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Reconstructing Zimbabwe socio-political narrative

By Vince Musewe

We need to get to a place where we burn and destroy the pedestal that we have created for politics.

Vince Musewe
Vince Musewe

Our old men have failed to transform our socio economic and political systems from a colonial architecture into a modern democratic nation state. It is now our responsibility to do so.

Studying Ibbo Mandaza’s paper titled; “Zimbabwe’s journey: an overview and highlights of the last 200 years” which looks at the political economy of Zimbabwe in the last 200 years, really got me thinking.

In it, I was more interested in his views on the socio political dynamics in Zimbabwe’s post-colonial era. These dynamics have fashioned the conditions that we now find undesirable, retrogressive and economically distressing. We therefore need to understand how and why they arose in order for us to obliterate them permanently.

He postulates that the failure of Zimbabwe to move beyond political rhetoric while basically relying on colonial institutional architecture inherited from the past is the key reason for our lack of progress. He talks about “the failure to address the economic realm in favour of an obsession with the political kingdom.” 

That is correct. To this day, our economy remains an extractive and labour intensive one chiefly because ZANU (PF) has dismally failed to think beyond the politics of partisanship and patronage. A typical manifestation of this is within our state enterprises which reflect the philosophies and habits that are holding us back.

The antagonistic and ill-informed push for indigenisation or empowerment is unfortunately another political project that seeks to strengthen political patronage and extend state capitalism but only to the benefit of the political comprador.

Ordinary Zimbabweans still therefore effectively exist in a colonial system ruled by an oligarchy of predator black capitalists. Our politicians have preserved the very system which they abhorred, but this time it’s to their benefit. The majority of Zimbabweans were peasants during colonialism and remain peasants to this day. This is no accident.

Ibbo then further suggests that; “Africa in general and Southern Africa in particular, has so far been unable to break out of this colonial economic grid lock and a resultant class structure in which the absence of an indigenous capitalist (national bourgeoisie) is so glaringly lacking and, therefore, depriving the national economy of an anchor class without which it is difficult to effect economic transformation.”

Because of our backward politics, we have seen a continuous stifling of an independent and vibrant black business class in all sectors of the economy. In fact, to be successful in this environment, black business owners have had to adapt and comply with a patronage culture without which they are rendered useless.

They dare not challenge the status quo or think outside the box manufactured by the politicians as this is viewed as a threat to the political kingdom. As a result, our corporate leaders remain apathetic and hopeless change agents while those who comply have become the petite bourgeoisie, the comprador and praise singers who remain complicit.

Of course the land reform project is another manifestation of this political obsession as it sought to weaken the influence of a strong white bourgeoisie. More recently the diamond mining sector has been the playground for entrenching and extending the ZANU (PF) political kingdom. This has inadvertently weakened our economy, arrested its potential and perpetuated a colonial socio economic architecture.

According to Ibbo we now need; “an urgent plan of action through which Zimbabweans, on the basis of a national leadership that cuts across all sectors and sections of the society, can begin to chart the way forward, taking advantage of the historical foundations of the nation, the enormous natural resources, a resourceful population that includes among the most skilled at home and in the diaspora, and a pivotal position, both geographically and geopolitically, in the sub-continent of Africa.”

I agree. This is why I think we need a new narrative driven, not by those who have created this very system which we wish to change, but led by a new breed of leadership who do not have the armed struggle hangover. For me, a united democratic front is therefore our only antithesis.

In order to create the Zimbabwe we want, we must have leadership renewal which is underpinned by accountability and the promotion of a national inclusive agenda that cuts across tribal prejudice.

We must include of our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora in building a new modern state by the adoption of new management techniques, cultures and new technologies.

We have to reinstate private property rights and the revival of our agricultural sector as the trigger to overall economic recovery.

We have to see the de-politicisation of state security and the police to engender a culture of social justice and the protection of human rights.

There must be the healing of past injustices committed against all Zimbabweans primarily against our Ndebele brothers and sisters and we must take the necessary steps for restitution.

In my opinion, if we can do the above, we will have begun to reconstruct Zimbabwe’s socio political narrative. We will therefore, be better placed to begin to build a new nation state.

Of course it will be difficult but not an impossible task to create a new Zimbabwe based on the above principles.

As Niccolo Machiavelli once remarked; there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. The innovator has the enmity of all who profit by the preservation of the old system and only lukewarm defenders by those who would gain by the new system”

My greatest fear is that we could see continuity of this political system without fundamental change beyond 2018 regardless of who is in power.  God help us.

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on vtmusewe@gmail.com