Everyday crisis-living in Zimbabwe

Kirk Helliker, Manase Kudzai Chiweshe, Sandra Bhatasara and Gift Mwonzora


At the turn of this century, a multifaceted and deep-seated crisis arose in Zimbabwe, with the Fast-Track Land Reform Programme as the immediate disruptive event. Twenty years later, at a national level, the country remains in crisis. In this sense, the early post-fast-track years were not a temporary aberration, as Zimbabwe is now in perpetual crisis. The emerging national-level crisis led swiftly to a vibrant crisis literature within Zimbabwean studies, including acrimonious debates about the causes, character and consequences of the national crisis. More recently, there exist full-length manuscripts about post-2000 Zimbabwe at a national level, with these studies also tracing historically the multiple crises facing contemporary Zimbabwe (Bratton 2014; Rich Dorman 2017). Other manuscripts, sometimes edited ones, arc rooted more firmly in fieldwork-based research and even ethnographies, and these have a thematic focus in examining a particular field of social life (e.g. agrarian labour) in specific sites within the context of Zimbabwe’s political economy of crisis (Hartnack 2016; Rutherford 2017). In effect, this latter set of works examines the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans in the context of crisis. Similar scholarly tendencies appear in the burgeoning journal-based work on post-2000 Zimbabwe.

This book draws inspiration, in particular, from localised studies of contemporary Zimbabwe, and the manner in which these in-depth studies consider, identify and examine thoughtfully the narratives, experiences and practices of ordinary Zimbabweans as they live and work in crisis (or crisis-living). Through a diverse array of fieldwork-based case studies, the book goes one step further by setting out and using a conceptual (and analytical) framing rarely present in Zimbabwean studies, namely an “everyday lives” one. Further, it does so by foregrounding explicitly, and theorising about, the chronic character of the national crisis in Zimbabwe, within which everyday crisis-living takes place. In this regard, the everyday lives of Zimbabweans (post-2000) cannot be read and deduced directly from broad depictions nationally about the character of the Zimbabwean crisis, as crisis is invariably refracted, mediated and translated by means of intricate and fluid social repertoires in specific localities understood both spatially and temporally.

2 KirkHelliker, Manase Kudzai Chiweshe, Sandra Bhatasara and Gift Mwonzora

In examining the everyday crisis-living of Zimbabweans, this book provides rich (yet unpublished) micro-studies based on original fieldwork by young Zimbabwean scholars over the past ten years. The 13 chapters appear under three parts: Urban and rural lives; Men, women and HIV; and Along and beyond the border. In understanding the everyday, the chapters demonstrate how the study of ordinary practices provides insights into the contradictions and complexities of daily life in an array of Zimbabwean spaces. In centring everyday life, the various authors provide a rich tapestry and multiple perspectives pertaining to the analysis of the complex social realities and imaginaries of the lives of Zimbabweans.

Everyday lives

There is now a vast global literature, which focuses explicitly on the notion of everyday lives. However, this literature acknowledges and at times draws upon, as we do as well, an even larger corpus of literature which in some way has, at the very least, an implicit rendering of everyday lives (including Karl Marx, E. P. Thompson, Jurgen Habermas and Harold Garfinkel). We concentrate on the explicit everyday lives literature, in large part because - as we show - it remains marginal within Zimbabwean studies.

Trying to delineate the boundaries of everyday life is difficult if not impossible. Sometimes, there arc ontological claims about the significance of immediate experiences and social practices (as demarcating everyday lives); at other times, specific epistemological and analytical underpinnings for studying everyday lives come to the fore (Ebery 2016). Certainly, diverse theoretical standpoints from different scholarly disciplines mark this literature, so that no common approach to understanding everyday lives appears. In what follows, we distil two interrelated everyday-life orientations (or conceptions) relevant to examining the relationship between national crisis and crisis-living in contemporary Zimbabwe: everyday lives as quotidian and as tactics. Additionally, we acknowledge the following argument by Davies (2006) in positioning our claims about crises:

Conceiving social life in terms of its levels tends to treat everyday life as a ground upon which the global [or national] forces act. This is often empirically true, but such an ahistorical conception reifies everyday life as a realm separate from the global [or national],

(Davies 2006:225, emphasis in original)

We unpack this later.

Everyday life as the quotidian

First of all, the notion of “everyday lives” is linked to the quotidian, including the taken-for-granted, the banal, the convivial, the familiar, the mundane, the known and the ordinary (and even the trivial). These involve the routinised activities and practices in which people - collectively - engage on a daily basis

Everyday crisis-living in Zimbabwe 3 in their “micro-situatedness” (Rikincn et al. 2015). Though these activities may seem insignificant, their ongoing repetitiveness over time form the very basis for the existence of social life. As Maffcsoli (1989:3) puts it, everyday life entails “banalities which, by sedimentation, constitute the essence of existence”. This entails recognising everyday life (the very stuff of life) as a foundation for social stability. In emphasising the importance of studying everyday lives, Sztompka (2008:3) argues that it is indeed “the only life that people have”. On this basis, irrespective of their placement in societal hierarchies, and in whatever formal or informal spaces they act, all people arc “everyday people”.1 Though a considerable portion of this literature concentrates on informal yet structured settings, even ethnographies of state bureaucracies demonstrate the prevalence of an everyday-livcd social world (Bratsis 2006; Bernstein and Mertz 2011). Overall, the content of everyday experiences and practices is context-specific spatially as well as temporarily.

Importantly, both “the present and the past” arc embodied “within ... everyday life” (Conlon 2010:73). The embodiedness of everyday life is central to everyday lives as the quotidian and is of course consistent with broader social theorising. The embodied everyday also comes out in the work of Foucault, because of the way in which disciplinary measures permeate everyday life and become imprinted on the body. Likewise, Bourdicu highlights an internalised and embodied history, which manifests in the ritualised disposition-based habitus of everyday existence. From this, it becomes clear that everyday life is conditioned by various societal hierarchies and inequalities (such as class and gender).

Hence, while everyday life as the quotidian highlights mundanity and rou-tincness, it is cognisant of the micro-politics and localised regimes of power (including patriarchy) which structure everyday life. This implies a relational understanding of everyday lives (a point made more forcefully in the second orientation). As well, the quotidian is animated by numerous ambiguities and tensions. As Neal (2015) highlights, stories about an ordered everyday life arc, simultaneously, stories about disorder, rupture and drama. Hence, everyday life is “dynamic, surprising and even enchanting, characterised by ambivalences, perils, puzzles, contradictions, accommodations and transformative possibilities” (Neal and Murji 2015:182). In this sense, cvcrydayncss is an “open totality” (Seigworth and Gardiner 2004:142). These points lead to a second conception of everyday lives, that is, everyday life as tactics.

Everyday life as tactics

This second conception, and the one prioritised for this volume, focuses on the manner in which the everyday lives of subordinate groupings entail navigating and negotiating within and through the existing dominant order. This is compatible with "history from below” and a bottom-up understanding of social change, articulated most famously by E. P. Thompson in his examination of the cultural experiences and constructions of working class people in The Making of the English Working Class (Thompson 1963). James Scott’s Weapons of the Weak

4 KirkHelliker, ManaseKudzai Chiweshe, Sandra Bhatasara and Gift Mwonzora (Scott 1985) and even his Decoding Subaltern Politics (2013) also comes to mind in this respect.

The extensive writings of Michel de Certeau and Henri Lefebvre arc very influential in shaping this conception of everyday life. Both de Certeau and Lefebvre recognise modem capitalism as a total system that is ordered and structured systematically to serve dominant interests. Lefebvre emphasises the alienation, degradation, dispossession, self-regulation, debasement and colonisation of everyday life arising from the imperatives of capital (Kipfcr and Goonewardcna 2013), and whereby human creativity is subverted, routinised and commodified (Kosik 2002). However, perhaps more so in his later writings, Lefebvre was attuned to the ambivalences of everyday quotidian life (Chamock 2010). He, thus, spoke about everyday life’s “baseness and exuberance, its poverty and fruitfulness” (Lefebvre 1971:13) and about “a power concealed in everyday life’s apparent banality, a depth beneath its triviality, something extraordinary in its very ordinariness” (Lefebvre 1971:13, 37 emphasis in original). For ordinary people, this entails an immanent critique of everyday life and, for scholars, it means that everyday life “must be problematiscd, rendered strange or unfamiliar, in order to grasp how it is mediated by a range of forces” (Gardiner 2006:3).

More consistently than Lefebvre, de Certeau docs not view the system of capitalism as a totalising system in which subordinate groupings arc dominated in an absolute and passive manner. Embedded in his very conception of the capitalist order is the presence not only of strategies of domination but also of everyday tactics (enacted by resourceful ordinary people), which remain uncaptured by these strategies. This led to de Certeau “disclosing the tension between how everyday life is structured and how, for all that, it is experienced” (Kalekin-Fishman 2013:716-717). Because of this, as Poster (1992:95) argues, de Certeau offers “a critique of the unitary authorial subject, a refusal of totalising categories and positions of closure”. In this sense, while de Certeau saw the need for a dominant rationality as an cndoskelcton that makes society cohere (Wild 2012), he thought of members of society as essentially able to escape (in part) from complete submission to this rationality. De Certeau conceived the possibility for everyone to creatively explore, through tactics, the interstitial spaces and to design new paths. Tactics might involve resisting and subverting the dominant order, but quite often they simply entail acts of “getting by” or “making do”, as people “work the system” in living out their lives.

Nevertheless, similar to the “open Marxism” of John Holloway (Holloway 2010), de Certeau’s approach highlights contingent cracks and gaps pre-existing in the total system (as well as produced, or at least opened up, through selfactivity), leading to a vast array of localised and fluid everyday tactics for manoeuvring within the “interstices” of the social order (de Certeau 1988:27). De Certeau’s thoughts also resonate with the work of Alain Badiou (Badiou 2009). In presenting his theory of an (extraordinary) event, Badiou claims that ordinary people exist “in the situation” (spaces produced by the dominant order), but they are not fully “of the situation” as there is an undetermined excess characterising their lives, which is not synonymous though with acting “against the system”. As de Ccrtcau (1988:viii) argues, ordinary people “escapc[] it [the dominant order] without leaving it”. Whether resisting or not, everyday practices configure the total system by constituting, diverting and metaphorising it, therefore making it “function in another register” (de Ccrtcau 1988:31).

De Certeau goes on to make the distinction between production and consumption in analysing the everyday lives of subordinate groups. Production and consumption, though, arc not used in a strict economic sense. In effect, the strategies of dominant groups “produce” the broad outlines of the total system, entailing a “mastery of places through sight” (de Certeau 1988:36) or “legibility”, to draw upon James Scott’s work on the state (Scott 1998). Meanwhile, subordinate groups “consume” what is produced via tactics. Given that capitalist society is not a totalising system, subordinate groups “consume” what is “produced” (laws, regulations, institutions, commodities, etc.) in ways which arc often unintended by dominant groups (what de Certeau refers to as appropriation or poaching). This pronounced relational understanding conceives everyday life as an arena of contestation existing within broader structured processes.

As an act of re-creation, appropriation implies receiving and then grabbing, misusing or misapplying what is produced by the dominant order (an inversion and subversion from within), such that the everyday lives of ordinary people arc mediated by acts of appropriation in spaces they open up. Thus, Doughty and Murray (2016:311) speak about broader structured processes being “contested, . . . diluted or transformed in the context of everyday”. In showing significant agency and likely ingenuity in everyday practices, ordinary people arc always on the watch and devise their own localised subsystems of rules and action, which are likely illegible to the dominant order (de Certeau 1988:199-200). They, thereby, address and handle the microcrises they face, as part of an “ethic of tenacity” and improvisation (de Certeau et al. 1980:4, their emphasis). This entails a complex and shifting combination of disrupting, confirming, complying, consenting and resisting (Heller 1968; Poster 1992; Kyriakidcs 2018).

Finally, and of particular relevance to this volume, notions of everyday life and everyday political struggle infuse feminist analysis (Elias and Rai 2019). For women, the everyday is rooted in their bodies and social positions within specific contexts (de Simoni 2014), and this entails a grounded understanding of the configuration and reproduction of embodied genders (Holmes 2009; Powell and Sang 2015; Wicrling 1995). Feminist scholar Charlotte Gilman’s view of everyday life explains human life, for women, as characterised by a fundamental sociality and by socially produced human pain. For Gilman, the everyday becomes a site of both possibilities and conflicts for women (Palmcri 1983), who generate innovative ways of negotiating their lives in relation to the systems, institutions and structures prevailing within the social, political and economic spheres (Shun-hing 2009). The feminist gaze problcmatises the everyday world, showing how it is the most mundane, taken-ibr-granted activities that serve to reinforce gender hierarchies and patriarchal norms.

6 KirkHelliker, Manase Kudzai Chiweshe, Sandra Bhatasara and Gift Mwonzora

Everyday life in Africa

Ten years ago, Eckert and Jones (2002:5) argued that everyday life “as an [explicit] analytical category has seldom found its way into current Africanist debates”, with the copious ethnographic work of Jane Guyer (Guyer 1984; Guyer 1997) being an important exception. Almost ten years later, Cirolia and Schcba (2019) could argue that the everyday has now become central to studies in Africa, at least of informality in African cities. In studying the importance of leisure and fun in Africa, Balogun and Graboyes (2019:1) define everyday life as “the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of lived experiences and daily practices that provide valuable insight into broader social issues”. A number of important “everyday life” manuscripts arc available currently, including by Cooper and Prattcn (2015), Monga (2016) and Chabal (2009), with the latter’s analysis of the everyday politics of suffering and smiling, and his argument about “everyday arbitrariness” and, in terms of tactics, “[w]hat works today may not work tomorrow” (Chabal 2009:151), capturing much of what we have discussed so far.

Other studies about Africa arc similarly illuminating. For instance, Nyamn-joh and Rowlands (2013) explore the concept of the “everyday” in analysing the lived experiences of Cameroonians in Cape Town, South Africa. Understanding how mundane, everyday practices of migrants (such as preparing and eating a traditional meal) operate to create a sense of belonging and community provides important insights into how the “everyday” is a crucial analytical frame to examine social reality. In an edited volume examining the everyday impact of cell phones in Africa, De Bruijn ct al. (2009) articulate the importance of seemingly innocuous encounters that have significant effects on social systems. For example, the use of cellphones has shifted everyday practices, including marketing for farmers and relationships between students.

With specific reference to gender, Newcomb (2006) uses the notion of everyday practices to articulate how Fassi women in Morocco draw on local conceptualisations of hospitality, kinship and shame as they navigate the gendering of four urban areas: the street, the cafe, a cosmopolitan exercise club and cyber space. In the Ville Nouvellc of Fes, Morocco, cyber cafes and the metaphoric space of the internet arc new sites in which interactions between men and women arc not strictly regulated. As noted by Newcomb, the world of the internet allows Fassi women to create new relationships that might transgress community standards of morality while simultaneously upholding personal moral codes. Cornwall (2007) provides a similar analysis of Yoruba women traders in Nigeria.

We make one intriguing, and important, point arising from the work on everyday lives in Africa. In a remarkable collection on the political economy of everyday life in Africa, the editor (Adcbanwi 2017) argues that, because African nations were never integrated and incorporated fully into the totalising logic of economic production under capitalism (including commodification and proletarianisation), “capitalism has not been successful in becoming the universal norm

Everyday crisis-living in Zimbabwe 7 of economic life” (Adcbanwi 2017:3-4). As a result, a never-ending precarious marginality is an all-pervasive marker of everyday lives throughout Africa. While this does not go contrary to de Ccrtcau’s overall depiction of capitalism (as a nontotalising system), it points to the possibility and even likelihood that, since the days of colonialism, there always has been “no other way” (Adcbanwi 2017:5) for ordinary people: namely, compared to the centres of world capitalism, perpetual uncertainty, incoherence and unprcdictably arc more embedded in everyday life in Africa, as is the fundamental necessity for tactics as improvisation, innovation and invention. As Adcbanwi (2017:8) argues, “people attempt to impose some measure of order and stability in their lives, even in the context of acute prccar-ity, poverty and various forms of fiscal, social or political instability”. Whether prolonged and endless stability is synonymous with perpetual crisis, as discussed later, may be a moot point.

National crises and crisis-living

We raise two crucial issues about the character of crises and “crisis thinking”, including with specific reference to Zimbabwe. First of all, the prevailing scholarly tendency in Zimbabwean studies entails conceptualising the post-2000 political economy (of national crisis) as the generative (structural) context for the existence of everyday agency (or crisis-living), even if in a mediated and indeterminate manner. In this way, national crisis is context, and everyday lives-in-crisis become mere text. Contrary to this, it is essential to understand that everyday “moments” configure society whereby:

[T]hc “big” folds into, shapes and is concretised in, but also co-constitutcd by the “small”... [M]icro becomes an effective and illuminating terrain through which to understand, recognise and examine social change, lines of division, social conflict and abstract conceptualisations - race, class, gender ... These arc not external or straightforwardly exterior to micro life, shaping it from the outside, but, rather, constantly entangled and co-productive, the general in the particular and the particular in the general. It is the realm of the everyday that brings the structure-agency knot directly into view.

(Neal and Murji 2015:813)

Because of this, wider structured processes (of crisis) arc “not merely the arena in which . . . lives unfold” (Greenhouse 2002:7); nor do they simply become “absorbed and sedimented into the everyday . . . routines of life” (Gardiner 2006:4). In addition, criscs-structurcs and the everyday lives of ordinary people arc co-constitutcd and co-conditioncd, based on internal rather than external relations. Hence, everyday experiences arc “not simply the optics for seeing the macro - they are social orderings, resistances, divisions, stratifications” (Neal and Murji 2015:814, emphasis in original).

Macro-structures and processes of crisis exist not somewhere else (transcendentally), but permeate inside everyday social life as structural tracings (Pain

8 KirkHelliker, ManaseKudzai Chiweshe, Sandra Bhatasara and Gift Mwonzora and Smith 2008), in part because everyday “conversations with” (and interpretations of) the character and pace of national crisis configure the tactics embedded in crisis-as-living. As Sztompka (2008:13) puts it, systems (of crisis) “find their embodiment and realisation in the episodes of everyday life .... It is here that we find social inequality, classes, [and] power”. In this way, national crisis and crisis-living in Zimbabwe specifically arc co-determined and internally related, and interwoven and embedded inextricably within each other. Everyday moments embody, crystallise, distil and synthesise society “in its abbreviated form” (Maffcsoli 1989:15); or, as de Ccrtcau (1988:xi) argues, “each individual is a locus in which an incoherent (and often contradictory) plurality of. . . [social] relational determinations interact”. To quote Lefebvre:

And it is in everyday life that the sum total of relations which make the human - and every human being - a whole takes its shape and its form. In it arc expressed and fulfilled those relations which bring into play the totality of the real, albeit in a certain manner which is always partial and incomplete.

(quoted in Seigworth and Gardiner 2004:147)

This involves the capacity to find imaginatively a big story in the most trilling ordinary detail of everyday life (Back 2015).

In this context, we consider the possibility that an examination of locally constructed everyday lives provides a descriptive and analytical avenue for rethinking Zimbabwe’s political economy of national crisis. In this vein, Ludtke (1995) argues that structures arc “not anterior practice” (Ludtke 1995:16), such that studying everyday life does not involve a “retreat into the particular, or to a narrow segment of social reality, but entails rather a different way of allowing the big questions of process and structure to be posed” (Ludtke 1995:x). Following from this, the very character of Zimbabwe’s national crisis is inexplicable without due regard to the significance of the agential power and effects (Archer 1995) enacted in the everyday lives of ordinary Zimbabweans. The ensuing empirical chapters hopefully demonstrate this.

The second point relates to the very notion of crisis, and the sheer length of the national crisis in Zimbabwe. Crisis is conceived normally as “a temporary abnormality linked to a particular event” (Schcpcr-IIughes 2008:36). However, for most people, crisis is “endemic . . . and cannot be delineated as an aberrant moment of chaos” (Vigh 2008:5). This leads to the notion of constant and chronic crisis. Hence, instead of “placing crisis in context [i.c. historically contextualising it] . . . we need to sec crisis as context [as indefinite context]” and thus “as . . . [the everyday] terrain of action and meaning” (Vigh 2008:5) for ordinary people. Under conditions of perpetual national crisis, which defines the very character of the social order, ordinary people live in crisis (crisis-as-living) and not through crisis, what Vigh (2008:8) labels as “chronicity”. This chronic condition of normalised disorder, involving incoherence and fragmentation, frames and brings about a semblance of order as ordinary people “actively seek new bearings and continue in the ability to act” (Vigh 2008:10). As Mbcmbcand Roitman (1995:340) claim with specific reference to perpetual crisis in Cameroon, ordinary people act:

Simultaneously inside and outside, for and against, . . . playing, in this way, with the structures and apparatuses, capturing them where possible and eluding them where necessary, and in any event, amputating them and almost always emptying them of their formal and designated functions.

In crises, including humanitarian crises with reference to long-established refugee camps, there is “the resilience of. . . everyday life” (Holzer 2014:851), and thus we end up returning to the tactical manoeuvring of ordinary people.

Agency’ and crisis-living

In “normal” times (outside of perpetual crisis), complex questions about structure and agency, and the forms of human agency present, arise when it comes to everyday lives. On the one hand, the negotiations and navigations intrinsic to everyday lives seem to fit neatly into the theorising of Archer (1995), with her emphasis on personal concerns and projects arising from reflexivity. On the other hand, the embodied character of everyday lives and their ritualised, repetitive and routinised character seem to point to the relevance of Bourdieu (1990) and his logic of (everyday) practice derived from the crucial notion of habitus (or embodied dispositions) and involving practical competencies and un-reflexive activities. De Ccrtcau (1988:59, 60) is critical of Bourdieu, positing that he “imprisons” tactics “behind the bars of the unconscious” and “throw[s] over tactics as if to put out their fire by certifying their amenability to socioeconomic rationality or as if to mourn their death by declaring them unconscious.” However, in times of short-term personal crises, Bourdieu speaks about the practice of logic and the temporary emergence of reflexivity. It might be that conceptualising everyday lives as the quotidian (as routine and repetitive) is in sync with the thoughts of Bourdieu, whereas everyday lives as tactics tends to lean towards Archer’s claims about reflexive thinking.

Nevertheless, understanding agency in times of a chronic national crisis (as in contemporary Zimbabwe) becomes a separate question. There seems to be “a state of precarious ordinariness” (Holzer 2014:856) during national crises as, over time, ordinary people adjust their lives to living-in-crisis and not through crisis. With a national crisis, over time, losing its seemingly extraordinary character, Mbembe and Roitman (1995:326, their emphasis) argue that there emerges “the routinisation of a registrar of improvisations lived as such by people and, in this sense, belonging at most to the domain of the obvious or self-evident, and at least to the banal or that which no longer evokes surprise”. Because of the fragmentation, incoherence, heightened ambiguity, unpredictability and fluidity intrinsic to perpetual crisis, improvisation (as a framework for rational living) becomes habitualiscd and normalised. Vigh (2008:19) refers to this, however, as “reflexive routinisation”. This has a “profoundly provisional and revisable character”

10 KirkHelliker, ManaseKudzai Chiweshe, Sandra Bhatasaraand GiftMwonzora (Mbcmbc and Roitman (1995:342), “constantly” attentive and aware, as ordinary people adjust their “trajectory and praxis to the shifting terrain” (Vigh 2008:17). Novel contingencies and uncertainties constantly appear and disappear, both closing and opening interstitial spaces for tactics of opportunity. Emergent everyday lives, always moving to and fro as if in a perpetual state of precarious becoming, characterise crisis-living.

Everyday lives in Zimbabwe

Undoubtedly, there is an abundance and indeed wealth of scholarly literature on colonial and post-colonial Zimbabwe which examines, implicitly, the everyday lives of ordinary people (Moore 2005; Schmidt 1992). This we acknowledge outright. However, it is rare to find any literature which is articulated explicitly in terms of an everyday framing. Intriguingly, there is Zimbabwean literature which speaks about “everyday lives” in their titles, but the phrase appears only once or twice in the text (if at all), and there is no attempt to draw upon the vast everyday lives literature: this includes Schlyter (2003) on urban housing in Chitungwiza; Engclke (2010) on Pentecostal and African Independent churches; Chiweshe (2016) on football fandom; Mudavanhu (2018) on Radio Zimbabwe texts; Guku-rumc (2018) on Pentecostal churches; and Gukurume (2019) on Chinese small-scale traders in Harare.

With specific reference to the crisis years in Zimbabwe (since the year 2000), there is a growing recognition in the literature that the main focus has been on the national crisis and not on what we call crisis-living. Willems (2011), for instance, examines comics and humour in urban Zimbabwe as a way of speaking back to crisis (by making fun of it). She goes on to argue more broadly that “[d]espite the abundance of academic analysis on the roots and symptoms of the ‘Zimbabwe crisis’, few studies have focused on the way in which ordinary Zimbabweans experienced and negotiated the events unfolding from 2000 onwards” (Willems 2011:142; see also Willems 2010). Edited collections have sought to rectify this problem, including by analysing the “experiential” dimensions of the Zimbabwean crisis for displaced Zimbabweans (Hammar ct al. 2010:269). The Crisis! What Crisis? collection by Chiumbu and Musemwa (2012) argues that the prevailing debates about the Zimbabwean crisis “exclude the experiences and resilience of ordinary people in negotiating, responding to and coping with ... crisis” (Chiumbu and Musemwa 2012:ix). Likewise, the edited volume by Madongonda et al. (2015) considers the everyday lives of Zimbabweans in the face of crisis, though the focus is on the human arts (such as fiction and drama), and the insights these creative works offer in understanding living through crisis.

Three pieces of literature do, however, draw explicitly and more fully on the everyday lives literature, and specifically de Ccrtcau, in the context of crisis. The unpublished master’s thesis by Nyachega (2017) examines the lives of people confined to protected villages in the Hondc Valley during the war of liberation in the 1970s, showing their initiative and ingenuity not only in providing support to guerrillas (by e.g. smuggling food to them), but also by engaging in everydaylivelihood activities including illicit bccr-brcwing and informal trading. Like the refugee camps studied by Holzer (2014), the length of stay in the protected villages was indeterminate, leading to a form of crisis-living. For the post-2000 period, the unpublished PhD thesis by Weston (2012) draws extensively on de Certeau in offering in-depth studies of the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans in the informal sector, with a focus primarily on tactics as a form of creativity. It is likely the work by Jones (2010), in his study of the kukiya-kiya economy (involving zig-zag deals), which comes closest to our endeavour in the volume. In speaking about a “state of suspension” (Jones 2010:294) which marks both national crisis and crisis-living, Jones (2010:297) refers to “the emergence of a generalised culture of evasion: evasion of social institutions like the state, the bureaucracy, and the law: and evasion of cultural norms and hierarchies”. This specific literature, while deeply innovative and illuminating, tends to focus primarily on the economic sphere, whereas our volume considers crisis-living in post-2000 Zimbabwe in a more inclusive manner.

In this book, we use a conceptualisation of the “everyday” as critical in challenging hegemonic representations of life in African spaces. Zimbabweans arc not homogenous, and thus it is important to reflect upon how categories of difference (such as gender, age and location) influence and impact on people’s experiences in crisis. Studying everyday practices provides nuances into how people arc shaped by - and shape - their specific socio-economic and political contexts.

The chapters in the book focus on diverse developments and themes pertaining to Zimbabwe over the past decade, as marked by a range of national and everyday crises, including the manner in which the crisis has been “exported” beyond the borders of the country as Zimbabweans pursue their lives elsewhere. Though the (ZANU-PF-controllcd) Zimbabwean state pursues strategics of domination in enacting its ruler-ship and thereby seeks to manage a crisis-ridden society (and its citizens) in a semi-authoritarian manner, the state is not everywhere and at all times. Like all modem states, and even if the general institutional boundaries of the state can be delineated in some way, the Zimbabwean state, as a heterogeneous formation, has a shifting temporal and spatial (and variegated) presence, as it ebbs and flows across both time and space (Das and Poole 2004; Ghcrtner 2017). The ordinary Zimbabweans detailed in the following chapters, whose everyday lives entail different forms and levels of marginality and prccariousncss, experience the state and its practices in a multiplicity of ways, and sometimes they compel the state to announce its presence as they go about negotiating their everyday lives. Because of this, in their tactical navigations in crisis-living, these ordinary Zimbabweans arc “entangled, abandoned, engaged, and altered” (Greenhouse 2002:4) by the manner of their engagement with the temporality and spatiality of the Zimbabwean state. In doing so, Zimbabweans configure both the state and the crisis.

Volume outline

Part I is titled “Urban and rural lives” with four chapters on urban spaces, communal areas and fast-track farms. In Chapter 2, Delta Sivalo focuses on challenges

12 KirkHelliker, ManaseKudzai Chiweshe, Sandra Bhatasaraand GiftMwonzora around civic activism which residents confront in their everyday lives, and how these relate to the prospects of downward social accountability of the city council in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. The political, social, spatial and historical experiences of the city are strongly tied to foundational socio-cultural arrangements and the trajectories of everyday lives, which in turn have a bearing on how communities view and relate to power and institutions. For instance, Bulawayo’s historical experiences, such as the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s, shape and perpetuate a sense of exclusion and marginalisation from state devel-opmcntalism. The impact of these community-based experiences has translated into disengagement by residents in social accountability processes, alongside fear and despondency. Nonetheless, residents in high-density areas have sought to self-mobilisc and self-organise in informal and loose residents’ associations, underpinned by gender, class and ethnic dynamics. They have formed their own development-focused associations to address social service delivery challenges and, at the same time, embed themselves in local systems of corruption to their own benefit. In this way, they arc developing alternative ways of negotiating the challenges they face in deeply deprived residential spaces.

In Chapter 3, Tafadzwa Sachikonye considers the ways in which mistrust and despondency have emerged and exist amongst residents in the high-density area of Glenview in Harare, when it comes to the fractured relationship between the local councillors (viewed as corrupt) and the residents. The lives of residents in such low-income, high-density areas are marked by massive deficiencies in service delivery. These deficiencies act as signifiers of the exclusion and impoverishment which characterise Glenview and condition the everyday lives of residents. Further, the overall relationship between the ZANU-PF central government and the Harare MDC city council is deeply problematic, with the Ministry responsible for urban government deeply overbearing and often undermining the autonomy of the council. In the same context, there exists a disengaged citizenry in terms of participation in formal governance processes such as elections. The everyday lives of Glenview residents contribute significantly to configuring patterns of local political activism, similar to the party-political contestations which arc embedded in their lives. However, despite the mistrust, despondency and fear, residents are not devoid of agency, as they seek ways of bettering their lives, including through some form of civic activism.

In Chapter 4, Elinah Nciizah focuses on the everyday lives and livelihoods of small-scale farmers in Ngundu in Chivi District, including a range of agricultural and non-agricultural activities focusing on climate change adaptation. Local farmers’ understanding of climate change does not derive from scientific arguments but, rather, from their daily generational experiences of living and farming in the area. There is a cultural-cum-spiritual element to local conceptions of climate change, with elderly residents framing climate change with reference to villagers’ lost connection to ancestral spirits. A wide range of coping and adaptation measures exists, with some of these seemingly consolidating village-based ethics (such as hand-outs), while others (notably, sex work) going contrary to these ethics. Though partly willing to adopt externally driven adaptation programmes

Everyday crisis-living in Zimbabwe 13 brought by donor and state agencies, the fanners often arc selective in doing so. Thus, they tend to draw upon deeply historical agricultural practices that, in the past, were central to their agricultural way of life. Local fanners’ perceptions and concerns about climate change do not directly translate into climate change adaptation strategies, as a wide array of challenges and opportunities mediate the relationship between everyday concerns and adaptation processes.

Lastly, in Chapter 5, Kudakwashc Rejoice Chingono examines the lives and livelihoods of A2 fast-track sugar cane farmers and workers, in the context of the farmers’ contractual arrangements with Tongaat Hulett in Chircdzi District. It provides a detailed account of the productivity constraints of A2 farmers and the working and living conditions of farm labourers and farm supervisors. The global sugar value chain places financial burdens on Tongaat Hulett in terms of its viability, which in turn conditions its relationship with the A2 sugar cane farmers. Resultantly, tense and conflictual relations have emerged over, for instance, expensive inputs and milling charges for the farmers. In a similar way, the permanent and casual farm labourers on the sugar cane farms arc enmeshed in this web of contested relationship, as it in turn conditions their everyday productive and reproductive lives on the farms. All in all, it is clear that A2 sugar cane workers practise their daily lives, though in a differentiated manner, in deeply frustrating, precarious and despairing ways.

Part II is titled “Men, women and HIV” and has five chapters. In Chapter 6, Shamiso Madzivirc and Wiseman Masunda examine child marriage in Mabvuku, a high-density, low-income area in Harare, focusing on the lives of girl-brides. While not arguing against wide-ranging condemnation of child marriage, the chapter highlights the significance of a sensitive rendering of the perspectives, practices and agency of girl-brides. A troubled past and uncertain future condition the everyday lives of many teenage girls in Mabvuku, and they arc at a crossroads early in their lives. Reasons for child marriage in Zimbabwe vary, including poverty, limited education, peer pressure, religious beliefs and cultural practices. Some girls negotiate the tight space of restricted opportunities by entering into child marriage as a safety net, and therefore not always compelled directly to enter into child marriages. In Mabvuku, prior to marriage, the girl-brides experienced emotional abuse, broken families, rejection, orphanhood, isolation and degrading labour. Many girl-brides turned voluntarily to marriage, on a tactical basis, to escape maltreatment and poverty, to pursue love and to start a family. Sacrificing their youth in exchange for love and acceptance (via marriage), however, did not lead to marital bliss.

In Chapter 7, Rufaro Manzira examines the controversial figure of Robert Mugabe, based on research undertaken just two months before the military coup in November 2017 and Mugabe’s downfall. Typically, Mugabe is seen as a liberator or tyrant, or sometimes both simultaneously. In arguing against claims that loyalty to Mugabe derived wholly from supporters being duped by the ruling party’s top-down discursive imposition or by way of state coercion and patronage, the chapter focuses on the past and present everyday lives of ZANU-PF supporters. For some ZANU-PF supporters, being at the receiving end of coercion and patronage was

14 KirkHelliker,ManaseKudzaiChiweshe, Sandra Bhatasaraand Gift Mwonzora central to their lukewarm support for Mugabe. But, loyalty for others emanated from a grounded and intertwined ideational relationship between Mugabe the person and Zimbabwe the nation. For these supporters, Mugabe was an almost mystical figure with a divinely inspired function and chiefly duty of caring for the Zimbabwean nation, in the face of anti-nationalist aggression. The enactment of the dominant order, whether through acts of coercion or legitimation, is ineffective unless it resonates with the everyday activities and performances of Mugabe’s supporters.

In Chapter 8, Paidashe Chamuka focuses on the sexual practices of medically circumcised males in Harare. Voluntary medical male circumcision of HIV-negative males arose to reduce HIV transmission and infection rates, from females to males. As part of the national crisis facing the country, Zimbabwe has a high rate of HIV infections, and male medical circumcision began in Harare in 2009. This form of circumcision was meant to complement already-existing methods of limiting HIV transmissions, such as condom use, abstinence and faithfulness to one sexual partner. The chapter examines the possibility that circumcised males, confident of their extra protection, may adopt risk-compensation practices (such as multiple concurrent sexual partners), thereby not only putting themselves at risk of HIV but also their female partners. In this context, by unpacking the diverse upbringings, experiences and perspectives of the circumcised males, the chapter demonstrates how they negotiate their post-circumcision lives when it comes to sexual practices. Given their notions of masculinity, this includes how they go about accessing condoms, the reasoning behind not using condoms consistently and correctly, and how they depict and relate to women in their sexual interactions.

In Chapter 9, Tcndai Wapinduka focuses on adherence to HIV antiretroviral therapy in a marginalised informal rural settlement (Chivanhu Village) in Masv-ingo Province. Deep levels of poverty and vulnerability mark the daily lives of Chivanhu villagers as they pursue, on a precarious and uncertain basis, livelihood activities. Aggravating their dire situation is an exceedingly high prevalence rate of HIV, with many adults dying from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Most Chivanhu households arc headed by women (as either de facto or de jure heads). Women bear considerable responsibility for ensuring food security in the village alongside caring for children and HIV-infected family members. The many daily challenges faced by the villagers in accessing HIV therapy, and adhering to it, speak to the overall absence of the state locally. In general, HIV-infected villagers navigate their way through the troubling tensions embedded in their lives, including between hiding their HIV status (because of stigma) and an intense desire to lead a healthy life (if only for the sake of their children, a stance most prevalent amongst women). Villagers show considerable resilience in reclaiming their lives so as to live “normal” lives under conditions of chronicity.

Finally, in Chapter 10, Patience Sibanda examines the experiences and struggles of married women in Gwanda communal areas, located in a semi-arid area of Matabelcland South Province. This is pursued with reference to an NGO-led development programme called Amalima. The chapter treats the Amalima development programme as the backdrop from which to explore the lives of

Everyday crisis-living in Zimbabwe 15 married women in Gwanda as well as the patriarchy-based relations prevailing in all spheres of village life. Amalima has various sub-programmes, but one particular sub-programme (on health and nutrition) is the object of inquiry. This sub-programme incorporates the “healthy plate”, water, sanitation and hygiene, eco-stoves and, importantly, breastfeeding and childcare. Married women in Gwanda carry the burden of domestic duties as well as labour-intensive agricultural activities; however, they arc marginalised from local community meetings about village administration. The Amalima programme has had uneven effects on the labour burdens of married women, on husbands’ conceptions of a respectable wife and on shifts in relationships between wives and husbands at household level. Married women handle the multiple demands placed on their labour (as women), including by way of trade-offs between their involvement in the domestic and public spheres.

Part III is titled “Along and beyond the border” and has four chapters. In Chapter 11, Joshua Matanzima provides a grounded analysis of the everyday experiences of Zimbabwean cross-border traders in Kariba. He traces the cross-border traders’ journey from Zimbabwe to Zambia and back, highlighting their agency and challenges, and the manner in which this shapes their livelihoods in buying and selling goods in the two countries. The analysis of the whole trading cycle provides nuance into practices enacted by the traders to ensure even a limited profit and thus a livelihood. Everyday practices of survival arc steeped in the ability to negotiate the border and a foreign space through various illicit and often illegal practices, including evading customs authorities. The lived realities of cross-border trading as a livelihood activity exist in a context of socio-economic uncertainty. Cross-border trading remains survivalist in nature, offering an ephemeral escape from the economic challenges facing Zimbabweans. The everyday practices of survival by cross-border traders provide another example of how Zimbabweans continue to “manage” and survive through economic crises.

Felix Tombindo and Simbarashc Gukurumc, in Chapter 12, utilise ethnographic vignettes to explore the role of trust in diaspora-led development in Zimbabwe. The chapter focuses on Zimbabweans in West Midlands County, England, with a specific analysis of their attitudes, perspectives and practices towards the reconstruction of Zimbabwe in the post-Mugabc era. It utilises a case study of two diaspora groups to highlight how trust, as constructed in everyday interactions and experiences, is critical in shaping the lived experiences of individual diaspora members regarding investing in and contributing to Zimbabwe’s reconstruction process. Indeed, trust (and distrust) arc central to configuring everyday life experiences and practices, as well as intcrsubjectivc relationships between Zimbabweans in the diaspora and the Zimbabwean state, and their relatives back home. Everyday memories and reconstructions of shared and shattered histories between the diaspora and non-migrant family members, the diaspora and the Zimbabwean government and amongst the diaspora themselves, tend to condition whether or not diasporans contribute to programmes of reconstruction and development. Ultimately, a level of distrust has meant that Zimbabweans in the diaspora have

16 KirkHelliker, ManaseKudzai Chiweshe, Sandra Bhatasaraand GiftMwonzora largely been absent from reconstruction and development efforts beyond sending remittances.

In Chapter 13, Andilc Daki examines the everyday experiences of Zimbabwean students at a South African university (Rhodes University). It explores how Zimbabwean students navigate a historically English university, in a post-Apartheid South Africa, still riddled with racial and now xenophobic tensions directed towards black Africans. In this context, Zimbabwean students at Rhodes navigate and perform everyday rituals of “fitting in” and engaging with a different sociocultural context. These students pursue various strategics in engaging with university culture, including assimilating into well-established practices of student life, such as heavy alcohol consumption. Other students took a more passive stance, standing seemingly outside the world of Rhodes (at least its drinking culture) and trying to isolate themselves from what they viewed as negative social practices. Students as active agents thus employed various techniques to “manage” their everyday interactions within a new social context. In the end, the Zimbabwean students somehow adjusted in varying degrees and ways to the university space.

The final chapter (Chapter 14) by Tariro Musiyandaka focuses on the everyday lives and livelihoods of Zimbabwean informal traders in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. The chapter provides insights into reasons for leaving Zimbabwe, the journey from Zimbabwe to Makhanda, relationships amongst migrants and their ongoing relationships with family back home, as well as their hopes and plans for the future. It examines the micro-level ingenuity of Zimbabwean informal traders in the face of systemic and deep-rooted challenges of surviving in a foreign country as a migrant whose future in South Africa has no guarantees. Zimbabwean informal traders in Makhanda have built lives and livelihoods through various social networks within their new environment without losing contact with families back home. The informal trade provides a space to create livelihoods for irregular migrants without papers to allow them to find formal employment. The stories of the traders show that survival is an everyday practice, within an uncertain context for informal traders, yet they continue to manage and build lives in Makhanda.


1 Here, we twist the meaning of the 1968 song by Sly and the Family Stone.


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Part I

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