Ms. Miriam Mutizwa’s Open Letter to Ms. Tsitsi Masiyiwa – Part 6

In this Part 6 of Ms. Miriam Mutizwa’s letter addressed to Mrs. Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Ms. Mutizwa examines why citizenship ought to mean equality of opportunity, a point often ignored when equality is framed and contextualized in the affairs of mankind.Although no one can doubt that the design of life was meant to confer on all human beings with the same properties and features to live live from birth to death, the evolution of life has seen inequalities become crystallized as some kind of a gift or curse of nature.Citizenship when properly understood must presuppose equality and more broadly the transformation of human beings from a human being regarded as subject to a citizen.The question that arises is how equality should best be defined especially having regard to the reality of societal stratification and the operation of the doctrine of political power which makes expectations of societal organization and structure conflict with the reality of the order of life.Mrs. Masiyiwa tweeted as follows: “Some outcries and actions in pursuit of justice seem and look so right until you discover the source of the outcry and sponsor of the cause. Take a step back and reflect on some of the things we consider good and just causes.”Implicit in this tweet is the idea that equality should never acquire the property of being an idea or a benchmark for all and that deviations from the goal of equality should ignite moral outrage and action.For where is hope to be found when people like Mrs. Masiyiwa who stand taller than others in terms of the ideal are illiterate about how justice or its absence has a direct bearing on the promise of equality and fairness.It is for this reason that Ms. Mutizwa believes that it is in the interests of justice that people like Mrs. Masiyiwa as role models and pathfinders of the kind of Zimbabwe that we should have should be interrogated in relation to their understanding of what the promise and limitations of citizenship should be.In this Part 6 of the letter, Ms. Mutizwa writes as follows:

Good morning my sister.

Today is the 26th of December 2018 and ordinarily I would be expecting presents from the people who think high of me but I thought of responding to your message in your tweet above with a priceless gift being my thoughts on one of the critical elements of citizenship, equality, that falls into the same category as liberty.

What is the reality of equality in Zimbabwe after 38 years of presumed independence?

I am sure you will agree with me that equality is not and should be an absolute construct.

I will limit myself in this letter to three different ideals of equality in order to provide the basis for a comparison with Zimbabwean reality today.

This should permit me to distinguish three different variations on inequality as follows: inequality with regard to variation, differentiation and cumulation.

I am sure you will agree with me that inequality with regard to variation is and must be a way of describing the distribution of a given attribute, such as the possession of a particular resource.

One obvious example is income whose relationship with individuals need not be the same but can be conveniently described in two ways: average or variation.

Accepting this sketch, complete equality of income exists only if everyone earns the same amount and consequently every individual’s income would be equal to the group’s mean value.

In which case there would be no dispersion or variation around this mean value and conversely, great inequality implies that some people have very small incomes while others have very large incomes.

Although the mean may be the same, but the reality is that the variation around the mean would be very large.

The degree of variation is thus a measure of inequality.

It follows and ought to follow that the greater the variation, the greater the deviation from the ideal of complete equality.

There exist various statistical yardsticks that express the degree of variation, one such yardstick is variance/standard deviation, another is the Gini index/Lorenz curve.

You will agree with me that these measurement techniques make it possible to provide exact figures in reply to questions of the following kind: Was equality in terms of income in 1980 bigger than it is now?

You will also agree that inequality with regard to variation implies a comparison between individuals belonging to a particular group or society like you and me, for instance.

There is also the concept of inequality with regard to differentiation that concerns or ought to concern a comparison between two or more different groups.

It follows that given that there is some measure of individual variation, the question would be: to what extent can this variation be attributed to membership in a group?

It it my humble submission that inequality in terms of differentiation concerns or should concern the association between membership in a social category and the achievement of true citizenship.

The real reality is the pervasive power illiteracy that exists among us, allows many to squander the opportunity that elections offer to correctly choose the few that should be public office bearers.

I know and you may also know that the question is and ought to be how strongly the inclination to vote in Zimbabwe is related to different social situational factors.

It is my view that the stronger the association, the greater the inequality and the absence of such associations ought to imply some form of political equality.

I am sure that you will agree that Zimbabwe is now more divided and unequal than it was probably at independence.

Although the right to vote is vested with the individuals concerned, it does not translate to equality in terms of what ought to matter in shaping and defining the kind of society we want and deserve.

I have no doubt that you will agree with me that the principles of the third type of equality, equality with regard to cumulation.

In our contemporary Zimbabwe, it cannot be argued that if everything was for sale and all citizens had the same amount of money to buy things with, then equality would be possible but this is far from reality.

It is the case that the experience of independence has produced gross inequalities resulting in some people acquiring disproportionate power and control over limited resources including data and voice options.

In order to restore equality to its factory or creation setting, what then is required to be done? Should it be necessary to use government as a vehicle for some equalization?

I could detect that your message in the tweet could have been informed by a worldview that restore political equality and justice the law of the jungle ought to be relied upon in which stronger animals like you would have the last laugh.

It seems self-evident that attempting to achieve a society with full, simple equality can lead to side effects that in themselves threaten equality.

Would it be fair and just to attempt to reconcile equality with pluralism and proceed to conclude that any society characterized by complex equality means the opposite of tyranny?

I am opposed to the existence and operation of the principle of complex equality which is ought to be directed against the concept of dominance, in which some special position or resource (political power, birth, wealth etc.) should entitle a person to dictate terms of engagement on others.

Cumulation is and ought to be a question of association whereby strong association means that there is and ought to be a close connection between two areas: those who are strong in one respect are generally also strong in another respect and vice versa.

The absence of associations means that the two areas are not related to each other; in this case, there is equality in my thinking.

Equality with regard to cumulation is and ought to be the same as multidimensional citizenship. Two preconditions must be fulfilled: that there are several separate dimensions and that these dimensions are unrelated to each other.

I am sure you will agree with the statement that “money gives power” must presuppose that there is inequality with regard to variation and inequality with regard to differentiation.

It is true that in contemporary Zimbabwe, financial resources are unevenly distributed, and financial resources determine the possession of power.

Would it be correct to propose that in order to reduce the dependency on First Lady of Zimbabwe, for example, on your financial resources, the inequality in financial power should be administratively altered or alternatively to  diminish the role of money in public affairs?

I have learned that freedom is not free and that in as much as we may pretend that money has no bearing on outcomes it is clear that the few who possess it have the potential to distort issues including the pursuit of justice, a construct that is irrelevant to the few that have access to it because of the resources available to them.

Have a great day.


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