Here’s an excerpt from a recent Parliamentary Round Up Bulletin published by Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust. I reckon women would opt for equal rights, equal pay and safety from harm in their homes and on the streets over getting a day off.

Hon. Thokozani Khupe (MDC-T) moved a motion in the National Assembly urging the Executive to declare the 8th of March a national holiday to commemorate womanhood and women’s rights. She said that on the 8th of March every year, women all over the world come together to celebrate their economic, political and social achievements. Hon. Khupe highlighted that women in Zimbabwe contributed more than 80% of the Gross Domestic Product but it was sad that their contribution went unnoticed. She noted that at the moment the country was highly informalised and that women constituted 70% of the informal traders. Hon. Khupe also bemoaned the fact that despite the pivotal role women played in mobilizing supporters for their political parties as well as voting for their political parties in big numbers, they were still under-represented in political and public offices. She cited the current scenario of women representation at the Parliament of Zimbabwe, which she said fell far short of the recommended African Union and SADC threshold of 50%. She also lamented the fact that despite the fact that women’s rights were provided for in the Constitution, women were yet to enjoy these rights in reality. The motion was supported across the political divide. However, some Members had reservations regarding declaring 8 March as a national public holiday as they argued that the country already had too many public holidays.

Press Release from MISA-Zimbabwe:

MISA-Zimbabwe welcomes the licensing of eight urban-based commercial radio stations by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) as a development that marks the decentralisation of broadcasting in the country.

Following the conducting of public hearings from August 2014 to September 2014, BAZ on 3 March 2015 announced the issuance of licences to five successful companies. These include AB Communications, which will broadcast as Gogogoi FM in Masvingo and Faya FM in Gweru, Kingstons, which will broadcast as Nyaminyami FM in Kariba and KE100.4 in Harare.

Fairtalk Communications, which will broadcast as Skyz Metro FM in Bulawayo and Breeze FM in Victoria Falls, Zimpapers’ Diamond FM in Mutare and Ray of Hope, which will broadcast as YA FM in Zvishavane, were also granted licences. This brings to 10 the total number of commercial radio stations broadcasting in the country.

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MISA-Zimbabwe is however concerned that the licensing of the new stations has simply amounted to the expansion of the media that are directly under state control and associated with the ruling elite.

The majority shares in AB Communications are held by Minister of Information Communication Technologies and Courier Services Supa Mandiwanzira’s family Trust, while Zimpapers and Kingstons are under state control.  Zimpapers and AB Communications already own two commercial national radio stations.

The concentration of ownership of broadcast services by the state and those linked to the ruling party betrays authorities’ drive to dominate and monopolise the broadcast media space under the guise of private ownership.

Apart from exposing the liberalisation of the airwaves as a charade, the monopolisation of ownership severely compromises Zimbabweans’ right to freely express themselves and access information through independent and diverse media platforms while ensuring they are subjected to the dominant narrative of the Zimbabwean story by state actors.

MISA-Zimbabwe also notes that of the initial 21 applicants, 18 were shortlisted for public hearings.  Of the 18, six applicants failed to make it due to non -payment of the steep statutory public enquiry fee of $7 500 within the stipulated deadline period.

The application fees which amount to $10 000 inclusive of the initial $2 500 application fee are prohibitively exorbitant resulting in elitist ownership of the broadcasting sector.

For instance, application fees in South Africa are pegged at R3 000 which is about $300 and shockingly 3 233% cheaper.

It is against such developments that MISA-Zimbabwe continues to call for a complete overhaul of the country’s broadcasting regulatory and licensing regime to ensure that citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed right to establish broadcast services is not hindered by undue restrictions and allow for a genuinely diverse and democratic broadcasting sector.

Source: MISA-Zimbabwe

An personal essay Tendai Biti has just been published by the Center for Global Development:

On a chilly Monday morning on February 16th, 2009, I walked into the New Government Complex in Harare’s Central Avenue. As I strode for the very first time down a poorly lit corridor, eyes strained and necks stretched behind wide open doors to catch a glimpse of the newcomer with a reputation for short temper. I was ushered into a comfortable office that was to become my home for the next four and a half years.

I had just become Zimbabwe’s eighth Minister of Finance.

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In 2008, the country had held a general election. Our opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had narrowly won control of the lower house of Parliament. The Presidential election, on the other hand, had to go to a second round, which turned into a violent and chaotic farce. This prompted our party to pull out of the runoff. Robert Mugabe, the 84-year-old president of Zimbabwe, was controversially re-elected amid bloodshed and intimidation.

Faced with a Zimbabwe on the brink of a political and economic precipice that threatened to plunge the region into turmoil, regional leaders pushed for a political settlement. The country’s economic meltdown had already been weighing on its neighbors, and in March 2007, regional leaders had mandated South Africa to facilitate dialogue amongst Zimbabwe’s three main political parties. Following the controversial 2008 election, South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki, used that mandate to push for a settlement amongst the Zimbabwe National African Union-Patriotic Front, or ZANU (PF), led by Robert Mugabe, the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai and a smaller formation of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara, a former student leader, Rhodes Scholar and Oxford-trained scientist. On September 15th, 2008, the political parties agreed in principle to form a government of national unity (GNU). As a result of protracted and often vicious disagreements, it took five months for that awkward union to produce an actual government.

It was on the basis of this power-sharing agreement that I found myself at the Ministry of Finance on February 16th, 2009—an environment far removed from the law practice that I had run for the previous 18 years. This hadn’t been an easy decision. As the MDC’s Secretary General, I was opposed to the idea of being in government with ZANU (PF), but on January 30th, my party had decided otherwise. Some friends argued that I should be part of the government and make the best of it. Following years of struggle and hardship, my family, on the other hand, was urging me to take a break from politics. In any case, the Justice portfolio felt like the only reasonable fit for a lawyer like myself, and it had been allocated to ZANU (PF).

On February 8th, Morgan Tsvangirai and I met for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Harare. Over rice and dumplings, he convinced me to take on the Finance portfolio. With the Zimbabwean economy in freefall since 1997, it promised to be the toughest job in the world.

Any illusions I may have had were shattered on my very first day at the Ministry of Finance (MOF). Following introductions to the senior management team, the Principal Director (Budgets), Pfungwa Kunaka, pointed out that the following day was payday for civil servants.

“How much do we have to pay?” I asked.

“$30 million, sir” he responded.

“How much do we have?”

He shook his head in surrender. “$4 million, sir.”

“So where are we going to get the remaining $26 million?” I asked with a half-smile, beginning to understand what I had just gotten myself into.

“We were waiting for you, sir.”

Read the full essay here

by Koliwe Nyoni Majama

Currently Zimbabwe is gearing itself up for two significant developments in the broadcasting industry – the announcement of the successful local commercial licence applicants submitted to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) in 2014 and the digital migration that will see the country move from analogue to digital broadcasting. Both processes offer the opportunity for reflection on the realities of local content production in the country as they directly affect the broadcasting industry.

The country expects an increase in the number of players in radio broadcasting following pronouncements at a Press club discussion held 14 February, 2015 by the Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting, Professor Jonathan Moyo that  authorities  will by the end of this month announce nine of the successful applicants. This follows the submission of the results of the vetting process by the BAZ to the ministry. Zimbabweans also expect the licensing of community radio by December this year.

What the coming on-air of more radio stations translates to is more opportunities for the industry, and in this instance independent radio productions and a boom in the music industry. Both these sectors have, over the years, received very little funding support and had very few options for the airing of that content, as the country had very few licensed broadcasters. However, there are other considerations to be made so that the country harnesses fully the ‘opening up of the airwaves’, and realises professional, diverse and fully–fledged local content in Zimbabwean broadcasts.

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To date, a snap shot of the current broadcasting industry, very few independent productions are aired on Zimbabwean radio and television, a reflection of the challenges shared at the 2014 MISA-Zimbabwe Stakeholders broadcasting conference, by Independent film producer Tapfuma Machakaire. These include among other issues, the stringent commissioning conditions and editorial control and quality of productions, as set by the broadcasting entities.

The import of digitisation in the television industry in Zimbabwe is apparent when one looks at the only television channel in the country – ZTV. Undoubtedly the challenges that ZTV faces in meeting its obligatory quota will definitely filter down to the new television broadcasting players. At this juncture what is required is diversity in television production to include a variation in content for documentaries, diversity in language use in sitcoms, diversity in socio economic and political issues in drama and even exploring reality TV that genuinely reflects Zimbabwean day to day experiences.

Undoubtedly, the digital migration process will bring with it the possibility for more channels for both radio and television, and this is because digital broadcast signals can be compressed and offer more channels for programming in the freed up spectrum that previously was only able to transmit a single analogue channel. With digitisation Zimbabwe’s approximated four available television channels will increase five- fold.

It is this reality that makes Minister Moyo’s recent announcement on his Twitter account of a local content development fund through the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ) and a ‘low budget’ film fund, a welcome development.

Funding of the sector is provided for in Section 29 of the BSA with the creation of broadcasting fund which inter-alia aims to provide grants to encourage the growth of the Zimbabwean creative industry including film and music industry to meet the local content obligations of broadcasting licensees. However, the administration and procedures of accessing the fund by broadcast stakeholders, let alone   local content producers, is not clear.

While already existing efforts are currently underway for a supplementary sustainability fund, there is need for a specific law that provides for funding within the sector and laid out principles relating to the processes of accessing that fund. It is this fund that should adequately cater for the current needs for capacity in particularly the independent production sector, and enable producers to meet the demand.  The reality, however, remains that for those that are licensed, there is need to ensure that they still adopt business models to make their channels financially viable.

Another recommendation is one that is advocated by stakeholders who attended the 2014 Stakeholders conference. This relates to the need for a sound local content policy framework be developed for the industry. The Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) outlines specific quotas for local content for various licensees in Section 11(3) and its 6th schedule ranging between 70 & 80 % for most broadcasters of Zimbabwean content, 10% of African content in some instances and around 30% for subscription broadcasters. There, however, needs to be clarity in the definition of what constitutes local content,particularly that, in some sections of the 6th schedule it is referred to as “Zimbabwean content”

Another key consideration relating to the policy includes the review of the existing quota, basing on a regional survey of neighbouring countries and an analysis of the extent to which the current broadcasters are compliant with the quotas. Monitoring of and compliance with quota stipulations is also critical within the policy. While Section 41(a) of the BSA  mandates every broadcaster to make and keep a record of every program broadcast and make available for inspection by the Broadcasting Authority at its request, it is not clear how proper monitoring of adherence to local content measures is conducted. Compliance with the payment of royalties to the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) by broadcasters, and reliance on them in the process, clearly demonstrates the importance of ensuring that there is a process of monitoring that compliance of broadcasters. Challenges have been faced in the payment and collection of royalties to the point that ZIMURA is putting in place a system to monitor playlists on all radio and television stations in the country. This, the organisation hopes, will ensure transparency in collection of annual airplay royalties for musicians in view of digitisation.

Suffice to say, the current quotas are seemingly high against a local content production system that is barely existent especially for film industry. In South Africa, for instance, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) requires public broadcasters to source 40% of the content from independent producers, with 70% local news and 60% on programmes.

So, as the country approaches the International Telecommunications Union’s July 2015 deadline, it is apparent that wholesome support of the production sector is of paramount importance. It is this transition from analogue to digital broadcasting that should harness our diversity as a country. This can only be achieved through a vibrant, sustainable and diverse productions sector which would use minority languages, not usually catered for in the mainstream, and allow for creativity around critical social, economic and political issues affecting our lives today.

*Koliwe is the Programme Officer for Broadcasting and ICT at the Media Institute of Southern Africa. Comments and questions relating to digitisation can be emailed to koliwe [at] misazim [dot] co [dot] zw

Mo Ibrahim prize

If your President’s birthday party costs about $1 million what hope for him to be seduced by a $5 million carrot to leave office?

Inspiring architecture in Africa

http://www.kerearchitecture.com/projects/primary-school-gando/

As a native of Burkina Faso, Diébédo Francis Kéré grew up with many challenges and few resources. When he was a child, he travelled nearly 40 kilometers to the next village in order to attend a school with poor lighting and ventilation. The experience of trying to learn in this oppressive environment affected him so much that when he began to study architecture in Europe, he decided to reinvest his knowledge towards building a new school in his home village. With the support of his community and funds raised through his foundation, Schulbausteine fuer Gando (Bricks for Gando), Francis began construction of the Primary School, his very first building.

The design for the Primary School evolved from a lengthy list of parameters including cost, climate, resource availability, and construction feasibility. The success of the project relied on both embracing and negating these constraints. In order to maximize results with the minimal resources available, a clay/mud hybrid construction was primarily used. Clay is abundantly available in the region, and is traditionally used in the construction of housing. These traditional clay-building techniques were modified and modernized in order to create a more structurally robust construction in the form of bricks. The clay bricks have the added advantage of being cheap, easy to produce, and also providing thermal protection against the hot climate. Despite their durability, however, the walls must still be protected from damaging rains with a large overhanging tin roof. Many houses in Burkina Faso have corrugated metal roofs which absorb the heat from the sun, making the interior living space intolerably hot. The roof of the Primary School was pulled away from the learning space of the interior though, and a perforated clay ceiling with ample ventilation was introduced. This dry-stacked brick ceiling allows for maximum ventilation, pulling cool air in from the interior windows and releasing hot air out through the perforated ceiling. In turn, the ecological footprint of the school is vastly reduced by alleviating the need for air-conditioning.

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Although the plans for the Primary School were drawn by Francis, the success of the project can be attributed to the close involvement of the local villagers. Traditionally, members of a whole village community work together to build and repair homes in rural Burkina Faso. In keeping with this cultural practice, low-tech and sustainable techniques were developed and improved so that the Gando villagers could participate in the process. Children gathered stones for the school foundation and women brought water for the brick manufacturing. In this way, traditional building techniques were utilized alongside modern engineering methods in order to produce the best quality building solution while simplifying construction and maintenance for the workers.

After the Primary School was completed, it became a landmark of community pride and received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004. As the collective knowledge of construction began to spread and inspire Gando, new cultural and educational projects have since been introduced to further support sustainable development in the village. A Primary School Extension and Teacher’s Housing were built to support the overwhelming demand of educational resources. As of yet, a Secondary School, School Library, Women’s Center, and Atelier are still under construction and pending funds.

UNAIDS recently passed on this good news:

The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, has signed a new anti-discrimination bill into law that protects the rights and dignity of people living with HIV. The HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act 2014 makes it illegal to discriminate against people based on their HIV status. It also prohibits any employer, individual or organization from requiring a person to take an HIV test as a precondition for employment or access to services. It is hoped that the new law will create a more supportive environment, allowing people living with HIV to carry on their lives as normally as possible. More than three million people are living with HIV in Nigeria.

Ever walked into a supermarket and seen a product priced ‘$3.25’ and by the time you get to the till operator the same product is a different price? Or bought a product and returned it to the store only to see the shopkeeper pointing to little sign in a corner ‘No returns. No refunds.’ Or the most likely scenario, if you are using public transport (makombi) and the driver, upon seeing the police starts to speed his car and escape and the windscreen is smashed by the police using a sjambok with you and other passengers inside?

Who is protecting the consumer of goods and services in Zimbabwe?

I will share my own experience of being a vulnerable consumer of health services in Zimbabwe. Last year I took my son to the Avenues Clinic to get a Rota virus vaccine – before the Health Ministry had rolled out the programme – as my son had been exposed to a child who had the virus. So we get to the clinic’s pharmacy and are told the vaccine is available but one needs a prescription to purchase it. Cool, we pay cash for a doctor’s consultation. We go into the consultation room to see the doctor; I make it clear to him that we need to get the child vaccinated for the Rota virus. His response was, “I don’t know about this, let me go and enquire.” He leaves us in the consultation room and returns after some minutes with feedback that they were only administering the vaccine to affected children admitted in the wards. He realises my son had a cold and attends to that. I ask him to check if my son by any chance was showing signs of being asthmatic since I was. With a little prescription we left.

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A month later I got a call from Avenues Clinic informing me they were taking me to the debt collectors because I hadn’t settled an outstanding bill with them. They mentioned they sent a letter asking for a shortfall payment, which I never received. The shortfall suggested that we had overstayed in the consultation room! And they were charging me $45 for that. I flew into a rage and swore never to pay a single cent to them. If Avenues Clinic have a limit to the amount of time patients spend in the consultation room then they Must make sure people know that. And then again is there such a thing that you only get to stay in their consultation rooms for a specified length of time for a service you are parting your cash with? Not fair! Why didn’t they make it known to us we had overstayed and charged us for that immediately after leaving the consultation room. I had paid using a $100 note and they mentioned not having change; they only gave me the change after we had seen the doctor. Was this not the appropriate time to mention the overstaying extra charge and deduct that from the money I had tendered? If we had used medical aid, such a charge would have been sent directly to the company without us knowing.

So after making calls to Avenues Clinic accounts department and being transferred and put on hold and back and forth, I made it clear to them that I wasn’t going to pay anything. I told them I was prepared to take the legal route. I then received a call from a lady I had last spoken to days before saying, “We would like to apologise there a mistake on your account, the person who was working on it made a mistake.” And that was it from them.

The Ministry of Industry and Commerce launched the draft Consumer Protection Bill in October 2014. If this Bill is to pass through parliament it will be the first legal instrument in Zimbabwe protecting consumers. As it stands to this day arbitration is used to dissolve consumer related issues in Zimbabwe.

I managed to attend the final public consultative meeting held by Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) in Harare recently. And what I learned, in regard to my health scenario described above, if this Act is in place it will enable the creation of registered consumer organisations across the sectors be it banking, health, public transport, telecommunications – you name it.

That means there will be authorities or organisations seeking to protect consumer interests that I could easily lay my complaint with. As of today I understand a regulatory authority, Medial and Dental Practitioners Council of Zimbabwe could have been my first point of call in laying a complaint. I believe I am a responsible consumer, and attendees at the meeting suggested that the draft Bill should also include a section on responsibilities of the consumer taking into account that not everyone is a responsible consumer.

To download the copy of the Bill you can click here. To share your input into the Bill, get in touch with the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe.

Community Radio Harare (CORAH) reports that: The Zimbabwe HIV and AIDS Activists Union Community Trust (ZHAAU-CT) is setting up HIV and AIDS health service monitoring committees throughout the country to monitor the availability of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) services in health care centres. The organisation’s president Stanley Takaona said the move will help raise awareness on possible drug shortages as well as other challenges faced by HIV positive people. “As people who have recovered from HIV–related illnesses through ARVs services, we have seen it prudent to monitor provision of HIV–related health services by setting up grassroots structures that will monitor and report challenges faced by HIV positive people in accessing drugs and also bringing to light issues of stigma and discrimination at clinics and hospitals,” said Takaona who started taking ARVs more than 10 years ago. The ZHAAU – CT leader lamented the issue of user fees in public hospitals, which he said were still a major challenge affecting HIV positive citizens. “We are still engaging with health authorities in that issue which remains a challenge and we hope very soon if the economy improves they (user fees) will be relaxed,” he added. Health care centres charge between $3 and $6 on HIV patients when they visit to collect their medication.

by Fambai Ngirande

Zimbabwe is no country for young people. With a life expectancy of 55, it’s understandable that celebrating old people’s birthdays should be done with a bit more gusto than the average Zimbabwean celebration, weddings included. Most Zimbabweans will not make it to 60 let alone 91. And so it seems there can be no better national occasion to indulge the national obsession with longevity than the President’s own birthday. All roads (and flights) lead to Victoria Falls for the annual birthday bash this weekend. A truly first class celebration for the first citizen; not only for his being alive but no doubt additionally for his diverse and impressive list of achievements including the wealth he has brought for the rich and powerful (whom we are made to understand are footing the bulk of the bill, no expense spared). Do not worry about missing a thing, the party will be televised for the masses’ enjoyment replete with heartfelt praise singing and awe struck oaths of eternal loyalty by the country’s self-absorbed political elite to their revered leader. As usual the event will be decorated by the presence of many young people in t-shirts and revolutionary garb – yes those neat little uniforms with red sashes – to render real the make believe that the occasion is all about them.

You could almost excuse the extravagance; after all it’s a rare and venerable thing to grow old in Zimbabwe; what is inexcusable however is the juxtaposition of February 21 with a faux commitment to the country’s youth. The linkage of February 21 and anything youthful is an oxymoron of note. Those smiley group pictures with young people are but an insult to the lived reality of a generation whose future has been stolen by years of abysmal policies and reckless stewardship of the country’s resources. 2.2 million Jobs anyone? Chiadzwa diamonds anyone? Nothing.

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No doubt this is a good time to be older. But that comes a distant second to being older and part of the ruling elite. It’s the elders among the ruling elites whose turn it is to rule and eat and rule and benefit and rule and get way with things. As things currently stand, all things are possible when you rule. All things are also permissible. For those fortunate to be anywhere close to the throne investing in the rhetoric and fanfare of February 21 is rendered worthwhile by the fact that being connected and remaining so is literally worth its weight in gold. On the contrary and just as the uncle and nephew duo of Didymus (formerly of the Mutasa clan) and Themba “about to lose a farm” will confirm; material prospects decline astronomically when one is thrown outside of the ruling class. Other uncles and nephews beware. Even Morgan now bereft of Prime Ministerial perks will testify the same. There must be a political bible somewhere that says “seek ye first the political kingdom and all things shall be given unto you, lose it and you shall suffer.” The giving in the political kingdom does not end; from farms to street names to banks to degrees it’s all there for the taking. Political elites are generous benefactors unto themselves. They are also the sole beneficiaries of a system rigged to facilitate astronomical accumulation of wealth for a few and indigenisation for the many (read misika, mazitye, zvimbadzo and all the trappings of a dog-eat-dog informal economy).

This year’s celebration comes at a crescendo in the life and times of the first citizen. The list of achievements is especially impressive; remarkably overshadowing the normal list of local tittles to include the twin jewels of leadership of both SADC and African Union. Understandably awe struck by this estimable list the Youth League of the ruling party has called for February 21 to be declared Mugabe day. It’s only a question of time before this wish is granted and future February 21s will be days to celebrate the life and work of one of Zimbabwe’s most illustrious leaders, joining Christmas as the only other day the few Zimbabweans in active employment will be allowed to skip work in order to celebrate a single person’s birthday.

A man of many struggles from the heroic struggles against colonialism and imperialism to struggles against illiteracy and food insecurity, the President has earned the right to be celebrated. Who would have thought a humble cow herding boy would rise to lead a people’s struggle for independence or to challenge racist neo-imperialist injustices at a global stage? If a man is a product of his struggles then the President has been fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to struggle against things that bring out the best in a man. However in contra-distinction to the President’s good fortune, we see an entire generation struggling against issues that bring out the worst in a people, injustices that the First Citizen himself in the spirit of Chimurenga would have risen against. We see the absurd norm of educated young men reaching their thirties without ever having a formal job and whose daily battle is to remain sane in an unforgiving economy without resort to zed, nyaope or the next illicit drug. We see the young woman in Epworth or Hopley whose most viable livelihood option is to sell herself three dollars at a time in order to put food on the table. Or even the young child forced to skip school in order to accompany a disabled parent to beg for food. I could go on but the catalogue of struggles is at once inexhaustible and inexcusable.

Barely three decades after the first citizen himself heralded the promise of “Gutsa ruzhinji” to a liberated people anxious to succeed in the task of self-rule for the betterment of all not just the rich and powerful, Zimbabweans are now forced to contend against man-made challenges that continuously debase the continent’s most literate people into a pool of vendors and street merchants with ever declining prospects. The young people of this country deserve better struggles. Far from bringing out the next legendary African leader these thankless struggles to survive breed a generation so entrapped by poverty and lack of opportunity that they will never experience the Chimurenga promise of true freedom in their own homeland let alone become famous icons.
It will be asking too much for February 21 and its customary deluge of hero worshipping to change the fortunes of the country’s young people in one revolutionary swoop. Important people’s birthdays never did accomplish much anyway. But a little bit of honesty every February 21 would go a long way. That honesty would begin with an acknowledgement by the ruling elites that they have failed the young people of this country and a realisation that the benefits of Chimurenga, land reform and indigenisation are yet to reach the youth (ordinary ones not their own). Quite possibly the honesty would elicit some soul searching by the ruling elites leading to a season of regret for amongst other things the struggle they have betrayed and the future that they have destroyed for millions. Thereafter the regret will culminate in urgent steps to realise the electoral promises of empowerment and employment. I am hopeful that the first citizen will announce on the occasion of the delayed February 21 bash presents such as plans to stem the haemorrhaging of jobs accompanied by concurrent investment in a robust industrialisation drive to create new ones. Another present in keeping with the spirit of February 21 would be the announcement of state subsidies for early child development school and tertiary education targeting youth from resource poor backgrounds funded by increased taxes on the rich and luxury imports. One more February 21istic present could be announcement of greater investment in agricultural training and further land redistribution to young trained agriculturists.

These hopes are not unfounded – there is a strong chance that the first citizen will draw from the spirit of February 21 the youthful zeal to punctuate the remaining years in his current term with robust efforts to remedy the morbid state of the country’s youth. Sadly and as the preparations have hinted, this will probably be yet another instalment of the ruling elites perpetual orgy of greed and flattery. Most chances are that the bash will be like its predecessors a self-absorbed celebration of one man by a self-contained ruling elite insulated by wealth and power from the realities of the many impoverished youth. A change to the contrary would be a wonderful surprise and perhaps then we can excuse the ruling elites for eating cake.

*Fambai Ngirande writes what he likes.