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Who Will Deliver Zimbabwe To The Promised Land?

The title of this paper comes from a conversation with an anonymous ninety two year old woman in Kuwadzana suburb of Harare. She lamented in Shona “Dai pawana anotisvitsa kuZimbabwe nokuti hatisati tasvika” this loosely translates to “I wish someone could deliver Zimbabwe to the promised land”. Her perceptive quote resonates with historical and contemporary political events and my previous article titled Crisis of political leadership in Zimbabwe. In this article, I write a revised version of that paper to reiterate how critical the crisis has become especially as the country approaches the 2023 elections.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Zimbabwe is like the proverbial sheep without a shepherd. The main opposition MDC is split into two groups which are using exactly the same name. The leader of the more popular faction led by Nelson Chamisa has repeatedly failed to present potential voters with a credible national plan or strategy that matches his presidential ambitions. Thus far, what is clear is that he has effectively spiritualised the Zimbabwe problem. This is in cohorts with the prosperity gospel religious sect which is on a mission to “individualise Zimbabweans”, by this I mean that they are reducing national problems e.g. unemployment and poverty to personal problems that can be resolved by praying and fasting at the mountains. In addition to these misleading practices, these religious organisation have also managed to profit from the Zimbabwe crisis by turning people’s problems into saleable commodities via numerous ploys such as personalised prophesies, exorbitantly priced merchandise such as holy water and other products aimed at making people believe that their personal as well as national problems would be miraculously cured. Consequently, instead of providing moral and spiritual guidance in times of crisis, religious leaders are becoming wealthier as the crisis deepens.

The ruling party continue to unashamedly make desperate attempts to hoodwink Zimbabweans and international community into believing they are reformed. The main proponent of this duplicity is Emmerson Mnangagwa who continues to stream his self-deception that the voice of the people is the voice of god. Fortunately, his intended victims of empty rhetoric and double speak can now clearly see his hand in the recent killings, abductions and sexual violence towards innocent Zimbabweans who are desperately calling out for change.

On the other hand, the IMF and World Bank are inside trading, dictating the country’s monetary policy via a very complicit proxy, the Zimbabwe minister of Finance Professor Mthuli Ncube who has resorted to the trickery of buying good money (US$) using bad money (the artificially overvalued and useless Zimbabwe dollar).

The absence of leadership extends even to civic society and includes celebrated journalist who are hogging the limelight while reducing the Zimbabwe crisis to corruption and misgovernance. But in saying this, it is important to pay homage to the brave journalists who are risking their lives holding power to account. But to illustrate my point, I will give an account of my experience when I approached several Zimbabwe online newspaper in an attempt to start a conversation about an idea or initiative in which I attempt to harness the voice of ordinary Zimbabweans through a proposed Zimbabwe People’s Charter – www.zimcharter.com. I approached various newspapers including one of the largest online newspapers owned by Zimbabweans in the diaspora but they completely ignored my attempts to engage with them. Just a few days after disregarded my overtures, they put a bold front news headline along the following lines; “Prophet Pxxxx takes a one week break from social media”. The fact that an attention seeking self-appointed prophet allegedly took a break from social media became headline news! This misdirected attention on the ephemeral is equally an indictment on the Zimbabwe leadership and its lack of capacity to provide moral guidance that could not only help the country overcome bipartisan politics but also produce a population that is critically engaged with discourses that matter.

My previous criticism that the MDC does not have a coherent strategy and is made up of intellectually lazy leaders remains starkly supported by contemporary events. In their recent 2023 election campaign poster, they made twelve demands that ZANU PF must; Demilitarise & reform ZEC, Stop Political Violence, Allow Diaspora Vote etc. This is despite the fact that a few years ago Professor Jonathan Moyo eloquently articulated an open secret that ZANU PF will never reform itself out of power. I am not certain of the context of that statement but I think it is relevant in this case.

Has no one from the MDC ever heard that proclamation, if they have, why do they all seem to believe ZANU PF would simply yield to these demands? And for those who haven’t heard that statement or disagree with it, why would a party with over sixty years’ experience of perpetrating violence suddenly stop because MDC demanded that they should?

Several critics have consistently argue that the MDC has to prove to potential voters that it deserves their vote, and this is by way of a plan or strategy which people can evaluate and use as a basis to make a voting decision.

The laundry list is neither a plan nor strategy, the expectation that people should make a voting decisions on the basis of charismatic authority is deceptive.

Perhaps potential voters would have considered it strategy if the MDC leadership set their laundry list as conditions for participating in the next elections and that is clearly not the case because they are already mobilising people to register to vote. Incidentally, setting political reforms as a condition for voting might also not work because the MDC splinter group to which Nelson Chamisa belongs is no longer considered as the official opposition, therefore elections can still go ahead with or without them.

It is less than two years before the next elections and the MDC is only just making a demand for diaspora vote which ZANU PF has refused to agree to previously. Given the very likelihood that they would not allow it still, what has the opposition done as contingency?.

Have they raised funding to allow movement of voters to come in and vote especially from neighbouring countries, the answer is no. Have they taken the initiative to ask countries that are hosting the largest number of Zimbabwe refugees to assist on this matter, the answer is yet another no. Have they thought of coming up with a legal test case to compel the government to allow postal voting by Zimbabweans in the diaspora, again the answer is a huge no.

Aside from the above tactical or strategic concerns, ideologically the opposition remains stuck on neoliberalism, religiosity, democracy (a demand that ZANU PF should voluntarily expand the democratic space), civil rights and rule of law demands. These are very narrow perspective, mostly because they are imported wholesale. For example, they conceive rule of law within the liberal frame and as I previously argued elsewhere, this has huge cracks because of the failure to acknowledge the fact that the basis of some aspects of the “rule of law” which they want to uphold at all cost were debated and enacted by the Rhodesian parliament in which not a single black person could sit in besides for purposes of making tea and cleaning up after the white conquests who plundered and looted and needed to protect their loot by all means.

Consequently, both rural and urban supporters of land reform and proponents of reparation of other historical injustices view the MDC with suspicion. This is because of their failure to take cognisant of the fact that the rights of conquests came at the expense of the conquered.

Since I penned the previous version of this paper, nothing much has changed for Dr Nkosana Moyo. He remains a neoliberalism fanatic, arguing that running a country is like running a private corporation. In a recent interview with Trevor Ncube, he asserted that, in order to recover, the Zimbabwe economy requires military tactics. This is commonly understood as a top-down methodology which is closely associated with Engineers and their big engineering projects e.g. construction of the Kariba hydroelectric Dam which despite its disastrous impact on Tonga livelihoods and culture, never led to the distribution of electricity to Binga homes and schools even though the ancestors of Tonga people lay buried in the lake and widened Zambezi River where rich people like Dr Moyo occasionally visit for fishing and boat cruises.

Another example of top-down mode of governance is apartheid, its origins is buried at a South African university which still stands today. Once accepted by the academic community, apartheid was enthusiastically adopted and promoted by powerful segments of Africana stock.

Similarly, the IMF and World Bank have also popularised the top-down approach through conditionalities that they exclusively impose on poor countries. In this method of governance, powerful segments of society arm themselves with theories and ideologies which they draw on to impose their pre-packaged remedies on the ordinary person in the streets because they are presumed not to have solutions to the problems that they face on a daily basis.

Dr Nkosana Moyo’s fervent support for trickle-down economics and a belief that foreign investors have the best interest of the long suffering people of Zimbabwe is almost evangelical. In his world, efficiency, profit maximisation and cost savings are of paramount concern over all else. In my view, theory and corporations should serve human needs not the other way round. Failure to appreciate this, is the reason why no one is blinking an eye when local and foreign owned mining companies are blatantly disregarding health and safety regulations and failing to provide severance packages and pensions. Not only that, Zimbabwe insurance companies are refusing to pay pensioners even after decades of appropriating their monthly pension contributions, mobile money companies are deducting over 13% fees just for the privilege of making a RTGS$5 000 payment, medical aid chief executives are remunerating themselves close to half a million USA dollars per month while hospital bills of people suffering from various sorts of chronic illnesses go unpaid. In all these examples, corporations and some of the values that Dr Nkosana Moyo hold dearly – in particular efficiency and profit maximisation are privileged over human beings.

The Zimbabwe government recently imposed what they call command agriculture and from that, millions of US dollars ended up in the pockets of politicians and their sycophants. This is just one of many examples which suggests that Zimbabwe’s problems originate right at the top starting with the International Financial Institutions, in some cases private corporations, educated elites and politicians who are far removed from the lives of people who are bearing the brunt of Zimbabwe’s economic hardships. The idea that answers to Zimbabwe’s problems are pre-packaged in Dr Moyo’s head, or in some perfect theory or somewhere at the top echelons of society is unconvincing. In a recent twit, Tendai Biti dismissed his economic ideas as “command economics” similarly, I am not persuaded that the future of our nation would be in safe hands if he was to be allowed to unleash his neoliberal ideals without restraint.

Since I wrote the original article critiquing poor leadership in Zimbabwe, Jacob Ngaruvhume and Douglas Mwonzora hadn’t come onto the scene. The former mobilised Zimbabweans to participate in the much anticipated but failed 31st of July (2020) protest while the latter wrestled power from Nelson Chamisa accusing him of unconstitutionally ascending to the MDC leadership. Besides successfully removing Nelson Chamisa as the official opposition leader, I am not aware of what Douglas Mwonzora stands for or what he can offer the people of Zimbabwe. Perhaps that might become clear as time goes but what is clear at this time, is his desire for power at all cost.

Jacob Ngaruvhume and his supporters’ main contention and basis of their protest was “anti-corruption” this protest objective is exactly similar to the street protests that eventually contributed to the removal of Robert Mugabe from power in November 2017. The wording might have been slightly different in that the latter was at times referred to as a march against the (alleged) criminal cabal – the so-called G40 headed and or sponsored by Grace Mugabe. The important point to note is that a successful protest does not always yield liberation because Zimbabweans are now yoked to a more violent regime headed by Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Ngaruvhume’s failed protest was as poorly planned and as short sighted as the protest that removed Robert Mugabe. If he successfully managed to remove Emmerson Mnangagwa, who would have been in power today? My guess is that it would have been someone just as bad if not worse but I will expand on this in the conclusion.

The prosperity gospel religious sect have everything to gain from the perpetuation of the Zimbabwe political and economic crisis. I will provide a few examples to support this argument. When Jacob Ngaruvhume was busy mobilising the youth to protest against “corruption” and possibly to also remove Emmerson Mnangagwa but of cause without declaring it openly, the all-knowing and all seeing self-appointed prophets were busy instilling fear into the hearts and minds of the angry young Zimbabweans by proclaiming that they see blood in the streets. Using similar tactics of extracting undeserved authority by self-ascribing a closeness to God, they extort money and wealth from their congregants by simply compelling them to surrender it to them arguing that the donations or tithe will please god, return blessings and end poverty and suffering.

Zimbabwe and South Africa have robust evidence of religious leaders in particular self-appointed prophets and traditional healers dabbling in all sorts of nefarious activities, such as ritual killings, sexual violence against women and children, occultic practices, conspicuous consumption, human trafficking you name it. These excessive practices are clearly documented in reputable newspapers, state radio and social media broadcasts but meaninglessly abstracted in academia.

I read a recent PhD thesis on money and religion in Zimbabwe, the findings from that research never mentioned manipulation of vulnerable people, excessive wealth and conspicuous consumption by prophets right in the midst of poverty and misery was justified as deserved and earned, forced donations where conceived as voluntary, the abuse of excessive authority was normalised, hypnotic episodes and other psychological manipulations were embellished as godly experiences etc. In brief, it was completely unrelated with the above mentioned empirical realities which are readily coming to light.

Scholars of religion will probably dismiss my criticisms as emotional and simplistic but, the question remains, why are theories of dead white men privileged over the raw fact that a paedophile (who also claims to be a man of God) has the nerve to rape and impregnate a twelve year old child? These are existential problems which are reported in Zimbabwe on a regular basis but academia and policy makers are turning a blind eye or sanitising these despicable acts via theoretical concepts that are irrelevant to context.

In most countries, it takes close to a decade of university education before one can be granted the authority to take charge of anyone’s physical and emotional wellbeing. In Zimbabwe, anybody can manage vulnerable people’s spiritual health by simply consulting voodoo priests (aka spiritual fathers) somewhere in Africa and coming back a “man of God”. If that fails, one can simply wake up one day and claim to be a spirit medium or traditional healer and appropriate as they wish, the authority that comes with that.

In summary, the ruling party have no idea how to revive the Zimbabwe economy and livelihoods. Equally, the main opposition is headed by a wannabe man of God who has spiritualised Zimbabwe’s problems. The inconsequential opposition leaders whom I never mentioned in this article have been co-opted and silenced with luxurious cars and undisclosed financial packages paid to them by Emmerson Mnangagwa from state resources.

Civic society has been effectively decimated, the few that remain pay attention only to civil rights and governance issues and not much else.

Religious leaders have failed to put their own houses in order and in the process discredited religion as a source of spiritual and moral guidance in times of desperate need.

The IMF continues to meddle in the country’s financial affairs even though they are part of Zimbabwe’s financial crisis, starting with the racist Lancaster house agreement which not only upheld white settler neo-colonialism, but forced black Zimbabweans to pay for the financial costs of Rhodesians’ disastrous experiment with Apartheid. They also imposed ESAP and several disastrous interventions in and outside Zimbabwe.

In part, these sad observations supports my suspicion that Zimbabwe has failed to produce thought leaders capable of laying the foundations of a truly post-independent nation, the foundations upon which we currently depend on are not ours.

Given the incompetence and blatant self-interest of people who should be providing leadership, who will deliver the nation to the promised land?

I strongly believe the answer to Zimbabwe’s problems lies in them, we just don’t know yet the solutions that they might come up with. As we speak, they are of interest to the ruling party, opposition and the church only as voting fodder and a source of excessive rent extraction.

If you are an ordinary card carrying member of MDC, ZAPU, ZANU PF, other opposition parties and many who are apolitical, the future of Zimbabwe is safer only when its firmly in your hands. To ensure that this happens, please go to http://zimcharter.com/nehanda-charter/ where you can take part in drafting the Zimbabwe Charter, a practical step towards defining the future of the nation, for it is highly improbable that the ones that live in fifty bedroomed bullet proof mansions together with those that charter private planes to attend medical check-up abroad at taxpayers’ expense are capable of defining the future of Zimbabwe on your behalf.

Dr Mike Chipere is a postdoctoral fellow affiliated with the Human Economy Program housed at University of Pretoria. Ideas expressed in this article are his and not representative of any organisation.

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263Chat is a Zimbabwean media organisation focused on encouraging & participating in progressive national dialogue

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