Ranga Mataire Writing Black
Since the 1980s, the world has seen a resurgence of global neo-liberal agendas dominating the intellectual, political and moral space and vision.
One of the tragic consequences of this unrestrained liberal domination is the notion of a failed state and assumption of unblemished image of success of civil society or non-governmental organisations.
There is a fervent attempt to demote the State in favour of civil society that is often presented as the moral compass that should be financially supported vigorously.
Many must be aware of the boisterous declarations by some Western embassies that they are the biggest donors in Zimbabwe.
However, much of this financial support is not channelled to the State, but goes to civil society and non-governmental organisations. The State is often viewed as morally inept.
A regrettable fact that has emerged over the years is that the discourse of a “failed state” and the “successful civil society” has been globally constituted and that global constitution of “failure and success” betrays more an ideological preference than a real description of the actuality on the ground.
Without exception across the whole continent, but more pronounced in Zimbabwe, is the fact that Western influence distort the local evolution of a fair partnership of civil society and the State.
The portrayal of the State as “failed” and civil society as “success” is often a discourse constructed by external actors who often negate the right of local actors to frame and define the discourse based on their knowledge systems and cultural norms.
The result of this contemptuous attitude of external players towards local homegrown NGOs has been the manufacturing of a new political economy through donor funding where the State and civil society become involved in strains and clashes rather than promoting mutually beneficial partnerships and social cohesion.
The most saddening part of Western cynical attitude towards developing nations like Zimbabwe is that donors bring in the funds and consultants to shape civil society according to their (donors) own image.
NGO-dom in effect becomes something like a new social space for making a living. A casual observation of local non-governmental organisations and civil society groups that clamour the most about corruption, transparency and human rights points to a situation where personnel is motivated more by self-enrichment rather than genuine concerns for the citizens’ welfare.
As Africans, we need to robustly contest and question the Western mode of constituting civil society and State relations in terms of the frames, narratives, discourses, rhetoric and metaphors of “failure and success”.
We need as Africans to come up with a different development of civil society based on local definitions, knowledge and cultural conventions.
Ethiopian intellectual guru, Professor Mammo Muchie believes that there is need for a “Pan-African constitution of the State and society nexus (which has) the advantage of making Africa’s interest at the centre of all development initiatives.”
Prof Muchie is of the belief that Pan-Africanism builds upon the knowledge and life worlds of Africa’s pristine communities provides the