Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Notes on 32 Years of Zimbabwe’s Independence: Part 2

Brief Preface:
Please see below, the last  two essays written by Zimbabweans in aide of seeking to reflect on the nature and meaning of 32nd commemorations of our national independence in Zimbabwe. The first three essays covering three topics, national historical consciousness, reflections of young Zimbabweans on the meaning of independence and tracing the fading democratic value of leadership in Zimbabwe were published last week. The electronic publication of these essays has been facilitated by the Zimbabwe Committee of the Peoples Charter (http://peoplescharter.blogspot.com/2012/02/resolutions-of-commemorative-meeting-of.html) .The essays  will allow for increased public debate on the meaning of our national independence.
Kind regards,
Committee of the People’s Charter.

Locating our national value system; 32 years after independence.
Kudakwashe Chakabva

When some legislators and their associates were arrested and some acquitted for abusing the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) some sections of the society hoped that a new culture of accountability was being nurtured. Others dismissed it as just but a public relations gimmick by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC). But the most striking feature about the CDF issue is that it reflected how deep corruption has potentially embedded itself in our society, corroding even the leadership of our people. It is from this end that it becomes of value to question whether we as a nation-state still have a national value mentality and if not how that national value system can be re-invented as a set principles of integrity upon which we must commit our individual as well as collective being.

On 19 April, Zimbabwe will celebrate the fall of the union jack, the symbol of British colonial empire.  An empire which was run based a system of racial denigration, social degradation and economic exploitation. In this set up the blacks were envisioned to be useless as co-architects of a normal society as such the war of liberation was justifiable. The purpose of this war while being prima facie against minority rule was also a war against a system in which state security apparatus were abused to maintain the hold on power of a small cliché to the detriment of sovereign majority. In the ensuing liberation struggle that occurred, thousands of lives were tragically lost.

The question which should haunt us but more importantly our leaders today is how can one interpret the vision and purpose of the war and locate it in our current national psyche. To find the link between the vision and necessity of the war of liberation should thus define to us what kind of a nation our leaders envision or how they defaulted from the integrity of the liberation cause.

A country born out of the mere need to capture state power is obviously a perfect experiment board for all political crocks and thieves. It is a system in which the state exists only to serve the desires of those at its helm and citizens become subjects existing to serve the state. This was the character of the colonial state, a state established  on a vile racist value system. Under this set up a group of men would occupy themselves with the business of the state and  in order to exercise this rule they needed a special apparatus of coercion to subjugate the will of others by force and a massive investment in institutions of coercion such as prison, police armies and intelligence pre-occupied their rule.

In the thirty-two that have passed since Zimbabweans brought down that colonial state, what then is the demarcation between the Rhodesian and Zimbabwean system of values?

More questions than answers come in to ask of the values of an independent country (Zimbabwe) in which at least twenty thousand citizens perished by the sword of fellow countryman just a few years after ending the colonial establishment. When elections are synonymous with the long night of swords as brother fights  brother deny one another the right to vote yet the struggle for liberation was fought for many reasons but also the right to one man one woman’s right to vote. And neighbors butcher one another not necessarily because of so fanatical ideological differences but just to appease a long distance political leader.

What should constitute an independent Zimbabwe when colonial legislative tools such as the notorious Law and Order Maintenance Act (1965) reincarnate obviously under new names (POSA)  but carrying the same repressive strength. And then what was the gist of the struggle when we all acknowledge that the colonial economy resulted in massive marginalization and social inequalities especially of the rural communities yet a whole cabinet minister and Member of Parliament takes the money allocated for the development of such a poor rural community and builds a mansion for his sister.

It is obvious that those who initiated the struggle for democracy noted this negation of the true essence of the liberation fight and for years the movement stood firm in a quest to rediscover and fulfill that meaning, until the discovery of the opportunity of space at the feeding trough. The values which had kept the democratic movement firm much to the annoyance of the brutal regime where hastily thrown away in preference of political and economic expedience shared with or even offered by the hitherto enemy.

Questions which were answered by long standing convention resolutions true to the movement’s founding documents are now responded to because of one’s proximity to monetary resources not ideals. In the en and they too make desperate attempts to find political arguments to defend not just themselves but the actions of the enemy as well. Such is the insidious effect of a clique of people starved of systematic set of principles which should separate wrong from right.

It is obvious that our current political course has defaulted from the envisioned revolutionary path and this has partly been due to the politics of greed necessitated by the lack of institutions of accountability. The one mistake committed by the people of Zimbabwe was to let the independence excitement undermine their ability to monitor and participate in key political activities. Instead of taking the vanguard role we became spectators much to the favor of the politicians who took advantage of the disinterest and fortified their hold on power. Politics was subsequently made a domain for a few characterized by wanton violence, corruption, intimidation, imprisonment, as well as the personalization of institutions. Because of this dislocation the first few years of independence were years of unchecked or unmonitored political madness resulting in the deviation of the revolutionary course and its value system.

True ‘a nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it can not survive treason from within’ as Cicero said. For it is not necessarily the absence of resources nor the efficiency of the enemy that has seen our democratic struggle taking a prolonged nature but also the pathetic politics of inconsistency in our demands .The pursuit of petty personality politics that is embedded in ill-learned primitive tribal arguments all of which do not resonate with the aspirations of the ordinary citizen. It feels the same for one to sign a document which binds him in solidarity with others and as soon as possible ignore the dictates of the agreement, in a sense theMorrison Nyati Syndrome of betrayal does not affect our conscience nor does it teach us anything for so long as our financial gains keep flowing. All these and others add up to demand a single thing; a system of values of integrity that recognizes the humanity and responsibility of each and every individual in the society, with the firm knowledge that our legacies should be passed from generation to generation.

Because independence means a quest for self determination, the task of this generation of ours lies in our ability to interpret and effect the vision of our country’s true founding fathers who today rest motionless. We must reclaim that vision from the empty political demagoguery of present day. This must be done conscious of the fact that political power lies not in the hands of a few political faces, but in a politically conscious mass. Because the aim of political parties is the capture of state power upon which they will be able to employ their own policies. However most politicians are motivated not by the desire to serve the governed but by the prospects of nippy financial gains and acquiring state power is one surest way of achieving that. To this end power must be kept at all costs. This then means that it must be duty of the citizens, we the people to control the politicians and politics of the country.

To redefine our value system the people must reclaim their political space and be the force for accountability. It would be naive to presume that the architects of this deviation and let alone the benefactor can all be converted and won over to the new one merely by demonstrating its necessity. Hence what is necessary as a prelude to anything is to politically assert ourselves in a fight to put to an end of the era of fear and submissiveness and usher in a period of psychological liberation. And the Zimbabwe People's Charter is a firm way forward.

Youths Should Know and Defend the Genuine Gains of the Liberation Struggle
Terrence Chimhavi

The liberation struggle or fight against colonial and racial rule that was fought by our erstwhile liberators and the many that perished during that civil war in then Rhodesia, is an important chapter in the history of our country. That this liberation war was fought mostly by the young people goes without saying. What is and should be more important however, is what that struggle fought to achieve and more importantly how we as young people of today can be active in defending these gains and, in our lifetime contribute to the making of the Zimbabwe that so many died for.

Three fundamental points summarize the aspirations of the nationalist leaders as they led the black majority in the fight for political independence: the wide disparities in wealth distribution, largely favouring the white minority at the expense of the black majority; majority rule and the right to vote for leaders and a government of their choice (commonly referred to as ‘one man (woman), one vote’) and the redressing of the land question as many had been removed from their fertile lands and driven into reserves, keeps and other such barren areas.

When political independence came about in 1980 after a protracted armed struggle, it was greeted with enthusiasm and euphoria from the black majority. Expectedly, this majority was expectant that the ideals that had driven the war and what they sought to get out of the armed struggle would be fulfilled by the leaders they had entrusted with political power to drive a new Zimbabwe through the elections of 1980.

32 years after independence however, the ordinary black majority continues to face the same, if not worse challenges to what they did those many years ago before political independence. In essence, the yoke they carried under white oppression has been painted ‘black’ as they continue to suffer and wallow in poverty under a black administration. Ironically, the three fundamentals that drove and spurred many to fight white injustice and racialism remain unfulfilled and a pipe-dream for the majority, and a painful reminder that the struggle for a better Zimbabwe for all that live in it is still far from over and the dream far from realized.

In Zimbabwe today, there is glaring evidence of wide disparities in wealth distribution – a new black political elite has replaced the white minority in ownership of critical state and non-state resources. While ‘one man (woman), one vote’ has been realized, the majority are still not free to elect leaders and a government of their choice – there is evidence of election fraud in elections dating as far back as 1985, which has worsened over the years and finally culminated in the sham June 2008 election, the bloodiest in the electoral history of Zimbabwe. 

While we have and continue to be told the contrary, the noble initiative of land redistribution has by-and-large benefitted this new black political elite, at the expense of the formerly landless peasants in the ‘reserves and keeps’ – prime land has been parcelled out along political patronage lines, with many of those holding some form of political power being multiple-farm owners when other ordinary civilians have nothing.

Just as a reminder, the war of liberation was not fought so that a few Zimbabweans (and non-Zimbabweans) can enjoy the fruits of the resource-endowed nation that is Zimbabwe. What Comrades Tongo, Zvogbo, Chitepo, Mugabe, Nkomo, Sithole, Dabengwa and Mujuru amongst others fought for was that each and every Zimbabwean, regardless of ethnicity, colour, tribe or other considerations is able to live peacefully, enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms and enjoy an equal opportunity to prosper and achieve self-actualization in a socially-justiciable manner. At the height of that protracted struggle, they all acknowledged and defended this line wherever they went, even in the British and other capitals they continued to grace through diplomatic efforts. Then, they were very clear that despite assertions to the contrary, suggesting that they were Marxist extremists, the nationalist leaders were able to present a formidable and morally justified reason for waging this armed struggle – their quest to rid Zimbabwe of the injustices of colonialism and ushering in of majority rule, a phrase that has commonly come to be replaced by democratic rule.

However, despite the insurmountable evidence that all these noble causes and fundamental ideals formed the basis of the liberation struggle, evidence on the ground today point to a scenario in which this noble African agenda has been driven off the rails by an insensitive sect of greedy politicians and plunderers who have usurped the power of the masses and vested it in a closely-knit political cabal. Some members of this murderous crew have forgotten that just 35 years ago they led the armed struggle on the backdrop of popular support for majority rule. They even had the support of the same British, American and other nations across the globe backing them in calling for majority rule, which the Rhodesians worked tirelessly to prevent, but albeit eventually surrendered through negotiations as the war heated up.

Despite the fact that such history is well recorded and documented, the new black ruling elite of Zimbabwe have over time managed to re-write history to suit their own parochial intentions. They have chosen to negate and plagiarize the rich history of our nation through telling it in their own concocted way so as to justify the various heinous crimes that they have and continue to perpetrate on the civilian masses. This they have managed to achieve largely by destroying or willingly neglecting to document the numerous physical evidence of our liberation struggle.

Today, it is very difficult for any young person in this country to know of the true history of our liberation struggle. The only few available places to learn about this history have been so politicized and abused out of any meaning that they have lost meaning to what we all know, through one means or the other, as the real reasons and chain of events behind our liberation struggle. The issue of our National Heroes Acre quickly springs to mind. Despite being a noble initiative in respect of entrenching the history of our liberation struggle, it has been hounded and degraded of any moral value by the manner in which this ruling black elite under the guise of Zanu PF have clandestinely determined through their Soviet-style ‘politburo’ who is buried there. This has been to the extent that known cheats, thieves and murderers such as Chenjerai Hunzvi lie buried at our national shrine. It is a real pity. This case of our national shrine is just but one case in point.

The history of apartheid South Africa and its subsequent post-apartheid era poses huge lessons for Zimbabwe as it struggles to meet the dreams and expectations of those who waged and supported liberation struggles. This is true not only for Zimbabwe, but for a whole range of African and non-African nations that have fought colonialism and white imperialism over the years, in pursuit of self-determination as indigenous people. While Zimbabwe and many other African nations attained their political independence well before South Africa, it is the manner in which South Africans have been able to build on their history in resolving the various injustices and inequalities of the past. And this has to a greater extend been achieved through the manner in which government particularly the ANC has managed to push for the documentation and preservation of the country’s history, partly through the Truth and Reconciliation processes as well as building of physical structures to preserve the memory of their struggle against apartheid and why it was necessary to fight this struggle.

It is in this regard that Zimbabwe as a nation has failed dismally. Of the many lived realities, peoples, sites, documents, and other such paraphernalia that depicts and is relevant to our liberation struggle, very few are of any value today, especially to the younger generation who may have not been present to witness for themselves the uncensored truth of the liberation struggle or still, were too young to have known anything significant was happening in the country. Ask any young person what is ‘Gonakudzingwa’ or where it is (if it is still there) and this sad reality will dawn to you. What we have seen is the complete abdication of this very valuable history of our country, to serve the interests of our new black elite, who behave in every sense colonial as did the Rhodesians during that sad period of the liberation struggle and the times before it.

If you are going to speak to a lay person on the street about the lived realities of the many people who lived during the liberation struggle and how they understood the struggle and the reasons for waging it, you would be baffled at how the reality today does not resonate with the wishes and aspirations of the black majority that lived through and suffered under colonialism. What is further perplexing is the ‘new ideals and values’ that form the DNA of the new ruling black elite who today occupy the top echelons of power in Zimbabwe. It seems their first and foremost rule and ideal is self-enrichment and aggrandizement at the expense of the Zimbabwean masses. Look at our minister Chombo and you will begin to understand this DNA of our new ruling black elite.

The important questions young men and women of today must ask ourselves are: Did the attaining of independence after a protracted armed struggle fought by the young people of that time more than three decades ago usher in the expected results? If not, (as is the obvious case here) then what are we going to do as the youths to ensure that our country attains true independence and defend the genuine gains of the struggle?

As young people, we need to ensure that the ‘one wo/man one vote’ principle is adhered to and the subsequent result of any election is respected. This entails fighting for peace in our country and encouraging each other to participate positively in all elections. Without fighting for and defending our votes, our situation is not much different from that in the 60s when our parents could not determine who leads our lovely Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia).

Wealth distribution has seen even worse skewedness after independence, with the majority of the young people owning or controlling no means of production while a few, because of their again skewed liberation war credentials, feel they should own everything and anything. It is our duty as young men and women to fight for the equal distribution of wealth, to make sure that we also have access to resources and these privileges can never be delivered to us on a silver platter, we must demand and fight for them until we also get a piece of the cake.

Whilst ZANU PF claims that land was redistributed, it is important to note that the re-allocation was fundamentally wrong with the political elite clandestinely getting all the fertile landmasses while the few peasants who benefited only got sandy and dry areas. The youths of today must demand an audit into the land redistribution exercise and demand to know what criteria was used to allocate certain fertile pieces of land to the subsequent beneficiaries and put in place measures to ensure that such malpractices are not repeated in future.

It becomes important to critically think of Frantz Fanon’s words of wisdom: “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it.” Do we know our mission and are we going to fulfill it or betray it, spelling doom for future generations?

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