The people must come first

An empowered community can never emerge from an environment of fear and intimidation by those in power. In this article, I want to deal with Zanu (PF)’s stated intentions to empower Zimbabweans, and how we can accelerate the achievement of this objective to the benefit of all.

Vince Musewe
Vince Musewe

Someone within Zanu (PF) recently tried to explain to me the party’s empowerment policy as stated in their manifesto. I am afraid his demonstrated grasp of the issues involved lacked depth and appreciation of what empowerment really means. This is my response to him.

I must first categorically state that empowerment is inherently contradictory to any philosophy or value system which promotes exclusive access to power and resources of the state by a select group of people by virtue of their contribution to the armed struggle. The view of “none but ourselves” hitherto evident in the DNA of Zanu (PF) cannot sit comfortably side-by-side with its stated objectives of empowering a broad base of ordinary Zimbabweans. This is a contradiction which needs to be resolved.

An empowered community can never emerge from a society managed by control, fear and intimidation. A leader cannot profess to be committed to empowering citizens and yet declare that only those who voted for him deserve to benefit. He also cannot empower others by holding onto power.

You cannot as a leader oppose, limit or purge those who may differ with you and, in the same breath, profess your commitment to creating an empowered society.

You also cannot deny people title deeds to land and claim that you stand for empowerment. It is a lie. Freehold ownership of assets and free enterprise are the immutable pillars of empowered societies.

Empowerment for me means ensuring that all Zimbabweans have the ability and means to create the circumstances which they desire in pursuit of a better life – without limitations but in adherence to the rule of law.

The fundamental principle to empowerment therefore, is the deliberate removal by the state of any limitations that do not allow people to live up to their full potential.

The government or Zanu (PF) must therefore be an ally in the process to empower Zimbabweans. It must be the facilitator that ensures that any laws, habits or practices by the state, public or private institutions including individuals that limit others in their pursuit of their ambition, are expunged.

Access to education, the existence of multiple sources of information, a free media and freedom of speech are the characteristics of an empowered society. As long as these are controlled or limited in some manner by the state, Zanu (PF) cannot claim to be champions of empowerment as they do in their manifesto.

Colonialism disempowered blacks through legislation and practices that limited their potential and their ability to compete. It limited and sort to control access information, access to education and other public resources. Zanu (PF) cannot afford to promote and protect the very laws that limited us and then claim that their policy is to empower Zimbabweans.

We must also see universal access to affordable high quality education for all. It must provide wide choices in line with our development objectives; it must be at the centre of our human capital development strategy in line with national priorities and international trends and developments. Empowerment without quality education is a fallacy.

Access to information creates empowered societies. This means that access must be broad and affordable. We must see the internet and ICT as empowerment tools that need to be freely and broadly available to both urban and rural communities. We must see multiple community radio stations, more television stations and more media products and services geared to empower us and not limit us.

Lastly the meeting of basic needs is imperative if we are truly committed to empowerment. Food, shelter, health led to empowered societies. You cannot be empowered if you are sick or hungry or homeless. Single mothers, orphans, the disabled, the elderly must be looked after as a matter of our empowerment policy.

Empowerment is not only about money, but about the quality of life and psychological emancipation of our people. It is about potential and putting in place policies that allow this society to live up to its full potential, without limits.

The results of empowerment are characterised by a vibrant, healthy, self-confident, creative, responsible and rapidly developing society. That is what we all want for Zimbabwe. I fear that Zanu (PF) does not have any of this in mind when they claim that their objective is to empower Zimbabweans. We must challenge their limited paradigm. The people come first! – Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]

Post published in: Analysis

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