Zimbabwe: One Of Africa’s Most Democratic Countries
By Garikai Chengu
02 July, 2013
Contrary to the Westernized popular belief that Zimbabwe is synonymous with ‘Mugabe’s dictatorship’, it is one of Africa's most democratic states.
If Robert Mugabe is indeed a dictator, he has a peculiar way of showing it: the President liberated Zimbabwe from white minority rule and established a thriving parliamentary democracy, which has held multi-party elections ever since Independence in 1980. In fact, this year at least twenty-eight political parties will contest Zimbabwe's upcoming, general elections.
Few dictatorships in history have held an election like Zimbabwe did recently. Mugabe upheld the constitution in order to allow the opposition to win a majority in parliament and appoint their choice for a Prime Minister. Even fewer dictatorships have encouraged tens of thousands of people to take part in hundreds of open meetings, nationwide. This culminated in a truly people-driven constitution that entrenches democratic freedoms.
However, what sets Zimbabwe apart from other African nations is the fact that the ruling party firmly believes that democracy extends beyond merely political and civic rights and includes equal social and economic rights.
For African nations that have endured colonial dictatorships for centuries, democracy and decolonization are two and the same. The goal of colonialism was certainly not to teach natives English, table manners and double-entry book-keeping; nor was colonialism merely created to ensure that white settlers simply retained power for power’s sake.
Colonialism is an economic system designed to systematically exploit indigenous Africans for the betterment of Europeans. Thus, electing a black man into the State House does not constitute freedom or decolonization. The true form of post-colonial independence is defined by African economic policies that promote land democratization and economic indigenization.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the United Nations Committee on Decolonization recognized that freedom and decolonization cannot be attained through merely political processes. Both processes require economic democratization.
The most significant legacy of colonialism is that it robbed the Native of any meaningful inheritance and, thus, the platform from which to advance his economic freedom. Zimbabwe's land democratization program is designed to restore that platform for many indigenous generations to come.
At face value, Zimbabwe’s agrarian revolution may appear to be simply about land. But it is about so much more. Land is not merely land.
Land is a place to be born, a place to grow up, a place to call home, and a place to be buried. Land is a source of food, a livelihood, and an asset to bequeath to our next generations. Above all else, land is a source of African pride. Land is never merely land.
Often, we see democracy, in its essence, as the freedom to vote, the intrinsic right of free will. But choice is nothing without the freedom from poverty. Economic prosperity stabilizes and empowers free will.
President Mugabe did not spark the land revolution, landless Zimbabweans did. The President only stepped in to provide leadership and a legal framework. By successfully transferring land from 4,000 white farmers and re-distributing it to half a million landless blacks, President Mugabe has shown the world that a truly democratic, political system inevitably leads to a truly democratic economy.
Economic democratization not only corresponds to political empowerment and stability, but also economic prosperity. Recent studies by British and Zimbabwean academics suggest that the new African Socialist, agricultural patterns are more economically productive than the previous white-led, Capitalist modes of agricultural ownership and production.
As it turns out, a few thousand white farmers who under-utilized their farms, which were the sizes of small nations, and stashed their profits in Swiss bank accounts did not benefit Zimbabwe's economy; nor did it benefit the political system.
A half million new farmers are forming a formidable indigenous agrarian middle class. These farmers serve as the drive-chain of an agriculturally fueled, economic recovery. They symbolize a regional beacon for the attainability of agrarian, economic independence.
Brave men and women fought and died for Zimbabwean independence to establish a free democracy and to indigenize the economy. The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act is not merely a moral initiative designed to redress the wrongs of the past. It is both a pragmatic growth strategy that is designed to realize the nation’s full economic potential and a means to strengthen the nation’s democracy.
In the past, the top ten percent of businesspeople in Zimbabwe - a great deal of whom were foreigners or whites - owned 40.3 percent of the nation's wealth according to the World Bank. Indigenisation will strengthen Zimbabwe's democracy by redistributing this wealth.
Equal wealth benefits democracy because, in any given economy, the first significant portion of a person’s income is allocated to fundamental necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter. The second allocation, or the “wealth segment”, provides access to “higher activities”, such as leisure, educating oneself, saving, investment and democratic participation. An individual is 'free' in a democratic sense, if they have the means to participate in society beyond the boundaries of basic human survival.
When all is said and done, people cannot eat freedom, democracy, or human rights. They need social welfare and civic infrastructure. Over the next five years, President Mugabe’s Indigenisation policy has primed itself to redistribute US$3 billion from foreign investors to local community trusts, in order to ensure the development of clinics, roads, and schools. Indigenisation will also create over one million jobs. In short, Indigenisation will re-orient Zimbabwe’s democratic economy to empower and benefit the Native first and the foreign profiteer second.
President Mugabe's Indigenisation and Land Democratization policies form the cornerstone of Mugabeism. This ideology is a new brand of African Democratic Socialism that is becoming increasingly resurgent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Recent Presidential elections in Kenya and Zambia have been won by candidates, espousing African Democratic Socialism; whereas the candidates that favored pro-Western, neo-liberal policies, lost their elections dismally.
Mugabeism is an ideology that believes in not only transferring political power from the minority elite to the masses, but also an unwavering commitment to the transfer of the means of production – land, minerals, and corporations – from the privileged white minority to the Zimbabwean majority.
Garikai Chengu is a Fellow of Harvard University's Du Bois Institute for African Research. Garikai can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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