HARARE – In a few days, Zimbabweans will make a decision in the harmonised elections against a backdrop of poverty, unemployment and inequality as to who should be the face of the new administration.
The right to the ballot as a peoples’ democratic weapon was won in 1980 and, therefore, after 33 years of independence, one would expect new challenges to occupy the minds of people like President Robert Mugabe but alas his preface to the 2013 Zanu PF manifesto is premised on preserving the legacy of the liberation struggle rather than his record as a State actor.
Mugabe believes that his participation in the liberation struggle permanently qualifies him to lead the nation and it is significant that he makes the point in the Zanu PF manifesto as follows: “That legacy (liberation struggle) permanently connects past, present and future generations of this nation with one another. It is a legacy that we all own as Zimbabweans.”
His world view is shaped and defined by his experiences during the colonial order and, therefore will never cease to call on: “Every Zimbabwean to patriotically cherish and jealously guard the gains of our heroic liberation struggle.”
The selection of indigenisation as a theme for the 2013 election manifesto is not accidental as the president holds the view that the State has the solemn duty to economically empower the indigenous people of Zimbabwe by enabling them to fully own their country’s God-given natural resources and the means of production to unlock or create value from those resources.
It is stated in the manifesto that: “Our independence and sovereignty has empowered us to use the State as the revolutionary instrument to reclaim our land as its owners as a matter of our sovereignty.
“Now Zimbabweans have an historic opportunity to extend the ownership of their land to 14 key sectors of the economy whose control and ownership are in foreign hands as a direct result of colonialism and Rhodesian racist rule.
“In the same way we have taken back our land as Zimbabweans through the Third Chimurenga, we are now taking back our economy as its rightful owners.
Mugabe’s understanding of the State and the power of State action to impact on poverty, unemployment and inequality is steeped in the socialist and communist world view that asserts that State action can achieve positive impacts on the quality of human life.
If Zimbabwe were a laboratory, one would ask Mugabe to expose the examples of success in State action on the ills that were inherited from the colonial order so that by now a coherent narrative about what works, when and why would exist and more significantly form part of his core campaign message.
With respect to the role of indigenous persons, it is the view of members of Zanu PF that the economy of Zimbabwe is the land and the land is the economy and from this warped view that does not even speak to the values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, flows the ideology that seeks to assert the rights of blacks over the land and all the natural resources created by God.
A view is then held that the relationship between indigenous persons and land as well as resources must be positive and it is not an accident that the following words find themselves in the manifesto: “Both our land and our economy are ideological expressions of indigenisation to assert our independence and our sovereignty over our natural and economic resources.
In other words, we must indigenise both our land and our economy.
I am not aware of any successful country that has been built around the values expressed in the above-quoted statement.
The world has many examples of resource-rich countries in which the poor are the majority yet after 33 years in office; Mugabe would want to convince the voting public that the resources that existed independent of colonialism should suddenly be the instrument to be relied upon to alleviate poverty.
An attempt is then made to link indigenisation, land and resources with economic empowerment.
Empowerment is taken to mean socio-economic or political actions by State actors using organs of State aimed at transforming the socio-economic well being of the indigenous people who in terms of the Act are defined as only the persons who were affected by the unjust policies of the colonial order.
These persons should be limited to the rural and urban poor, small-scale farmers, the landless and the unemployed, the economically and politically excluded by the colonial order.
The targeted persons should exclude Mugabe’s children i.e. all those that were born after independence.
In any normal and forward-looking nation, empowerment should happen when individuals irrespective of their socio-economic background and history are able to imagine their world differently and to realise that vision by changing the relations of power that have been keeping them in poverty and unemployment.
The promise of independence was that the new power players in the State would deliver the promise of a better life by using State power for good.
After 33 years of independence, the majority of indigenous people feel that after elections, State actors have tended to use the borrowed power to enrich and perpetuate their hold on the organs of State.
At an individual level, people feel excluded from the system that they participate in creating through elections.
Generally, people do not have a sense of rights entrenched in the Constitution.
Their voice under the stewardship of Mugabe does not seem to count for anything.
Anyone who has been exposed to the post-colonial experience would be justified in asking Zanu PF and Mugabe to acknowledge and take responsibility for the continuing poverty that independence was meant to address.
In addition, one legitimately would want Zanu PF and its actors to explain how they intend to reshape the social norms of exclusion that have now been institutionalised as part of the empowerment programme.
Elections in a democratic State should allow poor people who are in the majority to come together to express their true views and demand that their rights are respected and it ought to be the role of State actors to facilitate and not seek to intimidate citizens from organising under different political clubs.
The approach of Zanu PF has been to seek to silence dissent and in many circumstances even to co-opt individuals and organisations that have different viewpoints.
The people of Zimbabwe after 33 years of abuse should be tired of hearing promises of a better life from hypocritical politicians.
The ability to influence decision-makers that ought to be part of the empowerment programme appears to be non-existent.
Principally praise singers occupy Mugabe’s wagon; and such a small circle has had the effect of crowding out voices and faces of change.
One would expect the manifesto to speak to the genuine feeling of disempowerment in which the poor peoples’ voices are no longer effective in influencing those in power.
The fact that Zanu PF and its actors have failed to create and maintain transparent and effective channels for influencing the actions of the State and facilitating access of the excluded majority is self-evident.
In fact, what determines the extent and distribution of poverty in 2013 has less to do with colonialism than with the structure of political power in Zimbabwe.
In this context, the powerful few in Zanu PF have monopolised political and State power in such a manner that places them in advantageous positions to amass wealth.
The fact that the few are indigenous persons is irrelevant but what is significant is that some indigenous persons are more equal than others under Mugabe’s watch.
Accordingly, from Zanu PF’s perspective, the concept of indigenisation and empowerment means different things to what the majority poor expect to see, as evidently not all indigenous persons are entitled to be part of the gravy train.
For the Zimbabwean State and those acting on its behalf, empowerment is nothing but a strategy designed to improve the economic and social life of a specific group of people while at the same time robbing the future of the majority.
Empowerment ought to mean extending the benefits of development to the poorest of the poor.
It is significant that although Mugabe acknowledges the shortcomings of the current indigenisation model, he has no alternative but to campaign on the basis of a programme that disempowers the majority than empowering them.
The above explanation is necessary to give potential voters a better understanding of how, if any, the Zimbabwean State and those who purport to act on its behalf define and understand the policy of indigenisation and empowerment as well as understand the limitations of the proposed policy framework in alleviating poverty.
As people go into the voting booth, it is important to appreciate and understand that the programme set out in the Zanu PF manifesto will not reduce poverty by empowering citizens — rather it will exacerbate the already deplorable conditions that the majority find themselves condemned to.
Some of the naked inequalities in Zimbabwean society are not a function of colonialism but a consequence of misrule.
Those who are in Zanu PF’s wagon are in the minority compared to those who are misgoverned.
Poverty in Zimbabwe, therefore, when properly analysed is a consequence of the disproportionate distribution of opportunities, income and national wealth by the ruling few.
In conclusion, it is factually wrong for Zanu PF to claim that it intends to take back an economy that its actors played a leading part in destroying.