The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Affirmative Action Is About Change

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There can be no denying that Zimbabwe has been characterised by economic injustice, a trend that is now being reversed through land reform and black empowerment. Luther alluded to the fact that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

Luther further argues that "we are caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied to a single garment of destiny. What affects one directly affects all indirectly."

The affirmative action movement in Zimbabwe was born out of the realisation that there was still injustice on the economic platform.

Proponents of black empowerment refused to watch Zimbabwean brothers and sisters smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent minority.

Affirmative action is therefore a direct fight against injustice. The age old adage sums it all up -- justice delayed is justice denied.

Soyinka refers to Africa's suffering as cultural and spiritual violation that has left indelible imprints on the collective psyche and sense of identity of the peoples, a process that was ensured through savage repressions of cowering traditions by successive Waves of Colonising hoards.

Weills associates suffering with a notion of spiritual death -- what she calls "living in the absence of God".

Given the above scenario, the black empowerment movement in Zimbabwe's contention is that an African must "look in the mirror and refuse to accept images of him manufactured by other people to serve their ideological motives and interests."

Underpinning the above philosophical ideas is the desire for Zimbabweans to be masters of their own destiny and denounce unapologetically, the whims and caprices of the privileged people enjoying in the centres of power.

When thinking about justice and equality in the Zimbabwean context, "suffering and poverty" are focal variables on which the analysis focuses in comparing different people.

The Affirmative Action Group believes that the key essential pillar of a successful program of Affirmative Action is the law. Chiyangwa notes that affirmative action is about change, most often upheaval. It is about coming from the outside and questioning the status quo.

The drivers of black empowerment in Zimbabwe strive to advocate for legislation which promotes the empowerment of African people. In this regard, it is critical to develop extensive depth at both examining inherited laws and piloting, through the changes which support its objectives.

It is imperative to achieve national transformation and comprehensive empowerment on four key programmes, namely: meeting the basic needs of Zimbabweans, developing human resources, building the economy and democratising the state and society.

Thus, economic empowerment must be seen within the broad net of empowerment processes, which include job creation, the granting of access to finance and the creation of an enabling environment to conduct business. This mission is only achievable if all stakeholders embrace a developmental perspective which should bring new potential to the disadvantage.

The descriptive nomenclatures and pejorative terms that have been used to characterise the African entrepreneurs as visionless and professional thieves masquerading as empowerment activists is thus unforgivable.

Also unacceptable are perceptions of Zimbabwe as a failed state and vampire institution. In a most coherent way, the AAG was born out of the need for support and guidance demonstrated by the agony faced by its founder members and many other indigenous people to survive in a hostile environment characterised by discriminatory legislation that supported pre-independence economic players.

There was consensus that public economic and sound policy needed to be systematically sensitised to the historically disadvantaged groups so that they could both defend the little that they had and meaningfully expand their stake in the economy.

Thus the twin pillars of the pioneering affirmative action are advocacy and defence.

Advocacy is undertaken for the recognition and promotion of the rights of the majority in a society founded on democratic principles to programmes which both give them appropriate mechanisms for survival through socio-economic change, and enhance their capacity to self development by accessing resources.

Defence entails that whatever gains may have accrued to the disadvantaged groups against the more perverse effect of the unfettered workings of market forces, especially given the inherent weaknesses in public support systems.

Dr Keith Guzah is the president of Affirmative Action Group.

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