Zimbabwe’s Complex Balance of Forces: Thinking Beyond the Cosmopolitans
Tinashe L. Chimedza and Tamuka C. Chirimambowa*
In the past few weeks Dr Nkosana Moyo launched the Alliance for People’s Agenda, Advocate Fadzai Mahere announced she will stand as an independent, and Arthur Mutambara at his book launch in Bulawayo toyed with the possibility of a return to politics. Within the ruling elites the fissures are boiling leading to a showdown between Jonathan Moyo and the Genarillismo. Mugabe and the President’s office have catapulted the party-state’s existence to the ‘youth bulge’ hence the emphasis of ‘meet the youth’ and generous land distribution to the youth in the form of 20,000 residential lands. It has been a maelstrom for our friend and brother Dr Alex Magaisa who was caught up with the factional gladiators at the The Plot Café – but we know that the learned doctor is made of sterner stuff and an independent mind. What is at stake is simple: state power. The question which arises and we have hinted before in previous Gravitas issues, is how do the old and new political movements measure up under the contemporary balance of forces. We pose four questions: how does this political project differentiate itself from the post-nationalist movement like the MDC or the radical nationalist coercive hegemony of the ruling party-state; secondly how do these political projects organize themselves ‘strategy & tactics’ wise to assail the party-state networks; thirdly and historically political movements generally emerge from a process of protracted contestation which feeds, mobilises and builds some form of class solidarity and in the case of APA there is no such history, and fourthly Zimbabwe’s terrain is already dominated by political formations, civil society and social movements of some kind how do these emerging ‘independent’ candidates and APAs relate to them?
Fig 1.0 Dr Nkosana Moyo at the World Economic Forum: Old Bottle with New Wine ?
Fleeting with Ephemeral Modernity: the flight of Political Economy Analysis
It was very significant that APA was launched at Meikles Hotel. For now, we will put the history of Thomas Meikles aside and confine ourselves to the very worrying infantile political adventurism of Zimbabwe’s advanced intellectual class. This adventurism is not limited and or monopolized by Dr Nkosana Moyo, it is a malady which fatally infects not Zimbabwe but Africa’s advanced intellectual class. Having walked down the cobbled streets of London, felt the electricity in Washington DC or walked down to the chiming bells of
Prague, they return home and do not for a moment think that they are a minority within a minority. That reality is a complex lingering of the colonial-settler political economy which pushed the urban enclave into existence and had its fortunes tied to the colonial metropole.
With the advent of independence, suddenly Muchadeyi Masunda can sit on the board of London based corporates, Arthur goes to Oxford with the Royals and Nkosana Moyo sits on the boards of global corporates with real capitalist power.Feted with luncheons abroad, donned in cosmopolitan and almost imperial gowns, with access to global networks of power and paraded as the acceptable face of ‘African modernity’ this class can almost degenerate into a comic caricature of its possible potential. When they return home their lenses fail to understand the obtaining material and social conditions of the homeland as well as the objective balance of forces. Unwittingly, they long for the homeland to follow closely in the steps of the metropoles and this logically leads not to Mai Misodzi Hall or Stanley Hall or an open land in Dotito but straight to Meikles Hotel. Then watch the Fannonian tragedy which ensues: interviews on BBC, CNN, Twitter, and Facebook gives them a sense of over-exaggerated popularity and power divorced from the ordinary man/woman or peasant farmer who goes on with life almost un-intruded.
Fig 1.1 Arthur Mutambara: Real Power Remains Elusive
These African cosmopolitans remain very few as the African society continues to be trapped in Peter Ekeh’s ‘two publics’; where one is modern but composed of a privileged few and the other ‘primordial’ but composed of the majority. Convincing or penetrating this primordial majority is the crux that the cosmopolitan Africans have to crack. In one episode of this tragicomedy, in cabinet we gather, a very learned Professor presented a very intricate infrastructure project meant to create billions of value and on seating down was puzzled that the whole cabinet nodded heads and moved on to discuss fervently and very intensely whether a recently appointed Chieftainship was correct as predicted by the medium spirit of the concerned clan. On exiting the cabinet meeting he huffed and puffed to a colleague about these ‘peasants’. Too much for the modernist to gulp down his sieve of reason, science and logic.
Here is what we are simply saying: the urban sector which is very tiny has had extended brushes with the international political economy either first as colonized, second as neo-colonial and then generally as part of the liberal cosmopolitan dream. Yet the stubborn rural economy dominated by peasant subsistence remains and with it the rapid urbanization process has multiplied the ghettos which survive outside the formal economy. Professor David Moore has warned that Africa’s rising authoritarianism or the ‘arc of authoritarianism’ is a direct consequence of liberal democracy’s unfulfilled promises. Dr Simba Makoni, Dr Nkosana Moyo, Dr Manyika, Advocate Fadzai Mahere, Prof Arthur Mutambara and even to some extend our comrade Tendai Biti find themselves inserted in this puzzling international cosmopolitan dream. This is the slippery slope of modernity: one night you are dining in New York, one night you are having coffee in Brussels and the other night you are hosted at Westminster, brushing shoulders with the world’s business and political elite, yet when you return to the motherland, the ‘peasant’ remains trapped in what Mamdani called the ‘bifurcated state’ which the party-states exploits fully especially by state benevolence. Therefore, slowly and fatally, without knowing it, the political projects that the African cosmopolitans become part of and initiate want to jump millennia: the seduction is powerfully infectious, yet very suicidal.
Radical Coercive Nationalism & Social Democrats: Now What?
It is important to note that the MDC and ZANU PF have had some distinguishable ideological differentiations. In the post-colonial context ZANU PF shifted from scientific/state-socialism to neo-liberal Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes (ESAP) and over the past few decades especially after 2000 has re-generated a radical very extractive nationalist project. The central project is the retention of power, they forged some kind of a re-distribution agenda (land reform and economic indigenisation), yet more than the ideas and policy it has been the state institutions used to ward off democratization. The MDC emerged as a post-nationalist and social democratic project anchored in social and economic justice. The question which arises is how are these political projects: the PDP, Mavambo, APA and NPP building an alternative ideological framework so as to challenge the existing political parties or is it just a matter of personalities ? In the case of Nkosana Moyo he haps on this very damp idea that all we need is ‘technocratic solutions’ and by that prophesy Zimbabwe’s is on the path to a modern advanced capitalist economy. Zimbabwe’s stagnation or what Masunungure and Shumba called ‘mirred in transition’ demands much more than ‘small government’ (like less cabinet ministers) as promised by Dr Nkosana Moyo. Looked at from this perspective Dr Nkosana Moyo’s policies are no departure from those elaborated by the MDC, the NPP, PDP, NCA and even Transform Zimbabwe leaving a question as to what this brilliant physician is up to. Perhaps his confession that he ‘respects’ one Emerson Mnangagwa is an admission of the things we must expect from him if he is elected?
Movements as Organic Contestations: nationalism and post-nationalism in Zimbabwe
Often political and or social movements that become very powerful are often a logical development or culmination of decades of social and political contestation which have long been simmering. The political institution in this case, the political party becomes a necessary and reasonable development which mutates from the organic contestations. The political parties of liberation like NDP, ZANU and ZAPU were a logical development of national discontent which had always simmered between the settler garrison and the large vast of the population. This national discontent morphed from the strikes, the peasant grievances on land, the urban insurrections against pass laws and so on. Firstly, these slowly expressed themselves in petitions, then in strikes and eventually developed into militant nationalism. Secondly, these nationalist movements became powerful because they expressed social and political power that was grounded in the majority population. The MDC in 1999 was a logical development of Zimbabwe’s disillusionment with the post-colonial nationalist project which had become exhausted and the party-state was now very extractive and anti-developmental.
Chiefly the labor movement, students, women, resident groups, intellectuals, the landless movement, churches and other sections of society slowly allied together and built a social democratic alternative. The point here is that: the MDC was not conjured in a vacuum, it was forged through solidarity actions and real confrontations with those in charge of the party-state. There was no road for a middle ground, it is either one was with the status quo or with the labour backed political formation. In the case of these cosmopolitan projects one gathers their few friends, in a hotel usually, and then proceeds to go out there and mobilize the people who have no sense of solidarity with the project, no sense of identity with the project and this is simple: when the citizen has been detained in daily grinds of struggle against the party-state the elites have often been absent and there is no organic relation at all. Built on quick sand the elite political projects melt like butter in the summer sun.
Rethinking the Balance of Forces: The Possibilities for Confluences?
In a recent article Arnold Chamunogwa (Newzimbabwe, 05.07.2017) questioned whether Dr Nkosana Moyo’s APA or envisaged political project will be able to engage and or mobilise social forces that are outside the elite political orbits of Meikles Hotel. This is a serious question and we think that the question paused by the brother requires an elaboration of Zimbabwe’s balances of forces and the implication this has on any political formation seeking state power. By balance of forces we mean simply this: given the actually existing political economy one has to ponder: which are the social, political, cultural and economic classes with the political and social power to influence and or directly determine who rules Zimbabwe. Firstly, the labour movement has declined after years of de-industrialization and lack of capital investment; secondly, the student movement has whittled under defunding and nationalist authoritarianism; thirdly, the NGOs and churches that were natural allies of the opposition are on the dip in popularity and fundamentally, the land reform programme has shifted the social base as ‘new’ (very unstable) social classes emerged.
The new social base is now dominated by variegated social classes: in the urban areas, the informal economy which is un-unionized has emerged; on the resettled farms, a new class of farmers has emerged; on the mining arena, artisanal miners (makorokoza) have emerged and cross-border traders & vendors have emerged as the ordinary citizen search for livelihoods. Interestingly, at a recent SAPES Conference on Post-Liberation Movements in Southern Africa, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa spoke glowingly of the Informal Economy as one of the best thing to happen to Zimbabwe because it destroyed the base of the MDC. Yet, benign to his admiration of the informal economy is the full knowledge that it creates precarious conditions in which the dominant social classes will always require the benevolence of the dictatorship to eke its livelihood: hence, scratch my back and I scratch yours. These are some of the challenges that Zimbabwe’s cosmopolitans have to deal with in either their individual or collective form. On the other hand, the security apparatus has remained hitched to the party-state for its own reproduction.
1.2 MDC Rally: Will the cosmopolitans be with ‘the people’?
Essentially, if the experiments by Zimbabwe’s ‘advanced intellectual class’ or what we have termed the cosmopolitans is to impact the political scene they need to re-think how they stretch their imagination beyond the ‘modern’ part of the country which they are well versed with. More recently the agitation, by very brilliant people, for an National Transitional Authority (NTA) has softly slithered into the political dustbins because the architects of the idea ignored the question of balance of forces and or were not even concerned about building a political project which will make the NTA the logical development from the sharpening of political contestations. This will mean thinking reflexively about what makes sense to re-settled farmers; to the informal economy; to the rural political economy and importantly present some sort of cross-class solidarity project which goes beyond their comfort zones. As Frantz Fanon warned: our intellectual cosmopolitans will need more than a ‘bookish’ acquaintance with the African political economy.
Tinashe L. Chimedza and Tamuka C. Chirimambowa* are the Editors of Gravitas. Contact email@example.com for feedback and expanding the debate.
New Publication Alert.
Crisis, Identity and Migration in Post-Colonial Southern Africa
H.H. Magidimisha, N.E. Khalema, L. Chipungu, T. Chirimabmowa, T. Chimedza (Eds.)
This book offers a socio-historical analysis of migration and the possibilities of regional integration in Southern Africa. It examines both the historical roots of and contemporary challenges regarding the social, economic, and geo-political causes of migration and its consequences (i.e. xenophobia) to illustrate how ‘diaspora’ migrations have shaped a sense of identity, citizenry, and belonging in the region. By discussing immigration policies and processes and highlighting how the struggle for belonging is mediated by new pressures concerning economic security, social inequality, and globalist challenges, the book develops policy responses to the challenge of social and economic exclusion, as well as xenophobic violence, in Southern Africa. This timely and highly informative book will appeal to all scholars, activists, and policy-makers looking to revisit migration policies and realign them with current globalization and regional integration trends. http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319592343
Special issue call for papers from the Journal of Public Administration and Development Alternatives
A re-imagined Zimbabwe: trajectories for economic recovery, political reconstruction and national development
Dr. Sandra Makwembere, University of Limpopo, South Africa
Background and purpose of special issue
This special issue seeks to offer scholarly thought from different disciplines on the challenges and opportunities in Zimbabwe related to economic recovery, political reconstruction and national development. In recent years, Zimbabwe’s extensive economic hardships have somewhat stabilised since dollarization in 2009 but have not entirely died out. The economic growth potential, for example in agriculture and mining, could be supported not only for the benefit of the country, but the region as well. Questions that can be raised: What resources can be made available to improve the economy? What major economic growth drivers might need to be enhanced and how? In what ways can SADC enhance the economic capacities of Zimbabwe? In what ways can Zimbabwe grow the economic capacities of SADC?
The political environment is peaceful but apparent factional struggles, political party infighting and shaky party coalitions pose a challenge to the country’s development agenda. As the 2018 elections approach, a spotlight on political reconstruction is appropriate. Questions to ask are: What role can democratic institutions play in peace and stability processes? What spaces are needed to promote constructive citizenry engagement? The Zimbabwean nation is poised to rise from its many struggles like many countries in history that have seen yet overcome protracted socio-economic and political difficulties. National development strategies could achieve more if inclusivity, commitment and sustainability are cultivated. Some questions to ask: What contributions can women make in politics for national development? How do Zimbabwe’s national development strategies fit within global development goals? How can environmental vulnerabilities be managed to ensure development is not compromised? How can youth economic empowerment support national development? Authors are invited to submit interdisciplinary papers that push the boundaries of existing ideas on Zimbabwe. Both empirical and conceptual papers are welcome.
Contributions on the following topics are especially encouraged:
o Economic recovery potential & Economic reform
o Zimbabwe in SADC
o Structural imperatives for political and economic development
o National development imperatives
o Climate change strategies and capacities
o Illicit capital outflows
o Employment, unemployment and informality
o Political economy of elections
Guideline for authors
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, accepted for publication or under consideration for publication elsewhere. Length of articles should be a range of 4500 to 6000 words (including references). Abstracts should be a maximum of 250 words. Five keywords must be provided. Use Harvard reference style. Only articles written in English will be considered. Articles will go through a double-blind review process. For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submission of articles
Articles should be sent to the attention of the guest editor at email@example.com.
Submission deadline: 11 August 2017
Review process: 14 – 25 August 2017
Publication: September 2017