“Treat humanity whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as a means only,” Emmanuel Kant points out.
The foundation and progress of any nation can mostly be attributed to the quality of its leadership and how it treats its people. When we have good leaders, it goes without saying that, we will see nations living up to their full potential as the people themselves become the drivers and owners of success. When we have bad leaders, they create hopelessness and a mentality of victimhood in their citizens who become caught up in a downward spiral of unmet expectations, poverty and lack of hope.
Zimbabweans are certainly unhappy with the quality of their life and political leadership which they have. Sadly, they remain hopelessly hopeful that things may change for the better. That hope has become the enemy of positive change and self-confidence, apathy and the lack of concern for others has become the norm. We are a society in a rut and unable to imagine beyond that rut.
Any social system that is founded on the exclusion of many and the domination by a few is not sustainable and will collapse in the end. This will happen out of its own self-manufactured contradictions. It may look successful and even attractive for a while, but in the end, it invariably atrophies for lack of momentum, collapses and accelerates into nothingness.
Colonialism was successful in extracting wealth out of Africa. After that, came dictatorships of big men in Africa. They claimed to represent a better alternative in the interest of the majority, but many have since fallen, one by one, in a fantastic fashion that was unanticipated and sudden. This is not by accident.
Despite this, man never seems to learn, but continues to aspire to dominate and control others and pursue self-interest that catapults him into a self-destructive spiral of naked greed and lies. The thick layer of lies soon becomes a heavy burden to bear. In that process, he degenerates and despite all the material gain and the façade of happiness and success that he may show, he remains in fact terribly unhappy, unfulfilled and lonely. The end becomes inevitable as the foundation upon which his empire has been built soon crumbles under the sheer weight of deception.
There is no other clear evidence of this except in Zimbabwe as things fall apart and the centre cannot hold.
Our country has all the human and natural resources required to develop rapidly, and our government has actually admitted that is has failed to unlock the potential of the country. This is not surprising.
Many times, we have warned that the exclusive political, social and economic system that we have created since independence will not deliver to the masses. The chickens have come home to roost.
Our social indicators have deteriorated significantly since independence in 1980.
According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s per capital income in 2013 was a mere US$953 compared to US$981 at independence. Life expectancy was 59 in 1980 and was last measured at 49 in 2010.
Over 80% of our population is now classified as being poor with over 70% in the worst classification of being “absolutely poor”. Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has only increased from US$10 billion at independence to US$14 billion in 2014, economic growth is too slow and unable to meet the needs of a ballooning urban population of which 64% are between the age of 18 and 35 and mostly unemployed.
In 1980, our population was just over 8 million of which over 1,2 million people were formally employed in the private sector and by the state or the civil service. Today, nearly 36 years later, out of a population of 14 million only 600 000 are employed in the formal sector. The informal sector in Zimbabwe is now the main employer with an estimated 2,5 million street vendors, over 60 000 people making their living in the transport sector and some 100 000 people making a living from small scale industry. Over 150 000 women make their living by trading across our borders. These figures clearly indicate failure.
This is not the future we imagined at the 1980 independence celebrations in Harare where Bob Marley sang to us-Africans ah liberate Zimbabwe!
The future we imagine now can therefore not be created by the very same people who have created the circumstances we wish to change.
Can our current leaders be able to serve the interests of the country and all Zimbabweans regardless of their political affiliation or race? Can they be able to give their best to national interest and put Zimbabwe first? Can they tolerate those who differ and sacrifice their personal interest for the common good?
Political power without principled leadership is dangerous. Absolute power corrupts absolutely while absolute poverty disempowers absolutely. This, we have seen here in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe we want is significantly different from the past and the present. However, if we are to get there we must think anew.
The Zimbabwe we want needs an inclusive economic and social agenda that creates inclusive institutions which can deliver value to all citizens. It must be led by a completely different class of people. It must be led by leaders who have a high self-esteem and who do not rule through fear or violence on perceived enemies. It must be ruled by leaders who appreciate that their role is that of stewardship and not dictatorship.
The leaders we want must promote a compelling national vision for our country driven by purpose and action. Leadership must be a privilege for those who have the competency to lead, and not a politically acquired right. If we assume that indeed we can get such leaders in Zimbabwe, the question would be; what should we expect them to do in order for Zimbabwe to rise?
The first step must be to create a participative democracy where the Constitution is sacrosanct. This participative democracy I speak of must be led by the people themselves.
The treatment of our new Constitution by those in Zanu PF who are resisting change leaves much to be desired. This has exposed the fact that there is no political commitment for change and also that Zimbabweans in general are disempowered to protect and are ignorant of their rights.
The participative democracy we want means that every citizen has a right not only to vote, but to continually ensure that their constitutional rights are defended. It also requires us as citizens to stop putting our politicians on a pedestal and give them the responsibility for creating the circumstances which we want. For far too long we have depended on the government’s largesse in delivering to us what we rightly deserve. This has created a dependency syndrome and a victim mentality in our citizens while it has created a big man mentality within government.
We need leaders who are not threatened by the truth; leaders who are not threatened by the opinions of others, but encourage and embrace robust debate on everything; leaders who know that they do not know what they do not know and therefore must shed the “god complex” of knowing it all.
The answers that we need to revive Zimbabwe cannot be only found in the brains of one man or one political party or one organisation. The myriad of opinions and ideas of our citizens about our future must be encouraged and harnessed from all for our common good.
Above all, in a new Zimbabwe, we want leaders who are value-driven and not money driven; leaders who are genuinely concerned about the well-being of all citizens. The era of control and prescription from the centre is over.
The Zimbabwe we desire must focus on priorities and ensure that it has the institutional structures in place to deliver to the people. It is fact that at independence, most liberation struggle political parties merely inherited colonial institutions and did nothing to transform them. This has resulted in a liberation struggle elite replacing colonial powers. Nothing much has changed.
Vince Musewe is an economist & author. The views expressed in this article are his own personal views. These New Perspectives articles are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, President of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES). Email email@example.com, cell +263 772 382 852.