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Rethinking Zimbabwe's 21st socio economic demands in policy formulation

12 Sep 2017 at 11:38hrs | Views
The present task of interrogating the current and preceding economic policies pursued by the government of Zimbabwe is one that requires a close attention to the unique attributes that constitute the postcolonial State. This assessment is a response to the insights propagated by Tedious Ncube in his essay Reflecting Zimbabwe's 21st socio economic demands in policy formulation
I do agree with Ncube in his assertion that the responsibilities of the government to its citizenry are exacerbated by the growth of the population and that the post-independence government has made strides in untangling the racist economic system that institutionally disenfranchised black people and sheltered white interests in a fortress of legislation.  None the less I argue that the economic dilemma that is at present cannot be viewed entirely through the lens of dialectic materialism. I propose two complexities that render the Zimbabwean context unique and therefore demand for a tailor made solution that tackles the impending and existing challenges exclusively.

The first impediment that needs to be overcome in order to pursue a systematic and comprehensive redistribution of resources is tribalism. I know this a term that has littered African scholarship for so long that some may posit that it is  now redundant or even worse irrelevant. But one cannot embark in an effort to empower the majority economically before acknowledging that the national identity is fragmented and all institutional reforms will automatically meander in accordance with the crevices in the national identity.

Before I delve deeper into the ways in which economic reform is affected by the fragmentation of national identity I will digress slightly and explore the structure of the national identity in Zimbabwe. A nation is a collective identity which means that members of the nation State essentially subscribe to a certain set of values that act as a glue or indicator of the commonality of those that are part of the 'nation'.

In the case of Zimbabwe great attention is placed on the notion of the collective fight against colonialism. Granted this was indeed a struggle that pitted a majority against a minority entrenched in privilege. But to create and conclude an identity on the premise of shared struggle does not suffice, otherwise the whole western world must be a State because they collectively fought against Hitler's Nazism. Struggle is a binding factor but it is not a super glue that attaches us and warrants that we become a continuous collective even after the struggle is over.

The diversity of the experiences of different 'Zimbabweans' strewn across the national divide is so broad that an inclusive identity would require close scrutiny and engagement with all societies that constitute this land we call Zimbabwe. To have a flag that has a Zimbabwean bird says nothing about Kalanga or Tonga culture. To designate the Great Zimbabwe Ruins a national historic site says nothing about the Nyaminyami cult and the historic sites of the Tonga.
To emphasise the importance of the struggle by individuals such as Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi leaves out the efforts of Lozikeyi and Mgandane in pitching an equal resistance to the colonial machine. To have the history and cultural symbols of a specific section of the country dominate national epistemologies creates overt and subtle power stratifications.

Foucault posits that language reflects power dynamics and therefore if his assertion is anything to go by one cannot overlook the dynamics at play in the construction and maintenance of Zimbabwe's identity. There is a clear exclusion and hierarchy reflected by the structures at present.  

Now I will return to my argument on why the current context should not be summed up in dialectic materialist perspectives. The divide that is in Zimbabwe is not only a pitted battle between the haves and the have-nots. There is a strong and integral tribal element that influences current power metrics and the distribution of resources. The President (Robert Mugabe) in his recent youth interface in Bindura talks about the 'kudya nehama' epidemic were well placed ministers promote the employment and economic advancement of fellow members of their respective 'society' at the expense of well abled members of other 'societies'. Zezuru ministers employ Zezuru civil servants and Tonga and Ndebele people are systematically excluded due to lacking 'relations' in the echelons of power.

The scourge of tribalism is not only deeply rooted but it is also overlooked. While I do contend with Tedious Ncube in saying that legislative reform is critical in offsetting the current economic inequality, I do not think that these legislative reforms can have any meaningful impact if the tribal and cultural divide is not sufficiently dealt with. The youth are indeed disillusioned but a Karanga youth does not necessarily share the same disillusionment with a Ndebele youth whose condemnations of existing political structures is not only premised on economic matters but also on tribal and cultural persecution as well.

The second facet worthy of interrogation is education. The colonial machine and its destructive impact in Zimbabwe was not homogenous. As is well known certain sections of present day Zimbabwe were occupied by settler forces before others. Particularly there was greater resistance to occupation by the Ndebele as some scholars reveal. Some sections of the Shona community took kindly to the colonial enterprise and accepted Christianity and Western education. The current dynamics of high educational proficiency in Mashonaland is a reflection of this quick uptake of Western education by the Shona. Any effort to open up the economy to the people of Zimbabwe that does not appreciate this historical fundamental will only serve to entrench tribal privilege and exclusion.

I will deal in greater length with this subject matter in a following instalment.

Eric D.Mabuto is a Post Graduate Law student and a researcher affiliated with the Siyabala Trust

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