By Takura Zhangazha*
In all of this, some of my friends on either side of Zimbabwe’s political divide anticipate revolutionary change only in its populist form. That is a change that is predicated on the assumed charisma of the people that they would follow. Not in any ideological sense. Let alone, if they are sympathetic to the ruling party, in an historical sense. What would motivate their anticipation of change would be considerations of their ability to live the ‘good life’ via the benevolence or proximity to those that would yield highly personalised political power. Or those that are feeding directly from the trough.
If there would be anything that could be considered revolutionary about their opinions it is the anticipation of personal livelihood ‘revolutions’. Getting a new car, sending the kids to the more expensive and status symbol schools while earning income that sustains, even if temporarily, a lifestyle reflective of arrival at success that is recognized by family, friends and others. As emanating from either what is said at church or in the movies or social media.
And this is across classes, an interesting phenomenon if ever there was one when analysing Zimbabwean society. The rural farmer now shares the same aspiration as the urban informal worker who in turn wants to live the life of the middle class. With the latter also wanting to live the life of the noveau rich, never mind how they get their income or sustain their lifestyles.
There would appear to be no middle road about national change expectations. We all know we are different. But we all almost aspire to the same things as measurements of individual success. As judged by peers.
So there are no fundamentally national standards of what should be progressive change in Zimbabwe. Just individualistic ones. So instead of public transport, we all want a car. Instead of a public heath system which is affordable and efficient for all, we would invariably want to have medical aid that takes us to private medical care. Or instead of improved public education we would individually prefer to send our children to profiteering schools that chase more foreign currency than they focus on creating a better future.
We may not be able to see it, but we are losing a common value thread to our national fabric. and that is the first reality that we have to contend with vis-a-vis our desire for change. Or at least our perceptions of it. our nasty version of individualism does not portend any considerations of posterity and even in its materialistic occurrence, is patently unsustainable.
The second reality is that those who are in the ruling establishment now all of this only too well. they have been riding relatively dangerous waves of public anger at their performance and are not flinching in their neo-liberal intentions. Because for them, the public anger is exactly that. Anger that is ephemeral and dissipates on the basis of a national individualism they are very comfortable with and one that they know has no patience for a collective and organic national consciousness. If it becomes a tad too high in relation to emotions, they shut down what they perceive to be its main purveyor, urban social media.
The Zimbabwe government’s change template is relatively clear now. It is to manage change expectations to the minimalist standards possible. Within a legalistic framework that would make Edmund Burke smile in his grave. It is an incrementalism that tallies with individual egos than it does a national and organic consciousnesses. For example, the ruling party will within its rights as it has a two thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, tinker withe the constitution. Legally so.
It will also permit critical expression in so far as it gives pretense at democracy for a global audience (after all the 2018 elections were about international re-engagement.) It will also allow relatively convoluted anti-corruption crusades again to play to an international private capital gallery. Above all else, it will be seen to be doing something, mixing a neo-liberal political-economic outlook with phases of state benevolence such as providing ZUPCO buses, distributing food aid and occasionally giving the impression of caring about public health institutions while at the same pursuing their privatisation.
This is a reality many of us would refuse to accept. especially if we are based in the Diaspora. But it is a reality that can no longer be wished away. For now. There is no revolution on the horizon.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)