HomeOpinion & AnalysisThe genesis of absolute poverty in Zim

The genesis of absolute poverty in Zim

There is little doubt that the advent of Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980 paradoxically generated a new debate on the meaning of freedom and justice, particularly from philosophical perspectives. For instance, during the oppressive Rhodesian era, “black rule” was a term coined as the ultimate rejoinder to the concept of freedom and justice.


Nonetheless, increasing economic inequalities under the black administration that followed independence raise daunting questions on the initial “paradigmatic struggles” of redistribution and recognition which certainly inspired the struggle for black self-rule.

Needless to say, democratic Zimbabwe was born from the Rhodesian racial injustices, amid high hopes for prosperity, justice and peace. Yet, the last three decades have seen a very significant increase of poverty in the former British colony.

Surely, the country has celebrated three decades of independence after the demise of the minority white government led by Ian Douglas Smith. Suffice to say, the black democratic government has been rolling out socio-economic policies in Zimbabwe, for sometime now. What is at stake in this paper, is the notion of the creation of absolute poverty under the black political dispensation, consequently distorting social democratic views of distributive justice. It obscures Nancy Fraser’s views on culture, redistribution and recognition, in particular when she argues that cultural misrecognition drives maldistribution (Fraser, 1995). When Fraser published her essay From Redistribution to Recognition in 1995, it was greeted by a number of social theorists as a major intellectual contribution on philosophy surrounding injustices. Fraser claimed that struggles for justice could not succeed unless they are intertwined with a politics of redistribution and a politics of recognition. Yet, an interrogation of the postcolonial Zimbabwean epoch shows a significant departure from Fraser’s theoretical views. The advent of black self-rule in 1980, meant that the politics of cultural recognition was achieved. This is despite views that it is often a mammoth task to eradicate cultural misrecognition in any society.

The current rulers of Zimbabwe are the same “firebrand” black nationalists who decades ago launched a struggle for freedom, whose motivational principle was to liberate black people from injustices of “misrecognition and maldistribution”. However, the existence and increase of mass poverty is triggering a searing intellectual debate on whether ultimate freedom has been achieved in Zimbabwe.

The analysis locates some tension in Fraser’s theory of misrecognition and maldistribution. Consequently, evaluating post-colonial Zimbabwe injustice should explore the rift between maldistribution and cultural misrecognition, which contextually does not constitute the full meaning of injustice. The Zimbabwe narrative indicates that a focus on culture as a significant form of injustice is inadequate. For instance, it requires an examination of structural and political factors interacting with what I would refer to as the Robert Mugabe School of Economics, thus Zimbabwe’s approach to the economic system. Furthermore, it should also explore barriers that prevent human development and prosperity among millions of Zimbabweans, despite the fact that the Rhodesian cultural misrecognition has long been eradicated. Furthermore, it beckons an analysis of the conditions under which a perfectly working economic system inherited from yesteryear Rhodesia, suddenly grinds to a halt. To achieve this, it is critical to examine values and morals of those charged with the socio-economic order of Zimbabwe, be it in times of economic decline or economic growth, which has nothing to do with cultural misrecognition, but maldistribution. This approach may serve to illuminate the Zimbabwean poverty narrative, which may reveal a dramatic and remarkable story.

The notion of absolute poverty in Zimbabwe includes a variety of burning issues contributing to the poverty problem. Most of these issues cause considerable suffering to Zimbabwean citizens.

The study has demonstrated that a large proportion of the population may score highly on the scale of personal hardships. For instance, the paper has identified a direct link between Zimbabwe government’s expropriations of commercial farmlands with absolute poverty currently being experienced in Zimbabwe. It is the controversial expropriation of white farmland that has relegated Zimbabwe to so utterly depend on aid from “white European States” the country purports to so loathe.

Supporters of the Zimbabwe government may argue that sanctions were the main cause of the absolute poverty. However, this view is problematic in the sense that the interconnectedness of the world through processes of globalisation reject the hostile economic environment resulting from the government’s violent land reforms and disregard of property rights. In a modern market economy, market forces spontaneously react against countries where there is no rule of law. Furthermore, conventional wisdom has taught us that market reactions produce goods scarcity and devaluation of national currencies, which is the basis of mass poverty.

Henceforth, it can be asserted that eradicating poverty in Zimbabwe is an achievable goal, but corruption and lack of political will is hindering meaningful efforts to end it. With all this in mind, maldistribution of basic resources in Zimbabwe is generated by black-on-black postcolonial forms of injustices. This takes many forms, such as bad governance, tyranny and corrupt rule.

Full article: https://www.academia.edu/10732448/A_Sociological_evaluation_of_the_creation_of_absolute_poverty_in_Post-Colonial_Zimbabwe

Admore Tshuma is an expert in social justice with a specialism on Truth Commissions. Tshuma, a former Chronicle chief reporter, completed his PhD at the University of Bristol, England and is currently developing his work into journals and books. He is also working fulltime as a journalism course leader.

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