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My struggle is about becoming more conscious - politically, socially and individually: Interview with Takura Zhangazha
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
July 18, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Takura Zhangazha

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Takura ZhangazhaActivist and political commentator Takura Zhangazha has worked with the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa and makes frequent contributions to Zimbabwe-s independent newspapers- opinion columns. He is currently serving as director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe.

As an activist what is your struggle about?
My struggle is a return to making purposeful history, to taking the country and our lives seriously. It-s about being more conscious of our existence politically, socially and individually. I don-t see this in the country at the moment. I see comrades being too casual, comrades looking too much through the prism of NGO frameworks that they-ve crammed more than they understand, and comrades behaving consistently like the 'other-, not wanting to be equal. Behaving sometimes as though we are still natives, yet we are supposed to have significantly returned to making our own history as a country, and even after independence we are supposed to have consistently been conscious of the challenges we face. This is where you see the failure of ZANU PF. It cannot renew itself and it still insists that the country is still the same when it is not. Simultaneously those who challenge ZANU PF have only been around for ten to fifteen years in an organised form, and most of them are very unconscious of their own struggle history, never mind the liberation struggle. They abandon positions as if conventions never occurred, meetings never had resolutions, and they come up with new ones. They pander more to international epistemologies about how exactly the country should move. Take economic policies for example, what the Minister of Finance might present has nothing to do with the realities on the ground. We-ve got to have some basic minimums. Listen

Do you feel frustrated? Because it has been a very long time, and I see a decline.
Yes the frustration is there. Sometimes comrades don-t negotiate enough with their circumstances. You don-t have to be a radical; neither should you be a pushover. Even if you find middle ground, I-m sure you-ll find something better. But most of the time we-re either pushovers or we are attempting to be too radical. But you-ve got to negotiate your position on land; you-ve got to negotiate your position on gender. Not to compromise the principle. For example, when Cabral writes on the weapon of theory he says 'we know that in Cuba, the revolution occurred but we can-t export this revolution to Guinea Bissau, what we can do is to negotiate and to learn from it- and so on. It-s the same with dealing with international capital or donor organisations. You don-t have to do what they are saying, you negotiate on the basis of principle, you say 'look comrade this is what we have and this is what you want. These are your interests and these are ours-, and see where the common ground is. Too often we are either just pushovers or we-re unnecessarily radical. In the process we lose our sense of purpose and placement in the struggle. Listen

In view of the election, which I understand is again a point of contention, and also BAZs recent call for applications, do you think we are on our way towards a freer media space?
I think we-re on our way towards a negotiated political media space, a compromised media space that in the end also comes out as partisan. I see the media operating in an environment, which does not reflect section 20 of our constitution, which is the one that guarantees us access to information, and freedom of expression. It won-t reflect the spirit and letter. It will reflect more the political interests of the big political players who are in Parliament at present.

Is it even possible or practical to expect an entirely independent media?
It is possible to have a free media space, we should have it, and we should ask for it and not be over academic or over comparative in our analysis. We deserve to have a completely free media because we-ve never tried it and we are coming from a repressive media environment; its best democratic practice. We don-t have to follow what is done in other countries without thinking what we want for ourselves. All these years of trying to fight AIPPA, and all these years of trying to get rid of ZBCs monopoly should inform our understanding of what we want. But an independent media must come of course with an understanding that a self-regulatory mechanism needs the support and understanding of media stakeholders. It also needs the politicians to understand that you can-t license the media. As Zvobgo said in 2002 it-s like licensing your own citizens to speak. The right to freedom of expression and media freedom are intertwined - they-re inseparable. It-s a given.

What is your opinion of the political landscape, with particular regard to the elections?
First of all I think the three political parties in the inclusive government are close to mortgaging the country to SADC and the South African government and read with that, South African business. As you know from International Relations, there are no permanent friends, just permanent interests. It-s very unfortunate that every other week there-s a story about SADC or ZUMA making decisions or meeting with our president or prime minister every second month. It basically means that our leaders might not be in charge of their own country. It-s sad to say that we-re not bringing them to account on that. SADC mediation is more problematic than it appears. On the issue of elections themselves, it-s not so much the timing but the fundamental reforms that must be made to electoral laws and processes and the building of confidence around the same. The continued postponement of elections creates an excuse for people who are not doing their work.

I think our leaders are completely inorganic. They fight amongst themselves and disagree amongst themselves and forget that we are watching. In our observation, what we have noticed again and again is scape-goating and in part, a simplistic approach to the problems the country is facing. Where leaders easily write letters to Zuma, fight over a report at the SADC troika ... we are here, and we have a Parliament and a Government.

I read your opinion piece regarding the new constitution where you concluded that you would not be voting yes for this constitution. If we again have a no vote for this constitution, what then?
Then we start again.

Until? Do you honestly believe that the partisan interests will not somehow hijack another constitution making process?
No. The surprise and shock I think for ZANU PF in losing the draft constitution referendum in 2000, indicated that the issue of the constitution has become something of a leitmotif, something that is somewhat unconsciously inherent in Zimbabwean citizens. As soon as there is suspicion that it-s a manipulated document, people tend to mobilise against it. So to allay your fear, yes the constitution will be manipulated on a regular basis by political parties, even in trying to reform and also by some civil society organisations that are biased. But what you can-t take away from the country-s people is that ability to give a verdict, which is democratic practice. So on the constitution, no matter who manipulates it, at least ensure that the verdict is respected, don-t judge the verdict on constitutionalism if you-re a constitutional expert or have a law degree. Just understand that we are all citizens, and no matter how naïve I might be about it, I must understand it. Even more important is the issue of us doing it right for once. Why must it become a big political process?

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