Home » Governance » Important Ingredients for Zimbabwe’s Turnaround [column]

BEYOND the dark cloud of corruption, hopelessness and enduring poverty in Zimbabwe lies a possible dawn of justice, peace and prosperity for all. We are all desperate for a turnaround in our once prosperous country. In my opinion there are several ingredients required for that turnaround. These requirements are political, economic and cultural. In the first part of this series I will address the need for a change in culture as Zimbabweans. This refers to both political and business leaders and also the citizens of our country.

The greatest burden lies on the shoulders of our leaders both in politics and society to lead the nation in fostering a culture of general goodness and responsibility. Things have fallen apart in virtually everything. But one thing that persists in amazing me is the belief among Zimbabweans, both at home and abroad, that Zimbabwe can turn its fortunes around again. But, I think we desperately require a transformational experience to another culture first before any other interventions for us to experience the dream we envisage.

I will call it a righteousness paradigm. This has nothing to do with any church or religion. It has all to do with a behavioural and attitude switch to goodness and morality and genuine patriotism in all. It is a national culture that leads to long term justice, peace and security and sustainable all inclusive prosperity for all. It can be embraced by all, whether religious or not. We desperately need righteous governance. We need this paradigm in the citizenry. We need it in business. We need to return to it in all spheres of life.

The times of suffering, from 1999 caused by wrong decisions, sanctions and other reasons, we experienced as a nation introduced an alien culture that makes recovery as a nation virtually impossible even if a different regime assumes power. The time of the government of national unity proved that the current crisis goes beyond just who is ruling, it is much more about the culture we adopted along the way. The record for MDC councils is there for all to assess. Both MDC and Zanu PF had members of parliament who were found guilty of abusing their constituencies’ developmental funds.

The attainment of independence in 1980 brought much joy and hope for a better future. The oppressor had been vanquished. The schools choir competition in one year when i was in primary school was based on a song that was called “Happy days are here again”. Many people thought that we had reached our land of promise. It was a time of rejoicing. Why not? We had a Prime Minister who preached equality, justice, peace and democracy. Righteous leadership had just assumed power. So the people were rejoicing.

A few years later things started to go bad. Then they went horribly wrong in 2008. The cookie completely crumbled and the dream turned into an unending nightmare. Everything went on a free fall until rock bottom. Massive de-industrialisation set in and GDP fell from US$9 billion in 1997 to a mere US$4 billion at the height of the crisis. Unemployment levels fell to about 75% and all who had capacity to relocate to the diaspora moved out resulting in over 3.5 million Zimbabweans scattered all over the globe. Yes, there were political and other economic issues involved. I will not discuss these here. But, it suffices to say that we, the nation as a whole had, of necessity, to embrace a survivalist mentality. It became survival of the fittest. The law of the jungle became the order of the day. Eat or be eaten.

Our behaviours and attitudes were contaminated and the “dealer” mentality which invaded and dominated our thinking as individuals, communities, business and the nation at large. Businesses were involved in all sorts of malpractices for survival. Corruption in government and public institutions was not only tolerated but became celebrated as the way of life. We witnessed massive levels of looting that had never been experienced before. We witnessed even central bank officials abandoning their supervisory role to engage in all sorts of shady cash and other deals. The police was not left out our roads have become hunting grounds for our police officers. The justice system also became infected by an unseen political hand and lost all credibility. The rot affected the customs department and virtually all systems. Not only did the country fail to progress, it actually regressed to levels much more dehumanising than what people had experienced even in the colonial rule days.

Our leaders and connected individuals now wallow in extravagance and luxury while millions of people struggle for basic meal. That is why some political leaders who scream about patriotism and preach on moving to the left while plundering what remains of the country’s wealth. We can even defend evil salaries of over US$500,000 a month while denying our workers a mere US$500 a month and failing to pay our creditors. Those in power, whether in politics, public office or civil society, no longer make decisions for the good of their communities and the nation. We are moved by selfish gains as individuals. It has become a culture of greed for selfish gains.

At a personal level, it became fashionable for one to purchase a good in one corner of the street and sell it on the other street for over 100% profit after pretending to have imported it. Even corporations became treacherous in the way they conducted business overpricing scarce goods prompting government to allow importation of virtually everything to the detriment of our industrial capacity and employment creation. We became a nation where one has to make a budget for bribing the traffic police along our highways otherwise you would be delayed unnecessarily with frivolous charges. We all were, in one way or another, complicit in bringing our country down. We lost all sense of righteousness and the people began to groan.

Now as we try to rebuild the country, we cannot achieve much without a major shift from the mindset that we adopted. I have already referred to the current mindset as a survivalist mindset. This mindset breeds a self-centred culture. This is the cause why even the discovery of massive diamond fields in Marange and other areas failed to change the lives of the people. I put it to readers that even if Zimbabwe were to discover more resources below its surface the standards of living would not change at all. All the new income will line up the pockets of a few connected individuals and companies with links with the high and mighty in the nation. Even if a new regime comes in, little progress will be experienced unless it changes the prevailing culture. If there is no change in our mindset then there will be probably no change at all.

Crises dominating Africa, from Cape to Cairo, are not proof that blacks cannot govern but rather a crisis of righteousness. We abandoned basic human morality and sense of uprightness. This is where any sustainable resolution of our challenges should start. Bad governance involves acquiring power and wealth through the use of physical force, the denial of rights and propaganda while good governance will encourage the use of our collective resources to improve the lives of its citizens. The continent’s mineral resources which are global revenue spinner remain largely unexplored. The starting point is a change from the culture of selfishness.

In an effort to address inequality the leaders created even greater inequalities with a few who soared and continued to soar while the whole nation became buried in poverty and more poverty as each day passed by. As focus turned to political survival and acquisition of personal wealth, most of values of the early days were lost. As corruption became endemic we lost truthfulness, goodness and genuine patriotism. The greed of the ruling class and the ruled class condemns a larger majority of the people to poverty and suffering.

Any solution for endemic corruption and profiteering demands a holistic overhaul the individual be changed, the system be changed, and the foundation of society and community life be changed. It is not only about a change in political leadership although that is certainly where it all must start. Besides, whoever would lead the war against corruption must, of necessity, not be contaminated with the stigma of greed and corruption themselves. This is where it becomes important that the present leaders give way to new ideas in governance and offer the nation a ray of hope for a better future. The nation needs an intervention for righteousness to drive all spheres of public life. The old comrades must now retire and allow an infusion of new blood. We need to revert to politics driven by virtuous values of service, of public accountability, fairness and integrity for the common good.

Beyond the dark cloud of corruption, hopelessness and enduring poverty lies a possible dawn of justice, peace and prosperity for all when our leaders lead the nation in fostering a culture of righteousness. It will not be an easy. It will have to involve everyone. Behaviours and habits become so ingrained in us and require difficult discipline to break them. Sometimes that discipline will initially have to be enforced by the police, the judiciary and other law enforcement agents for it to take effect. The nation’s leaders must first demonstrate a willingness to deal decisively with corrupt officials even where their political connections are involved.

Righteousness and justice is what will make our nation great and bring about true prosperity and to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources. All selfishness, self-centredness and the desire for personal glory and power will be replaced by a genuine love for our country and a desire to affect posterity positively.

Righteousness will make any nation great and evil will bring reproach to any people.

Mbango Sithole is a Zimbabwean Thought leader currently based in South Africa. Sithole70@yahoo.com

Source : New Zimbabwe

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