What it means to be a social democrat

My sense of legacy is driven by a few ideals, among them the core values of a social democrat but first, and above all, is a desire to see the African restore his full sense of pride and dignity on the global stage, neither second nor superior to anyone. An African who simply exercises his natural unambiguous and unapologetic right to the pursuit of a meaningful life on earth and in space is the end product of the leadership that I seek. The African must become! After the lingering trauma of slavery, the callous partition of Africa, colonialism and unfair global trade, the African must rise anew, take his place at the top table of political decision making, economic trade and social status. Only the African can achieve this for himself and he can only do so by enhancing his ability to compete, to produce knowledge, harness it, sell it and retain some of it for competitive advantage. This is the task we set ourselves for generations to come. It has to start now, not tomorrow.

By Albert Gumbo

This culture must run simultaneously with the core values of social democratic parties which I will now discuss.

Freedom

The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth, andnot to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but to have only thelaw of nature for his rule. The liberty of man, in society, is to be under no otherlegislative power, but that established, by consent, in the commonwealth; norunder the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what that legislative shall enact, according to the trust put in it.

(Locke 1977: 213f; Two Treatises of Government, Part I, Chapter 4)

In addition, we have the freedom that Fanon and others like him yearned for: “To make myself known.” Every citizen shall have the right to make themselves known to the authorities, in any situation, to voice their opinion, fearlessly agreeing or disagreeing, on the status quo or decision made for the future that has a bearing on the country and its people’s fortunes. Fear must be banished in African societies from the village right up to the state. Our people must find full expression. Beyond freedom from fear should come the freedom for full expression from business to the arts in every single sector of society. The scientist should have the freedom to explore, the manufacturer the freedom to extend himself, the teacher the freedom to engage his students in any subject, the nurse to challenge the Doctor and every single citizen the freedom to fulfil their potential all within the limits of the law.

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Justice

The African citizen has been robbed of justice for far too long. From the seemingly unending era of slavery, the devastating partition of Africa and colonialism right through, in too many instances, to the numbing disappointment and tragedy of dictatorship at the hands of African liberators turned tyrant, justice has eluded the African.

For me this justice is firstly and simply, equality before the law and recourse to arbitration before a competent authority in times of dispute. The “welfare of the people will be the supreme law” and the rule of law must be a way of life in a new Zimbabwe. Secondly, the notion of justice must be extended to include a fair deal in society. African society in the new dispensation must offer a fair deal to all. To those who are entrepreneurial the appropriate inevitable reward must follow because the state has provided the enabling environment. For those who are less able or have a different inclination, society must nevertheless provide the possibility of an excellent shot at having the basics of food, clothing and shelter. The state must collect sufficient revenues in the form of taxes to enable it to consciously and deliberately provide for those in society that are genuinely in a state of difficulty and, of course, to provide the resources that allow those that are able to, to have good health, education, shelter and, in the process, flourish.

Solidarity

African society has always been community oriented. The individual has always understood that community is placed before self. While making ample space for individual pursuit, our society will not create the cold, indifferent citizen who harms society in pursuit of his dreams. At the same time, our society will support and celebrate individual human endeavour doing all it can to help him achieve his goals for his sake and for the pride of society in saying, “he is one of ours and we are proud of him”. While solidarity is practised in the present in the form of medical insurance and provision of social services for instance, it is also imperative that citizens understand their solidarity with future generation: “our ability to make money today, without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same” is also solidarity. It is looking after the environment, ensuring water resilience and a better deal for generations to come. It is an obligation, not a matter of choice.

Zimbabwe and Africa’s biggest enemy is the unacceptably high numbers of people living in extreme and chronic poverty. In his book From Poverty To Power, Duncan Green states that, “poverty is about much more than a low income, something that becomes particularly clear when people living in poverty are asked to define it for themselves. It is a sense of powerlessness, frustration, exhaustion, and exclusion from decision-making, not to mention the relative lack of access to public services, the financial system, and just about any other source of official support. Poverty has a deep existential impact- being denied the opportunity to flourish, whether for yourself or for your children, cuts very deep indeed.”

We simply have to deal with poverty!

While a student in France in 1990, I visited the “village” where my lecturer originally came from. The roads were paved, they had a high school and primary school, a pharmacy, clinic, the compulsory church square, a village hall and the peasants had tractors and all kinds of mechanised equipment on their plots of land! In later years, driving through provincial Europe, I have seen the same type of village after village.

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When I drive through African cities and rural areas, villages do not look like this at all! Our commitment to fighting poverty must be in the sense that a village in Africa be not only the place where one’s ancestors are buried but also a place where one can choose to live if one wishes to with its own amenities but, in addition, and why not, its own peculiar product such as a specialty goat cheese! These must be the heights to which we dream. There is no reason why the Zimbabwean peasant cannot live like the French peasant with his glass of wine and cheese platter at the end of a long day in the fields. Whatever material our people choose to use to build their homes, there is no reason why they should be fetching water from the river or sitting in darkness after sunset. If they light a fire, let it be for the pleasure of a log wood fire in winter than because the wind whistles in to their dwellings. And should they go down to the river, let it be for the pleasure of an evening stroll or a warm afternoon day’s swim than to fetch drinking water. Let each man, woman and child live with dignity whether their house is in the bustling city or the tranquil village. Let rural begin to symbolise a slower, idyllic pace than an endurance race for survival. Our people need not endure anything anymore unless it is a natural calamity and even so, know that they and their government have prepared for the vagaries of nature because they are led by a responsible government that places the people’s interests and long term future of the nation first. In the city, while it is true that housing for all is a major challenge, there is no reason, however, why sprawling slums should be the norm and not the exception.

The Zimbabwe I seek will actively pursue activities that create opportunity for citizens to pursue and exploit opportunity with dignity. Every single civil servant will be trained to deliver for the citizen while the private sector will be afforded every avenue to pursue sustainable business practice that creates wealth and jobs for the country.

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