The Herald (Harare)

16 November 2012

Zimbabwe: IT Versus Evolution of Industry

Entry level and blue-collar jobs - the traditional means of absorbing new and less experienced workers - have dwindled considerably. This is due to industry's limited expansion and increased use of technology rather than people improving productivity. No substantial change in this trend appears imminent, since industry continues to seek profit through automation, computer technology and the like.

Thus, as the need for the vast unskilled workforce of earlier periods diminishes, those at the bottom of the ladder become irrelevant labour and therefore permanent members of the underclass. The statement above demonstrates the greatest challenge in Zimbabwe, where economic imbalances still exist.

This is inextricably linked to colonial history hence the importance of affirmative action as a bulwark against socio-economic imbalances.

Affirmative action is designed to get deep into the foundations of such an exploitative system design and also use the law to institute policies that are friendly to indigenous economic empowerment.

The strategy should involve the use of the law and knowledge to counteract the scenario. During the time of the Rudd Concession, for example, Zimbabweans were easily subordinated because of the asymmetrical knowledge terrain between the invading Europeans and the autochthonous indigenous natives.

The indigenous people did not understand that once you put your signature on something without apparent coercion, then you are bound by whatever you signed yourself into. So, the fact that the people from Europe knew how the law operated created a signing event where King Lobengula did not understand what he was getting himself into.

Once he signed it, there was no turning back. Besides such kind of legalistic manipulations, some countries are conquered by force and the law is imposed on them. If it prevails for long enough, then it becomes legitimate.

The United States and Australia as well as New Zealand are perfect examples. They almost reflect an Anglo-Saxon model for conquering the world during the high days of European empires.

In light of the eradication of historical asymmetries in legal knowledge and political power, mechanisms can be used, as has been the case in Zimbabwe, to institute legal frameworks that are friendly to Zimbabwe's self determination.

The Affirmative Action Group contributed immensely to the legislation which resulted in the enactment of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act of 2007. It has to be underscored that the same system which has been used against Africans is malleable enough such that it can also be used by the Africans themselves to fight back enemies who used the very same instrument to undermine them!

This, of course, is thanks to political independence which was achieved through the First and Second Chimurengas. Thus, affirmative action is one of the most important dynamos and drivers of the Third Chimurenga in that it produced one of the most important legislative foundations in the creation of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.

It is important that people, and the entire scholarly community, understand that it is not by accident that the AAG led the development of the Indigenisation Act.

Zimbabweans understood that affirmative action, being a legitimate legal tool, was important in order to make a radical break from the pacifist approach taken by the pioneering, but ill-fated Indigenous Business Development Centre. The lopsided legal knowledge terrain resulted in a technical loss on the part of the indigenous people. They were defeated through the principle of "ignorentia non excusetta" whereby an ignorance of the laws does not exempt one from the consequences of breaking the law or the benefits of it.

Affirmative action has become a bulwark against economic imbalances reacting to the new dominant forms of colonialism which are apparent such as:

Economic colonialism in the guise of globalisation. This is shaped by international corporations and the rigid ideological constructs mandated by wealthy nations like in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and G20 in controlling the flow of wealth.

Cultural colonisation which feeds upon the expectations that Levi's and Nike shoes are the world's best dress code, that McDonald's and Coca-Cola are its basic diet and which seeks to export a monochromatic pop sound round the globe that silences the traditional musical voices from a thousand villages.

The colonial export of development policies that destroy rural agriculture, soil, rivers and pollute air, uproot village life and encourage urban migration and has generally increased the gap between the rich and the poor both within and between nations.

And a continuing colonisation of the mind by religious fundamentalism and a vicious nationalism that encourages hatred and intolerance of anyone with different ideas or doctrines.

Zimbabweans have not unfortunately learned how to humanely respond to such intolerance and only know the language of power that looms as yet another form of neo-colonial dominance and witnessed in the middle east, Persian gulf, Balkans in the 1990s and in the Afghanistan into the 21st century.

The author is the President of the Affirmative Action Group.

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