Labour, Race Relations and Politics in Zimbabwe

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In view of the recent labour furore in Zimbabwe, I came across some interesting information. Consider this.

In 1991, a researcher from the Graduate School of Management at the University of Queensland named M. Shadur published a report on a Zimbabwean parastatal’s performance.

In this narrative, the researcher laments that after independence, the post 1980 period saw “the promotion of inexperienced personnel into important managerial positions,” and “cases where older or more experienced Whites felt passed over for promotion in favour of Blacks.”

Furthermore, “after independence, management’s power over labour relations outcomes was reduced [as] government intervened to attenuate management’s right to hire and fire.”

The government’s intervention in labour relations after 1980 resulted in a frigid labour market characterized by the pro-worker labour laws that existed in Zimbabwe until the July 17 2015 supreme court ruling (which gave employers the right to dismiss employees on 3 month’s notice without benefits) and the consequent Labour Amendment Act of 2015.

Race and Economic Performance

Now, according to the research, the “parastatal was the sole supplier to its private-sector competitors of the basic ingredients for…products,” and the “parastatal operated in deficit, funded by state subsidies.

“The annual trading account deficit increased dramatically after independence, rising from 7 per cent of sales in the year to June 1980 to over 50 per cent of sales in each year from 1983.”

Regrettably, the research did not disclose the name of the parastatal, and therefore I am unable to judge its performance up to 2015.

Nevertheless, the fact that the organization’s deficit rose from “7 per cent of sales in the year to June 1980 to over 50 per cent of sales in each year from 1983,” is telling, as it perhaps illuminates two (mis)steps taken by the government in the 1980s that contribute to Zimbabwe’s current currency quandary.

Firstly, we racialised our economy, and secondly we politicized our economy.

Yes, prior to independence in 1980 opportunities were limited to Black Zimbabweans on the basis that they were Black, and that was the reason for the war.

Yet, after 1980, it seems as though we ignored our own reconciliation and unity messages, and proceeded to limit opportunities to White Zimbabweans on the basis that they were White.

By allowing “the promotion of inexperienced personnel into important managerial positions,” on the basis of race, (without official affirmative action procedures) we further racialised the workplace at the expense of production and performance.

Some may argue that in 1980 Zimbabwe had recently emerged from a protracted civil war, and that there was a sense of urgency on the part of government to encourage black Zimbabweans to participate in the economy. This is noted.

However, the state of the economy today shows us that promotion and indeed policy itself should be merit based and free from racial nuances, corruption and nepotism. Zimbabwe needs a radical paradigm shift if we are to get the country back on its feet.

As it stands, the national fiscus is burdened by several non-performing and bloated parastatals; many of which have joined the retrenchment orgy currently taking place in the country.

Reports indicate that over 20 000 jobs have been shed since July 17 2015.

The job hemorrhage that the country is suffering from can be analogized as the advanced stage of an ailment that began in the 1980s.

Now, I am not trying to argue that deserving black workers should not be promoted to managerial positions.

What I am trying to say is that we need to aspire to become a constitutional meritocracy like Singapore, and abandon our discriminatory approach to economics in both policy and practice.

Ultimately, opportunities should be made available to all citizens irrespective of race.

Politicization of the economy

Now, since the price controls of the 1980s, the government has been directly involved in the country’s economic affairs, at times irrationally.

For example, where production prices increased by 126 per cent from the mid-1980 to 1985, the prices to consumers remained relatively static owing to the government’s socialist inspired price controls.

You see, government’s interference in both labour relations and the marketplace back then was the start of the politicization of the economy that we see today.

I experienced government interference in the market while managing a butchery in 2001.

During that time, the government reintroduced price controls, after spending the 1990s under the dispensation of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP).

In that year (2001), the state’s price and currency controls forced retailers to sell goods at a loss.

As a result, the nation experienced foreign currency shortages and shortages of commodities like meat. Eventually, the black market became the main market until we demonetized the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009.

The hyperinflation of 2008 was the consequent climax of our politicized economics. What we need today is for the government to take a laissez-faire approach to the economy, and perhaps the best way to begin is to repeal the indigenization laws.

Today, the Indigenization Act stands as another reflection of the interference of politics in what is supposed to be the free market. Frankly, it makes no sense that we insist on enforcing Indigenization at a time when the nation is desperate for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

We are literally asking people from the East and the West to come and do business here, and then after they arrive, we expect to tell them that they must give up 51% of their investment.

No one will pitch up to that party, because no one wants political interference in their business. The two should remain separate.

This is also true of Land Reform. That programme has been politicized.

If we can revisit the land programme and allow for merit-based land distribution irrespective of race, perhaps we can resuscitate our agriculture. As it stands, we have politicized land tenure at the expense of performance and productivity.

Constitutionalism

Section 56(3) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe reads, “Every Person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on such grounds as their nationality, colour, tribe, place of birth.

“Ethnic or social origin, language, class, religious belief, political affiliation, opinion, custom, culture, sex, gender, marital status, age, pregnancy, disability or economic and social status or whether they were born in or out of wedlock.”

I am a born-free (that is, born after 1980) Zimbabwean, who believes in implementing our constitutional values.

The thing is, the world perceives Zimbabwe’s political and racist rhetoric as a smoke screen for our reluctance to effect constitutionalism and good governance in the country.

Ultimately, we need to change our tone and revisit our policy. Period.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

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Politics and Religion

zim-ren-3Religion is the opium of the people. At least that is what Karl Marx would like us to believe. Nonetheless, opium has a global market value that runs into hundreds of billions of dollars, and according to certain theories, it has triggered international wars such as the invasion of Afghanistan.

Yet, while western societies are generally secularizing, research reveals that here in Africa, religious practice is escalating; especially in form of Pentecostalism. This growing religiosity of Africans can arguably be attributed to the growing population and an intensifying competition for economic opportunities coupled with crisis ridden national economies. These factors collectively create contexts of social tension that are arguably alleviated by religiosity.

Social scientists contend that religion contributes positively to society in the following ways:

●religion maintains and supports the societal social order (i.e.: social norms, values, culture etc)

●religion shapes the social actions of men and women in their encounter with their social environments

●religion provides social and physical spaces that bring men and women together to participate in common activities that are understood by and are meaningful to them

●religion institutionalizes a network of social relationships

●religion is the ultimate source of cohesion and integration in society.

In fact, religion has been attributed for fuelling the work ethic and industry of the developed world.

In a classic work entitled the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, the German economist Max Weber postulates that “the magical and religious forces, and the ethical ideas based upon them, have in the past always been among the most important formative influences on the conduct of life.”

He goes further, arguing that capitalism (described as the rational pursuit of profit through rational economic enterprise) was an unintended consequence of religious (particularly protestant) doctrine which stressed ‘a calling’, that is, a special way to live and function ordained by God. This ‘calling’ referred to a lifestyle that would see people working and enterprising in such a way that led to material success. The proliferation of this doctrine, according to Weber, fuelled modern Capitalism and the industrialisation of the Western world.

Simply put, Max Weber suggests that religious values are channelled into people by means of the pulpit, where they are enveloped as religious doctrine, and consequently, these values shape the social and economic behaviour of their adherents.

Now in the Zimbabwean context, recent media reports of rape and psychological manipulation under the pretext of religion are perturbing.

Remembering that the social and economic behaviours of religious adherents are influenced by religious doctrines transmitted from various pulpits, it is worrisome to consider that certain religious leaders, be they Christian preachers, traditional religious practitioners, or Vapostori are often respondents to charges of psychological manipulation, rape, child abuse and other offences of that nature.

I mean, if such a cleric has been preaching for decades, and therefore has been extensively channelling his or her profane doctrine into a congregation, then one cannot expect constructive social or economic behaviour from that group’s members.

Here is an example: If a religious leader preaches that, he or she has the power to cure HIV/AIDS and therefore, his or her adherents who suffer from this condition should abandon all conventional medication; that will become the behaviour of those adherents. Alternatively, if a religious leader or ‘prophet’ prophecies that a man’s wife is trying to poison him, then do not be surprised when that church member stops eating at home.

Furthermore, recent media reports have exposed that some eccentric ‘Christian’ pastors can even influence their church members to eat grass.

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Pastor Lesego Daniel, who is based in Garankuwa, north of Pretoria, told dozens of followers to eat grass because “it will bring them closer to God”.

The point is that there is a fine line between faith and fanaticism, and while calls for the monitoring of churches and their varying doctrines are welcome in the context of protecting the public from predatory pulpit pundits, the question arises: how does the government intend to monitor religious activity? Furthermore, how will the government ensure that a monitoring exercise of religious activity will not result in the covert politicisation of religion in the country?

While the constitution states that no person can be hindered from the enjoyment of his or her freedom of religion, it also states that in the interests of defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health the law in can limit the freedom of religion.

However, the danger of enacting a general law which allows for the infringement of religious freedom is that such a law could be used as a political tool, even to the detriment of sincere and law abiding believers as is the case currently in tumultuous Egypt.

In this light, in order to avoid the politicization of religious activity in the country, and to maintain the rift between the church and the state, the only reasonable way of monitoring religion would be through a statutory religious ombudsman consisting of respectable and impartial citizens and mandated with the twofold functions of protecting the public from pulpit predators, and keeping politics and state separate from issues of faith.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

The reason behind the high voter turnout at the March 16 referendum in Zimbabwe

zimraysI note with interest a recently published post-referendum report by the Election Resource Centre entitled:  “‘Miracle Votes’ – An analysis of the March 2013 Referendum.”  The reported objective of the document, authored by Sokwanele, is “to interrogate and analyse the voter behavior that influenced the relatively high voter turnout’ in this poll.”

In this report, the author argues that the high voter turnout can arguably be attributed to “coercive capacities of the political parties, especially ZANU PF to drive out their supporters in a systematic manner to vote in a block (sic).” The author advises that “such coercive and intimidatory practices could be replicated in the next elections.”

Now Sokwanele should know better.  First of all, it makes no sense to say that a party intimidates or coerces its own supporters; after all, people join a party voluntarily, and therefore, they voluntarily subscribe to their chosen party’s directives. In the case of the referendum, the main political parties (ZANU PF and MDC-T) both directed their supporters to vote ‘yes’.

Secondly, from a research perspective, Sokwanele should be familiar with Simon Schwartzman’s 1968 work entitled: Voting Behavior and Elections, where Schwartzman contends that “Man is a social being, and as such he always participates in social life. But this participation is not constant: the intensity and types of participation are relevant variables in political analysis.” In fact, central to Schwartzman’s analysis is that at any given election, the electorate consists of the following sub-groups:

a. The nonvoter that does not care about politics.

b. The stable voter whose vote is partisan and constant.

c. The unstable voter who cares little about politics and votes erratically.

d. The stable voter with high level of information. (S)he has a moderate knowledge of politics and votes consistently.

e. The highly informed unstable voter, who makes his own decision at each moment.

It is therefore inadequate, Sokwanele, to say that the high voter turnout is owing to “women (who constitute the majority of voters)” and “the youth vote.” Essentially, women and youth voters are not homogenous groups, and are in fact interspersed between the aforementioned categories.

Furthermore, if Schwartzman’s analysis that “feelings of instability… or actual drops in the standard of life can lead to active political participation” is anything to go by, then it explains the high voter turnout in the hyperinflationary and politically turbulent environment that characterized the March 2008 elections, and would consequently mean that the relatively stable socio-economic circumstances surrounding the March 2013 referendum should have resulted in a lower voter turnout than in March 2008. Yet, the March 2013 poll had the highest voter turnout since 1980; why is that?

This brings me to the point of concientization, or what the Election Resource Centre refers to as “political party canvasing.” It is common knowledge that the parties to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) (ZANU PF, MDC-T, MDC-M/N) agreed to the Kariba draft in 2007. After the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU) in 2009, the Kariba draft was set aside for a more ‘people driven’ constitution. As a result, a constitutional outreach programme has been in effect over the last four years, culminating in the draft which was endorsed on March 16 2013.

Now, over the last four years, the parties to the GPA  have had the time and opportunity to re-engage their grassroots and concientize them with respect to the constitution. This concurrently became an opportunity for the parties to educate the masses on the party positions with respect to key political, social and policy issues. At the same term it served as an opportunity to criticize conflicting positions held by other parties and to re-engage (potential) party members, especially those (in the case of ZANU-PF)  who were disoriented with party policy at the 2008 poll. In summary, this means that over the four-year period during which the constitutional outreach took place, political parties had the time to reorganize, regroup, and re-conscientize their supporters who consequently participated in the poll en-bloc. The same high levels of voter turnout can therefore be expected  in the harmonized elections later this year.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

Zimbabwean Constitution. Final draft January 25 2013

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Harmonized elections will be held in Zimbabwe in June 2013.  Prior to the June election, the nation must  hold a referendum on the new constitution. The referendum is expected in March 2013. The draft attached is what the referendum will be based upon.

Tau Tawengwa

Zimbabwean Constitution. Final draft January 25 2013