The following originally appeared on the Zimbabwe Committee of the Peoples Charter blog on April 12, 2012. There are three papers in all, as the preface below states, to offer the views of a younger generation of Zimbabwean intellectuals on the meaning of Independence and democracy. This discussion is important for rethinking Zimbabwe. TS
The three essays cover three topics, national historical consciousness, reflections of young Zimbabweans on the meaning of independence and tracing the fading democratic value of leadership in Zimbabwe. The essays vary in length and are essentially individual reflections of Zimbabweans. The electronic publication of these essays has been facilitated by the Zimbabwe Committee of the Peoples Charter.
Committee of the People’s Charter.
Zimbabwe at 32 – Tracing the Fading Democratic Value of National Leadership
By Tabani Moyo
In our lives as living organisms, we take time to introspect especially on the day one was born. The same is true four our country Zimbabwe on a day such as 18 April 2012. It is expected that we all fall back into the memory lane and try as much as is possible to rethink how our country has traveled and locating those areas could have been done differently, if not better.
Though the day might be congested with slogans specifically from those who wish to sweep the grey areas of the passage of time under the carpet, but as a collective we need to outdo the drowning partisan portrayal of our national independence by the few. In the process we must see to it that we are as candid as we can in the introspective process. This is the reasoning behind the penning of this essay, nothing less nothing more, but a frank attempt at charting the nation’s progression and development.
There is a striking reality in Zimbabwe. It’s a nation that has known of one leader since independence. This we have nurtured either consciously or subconsciously. The generation represented by the ageing leadership has literally surrendered offering sound advice on the need for renewal and rather joined the wagon in praise singing acts rather than doing the honourable thing. This same generation and the ‘supreme leader’ have became a danger to the national thinking and the sooner the peoples of Zimbabwe realize and act on matter the better for national progression. In discussing this concept it is anchored on an understanding that the weaker the leadership, the weaker the state and nation becomes domestically, regionally and internationally.
This singular factor, tied up to other trickling tributaries has accounted to the weakening of the state as those that stampede to surround themselves around the supreme leader end up thinking on narrow personal and trivial party interests and entrenchments rather than serving the nation and its people therein.
This has in a way created a super elite group of primitive accumulation actors within the leadership. For the purposes of this article the leadership being a person, who often emerges as the head of the government, the head of the party and government in totality. The long and sort of it is that for the past 32 years we have modeled Zimbabwe around an individual who commands a clientele group of people at party level, through to the government and in a larger way controlling how the entire society as a nation is engineered.
This has collapsed organized systems in which a government, a country and the polity are supposed to operate. The 32 years of our independence have been a sliding of Zimbabwe from a liberated nation towards a clientele leadership who spend quite a sizable amount of time in crafting song, dance and other forms of art in praising an individual not a collective agenda for the nation. The collective national agenda espoused in the liberation struggle ethos are therefore subordinate to the leader, conveniently when it suits him/her for political capital, rather than pursuing the national agenda of developing and ensuring the nation state is competitive in the full measure of progressive and democratic development.
This, the prolific write Wole Soyinka noted in his book, You Must Set Forth at Dawn when be argued,
“This strange breed was a complete contrast to the nationalist stalwarts in whose hands we had imagined the country could be safely consigned while we went on a liberation march… we were bombarded by utterances that identified only flamboyant replacements of the old colonial order, not transformation agents, not even empathizing participants in a process of liberation.”
The views by the Nigerian scholar have become so profound to the interpretation of our state of leadership in Zimbabwe, 32 years after independence. I alluded earlier on that leadership in this case is an epitome of an individual, whose wishes, actions, thinking, sleeping or breathing becomes the non-progressive definition of a nation. 32 years on, the actions of an individual: wrong or right; brutal or in good faith; heavenly or evil, are still defining the axis in which the nation state orbits.
What has become apparent is that the current crop that emerged from the liberation front has lost the transformation agency spirit that guided the struggle. The ideals of the liberation struggles and that which is unfolding on the ground showcases a serious deficiency in the letter and spirit of transforming the country into a responsive state that satisfies the needs of its citizens.
In this regard, Zimbabwe, a nation of close to 14 million people faces the challenge of failing to secure a renewed effort in choosing the leader of the Republic who wields the psychological (mental) and physical (healthy and youthful) strata of leadership that can take over the liberation struggle agenda to that of transforming a nation state into an organic one that answers to the citizens’ yearnings. In our small and humble measurement, we are the SADC Island that fails to appreciate that there is life after figureheads at the helm of the state.
But we do protect this figurehead for personal reasons, given the fact that the bulk of these people who call themselves business people, can only claim that title because they have made our state a private enterprise. Without the protection of the state and the state providing tenders and other protective measures, this group of clientelism will not survive competing in the business world.
This in the long run is bleeding the state as it becomes an opportunity cost on the central government to fulfill its mandate of social service delivery. But the syndicates in this clientele group will keep on managing spin headlines to the international world, that the nation state has developed the most skilled minds in Africa, that the land is back into the hands of the majority and that we have one man one vote system in place.
Though it might be noted that the land question in Zimbabwe though controversial but is no longer reversible, it remains necessary to highlight to the powers that be that the average citizen who was allocated land in Mazowe, which is prime land in Mashonaland Central is now being evicted and being pushed back to marginal lands which they were previously. In their place it is the very same ‘business’ magnates who relay on the ‘captive state protectionism’ for their tender and other means of survival.
Our curriculum is now structured in a way that it is like a conveyor belt which fails itself in grading the final product from the raw ones, but still prides itself of producing the best of quantities as opposed to the much needed quality outcome. Our voting schedules and procedures are now resting in the hands of other nations. This is, as argued by Soyinka, ‘because our state which is a centre of resource allocation was captured by flamboyant replacements of the old colonial order, not transformation agents, not even empathizing participants in a process of liberation.’
Soyinka went on to note that, “We ask ourselves, were these men, who routinely conducted themselves with such gracelessness, the true representatives of a national mandate?” On this important day, this question is no longer pointed at the leaders from the liberation struggle but to those who started leading the defiance campaign to those who lost the liberation struggle mandate due to their deeds post independence. We therefore, collectively place the new government order under spotlight. How fast has been the process of sublimation? As in the old time classic,Animal Farm if we are to look at the pigs and the people, are we going to find marginal differences? This is what the Zimbabwean nation should answer.
We have been watching them from a distance and noted that the new entrants into the leadership roles of the government, through their deeds as contrary to their spoken word seem to send a clear message that their ascendancy to the national government is the monopoly of the privileged by the minority. As if to say that the messages on this occasion of 32 years of independence the language is that of say, stake your claims. The earlier you position yourselves, the bigger your slice of the national cake. It is necessary here to reassert my point that the definition of leadership has not changed.At 32 years of age, can the country stomach a leadership which scrambles for aggrandizement through cars, houses, allowances and paid for massages?
In this process of commemorating our national independence, we ought to make it candidly clear that the call for transformation agency has really become urgent. This is to say that we must never allow ourselves to be slaves of our own liberation efforts. It is paradoxical that at every time we differ in our course of direction, a ransom demand is made by those who have lost the libation struggle mandate, reminding the nation, the people and at times defining how blood can easily be shed. This belongs to savages, barbarians, sadists and other forms of “isms” that have no place in modern states configuration. To a larger extent it points to a failed understanding of the liberation struggle’s compass and its meaning thereof to the peoples of Zimbabwe, the region and the international world order.
We know very much that our place within the evolving organisms of new nations shall be redefined. This is more urgent given the fact that the current leadership does not have adequate knowledge of the net worthy value of its belongings nor the value of the country. I am yet to met a single leader with competent knowledge of the interpolation of the amount of minerals, the amounts of gas, the net worth of wild life and how best it can be cultivated into the development of our nation. With such poor leadership, the nation is in danger. Anyone with access to these unaccounted for resources can easily fund insurgence. It is more dangerous with a weak state like ours where the public and even senior officials are clueless of the net revenue emanating from the country’s trading with the world.
Irrespective of the limited knowledge of the country’s resources, we continue to structure deals which are nothing short of fraudulent behavior. One for example cannot competently explain why the government gave the Chinese ‘unlimited’ access to diamonds in the Chiyadzwa mine fields in exchange of the company building a military staff college located in Mazowe. Rationale thinking would point to a profitable decision of dualising our highway roads in the country in exchange to such access to the precious minerals. Addressing issues of the country wide pronounced starvation, health system, education and the failing industry.
At 32, I hope against the tide we must see to it that we cause change to happen. Changing of the configuration of the country is a function of a sound mindset leading it. As is, we have a long way to go, unless a new breed with new thinking surfaces.
Tabani Moyo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org