Zimbabwean Civil Society’s call of duty

Ever since the late 1980s Zimbabwe’s economy has been experiencing deep structural economic problems that has seen it lurch endlessly from one economic blueprint to another, with no solution. These blueprints include the infamous Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) [1991-1995], Zimbabwe Programme for Economic Recovery (ZIMPREST) [1998-2000], Millennium Economic Recovery Programme (MERP) [2001-2005], National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP), Zimbabwe Economic Development Strategy (ZEDDS), Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP), to the current Zimbabwe Agenda for Social and Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET). A key trend kneading through these economic blueprints has been massive failure due to lack of political will. Already ZIMASSET has failed to deliver three years down the line since the 31st of July 2013 Elections.


It has managed to deliver more corruption and destruction of the economy as the ruling party, ZANU PF seems clueless in addressing the challenges facing Zimbabwe. Whilst, the democratic opposition (opposition parties and civil society organisations) has managed to maintain the cost of authoritarianism high and keep ZANU PF on its toes, it has dismally failed to either offer or articulate a credible democratic alternative to the current political quagmire and economic malaise. Bond Notes and the massive corruption scandal exposures- fuelled by ZANU PF’s factional agendas- are an indication of how the democratic opposition is failing to challenge ZANU PF on what Gramsci refers to war of position. Interestingly, all hope is not lost as Zimbabwe’s civil society has generally rose to the occasion and managed to offer credible democratic alternatives in periods of crisis. For instance, in the late 1990s, Beyond ESAP and the National People’s Convention played major roles in shaping Zimbabwe’s politics for the following 2 decades. At the present moment, it seems the cart has lost its wheel and the question that begs: can civil society manage to carve and articulate a politics beyond Mugabe? I argue that the answer lies in the decisions and actions of Zimbabwean civil society actors. But it is possible to articulate a new politics that goes beyond partisan party politics.


Whilst Zimbabwe’s media has been awash with corruption exposures and claims that the state is undergoing some sort of reforms, I have argued elsewhere else that anti-corruption drives and good governance have been reduced to smoke and mirrors in ZANU PF’s hegemonic power construction projects for state domination. They have two main objectives: to advance factional agendas and to lull the democratic opposition and international community. There is no genuine agenda to reform the state at all. It will be folly for civil society to follow the theatrics of certain state institutions and actors claiming to be fighting corruption. Corruption can’t be successfully prosecuted especially when it is selective.

Professor Jonathan Moyo


A close introspection into Higher Education Minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo’s allegations exposes two glaring unexplained factors. Firstly, the conduct of Goodson Nguni in the handling of the corruption allegations points to some procedural issues that Dr Magaisa articulated well in his critique of ZACC’s ineptitude. Secondly, Minister has deliberately and tactfully thrown a gauntlet: prosecute me and we will sink together. This has the potential to render the efforts of the anti-graft body suffer a stillbirth. On the other hand, the opposition MDC dominated urban councils have been dogged by corruption. Civil society, seems to have been caught in a catch 22 situation on how to deal with corruption allegations of supposed natural allies against ZANU PF’s authoritarianism. In addition, the corruption, in Zimbabwe’s major towns point to a collusion of both MDC councillors and ZANU PF aligned bureaucracies, resulting in Zhangazha’s permanence of elite politics. This cross-party collusion has led to the normalising of the abnormal and pontificates to the poverty of our politics. Maybe civil society may need Masunungure’s anti-dote that prescribes to unyoke themselves from the MDC if they are to play any meaningful role in addressing the poverty of our politics. Anti-corruption and good governance in Zimbabwe can no-longer be addressed only within the context of disciplining an omni-present and spendthrift state. The levels of corruption and mis-governance mirrors the realities of the whole society that has lost its moral fabric. Corruption is now a modicum of defining who gets what, when and how? It is against such a background that I argue civil society now must re-imagine Zimbabwe beyond Mugabe as similarly re-imagined Zimbabwe beyond ESAP in 1996.


In 1995 the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions came up with a credible economic alternative, Beyond ESAP in response to the devastating effects of the Bretton Woods sponsored neo-liberal economic policies. In the 1990s, Zimbabwe experienced a massive wave of de-industrialisation and retrenchment that hit hard on the urban poor and working class. This was worsened by the 1992-1993 drought and I remember vividly ordinary people christening it ‘Nzara yeESAP’ (ESAP induced drought) not because the drought was caused by ESAP but because of the deadly effects on the ordinary people of the combination of drought and ESAP. Beyond ESAP was a call for a New Zimbabwe based on the principles of social justice, equity and inclusive growth. The Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development inspired a new politics and economics that led to Bond and Manyanya critiquing the IMF and World Bank sponsored policies in Zimbabwe’s Plunge: Exhausted Nationalism, Neo-liberalism and the Search for Social Justice.


In addition, Tawanda Mutasa and Deprose Muchena amongst many other young Zimbabweans under the aegis of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches initiated a constitutional movement that developed into the National Constitutional Assembly, one of Africa’s largest know constitutional movement that boasted a membership of over 600,000 members. These efforts of the late 1990s and early 2000s were also built on the early 1980s activities of the women’s movement against patriarchy and the anti-corruption movements of the late 1980s inspired by students and intellectuals. This rich history points to Zimbabwean civil society rising to the occasion and providing decisive leadership when it mattered most.


The present interregnum demands civil society to re-imagine a post Mugabe Zimbabwe. I argue so, based on the observations of the complexities of the current succession inspired anti-corruption theatrics and permanence of elite politics in Zimbabwe. This has stifled the democratisation and reform agenda to be an instrument to serve all citizens despite social class. The state has been captured by a minority parasitic bourgeoisie and certain segments of international capital in the name of anti-imperialism, indigenisation and economic empowerment. I have argued elsewhere that Mugabe’s advanced age-assuming nature will call- and the presidential term limits provided for in the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 20 Act of 2013 have already set Zimbabwe on a transition.


The question of when Mugabe goes becomes a question of time even if he were to live the for the next fifty years. This piece calls on civil society to begin to re-imagine Zimbabwe especially around the following critical areas: Land; Economy and Indigenisation; Governance; Public Infrastructure; Education; Health and other Social Amenities. In the next instalments, I seek to explore some of these debates and at the same time call upon civil society in Zimbabwe to dialogue and in re-imagine a Beyond Mugabe credible alternative.


Tamuka Chirimabowa is a Researcher and Ph.D Candidate.


picture: Professor Jonathan Moyo


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