Industrialization, Vendors and Religion


Recently, I came across two particularly interesting events that occurred in Southern Africa. They are: The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap Summit and International Worker’s Day on the first of May.

The SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap Summit


This Strategy and Roadmap operationalises the theme of the 34th Summit of SADC, which is Strategy for Economic Transformation: Leveraging the Region’s Diverse Resources for Sustainable, Economic and Social Development through Beneficiation and Value Addition.

The strategy will seek to utilize the diverse natural resources of the region to bring about sustainable economic and social development.

Now, industrialization particularly refers to economic activity which is based upon manufacturing and production, and which ultimately grows economies and creates employment. Some of the preconditions of industrialization are: labour force, markets, access to raw materials and investment.

While critics have pointed at de-industrialization in Zimbabwe as an indicator of the summit’s futility, perhaps it is important to note that de-industrialization is a global phenomenon.

Firstly, de-industrialization refers to the falling in unemployment particularly in the manufacturing sector, and according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) during the last 30 years employment in the manufacturing sector has fallen dramatically in the world’s most advanced economies, particularly the United States and Europe.

In fact, if one looks at France (a country with an enviable industrial heritage) as an example, some 350 000 manufacturing sector jobs have been shed since the mid 2000s.

Even if we look at research from Brazil, we’ll notice that “since the late 1980’s, Brazil has begun to deindustrialize, a process which recent growth has done little to stop or reverse. India presents an even more striking case: Manufacturing employment there peaked at a meager 13% in 2002, and has since trended down.”

The reason behind deindustrialization in these countries is arguably that their domestic costs of manufacturing make it difficult for them to compete globally.

Zimbabwean manufacturers are in a similar situation. In fact, the vast amounts of foreign goods on our shelves make it obvious that our manufacturers are failing to compete with South African, Chinese and other goods, and it is in this light that regional industrialization spearheaded by South Africa is the way forward.

Take Pick n Pay as an example. It is already clear that Pick n Pay is contributing positively to our economy in terms of creating jobs and providing goods and services.

Now, if the SADC Industrialization Strategy and Roadmap materializes, it will certainly create jobs regionally. Imagine if companies like Vodacom, MTN, Shoprite Checkers, Sasol and Mediclinic set up shop in Zimbabwe.

Such a situation can only be positive, considering that last year South Africa’s top 50 corporate brands had a combined valuation of 34.3 billion dollars.

International Worker’s Day


The May 1 holiday is based upon “the International Workers’ Congress held at Paris in July 1889 [which] called upon workers around the world to hold a one-day demonstration to fight for the 8-hour day.

“Originally intended only as a single day of solidarity, May Day captured the attention of working people around the world. A century later, May Day was recognized as an official holiday in 107 countries.”

Now, interestingly, some so called labour activists tend to lament the state of Zimbabwe’s workforce, particularly the levels of unemployment, yet it is those very labour activists who are consistently lobbying for higher wages.

Let me remind them here, that Karl Marx referred to the unemployed as the “industrial reserve army” and that when unemployment is high, wages should remain low in order to create jobs for this reserve army. Conversely when unemployment is low, wages should remain high.

Religion and the “Musika” Phenomenon”

I am particularity curious about a new slogan which is being used by certain labour activists and politicians who are referring to Zimbabwe as “a nation of vendors.”

In order to verify the validity, of this term, I took time to walk through Harare central business district (CBD).

In Harare CBD, there are two things I find peculiar. Firstly, Town house (the administrative center of Harare City Council) is literally encircled by vendors. I can only imagine what the mayor and his cohorts discuss in their chambers when a few meters away they can hear a megaphone marketing rat poison.

Secondly, my observations in CBD diminished the doctrine that it is solely economic forces that create the informal sector, or what I will refer to here as the “musika” phenomenon.

Now let us consider that Western industrialization produced classic social theorists like Karl Marx, who (among other things) referred to religion as “the opium of the people,” and the enemy of the proletariat. On the other hand, Max Weber, an economist wrote “The Protestant Ethic.”

In simple terms, Max Weber’s work argued that religious forces precede economic forces. In other words, during his time, preachers transmitted a doctrine that hard work and frugality allow a believer to save money and increase wealth, and that wealth itself is an indication of God’s blessing and an assurance that a believer will go to heaven.

Today, “The Protestant Ethic” has culminated into what is often referred to as “prosperity gospel.”

Now, if we take Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic” as an analytical tool and apply it to the “Musika” phenomenon in Harare CBD, we may reach some significant conclusions.

Firstly, let us agree that it makes no economic sense for a person to travel into town in order to sell tomatoes and rat poison, given that, tomatoes can literally be found anywhere.

Secondly, I want to draw attention to the African Apostolic Church, or what we commonly refer to as “Vapostori.”

It is not a secret that the “Vapostri” doctrine often encourages self-employment and enterprise. It is also not a secret that “Vapostori” are perhaps the fastest growing religious group in the country.

Furthermore, I recently dealt with a labour dispute that involved a follower of the “Vapostori” church who quit his job as gardener in order to run a “musika” full-time.

Consequently, using Max Weber’s social theory as a tool, I put it forward that the while the “musika” phenomenon is a somewhat a consequence of economic forces, it is also inspired by religious forces particularly in the forms of self-employment doctrines of “Vapostori.”

I challenge anyone who disputes this to base their arguments on empirical evidence which is drawn from a research survey on vendors in town.

I am particularly keen to conduct that study, because for a nation as educated as Zimbabwe, it makes no sense for anyone to travel into town to sell tomatoes and rat poison.

Furthermore, why doesn’t Harare’s City Council enforce by-laws and regulations that prohibit the selling of meat, tomatoes and rat poison on the side of the road in CBD?

Perhaps it is because certain politicians are banking on the “nation of vendors” slogan and therefore they keep vendors on pavements in town in order to use them later as political capital?

Ultimately, industrialization is the way forward, and the SADC chair should be commended for the initiative.

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.

church member eats grass
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