Where did they go wrong?

After citing the need for armed struggle, Zanu’s 1972 policy document states that the party, unlike ZAPU, was concerned with and distinguished by its policies for an independent Zimbabwe. They also accused ZAPU of having a “cult of personality” as a substitute for credible policies.

Whatever the facts may have been in 1972, this sounds outlandish today, where Zanu (PF) seem to have very little to say except slogans of loyalty to their leader. The leader reciprocated by devoting his recent speeches to a string of complaints about historical grievances and threats against his perceived personal enemies. No practical suggestions on how to right the perceived wrongs, just threats to destroy everything he personally dislikes.

No suggestions on how he might “indigenise” what remains of our formal economy without scaring away the skilled personnel we need to run it, and foreign investors; not even a hint of how ZESA is to pay wages and buy fuel while the biggest debtors (who are firstly parastatals or government departments, followed by himself and a number of his Zanu (PF) leaders) have their bills cancelled. It’s not just policy that is lacking there, but knowledge of basic economics.

“Mwenje 2” admits that it is a provisional document, with a lot to be filled out later, so its plans for redistribution of productive resources are only outlines, but they are there. Control by the workers and peasants was to be expressed by either state ownership of the means of production or by forming co-operatives, as appropriate in each case. The workers’ committees we heard so much about at the time of independence could have served an important function in this transfer of wealth.

I suspect they really fell victims to Zanu’s desire for total control. As for co-operatives, Fred Shava, who had some responsibility in this area, told me in 1980 that the farms belonging to Zanu (PF) would be run by ex-combatants as co-operatives. A few months later, his story was that the proposed co-operators were too independent-minded so managers were being put in to run them as conventional commercial farms.

You may remember that the collective co-operatives, in industry as well as agriculture, which did succeed were mostly run by ex-ZIPRA fighters, who had a stronger motivation for the difficult task of merging individual interests into those of a productive community. In the same era, Langford Chitsike, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Co-operatives, was recorded as saying “Co-ops are the dustbins where we dump the unemployable”. In short, Zanu (PF) had given up on them. I never managed to find out whether they had any other ideas about what socialist production would look like.

After the introduction of ESAP in 1989-90 that question was no longer relevant. Zanu (PF) announced they had changed their party ideology to market capitalism – as quickly and as smoothly as they might change their jackets.

Certainly, although our state media gave a lot of publicity to our Cuban socialist allies in the early years and we had the only embassy of Free Nicaragua in Africa, these practical and popular socialists did not take our government’s profession of socialism seriously. They certainly could not consider us as effective allies in their struggle for the economic independence of Latin America and Africa, which would have meant a revolutionary economic break with capitalist colonialism.

Even Muammar Gaddafi, hardly socialist, but an advocate of a new alternative form of ownership of the means of production to make Africa economically independent of the old colonial powers, showed his contempt for Zanu’s pretensions when, on his tour after the meeting in Lusaka which transformed the OAU into the African Union, he entered Zimbabwe on foot over the Chirundu bridge, publicly discomfiting the governor of Mashonaland West, a man who had grown to such truly political proportions that walking to the middle of the bridge gave him great difficulty. You might say that was another of Gaddafi’s theatrical tricks, but it made a good point.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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