FELLOW Zimbabweans, it is almost November again. Are you getting this novemberish sense of déjà vu? Remember November 2017? It was the best of times and the worst of times.
Brian Kagoro ,lawyer
This November, prophets are in conflicting modes. Some are predicting multiple deaths and others the rain of gold and wealth on Zimbabwe and yet others see difficult times ahead. Personally, not being a seer, I have this feeling or sense that something has got to give!
I am a hopeful African! I was born in a racist Rhodesia, grew up under a virtual one-party state dictatorship, was schooled under a hybrid regime and started working at the zenith of neo-liberal triumphalism. A mixture of violence, struggle and defiance moulded my childhood, youth and adulthood.
This consciousness makes me question every claim by politicians and refuse to offer alibis to incompetent, dishonest and self-aggrandising elites in order to avoid bad publicity for the nation. Conscious people are not into jingoism and cheap public relations or politics of cover and cover up.
You see it is because of cover and cover up that the last 38 years ended up becoming a monumental disaster. I am a pan-Africanist, a patriot and I believe in the need for a capable democratic developmental state in Zimbabwe. A capable democratic developmental state is a lot of hard work!
Food, fuel and foreign exchange shortages are a terrible thing because of the domino effects that they have for the rest of the economy and their ramifications for terminally ill, poor, working and local business owners.
However, what is most important is why Zimbabwe is in this mess less than 10 weeks after the election? Surely, it cannot just be because we are not patriotic consumers and do not produce, that we prefer to import cheap foreign products or that the local market is in a senseless panic or revolt?
Let us be honest, our government lives way beyond its means and constantly has to borrow to finance the budget deficit. Zimbabwe is poorly governed economically and we have become debt alcoholics. Our politics and governance threatens to lead the nation to economic ruin.
Zimbabwe ran an election in which citizens fought brutally over petty and meaningless symbolisms as opposed to issues or ideological differences. The 2018 election was a political beauty pageant of extremes characterised by the claim of youth entitlement and the counter-claim of a divine right of liberators to rule.
Real election issues were shelved for sensationalism and bigotry. We are to blame as citizens for not seriously engaging the important, including the economic and social policy debates, preferring instead catchy slogans and political celebrity cults. We emerged as a nation out of the 2018 election severely bruised and yet not fully conscious of it.
An election touted by pundits as a watershed one to mark the end of 38 years of Robert Mugabe’s autocratic rule and the transition to a dispensation of hope missed its turn. Here we are, nine weeks later, and the country is in a proverbial wilderness. What a catastrophic defeat for national consciousness, consent and consensus of the governed!
Honest and truthful optimism
I am a perennial optimist and I believe in candid introspection rather than the endless search for boogeymen. Why is Zimbabwe unable to make the short journey to the promised land? Why are we selling off our country to the highest bidder under the guise of creating jobs? Why are we becoming more dependent on donors instead of our own productive capacities? Why are Zimbabwean produced goods a lot more expensive than cheap imports? Why is Zimbabwe constantly governed just one event away from disaster?
There are countless videos on social media of well-known allies of the ruling elite who boast about having huge sums of cash, riches and all sorts of trinkets.
These are a symptom of the decadence and shallowness that now threatens our societal fabric like an armyworm. It is high time we did both lifestyle and tax audits of these self-proclaimed tycoons. How much tax have they paid or do they pay? This narcissism betrays a growing creed and the terminal greed in our society. Our society needs an antidote of ethics and consciousness; it needs an ethical, inclusive and conscious leadership.
Let us fix the system and the leadership instead of making excuses for it. If one cannot put new wine (ideas, ways of thinking, working and doing) in old wineskins (institutional architecture and system) at least try and put old wine (nationalist and an-Africanist) ideals in brand new wineskins (a comprehensively reformed State, security sector, public service administration and judiciary). We really require honest and truthful optimism.
A national cancer is not a minor temporary discomfort and being poor is not the same as being broke. It takes much more than a positive media spin and public relations to address our structural and governance challenges. You cannot persuade citizens that their daily reality is not real!
We all must expose and resist the indigenisation of oppression and the attendant narcissistic, kleptocratic, technocratic and dynastic leadership by clans and cartels. We must resist the wholesale capture of state institutions in Zimbabwe. It will stifle imagination and growth. Frantz Fanon in Wretched of the Earth captured this phenomenon thus:
“The former colonial power increases its demands, accumulates concessions and guarantees, and takes fewer and fewer pains to mask the hold it has over the national government. The people stagnate deplorably in unbearable poverty; slowly they awaken to the unutterable treason of their leaders. This awakening is all the more acute because the leaders are incapable of learning its lesson. The distribution of wealth that it effects is not spread out between a great many sectors; it is not ranged among different levels nor does it set up a hierarchy of half-tones. The new caste is an affront, all the more disgusting in that the immense majority, nine-tenths of the population, continue to die of starvation. The scandalous enrichment, speedy and pitiless, of this caste is accompanied by a decisive awakening on the part of the people.”
Zimbabwe has three intertwined challenges, namely: a structural economic crisis, a governance crisis and a debilitating and mutually destructive political impasse that has resulted in a strategic stagnation. We often over-simplify this as “a leadership crisis”.
But, it goes way beyond “the leadership”, it is a national consciousness crisis. We have turned off both our ideological and ethical compass in pursuit of technicist pragmatism. Technical tinkering cannot resolve structural and political crises. A new governance ethos cannot be administered through executive diktat and non-inclusive politics.
Inclusive leadership — of necessity — will as a bare minimum revisit the national social contract by convening an inclusive dialogue with critical stakeholders to map the way forward post-election, especially given the narrow margin of victory.
Military, security sector roles
On November 18 2017, Zimbabweans were permitted by the army to march. Not for a new political reason or cause. But for the same causes that they had since 1988 been brutalised by the same military for attempting to publicly articulate. Simply that the Zanu PF regime had become moribund, morally decadent, insensitive and irredeemably arrogant.
On July 30, 2018, Zimbabweans went to the poll to elect members of parliament, councillors and their President. By August 2, 2018, between seven and 24 Zimbabweans had either been murdered or injured in moments of madness — for that is what we often euphemistically call brazen acts of impunity by the State.
On August 2, 2018, the military did not allow Zimbabwean citizens to demonstrate. This idea of popular revolutions by the masses that are either permitted, authored or disallowed for security reasons speaks to a much deeper malaise in Zimbabwean society than the lumpenisation of ruling and opposition party youths. It speaks to the issue of unhealthy civilian-military relations and party-securocracy nexus.
It speaks to the end of separation of powers!
President Emmerson Mnangagwa has set up a “commission of inquiry” to investigate what was seen by the whole world. This a curious act on account of two reasons? First, under the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe — the President of the Republic can only deploy the military within Zimbabwe.
The President must in doing so comply with constitutional limitations, including that the military personnel so deployed must operate under the direction of the police leadership, as well as that the President must obtain parliamentary consent.
None of this seems to have been adhered to. The fact that the President is the Commander-In-Chief of the Defence Forces of Zimbabwe means that his own commission regarding whether he rightly and lawfully exercised his constitutional authority to deploy the army must question him? He will issue the report of the commission that, in part, must investigate him? Is he a judge in his own cause?
Second, well it is almost November and in November the military has a tendency to assume the right to deal with socio-economic and politico-legal challenges that should rightfully be left within the hands of civilian authorities. The military — as promised by General Phillip Valerio Sibanda — has to absolutely abide by the constitution at all times. Constant forays into civilian affairs constitute a serious mission creep and deepens the polarisation, as well as politicisation within the Zimbabwean State.
Mnangagwa, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and other critical political leaders have to find each other and dialogue honestly. If they do not, the November hurricanes will bring for our nation the curse of self-destruction. But basic common sense can save us from ourselves!
My compatriots, the voice of the people is not the voice of God, but God hears the cry of the people that assume their constitutional and moral responsibility to resist and expose evil!
Kagoro is a local lawyer. He was instrumental in the formation of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. He has served as a consultant for several regional organisations including the African Union Commission, The New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. He has published a number of articles on Zimbabwean and world politics.