© THERE were a number of by-elections in Zimbabwe over the last month.
One was for local government in Bikita East, in Masvingo Province. The others were for Parliament and local government in Lupane East, Matabeleland North Province. Both are rural constituencies in our first-past-the post parliamentary and local government electoral system.
The ruling Zanu PF party won all of them. The margins of Zanu PF victories in both elections were comparatively not that high but they were victories all the same.
Astounded opposition MDC Alliance leaders and members blamed their losses invariably on having been caused by either their lack of funding from central government via the Political Parties (Finance) Act and alleged vote-buying by the ruling party.
Zanu PF in turn claimed the victories as a testament of the voters’ understanding and support of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s policies.
Conversations elsewhere were lost in perplexity as to how Zanu PF can possibly win by-elections at a time when prices of basic goods and services are going up.
Even as Finance minister Mthuli Ncube announced mid-term review statement annotated in Zimbabwe dollars for the first time in almost a decade while promising further austerity.
What struck me was the fact of the contradictions of an assumed unpopular ruling party’s by election victories amidst a full throttle implementation of an assumed unpopular economic austerity programme. All the while disparaged by an assumed more popular opposition party that does not differ from a similar economic blueprint but only questions the personalities implementing it than raise any serious counter-ideological questions. Not only among the latter’s leaders and members but also their supporters and voters.
For those of us that went to high school in the 1990s and State-sponsored university at the turn of the century, an ingrained assumption that there is no alternative to free market economic solutions because we were witness to an individual, materialistic but short-lived “economic boom” under the then and now reinvented “Economic Structural Adjustment Programme”.
So we all wanted cars (Mazda 323’s), a house in the suburbs (out of the ghetto), and children that would go to the “private” schools we secretly envied. We took on a dog-eat-dog consumerist approach to our existence to the extent that we failed to anticipate the unsustainability of such a future in a post-cold war global economic order, especially if we perpetually ignored historical injustices and assumed that the most progressive way forward was to be part of the bandwagon of what then remained a minority run national political economy.
The default position where we now come the contemporary economic situation is that we have class based aspirations and expectations of a political economy that is not, at the moment, favourable to private and also State-controlled global capital.
To put it a bit more simply, we are at the tail end of Samsung, Google. Facebook’s and Exxon Mobil’s expectations of what a “good market economics” for an investor can be and should be. Yet all the time, we envy and yearn for that recognition across class and geography in Zimbabwe.
But we still want to be part of the consumerist game. Hence our political opinions are persuaded by what lifestyles we want to have than what in reality the global political economic system will allow us. Even without the basics that should be provided for by a State as in the global north despite its firm embrace of free market economics and radical white nationalisms in one form or the other.
In returning to my initial point about by-elections and how Zanu PF has won them at the height of a real and also perceived economic crisis, it is evident that we need to think more about the future than the present.
Not only in relation to the fact of our concerns about our own individual children but those of those we would refer to as our neighbours and fellow citizens.
We need to learn that everything we do is not always about the immediate but a collective future, including the fact that in order to progress it is not always about envying or coveting what the originally “progressive other” has but more of what we can attain even in the most difficult of circumstances.
And this is where the original Marxian analysis of “base and superstructure” comes into vogue. As Zimbabweans and Africans, we cannot progressively allow ourselves to be subjected to a global political economy we neither invented nor control.
We may need, as Kwame Nkrumah said, to seek first an organic political kingdom. Not in dogma but in democratic pragmatism which even in the global north is now being referred to as democratic socialism. Without being again, “othered”.
Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity on takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com