I have decided not to go back to Zimbabwe!
- Published on Monday, 15 June 2015 08:49
- Meli Ncube
- 0 Comments
N/B Read these first: http://263chat.com/2015/01/i-have-decided-to-leave-zimbabwe/
Do you still remember Jimmy? Yes. Well my name is Timmy, and Jimmy is my brother, from another mother. I have never decided to leave the country, but I have decided I do not want to go back.
But first things first.
My name is Timmy, I am a university student (….currently pursuing a Master’s degree). My mother was a ‘vendor’ and that’s how I managed to get registered, and in part pay for my very first degree, at one of Africa’s best universities, actually the Ivy League down here in the Southern Hemisphere. I managed to get myself two degrees from that revered institution. Do I love my country? Am I a patriot? Yes! Nothing could be further from the truth.
But things changed, have changed and are changing.
I was lucky enough to be considered for a government scholarship, during the Government of National Unity, which I was subsequently awarded. And so thus I graduated with my first degree, after much wooing and coaxing of my beloved government, who happened to have no funds after selling me expensive dreams. But then again in this knowledge, that there were no funds for the government, I cajoled and coaxed them into paying for my honours year. Was this a mistake or a masterstroke? I will leave you to judge for yourselves dear readers. I can reliably inform you that after completing my honours studies in the year of Our Lord 2013, I will only be receiving this Honours degree, passed with first class, via courier, next week, in the year of Our Lord 2015. I am writing this missive on a coldish and windy Saturday by the way. You see dear readers my beloved government had completely run out of money to educate its citizens, who by the way they always pompously claim to love so very much. The question then was what would become of me? Here I was, armed with only an undergraduate degree, and I wasn’t even the only one. I was doomed, or so I thought, considering that unemployment statistics have not made good reading for both South Africa and Zimbabwe for a while now, in fact the whole of Africa.
Like my brother from another mother Jimmy, I also realized something about our beloved nation and its leaders.
Our fathers and mothers don’t really care about us anymore. They fought in the colonial wars and that was it. They are now only interested in petty politics and self-enrichment whilst forever blaming everything that is anything on the ever-willing sanctions. For the common citizen on the street we have become but just a useful tool for only campaigning and boring to death with speeches which do little to nothing to fill our ever growling tummies. This is what my brother from another mother Jimmy also realized:
“No one cares for the public. We have dirty water in the taps and no one cares. We have erratic supply of electricity and no one cares. The roads are in shambles and no one is doing anything about it. Fuel prices go up and we can’t do anything about it. New taxes are introduced and we can only comply. Internet is very expensive. The public hospitals, the ones which we can afford, provide crappy service and people are dying because the nurses don’t care. I know because I watched my mother in law die at the hands of poor service delivery. And no one cares. Not them, not you, not the minister of health. No one. The company CEOs get treated outside the country now. But what about me? What about my kids?”
Now is that not the truth my fellow countrymen? So yes I have grown comfortable here, and I do not intend to get out of my comfort zone at all, although this makes me wonder. Am I now contributing to the problem of not fixing my country by shying away? Well we can debate this one until donkeys grow horns. But still I am happy here in my comfort zone, and I have decided I will not go back home, although the South African Department of Home Affairs and some disenchanted South African citizens will not agree.
So my countrymen, was it a masterstroke or a mistake that I cajoled and coaxed our beloved government into keeping one of the promises, enshrined in the constitution, to educate its citizenry? Was I selfish when I did this because I knew the financial situation was dire, but you see the MP’s were getting those Ford Everest 4WD’s. Anyway plenty of information is missing in this tale due to time and space, but one day I hope to tell it fully to anyone who would care to listen.
And so once again my name is Timmy, brother from another mother to Jimmy. I am a Zimbabwean citizen and I have decided I do not want to go back home!
Ways of belonging
- Published on Monday, 11 August 2014 14:13
- Meli Ncube
- 0 Comments
By Meli Ncube
The notion of citizenship is sometimes taken for granted and in South Africa, 20 years into democracy, it is far from being a settled concept.
Adam Habib, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Witwatersrand, joined Laurence Piper, deputy dean of research in the Faculty of Economic Management sciences at the University of the Western Cape, and Joy Owen, senior lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Rhodes University, in trying to define what citizenship or citizenry is in today’s South Africa.
Habib suggests that South Africa and its ‘citizens’ should first actually understand what the principle and notion of citizenship is. His understanding of citizenship according to him is that, “it is that which a citizen must be prepared to accord others with the polity of what they themselves want.”
In theory this is a very good and frank definition of citizenship but in practice this is a quite difficult as evidenced by the inequality still plaguing South Africa. This, Habib also acknowledges and says that it indeed is difficult principle to practice that kind of citizenship because of the high levels of inequality where you find people demanding for themselves for others what they themselves would not accept when it comes to matters of labour standards and the minimum wage.
“CEO’s earn about R17 million per annum for themselves but when workers demand a paltry R12 500 they refuse,” says Habib, referring to the Marikana and platinum mine strikes which are becoming a permanent fixture every calendar year.
Piper, on the other hand, says that “citizenship is about rights and not just the legal status.”
The idea that South Africa, at 20 years, is now a mature democracy absolutely makes sense, but only if one looks at the power structures of those running the government. In this he means that if you look at the bottom ‘from the perspective of citizens’, the picture of democratic citizenship is ‘fragmented.’
Piper alluded this to the fact that many South Africans still have to pay access to some of the most basic services which are the rights of citizens as enshrined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights- such as water, shelter, and education.
Consequently, explains Piper, inequality results because those who can afford the best of those basic citizen rights get the most and the best of them whilst those who can’t well do not get the adequate services they require as citizens.
Owen true to her anthropological nature makes her point like any good anthropologist would, by telling a story. “I will tell you a short story because I want you to think critically about the power you wield within the South African polity,” she says.
Her story is that when she used the term ‘makwerekwere’ to refer to white American citizens (exchange students), her class said it was wrong to do that especially to white people. Worryingly her class told her it was acceptable to refer to Africans (black) by that term because they did not belong in South Africa. Therefore for Owen, citizenship is about the politics of belonging as such to be a citizen you have to belong somewhere and somehow.
From such discussions it can be concluded that much and more extensive research still needs to be done on the notion of citizenship and what it means to citizens of any given country.
Please visit the Think!Fest blog to access the full recorded discussion: http://thinkfest.wordpress.com/
When citizenship is no longer valued!
- Published on Friday, 02 May 2014 12:15
- Meli Ncube
- 0 Comments
By Meli Ncube
As cliche as this might sound, I will say it anyway, it is true that you never appreciate what you have until its gone.
Fortunately for me, what I have is not really gone and maybe I couldn’t care more or less at this juncture if it was to go.
You see, I have always taken ‘citizenship’ for granted because for me it was one of those things which are ‘just there’. Well, I crossed the mighty Limpopo one day to South Africa to study, and for the first time in my life my ‘citizenship’ was questioned.
Seven years later I have become so used to the sight of Zimbabwean citizens advocating to assume South African citizenship. I also must admit that this thought has also crossed my mind once or twice; actually more than enough times already.
By the time this article is published Zimbabwe would have celebrated 34 years of independence from Britain, its former coloniser. I should point out that I write as a citizen of Zimbabwe in South Africa and I am one of the many who is unhappy. Dahlgren (2005) suggests that citizenship is a formal status, with rights and obligations. I on the other hand am not so sure where I stand with the obligations part, but I definitely know where I stand when it comes to the rights part.
Maybe I should qualify my claim to be a Zimbabwean citizen first before I go any further. The Constitution of Zimbabwe declares that-
persons are Zimbabwean citizens by birth, descent, or registration. All Zimbabwean citizens are equally entitled to the rights, privileges, and benefits of citizenship and are equally subject to the duties and obligations of citizenship.
As far as I can tell I was born in Zimbabwe, my birth certificate says so and so do my parents, additionally my lineage is also of Zimbabwean descent, and besides, all my ‘documentation’ suggests that I am a Zimbabwean citizen. Furthermore the next part of the Constitution which has since qualified me as a citizen of Zimbabwe by the way also declares that-
all Zimbabwean citizens are entitled to the following rights and benefits, in addition to any others granted to them by law:
- to the protection of the State wherever they may be;
- to passports and other travel documents;
- and to birth certificates and other identity documents issued by the State.
Zimbabwean citizens have the following duties, in addition to any others imposed upon them by law:
- to be loyal to Zimbabwe;
- to observe this Constitution and to respect its ideals and institutions;
- to respect the national flag and the national anthem;
- and to the best of their ability, to defend Zimbabwe and its sovereignty.
That being said, I can unequivocally declare that I am indeed a Zimbabwean citizen, but, well there is always a but! So my but comes in that of late it really hasn’t been a very attractive proposition to be a Zimbabwean citizen.
Of course by ‘of late’ it is thinly veiled euphemism, what I really mean is that for the past two decades it really hasn’t been attractive at all.
Chipkin (2010) contends that; a citizen is a moral-ethical figure, and that citizenship implies a certain norm of social conduct, and, therefore, implies a certain ‘good’ way of living together in community.
I fully agree with this observation, but I wonder how morally ethical one can be and remain if they are faced with harsh economic difficulties.
Dahlgren (2005) on the other hand suggests that citizenship has a subjective side: people must be able to see themselves as members and potential participants with efficacy in social and political entities; this must be a part of people’s multidimensional identities. Furthermore citizenship is central to the issues of social belonging and social participation.
Dahl (1989) seems to have captured the whole notion of citizenship when prescribing that; citizens should possess the political resources they would require to participate in political life pretty much as equals, which in all fairness is hardly ever the case especially in the African context. Most importantly among these resources, which are important to citizenship, are the ‘knowledge information and cognitive skills’ resources.
Let me go back to my earlier assertion that of late being a Zimbabwean citizen hasn’t been the most attractive of options out there.
I will begin with the land reform programme which rocked Zimbabwe a decade or so ago, and perhaps is it there were all the trouble started.
In 2002 the government of Zimbabwe decided to give land to its citizens after appropriating it from its ‘other’ citizens. These ‘other’ citizens were predominantly white farmers and of British descent. The argument advanced by the government of Zimbabwe was that it was righting past wrongs of colonial era. For most of these farmers the notion of citizenship must have been puzzling to them since they had been born and bred in Zimbabwe through generations and generations of their ancestors.
The way the government conducted its land appropriation programme is perhaps aptly captured by Mahmood Mamdani (2011) in his book titled; ‘From Citizen to Refugee: Uganda Asians Come to Britain’. In the book Mamdani describes how in the process of their eviction and their properties appropriated the infamous Idi Amin suggested that the “Asians came to Uganda to build the railway. The railway is finished. They must leave now…” (Mamdani, 2011:13).
In all probability these were the same sentiments expressed in Zimbabwe as they always are even to this day. Admittedly, such punitive measures, taken by African governments sometimes, raise questions about citizenship statuses to those affected by such actions.
I am not qualified to speak on the subject of homosexuality; whether it is right or wrong, but I understand that certain rights of homosexuals are being impinged upon as citizens by the failure or refusal of the government of Zimbabwe to recognise them.
They are in certain aspects not the same as other citizens and therefore should not enjoy the liberties all others enjoy because in the words of Pres. Mugabe ‘they are worse than animals’. In all fairness, homosexuality is not the real problem afflicting Zimbabwe.
The real problem is political, more precisely Mugabe and ZANU Pf’s stranglehold on power. Vitriol rants against homosexuals have become the governments ace card, and the president really has nothing left to talk about except save for homosexuality and or sanctions.
Thus these infamous sanctions have also become a useful scapegoat for anything that goes wrong in Zimbabwe, from a sorry economy, rampant corruption, to just about anything, even the weather!
On the subject of the economy, therein lies the issue, most professionals have since left the country and sought refuge elsewhere. What is worrying for me however is that the new and younger generation of future professionals like myself would just about do anything to keep away from Zimbabwe, hence the notions of valueless citizenship come to the fore.
There is a passionate desire not to return home to an ailing economy, which makes it virtually impossible for the enjoyment of ‘rights, privileges and, benefits’ of citizenship one is entitled to. I and a host of others aren’t really guaranteed employment, proper health care and other social amenities which the Constitution promises me as a citizen.
Surprisingly, for some strange reason however, other countries like South Africa, Britain, and the USA seem to be a far much better prospect even though it can be argued that they also fail their citizens to some extents.
Just recently on the occasion of the opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo this is what the president said;
“I was looking at the road from the airport to here. It was as if it was made in 1924 when I was born. If you put a bit of cement on it to level it, decorate it and put a bit of shoulders to the roads as other do, I’m sure they will look just fine” (Mugabe speech, ZITF: 2014)
The only response I could think of when I read that speech comes from one of my hooded heroes Batman, who aptly puts it by saying that ‘you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become a villain’.
Events occurring in the last two decades are a far cry from what Mugabe said in 1980 when the country attained its independence from colonial rule. On 17 April 1980, President Robert Mugabe addressed a euphoric crowd in the soon-to-be-independent Zimbabwe and had this to say to all and sundry;
“democracy is never mob rule … our independence must thus not be construed as an instrument vesting individuals or groups with the right to harass and intimidate others … our new nation requires … a new spirit that must unite and not divide.”
How times have changed since that passionate plea as Mugabe now has the ignominious distinction of being the only African head of state to preside over an average decline in both economic output and life expectancy. Since 1980, Zimbabwe’s poverty rate has skyrocketed; and the nation has shifted from being a global exporter of food to one in which one in four citizens needs food assistance.
Depressingly a recent survey by the country’s largest trade union found that 75 major companies have since shut down since January 2014 alone, putting around 9 000 breadwinners out of work.
To add to the problems, a once lauded education system is crumbling; with teachers routinely threatening strike action or leaving the work force altogether due to meagre salaries.
In this article I have probably ignored the basic precepts that make good citizenry but then again it is citizenship that is no longer valued!
Chipkin, I. (2010). ‘Functional’ and ‘Dysfunctional’ Communities: the Making of National Citizens. Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (Wiser). Journal of Southern African Studies, Volume 29 (1). Carfax Publishing
Dahl, R. (1989). Democracy and its Critics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Dahlgren, P. (2005). The Internet, Public Spheres, and Political Communication: Dispersion and Deliberation. Lund University. Sweden
Mamdani, M. (2011). From Citizen to Refugee: Uganda Asians come to Britain. Pambazuka Press. Cape Town, Nairobi, Dakar, and Oxford.