Class, Poverty and Perception in Zimbabwe 2018 Election

By Takura Zhangazha*

This is my last blog post prior to Zimbabwe’s 2018 ‘harmonised’ election. Over the last at least three (3) months, I have tried to share what I perceive to be its popular meaning, structural import and where possible, its more hidden hegemonic impact. As a wannabee ‘public intellectual’ I confess to feeling I have played my fairer part. Not just by way of my weekly blogs but also by way of global public television interviews and suiting up for public meetings /workshops (mainly in Harare) as and when asked to do so by progressive and democratic organisations.

On occasion I have extended and shared my personal views via social media posts (Twitter and Facebook mainly) on the ambiguities of Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections after the ‘coup not a coup’ November 2017 ouster of Robert Mugabe.

For the fact that I could do so, I thank colleagues in local pro-democracy Zimbabwean civil society and other continental bloggers networsk such as AfricaBlogging and international new thinking global forums like for example re;publica2018 (Germany).

My gratitude also extends to local Zimbabwean newspapers that at the whim of someone or the other in their editorial teams would use my blogspot’s content as and when they felt they could. No questions asked on my part (and I guess on many bloggers’ part). Just the idea of your thoughts/writings appearing in any newspaper appears to be enough compensation. With or without your permission vis-a-vis intellectual property rights as a public interest good.

But back to the elections for a national president, three (3) members of parliament and local government councilors.

A number of things have happened right on the proverbial eve of them. The ruling Zanu Pf party has hit a materialist campaign trail that has left in its wake shell-shocked citizens at to where it found all its campaign financing in the relatively short period between the ‘coup not a coup’ events of November 2017.

The opposition in turn, after supporting and legitimating the November 2017 removal of Mugabe events, has thrown down the gauntlet and claimed that the elections and election management process via the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is tilted in favour of a ruling party victory. This, despite the self proclaimed greater popularity of the recently founded (and probably reinvented) MDC Alliance and its highly confident of electoral victory national leadership.

In the hullabaloo of political campaign rallies and social media distributed images of the same to prove popularity and support, biased media coverage, borderline religious fervor on behalf of any presidential or other ‘harmonised’ candidate, there are other key issues to reflect on.

The first one being that this 2018 election has been about class. Those in positions of relative privilege have come to determine the political agenda. Either side of the political divide. And we need not to go into detail about how leaders of all the main political parties are also apart of what is referred to in Marxian terms as a comprador bourgeoisie. They have gone a step further o demonstrate their class allegiances by way of proposing across the board, neoliberal economic manifestos. And making the priority target audience of their electoral campaigns, global capital and its attendant ‘international community’.

This approach has meant that their on the ground election campaigns have run on high levels of populism and crass materialism. And in most cases been structured around creating impressions/perceptions of progress than addressing real issues and in reality. Hence the massive media campaigns of the ruling party and the religion nuanced one of the main opposition candidate.

In the process the election becomes about perception and how to manage it. for both the observers and political party supporters, sympathisers. In essence the election (in and of itself) becomes no more than a legitimating event for those that are sympathetic and supported by global capital and its international political enablers. In other words, the economic agenda has already been set and its a question of who gets to run with it.

So the urban working class and rural peasantry are made to perceive of this as progress. By way of materialism and managing perception. As well as limiting the national consciousness by mixing up religion and political discourse. And also by way of a long standing binary political contestation between what was the then Zanu Pf under Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) under Tsvangirai.

And this works largely because of the endemic poverty that has been visited on a majority of urban working class people and rural peasants due to not only bad political governance but more importantly the embracing of neoliberalism by both Zanu PF and the MDC (when it was in the inclusive government and after).

This combination of class (dominance), poverty and perception has meant that the 2018 elections is less about the Zimbabwean people but the interests of the dominant political/economic elite and the capital that supports them. It is not intended to be a revolutionary act (though such language will be regularly deployed to woo voters) It is in reality meant to be the legitimation and augmentation of the neo-liberal agenda. Whoever wins. For many a Zimbabwean this for now may not matter. Or they may not know. But after the event, it not only shall matter but it shall be experienced. And then perhaps the national consciousness will see beyond the ruse.
*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com)

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