Heroes Day: What were we fighting for?

The late agronomist and nationalist, Amilcar Cabral, from Guinea-Bissau says the reason why people join a struggle in the first place is to better their lives and as a consequence a movement’s success should be judged by the extent to which it manages to remove the people from the yoke of oppression.

Tawanda Zinyama
Academic

Freedom is more than sawing away the chains. Blistered feet must be soaked in healing herbs. Are we judging Zanu PF too soon and perhaps too harshly? But was it not Kwame Nkrumah who cried too late that political freedom without economic freedom is a fallacy?

Zanu PF should be commended for its stance on the third revolution — land redistribution and indigenisation and economic empowerment policies. Without control of the economy, Zanu PF can only exercise its power by appealing to its mass support when the capitalists go too far, but remain unable to harness the economy to work for the people.

It, therefore, finds itself playing the role of an opposition party while in power. A classic example is the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. But how is the ANC an opposition movement in its own government? It does not seek to change private industry but instead tries to work within an already unbalanced situation.

Instead of harnessing capitalism to the road of an alternate economic arrangement as Maurice Bishop was attempting to do in Grenada, the ANC finds itself at the mercy of capitalism. The land redistribution question is biting at the heels of the ANC. The issue is the re-organisation of the economy so that it serves the people

Zimbabwe had political and social struggles since 1890. What exactly were we fighting for?

Under British rule of course, we fought for independence. Once we achieved independence, our struggle quickly shifted to one for survival. We fought for our existence as a peaceful and law-abiding nation. We fought for our own survival, and that of our children and our grandchildren. We fought for the inalienable rights to which each of us is entitled by virtue of being human.

Zimbabwe has a strong and enduring set of laws that is an essential and guiding instrument in a democracy. In a broad sense, this is what we fought for. But at a more human level, we fought for more. We fought for the right to express ourselves, to assemble peaceably, to write and print our opinions, to worship a God of our choosing.

We fought for personal security, the right to be free from unlawful arrest and unreasonable detention. We fought for the freedom to move throughout our nation and outside our nation. We fought to live free from the fear created by an oppressive and intolerant government.

We also fought to give voice to the many Zimbabweans who remain marginalised and disempowered. We fought to empower women to integrate into and participate in all aspects of Zimbabwean society, including power sharing and decision-making. The contribution of women has been limited because of a whole range of social, legal, economic, cultural and political constraints.

As a starting point for change, we fought for children’s education and encouraged parents to keep their children in school. We fought for mechanisms to promote the advancement of girls and women in Zimbabwean society.

In addition, we fought for the rights of children, the rights of prisoners and the rights of the disabled. We fought for the right to development, to economic equality and justice, to own property, and to inherit property. We fought for accountability, responsibility and transparency in our government. We fought against corruption and abuses of power. We fought for the separation of power between the executive, the judiciary and parliament. We fought for a government that is devolved, responsive and accessible to the electorate, and run in accordance with democratic principles. We fought and we are still fighting. Fortunately, much has been achieved and many battles have been won. But the fight is not over.

What are some of the results of Zimbabwe’s independence? Zimbabwe’s independence was a compromise between colonialism and liberation forces. The compromise was political freedom that translated to black leadership as long as the economic arrangement was left intact. This relationship is the essence of neo-colonialism. Freedom as Zimbabweans learnt is not negotiated; rather it is wrestled from the hands of the oppressor.

Nonetheless, the fight endures. Problems still abound, including domestic violence, economic exploitation, political violence, limited citizen participation, environmental degradation, incessant droughts, insufficient understanding of human and constitutional rights and democracy. Political violence is a manifestation of political intolerance.

Democracy is about debate, sharing points of view and respecting our diversity of opinion while strengthening our unity. The creation of Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) by President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in the right direction to avoid a zero-sum game, a contest in which if you win, then I lose, and vice versa. This creates a modus vivindi where political actors regardless their different opinions can work together for development.

Another fundamental challenge is poverty. The gap between the rich and the poor has grown. The existing level of poverty has a direct and dangerous impact on the ability of poor and vulnerable people to have access to their human rights.

A third challenge consists of the national economy and the imperative of returning it to the path of socio-economic growth. The question which many observers posed as the Second Republic was being inaugurated in August 2018 centred around the extent to which the elected politicians were ready and able to meet these challenges with any degree of credibility.

How do we deal with the challenges?

The goal of our struggle now is to ensure that development is consolidated. This requires organisational capacity, innovative capacity, adaptive capacity and institutional capacity. For example, shocks happen despite the best efforts to prevent them. The role of government, therefore, extends to mitigating their impact and building the adaptive capacity of communities and citizens.

The government requires anticipative capacity. This has three stages — the analysis stage focusses on finding patterns in a variety of data and addresses the questions: what are the facts? What do we know? What can be detected? The interpretation phase attempts to extract meaning: what is really happening and what does it mean? Finally, the prospection phase focusses on what might happen.

Anticipatory work can help government and society think more systematically about the future and build a broad-based consensus about what constitutes a preferable future and how to get there. Bolstering the anticipative capacity of government and society to improve foresight, prevention, risk assessment and mitigation.

In crisis situations, like Covid-19, there is a need for decisive leadership. This entails involving the highest levels of government and mobilising all ministries and agencies. It requires transparent and honest communications to sustain trust and confidence of the population. Most crises require a multi-disciplinary, multi-sectoral approach with no artificial boundaries between agencies, disciplines and levels of government.

The challenge is to make innovation, experimentation and exploration part of the normal fabric of public organisations. So what can be done to introduce the gene of innovation into the “DNA” of public organisations?

Few significant private organisations would prosper without a commitment to researching and developing new products, services, business models or operating methods. Yet, while the public sectors accounts for a significant proportion of GDP in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe does not have a formal innovative policy for the public sector.

Innovation policy is critical in public policy and administration. The policy must address areas such as the need for strong networks, building the innovative capacity of the public sector, opening up and sharing data, information and knowledge across government.

Co-creation and co-production

Co-creating policy responses with people helps understand the needs, preferences and concerns. This is the foundation of devolution as defined in Chapter 14 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

Co-creation does not refer to public policy consultation where government seeks people’s views on particular issues. It is not about polling, opinion surveys or focus-group testing. It involves a methodical process of working directly with people in designing, developing, testing and experimenting with potential solutions.

Co-production represents the shared and reciprocal activities of people and public agencies to produce results of public value. People are assets. There is always a way to put assets to productive use and there are enough resources to go around if we put them to good use.

There is no such thing as good governance without good government, no matter how one chooses to define these terms. Nor is there such a thing as good government without sound public institutions and well-performing public organisations. Institutional and organisational capacities provide the starting point for preparing the government to be fit for the future.

Public agencies need agility and adaptive to operate in unpredictable environments. Having multiple frames of analysis is critical. A political frame provides insight on what to do and when to do it. A human resources frame provides information on the kinds of capabilities needed. A media frame provides a minute-by-minute narrative of what is happening and being done that shapes the public perception of the event. The symbolic frame tells the government what rituals and symbolic acts may make a difference in helping people respond to and weather the crisis.

Good governance is a pre-requisite for sustainable development. Growth and development demand law and order, the creation of transparent administrative structures, the extension of social infrastructure to the rural areas, the protection of poor and vulnerable groups and their inclusion in the decision-making process, and the preservation of peace and security. The best way of nurturing good governance is to let citizens participate in decisions that affect them. This is best via devolution of power and by strengthening domestic institutions.

Zimbabwe has to address the economic question that is simmering underneath the facade of national independence. Independence is revealed to have been a hollow call when dawn sets in and the people say, “We have arrived, what’s next?” Zimbabweans are people with hope and a people of hope.

As Fanon articulates, they are being born anew. Zimbabwe can provide for itself. It can develop itself but for this to happen, Zimbabwe must have sustained peace and security. The nation’s wealth, means of production and distribution of wealth must be in the hands and service of the people.

It is not hard to imagine why the road will be long and tortuous. We have much standing in our way, right from within our nation to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, European Union and America. But history, this history that we hold in disdain, that we see as one long letter of failure to bring about change, this history that we are part of is also history of hope.

“Each generation,” writes Fanon “must out of relative obscurity find its mission, fulfill it or betray it.” Each generation, in its totality has found its mission, contributed and added insight into the human condition and brought us closer.

At the economic level, independence has not yet yielded much in terms of the economic dividend as industrial capacity remains low and the economy remains captive to corruption, declared and undeclared sanctions, climatic changes, political polarisation and factionalism.

Needless inter-political fighting even outside electoral seasons. Even though a lot of energy and incentives have gone into the drive to attract foreign investors, the domestic situation has not provided a fertile ground for the influx of global capital due to infrastructure deficiencies, conflict and insecurity.

The true moral test of government is how it treats those in the dawn of life — the children; those who are in the twilight of life — the aged; and those who are in the shadow of life — the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

Zinyama is a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Political and Administrative Studies.

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