fear about Zimbabwe’s future. For my children and those of all of us. It wasn’t intended as an intellectual exercise but just an abstract stream of consciousness.  Either way, we still need to think about Zimbabwe’s future(s) in realistic ways.

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

Friday, 4 June 2021

Zanu PF’s Newfound Comfort Zone: Hegemony Beyond Elections?

By Takura Zhangazha*

Zimbabwe’s current ruling party Zanu Pf is noticeably beginning to exude a specific confidence about how it is running the country.  Not necessarily through its own members but those that are at its political and strategic helm. 

I would also hazard to call it a newfound comfort zone that is largely about reducing our long duree culture of relatively populist political contests for power.  They want to be seen and acknowledged as 'doers'.  Not quite in the tradition of typical performance legitimacy but somewhere close to it in relation to the hegemonic expectations of private capital.  And I will explain this particular point a little bit further.

One of the key challenges Mnangagwa’s predecessor faced after the fast track land reform programme had been that private capital in its local and global form was deliberately united in undermining any ‘revolutionary’ narratives that undermined ‘private property’.  While workers and trade unions were more overtly 'oppositional',  private capital was definitively in control of the same's counter narrative.  Hence by the time the mainstream opposition became stronger, it had changed its ideological framework from social democracy to neoliberalism. 

Where we come full circle to Mnagagwa’s current government it would appear they are in the process of successfully taking back the support of private capital.  Both local and global through either their infrastructure projects or their newfound direct relationship with owners of the same.  Hence their insistence on the ‘ease of doing business mantra’.  It is not just a slogan.  Its an attempt at a closer relationship between the state and private capital in order to change the political narrative in return for making the money. For either.  A development which on the face of it appears to be work in progress.  Almost like a case of a deliberate understanding that we have each other’s backs. 

And then on the regional and international engagement scene, Zanu Pf knows that SADC and the African Union are firmly behind them now.  It was a bit tentative at first but now with declarations and resolutions calling for the lifting of sanctions firmly under their belt it would take a drastic development for these two or other interstate African regional organizations’ to change perspectives on Zimbabwe.

Where it concerns the West the fact that private capital owners from the same region are working on investing locally is something that Mnangagwa and his team view as part of work in progress.  Though they are probably aware that the human rights narrative cannot be wished away from any engagement.  As for the East, nothing appears to have changed with those they call their all-weather friends.  In fact under Mnangagwa the relations with Russia , China, Belarus appear to have significantly improved.  But all with a universal understanding that the priority is the establishment of neoliberal hegemony in Zimbabwe.  Especially one with a calmer nationalism. 

There are other sources of this newfound Zanu Pf comfort zone.  These include but are not limited to the fact that for all the objections of the opposition and civil society, Zanu PF retains as based on the 2018 electoral results, a two thirds majority in Parliament.  And has used this to recently make significant changes to the constitution.  While many focused on changes that related to the appointment of judges it is worth serious political noting that there are other changes that have far reaching political comfort zone implications.  I will just cite that of the structural changes to parliament through the introduction of a youth quota, the extension of the women’s quota and the proportional election of provincial councils.  These amendments basically point to an intention to not just expand the demographic representation but more importantly to be able to field as many candidates possible for the party and reduce likelihood of too many internal party candidate disputes.  Simply put it helps assuage fears of key members being left behind for elected posts. 

And of course there is the matter of the state of the mainstream political opposition.  While the MDC factions retain a proven popularity mainly in urban and peri-urban areas, the ruling party appears to no longer be as worried about its impact.  Divisions, court cases and disputes over properties (whatever their alleged causes/reasons) mean that the opposition is weaker.  For now.  Add to this an apparent failure to have a comprehensive performance related policy framework for the local governments that opposition is still in charge of limits its ability to utilize ‘performance legitimacy’ to its full potential.  Or to generally have an aversion to internal party procedures that promote collective leadership and membership accountability. While always waiting for the next election as the foundational reason for leadership. 

What remains to be seen is how this new hegemonic project by Zanu Pf pans itself out. But it is clear that it is beyond being just about elections in 2023.  The active recognition of historical figures and monuments is telling in this regard.   Mnangagwa’s intention is to reduce again, contestations over history and establish a national understanding of its importance.  Even if by default this suits the ruling party’s own historical narratives well given the fact that it has in most cases always also referred to this same said history as its own.  But also beyond history, the continued courting of the religious sector leaders and their churches/believers is something that gives the ruling establishment continued confidence.   Add to this also the continuing but somewhat more elevated respect and retention of traditional leaders and customs also completes these clearer hegemonic intentions of Mnangagwa. 

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

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

In Solidarity with the People of Palestine. From Zimbabwe.

By Takura Zhangazha*

In many activist circles we are very familiar with the importance of acquiring regional and international solidarity for our struggle causes.  It is a solidarity that we generally anticipate will take many forms but above all else  recognizes the significance and importance of the struggles that we are waging by people who would otherwise not be concerned. 

In Southern Africa we grew up on a diet of struggle solidarity.  From a Zimbabwean perspective our own liberation struggle would not have been successful without this regional and international solidarity.  Particularly as led by the Frontline States (now incorporated into SADC).  As it is probably the same for South African and Namibian liberation struggles. 

We also had solidarity from geographically distant countries such as Cuba, China, the then USSR (now Russia), Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria and Guinea to name just a few. 

And this solidarity did not end there.  In our struggle there were other liberation movements that while waging their own fights against oppression stood by us.  And one of the most outstanding ones was the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as led by the late revolutionary Yasser Arafat. 

After our national independence, we generally knew that there was the question of Palestinian freedom because it was always mentioned in various state events.  Or by seeing the local Palestinian ambassador to Zimbabwe on television explaining his people's struggles against repression and occupation. Also by way of news reports about what has now come to be generally referred to as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

In the late 1990s there was a shift in these assumptions of solidarity.  Largely motivated by a post cold-war global international relations system and a false assumption about the indefatigable nature of neoliberal ideology.

Moreover we also began to face our own internal political and economic challenges wrought by the same neoliberal ideological turn of events to the extent that we were no longer keen on giving solidarity to other people's struggles.  

Instead we sought more regional and international solidarity for ourselves in one respect or the other. Either in support of Mugabe’s then newfound radical nationalism or Tsvangirai’s then social democracy proposition. 

In this, we sought more and more to be a global centre of attention surpassing all other long standing struggles with what I now consider in hindsight as vainglorious vanity.  But it was understandable given the global interest in what was happening over here.  We just lost sight of the fact that our Zimbabwean struggles and challenges were and still are not the only ongoing ones in the world. 

And this is why I wrote this blog.  Recent events in the Gaza strip where there have been bombings carried out by Israel which have tragically led to the killing of hundreds of Palestinians including children made me pause and reflect on the meaning of solidarity.

While I am not an expert on the Middle East,  I know that Zimbabwe has always stood with the people of Palestine.  As much as they stood by us during our own liberation struggles.   And it is apparent that while our struggle for liberation ended. Theirs has not.

And comrades tend to mix issues up about this.  The Palestinian struggle for liberation is quite literally about their loss of land in 1948.  An historical process that they refer to as the Al Nakba (catastrophe).  And in the now they are still losing even the little land they have left as reported in the mainstream global and social media. Hence their latest resistance.

I however also know that the state of Israel in its existence means many things to many Africans this side of the Sahara.  And mainly for religious reasons.  I even have friends that may scream for solidarity on many matters but not on the matter of the liberation of the people of Palestine.  They are no doubt entitled to their view and also their religious persuasions. 

What is however important is the fact of the historical reality that the people of Palestine are a dispossessed and repressed people.  Whichever way you want to look at it.  As we once were.   And there’s the rub which can never be wished away with platitudes or political or religious correctness. 

In the tradition of the Organization of African Unity (now the African Union) we would do well to remember that we historically share the same struggles as the people of Palestine. And that we must stand by and with them.

In my personal reflections on solidarity across borders I asked myself  questions as to what does it mean to be human in the contemporary?  Is it to assume isolation? Is to gain proximity to power and privilege?  Is it to be politically or religiously correct? Is it to have money?  The answer I still came to is that to be human is to recognize the historical and organic equal humanity of others.  No matter their colour, creed, gender or religion.

That is why on Palestine I will never self-censor. Palestine and its people must be free. #FreePalestine

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

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Prisoners of Our Own Ambitions: Zimbabwean Lifestyles and Complexes.

 By Takura Zhangazha*

 I have made the occasional attempt at being a motivational speaker. And I admit in all these attempts I have never really been recognized as being good at it.  Mainly because I know I do not fit into the mainstream fashion of what it means to be as motivational as expected.  Especially where I do not serve as an example that demonstrates achievement by way of having material success legitimacy to broach a specific subject matter. 

But there are some things that I do know.  For example, I know that I should never live in fear of my own informed opinion. No matter who I am talking to. Without emotion, even if with some sort of personal experience emotional baggage.  And how the person on the other side of the conversation perceives of the same. 

And as is the character of emotional baggage it sometimes weighs heavily on you. Or how you perceive your comrades to be handling theirs.

I also know that I am not good at writing.  Be it opinions via blogs or journalistic stories that suit a specific public interest moment.

But in all of this I am certain of one thing. I do not harbor any inferiority complexes.   Either as a black African, leftist intellectual or former student activist leader from Zimbabwe.

I make the above cited points because it matters that they be shared with young Zimbabweans.   Not as a testimony to a stubborn individualism. But more in order to begin a new debate as to what can constitute a new consciousness to being Zimbabwean. 

And I will start from my own personal experiences. 

It always astounds me that as a Zimbabwean my first personal encounter with consciousness was via the physical library. As actively encouraged by my mother and also the fact that a dysfunctional television set ensured we had no other options. 

Going to the local library also meant that we were free to read outside of the officially given syllabi.  To explore corridors of books that the teachers understandably did not expect you to read since they were not on the syllabi reading lists.

Exploring knowledge at that age was not only fun but akin to a small rite of passage into understanding yourself and your surroundings better.  An understanding of in part, naively so, causes you to come to terms with your own individual and family’s material circumstances.  Including thinking about ways to arrive at a relatively idealistic life in the future. One that would invariably include being able to buy and eat a lot of chicken and chips with your parents and siblings by the time you grew up and were working. 

But it has however not turned out to be as simple as that.  Our na├»ve personal ambitions in nascent consciousness have come to be represented in what we aspire to be in the contemporary.  Especially where it concerns the material.  Some of us argue we cannot all be rich or poor.  Others argue and present gilded pathways to wealth (not necessarily well-being). Others still make the moot point about politics and activism being the pathway to individual material wellbeing.

In all of this we may be missing some key points.

The first being that we are all equal in just the fact of human existence.  While contemporary global political economies have made us more individualistic and materially competitive, we should remain aware of the fact that all human beings are equal.  No matter their colour, creed, race or origin.  While we may still have aspirations to become an ‘other’ by way of material wellbeing, it is incorrect to assume that again material wealth dehumanizes other human beings.  This is an important point to make because in most instances our personal aspirations hinder our ability to see the overall bigger picture of building an equitable Zimbabwean society. 

Where we understand this, in the second instance, it is least likely that we will develop any inferiority complexes about who we are.   Not least in reference to other people’s countries and our departures thereto.  Proximity to those with access to wealth is not a banner to be held high.  It is more a question of your true character and being.  In this we are wont to ask the question why are you that close and to prove what material point to the rest of the country?

In the third instance we should no longer be prisoners of our material ambitions.  Because the material eventually loses its own appeal with the passage of time.  Or even within the context of the unexpected, unpredicted Covid19 pandemic.

It always means more when you know that health is a human right not a privilege.  And that you can rely on the public health system to look after an ailing relative. As opposed to having to put out money that you know you will never have anyway.  While access to health as a human right does not exist in Zimbabwe, we must concertedly work to make it a reality.  Not just for health but also education, transport, access to water, electricity and a sustainable environment.

To put it more straightforwardly, our individual ambitions are not the sum total of who we can be as human beings. In Zimbabwe or elsewhere. But then again we get captured in the doldrums of capitalism and assumptions of the importance of proximity to wealth. Wherein we incorrectly fetishize money and/or its acquisition.  Only to be left with generations that still want to depart even though they have everything they would have needed at home. In empty mansions. 

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his own personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)   

 

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Education is Still Key for All Young Zimbabweans

By Takura Zhangazha*

 This week a young Zimbabwean comrade asked for some advice.  He had just collected his very decent Advanced Level (A Level) results but appeared disappointed.  I asked him why he was not happy. He explained that he expected to do better.  I smiled and replied to do better for who?  As expected his answer was that he had wanted to do better for his parents who had struggled to pay his school fees.  And also for his teachers but also significantly for his pride with his peers.

The real advice he wanted to ask for was not so routine however.  I had checked all the local university and college websites trying to ensure I could give him as many options as possible about not just a career but a new knowledge acquisition path.  He didn’t want that.  He was straight to the point in indicating his primary curiosity about his future.  Key questions were around what sort of job he would get if he did that degree or that diploma.  Questions that were directly utilitarian. 

And I understood where he was coming from.  With a bit of personal reminiscence about the time I also got my A Level results and the immediate career option pressures that came with them. 

And it is for this reason that I slowed him down a little bit.  I explained that the purpose of tertiary education is as complex as it is important for his personal career development.  And I separated these elements in two respects.  The first being that the complexity of it arises from the given importance of trying to acquire further knowledge through tertiary education.  That no matter the A level results and attenuated degree or diploma challenges, further education is always an important stepping stone to better things. I will come back to this point later.

The second with regards to the technical career importance of tertiary education focused on explaining how for example, tertiary qualifications in contemporary times do not guarantee a set career path.  Let alone individual success in the chosen career.  But that they certainly help. 

After this conversation with the anxious young cde, I also took a bit of time to reflect further on our tertiary education system and how it has evolved over the last two decades.  And also whether what it meant then should be the same as what it means now. 

The first most obvious change between then and now is that where it comes to tertiary education there is no longer an evident a bottle-neck system as was in the past.  We have more universities (though I am not so sure about any expansion in polytechnic colleges). Therefore tertiary education eligibility for many students has become more apparent. Though at cost since the government no longer directly helps students with tuition fees via grants or loans. That means the decision of a student to go for further education is largely based on their ability to pay for it either via their parents/guardians or almost impossibly by themselves.  In this case we need to seriously consider the fact that a majority of our students come from poor households that can barely afford high school education let alone its tertiary dimension.  And therefore we need to urge government to re-introduce a student loan and grant scheme for all potential students.  Even if the numbers are much higher than in the 1990s.  I always joke with my peers about how those that are at the helm of privatizing higher education are beneficiaries of its previous publicly funded predecessor.  

In the second instance, I looked at how we perceived of our own personal aspirations via education. And of course how we have generally turned out.  And I will give an anecdotal example.  At the height of the tragic diamond rush on Chiadzwa, a joke emerged about how those that did not do well in school (even Grade 7) were now drinking beer while their former teachers were looking on in awe and envy.  Largely due to the emerging disparities but now very real in the contemporary between individual economic success and educational status. Whereas in the past it was the type of qualification post high school that you attained that would give you some sort of chance at material success, in the contemporary it is your type of ‘hustle’ that justifies your competitive material wellbeing.    

In either example however the importance of tertiary education does not go away for young Zimbabweans. Especially in them learning not only newer knowledge but also as a stepping stone to that assumed next hustle.  And this is perhaps where we need to re-think how we value our children’s futures beyond platitudes.

The meaning of tertiary education is not just about that potential next well-paying job they can get and make their parents proud.  And this is where I return to the initial complexity of it all that I mentioned earlier.  We need to change our tertiary education system to value more the knowledge acquisition than just its individual materialism and assumptions of joining the rich and the elite. Where even some of the latter arrived there by way of inheritance and not necessarily knowledge acquisition. 

While the global trend remains one that elevates what is referred to as ‘disruption’, ditto tech industry executives (seriously cdes we can’t all be Bill Gates).  Our Zimbabwean reality still requires young people that still go to colleges and universities.  Formally and for a multiplicity of qualifications.  Be they in the natural, social, cultural and teaching sciences.  Together with a state that actively subsidises this at all levels and more significantly where it concerns tertiary education.  Mainly because this is where a new progressive national consciousness is always born.  Warts and all. 

In conclusion, we all have different life experiences to tell about how we got to be where we are.  Especially some of us who are part of what I call the ESAP generation.  And our narratives are those of the pain of having to get that particular degree or diploma to lift families out of poverty.  It worked for a while, then because we didn’t anticipate the future holistically, it has not been roses as we expected.  But we cannot pass on the same burden to young Zimbabweans. We need to emphasize again and again that tertiary education is a stepping stone to the future.  Not an end in itself.

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