|Indigenisation and the myth of inefficient African production systems|
|Friday, 13 July 2012 08:09|
THERE has been talk, debate, and many times bad talk across and within the political divide over the Indigenisation Act and its implementation.
Nobody has really given convincing explanation as to why the heat has gone so high during implementation when in the first place the law came through parliamentary wisdom and deliberation.
The explanations that are abundant on the market all hover from dismissing the law as controversial, Minister Kasukuwere going over board, the act being one of Zanu-PF's subtle political joker, and how it will ruin the economy.
This makes the lay wonder where the law came from in the first place. Is it true that Zanu-PF pushed it through parliament, and it is part Zanu-PF's grab and loot strategy? This is not an area that I am interested in here, but, the naked truth is, the Indigenisation Act passed through both the lower and upper houses of law making where there is significant political representation across the political divide, and, if not to Zanu-PF's numerical disadvantage.
In this discussion, I reduce indigenisation simply to a process of ensuring ownership of the means of production by indigenous Zimbabweans.
This evokes the question; who is a Zimbabwean, who is not, who is indigenous and who is not. That can never be answered convincingly, but the history of colonialism across Africa will at least provide some direction in terms of where the word indigenisation came from and who are the indigenes.
A simple answer would be to ask why communities like the Aborigines in Australia, the San in the Kalahari, and the Gypsies in Equatorial and the Horn of Africa are labelled indigenous communities. That one is as clear as the land is from the sea!
I am not going to sink into that historical conundrum, though easy to define, but my interest here is afford fellow Zimbabweans a bit of a step-further analysis on one of the sentiments, rather, a fear that has been spread when the Indigenisation Act started to make its work out on the ground. This is all about the talk and fear that indigenisation 'will destroy the country's economy.' I wish to add a subsection to that narrative, which has been implied in the latter, but never given full attention and analysis, which is, 'why some people fear indigenisation will ruin the country's economy and why that fear seems feasible with the focus of some elements within our midst.
Colonialism came and Africans fought for their independence, which they started winning with Nkrumah's Ghana in 1957. Colonialism resisted and its last big fall was Mandela's release from prison in 1990, and the subsequent independence of his native country, South Africa in 1994. Mandela's release from prison was a big moment in the history of the African struggle against apartheid- colonialism- for all its content, colonialism was apartheidic.
But, what Africans failed to realise was, colonialism had not fallen with the dawn of political independence. Colonialism's centrepiece was the economy and not the political- Viva Frelimo! Aluta Continua! Pamberi neZANU! or Pasi na Ian Smith!- slogans. At the very best, there was an unwritten exchange of African political independence for the white economy's continued hold onto the means of production.
That stature needed not to be disturbed for it was a heralded as symbol of economic order, the hallmark of the transition to modern efficient states and economies. Sadly, it had to be understood that way, the African would keep the flag, and the European would control the oil.
Efficiency was the word at Zimbabwe's independence in 1980. Efficiency assumed hegemony, and dominated economics and development literature to the extent of overshadowing the nationalist narrative that had won independence.
Was it bad thinking? No. What was bad, and what continues to be bad was / is the myth that circulated; smooth, and slow, slimy, subtle and beasty, that African communities could / cannot be trusted with production, especially economic production. African communities could-but that needed to be put under check as well-only be trusted with reproduction!
This is a similar myth that made President Robert Mugabe's Government struggle with settling the land issue once and for all through the years after 1980.
A myth, which for a long time even the nationalists bought and were bought into it. There was growing fear that giving land to African communities would turn the country and agricultural land into a dust bowl.
Attached to the dust bowl philosophy was African communities were at the centre of environmental degradation and depletion. Giving the African prime agricultural land would manifest the apotheosis of the unreasonable and the tragedy of the commons. African agriculture was only traceable to primitive modes of hunter-gatherer, slash-and-burn, and African land tenure practices were the antithesis of production and attendant modern efficiency.
This explains all the hullaballoo that surrounded the fast track land reform programme starting the year 2000.
The explanation and fear was we were destroying order and the promise to Canaan with a road back to Egypt.
In local lingua; 'zvinoda mwana wamissis', (this requires the white woman's son or daughter) this can only be done when the white men or his sons or daughters intervene became / is common. African community production and thinking surrendered all knowledge and wisdom to 'mwana wamissis', if things had to be done, yes, for production and posterity, because our systems had been / we have portrayed them as, they just do not work, will not work, and have never worked.
African history has been built around this myth for a long time. Its birth is traced from European colonialism's racial craft and alienation.
It laid the non-biodegradable seeds of looking at African production and productivity with a third squint eye. The dust bowl; environmental degradation; indiscriminate destruction of flora and fauna, from a full bread basket to a begging basket case, from Kondozi to Libodzi, from plural to singular, and from singular to complete destruction.
The foregoing forms the basis of an issue that I want to articulate in this initial series of papers on Candid Africa. It is a Pan-African candid platform where I try to present issues not in the strict academic talk, but a mix of academic insight with everyday life and laughter. It is part of what this series of papers will try to explore from a historical perspective; how the myth developed, how it circulated from the local to the global, how it sustains itself to date and into the future and with what consequences.
The issue is about how black African communities, have had a historical myth built around them to the extent that it sings reality in their eyes and ears. And owning resource sources and the means of production like the land and equity in industry is cast in doubt and ineptitude.
The myth has been given its own credit by the wanton failings and trappings of black (for that is what we call indigenous in Zimbabwe-black owned shops, black owned farms etc. This has been further split in recent years; to be indigenous is not only being black, but, being black and honest to a patriotic history) business enterprises from government level to peasants in the village.
This is the basis for the current talk and talk back, fear and confusion over the implementation of the Indigenisation Act.
We are a community cut out of a history of a looted continent.
Unbeknown to many of us what was looted were not only African resources as in gold, diamond, oil, or timber.
What continue to be looted today is not the same resources in their new abundance or their new rare findings as in coltan, or rare earth minerals.
The writer is a Pan-African, Zimbabwean scholar studying Conflict Security & Development studies at the prestigious Kings College, London. His research interests cover natural resources and conflict in Africa, governance and youth agency, state failure, and globalisation and social violence.