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Zimbabwe can be a success but ..........

15 Jan 2013 at 08:21hrs | Views
We inherited an unaccountable government from Ian Smith and have sadly continued the habits that we fought so much against

Despite the competing ideas about the future and the palpable tension now evident as we move towards probable elections, I am still convinced that we all can make our country even greater than we can imagine.  It is rather sad that some amongst us think only their vision and plan for a future Zimbabwe is the only viable one and must be forced down our throats. Here, I am specifically talking about Zanu-PF's vision of a new Zimbabwe. As far as I am concerned, there is much more Zimbabwe can and must become.

Throughout the years, Zimbabweans have never really had a say in shaping the future they desire simply because we have had a dictatorship. We have unfortunately allowed a few men to determine what we can become but their vision has been jaundiced by the past and limited in its imagination. Our challenge now is to dismiss those who have presided over the economic and social catastrophe that we face today and usher in a new forward thinking regime.

In order for our country to move forwards, we must now debate on the practicalities of what needs to be done. Zimbabweans are an academic lot, very good at coming up with economic blue prints and academic arguments that sound convincing on paper. I have argued before that a sound constitution without vision, although critical, will definitely disappoint. Rather, the engendering of a new value system, is the only way we can purge old thinking and old habits that continue to hold us back.

Like the book "The seven habits of highly effective people", I have come up with "The seven habits that hold Zimbabwe back". Of course there are much more than that, but I will focus on a few.

I think that one of our major mental challenges that we have, is the habit of fear. It is evident that our old politicians fear change while progressive and intelligent Zimbabweans, who should be at the fore front of change, fear to engage in politics.  This has resulted in our country not engaging in the high gear of accelerated socio economic renewal and much energy being spent to address this imaginary fear factor. Because of this, we have not been able to openly challenge and urgently address the developmental needs of the country. A clear example of this for me, is how our business sector is aware of the damage being done to investments potential by our indigenization policy, yet I have not seen or heard them loudly protest. We have all sort safety I silence and this has unfortunately limited our potential while allowing loud politicians to continue on what is clearly the wrong path.

The second habit we need to purge is that of greed. It is utterly amazing to see how Zimbabweans in general, have become driven by the greed to acquire, or to be seen to have. This has resulted in corruption, unfair business practice and avoidable personal indebtedness. Corporate greed has become normal while consumers in general are victims of the provision of sub standard services at ridiculous pricing. This involves both public and private goods and services. At a personal level, we seem to have forgotten our fore fathers' values of delayed gratification, hard work and patience. Because we live for today, we have hugely compromised the potential of our future and as a result Zimbabwe is becoming underdeveloped by the day. We are all active participants in that.

The third is that of the non accountability of our public officials. This has led prescriptive attitude and arrogance of our ministers. Where else, for example, do you get a minister firing elected councilors as happens in local government often?  We should utterly reject that. I have always found this the most ridiculous practice where an unelected minister has the audacity and authority to annul the public vote.  Where else o you get public officials clearly acting in the interest of a political party to which they belong as opposed to Zimbabweans in general? This I think will continue to be a challenge we face even in the event of a new dispensation. We inherited an unaccountable government from Iain Smith and have continued the habits that we fought so much against.

The fourth destructive habit is the lack of openness and the right to differ in opinion but still co-operate. Lack of this is clearly demonstrated through our media sector specifically television and local radio stations. One thing I admire about South Africa is the energy they spend on openly debating all the issues and challenges faced by the country. An open media is critical to economic and social development and I anxiously await the day where, for example, criticizing the President is not seen as "undermining the authority of the President" as is the case now. I also anxiously await the day where we can openly have multiple views and opinions on all issues we face debated on every radio station and on multiple television channels.

The fifth habit that I think holds Zimbabwe back is that of patronage. You will be amazed at how patronage and favor is ingrained into the Zimbabwean psyche. For this of course I must blame Zanu-PF, but I am beginning to see some signs of it even with the so called progressive political parties. You see, in an environment where patronage is acceptable, you do not get the best of breed nor does the country live up to its full potential. Competition is stifled and mediocrity becomes the norm in all we do.

Sixth is the habit of entitlement and holding onto position regardless of one's effectiveness in that position. This applies not only in public office, but also in the private sector. For goodness sake how can one individual be the CEO of any company for 20 years and still be effective! Surely life not only becomes quite boring but one becomes resistant to any change. Of course our politicians have been the main culprits, but our private sector has taken its lessons well. The periodic renewal of leadership is fundamental to growth and that is one reason why our country has fallen behind despite having the talent.

The last habit is that of limited imagination about the potential of our future and the "me too" mentality. We are a wounded nation which inadvertently limits its options on the future through our limited imagination of what is possible and the tendency to copy ideas. This of course is a result of years of propaganda and political conditioning that has served to entrench a ruling class that does not necessarily have the best ideas about the future. By now, Zimbabwe should be way ahead given what it inherited at independence. Our dilapidating infrastructure says it all, and this is exacerbated by the fear of  how new technology and can change our economy. We have been held back, if not driven backwards, for far too long and now is the time for change. Our country has so much potential but we limit it because we are arrested by the past.  

I guess As Karl Max was right to say that: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living."

The traditions of Zanu-PF, like a nightmare, continue to hang on the brains of the living and it is up to you and me to change that.

Vince Musewe is an economist based in Harare. You can contact him on

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