NATURAL RAPOKO EFFECT: FOOD SECURITY AT ZIMBABWE'S CHINYIKA
Africans were basically agriculturalists. The woman was the agriculturalist while the man was the hunter. In Africa, therefore, a woman's power was based on her very important and central political and economic role. The moral ideals of the system encouraged the matriarchal family, peace and justice, goodness and optimism, and social collectivism.
If Amadiume, Reinventing Africa: Matriarchy, Culture and Religion (1)
INTRODUCTION: TOWARDS AN INTEGRAL AFRICAN POLITY
SOUTHERN GROUNDING TO EFFECT
We now approach the culmination of our "Southern" integral polity, that is from our grounding, thereby constituting Africa to its emergence through tradition and modernity, thereafter navigated in an auto-centric way, ultimately and altogether effected through "Musha Ndimai", that is the extended role of the mother, reconstituted in terms of a communal democracy in rural Chinyika, in Zimbabwe.
Overall then, and as can be seen in Figure 6.1 below, the Southern journey towards an integral polity follows the course of the three last chapters, combined with what now immediately follows.
As we can see from the above, we have come a long way from liberal democracy or indeed state socialism. What then is such a Southern effect, starting indeed from the ground up, in this illustrative case in Zimbabwe, which we liken to a phoenix rising from the ashes of its recent troubled history.
The Chinyika story (2), from rural Zimbabwe, constitutes the "Southern" effecting of our integral polity, thereby rooted in nature and community. The authentic development of Zimbabwe, then, neither rests in the hands of international capitalists nor communists, but, as we shall see, in a local identity, duly evolving towards a global integrity. Indeed, for UK-based Basil Davidson again, this time in his book on African Genius (3), the history of the Africans is nothing if not the "handing on of the torch" from generation to generation. It is quintessentially concerned with the accumulation of ancestral wisdom. For it is the appointed ancestors who have given peoples their identity and guaranteed the onward movement of life. They may be private ancestors or public ancestors, family guarantors or national guarantors, but in any case their role is crucial.
Figure 6.1 Integral Southern Polity
The Shona in that respect, in Zimbabwe, think of their great ancestral sprits, the mhondoro, who, as founding heroes, first taught them to smelt iron from the rocks and how to grow millet and sorghum.
It was in this sense that spiritual belief systems lay at the heart of a prospective integral polity for Karanga-based Muchineripi (Paul "Chidara" Muchineripi is the son of the Chinyika Chief, a business consultant in Harare, and now a Doctor of Philosophy) and Baremba-based Kada (Steve Kada was Human Resource Director of a leading Zimbabwean food processing company, and is now also a Doctor of Philosophy) as respective Chinyikan instigators. Their role, as such, together with significant others, was to "connect themselves" with those ancestors to whom super-sensible power had revealed the land and how to prosper.
There existed, according to Zimbabwe's contemporary social scientist, Brian Raftopoulos (4), in pre-colonial southern Africa, a large region of broadly similar languages, beliefs and institutions, larger than present-day Zimbabwe and stretching into areas now defined as South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. Within that zone, there was a constant movement of people, goods, ideas and a multiplicity of self-identifications. "Shona" then, is a collective noun that conflates the linguistic, cultural and political attributes of a Zimbabwean people who did not even know themselves by that name until the late 19th century, and even then could be variously described as Hole, vaNyai or, most commonly, Karanga. As we shall see, it is the Karanga people, along with the Baremba, who feature centrally in the Chinyika story.
Many Zimbabweans feel proud that that there were once large "empires", like those of the Karanga, that could fight against external invaders, but the story of the occupation of Zimbabwe's difficult landscape by many pioneering groups should be just as much a source of pride. Such small societies, moreover, never existed in isolation, and they maintained their links with their "parent" societies, having left them to trade or hunt, or to make pilgrimages to major shrines. This, for example, applies to the Baremba people, as we shall see, who trace their origins back to Judea, and to Senna in the Yemen. At the same time, such people were adventurous over large areas, experimental and innovative. The pre-colonial history of Zimbabwe, for Raftopoulos, is best appreciated from “breaking points", contexts of build up and fragmentation already written into the larger narratives of the “rise and fall" of states, when new identities emerged and old ones were transformed, negotiated or accommodated.
In fact, the reasons for the rapid decline in Zimbabweans' standard of living, the latest such breaking point, from the late 1990s until just recently, had both long term and more contemporary causes. The longer term legacies involved colonial resource inequalities, narrow forms of capital accumulation that failed to build a broader productive base, as well as problematic development strategies in both the "welfarist" 1980s and neoliberal 1990s. The more contemporary causes are now legendary. In terms of this book though, overall, it is the failure to draw together on the social commons, indigenously, purposefully alongside less common knowledge, exogenously, which lay at the heart of the problem.
The more immediate cause, for Raftopoulos, lay in a combination of the increased "threats" around land reform, the large payouts made to war veterans, and the Zimbabwean involvement in the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By 2000, the Zimbabwean economy had spiralled into a world record decline. By 2007 GDP was 47 per cent lower per capita than it had been in 1980, and 53 per cent below its 1991 peak. By that time an estimated 85 per cent of Zimbabweans were living below the poverty line. In January 2009, after a heavily contested election, ZANU-PF and the MDC finally agreed, after heavy mediation, to form an inclusive government. While then a formal political agreement was established, the political and economic challenges facing the unity government, with Mugabe as President and Tsvangirai as Prime Minister, were formidable. Amongst the most urgent of tasks, according to Raftopoulos, was that of building a more tolerant, and more self-sufficient, form of nation, for us a phoenix, or an eagle, like the Zimbabwe bird, rising out of the ashes. This task, after the most recent 2013 election, has been taken up once again by the ZANU-PF party that won a somewhat disputed mandate.
BACKDROP TO CHINYIKA
The colonization of Zimbabwe, for the primary instigators of this Chinyika story, Paul (Chidara) Muchineripi and Steve Kada, by the British, had the profoundly debilitating effect of an imposed and dominant "Western" conventional economic system. The country, from 1890, was subjected to restructuring according to exogenous "Western" or indeed "Northern" thinking, and the exogenous economic philosophies that prevailed. The indigenous communities under the dominant colonial system were shaken from their cultural roots. The country evolved into a newly colonial political and economic system, thereby falling under exogenous, crudely capitalist sway.
The state of poverty in the Chinyika locality is historically rooted, therefore, in the inflexible economic structure, a dual formal-informal economic system, the coexistence of what was perceived as "superior" white (formal) and "inferior" black (informal) economic systems. The mutually beneficial interchange between the Lessems (father Abraham and uncle Jack Lessem of one of the authors) and the Muchineripis therefore, under the guise of African Trading, was more the exception than the rule. In pre-independence Zimbabwe more generally then, the rich white elite, who resided on the railway line cities, like Salisbury and Bulawayo, enjoyed superior sets of conditions to those in the hinterland of the rural areas, indeed like Chinyika. Chinyika locally and country as a whole nationally, being a microcosm of the international and continental social and economic structures, found itself embodying the global reality of dependency.
The coexistence of small modern enclaves, moreover, in the midst of traditional societies and a small group of progressive wealthy elites amid masses of poor, shows no sign, for Raftopoulos, of disappearing. The advent of independence, and the ill-considered mix of capitalism and socialism that followed, has not improved the conditions of the poor, both in urban and rural areas. Instead, they appear to have become poorer. The food security situation had deteriorated to the extent that both urban and rural residents, as was the case in Chinyika prior to 2005, required food aid from NGOs. Chinyika apart, this situation has not been alleviated even in the face of land redistribution by the ZANU- PF government. A sad occurrence was that the rich, now black and white, continued to get richer at the expense of the rural poor. The Chinyika story, as told by Muchineripi and Kada, picks up from where this overall situation, as per Raftopoulos and for Davidson, leave off. We now turn more specifically to the Chinyika project.