Home » Governance » Yamamoto – Gracelands and the John Snow Case [opinion]

In spite of Mr Mugabe’s denial, he is now an unwitting puppet of his simpleton wife (who is) a half-witted jackass or simpleton with a crass approach to complicated matters demanding high levels of emotional intelligence.

ZIMBABWE has been on a decline on all major development benchmarks since mid-2013. A common trait among successful countries is g leadership. The leaders carry both a developmental vision and g bias for action. This is the case whether you look at China, US, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, or Japan. In Africa, you can see the same in Kenya and Rwanda. Other factors help, but the key ingredient is leadership.

Age and the Zimbabwean reality

By nature, human beings degenerate and lose strength and clarity of vision with age. At ninety-one, there is no way Mr. Robert Mugabe can drive Zimbabwe to achieve its potential. With due respect to the elderly, anybody who has a relative beyond the age of seventy, or who works in an old age home, will know that at that age, old people become frail, start losing control of their bowels and bladders, soil their pants, lose their memory often and cease to have clarity of thought. It’s a fact of life, and no amount of pretending to be g will help.

It is on account of infirmity and frailty that Mr Mugabe tumbled down the podium at the airport in Harare. At that age, old people, and quite often nonagenarians become dependent on whoever they decide is their confidante. This can either be a grandson, granddaughter, friend, caregiver or wife. If any of these confidantes is cunning and calculating, they can easily manipulate the old person. In some extreme cases, such manipulators have been known to syphon the wealthy of their victims.

The consequences of such circumstances are not as grave if the old person is your granny or my granny. They are far more grave and far-reaching if the manipulator confidante is a half-witted jackass or simpleton with a crass approach to complicated matters demanding high levels of emotional intelligence. They are far more serious if the old person is a head of state, and the confidante is a first lady with a low level of emotional intelligence, unskilled in statecraft and lacking a vision.

A few weeks ago, I met with Simba, a Zimbabwean living in Tokyo, at a restaurant near the famous 109 shopping mall in Shibuya district. Over bowls of steamed rice and tempura, we talked about this and other issues. “Yamamoto Sensei, Zimbabwe is no longer Zimbabwe. Since October last year, it’s now Gracelands”, he wisecracked. Behind this quip, however, is a matter of serious concern. In spite of Mr Mugabe’s denial, he is now an unwitting puppet of his simpleton wife. It’s sad when an individual rules a country by proxy. In response to Simba’s wisecrack, I said, “akusai wa hyaku-nen no fusaku” (????????), a Japanese saying which means “a bad wife spells a hundred years of bad harvest”!

Observations yes, but what to do?

Simba tells me that in spite of hardships, Zimbabweans don’t know what to do. This is true, for I have received a number of emails from Zimbabwean readers that follow my articles. “Mr. Yamamoto, what should we do about our situation”, they ask.

Solutions to this kind of question must be home-grown. Everybody wants prosperity and a meaningful life. Zimbabweans, like all citizens across the world, want an environment conducive for fulfilling their God-given purpose, dreams and aspirations. Now this is impossible if the leadership is no longer of sound leadership aptitude, condemning the majority of the people to drinking sewage-laced water, a life of vending and chronic unemployment. My response to this question can be extracted from the following story:

Professor Suzuki’s favourite case

When I was in graduate school, I took a marketing class taught by Suzuki Sensei. He was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met – extremely passionate about problem solving. A nuclear physicist by training, he initially worked in the nuclear power plants in Japan, before going to the Graduate Business School at Stanford University. He later worked at some nuclear plants in California before joining the largest beer company in the world. Before retiring as a graduate school professor, he worked for BMW. He was very vocal against the case method used by Harvard Business School, arguing that using the case method is like driving through the rear-view mirror. Yet he was passionate about the case of John Snow and the use of statistics in problem solving.

And here is what the John Snow case is all about: John Snow was a leading medical doctor in London, considered to be the father of modern epidemiology. In 1831, while a medical apprentice in Newcastle upon Tyne, John Snow first encountered the ravaging effects of cholera. Years later, he worked at the Westminster Hospital, and was a member of the Epidemiological Society of London, formed in response to the cholera outbreak of 1849. (Ironically, there are still cholera outbreaks in Zimbabwe in this day and age!).

In 1854, there was a severe outbreak of cholera along Broad Street (now called Broadwick Street) in the Soho district of London, England. By the end of the outbreak, slightly over six hundred people had died. At that time, medical experts believed that diseases like cholera were spread by bad air and pollution – the so-called miasma theory. John Snow did not believe in the conventional wisdom of the day that cholera was spread by breathing foul air. So he went about to Broad Street, talking to residents to understand the situation.

UK cholera problem … The john Snow Memorial Pump in London

Later, Snow used a dot map, placing dots on the map of the Broad Street area where each death had occurred. The dot map showed that most people who had died lived closer to the water pump where they drew water. The cholera cases were centred around the pump. With this analysis, he convinced the authorities of St James parish in the area to disable the pump, by removing its handle. The act of removing the pump handle has been largely credited as the key action that ended the cholera outbreak. Why? Because residents were no longer drinking the contaminated water. Snow said about his statistical observations,

“On proceeding to the spot, I found that nearly all the deaths had taken place within a short distance of the Broad Street pump. There were only ten deaths in houses situated decidedly nearer to another street-pump. In five of these cases the families of the deceased persons informed me that they always sent to the pump in Broad Street, as they preferred the water to that of the pumps which were nearer. In three other cases, the deceased were children who went to school near the pump in Broad Street…”

To remove the pump handle, or not

Zimbabweans have two options. They can either be content with the status quo, or reject it. This is not even space science. They can either leave the handle on the pump, and continue to drink from it, or just remove the pump and stop the leadership cholera in their nation. As one expatriate once observed to me when I visited Zimbabwe, “Zimbabweans want to go to heaven but they don’t want to die”.

Koketsu ni irazunba koji wo ezu is a Japanese saying. It literally means, “If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub”. In other words, nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can’t achieve anything without risking something. In economics, they speak of opportunity costs and assert that there is no free lunch. In politics, they say that tyrants can never give you liberty and prosperity on a silver platter.

So, again, Zimbabweans have two options: either be content with the status quo, or reject it at all costs!

On a parting shot, I hear Mr. Mugabe will be away for weeks, and will attend a conference in Sendai City in Miyagi prefecture, in Japan. I also hope that his attendance, although unnecessary, will solve the challenges Zimbabwe is currently seized with, such as unemployment, impending hungerdrought and lack of clean water and power. I hope I can travel to Sendai as well and have some sushi with him and Grace Mugabe and compare notes!

Ken Yamamoto is a research fellow on Africa at an institute in Tokyo.

Source : New Zimbabwe