By Kenneth Mtata
The idea of organized citizens addressing challenges is no longer some future vision. It has been happening but became more visible during cyclone Idai and now during COVID-19.
We are seeing the growth of citizens-led social welfare system characterised by very efficient and transparent food distribution. We are seeing citizens-led school building projects (Freeman Chari), church-led initiatives to re-build homes (not only houses) including psychosocial support on the basis of the people’s spiritualities (e.g. the Zimbabwe Council of Churches). We also see new areas of collaboration between citizens’ initiatives with some gvt sectors. We see some business leaders coordinate and organize for the renovation and re-equipping of health institutions. Churches, business and the diaspora communities are coming together to provide food parcels in the high density suburbs of Bulawayo. For example, after some 23 Zimbabweans returning from Botswana due to lock-down got stranded in Byo, a pastor housed them overnight while other church leaders and local civil society organizations provided them with meals until they got transport to proceed to their homes.
Various communication networks run by citizens such as the Centre for Innovation and technology (CITE) run by the journalist Zenzele Ndebele have been giving in-depth reports to some of these community initiatives. Citizens in whatsapp groups mobilize resources within a short space of time to meet the needs of a Zimbabwean families in Cape Town or Durban or any part of the country. We are seeing citizen-to-citizen solidarity initiatives that are a wonder to watch.
These citizens-led and citizens-funded initiatives lack a few ingredients, (a) they are driven only by immediate need and therefore lack the long-term focus, (b) they are local or within a small eco-system and hence lack scale, (c) they are not reflective, hence lack possibility for quantitative and qualitative improvement. (d) Above everything, they are not self-aware in terms of potential.
They also exhibit important building blocks, (a) they work beyond and outside party-political affiliation, hence they have potential for nation building, (b) they work with shared leadership, hence competence is criteria and not raw power or popularity, (c) they are driven by empathy, hence kill the spirit of competition or of being self-seeking, (d) they are democratic and transparent, and hence create the right values for the future vision.
Maybe something is being born.
Rev Dr Kenneth Mtata is the General Secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC)