via Zimbabwe Situation Part 2: How a complex system is operating in Zimbabwe January 31, 2014 by Sheunesu Hove
In my initial discussion of the situation in Zimbabwe and how we can move forward, I pointed out the need to have a paradigm shift in our understanding of the local political processes. I also attempted to make a distinction between complicated and complex systems.
In this discussion, I again offer my ideas on why I said there is a complex system operating in Zimbabwe. I will do that by first relating to how a complex system evolved in our beloved country. Then I will move on to show why we should be wary of the outcomes of complex systems. This discussion is again from a peacebuilding perspective.
The evolution of the complex system dates back to the colonial era. The main goal of waging a liberation war in Zimbabwe was to fight colonialism and all its inherent divisive and monolithic legacies. It was a uniting goal embraced by all progressive forces. Hence united we stood and attained independence in 1980.
So why is Zimbabwe in limbo today? It is in limbo today because of failed the transitions in more than three decades. We failed to transform the “black majority” government from being a policeman/woman, a broker, and a middleman/woman between its people and the market – a legacy of colonialism. We failed the morphing process of transforming ourselves (you and me) from being objects/subjects into humans. A feat taken advantage of by the authorities.
Moreover, and ironically, our celebrated leaders simply inherited the governance structures that they were fighting yesterday. Subsequently putting governance structures based on the same colonial premises of governance. Just like the ruling elite in South Africa who combine the worst aspects of apartheid and post-apartheid nationalism with pro-corporate neoliberalism. In both cases, public interest and participation in the nation’s politics is purely tokenistic.
The role of the state remains that of a broker and intermediary between the market and the people. Independence as a model of transition has become an affirmative action where the victims of yesterday’s injustice have become today’s perpetrators of injustice. Statements such as “we fought for this country”, and sometimes “I died for this country” are commonplace as a justification to reap where one did not sow. A persecution mantra reminiscent of the authorities in Zimbabwe.
In any case, everyone fought for the liberation of the Zimbabwe in various ways, from the guerrillas to Chibwido, Mujiba, Chigubu, and the Povo.
The perpetual existence of these imbalances has been used as a scapegoat by authorities to perpetrate violence on innocent people, dealing ruthlessly with dissent, especially political opponents and to retain and maintain political power. Hence, a great deal of human suffering in Zimbabwe is linked to violence, political instability, and unjust policies and practices.
Clearly, we have a complex system operating in Zimbabwe that emerged during the colonial era and continued to be nurtured by the authorities. The system has been nourished by the authorities and has been working in their favour.
It has even established itself to the extent that we have failed to unite under it as Zimbabweans in order to achieve peace. One of the main reasons is that our authorities have localised instead of discarding the impunities of colonial dominance. The state has become a force of resistance against revolution, reformation, liberation or innovation. Impunity has been institutionalized and manifests itself in many forms including life presidency, ruling elites, patronage politics and coercion.
To fight against impunity, we must replace the systems of dominance with systems of governance, tolerance and co-existence; thus, democratize not only the politics, but also the market by making it humane. In a complex system where the market is not humane, its dog eats dog. The “haves” will continue to amass wealth at the expense of the “have not”.
Recent reports of property lists in high profile divorce cases bear testimony of how a complex system is operating in Zimbabwe and how its outcomes are so unpredictable. Not to be outdone is the shock salaries of executives of companies and organisations that fail to pay their debts, let alone their employees. First, it was the ZBC, then PSMAS, and now City of Harare. We can only speculate that worse things are yet to be made public. This is an indication of the unpredictable outcomes of a complex system operating in our beloved country.
In our complex system, the change agenda is frustrated by the authorities, ambitious organizations, and overzealous individuals, who use a one-way access, to have space, participate in and get mainstreamed into the very systems of the politics and market that siphon resources from the periphery consisting of over 90% of the population to the centre consisting of less than 10% of the same. Yes, think of the indigenisation drive and the land reform and those who have benefited in order to make sense of what I am talking about.
In our complex system, the authorities and their bootlickers easily get away with murder, including economic strangulation. In spite of the discovery of diamonds, the balance of payments is going into extreme deficit because “we cannot sell our diamonds because of the sanctions”. Really? Are we not talking about the biggest plunder of diamonds since Cecil John Rhodes?
In a complex system, it is common to hear insincere pronouncements from authorities about peace, let alone reconciliation. Let me give you one example, reconciliation.
My experience working with victims of Gukurahundi in Matabeleland South taught me that true reconciliation should facilitate metanoia (repentance, correction, positive psychological re-building or healing), penitence (regret for wrongdoing) and transitional justice. Just calling it “a moment of madness” does not constitute reconciliation, as it does nothing at all to the victims.
There should be a mechanism that allows victims to tell their stories and perpetrators to acknowledge wrongdoing. It is unfortunate that when we talk of reconciliation in Zimbabwe, we tend to politicise the processes and end up without anything tangible.
For example, people talk about where we start from in relationship to reconciliation. While this is a relevant question, my experience is that there has never been any consensus in that regard. Is it helpful to start from the Shona/Ndebele wars, during the liberation war, post-independence era or during the first harmonised elections (2008)? These and other questions that put us in a tag-of-war only reflect the complex system operating in our country.
More than being a catharsis, reconciliation means coming together to transform animosity that divided people yesterday into relational benefits punctuated by mutuality and co-existence. In fact, transitional justice remains a contested concept in contemporary Zimbabwe. The source of this contestation emanates from the unanswered question of “how far back do we go in addressing past injustices?”
It seems to me the authorities believe that transitional justice in its present form and process is a strand of imperialism. They argue that it remains imperialist-driven if it focuses on legitimatizing the current regime’s excesses and failing to realize that the country never experienced real transition from colonialism to independence. That explains why they would rather not deal with the Matabeleland massacres.
At the end of it all, the complex system operating in Zimbabwe and its unpredictable outcomes have made us a hopeless people. People have lost hope because they do not seem to understand the system. At one point, it’s like things are going to become better and from nowhere, they become worse. In a complex system, winning an election by an unexpected margin may be such a surprise, which makes you hesitate to celebrate that victory.
Life without hope is hopeless. Hopelessness is a state of having no expectation of good or success. When people lose hope, they lose their strength for life. They no longer have the strength to get up in the morning. They do not have the strength to face tomorrow. Everything becomes a challenge and even small tasks call for a great degree of effort. We have experienced this first hand in Zimbabwe.
I have seen the ravages of despair, hopelessness and depression. I have seen hope turn to hopelessness, hopelessness turn to despair, despair turn to depression and depression turn to destruction. A situation that we never expected at independence, but a reality today because of the complex system operating in Zimbabwe.