By Mike Chipere
Expert panelists who participated in the recent SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue Forum titled; Back to the Future A Review of the Post November 2017 Coup in Zimbabwe came to the predictably unanimous conclusion that the 2017 coup which dislodged Robert Mugabe from power was a complete disaster. However, the panel did not provide clarity on how to cure the coup and charter a new way forward save for Tsitsi Dangarembga a renowned Zimbabwean author and filmmaker who pointed that there is a pressing need to urgently come up with a cohesive value, ethos or ideology that Zimbabweans could work towards. In the panel discussion closing remarks, Tsitsi and a young lady who joined in the conversation seemed frustrated that the panelists where proffering their views on the way forward based on their narrow areas of expertise and this disjointed approach falls short of what Zimbabwe needs. I totally agree with their concerns, therefore in the conclusion I will propose a national ideology in the form of a Zimbabwe Charter, a set of cohesive practical steps premised on the philosophy of redistribution of unjust money, wealth and power. In some ways the Zimbabwe Charter removes the conflation between political power and primitive accumulation as asserted by Professor Ibbo Mandaza.
The policy dialogue forum was coordinated by Professor Ibbo Mandaza who was somewhat dismissive of ideology, arguing that the claim that one political party is more ideological and principled than the other is false because power and primitive accumulation are conflated. In other words he is arguing that it doesn’t make any difference whether or not Zimbabwe opposition parties subscribe to a particular ideology because at the end of the day, political office is merely a means to find a space on the feeding trough. In the succeeding sections I explain in more detail how his views are corroborated by historical and contemporary Zimbabwe politics but at the same time contested by evidence of a society without an anchor.
Agreeably, there is an undeniably strong corelation between ZANU PF and primitive accumulation, but there is a false belief that this is uniquely a ZANU PF problem because it crosses all segments of society. Most recently the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its offshoot the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislators accepted a US$40 000 government loan which from precedence will never be repaid and is also seen as an attempt by ZANU PF leadership to buy support for their toxic politics. It is difficult to justify such luxuries when civil servants are getting paid a retirement pension of US$1 500 after 30-40 years of service.
Aside from the above sweeteners, executives at the opposition party (MDC/CCC) run urban councils are remunerating themselves salaries hovering around US$25k per month. In addition to that, they buy municipal land at next to nothing and yet rate and tax payers go for weeks without the most basic human needs, health, water, refuse collection and road safety. Some in the opposition, particularly the CCC have never received a salary payslip in their lives, but lavishly live on generous grants from their western sympathizers and in the process lose the sense of urgency which the Zimbabwe political situation requires. Similar practices are common in the corporate world where one medical aid executive remunerated himself close to half a million United States dollars per month while the so called men of god have managed to turn God into a saleable commodity. Thus, Professor Mandaza is right in associating political power with primitive accumulation and greed, but I would also add power which stems from economic, religious and cultural authority.
The absence and in some cases deliberate desecration of emancipatory ideologies is widespread in Zimbabwe socio-political spaces. Just as an example, “award winning” journalist Hopewell Chin’ono was inconsistent about his views regarding the previously mentioned scandal involving ZANU PF ministers and MP’s from both ZANU PF and opposition who respectively awarded themselves US$500K and US$40K loans. Reportedly, all CCC members of parliament applied for the loan save for one. Chon’ono chastised them for doing so, but after just two days he came up with a stupendous recommendations that all opposition MPs should proceed with the loan applications but should voluntarily allocate some of the plundered funds to their constituencies. How is it possibly that one who misappropriates state funds could have the generosity to share it with their constituency? This illogicality raises questions about moral codes, ethics and most importantly absence of ideological grounding. If he had a credible one, there would have been consistency in his argument.
He is a darling of South African, British and American news media where he regularly appears arguing that the unilateral and so-called targeted sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the Americans, the British and EU are not damaging Zimbabwe but instead looting and corruption by the ZANU PF leadership is. When he travels to Europe and comes across a pack of fresh peas imported from Zimbabwe, he is very quick to tweet and alert the world that Zimbabwe is able to trade with the EU therefore economic sanctions are a nonentity.
Missing from this claim, is a consideration of the fact that regardless of economic sanctions, the Global North has always been able to buy raw materials on the cheap or simply expropriate them from the Global South through physical and symbolical violence and Zimbabwe is no exception. He doesn’t raise any debate about the fact that Zimbabwe can no longer raise capital from the International financial markets because of sanctions, neither does he engage with the fact that essentially, the sanctions are for all intents and purposes a deceitful attempt to reverse the land reform program. The Americans and British demanded that Zimbabwe must compensate white commercial farmers but saw no need to make a similar demand when twenty thousand Ndebele people were massacred by ZANU PF. Furthermore, at independence Zimbabwe was forced to inherit close to a billion US dollar loan illegally acquired by Ian Smith to fund the Rhodesian bush war, which was essentially a struggle to preserve apartheid in the then Rhodesian. The World Bank imposed structural adjustment program contributed to the de-industrialisation of Zimbabwe and unemployment on a grand scale never seen before in the country’s history. Given these racist interventions which still have a bearing on the Zimbabwe economy and political landscape, it is intellectually dishonest to attempt to silence the historical and existential impact of coloniality by trying to persuade the world that corruption and looting are the biggest problems in Zimbabwe.
Arguably, he is a very brave journalist who has done a great job revealing at personal risk the sickening levels of corruption in the Emmerson Mnangagwa regime. His heart is in the right place, but it is sad that at this day and age, an African would find it morally acceptable that colonisers can dictate to Africans how they should run their countries. He is not alone in deliberately but at times subconsciously upholding coloniality. The roots cause of this pervasive problem is colonialism, which the black post-independence politicians upheld in their education system where even today young people who fail English and Mathematics at O’Level are excluded from higher education. This policy was originally based on a belief by the British colonialist that native languages are not developed enough for intellectual purposes.
When asked about their favourite books, the majority of Zimbabweans who participate in Trevor Ncube’s popular interview show titled “In conversation with Trevor” often cite English books by white Anglo-Saxon authors. The genre which they proudly situate themselves is predominantly personal growth, self-improvement or self-mastery books and I believe this explains why the generality of Zimbabwean elites are culturally and intellectually unsophisticated.
The “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” philosophy which is at the core of our being as Zimbabweans is oppositional to “individualism” which is widely promoted by the self-emancipation genre mentioned above. Zimbabweans seem comfortable with this moral departure. The “monkey see monkey do” mode of learning and development runs so deep and that is probably the reason why Zimbabwean insurance companies were able to steal US$4 billion worth of pensions from destitute retirees and no one seems bothered. Zimbabweans are happy to celebrate a billionaire telecommunications entrepreneur but never bother to ask why after over two decades of the introduction of mobile phones, Zimbabweans pay one of the highest fees for internet data, airtime and mobile money transfer in Southern Africa.
As it stands, Zimbabwe does not have an idea worth voting for in the upcoming 2023 elections, all there is are personalities who want power for its own sake. The opposition parties, in particular the MDC and its offshoot the CCC is ideologically bankrupt and that is a truth that its supporters do not want to hear. When challenged about this, they retort with abuse and threats of violence while their leader Nelson Chamisa habitually comes up with nonsensical political gimmicks such as his “mango politics”, posting religious and motivational quotes on social media and throwing in empty slogans “ngaapinde hake mukomana” (translates to let the boy in) etc. He recently raised concern about CCC MPs who took part in the previously mentioned loan scandal. In response ZANU PF MPs pointed that he is also a beneficiary of ZANU PF sweeteners through ministerial cars that were awarded to him at the end of his tenure as a Minister during the government of national unity. Pro Chamisa journalists are not prepared to question this double standard, his failure and inability to articulate the national vision, plan or strategy on how he intends to takeover power from Emmerson Mnangagwa or what he would do with the power if he acquires it.
Equally, ZANU PF has lost its ideological compass and is propped up by misinformation, violence, abuse of the judiciary and outright election fraud. State newspapers are wholly captured by the ZANU PF government and therefore powerless to hold the government to account.
Opposition friendly journalists and other commentators often enthusiastically conflate registering to vote in the upcoming 2023 general elections with a guaranteed vote for the CCC. This explains why some “award winning” journalist scold and shame Zimbabweans to vote in the upcoming general elections, the painful part is that they do so from a position of privilege, putting on display their lavish lifestyles of imported cars and caviar as bait and a false promise that wealth will accrue to the unemployed youths after the 2023 elections. The basis upon which they are haranguing everyone to vote is nothing more than a self-serving belief that “anything” would be better than Emmerson Mnangagwa and this logic is just as ridiculous as the once held notion that no one could be worse than Robert Mugabe.
If the 2018 voter apathy is anything to go by, close to 46% of Zimbabweans who are eligible to vote will not vote in the next elections. Prominent journalist are very quick to prescribe voter education as a remedy for voter apathy especially for the youth and rural folk. They readily push the false binary argument that those who don’t vote are inadvertently voting for repression and yet a deliberate decision not to vote might in actual fact be a vote of no confidence in the incumbents who have failed to inspire confidence in voters. The absence of an ideology or national vision that could prompt 46% of Zimbabweans to get out of bed and vote doesn’t seem to bother them. The arrogance and colonial mentality that this reflects completely alludes them as they hold on to a grandiose belief that they are the only ones blessed with the rationality to make an informed voting decision.
I am an unemployed educated Zimbabwean with a doctorate degree, I can register to vote in the 2023 elections if I wish but I have absolutely no reason to. When I was doing my PhD I carried out twenty four months research fieldwork in rural Binga and I am confident that no one is qualified enough to teach its inhabitants how to vote, and I think this applies to all rural areas and the targeted urban youths.
Members of the CCC together with opposition friendly journalists seem to hold the belief that no one in their right mind would ordinarily vote for ZANU PF. In the process they overlook the fact that for some people, ideology is a far more compelling factor than material conditions. Despite ZANU PF’s deceitful commitment to all sorts of disposable ideologies, some of its supporters hold on to its foundational but long forgotten emancipatory ideas in the hope that one day they will triumph.
Most of the panellists who participated in the SAPS trust dialogue were in favour of a transitional authority as a means to cure the coup but this is a very bleak prospect because as some panel members fittingly pointed out, Zimbabwe has no leadership. However I got the sense that this was based on a general view that lack of leadership only applies to ZANU PF and yet as I tried to show, it is mirrored in wider society, ranging from opposition politics, academia all the way up to the church and other religious leaders. One of the panellist commented that ZANU PF has no incentive to participate in a transitional authority initiative, but also, there is no local, regional or international stakeholder with the bargaining chip to enforce this proposal.
In the event that Zimbabweans agree on a transitional authority and in the absence of an ideology or core value to work towards, what would stop the transitional authority from becoming yet another means to the feeding trough?
Zimbabwe requires an ideology and I therefore present the Zimbabwe Charter, which as I intimated in the introduction, is based on the redistribution of unjust money, wealth and power. Hopefully, it is an ideology fit for a yet to come – New Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe Charter Draft;
- All Zimbabwe national army personnel above the age of 50 years must be retired with immediate effect and not to be replaced until the size of the army is 50 % of what it was in November 2017.
- All A2 farm owners must be resident at their farms and must not to be in full time employment elsewhere.
- The country must debate and set A2 farm sizes to ± 150 arable Hectares in regions 1-3, the first 150 hectares surrounding the farmhouse must be offered to the owner before the land redistribution.
- All A2 farms that have not been utilised to full capacity in the last 10 years must be immediately reallocated but with preference given to people with traceable previous commercial farming experience regardless of their race.
- Municipal land exceeding 20 hectares (owned by individuals or registered companies that employ less than 100 permanent staff) must be forfeited to the city council.
- 99 % annual taxation must be charged on the market value of all valuable domestic movable and immovable property that exceed 4 municipal houses and 4 cars.
- Monthly bedroom tax must be charged on all houses larger than 250m2 floor space unless if the property is registered and operating as a business with auditable tax returns.
- All beneficiaries of the war victim’s compensation fund must be reassessed by an independent organization. Funds inappropriately disbursed must be repaid in US$ or equivalent in both movable and immovable property.
- All property lost through the indigenisation policies or other means other than a fair market exchange must be returned to its original owners by those who either stole it or benefited by other means.
- 99% income tax must be charged on a fraction of salaries or wages that exceed US$60 000 per annum backdated to 2009. US$60 000 is 10 times more than the amount required to support a family of 5.
- Constitutional amendment must follow constitutional enactment procedures.
- All (past & present) donations or payments made to churches, faith and traditional healers must be refundable when demanded by the donor/payer at any time.
- Compulsory employment of all skilled and qualified disabled people by all Zimbabwe stock exchange listed companies in proportion to their market capitalization.
- Multiple directorship of public listed companies and other corporations with an annual turnover that exceeds US$1 million must be banned.
- Traditional leadership i.e. chiefs and headmen must be subject to elections every 10 years.
- All university degrees awarded by unregistered foreign & local universities and honorary degrees awarded by Zimbabwean Universities after year 2000 must be respectively invalidated and withdrawn.
- The Chihambakwe commission Gukurahundi report and the Entumbane report written by Justice Dumbutshena must be publicised in-order to allow victims to decide appropriate reparation.
- A conditional grant must be paid to the elderly (over 65 years); orphans, unemployed disabled and all inhabitants of region 5 regardless of citizenship 5 years after the 1923 general elections.
- Zimbabwe insurance companies must be compelled to comply with the Justice Smith commission which established that they owe pensioners US$4 billion which they have refused to pay-out.
- The 2023 elections should only be held if the following 2 conditions are met; (1) Compulsory voting by all Zimbabweans over the age of 18 (2) Displaced Zimbabweans in the diaspora must be allowed to vote.
If debated, improved on and accepted by all Zimbabweans, the Zimbabwe Charter could be set as a precondition for supporting political parties but also a means for Zimbabweans to find each other.
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