'Hustlenomics' As Zimbabwe's Default Way of Existence and Survival

By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza 

It is an avowed fact that the Zimbabwean political economy has largely turned into an informal one. The dearth of formal employment, coupled with the ravenous nature of neo-colonial capitalism in Zimbabwe only imply self-reliance as the default mode of survival for many citizens.

Zimbabwe neoliberalism neocolonial capitalism

Whether it is in the rural or urban areas, the mantra for most Zimbabweans is that 'life goes on.' Assumptions and lived realities of patience and endurance in a relentlessly merciless capitalist society are the order of the day for the majority of Zimbabweans. Livelihoods are now largely sustained by self-reliance from the people, a manifestation of the trust deficit which continues to widen between the masses and the government. 

This resignation and frustration signal the reaction to the strident neoliberal (free market) policies which the government, from the days of Robert Mugabe till now, vociferously pursue. For the ruling establishment, the incessant desire for profit has negated the drive to push people-centred economics. With private capital being held sacred. What it means is that we have a political setup, whether ruling or opposition, which cares about maintaining the status quo of the neoliberal global order, in which preference is given to 'investors' who come here to extract Africa's resources to the detriment of people's dignity and livelihoods. 

This holy nature of neo-colonial capitalism as the only way to governance has resulted in an individualistic and materialist society which prioritises consumerism and 'class mobility' as the raison d'etre of existing. The organic need to think in the interests of public good is simply no longer fashionable. It is no longer a necessity. And this is inspired by a government which has believed so much in the private sector (when it is evident that private capital only cares about profits over humanity) to the extent of reneging on its role to provide for basic, fundamental social services - which are now outsourced to the private sector. 

The result is a society with inequitable access to quality healthcare, education, housing, land, electricity, water and transport. In such a sea of inequality, the most affected are the urban working class and rural peasantry, who, faced with the modern neoliberal consumerism, have to adopt self-reliant ways to sustain their livelihoods in order to access these services. And in accessing them, hoping some day to be at par with the middle and upper classes. 

Contemporary Zimbabwe is thus a society of what we would aptly call 'hustlenomics' - hustle by any means till you 'make it.' Apart from being a reaction to just survive, this is also reflective of the materialism pervasive in Zimbabwean society today. The need to belong to a certain class. The need to up one's status through material goods. Be it the houses, phones, cars, school one attends to, clothes one wears, food one consumes, etc. 

With individualism reigning supreme, and with formal employment ever shrinking, it seems Zimbabwe's default way of navigating the thing we call life is through hustlenomics. As watered down by what the government pursues and preaches. 

But maybe one day thinking in terms of the public good will become a thing again. 

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