Zimbabwean campaigners need to think again about how to fight oppression and poverty

The campaigners who stand up to Mugabe are a courageous band of brothers and sisters, admired across the world, and rightly so, for what they do. They are true heroes, subjected to intimidation, imprisonment, torture and murder, and many will never be found. Theirs has been a long fight, so they have earned a quicker resolution to their mission, one that will get all Zimbabweans out of oppression and poverty very much faster than now.

Almost forty years have passed since Independence. That is more than enough time for Zimbabweans to have gone from poverty to affluence, by which I mean having as good a lifestyle as Westerners – or if not that, at least fast approaching it.

Instead, 300% MORE Africans are now in extreme poverty than there were in 1980. That is a horrifying statistic, and it is even worse in Zimbabwe.

Why has this happened?

Because the lessons of history have never been applied to poverty eradication in Africa. When you study the history of what are now the developed nations, you will find that, almost without exception, three preconditions had to be in place before their citizens could go from poverty to affluence.

Precondition One. By far the most important was the mobilisation of a critical mass of the nation’s own citizens. It is very important to grasp that in NO case was it the government which instigated and led the move to take its citizens out of poverty and into affluence.

Looked at in another way, NO nation’s citizens have ever gone from poverty to affluence UNLESS a critical mass of its own citizens got together to force the government to do what needed to be done.

Precondition Two. It was protectionist until its economy was strong. This applied to the UK, the USA, and all developed nations including Japan, and China.

Precondition Three. Its business and financial base was not dominated by foreign commercial and financial interests, or non-indigenous interests.

There are exceptions to Precondition One, but only in circumstances which do not apply to any African nation including Zimbabwe. But where Preconditions Two and Three are concerned, there are no exceptions.

Many experts, mainly the supporters of free trade or globalisation, will dispute Preconditions Two and Three. But if you ask them to name just one nation that has managed to take its citizens from poverty to affluence without both conditions applying, they won’t be able to. Some might say Japan, others South Korea. But both stayed protectionist and free of foreign influences until they were strong enough to compete on the global stage. As did China.

This means there is no point in achieving Precondition One unless you campaigners also subsequently ensure Preconditions Two and Three, otherwise the citizens will still stay in extreme poverty, as they are now. So you have to include that as part of your strategy.

In the light of the Three Preconditions, we need to change our attitudes. For instance, almost everyone blames Mugabe for Zimbabwe’s terrible problems of oppression and poverty. But if you look at Precondition One, you see straightaway that he is not the one to blame. Instead, the problem is that Zimbabwe’s campaigners have not yet managed to fulfil Precondition One: a citizen movement strong enough to oust him.

For many years, the potential resistance has easily been big enough overturn Mugabe: the Western and African NGOs, community organisations and special interest groups working in Zimbabwe, the opposition parties and politicians, the trade unions, the business community which has lost out massively, and Zimbabwe’s Christian denominations, not one of which is fighting, as the Bible requires them to, for the oppressed, the vulnerable and those in poverty. But while these potential pressure groups continue to pursue their own strategies and interests, they are no threat to Mugabe.

One drop of rain achieves nothing, but enough drops of rain combining together becomes a flood that carries all before it. If you think about it, Mugabe is still only in power because those drops of rain have been unable to combine together. His whole status relies on it.

The solution is simple: stop exhorting Mugabe. It’s a waste of effort because you should know by now he doesn’t take any notice. Instead, focus all your efforts on fulfilling Precondition One, on finding ways to combine together to create that flood. Had this been done years ago, Mugabe would have gone years ago.

The problem is that Africans have never been good at working together in a cohesive, united way to improve the standards of living of ‘the common people’. Look at Zimbabwe’s own War of Liberation where the majority of the White Security Forces was Black and the liberation forces were also divided. In fact, in all the struggles for independence, Africans were as likely to fight each other as the White colonialists. Arab Spring was destroyed by internal conflicts. The opposition to Apartheid was nearly so, and was only saved by Western intervention. And it is still failing to deliver Black South Africans from poverty and into affluence because of its internal bickering.

In Zimbabwe, the political opposition is split. NGOs, campaign groups and community organisations work in their own separate bubbles. Christian denominations are divided by differences in doctrine. All individual drops of rain achieving very little, if anything.

If everyone opposed to oppression and poverty focused all their efforts on combining their drops of rain together and speaking with one unified voice, they would oust Mugabe almost overnight. Fulfilling Precondition One must become the urgent priority for everyone.

It is all very well saying that, but how can it possibly be achieved? After all, politicians, NGOs, community organisations, special interest groups, trade unions, the business community and Christian denominations all have their own agendas. So how can they possibly agree on the one message for all Zimbabweans to unite behind?

The solution is simple: there is already one message calling out for all these differing parties, as well as every Zimbabwean citizen to unite behind it, and it is:

Agenda 2063 and its accompanying First Ten-Year Implementation Plan 2014-2023

Agenda 2063 knows that governments on their own will not bring real, fast change to Africa, just as in Zimbabwe. That will only happen if citizen groups and citizens themselves combine to make it so. In other words, to fulfil Precondition One.

Yet Agenda 2063 has been almost completely ignored pan Africa for two reasons. First, it was created by the AU, and that has little credibility among progressive Africans, and is actively reviled by some. Second, African governments themselves were supposed to promote it to their citizens but, although they are all signatories to it, not one has done so because, frankly, it is not in their self-interest. Agenda 2063 aims for citizens to become intimately involved in government and decision-making, and that is the last thing Africa’s current governments want, and it is certainly not what Mugabe wants.

The result is that few campaigners, academics, business leaders, politicians, economists, journalists and Church leaders – in other words, Africa’s opinion makers – have read it.

But I would urge them all to study it carefully. When they do, they will be mightily surprised because it lays out a blueprint that will take all African citizens from extreme poverty to affluence at the fastest possible speed. And this will definitely be the case in Zimbabwe. You will find Agenda 2063 on the AU’s website (https://www.au.int/web/agenda2063).

Please do not read Agenda 2063 without its accompanying First Ten-Year Implementation Plan 2014-2023 because each needs the other. However, you won’t find it on the AU’s website for reasons I explain below. But I have found it on the UN’s website at http://www.un.org/en/africa/osaa/pdf/au/agenda2063-first10yearimplementation.pdf

Why is Agenda 2063 such a powerful and revolutionary document?

First, because it is the first to aim for what every African wants: to “be amongst the best performers in global quality of life measures”, in other words, for all Africans to enjoy a Western-quality lifestyle.

The cynics among you will say these are just empty words and you’ve heard it all before. Not this time because as soon as you read the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan you will see the AU means it. While everyone else has failed to learn from history (including the whole Western and African aid community), the AU has, by making Precondition One a vital part of its plan, as you’ve seen. In fact, it is positively screaming out for African citizens and citizen groups to become involved in pushing it through to success:

“The determination, participation……and solidarity of Africa’s peoples……are preconditions for success” – “The critical success factors are……ensuring participation……of citizens” – “A call to action to all Africans……to take personal responsibility for the destiny of the continent”.

The documents are filled with the need for citizens and citizen groups to get involved. Could Agenda 2063 be any clearer?

It is also the first plan in history to apply to Africa the other two Preconditions that are essential to taking citizens from poverty to affluence – Preconditions Two and Three. Although not specifically stated, it will be the result if the plan is carried out.

Finally, the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan spells out exactly what all governments have agreed to carry out. It even gives specific target dates by which each initiative must be completed. This gives opposition parties the ammunition they need to hold their governments to account, something they don’t have now. No self-seeking government wants that because it would show up their failures straightaway. For example, Mugabe has failed, or is about to fail, to reach any of the time targets. And he has probably ignored every other requirement of Agenda 2063 and the Implementation Plan. So he has given you precise and concrete grounds on which to hold him to account and find him wanting. What better ammunition could he have given you?

Now, the very important point about Agenda 2063 is that every single African government including Mugabe’s is signatory to it.

However, the AU has anticipated the lack of co-operation from African governments. So one of its instructions to the African public is to “Encourage all private candidates and political parties to use Agenda 2063 as the basis for developing their manifestos”. Presumably meaning that if any do not do that, then don’t support them.

For all of you who oppose Mugabe, Agenda 2063 and the First Ten-Year Implementation Plan are an absolute gift because they have given every one of you what you have been searching for: an exact strategy and plan to unite you all. It is now down to you, individually and collectively, to show that you can use it to full effect for the benefit of all your citizens, just as Agenda 2063 itself asks you to.

But it is a real gift in another way: it is one thing for you to try to get Mugabe to take government seriously. It is quite another to ask him to carry out what HIS OWN government has signed up to.

Post published in: Letters to the Editor

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