Statement for International Women’s Day


This year’s UN theme is Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture it!” and it is a call for people to visualise a present and a future in which all of humanity is empowered because women and girls have been empowered. It is recognition that the energy, talent and strength of women and girls represent humankind’s most invaluable untapped natural resource. It is a call to the individual responsibility to imagine the world as it could be, and to do what one can to achieve that vision. It is also, more pertinently, a nudge and reminder to governments, civil society and public and private sectors to commit to gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls – as a fundamental human right and a force for the benefit of all.

Working for equality for women and girls around the globe is the key to fighting poverty, political instability and social injustice and all the evils that beleague society in its broadest sense. Over the years, the struggle to get women’s rights integrated into the general human rights framework and to have key decision making institutions recognise the importance of issues related to women and girls have been fruitful. Every major institution and government has at the very least acknowledged that ending discrimination and violence against women are fundamental to achieving gender equality. Many have committed to working on these issues.

This year as the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), we commemorate International Women’s Day in Zimbabwe, by reawakening a call to all actors to remind us of where we ought to be. For when we empower a woman we empower a nation. Empowering the women of Zimbabwe means we must strive to provide educational opportunities for all girls and women of all ages, for them to be able to realise their full potential. No girl child should be deprived of this opportunity for any reason.

It means ending gender based violence in the private and public sphere. .We must strive with every breath to eradicate all traditional, cultural and social practices that continue to discriminate and dehumanise the women of Zimbabwe.

All laws must be aligned to International human rights standards and the Constitution to ensure that every woman has full and equal dignity as well as have equal opportunities with men.. Until we all make this commitment, we cannot move forward as a nation.

For until we all acknowledge in word and in practice that women are the core of our humanity we will never change our reality. Let us continue to work together to make this world a better place for all women. Together we can make it happen!

What’s a Mere Constitution to One Appointed by God to Govern?

By Derek Matyszak

What is a mere constitution for one appointed by God to govern?

The transcript of the interview granted by Mugabe to the national broadcaster to mark his 91st birthday makes for depressing reading.

ZANU PF’s 6th National People Congress purported to ratify various amendments to the party constitution, including removing a requirement that one of the two Vice-Presidents be a woman. Previously the constitution established a Presidium of four as part of the Central Committee, providing for a President and First Secretary, a National Chairman and stating that there must be

“two Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries one of whom shall be a woman ….elected by Congress directly upon nomination by at least six (6) Provincial Co-ordinating Committees. After the amendment, the same clause was changed to read that there must be:

Two (2) Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries appointed in accordance with the Unity Accord by the President for their skill, experience, probity, integrity and commitment to the party ideology, values, principles and policies.

When asked about this change during the birthday interview President Mugabe responded:

Ah, have we removed it? I do not think we have removed it. We just ignored it for now….

This response is remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, despite having emphatically stated that he remains in charge of the party, Mugabe appears unaware of this important change to the party constitution by his supposed underlings. The second point of note is the unabashed admission by Mugabe of believing himself entitled to simply ignore the rules of the party as set out in its constitution. Since it is Mugabe, and Mugabe alone, who appoints the Vice-Presidents, the “we” who claimed to ignore the constitution is solely Mugabe. Mugabe had also chosen, immediately after the Congress, to ignore the requirement, set out in the same section, section 32, that a National Chairman must be appointed. The requirement in the ZANU PF Constitution that “women shall constitute at least one third of the total membership of the principal organs of the Party…” never seems to have been applied. Yet as part of the same response to the question about the amendment, in almost the same breath, Mugabe also stated:

…you must be a disciplinarian, obedient to the rules of the party. A good disciplinarian is the one who first applies discipline to himself or herself. You apply it to oneself you don’t go against the rules of the party. You follow the rules of the party….

This cameo encapsulates Mugabe’s style of governance – the delegation of duties to his underlings, but with little attention paid thereafter to how those duties are carried out or supervision. His minions are left to their own devices. And the belief that rules, procedures and constitutional requirements, which somehow do not apply to him, must be scrupulously followed by others, when he so demands. No restriction on doing what he deems expedient is even conceived of.

As with ZANU PF, so with the country….

“We had to show them who is in charge.”

By Tony Reeler

We all have an unscientific weakness for being always in the right, and this weakness seems to be particularly common among professional and amateur politicians. But the only way to apply something like scientific method in politics is to proceed on the assumption that there can be no political move which has no drawbacks, no undesirable consequences. To look out for these mistakes, to find them, to bring them into the open, to analyse them, and to learn from them, this is what a scientific politician as well as a political scientist must do. Scientific method in politics means that the great art of convincing ourselves that we have not made any mistakes, of ignoring them, of hiding them, and of blaming others for them, is replaced by the greater art of accepting the responsibility for them, of trying to learn from them, and of applying this knowledge so that we may avoid them in future.” (Karl Popper, The Poverty of Historicism)

The comment from Blade Nzimande says it all, and the scales have finally dropped from the eyes of all in Southern Africa. As the South African parliament descended into chaos, we realize now that the “miracle” that is (was?) South Africa was merely a temporary aberration from “normal” Southern African politics, and we can see that the “deep structure” of democracy – tolerance of criticism – has yet to embed itself in South Africa, as it has not in the whole Southern African region. This is the point of the Popper quote: that unless there is tolerance for criticism, democracy cannot flourish.

Democracy is not merely the separation of powers, regular elections, or the rule of law: it is much more than that if it is to truly flourish, and it is more than mere tolerance, but active encouragement of criticism.

South Africa and Zimbabwe are interesting in this respect. Both countries have executive presidencies, and currently both are led by presidents who seem hugely intolerant of any criticism, but the consequences are very different. In South Africa, President Zuma is regularly criticized, even ridiculed, and the latest events in the South African parliament show that there is no place that he can hide from criticism; as much as the ANC tries to keep him away from having to answer questions, the people keep demanding answers to their questions, and, despite the Stalingrad strategy, they will hunt him down even in parliament.

Zimbabwe, by contrast, has a president that seems wholly unaccountable, rarely having to answer any critical questions from any quarter, and certainly not in parliament. Parliament will debate the president’s state of the nation address, but the president will not be present to answer the questions, which President Zuma now seeks to emulate. Furthermore, publicly criticizing the president is a tricky business, even if we are now allowed to call him a goblin according to the Chief Justice. However, this may be trickier than we think, because only idiots would do this according to Chief Justice, and presumably anyone who did the call the president a goblin might be put to proving that he or she was an idiot in this ferociously intolerant country.

What seems to be the major problem in our Southern African “democracies” is the refusal to see that criticism is the basis of both good politics and good development. This is what Amartya Sen pointed out a while ago: good democracies have sound economic development, and this is considerably more than merely having robust institutions. This is not to say that robust institutions are not important. Independent courts and electoral bodies, professional state agencies, and a parliament that rigorously exercises its oversight function are of course critical, but without the acceptance of the fundamental role of criticism, these institutions erode and become shells.

Now, this is not to say that all criticism is valuable. Insult, ridicule and hate speech that so frequently masquerade as criticism serve no great purpose. Contrast the media storm over the President tripping and falling with the tepid response to his remarks about women at the recent AU summit. The former seems to have been predicated exactly by the way that the president immunizes himself against criticism, and thus his minor misfortune provides many frustrated citizens with an opportunity to show their anger, but this is trivial.

His remarks about women – amounting to a view that their best place is in the home and having babies – are much more serious, and especially when assuming the chairmanship of a body that is committing itself to empowering women in 2015. This should require demands from Zimbabwean citizens, and especially Zimbabwean women, to explain whether he is serious in this view and whether this view will render him conflicted about implementing the AU agenda. This is the kind of criticism that politicians should expect, and is what Popper is pointing out.

The point here is that politicians, just like scientists, are rarely right. Policies enacted by governments are very similar to the experiments carried out by scientists, but, unlike scientists who know that they are only likely to get partial truths (and will have the errors pointed out very quickly), politicians tend to insist that they have the right answers, that there are no hidden problems likely to emerge from their policies, and that criticism is unpatriotic. Yet history is largely a record of poor policies and mistakes by governments. One could construct an immensely long justification by reference to all the failed policies revealed in the historical record.

Take one small example from our own recent history. Government decides to follow the strictures of the World Bank and the IMF and implements an economic structural adjustment programme, with the inevitable impact on the poor as the social support framework largely disappeared. The many critics of ESAP pointed out, with recourse to the empirical record across the world of dozens of ESAP programmes, that this would have exactly the effect of marginalizing a substantial number of people. Some of those marginalized were those supporters of the government that had been responsible for removing the former colonial government, the war veterans, and they were not happy. Nonetheless the policy was applied, and the “hidden effects” that followed were the looting of the War Veterans Compensation Fund, the massive unbudgeted payout to the war veterans – leading to collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar – and food riots in 1998.

And when, during all this time in the 1990s, everyone (bar the capitalist enclave) said this is not working for us and change the policy, government merely persisted in telling us that it would work in the end. As Naomi Klein has put it, shock therapy is good for you!

And why do politicians and governments not behave like scientists? Give up their precious views when confronted with refuting evidence? It is precisely because they abhor criticism. As Popper puts it, they practice the great art of convincing themselves that they have not made any mistakes, of ignoring them, of hiding them, and of blaming others for them. Even worse than merely being immune to criticism, governments can take steps to prevent criticism: by banning political parties, shutting down the press, and even resorting to violence. In the farce that was the State of Nation Address in South Africa, both shutting down the press (by jamming electronic media) and violence (forcibly ejecting MPs) were seen. But worse happens elsewhere in Southern Africa!

Acceptance of criticism is the fundamental basis of democracy, and, even more than this, is the active fostering of criticism. It is what politicians should expect, encourage, and practice: without criticism, we can never learn from our mistakes, and we should expect to make mistakes – it is the human condition to do so. As Karl Popper has eloquently put it:

The war of ideas is a Greek invention. It is one of the most important inventions ever made. Indeed, the possibility of fighting with words and ideas instead of fighting with swords is the very basis of our civilization, and especially of all its legal and parliamentary institutions.” (Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge)

Of Bond Coins, Aliens and Billionaires

By Daniel Mususa

If the famous American rapper 2pac Shakur was Zimbabwean the first line in his hit song California love would have sounded like “Now let me welcome everybody to Zimbabwe, a State that’s untouchable like an alien’s nest.” According to fables about aliens, they are a very secretive lot, hiding as much information about themselves as possible, meeting humans as and when it suits them. In fact, most narratives from alien abductees or alien “experiencers” as they are referred to in some circles, aliens only abduct humans from whom they have specific requirements and they release their abductees as soon as they are done with them, only returning when they need something else. I find clear parallels between this reported typical alien behaviour and the behaviour of the Zimbabwean government with specific regard to accountability and report/feedback mechanisms. The simple appraisal at the provision of services by the government and local councils in Zimbabwe shows an array of maladies that can be eased if accountability structures are functional. This absence of or dysfunctionality of accountability structures has its roots in the aloof state or as I would like to call it, the untouchable alien’s nest in 2pac’s song.

The Bond Coins

On December 2014, the government of Zimbabwe introduced new coins, termed “Bond coins”, into circulation, for use as legal tender. The explanation for this was that the government was responding to the public’s complaints about being ripped off in the country’s shops where people were being forced to buy sweets and bubble gums due to the shortage of Rand coins. The bond coins have met with strong resistance across the socio-ecomonic strata in Zimbabwe including among retailers, vendors, kombis, barbers and hairstylists. While the coins are legal tender, society has so far refused to embrace the new bond coins. But why? One might ask. Is it because people want the Rand and the US dollar so much? Is it a lack of patriotism? Neo- colonialism? Post colonialism? Ideological interpellation? By who? Europe, America or Asia? Who told the airtime and vegetable vendors that American and South African money is “safe”? Who has told us that our money is not safe, that it is a cancer to be feared and avoided at all costs? The answers are much close to home. Flashback to some not-so-distant 7/8 years ago…

The Billionaires

Growing up, I always understood and wished that if I could become a billionaire it would be from my earnings from my efforts. Little did I know that I could become a billionaire just by being given a single note. That was the reality we faced in 2008 when Zimbabwe was teetering under hyperinflation-the first time a country had experienced that negative milestone this century. I became a billionaire and pretty much everyone even the pavement-bound street beggars became billionaires. Inflation was skyrocketing daily, in fact by the hour. The unabated escalation of prices had become a normal and inescapable part of the fibre of daily life. Accompanying this was the sordid reality of shortage of basic necessities such as mealie-meal, cooking oil, salt and the unavailability of medical essentials such as pain killers, cotton wool and bandages. Queues for fuel, water, money and the entire sort that seems falsely hyperbolised now, were a permanent feature of the urban topography. We became billionaires-government made billionaires but had to queue for “maputi”-snacks from roasted corn, petrol, diesel, paraffin, bread, sugar, soap. So severe were the shortages that merely having a meal containing such things as rice, potatoes, beef or chicken, tomato sauce, eggs meant that you were a success in life!!Such was the depth of the scarcity that it is reported you could even pay your kombi fare by giving the hwindi a kilogram of rice if you found it, that is. Someone told me they once paid rent in 2008 by giving the landlord 5 pints of lacto. That basic transport fares could go up three or four times within the same day is highly unreplicable and yet feared so much by the common man whose savings were wiped away almost instantly in the hyperinflation era.


I now return to the alien analogy. Aliens are mythical creatures whose existence is subject to unending debates. Everyone has a view of them, from the drunkard at mai George’s shabeen to the technocrat in the 9th floor of some government office complex. What is incontrovertible is that in folklore, witness accounts or the movies, aliens rarely communicate with people, they do not converse with people to establish what the people want, what their fears are, why and so on. Their agenda is supreme and overrides all others. Aliens do not ask whether or not people they want to abduct actually want to be abducted and neither do they tell the abductees the reasons for the abductions. When the abductees are returned to their homes, they are never told exactly why all that has happened or when they are going to be abducted again. Strange? This runs perfectly parallel to the State-Citizens accountability structures that exist in Zimbabwe. Residents just cannot get access to the “responsible authorities” to register their complaints about water cuts, electricity faults and pot holes to name but a few. If they have the courage to make a physical visit to the concerned offices, they face even more resistance in the form of the cyclic referrals from one office to the other, one floor to the other. In essence, the space for citizen feedback to policy makers, implementers and the state as the main service provider and regulator or referee in service provision is non-existent in practical terms. Theoretically, there are guidelines, mission statements and contact numbers or email or even physical suggestion boxes but the reality is that no one, among the authorities pays attention to them. I am waiting for a day- that day-when citizens register a complaint for example, on pot holes and they bring it to a council and within days, the potholes are covered. I am waiting for a day, that day when the government makes a concerted effort to gather people’s views on a new policy, goes far and wide across the span of Zimbabwe, synthesises the views, reverts to the people to check on the accuracy of what has been gathered, carries out the said policy and openly encourages feedback/appraisal of the same from the public. Sounds theoretical? Yes? But is it not what the politicians claim when they come to encourage us to vote them in office? Some even claim that “ndichakuvakirai bridge ipapa” (I will construct a bridge here) even if there is no river to talk about. Quite frankly, this is not a call for census-like consultation but it is a call for the “Open door policy” that our politicians and technocrats buzz around with and vaunt over, becomes a reality.

One critical aspect of a working democratic governance system is citizen participation which should be expressed through citizens’ contributions to policymaking, implementation and review. Put simply, citizens cannot contribute participate by merely voting legislators into office and never meeting them in between the elections and having durable dialogue with them as regards the people’s lived realities. That things are imposed on people without consultation is the hallmark of alien relationships with humans. Should this also be the same with governments and their people? Should policies/programs/activities be carried out roughshod, irrespective of communities’ development priorities? I think not.  Herein lies the crux of this matter: when the government introduced the bond coins, what purpose were they supposed to serve? Who was consulted and identified coins as the most pressing need when exports are falling further below imports, the civil service is unhappy with working conditions and remuneration, human rights abuses are happening everyday, accidents are killing people daily because of poor roads or that commuter omnibuses are running away from the police demanding bribes, the government is raising taxes, spreading the net to rope in informal traders, government policy on fuel pricing and duty mutates within the same week, home seekers are being fleeced of their earning by unscrupulous land barons and cartels, hospitals lack medicines and personnel? I could go on and on and on.

A fear of the return of the local currency (as generally suspected by many people) does not make financial sense. Likewise, the bond coins do not make much sense. While shops generally fleeced people off their precious Rand cents by giving them sweets and bubble gums in lieu of the unavailable change, the timing of the bond coins some 6 years after the official introduction of the multi-currency system is questionable. In fact it shows aloof the state is, a state that has no effective ways and desire to hear what the ordinary Rudo, John and Sithembile on the streets have to say. That people had evolved ways of coping and the government then acts on this now, is testament of “kurapa pasingarwadzi”. This is akin to a doctor prescribing pills to a patient who has yet to say a word on what ails him/her and the doctor says “Mr patient here is your medication, take it everyday

Analysis by the CATO Institute shows that in the first instance the local currency slipped into hyperinflation because of poor fiscal policies, absence of a strong basis/backing of the currency, continued deindustrialisation, the land reform and startlingly, the locals expected the currency to fall into hyperinflation. According to the recent World Economic Situation and Prospects 2015, primary commodity prices and the net inflow of private capital into emerging economies have been subdued and will remain so for some time. Institutionalisation of good economic fundamentals is ineffective in cushioning the ordinary citizen against the effects of low exports and declining investment in a country. The people that can enjoy some bit of shielding are those in countries that have relatively strong national financial markets. For the already stressed economies like Zimbabwe, the turbulence from falls in international prices in primary products (which our economy is so reliant upon by the way) will be much harder. The resultant company closures and deindustrialisation can only mean one thing; the floating of the local currency presently does not and in the foreseeable future, cannot have a credible a basis. Without delving much into the economics of currency floating, financial backing and the like, one reason why the bond coins are facing resistance amongst the ordinary is the belief that the coins are a form of rigging, to bring back the Zimbabwean dollar through the back door. With the unenviable difficulties experienced in the hyperinflation era, it is understandable why people fear, not dislike, the Zimbabwean Dollar’s return. We have seen and heard mildly comforting assurances that the “dhora harisi kudzoka anytime soon” but the bond coins are a shocking, potent and unnerving omen that anything can happen if the state does not communicate with its citizens, just like aliens.

When discussion of governance, participation processes, indicators and the responsible authorities is censured, the consequences are grave for the ordinary citizen whose views, priorities are never heard and afforded the chance to inform policy. The bond coins debacle, the creation of game reserves in farming communities inhabited by ex-farm workers are just a few examples of the absence of participation. If the state does not communicate with the citizenry, we could all become billionaires again. Zimbabweans are hard workers but the opportunities are constrained. Indeed, able-bodied people have to resort to vegetable vending. If only the government communicated with citizens and mutually shaped the progression of life for the benefit of all.

Our lives: Perpetual Hunger Games Episodes

By Caroline Kache

DSTV has been showing ‘The Hunger Games’ a gruesome trilogy movie depicting a dystopia. Set in ‘Panem,’ a country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 12 other districts with varying levels of poverty, the Hunger Games sees two unfortunate candidates, male and female  chosen from each of the poor districts to participate in a compulsory annual televised death match called the Hunger Games. There can only be one winner at the end and butchering the rest is just part of the game.

Watching The Hunger Games, I began to reflect on how our lives are in a perpetual Hunger Games mode. Every day, for the ordinary Zimbabwean, is a fight for survival. The poor die every day to give the wealthy members in our own Capitol their vantage. For instance, the week beginning 12 January, close to 200 families were evicted from Mazowe to pave way for a sanctuary. The photos of the families weeping, spirals of smoke and the ruins of what they once called home pictured in the soot and ashes were heart wrenching. How those responsible for this devastation can live with themselves is beyond me. Or maybe they just don’t care because as in the Hunger Games, they find other people’s misery entertaining!

In the Hunger Games, Katniss (one of the characters) forms a bond with Rue another character) a young girl whom she views as her young sister. They become like sisters, taking care of each other. When Katniss is injured and unconscious, Rue nurses her back to health. But then Rue dies. The agony of Katniss’ loss at the hands of a cruel establishment is a daily reality for many Zimbabweans.

Many people die on Zimbabwe’s major highways. The Harare-Beit bridge route is a nightmare, recording high numbers of deaths every year. Sisters, aunts, uncles, friends perish; their deaths remain impressed in our memories because they could have been averted. Why nothing is ever done is the big question; is it inability to do something about it, or they are just unwilling? How come the same people who do not prioritise raising funds to repair major roads are fast and efficient when raising funds for a party congress or a tour for the first lady? Millions are raised in a few days and splurged on non-events. If the same passion and effort were put to benefit the nation, would we still be stuck in this perpetual prison of poverty? But then, as in the Hunger Games, they thrive on other people’s misery.

Maybe my expectations for our government are too high, or it is because I am part of the poor districts residents that do not understand life in the Capitol. Or am I simple minded to think that humanity demands that we at least ensure that everyone lives with a bit of dignity?

Evicting the poor people in Mazowe without notice or any relocation plan, forcing the displaced people in Chingwizi to live in those deplorable conditions, promising to create an imaginary 2.2 million jobs, widening the gap between the rich and the poor- our government lives in the Capitol-far removed from the districts. They do not understand how every day is a struggle for those in the districts or how the tax they have imposed to make life in the Capitol more comfortable makes life in the districts more and more unbearable.

Is there a solution?

Maybe it is time for Panem to become a democracy! But even if it does it can only be enjoyed by the young who have not experienced the Hunger Games. Those of us who grew up in that era are scarred for life. We will always remember people and things we lost in the games, but that doesn’t mean we will stop trying to change the status quo. Panem must be free and no one should ever struggle unto death whilst someone else enjoys!

Wisdom says the only constant thing in life is change. I would urge our leaders to remember that. In the genius words of Leonard Zhakata who summaries everything so neatly in his song Mugove he says;

vakuru woye ndipeiwo kamukana kangu
ndinyevere vaye vaye
vakawana mukana wekuvepo pamusoro
vakaite mhanza yekukwirepo pamusoro
kwakuchitora mukana uyu sehuchenjeri
wotanga kutsikirira vari pasi
votanga kuchipfira mate vari pasi
kuzvirova dundundu nekuzvitutumadza
ndoti kwete apa vachenjeri marasika

kana wakaberekwa semunhu wese iwe
kana wakadonhawo rukuvhute semunhu wese
pamisoro yose yakati tseketseke nenyika iyi
usazvinyepere usazvifadze nenhema
usazvinyepere usazvifadze nenhema
usazvifurire uchizviita makoya zvese
usazvifurire uchizviita shasha yevose

vaye vaye vaunodzvinyirira
vaye vaye vaunotsikirira
kuchema kwavo munamato mukuru kumatenga
tenzi hakuna anoziva mhinduro
nyangwe nemusi waichauya

deno ndaive ini ndigere paye
deno ndaive ini ndiripo paye
ndairidza huwi
ndodaidzira vamwe vangu
kuno kwabika dopiro vakomana
huya mose huyai munombore

kana paine pamakandichengetera baba
ndinokumbirawo mugove wangu ndichiri kurarama tenzi
tarirai ndosakadzwa sechipfeko nevane mari
ndisina changuwo
ndinongoshandiswa nhando

The not-so-basic basics

By Kudakwashe Chitsike

I live in an urban area, in fact a metropolitan city. It rained incessantly for days, throughout the festive season. Ordinarily, I shouldn’t have had to worry about the availability of electricity or how I was going to cook the proverbial rice-and-chicken-Christmas-meal. Without electricity, in those rains where would I light the fire, where would I find dry firewood? The thought of spoiling new Christmas clothes with the smell of smoke or finding ice to keep the food fresh in the freezer was unbecoming. So was the worry that I would not be able to play my favorite music and dance into the New Year?

My neighbourhood is notorious for massive load shedding. Strangely, electricity was abundant throughout the festive season for three full weeks. My family and I celebrated and were grateful to ZESA for sparing us a dark Christmas, for the absence of electricity is what we have become quite accustomed to. We were also privileged to have clean running water unlike most homes that had black or green water coming out of their taps. We were far better off than those whose taps have been dry for years.

I was also privileged to have my family around me. Those from the diaspora were able to come home, a simple pleasure that many are not able to indulge in because of the economic hardship we find ourselves in. With my family around me, I ate well and even had a choice of what to eat, albeit it wasn’t anything flambé by a fancy chef! The First Family unashamedly exercised their right to family in extravagance. We all saw from the photos and video that went viral that they were not lacking of anything. Yet, how many other Zimbabweans didn’t eat anything let alone something special over the festive season? How many were restricted to one meal a day?

Watching the incessant rains from the comfort of my home I thought of those that lost their homes due to floods. In Hopley Farm and Epworth, houses collapsed, and people were hurt. One child allegedly died as a result; yet another basic right not fulfilled.

I appreciated the annual shutdown which allowed me to get some rest. I also knew come January I had a job to go back to. 2 million jobs were promised in 2013, and none were delivered. More companies actually closed and the unemployed increased in numbers. The  government has failed dismally to provide jobs.  Who wants to invest here; the political situation does not inspire confidence.

During the festive season I was admitted in hospital and was fortunate enough to go to a hospital of my choice and attended to very well by the nursing staff. I imagined someone else with the same problem going to a government hospital, where doctors were on strike and where patients have to bring their own food and bedding. I imagined having to wait; unsure of when the doctor would come and having to buy my own medication without proper diagnosis.  Yet we say we have a right to basic health care?

There is something very wrong with this picture. These rights should not be the preserve of a select few.

Having electricity and water is not a privilege. It should be and is a basic right. I shouldn’t be excited when power is there and children shouldn’t be screaming happily ‘magetsi auya!’ when power comes back.  Our situation has been bad for so long we tend to confuse rights and privileges. Most of us are indifferent to the violation of our rights and instead of demanding these rights we “make a plan”. Those who have generators, boreholes, gas stoves, solar power think their lives are normal but are they?

A selfish streak has permeated our society. ‘Each man for himself’ is the going mantra and the government has thrown its obligation to provide these basic rights back to its citizens. The government expects us as citizens to pay tax but does nothing to improve our lives with these taxes. Instead, they unleash the riot police on us when we dare to complain.

How much longer shall we permit them to do this? Those of us who think we are privileged, are we really that privileged? When will the bare basics be basic for us?



Why doesn’t the “bulge” burst in Zimbabwe?

By Tony Reeler

There is a growing interest in the consequences of the growing populations of young people in many countries. Various commentators have speculated about the effects of large youth bulges in North Africa and the Middle East, and disaffected youth are seen by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) as being one factor in the relatively large increase in protests around the world. Citing the International Labour Organisation (ILO) report, World of Work Report 2013: Repairing the Social Fabric, the EIU points out that marked social unrest and protest was recorded in 46 of the 71 countries covered in the ILO report. The implications behind the unrest are not wholly clear, but, following Ivan Krastev, in his article, From Politics to Protest, the EIU describes the protests (rather dismissively) as “rebels without a cause”. The main point raised by Krastev, and endorsed by the EIU, is that this is all sturm und drang, and possibly just the kind of letting off steam needed by unresponsive governments.

However, this seems at odds with the growing literature on “youth bulges”, an increasing demographic phenomenon in developing countries, and a conundrum in Zimbabwe. Briefly, the evidence suggests that when a country’s demography shows a bulge in the young population of greater than 30% of the total population, bad things start to happen, and irrespective of whether the country is a democracy or an autocracy. The thesis, perhaps originally proposed by Samuel Huntington, has been both supported and amended by a number of careful statistical studies. Most interesting of these has been a series of studies by Henrik Urdal (Urdal.2004; Urdal.2006), corroborated by other work (Cincotta.2008). In his later work, Urdal tested six hypotheses about the effects of youth bulges:

Hypothesis 1: Countries that experience youth bulges are more likely to experience political violence than countries that do not.
Hypothesis 2: The higher the dependency burden, the stronger the effect of youth bulges on political violence.
Hypothesis 3: The lower the economic growth, the stronger the effect of youth bulges on political violence.
Hypothesis 4: The greater the expansion of higher education, the stronger the effect of youth bulges on political violence.
Hypothesis 5: The more autocratic a country, the stronger the effect of youth bulges on political violence.
Hypothesis 6: The higher the urbanisation rates, the stronger the effect of youth bulges on political violence.

When tested against a very large data set, the models generated provide food for thought in the conclusions reached, but the interactions are complex and do not allow a simple conclusion that youth bulges per se are a problem. Defining political violence as internal armed conflict, terrorism and riots, Urdal concludes that, simply, the greater the youth bulge the greater the risk of political violence for both autocracies and democracies, but this is mediated by the finding that it is countries intermediate between these two extremes that are at the greatest risk. Furthermore, each of the factors identified above – dependency burdens, lowered economic growth, increased rates of higher education, and urbanisation – all interact with youth bulges in different ways, and depending on the country context.

So what could this all mean for Zimbabwe, a country where the youth bulge is large – : youth (under 30 years) comprise 69.8% of the total population, and 74% of the unemployed according the most recent census (Zimstat.2012). Now there is and has been political violence in Zimbabwe, but this is mostly one-way traffic, and government-sponsored in all probability, but certainly condoned by government. But there is no internal armed conflict, terrorism, or riots in Zimbabwe, and why not?

Well, in part the answer comes from Urdal’s work: “A factor that partly determines the violent potential of youth bulges is the access to emigration”. This applies in the case of Zimbabwe, as the majority of the Zimbabweans emigrating, whether legally or not, are the youth. Although very difficult to estimate accurately, given the enormous irregular migration to South Africa and Botswana, statistics calculated from just those leaving the country through ports, rose from 359,095 in 2008 to 1,077,743 in 2010 (Zimstat.2010). 45% of the Zimbabweans in South Africa are reckoned to be under 30 years. A UNDP study estimated that over three million Zimbabweans were living outside the country. With the 2012 Census claiming that the population living in Zimbabwe was slightly more than 13 million, this migration is clearly a very significant portion of the population.

So migration clearly is taking the pressure off, but it may also be that other factors mitigate the effects of this enormous youth bulge. Remittances from the diaspora are certainly alleviating both the economic decline and the effects of dependency. It is difficult again to accurately estimate the extent of remittances, but one study suggested that estimated remittances from the United Kingdom alone amounted to £0.94 billion in 2007 (Zimbabwe Institute.2009). Official estimates in Zimbabwe by the same UNDP study were US$1.4 billion in 2009 through official routes, but the same study pointed out that studies in South Africa indicated that 98% of Zimbabweans remitted money back through informal routes. It is possible that remittances into Zimbabwe are the equivalent of the fiscus, 75% of which is now used for paying about 290,000 government workers and the security sector.

Finally, the highly efficient repressive machinery employed by the government to curb dissent also keeps the lid on the pressure cooker of the youth bulge. And here the youth are consistently mindful of the consequences of civic participation, but one wonders what might happen when they are no longer fearful or the ability to repress diminishes?