Zimbabwe: What is the national question?

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NATHANIEL Manheru’s The Other side instalment on Saturday the 3rd of October’s Herald entitled Afriforum: Colour, cause and coin of white rights, put forward a fundamental question which I think any Zimbabwean with the nation at heart should honestly try to answer not necessarily in the context that Manheru arrived at asking it, but more in the context of where are we as a nation thirty five years later. Was the land revolution all what it was hyped up to be? I will come back to this shortly.
In his article Manheru goes into much trouble to try and explain how the attachment and auctioning by the deputy Sherriff in South Africa of property belonging to the Zimbabwe government was not a victory over the Zimbabwe government by the 78 farmers who had litigated against it in the now defunct Namibian based SADC Tribunal but more a setback for the de-colonisation revolution in southern Africa.
Afriforum, a South African based non–governmental organisation brought the action on behalf of the 78 farmers challenging the legality of the acquisition of their farms in Zimbabwe. The SADC Tribunal ruled against the Zimbabwe government in 2008 culminating in the Zimbabwe government lobbying regional countries to have the SDAC Tribunal disbanded as it was said to be working against the gains of de-colonisation. SADC member countries regard the land issue as a very emotive matter that has direct implications on post-independence southern Africa.
Following the disbanding of the SADC Tribunal, Afriforum proceeded to register the judgement with a South African Court with the Zimbabwe government putting up a challenge. This resulted in the Zimbabwe government running up hefty court costs following the ruling against it. The original writ on the Zimbabwe property was based on the unpaid court costs. As soon as the Zimbabwe government settled the court costs, Afriforum pulled out another writ superseding the settled one. This writ was for money owed to the Germans by the now defunct Redcliff steel conglomerate ZISCO and guaranteed by the Zimbabwe government at that time.
Having explained all this, Manheru lets slip, whether knowingly or unknowingly an interesting acknowledgement that the land issue is not yet over; that the land question will never be over. The fact that the Zimbabwe government passed the Land Acquisition Act 2000 to legalise its redistribution to the indigenous black people does not mean that the job is done. Charamba acknowledges that the land issue will again take centre stage in a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe, hence the question, what is the national question.Advertisement

What is the National Question Zimbabwe? Is the national question jobs, service delivery, medical care, food for the nation? Is the national question the continued defence of the land at the expense of company closures, service delivery due to capital flight from Zimbabwe?  Is it not fair to say the fight by the Zimbabwe government to keep the land in the hands of un-productive indigenous Zimbabweans has impoverished the generality of Zimbabweans?
As Zimbabweans, it is good to have land in as far as one has the financial resources to make use of that land. The majority of Zimbabweans given land have not and will not in the foreseeable future be able to access the necessary funding. At Redcliff, the home of ZISCO, the company cited and whose debt is responsible for the auctioning of the Zimbabwe property in South Africa, has not paid its workers for almost five years.
Most of these workers have been allocated large chunks of land in and around Kwekwe, mostly in the Circle G area. That area, once renowned for its large number of different kinds of wildlife, is now a sorry sight. Most of the farmers allocated land in that area report to ZISCO in the morning and later in the day find their way to these farms where they spend the day digging up sand in the nearby Sebakwe River for onward sale to sand vendors who pick it up in rundown trucks and also in turn sale the sand to residents building in the area; an exercise far removed from farming or wildlife conservancies. So Zimbabwe, what indeed is the national question?
Manheru makes reference to the manifesto of the “people first” movement purportedly led by former Vice President Amai Joice Mujuru. In it, they seem to have realised that the land fight was too big a fight to be won by merely passing an act of parliament. The land question was supposed to be a long term exercise and not a wham bham, thank you basi exercise. As Zimbabweans have learnt over the last twenty or so odd years, it is difficult to survive let alone engage in any form of farming or business relating to land without money.
The government itself is fighting court cases in almost every jurisdiction in southern Africa and in some instances in Europe. All this is due to poor decision making processes in the name of a revolution that has turned Zimbabweans into paupers. I pause again, what is the national question Zimbabwe. Is the national question not something that is supposed to be premised on national interest? National interest as in the citizens of the country, not the interests of the government of the day. National interest as in jobs for the people, service delivery, medical care for the sick, food for the people, education for the children, man that go to work to fend for their families and in the process keeping their dignity as providers.
In Redcliff, many households have pretty much collapsed as men that used to work for ZISCO have become impoverished human beings who have lost their social standing even before their very families. We are talking of artisans, engineers, boilermakers; real professionals can now be found milling around the shopping centre literally begging for a dollar from those that appear to be from out of town. This scenario has duplicated itself countrywide as companies that are meant to be the institutional pillars of the nation, struggle or have closed down, you name them, NRZ, Wankie Colliery, Zim Alloys, Zimglass, National Blankets, Kadoma Textiles, Tanganda Tea estates, ZIMASCO, Sable chemicals, Air Zimbabwe, the list is endless.
So I ask again, Zimbabwe, what the national question is. To watch Zimbabwe continue to spiral downwards because we have chosen not to compromise over the land issue is really sad. Manheru acknowledges that the people who are fighting for the land have both the patience and the money to wait and litigate. He talks of the former President of the CFU making a trip to Zimbabwe to personally tell his colleagues to continue to pay their subs with the CFU as the fight for the land is far from over. Zimbabweans, as an impoverished lot, neither have the fight nor sense of revolution to continue to fight with empty stomachs.
So what is the national question Zimbabwe? I think the answer to this lies somewhere between what Chinamasa is trying to do, that is get international institutions like to IMF, World Bank, Paris club and others on our side and we at the same time must be willing to compromise on the Land Acquisition act, indigenisation act, re- attract FDI into Zimbabwe and get the companies running again. We desperately need to tone down our politics. Black empowerment must never be seen as a sprint, but more a long marathon.
It does not surprise me why twenty odd years later the African National Congress in South Africa has little appetite of taking on the Boers head on in regard to the land. It is my sincere belief that if we had remained in the trajectory of “willing seller-willing buyer” despite the slow pace of land reform, Zimbabweans would be much better off today. It would have been possible to keep the manufacturing industries running as confidence would not have taken such a hard knock as it did post-2000.
In as much as it feels good to say “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again”, what Zimbabweans need right now are jobs, service delivery, (clean water, electricity, medical care etc. etc.). What Zimbabweans want right now is the restoration of their sense of pride? Restoration of a standard of life which makes one proud to be Zimbabwean. We need to be able to strike a balance between what our fore-fathers fought for and the good life.  Defend the gains of the liberation struggle and at the same time realise that we need to move forward as a nation, tone down our politics and embrace the global world that has moved on without us whilst we continue with the mantra “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again”.
Lloyd Msipa is a Zimbabwean Lawyer based in the United Kingdom, He writes in his personal capacity.