Friday, October 19, 2012

Ziminspiration plausible and more can be done.


Floyd Shivambu 

On all occasions and instances when we visited the Republic of Zimbabwe and whenever we discuss Zimbabwe, we express the fair, honest, truthful and well thought observation that the ZANU-PF led Zimbabwe is an inspiration to the African Continent and how liberation movements should conduct themselves under difficult conditions and circumstances. Zimbabwe, more than any other post colonial territory in the African continent and world, has shown great level and deeper sense of resilience than any other post colonial territory in the post-modern world.

This does not mean that all is well in Zimbabwe, but a great deal of recent political, ideological and economic developments are worthy of celebration and embracing by all revolutionary progressive forces across the continent and the world. Zimbabwe is indeed a hope and inspiration that should propel and ignite many African countries to reclaim their natural resources for the benefit of all people. It is and should be an inspiration to the darker races of mankind in Africa and Diaspora because the problem of the colour line identified by W.E. Dubois in 1903 as a problem of the 20th century is still the problem of the 21st century.

For those who do not know, it is perhaps necessary that we should take this opportunity to make candid reflections of what happened in Zimbabwe since political independence in the late 1970s and early 1980s and what happened in the 21st century Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's political liberation from colonial control came as a result of concerted political, ideological and armed struggles of the oppressed people of Zimbabwe against the British colonialists who had subjugated the African majority of that country to political and economic servitude for many decades, notably since 1890. Unlike their ‘armed-resistance’ friends further south of Africa who had pioneered liberation movements in Africa and armed-resistance in Southern Africa, and due to their relentless battles and no fear of blood and determination to militarily confront colonialism, the ZANLA and ZIPRA forces were able to push the colonial masters into a negotiation table quicker because the colonial masters had suffered massive defeat in the 2nd Chimurenga and never had any legitimacy to continue with the colonial oppression of the black majority.

Realizing that total freedom and victory can only be realized and consolidated through unity of the oppressed people, the Patriotic Front of ZANU and ZAPU armed forces, ZANLA and ZIPRA respectively defeated the colonial ideological weapon of divide and rule which colonisers had successfully used to divide the oppressed and conquered people in many parts of the African continent. The unity of ZAPU and ZANU to form ZANU-PF was watershed and should never be reversed by anything, including attempts of political opportunists who aim to revive a formation which already exists as part of the ruling party in Zimbabwe. There of course will time and again arise opportunist elements and utterances that seek to suggest that certain language groups within the revolutionary movement are being isolated and treated with disdain due to their places of origin and language dialects. It should never be so and cannot divide Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe should never be divided even by the incidents of the early 1980s which happened to necessarily avert insurrection, which was a real counter-revolutionary insurrection and had potential to play into the hands of apartheid South Africa. 

The majority-rule and decolonisation dispensation in Zimbabwe came as a result of the set of agreements and accords endorsed in Lancaster House Constitutional Conference, which happened from September to December 1979 and had somewhat assured certain transformative phenomena which were supposed to immediately accompany political liberation and inclusive democracy. Amongst these was transfer of land with compensation from the white minority to the black majority. The compensation was going to be subsumed by the former colonial master, Britain as a way of managing a bloodless transition. A knee-jerk response can easily dismiss Lancaster agreements as sell-out positions particularly when drawing lessons from the manner in which colonialism had conducted itself over the years. The Art of War says the greatest of victories are secured with as minimal bloodshed as possible, and it is evident that the leadership of ZANU and ZAPU had this in mind when securing this tactical route towards total transfer of political, economic and therefore social power from the Rhodesian white minorities to Zimbabwean black majority.

Under "Attack by Stratagem", the Art of War says "in the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them". For ZANU and ZAPU to agree on a peaceful, bloodless transfer of land and wealth was never a sell-out position as some would want us to believe. It was a necessary and correct war tactic and strategy for the liberation forces to negotiate a new Constitution and other reforms after fighting physical war on the ground, and said that let us take what belongs to us with no bloodshed. About this, the Art of War says, "to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting". This strategy and approach to Zimbabwe's transition was better, because even if this route fails, the liberation forces still had political power to effect changes that the enemy backtracks on. 

The agreements reached in the Lancaster were never met; actually the Labour Party led British government revoked their commitments and took an extra-ordinarily arrogant approach of dismissing the agreements reached with the Thatcher government. They did so under the veil of distancing themselves from decisions and agreements of the Conservative Party led British government under Margaret Thatcher, and under their own illusion that the political leadership of Zimbabwe won't do anything about it. This was not only undermining the people of Zimbabwe, but was undermining international laws and best practices that proscribe any annulment of strategic agreements and treaties between countries. The British government annulled this agreement with the narrow conviction and belief that nothing is going to happen and no one will do anything about it. 

The most decisive political action in the history of post colonial politics was for the ZANU-PF led government to reclaim land in the quickest possible time available for them to do so as a direct response to the annulment of the Lancaster agreements by the British government. Whatever form such took really does not matter because the history of radical political revolutions, which alter property relations and the nature of the development of the industrial capitalist are defined by events that are really not dissimilar to what happened in Zimbabwe. Whether the political developments, determination and focus deserve of the title of the “third Chimurenga” is a necessary discussion and debate which only history can judge.

In actual fact, the land dispossession of the African majority was 100 times more brutal than what happened in Zimbabwe when the people of Zimbabwe reclaimed what rightfully belongs to them. The change of the political guard in what later became USA in the 18th century, the wars of resistance in South Africa in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the change of guard in Russia in the late 1910s, in Cuba in the late 1950s, in the 'peaceful transition of South Africa’ in the early 1990s, in all political decolonisation politics of countries, and on various occasions had many casualties. In the case of Africa, an absolute majority of these casualties were the darker races of mankind. 

In reaction to these radical changes and land reform programme, neo-colonial, imperialist forces opportunistically exploited the fact that like all former colonies, Zimbabwe's economy was intricately linked and almost dependent on the established European and West economies. Like in all former colonial economies, Zimbabwe was the exporter of natural resources and importer of finished goods and services. What worsened the situation is the reality that the imperialist and neo-colonial forces had control over the supply of essential commodities to Zimbabwe, such as fuel, foreign currency, technology and paper to print money on. The imposition of sanctions altogether collapsed Zimbabwe's economy and caused hyper-inflation. The economic problems of Zimbabwe were imposed and worsened by the Western forces.

Because in all societies, even those with high levels of political consciousness, what determines human beings consciousness is their material existence, an immediate impact of sanctions was felt amongst the people and they developed false consciousness to believe that their immediate socio-economic problems are caused by ZANU-PF. Political authorities are justifiably considered as providers of bread, fuel and salt, and not just ideas in many societies, and this explains why those who all of a sudden could not have guaranteed access to this, shifted political loyalty. This kind of dilemma is not new, and defined even the earliest form of political liberation wherein the biblical Israelites bemoaned being stuck in the desert and begun to undermine and speak bad of their liberators, and even went to the extent of creating parallel gods to praise and worship, and begun to say that they were better off in Egypt than being stuck in the dessert. Politics of liberation are never easy and it often gets difficult for the followers and those who are being liberated to distinguish between being betrayed by the leadership and having to endure necessary difficulties, which might lead to constructive and developmental consequences.

It is a fact that the denial of Zimbabwe and its business people to trade globally dealt a heavy blow on the sustainability of the economy. The international and global condemnation, with threats of even heavier sanctions from the United Nations portrayed placed Zimbabwe as a pariah State within the global community, with its leaders portrayed as murderous, gluttonous and despotic lot only obsessed with their self-gratification and enrichment against the will of the world. Notably, this is in sharp contrast to how Zimbabwe and its leaders were portrayed before the land reform programme. Zimbabwe and particularly President Robert Mugabe were praised as the best leaders in the African continent as long as they did not temper with the property relations, particularly the land, mines and properties the colonial masters.

All leaders in the African continent who continue to enjoy the support of British Royalty and American patronage are those who have not tempered with the resources of the imperialist and colonial masters. Take for instance, the President of Equatorial Guinea, he is portrayed as a good leader and enjoys warm welcome in the White House  and other symbols of imperialism, despite the fact that 33 years into power, he has dismally failed to economically liberate the 700 000 population of his country. Take for instance the government of South Africa which has presided over a massacre of protesting mineworkers and thereafter declare State of emergency with soldiers deployed for an extended period of time, and yet there is no imperialist condemnation of what is happening in South Africa.

There are/were United Nations sanctions against Zimbabwe on assumed and ‘proven’ involvement in the illicit trade of high value commodities, including diamond. The so called targeted sanctions forbade vital economic players in Zimbabwe including the Agricultural Developmental Bank of Zimbabwe from gaining access to developmental finance in the global money markets. Those who argue that sanctions were only targeted at individuals should be given benefit of the doubt, and not berated as opponents, but as ignorant.

The influx of Zimbabwean citizens into neighbouring countries is as a result of a strangled economy, which was never given space to breathe and create sustainable livelihoods for many Zimbabweans. The attempts to strangle the economy has however provided necessary and valuable lessons to the people of Zimbabwe on how to generate alternate means of survival amidst global condemnation and vulgarisation by forces that wield excessive military, political and propaganda power over society. More often, President Mugabe is portrayed in the imperialist media platforms as a dictator who wants to cling to political power at all cost, and some in society get infected with such propaganda.

The situation is however not doomed and gloom as portrayed in imperialist media platforms, because in Zimbabwe, the situation is different and amenable amidst difficulties. With only one University, Zimbabwe has produced so many capable graduates and professionals who are playing leading roles in various parts of the world. On the weekend of 12th October 2012, the University of Zimbabwe was producing more than 2500 graduates who will in the immediate and distant future contribute to the rebuilding of the Zimbabwean economy. Land is under ownership of indigenous people and some Mines are being controlled by indigenous people, with programmes to expand community participation and benefit out of mining activities. The involvement of China is in the interim necessary to provide the necessary relief of a strangled economy which was not allowed to thrive and sustain itself by the bigger powers. This however should not become a permanent feature of Zimbabwe wherein the Chinese will be seen as the new colonial masters and exploiters of natural resources.

Zimbabwe is currently undergoing the most radical and necessary economic transformation phase guided by the Economic Empowerment and Indigenisation Act, under the stewardship of Minister Saviour Kasukuwere. The Act prescribes that indigenous Zimbabweans should own and control a minimum of 51% of all Economic activities in Zimbabwe of amounts exceeding $500 000. This intervention will obviously be met with massive resistance as it seeks to alter property relations, but it one of the most necessary means and methods of economic transformation ever pursued by a post colonial government and society.

With all these achievements and many processes in place, Zimbabwe and its leadership should never be complacent. Earliest forms of wisdom teach us that complacency is for fools, and the biblical Solomon said, “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them”. Zimbabwe should never slow down the pace of thoroughgoing socio-economic transformation. Zimbabwe and its leadership should be a beacon of hope to its own people, the African continent and all Africans in the Diaspora that as Africans, we can control our own economies successfully to benefit all the people. As an immediate focus, Zimbabwe should provide implants to the black farmers and ensure that the entire value adding food chain is controlled and directed by Zimbabweans. The food economy is the most essential tool of socio-economic liberation and Zimbabwe should maximally utilize this space as a means to liberate the people of Zimbabwe. 

Zimbabwe's natural resources endowments should position the country to develop a sustainable mineral resources beneficiation and industrialisation strategy and action plan. The friendship with China can be viewed from so many negative angles, but Zimbabwe should use the fact that China is amongst the biggest producers, but also the biggest consumers of goods and services due to its fast growing economy and population size. The relationship between Zimbabwe and China should be mutually beneficial and should necessarily lead to the industrialisation of the Zimbabwean economy. Through this, Zimbabwe can educate other African countries on how best to maximize the developmental impact of mineral and other resources.

With a growing population, Zimbabwe should either engage in massive expansion of University of Zimbabwe or build a new University so as to have adequate capacity to absolve the entirety of the Secondary school graduates. Education is after all the most important instrument for liberation of the oppressed people. The Zimbabwean education departments should introduce scholarships to take Zimbabwean students to the best Universities in the world and expose them to various knowledge systems and bases with the hope that they will in the future return to contribute to the growth and development of the Zimbabwean economy.

The foundation for Zimbabwe's thoroughgoing socio-economic transformation is laid and very solid. It now requires men and women of courage to build on it for a sustainable period of time. With the skills capacity of many Zimbabweans both inside Zimbabwe and in the Diaspora, the political leadership should rise above mediocrity and mobilize its products back into the country to come contribute in and play a leading role in the industrial development of the nation. The inspiration Zimbabwe has already impacted on many of us will exist forever, not only amongst this generation, but for many generations to come who will one day stand tall and say that despite the racist inspired attempts to strangle Zimbabwe, Africans stood united in its defence and built a rock solid foundation for the economic emancipation of the African continent. Amidst all these, the political leadership of Zimbabwe should not portray a picture that some amongst the leadership are inappropriately benefitting out of the radical reforms happening in Zimbabwe currently, because such will sow the seeds of divisions and counter-revolution.

Floyd Shivambu is an Economic Freedom Fighter, Member of the ANC and ANC Youth League in South Africa and a youth activist.


Hi Floyd,
Your recent article on Zim interesting: challenges the dominant public discourse.
By the way note that Zimbabwe has more than one university.
University of Zimbabwe founded before 1980 and then the following ones established after 1980:
State Universities
  1. National University of Science and Technology (Bulawayo)
  2. Midlands State University (Gweru)
  3. Bindura State University (Bindura)
  4. Chinhoi State University (Chinhoi)
  5. Great Zimbabwe (Masvingo)
  6. Lupane University (Lupane, near Victoria Falls)
  7. Gwanda State University (Gwanda)
  8. Africa Women University (Harare)
Private Universities (run by churches)
  1. Africa University (Mutare)
  2. Solusi University (Bulawayo)
  3. Catholic University (Harare)
Note the population is less than 12 million.
Over 10 polytechnic and teachers colleges were built after 1980
Over 1000 students currently studying in SA university (Presidential Scholarship Programme)
Several Zimbabweans studying in other countries esp UK, USA, Australia. Ironically, the challenges in Zim from 2000 have proved to be a blessing in disguise.  
Currently literacy rate is 92% (highest in Africa...overtaken Tunisia)..see UNESCO
Pass mark at Advanced level is 50%! 
SA is well resourced and has great potential: Challenge South Africans not to declare a below 40% as a pass mark. Education is the best way a poor African child can improve their lives.
Kind regards,

PS: By the way the Zim Presidential Scholarship Programme started in 1995. Many are very grateful for having been educated in SA. Look at the Americans they send thousands of their students abroad to study...SA should consider scaling up programmes like this ...the students will get good exposure.


Unknown said...

Thanks for updating us with whats going on with our neighboring nation, SA should adopt the same programmes Zim is having...

Unknown said...

Indeed thats a very good article at the face of a dominant discourse in light of this issue. I also have no doubt that the land reform programme was not a mistake but a necessity given its basis (what you have also alluded to). I also concur with your warning against complacency as very little has been achieved but a lot more stands to be achieved by the greater population in the medium to long term. At the same time nothing needs to be taken away from the opposition parties as multiplicity of voices a requisite for any succeful democracy. You however seem to be romanticizing the union of those two dominant parties in the early 80s which I think came as a marriage of convinience to save the lives of many that stood to be butchered had the marriage not happened opposed to convinience of averting insurrection as you purport. Nonetheless, none can alter history but all stand to derive lessons for the present and future especially towards building an undivided nation. "A beacon of hope indeed".