Why are NGOs avoiding intellectual debate?

Teddy Ncube Opinion
On 7 November 2021, the Sunday News published an article reviewing a book by Hon Cain Mathema. The article specifically reviewed the last chapter of Hon Cain Mathema’s book called I defend the Zimbabwe defence and security forces, a chapter which explores the role of civil society organisations in development.

In a balanced way, the article reflected on some of the challenges that emerged with the birth and growth of civil society organisations in Zimbabwe. Issues like how some non-governmental organisations in Zimbabwe are western sponsored and thus further the Western agenda in Zimbabwe ahead of local issues; were extensively discussed.

Likewise, the article noted that, many civil society organisations in Zimbabwe need to reform and become more nationalistic instead of being counter-revolutionary. The article concluded that there is need for more intellectual engagement about democracy in Zimbabwe, a conclusion which I am convinced the majority of Zimbabweans agree with.

It is unfortunate that this conclusion which we are entitled to as equal Zimbabweans, has been subjected to ingratiating and intolerant comments by some ’proletariat and comprador bourgeoisies’ mainly in opposition-controlled NGOs.

With their characteristic arrogance of assuming a monopoly on intelligence and moral judgment, these self-appointed trustees of what is good for Zimbabwe, have gone to suggest that any discussion or policy debate focusing on the operations of civil society organisations in Zimbabwe, is tantamount to the invasion of the civil society space (a suggestion which is patently false in as far as what is known about political engagement between the state and civil society is concerned).

Their main slogan is that, “we need more tolerance in how we discuss the role of civil society organisations in development”; lest we end up altering the “democratic space”. What is fascinating about this idea of a democratic space is that, the democratic element in it; is in its ability to grant the opposition agenda immunity from engagement and criticism.

This platform is almost equivalent to what is referred to as “safe spaces” in liberal terms. Spaces where liberal opinions go unopposed and any opposition to these opinions is loosely dismissed as right-wing propaganda. It is unfortunate that this is the position that some sections of the CSO leadership in Zimbabwe have taken.

By way of clarification let me point out that this whole emphasis on democracy and tolerance by some CSO leaders is aimed at creating a state which favours their class interests against the interests of the Zimbabwean ruling class. In Hon Cain Mathema’s words, this state constitutes a class instrument of oppression and suppression of one class by another in exactly the same way the state of George Washington in the USA was a state of slave owners which defended and promoted economic interests of the rich US exploiting class.

It is funny that today, this discourse of democracy and tolerance is being marshalled against the Zimbabwean state to justify the violent approach adopted by a network of international elites operating openly and clandestinely to coerce Zimbabwe into reverting to their type of democracy, one which is convenient to their economic interests. This network of international elites (who benefited immensely from the colonial state) has somehow developed its own version of civil society, one that is led by abstract and dishonest intellectuals who really don’t care about the link between politics and the economy. To these intellectuals, democracy is just a cultural movement whose time has come, no analysis whatsoever on the possible link between democracy and the economic interests of where this democracy is coming from.

But what is the case of democracy anyway
It is this class that colonised and exploited us until 18 April 1980, the class that did not want us to be independent, the class that did not allow us to vote, the class that exploited us, the class whose defence and security butchered and terrorised us. And it is the same class that wants to teach us what democracy and security mean or should mean in Zimbabwe and everywhere else in the world!

Unfortunately for them, we are Zimbabwe — the Zimbabwe that knows its ancestors, the Zimbabwe that fought for its independence and won and will defend it by any means.

The Zimbabwe that knows what its future is, the Zimbabwe that is proud of itself, the Zimbabwe that is diverse but one, the Zimbabwe that is proud of and will defend and promote its defence and security forces, the Zimbabwe that has a patriotic and revolutionary news media and information order that promote and defend the country,  the Zimbabwe  that wants friendship, peace and good neighbourliness with every country, the Zimbabwe that is Pan-African and revolutionary and,  at the end of the day, the Zimbabwe that will do all it can to always genuinely own its political system and means of production through its state and its private sectors having joint ventures with foreign investors who mean not to exploit us like the British did.
Tedious Teddy Ncube is a political scientist and a scholar of public policy

Why are NGOs avoiding intellectual debate?