Considerations on Zim’s future


guest column Takura Zhangazha

ZIMBABWE’S future is rarely discussed in holistic terms in everyday conversations. This is because the future is always in the immediate.

This may appear contradictory or even complex, but it is reflected in the everyday struggles of Zimbabweans to make the proverbial dollar out of fifteen (15) cents.

It is almost as though our national mindset is now auto-tuned to what I will call ”short-termism”.

That is, an approach to our political and economic existence that emphasises the immediate as opposed to the future. In this, an immediate follow up question
would be: What has caused this “short-termism”.

The answers are varied and in most cases highly politicised.

They range from blaming the ruling Zanu PF party’s fast track land reform programme for ruining the national economy and good governance, through to sanctions,
corruption, hyperinflation and of late, the decision by the government to abandon the use of multiple currencies in favour of the return of the Zimdollar.

Whatever reason one chooses, it is also apparent that there is a lot of public anger at the present political-economic situation.

And where there’s anger, there is also a search for some sort of catharsis or a moment of immediate relief.

Hence, in some cases, anger is shown via public demonstrations or strident, rhetorical and in some cases violent language on the streets of social media.

What is, however, more complex is a systematic and ideological understanding of how Zimbabwe got here in the first place, even after the departure of Mugabe and the introduction of what has come to be dubbed the “new dispensation” of his successor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The arguable reality of the matter is that the country has come full circle, from radical nationalism (under Mugabe) to moderate neo-liberalism (under the inclusive government) to full scale neo-liberalism (under Mnangagwa.

It is the latter’s policies and ideological model that matters the most in any discussions about Zimbabwe’s short and long term future.

Mnangagwa’s tight embrace of the free-market and cosying up to global capital through his promotion of the “ease of doing business” is the base that helps us outline what is in store for Zimbabwe’s political economy.

In relation to the political and at times politicised future, the economic ideological base that is neo-liberalism will require Zimbabwe’s political institutions and practices to pass the test of “international standards”.

Basically, our electoral processes and systems, together with the functions of the three main arms of government – the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature – will be more regularly subject to measurement by regional, continental and global institutions and treaties.

This does not mean they will strictly adhere to these standards, but Mnangagwa’s government will most certainly do some serious public relations on that front.

Hence, even after the “coup-not-a-coup”, the ruling Zanu Pf party went ahead with calling for elections, with the primary objective of “international legitimacy” which, with the benefit of hindsight, they appear to have acquired.

This, however, means the art and meaning of politics in Zimbabwe will be highly “performative” and populist, especially in the run-up to constitutionally anticipated elections. Politics will be undertaken in order to satisfy the basic expectations of a hegemonic neo-liberal audience and global capital.

The latter, it is hoped by Mnangagwa and his supporters, will benefit by way of an anticipated “trickle-down” effect of a ‘free market’ political economy.

The Zimbabwe government has declared itself as a pro-private capital and free market. Its economic policies also increasingly indicate so, just as is outlined in its Transitional Stabilisation Programme.

This essentially means the future holds a host of realities that range from eventual privatisation of State entities, the expansion of the private sector into social service delivery, also known as public-private partnerships and the reduction of the regulatory role of government in the market.

So those that will bear the brunt of “austerity” are the ordinary working people of Zimbabwe. The costs of goods and services will definitely become unaffordable to many.

The priority will remain private capital, in servitude to what many economic pundits and the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund will approve as global best practices of “emerging economies”.

Economic benevolence will, however, be shown during electoral periods in order to curry favour with voters.

This brings us to the third consideration on the future of Zimbabwe, namely its social environment. Over the years and as a direct result of attendant political-economic hardships endured by a majority of people, Zimbabwe has become a highly individualistic society.

For students of global political economy, this is arguably a result of neoliberal economic policies that deliberately focus on the individual and the market.

In Zimbabwe’s case, the breakdown of social services and abandonment of the welfare system under Mugabe’s tutelage and now being followed through by his successor has meant that socially, Zimbabweans now only focus on their individual and immediate needs for everyday social services.

This tendency toward individualism has also been strengthened by a global consumerist culture for goods and services that again focus on the individual. Hence, many young Zimbabweans are always seeking ways and means to emigrate to countries that can make their individual lives ‘better’.

This is a trend that is not likely to dissipate in the near or distant future.

For collective perceptions of reality, citizens will continue to turn to religion for a sense of self-worth and belonging, especially those religions that emphasise individual wealth accumulation.

To conclude, I will revert back to my opening line on how, for many Zimbabweans, the future is in the immediate and not the long term.

And as I have argued in preceding paragraphs, the future is perceived in highly individualistic ways.

In order to get out of such a future, we will have to learn to always think about the bigger ideological future as a whole and seek pragmatic ways to try and ensure that it is people-centred, welfarist and fully considers those that will come after us.