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'quiet- transformation of Zimbabwean society
May 09, 2012
discourse on the challenges that Zimbabwe has faced in the last
ten years has been given as that which has its root causes in the
political realm. In explanations as to why the country is where
it is, and specifically in the aftermath of the advent of the global
spread of liberal democratic values, academics and laypersons alike
have referred to the root cause of the general crisis in Zimbabwe
as a 'crisis of governance-. Such a description of the
problems the country has faced has also been taken to mean that
it is the manner in which Zimbabweans are governed that has been
the source of the current and even previous unpalatable state of
affairs in the country.
This would be
'crisis of governance' causal effect has included identifying the
'democratic deficit- of Zimbabwe's political system
as the primary reason as to why we no longer have either social
welfare, decent levels of foreign direct investment or even why
our own citizens are leaving the country in droves at every turn
Because in any
event, the same said 'crisis of governance- still obtains,
it is however important to point out that the country has however
not stopped functioning in one way or the other. Whereas the late
Professor Masipula Sithole referred the manner in which Zimbabwe
started functioning after 1997 as an exercise in 'normalizing
the abnormal-, it remains true that however one may view it,
we still have a state that is undergoing seen and unseen changes.
changes (or lack thereof) are those that relate to what I have referred
to earlier as being determined by the cliche, 'a crisis of
governance- which is mainly defined by the lack of a number
of democratic mechanisms such as free and fair elections, separation
of powers, a democratic constitution amongst other matters that
relate to various indices on democracy.
The second and
for the purposes of this article, more important change to Zimbabwean
society has however been the 'unseen change' which has tended to
evade or be evaded by political actors. This 'unseen' change is
primarily experienced by the majority poor or 'underbelly-
of Zimbabwean society and can be described as the comprising the
'quiet change- in the country. It is a change that has
to deal with the new, stark and harsh realities that the everyday
citizen has to face in Zimbabwe, no matter what the political leaders
are saying at any given point in time.
are indicative of the transformation of the state from being 'benign'
to being completely negligent to the livelihoods of the populace
through inorganic planning and outsourcing of social welfare needs
to either international NGOs or corporate (read as South African
and Chinese) capital. The overall impact of such an approach by
the state has led to literally 'revolutionary- change
in how Zimbabweans survive on a regular basis as well as how this
has negatively affected our social value systems.
are now of the firm understanding that even where they had confidence
in the state seeking to assist them out of poverty or humanitarian
disasters, it is an unrealistic collective expectation. This, not
because of big ideological battles on the role of the state but
simply on the basis of the nonchalance of political leaders when
it comes to matters that have no bearing on political power as an
end in itself.
This has led
to many citizens pursuing 'survival' tactics in activities that
relate but are not limited to the informal economy (cross-border
linked trading), farming under the fast track land reform programme
(even if their political party of choice is against it), resorting
to crime (including syndicates taking advantage of vulnerable young
women for commercial sex work) , finding solace in religion and
superstition or alternatively simply emigrating from the country
and leaving behind disjointed families and communities. Even where
some citizens are employed formally, it is mainly to augment or
finance the informal activities that are cited above.
these activities the attendant socioeconomic culture is one that
is resigned to the 'each man for himself and God for us all!-
mantra. This is tragically so even where there should be collective
concern over services that are intended to technically ensure basic
human equality for all such as health, education, shelter and access
As a matter
of consequence, the sad thing to note about the above cited realities
is that they have taken on a life of their own. That is to say,
the negative state of affairs vis-a-vis the general lack of a social
welfarist and responsible state has begun producing an increasingly
societally 'acceptable- knowledge and cultural system
(increasingly via ICTs) of its own for younger Zimbabweans who may
no longer harbour idealistic notions of democracy for a society
that seems to have neglected them.
becomes this 'quiet change' that is most definitive of the future
of Zimbabwe, after all the slogans have been shouted. It is a change
that is easy to ignore given the Manichean character of Zimbabwe's
politics but it is the reality that a greater majority of Zimbabweans
have to face every day. Where political, civil and religious leaders
do not address the 'abnormalised normal- in Zimbabwe-s
'underbelly-, we have a real crisis on our hands. And
it will not just be one of 'governance- but of a complete
collapse of the legitimacy of the Zimbabwean state.
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