Beyond the house of hunger: the struggle for democratic development in Zimbabwe
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As the first decade of independence drew to a close in Zimbabwe, there were increasing indications, particularly in the urban areas, of growing disillusionment with the operations of the Zimbabwean State. In September 1988, University students took to the streets in protest against what they saw as the growing tide of corruption within the State and Party machinery. In the following months, a major expose' in a national newspaper, The Chronicle, catalogued high-level corruption in the State involving the illegal sales of motor vehicles. Also in 1988, Parliamentarians, usually noted for their sycophancy, apathy and empty cant, spoke out in a brief but vigorous flurry of criticism against nepotism and corruption. In April 1989, just over a year after the signing of the Unity Accord between ZANU (PF) and PF-ZAPU, a new challenge to the Government emerged in the form of the Zimbabwe Unity Movement (ZUM) with the latter campaigning basically on an anti-corruption and anti-one-party state platform. As the country moved into the last quarter of 1989, students again demonstrated in early October following the detention of the president and secretary-general of the Students' Representative Council. Finally, between April and June 1990, the State had to confront a protracted series of strikes in the public sector. The reaction of the State to these developments was at one level to reveal an aggressive stance. In 1988, response to the students' demonstrations, students and lecturers were threatened with detention, hastily arraigned before the courts on charges that could not stand the tests of judicial demands, and a Kenyan lecturer was deported. The State's response to the 1989 student protests was even harsher, leading to student detention and the summary closure of the University of Zimbabwe on 4 October 1989. Two days before the closure, the president of the Students' Representative Council strongly attacked the State, noting that, "the institution of Government has thus been rendered completely disreputable and hence the incumbents have lost legitimacy" (Mutambara 1989). In an allied move, the Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Morgan Tsvangirai, was also detained by the State authorities because of his criticism of the closure of the University as "a clear manifestation of rising State, repression, which has already been felt by various sections of society" (The Chronicle^ 7 October 1989). As regards the opposition party, ZUM, several of its members were detained, and the operations of the party made difficult. Yet there has been more to the State's response to criticisms than coercive interventions. As a result of struggles between sections of civil society and the State, as well as conflicts within the executive, legislature and judiciary wings of the State, and the highest organs of the ruling party, there have developed important arenas of democratic debate and participation in Zimbabwean society. There still exists a substantial degree of Press freedom in which regular debates and criticisms of the Government can be found, Alongside State-influenced papers, can be found an important array of privately sponsored monthly magazines, such as Moto, Parade and SAPEM, as well as a weekly newspaper, The Financial Gazette. Regular discussions and debates are held in fora organised by intellectuals and attended by enthusiastic audiences. When this is added to regular elections which have on the whole been "free and fair", it can be seen that there is a vibrant struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe. An important basis of this struggle has been the growth and expansion of the Black petty-bourgeoisie which has developed after a decade of experience in public sector management, the large formal business sector and the emerging business sub-sector. Emerging from the experiences has been an increasing desire to become established, private businessmen. The basis of the tendency has been the limits on capital accumulations in the State, continued White control of the economy, and the proclivity for macro-economic policy to favour the monopolistic sector of the business community. Moreover, as large sections of the Black petty-bourgeoisie have found themselves excluded from the benefits of the post-colonial policy of "Reconciliation", demands have grown for more active participation not only in the economy but in the political process. These demands have resonated both amongst the petty-bourgeoisie in opposition, and within the State and Party structures. Moreover, even as the State has lost legitimacy amongst sections of the urban population, it has retained a popular presence amongst the majority rural producers. Nevertheless, it is not a support base it can take for granted in the absence of a substantial land reform programme. In addition, in terms of an overall alternative within Zimbabwe, the rightist drift of ZUM brought little hope of confronting the existing inequalities in the society. Thus as the united ZANU (PF) party takes the country into a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) seeking, in the words of the Senior Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, to "shift quite decisively away from a command economy to one which promotes free markets and private enterprises (The Financial Gazette, 28 March 1991), there do not appear to be easily identifiable alternatives in Zimbabwe. There has therefore been an ambivalence on the part of the State on the question of democratic participation and development. On the one hand, the desire to remain accountable to the agenda of the liberation movement, however nebulous the precise content of that agenda, has not been a fiction. Moreover, there has been a certain sensitivity to debates and discussions going on within civil society about such issues. On the other hand, an aggressive, heavy-handedness has been shown against certain groups in the national body politic, attempting to assert their autonomy from a certain definition of the "national interest" in ways considered adventurist and without a viable programmatic alternative. At its worst, the latter reaction has been characterised by authoritarian prescriptions.
Additional Citation InformationRaftopolous, Brian (1991). Beyond the house of hunger: the struggle for democratic development in Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies, 35p.
Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies