Zimbabwe: Bumpy Ride yet Bright Future

 

The just-ended three-day national strike ( Monday 13  January 2019- Wednesday 15 January) gave me an opportunity to read the government’s Transitional Stabilization Program (TSP) and try to understand where we are as a nation and whether there is light at the end of the tunnel for our political-economy.

 

I must state here that I’m often criticized by my Marxist schooled and labour-centered friends for being biased towards capital and “big-business.”

 

That is a bias I cannot deny- I am a capitalist, perhaps even an elitist.

 

Nevertheless I also strongly believe that the state is obligated to: 1) facilitate a socio-economic environment where citizens can live decently and with enough opportunity to aspire to become whatever they want to be in life and 2) to build strong institutions that guarantee the rule of law.

 

It’s with these two themes in mind that I decided to take time to understand whether or not the TSP and the consequent government interventions are going to do Zimbabwe any good in the long run.

 

Ironically, as it stands today, worker’s organisations such as the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and even industrialists unions such as the Confederation of Zimbabwean Industries (CZI) are concurrently calling upon the executive to expeditiously intervene in the economy.

 

Business and labour are usually on opposite ends. It’s very rare to hear the two singing from the same songbook.

 

One the one hand the ZCTU (and affiliate bodies) are calling upon the government to remunerate workers in hard currency- United States Dollars in particular- while on the other hand the CZI has been lobbying the government to avail foreign currency so that industry can import raw materials needed for production.

 

The CZI has unequivocally stated that Zimbabwe’s businesses are left with less than a month’s supply of foreign-sourced raw materials and that the country could come to a complete standstill if hard currency is not availed urgently.

 

Interestingly, in the midst of this furore, the executive has insisted that the country is on the right track, and that the most recent government intervention (in the form of increasing the price of fuel) is the right move.

 

In this article, I will try to make sense of the current state of Zimbabwe’s political economy, and attempt to determine whether or not we are moving in the right direction as a country.

 

Bumpy Ride Ahead

 

On Christmas Eve 2018, President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the nation.

 

In his address, he informed that while the process of national renewal and economic recovery was started in 2018, citizens should brace for more difficulties lying ahead.

 

“There is so much more to be done and there will be further bumps along the road. I am aware that many will have a difficult Christmas. I encourage all of us to be patient, resilient and to work harder in collective unity as we create a better, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe for all.” He stated.

 

While many misinterpreted this statement to mean that the president is arrogant, uncompassionate and even detached from the sufferings of ordinary citizens, I believe that the opposite is true.

 

I think the President is well aware of the difficulties currently faced by Zimbabweans, and as he rightly stated- there is no easy way out.The road to the promised land will be a bumpy one.

 

In fact it is not a secret that Zimbabwe needs to implement extensive political and economic reforms before the country can unlock significant funding from Bretton Woods institutions in the forms of the IMF and the World Bank.

 

In short, in order to unlock fresh funding, Zimbabwe is required to effect a comprehensive Structural Adjustment Programme similar to the Economic Structural Adjust Programme (E.S.A.P) that we implemented in the early 1990s.

 

For those who are not in the know, the World Bank backed E.S.A.P came at a time when Zimbabwe’s economy was deep in recession owing particularly to the severe 1991/1992 drought which deeply affected Zimbabwe’s agro-economy.

 

ESAP was proposed as a World Bank backed intervention which would liberalize Zimbabwe’s economy and put the country back on a growth trajectory.

 

Essentially E.S.A.P contained the following key deliverables : 1) the reduction of Government expenditure by retrenching 25 percent of the civil service, 2) removing government subsidies on essential products, 3) commercialising and privatising some state-owned companies and 4) introducing user-fees in the health and education sectors.

 

While it is widely agreed that E.S.A.P assisted in stabilizing the Zimbabwean macro-economy, it is also argued that E.S.A.P did not  address unemployment and poverty.

 

If anything, unemployment worsened owing to retrenchments and privatization.

 

Arguably, the impact of ESAP fuelled labour strikes and food-riots that characterized the country in the mid-nineties, perhaps in the same way that the TSP is fueling the same today.

 

In fact, an article on E.S.A.P in the mid-nineties published in the Indiana University Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare stated the following:

 

“… It has been noted that the programs [E.S.A.Ps] generally lead to retrenchment, skyrocketing of prices of goods, rising inflation to record levels and steep devaluation of local currencies… These situations have lead (sic) to loss of power, instability and /or increased military repression.”

 

I believe that statement is true even today.

 

The T.S.P is Another E.S.A.P

 

Now, it’s important to note that Zimbabwe’s T.S.P has all the characteristics of the neo-liberal E.S.A.P.

 

I will highlight three key components of the T.S.P that expose its neo-liberal nature.

 

Firstly, the TSP speaks about restructuring the Civil Service- which should be read as mass-lay-offs.

 

In fact paragraph 374 of the TSP states that “the imperative for the Transitional Stabilisation Programme is to… reposition, re-dimension and pivot the Civil Service to become a more efficient and cost-effective vehicle to deliver national development results and outcomes”

 

Simply put, this means the government will effect mass-lay-offs.

 

Arguably, this is inspired by observations made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in recent years that “the public sector employment costs remain at an unsustainable level.”

 

Consequently it’s no coincidence that in January 2019 Zimbabwe’s government began the process of laying off just over 3,000 workers from its youth ministry.

 

The most recent retrenchments followed government’s 2018 initiatives to retire senior civil servants who are above the age of 65.

 

The reason for the “restructuring” is simply that the government has to cut expenditure in order to repay about $2 billion in arrears to creditors — this is a precondition of the IMF before we are able to access fresh support.

 

While labour unions and other civic bodies may disagree with the intent to implement mass-layoffs in the civil service, personally, I think it’s the way forward, because our civil service is bloated and largely unproductive, and therefore retrenchment of government workers is a noteworthy intervention.

 

Secondly, the T.S.P speaks to the matter of privatisation.

 

Paragraph 384 of the T.S.P says the following:

 

“Public Enterprises Reform 384. Review of the ownership and oversight model of the State Owned Enterprises sector is provided for in the short to medium term Reform Framework whose implementation is now underway”

 

Furthermore, Paragraph 387 of the T.S.P highlights the following deliverables:

 

“The privatisation of 11 State Owned Enterprises, 6 IDC Subsidiaries, and 17 ZMDC subsidiaries. • Liquidation of 2 State Owned Enterprises and 3 IDC Subsidiaries. • Merging of 11 entities. • Departmentalisation of 7 State Owned Enterprises into Line Ministries.”

 

Essentially, privatisation is a key component of structural adjustment, and it is therefore no wonder that the issue of privatisation is contained in the T.S.P.

 

However, my hope is that while government goes ahead with its privatisation push, state assets are disposed of transparently and at fair market prices. We do not want key state resources to be sold off for a pittance as we have observed recently in Zambia.

 

Again, privatisation is the right way to go as it will raise much needed revenue for government. In this light, the pandemonium we observed when Olivine announced its indefinite closure was uncalled for.

 

As it stands Olivine is already on the list of State Owned Entities that are to be privatised, and in that context, there is no need for government to continue pumping scarce foreign currency into a loss-making entity that is soon to be disposed of.

 

The closure of entities like Olivine is not Armageddon. In fact it is in line with the T.S.P.

 

Finally two recent pronouncements by the executive are telling clues that demonstrate Zimbabwe is in the midst of structural adjustment. The first was the executive’s pronouncement of the separation of FCA and RTGS bank accounts and the second was the executive’s pronouncement that fuel prices will increase.

 

While the T.S.P does not explicitly make mention of these interventions, our finance minister did tacitly indicate that our local currency has been devalued.

 

Responding to questions on the issue during a dialogue at Chatham House in London in October 2018, Prof Ncube said he would not argue against market forces, as he admitted that the bloated RTGS balances were being devalued on the parallel market despite being officially rated at par with the US$ value.

 

“On the currency front, I think the market is doing all the work for me, I don’t have to announce…it’s very clear that the economy is in essence self-dollarizing… If you look at the RTGS exchange rate and bond note exchange rate, the market has said these are not at par and I am not about to argue with the market” said Professor Mthuli Ncube.

 

The devaluation of the local currency, has not been welcomed by Zimbabwean workers, as it diminishes their buying power and eats into their savings while at the same time fueling inflation.

 

However from where I’m sitting, there is no other way. Indeed it is a painful intervention, but it is also a necessary intervention. In the middle to long term we will start seeing the results.

 

Conclusion

 

Let me conclude by using what happened in South Africa in the past as an example.

 

When Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa in 1994, the trade union and communist partners of the African National congress (ANC) in the forms of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) assumed that the right economic policy for the country was the pro-poor, socialist-centered Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

 

While that policy was a noble initiative on paper, in flopped in practice.

 

It was noble, because it sought to address the main socio-economic challenges of black South Africans; particularly: housing, healthcare, electrification, land-reform and access to healthcare.

 

Nevertheless the RDP policy flopped, simply because the South African government didn’t have the finances or human resources to implement those initiatives at that time.

 

As a result by the time that the pro-capital economist in the form of Thabo Mbeki took office in 1999, the South African government had abandoned RDP for the neo-liberal and pro-capital, Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy, which focused on removing exchange controls, privatisation, and the introduction of flexible labour (which should be read as the ability to fire or retrench easily).

 

The GEAR policy was a neo-liberal structural adjustment inspired policy, just like the T.S.P is in Zimbabwe today.

 

The GEAR policy brought positive economic growth to South Africa.Additionally, management of public finances improved drastically under GEAR.

 

While the policy was constantly criticized by the South African opposition and COSATU for being anti–poor and pro-capital, arguably, South Africa is what it is today because of Thabo Mbeki’s leadership and the GEAR policy.

 

Similarly, we Zimbabweans should give President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube and the T.S.P the opportunity to flourish.

 

Indeed it will be a bumpy ride, but we are in the right direction.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

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The Politics of Succession

Human Capital refers to the skilled personnel possessed by any state, business or organisation- often referred to as Human Resources.

 

There are two fundamental reasons why human resource departments are generally considered to be part of the pivotal pillars of organisations.

 

The first reason is that despite the rapid technological advances taking place in the world, it will always be skilled human beings who are needed to oversee the technology and to implement technology related policy.

 

Put plainly, you need skilled and experienced people in order to implement policy. This is true at both micro and macro levels. As a result people are the biggest contributors to organizational success.

 

Secondly, it is the department of human resources in any organisation that is tasked with executing succession related organizational policy.

 

In fact, some of the most successful global organisations today task their human resources departments to prioritize succession planning policy as a fundamental part of business strategy.

 

The reason is that organisations without a succession strategy lack continuity when a key senior member exits the bureaucracy for any reason.

 

This is true in all organizations; even political parties, governments, multi-national corporations and family businesses alike. Every bureaucracy needs a clear succession plan.

 

The reason is simple: without a clear succession strategy in place that runs in conjunction with a clear operational strategy, your organisation risks collapsing when any one of the organization’s key leaders exits for any reason.

 

This is because where there is no clear strategy on how to replace a leader  with  someone who is equally as critical, cohesive, commanding and charismatic, then factional conflicts and divisions will inevitably lead to the organisation’s uncompetitiveness and ultimately its demise.

 

As reported in the New York Times concerning succession planning in family businesses, “business owners who do not form a succession plan create a time bomb that can not only destroy their companies but tear apart their families.

 

“A lot of families fight and fight until the business is gone.”

 

I’ve written before about how family businesses typically collapse within three generations.

 

This is portrayed well by a certain Mexican adage which says, “Father, founder of the company, son, rich and grandson poor.”

 

Put plainly, the founder establishes a competitive business, the founder’s children reap the fruits of his labour, yet unfortunately they leave the founder’s grandchildren with a shadow of the original entity.

 

This is usually because of a lack of clear and methodological succession planning.

 

Of course, such a fatalist foreclosure is preventable in family businesses, large corporations and political parties alike.

 

However, such prevention is only pursuant to the implementation of clear and strategic succession policy which runs concurrently with the operational policy of the organization.

 

This brings me to the context of Zimbabwe’s current socio-political quandary.

 

Zimbabwe’s Succession Politics

 

I’m a born free Zimbabwean, meaning that I was born after independence in 1980.

 

This also means that I’ve lived through three phases of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic history: The honey-moon phase, the structural-adjustment phase, and the crises phase which we are still experiencing today.

 

I don’t intend to argue how, when or why we are in this crisis because that has been written about extensively and that literature is readily available.

 

However, the key concern of many a citizen is how do we as a country extricate ourselves from this current crisis and chart a cohesive way forward?

 

The answer is in clear succession planning.

 

It is my view that the reason why so many Zimbabweans were disappointed when Ex-Vice President Dr. Joice Mujuru was expelled from party and government in 2014, and also, why so many people are disappointed by ex-Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s expulsion today, is because Zimbabweans had placed their future hopes in these individuals ,who they perceived as the embodiments of a tacit succession plan.

 

Yet, as I mentioned earlier, a succession plan should not be secretive, informal or tacit- it must not be based upon secret agreements done amongst politicians in the liberation days or presently.

 

Instead, a succession plan must be open, clear, transparent and progressive.

 

As it stands, arguably, the palpable political disgruntlement amongst Zimbabweans, particularly war veterans and the Masvingo and Midlands regions is perhaps based upon perceptions of the betrayal  of certain informal and secret agreements done amongst politicians in the liberation days or presently.

 

Unfortunately, however, where there is no record or trace of such informal agreements, then the only way to settle the dispute is through conflict… and conflict is always the culmination of poor succession planning.

 

History shows this to be true in family businesses, corporates and political parties alike.

 

Nevertheless, where  there is an open, public, clear and concise succession plan that is agreed to by all the influential personalities in an organization, then conflict is avoided and continuity prevails.

 

Now, it seems that ZANU-PF has been deliberately expelling its strongest personalities for some time now, notwithstanding at the expense of the socio-political and economic stability of Zimbabwe at large.

 

 

It was Dr. Joice Mujuru yesterday and now it is Honorable Emmerson Mnangagwa today.

 

This systematic elimination of ZANU-PF’s strongmen and women over time has arguably been motivated by a dynastic agenda, which is now being formalized and presented to the public at the expense of historical informal, secret agreements allegedly concluded amongst politicians in the liberation days and recently.

 

Nevertheless the reality is that Zimbabwe is at an all-time low.

 

The way out (as I perceive Eddie Cross has tried to initiate) is to invite all the influential anti-dynastic and disgruntled forces to one negotiating table where they must discuss and establish two things.

 

Firstly, a sound socio-political and economic governance plan designed for Zimbabwe for the next ten years that will be implemented by a Government of National Unity similar to what we saw in the 2009-2013 period.

 

Secondly, the negotiations must draw out a formal, irrevocable, transparent, clear and concise succession plan that will be guaranteed by SADC, the AU and the UN.

 

Such a succession plan will run concurrently alongside the aforementioned economic governance operational strategy.

 

In this light, it is the hope of the Zimbabwean people that Dr. Joice Mujuru, Honorable Emmerson Mnagagwa, The MDC-T, war veterans and other influential, progressive and anti-dynastic forces can come to the negotiating table and chart a way forward.

 

 

Such an arrangement should be mediated by Former president Thabo Mbeki or Cyril Ramaphosa.

 

The fact is that too many Zimbabwean lives and livelihoods across races, regions, and tribes have been sacrificed for too long at the altar of political self-gain and expediency.

 

In all truth fifteen years from now, students of economic history, political science, and sociology will look back at this time and ask why the various disgruntled Zimbabwean leaders could not find common ground to defeat this crisis.

 

This is their opportunity to do exactly that.

 

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

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The Politics of Dynasty

I’ve taken time recently to research around the issue of whether or not Nelson Mandela “sold out” as some African radicals have suggested in the recent past.

 

According to reports, sometime in 2010, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela told a British Publication that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu had “sold out” to the whites.

 

“Mandela let us down. He agreed to a bad deal for the blacks. Economically, we are still on the outside. The economy is very much ‘white’. It has a few token blacks, but so many who gave their life in the struggle have died unrewarded,” Madikizela-Mandela told the London Evening Standard.

 

Also, elsewhere, Julius Malema stated that former president Nelson Mandela turned his back on parts of the revolution after being released from prison- whatever that means.

 

It has also been reported that certain of South Africa’s cabinet ministers alongside certain African presidents also share this sentiment.

 

Perhaps when one says that “Mandela sold out,” one means that the late statesman didn’t do enough to take the means of production and economic wealth out of the hands of the minority, and systematically transfer both political and economic power into the majority black hands.

 

I suppose that this is what many radical-cum-populist-politicians think the struggle against apartheid and colonialism was all about.

 

Nonetheless, I beg to differ.

 

Perhaps the debate about former president Mandela’s legacy should not be about what he didn’t do, but rather, about what he did do.

 

For those who would care to know, here are some interesting facts about South Africa’s democracy today which we can still accredit to Madiba.

 

  • Firstly, South Africa has strong institutions that support the notions of accountability, equity and rule of law. This is in contrast to many African countries which hide behind radical rhetoric and colonial finger-pointing in order to justify unaccountability and oppression.

 

  • Secondly, South Africa is one of Africa’s “big three” economies alongside Egypt and Nigeria. In fact in 2016, South Africa’s GDP stood at approximately 295 billion dollars. To put this into perspective, consider that Botswana (a country with a population of 2.2 million people) had a GDP of around 15 billion USD in 2016, while the self-proclaimed “regional revolutionary,” Zimbabwe had an inconsequential GDP of around 16 billion USD in 2016.

 

All in all South Africa represents 61% of SADC’S regional GDP while the so called “revolutionary” countries like Zimbabwe are underperformers given their vast mineral and agricultural potential.

 

Inevitably the question arises, why is it that Nelson Mandela is labelled a sell-out when the economy that he presided over is still institutionally strong and growing (albeit minimally), whereas other “revolutionary” states in SADC remain economic non-entities?

 

Perhaps the answer lies in the dynastic ambitions of avaricious African leaders.

 

Allow me to explain.

 

 

Political Dynasties

 

“It is not easy for a person to do any great harm when his tenure of office is short, whereas long possession begets tyranny.” Aristotle

 

To be honest, Nelson Mandela deserves every iota of respect that he has earned as a statesman. It’s not that he was perfect, because no man is perfect, and I know that I’m certainly not perfect.

 

However, after studying politics and African politicians for many years, I can safely conclude that Nelson Mandela did not “sell out” as some would have us to believe.

 

Instead, he took the straight and narrow political path of a single term in office and brutal accountability which is unlike many of his African political counterparts who cannot comprehend the meaning of the terms “step down” or “transparency.”

 

Here are some interesting observations.

 

In 2015, Togo, a country of approximately 7 million people voted for incumbent President Faure Gnassingbé for a third time.

 

Gnassingbé is the son and immediate successor of Togo’s fifth president—Gnassingbé Eyadema—and, once he serves out his third term, his family will have run Togo for 48 years.

 

Of course, this was not taken lying down by the Togolese public, and today in 2017, there are increasing calls and protests for President Faure Gnassingbé to step down. To date, it is reported that up to 13 people have been killed and hundreds of people have been rounded up, in what appears to be a crackdown on anti-dynasty protests.

 

Elsewhere, In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kabila dynasty was established after a bloody coup d’état in 1997, when the Laurent Kabila militarily overthrew the long-ruling despot Mobutu Sese Seko.

 

That dynasty almost ended when Kabila senior was assassinated in January 2001.

 

Since then Kabila’s son Joseph has been at the helm of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and consequently he has presided over a nation characterized by repression instability and volatility.

 

Now that Joseph Kabila’s second term is over, he is refusing to step down, and as a result he is facing increasing protests and opposition to his continued stay in office.

 

Contemporary voters detest dynasties. Period.

 

In fact, public resistance to dynastic political projects is not uniquely African either.

 

In the United States Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump partly because of the abhorrence society has for political dynasties.

 

The bottom line is that in the modern world the people don’t like political dynasties.

 

Conceivably, in his political wisdom, Nelson Mandela caught this revelation.

 

I mean had he wanted to, he could have orchestrated his own dynasty. It’s not that he couldn’t have done it-He could.

 

In fact, He had the charisma, he had global support, he had the power, and he had the intellect to do so.

 

But instead he chose the politically straight and narrow path, and not the wide road of profligacy, wanton power, repression and egocentrism.

 

The fact that today so many African migrants live in South Africa is a testimony to Mandela’s legacy, and that is corroborating evidence that he in fact did not sell out, and instead believed that strong institutions, constitutionalism and accountability were the building blocks of a better South Africa.

 

Those who denounce him as a sell-out today, do so because his legacy of constitutionalism limits their liberty to loot.

 

Nevertheless it remains, as illustrated earlier that contemporary voters do not appreciate dynasties.

 

Now, with the ANC elective congress fast approaching, I perceive that the ruling African National Congress is caught between a rock and a hard place.

 

On the one hand, Dr. Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma is a revered and an experienced politician who has served well both nationally and internationally and perhaps would make a brilliant state and party president.

 

On the other hand, despite her positive attributes, as the ex-wife of sitting President Jacob Zuma, she is perceived as a pawn in a greater political dynastic agenda, and as mentioned earlier, contemporary voters do not respond positively to political dynasties.

 

Look at Togo, look at DRC, go ahead and ask Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush- in contemporary politics the dynastic agenda is bad for national business.

 

If anything, I would hope that the frontrunners in the ANC presidential race heed this warning and consider that the voting South African Public will not respond well to the Zuma dynasty political agenda- especially not in the context of a fledging economy, student protests, social problems and a slow growth.

 

If the ANC pursues its dynastic political agenda in December, it risks losing everything come the 2019 elections.

 

Already, the 2016 municipal election results show us that voters are unhappy with the ANC. The dynastic politics president Zuma is currently pursuing will only worsen the discontent.

 

The same can be said of ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe. If reports are true that President Mugabe is pursuing a dynastic political agenda, then ZANU-PF should prepare for perpetual political unrest in Zimbabwe, just like we are seeing it in Togo and the DRC.

 

At the end of the day this is what is clear to me: the politician that walks in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela will prosper. He was a politician’s politician, and his legacy lives through the strong institutions that he fought for.
Forward with democracy. Down with dynasty.
 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

Email

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The Politics of #ThisFlag

 

zim-ren-3
The year 2016 has seen an explosion of online activism and hashtag movements in Zimbabwe, with #This Flag and #Tajamuka/Sesjikile being arguably the most prominent social media hashtags in the country.

 

Generally speaking, Zimbabwean online activism in 2016 has been characterized by impulsivity and emotionality, mostly in reaction to the thorny socio-economic circumstances currently experienced by many people within the country.

 

By Definition, social media activism, or hashtag activism means “supporting a cause through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networking websites.”

 

In addition, hashtag activism “is the kind of activism that does not require any action from the person other than sharing or “liking” a post or “retweeting” tweets.”

 

It must be observed that online or hashtag activism is different from political activism, which often takes the form of street protests and picketing.

 

In this regard, it should be noted that the popular Zimbabwean-born hashtag: #this flag, is an example of online activism, while the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign is actually a political movement.

 

In this article, I will explain why the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign is an organized political group designed to achieve political outcomes.

 

I will also explain why the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign should be differentiated from other spontaneous online movements like #ThisFlag.

 

Hashtag Movements and Online Activism

Protesting and picketing on the street has been the common method of raising consciousness and awareness around political and social issues for many years.

 

Even today, civic and political groups still organize pickets and demonstrations to raise consciousness.

 

However, owing to the advent of smart phones and the global proliferation of the internet, consciousness can now be raised online using hashtags, live video posts, like buttons and memes instead of loudspeakers and picket placards.

 

Some of the most popular online hashtag movements that I have come across in the last few years are listed below.

 

#Black Lives Matter

 

In 2014 police brutality in Ferguson USA and other parts of America led to an outcry on social media.

 

The deaths of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, and Laquan McDonald (African Americans who were killed by white American Police Officers) inspired the #BlackLivesMatter movement’s momentum throughout 2015.

 

As a result #BlackLivesMatter was tweeted over 9 million times, and now in 2016 the hashtag movement that started on social media, has become a social movement aimed at achieving social justice and racial equality across the USA.

 

#Pray For Paris

 

After terrorist attacks claimed the lives of 129 people in Paris in November 2015, over 70 million people from 200 countries took to social media where they expressed their prayers and support for France. The number one trending social media hashtag was #PrayForParis.

 

#I Stand With Ahmed

 

This became a popular social media hashtag in America when 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested in September 2015 by Texas police for taking a homemade clock to school.

 

The police assumed the clock was some kind of bomb.

 

#I Stand With Ahmed became a symbol for the issue of American islamophobia and racism.

 

#Oscars So White

 

This hashtag was created to protest the under-representation of black people at the annual Academy Award nominations.

 

The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was meant as a response to the lack of racial diversity in the 2015/2016 Oscar nominations, and what started as a small comment on social media became an American social media awareness campaign.

 

Eventually, Mainstream American media picked up the hashtag, and some celebrities announced they would boycott the Oscars in protest of the under-representation of black people.

 
#This Flag

 

#ThisFlag is a Zimbabwean hashtag movement that rose to prominence in mid 2016 when Pastor Evan Mawarire spontaneously started posting videos online, lamenting Zimbabwe’s socioeconomic circumstances.

 

Consequently, he managed to organize a national stay way in July that was perceived as successful. He did this all online.

 

Today,  #ThisFlag has about sixty thousand online followers.

 

#This Flag versus #Tajamuka/Sesjikile

Now, here are some things that have been particularly interesting to me.

 

Around the time when #ThisFlag rose to prominence in mid 2016, we started to hear more and more from a group called #Tajamuka/Sesjikile.

 

In fact. not many people knew about #Tajamuka/Sesjikile before Pastor Evan Mawarire came to prominence.

 

However, the more Pastor Evan Mawarire and #This Flag gained mainstream popularity, the more it seemed the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign tried to associate itself with #ThisFlag.

 

I found this quite curious because the two are quite conflicting creatures.

 

While #ThisFlag is an online movement led by a shepherd, on the other hand, #Tajamuka/Sesjikile is perhaps a political pressure group of wolves in sheep’s’ clothing.

 

In fact, earlier this year, members of the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign told a South African Media house that “President Mugabe should quit immediately…[that] they would do anything to make sure this happened.”

 

Furthermore, when asked his opinion about Pastor Evan Mawarire and #This Flag, the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile spokesperson responded by saying: “The objectives are obviously the same… but at the same time, we believe that Tajamuka brings in the value of real leadership on the ground.”

 

He also stated that the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign comprised of 14 political parties including MDC-N and MDC-T.

 

Now here is the thing. As I mentioned earlier, a hashtag movement has specific characteristics.

 

Firstly, a Hashtag Movement is born online, it is spontaneous, and it combines diverse groups irrespective of race, political persuasion, gender, ethnicity, or nationality.

 

Furthermore, the purpose of a hashtag movement is to raise awareness around a specific issue.

 

While #This Flag fits the definition of an online/hashtag movement, #Tajamuka/Sesjikile is the opposite.

 

#Tajamuka/Sesjikile is in fact, politically organized, and comprises of political activists that seek to achieve political goals.

 

Unlike #ThisFlag that constantly speaks of non-violence, and non-partisanship, the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile is confrontational, abrasive, partisan and has demonstrated its willingness to participate in violent protests.

 

I supposed that is what the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile leader meant when he said, “Tajamuka brings in the value of real leadership on the ground.”

 

Also, ironically, when Pastor Evan Mawarire decided to seek refuge in the USA, it appeared as though most of the people disappointed by his departure felt hard-done-by, because they assumed that the plight of #ThisFlag was synonymous with the plight of the #Tajamuka/Sesjikile Campaign.

 

In other words, most of the people who criticize Pastor Mawarire for skipping the country are people who identify with the narrow interests of the political outfits comprising #Tajamuka/Sesjikile.

 

Perhaps they thought that in the pastor, they had found an unsuspecting sacrificial lamb that could be slain on the altar of political expediency.

 

Yet from where I stand, Pastor Evan did well by leaving the country.

 

At the end of the day, I suggest that #ThisFlag dissociates itself not only from #Tajamuka/Sesjikile, but also from politics in general.

 

As Pastor Evan Mawarire said in an online post recently, #ThisFlag seeks to accommodate supporters from across the political spectrum.

 

#ThisFlag should therefore detach itself from the narrow political interests of radical groups, and rather focus on constitutionalism and providing key social services.

 

It is in that light that calls by #ThisFlag to mobilize resources for hospitals without medicine are welcome.

 

Ultimately, a citizen’s movement should seek to serve all citizens. If  #Thisflag is a citizen’s movement, it should therefore be cautious not to be lured into the arena of narrow political interests.

 

Tau Tawengwa

 

Executive Director

 

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The Mystery of Itai Dzamara

zim-ren-3Itai Dzamara is a Zimbabwean journalist and political activist. He has a wife and two children. On March 9 2015, Itai Dzamara was abducted from a barbershop in the Harare neighborhood of Glen View. He has not been seen since.

Understandably, anxiety is growing among Zimbabweans and others concerning Itai’s whereabouts. I mean, candidly speaking, it is not comfortable to think that we live in a society where people can be abducted in broad daylight in public and then disappear without trace.

Like others, I have been reading the various commentaries concerning the case of Itai Dzamara. Categorically, the state has stated that it is not responsible for Itai Dzamara’s disappearance, and that in fact Itai Dzamara may have staged the whole affair for his own reasons.

The state’s position on the matter has been met with suspicion by opposition politicians, civil society groups and various commentators on the basis that Zimbabwean state operatives have been accused of committing similar acts in the past.

For instance, Alex Magaisa (a solid legal mind and a decent writer) points to state sponsored human rights violations between 1980 and 2008 as indirect evidence that the state has an invisible hand in the matter.

Nevertheless, after sifting through online and print information available on Itai Dzamara to date, it does seem as if certain politicians are using the Itai Dzamara matter for political expediency. However, it also true to say that Zimbabweans are weary of living in a state of fear and intimidation, and perhaps that is why the issue has caught the attention of so many.

Agreeing to disagree

Now, no two people are exactly the same. Human beings will always have divergent views on issues, and I suppose that Itai has his own political opinions which may be different to mine.

Personally, I left Zimbabwe in 2002 and I lived, worked and studied in South Africa up to postgraduate level. During that time, I had several discussions centered on Zimbabwean politics with all sorts of people.

I also attended many symposiums and “talk shops” on what was referred to at that time as “the Zimbabwe issue.” At these conferences, I interacted with people of different political persuasions; some people were more radical in their views than others were, and some people were more emotional than others. It is conceivable that Itai would fall into the category of political radicals.

However, the point I am trying to establish is that no matter how heated some of these discussions would get, participants would always agree to disagree. This is because ultimately, at the core of every discussion was the contemplation: how do we rebuild Zimbabwe?

It is on this basis that I would have liked to talk with Itai.

If I had met him prior to March 9, I would have liked to chat with him and ask him how he intended to rebuild Zimbabwe given his approach. Furthermore, I’d have liked to hear his political intentions both as an individual and as the leader of his “Occupy Africa Unity Square” movement.

Although I may have disagreed with him politically, it would have been good to hear why he thought that what he was doing in Africa Unity Square was more important than participating in an election as the leader of his own political movement.

I would also have enjoyed speaking with him about his career as a journalist, and whether or not he really believed that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Unfortunately, most of us only know Itai for his abduction.

I would also point him to two pieces that I wrote in 2011, namely what happens in Libya, stays in Libya (https://zimrays.org/2011/04/01/what-happens-in-libya-stays-in-libya/) and Egypt Where is your victory? (https://zimrays.org/2011/03/29/egypt-where-is-your-victory/).

In view of the fact that the movement he leads (Occupy Africa Unity Square) was premised on events that occurred during the Arab Spring such as the occupation of Tahrir Square in Egypt, I’d have liked to hear his thoughts on the state of Egypt’s political economy today, and whether or not the Arab Spring did that country any good.

Unfortunately, Libya is today a rogue state, which is run by rogue militias, some of which are allegedly supplying arms to radical and roguish movements like Boko Haram. In other words, four years on Libya is worse than what it was before the Arab Spring.

Zimbabwean Society and Rogue Elements

Of course, he would have his own opinions on these matters, as he is entitled to. In addition, he would probably point to the Zimbabwean constitution and its consequent clauses which guarantee citizens freedom of expression, association and movement.

However, I would still try to explain to him that although we live in a country that guarantees each of us constitutional rights, we also live with rogue elements among us who have neither understanding of, nor respect for constitutional rights.

For example, we have heard of women who walked through certain sections of town where they suffered the experience of being stripped naked because they were wearing mini-skirts. This happened, despite that the constitution allows them to wear mini-skirts.

Here’s the thing: we must remember that rogue elements do not appreciate the constitution and for that reason, I would not encourage anyone to walk through town dressed like that, simply because of the risk involved. Similarly, I would not have encouraged Itai to try to occupy Africa Unity Square.

The same is true in business. We have rogue elements among us who fleece and loot public entities in spite of the law. Look at what was recently uncovered at Air Zimbabwe.

A local court found that the airline lost nearly USD10 million between 2009 and 2013 in a “well planned and well executed” aviation insurance fraud, which a magistrate said was “pre-planned” by its top executives who circumvented procurement procedures. Those executives acted roguishly, even at the expense of the airline’s employees (some of which have not been paid since 2009) and the wider public.

Look, we also have religious rogues in our midst. For instance, who remembers the members of the “Vapostori” religious sect who thought that it was okay to assault police officers? Those are rogue elements, hiding behind the constitutional right to religious freedom.

I mean look, elsewhere, we even have roguish pastor/prophets who think that it is okay to make their congregants eat snakes, grass and drink paraffin. Why on earth, then, did Itai decide to put himself in the firing line of political rogues?

If we have rogues in churches and rogues in business, how much more should we expect rogues in our politics? Surely he could have made his point using other means such as journalism perhaps?

church member eats grass

In any case, while I’m on the point of churches, I wonder if one of Zimbabwe’s several self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ will stand up and tell the country where Itai Dzamara is. After all, they seem to have a knack for making political predictions.

At the end of the day, my thoughts are with Itai Dzamara’s family and I hope that he returns to them in one piece.

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director

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Factional politics in Zimbabwe

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A bureaucracy is a large organization that is designed to achieve goals through hierarchical organization. Bureaucracies are designed according to rational principles, which are set in order to efficiently attain goals. Bureaucratic offices are ranked in a hierarchical order, with information flowing up the chain of command and directives flowing down.

 
The bureaucracy of an efficient political party, for instance, is designed in such a way that information from the grassroots’ structures flows up the chain of command without interruption, and accordingly directives flow back down.

 
Now, according to social theorists, in order for a bureaucracy to function at optimal efficiency it must have the following innate characteristics:

 
● Division of labor. This means that each person’s job is specifically broken down into routine and well-defined tasks. In a political party, this means that the function of each office is specifically defined, and that redundant offices are discontinued, as were the District Coordinating Committees (DCC’s) in Zanu-PF.

 
● Well-defined authority hierarchy. In other words: a multilevel formal structure, with a hierarchy of positions or offices, which ensures that each lower office is under the supervision and control of a higher one. Ultimately, this means that there is no ambiguity or overlapping of positions. In Zimbabwean politics for instance, this would mean that the role of a provincial chairperson and that of a politburo member within the same province are clearly set out in order to avoid ambiguity.

 
● High formalization, that is, an acceptance of formal rules and procedures to ensure uniformity and to regulate the behavior of office-bearers. Such formalization within a political party occurs in the form of a constitution, which should be applied to the letter in order to ensure optimum efficiency.

 
● Impersonal nature. This means that rules and controls are applieduniformly while avoiding preferential treatment of political personalities and office-bearers. In other words, the constitution of the organization is applied to the letter without favouring personalities or factions.

 

 

● Appointment decisions are based on merit. In a political party, this means that the selection and promotion of office bearers is based on exceptional technical qualifications, political competence and performance, and not simply for instance, factional, regional or racial classifications.

 
●Distinct separation of members’ organizational and personal lives. In other words, the demands and interests of personal affairs are kept completely separate to prevent them form interfering with rational impersonal conduct of the organization’s activities.

 
Now, in recent weeks the Zimbabwean media has been awash with reports of political infighting in ZANU-PF on the basis of factional politics. For those who are unaware, a political faction refers to a number of persons in an organization who form a party within a political party, which is seeking to further its own ends, usually in opposition to the ends and aims of the main body or leadership of the party; a clique.

 
While political scientists argue that political factions can be either cooperative, competitive or degenerative, it is a widely held view that factionalism leads to the disintegration of party cohesion, and ultimately the diminishing of the six aforementioned characteristics of an efficient bureaucracy.

 
As a result, where factionalism occurs, a party that previously had a Well-defined authority hierarchy finds that lower ranking party officials might openly attack senior party office bearers on the basis that the impersonal nature of the bureaucracy has been substituted by preferential treatment of party members based upon factional allegiance.

 
For instance, the Zanu-PF Harare province youth chairperson recently unashamedly and openly chastised senior members of Zanu-PF’s Harare leadership. It remains to be seen whether the party will throw the book at him as required in a highly formalized bureaucracy.

 
Unfortunately, the depressed economic environment encourages vote buying. To such an extent that party members in the lower structures openly solicit vote-money from factional bidders, meaning that elections within party structures are engineered and therefore do not represent a true reflection of grassroots’ sentiment. As a result, where information from grassroots’ structures used to flow up the chain of command without interruption, it is now thwarted by factional fissures, and this leads to the misinformation of the party leadership and again, it diminishes the efficacy of the political party.

 
Ultimately, the best way to thwart factionalism is to resurrect the constitution of a political party, and after making necessary adaptations, to ensure that it is followed to the letter. As it stands in the case of Zanu-PF for instance, it would seem that the constitutional means of conducting party affairs have been substituted by factional by-laws.

 
Tau Tawengwa

 
Executive Director

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The Development Agenda

 

A homeless boy lies motionless next to a World Food Program Vehicle along Jason Moyo Ave in Harare (Picture Taken by Tau Tawengwa)
A homeless boy lies motionless next to a World Food Program Vehicle along Jason Moyo Ave in Harare (Picture Taken by Tau Tawengwa)

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals which are meant to be achieved by the target of 2015. These goals are: 1) to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger 2) to achieve universal primary education 3) to promote gender equality and empower women   4) to reduce child mortality 5) to improve maternal health  6) to combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases 7) to ensure environmental sustainability and 8) to develop a global partnership for development.

 

Mr John W Ashe, the former ambassador to the United Nations for Antigua and Barbuda was elected to be the 68th President of the United Nations General Assembly in June 2013. In an editorial recently published in a Zimbabwean daily he states: “during my term as General Assembly President, the United Nations will embark on a process with the potential to guide the course of humankind for decades to come [by] defining parameters for the post-2015 Development Agenda.”

 

It must be observed that this a bold statement, especially when one considers that a 2011 World Bank report revealed that only four African countries are likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015; specifically: Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Malawi. It therefore doesn’t make sense to start speaking about post-2015 developmental goals when most of the continent will fail to meet the targets at hand.

 

Now let’s look at Malawi for instance. While the aforementioned World Bank report notes that Malawi is one of the four African countries likely to meet the 2015 MDG targets, economists have also noted that between 2004 and 2011 Malawi received 5.3 billion dollars in foreign aid. Further, economists have also observed that Ethiopia experienced a real GDP average of 11.2 % per annum during the 2003/04 and 2008/09 periods. That said, a 2009 study by the Brookings institute reveals that “foreign aid has played a major role in Ethiopia’s development effort…it has been instrumental in bridging the country’s savings-investment and foreign exchange gaps.”

 

Coming back home, the UNDP Country program document for Zimbabwe (2012-2015) reports that since 2009 Zimbabwe has made “significant progress on a number of MDGs such as MDG 6 on combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases and MDG 2 on achieving universal primary education. The primary school net enrollment ratio (NER) was 91% in 2009 with the girls’ ratio going up to 50,5%. Although the NER is still high, it is worth noting that the ratio has declined from 98.5% in 2002.”

 

Now in 2002, world powers including the European Union (EU) imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe which included the cutting off of 128 million Euros in developmental aid to Zimbabwe. While current reports that restrictions on the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) will be removed when EU foreign ministers meet next month are welcome, it can still be argued that the MDGs and any other post-2015 developmental goals are impossible to achieve without assistance in the form of aid. We need that aid.

 

It is often argued that aid is dependent upon good socio-economic governance. This is noted. However, consider this 2007 Reserve bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) report on sanctions; it reads “the scaling down of donor support and developmental assistance grant inflows declined significantly from an annual average of US$138 million in the 1990s to US$39.9 million registered between 2000 and 2006.” Compared to the aid inflows into Ethiopia and Malawi, that amount is a drop in the ocean.

 

It is therefore important for the world to acknowledge the socio-economic and political developments made in Zimbabwe during the lifespan of the Global Political Agreement, as well as the peaceful environment surrounding the 2013 SADC and AU endorsed harmonized elections. Ultimately, without significant developmental aid channeled through government, the achievement of the MDGs is a very long shot for Zimbabwe.

 

Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director