Collapse Of Education System An Indictment Of Zanu PF

IN their few and scattered moments of excitement, MDC supporters normally chant the classic “Zanu Yaora baba”, which foreign journalists incorrectly translate as Zanu PF is rotten.

The proper translation is that Zanu PF is decayed. What the MDC song misses is the fact that the state itself is decomposing or rather is in the last and highest form of decomposition.
The announcement this week that Grade 7 students will not sit their exams is indeed proof of this degenerate state. The fact that the University of Zimbabwe has not reopened for the September semester and that in the majority of schools countrywide, students have not attended classes for the whole year, is indeed as unacceptable as it is a measure of the grandiose failure of this regime.
Perhaps the saddest thing is the fact that all exam classes at Grade 7, Ordinary Level and Advanced Level may actually not sit in the year 2008 and would have to repeat in 2009. At the core of the crisis is the state’s failure to pay teachers and lecturers adequate salaries and the state’s failure to provide books and other materials to schools.
The collapse of the education system is indicative of the general collapse and retreat of the state. That same decay is found in the health sector, where our people are suffering the indignity of feudal diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis. No wonder our life expectancy is now 34 for women and 37 for men; statistics that are only rivalled by Somalia and Sudan on the African continent.
This must be judged in the context of the fact that at least three million of our people have to receive food aid and currently 40% of the rural population are surviving on wild berries, competing with donkeys and other animals for access to the same. In some areas, chiefs and headmen are fining villagers who let loose their animals to the detriment of the supply side of chakata and other fruits.
Our people in the urban areas continuously tango with endless banking queues, the product of an erratic, dishonest, inconsistent, psychopathic monetary policy being brewed at Samora Machel Avenue.
The pursuance of eclectic, half-understood, haphazard, ill-baked monetary measures by Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono have done more harm to this country than 28 years of Mugabe’s rule. The printing of money and the vicious assault on the Zimbabwe dollar by unleashing RBZ agents to buy money on the black market has ensured the death of the half-baked measures the very same governor is attempting to execute. The net result is inflation that in real terms exceeds 200 million %, and a Zimbabwe dollar that is not worth the cost of printing the same, a banking system on the verge of collapse and a Frankenstein economy that knows no description in modern economic textbooks.
In short, the RBZ has redefined economic failure and economic bastardisation. They have shown that there is no such thing as a breaking point or tipping point in African economies. That collapse is as elusive as the horizon. You can see it but you can’t touch it.
However, it is the collapse of the public education system that is unpardonable, cruel and totally criminal. Education is at the core of the dignity and decency of any nation. Education is that fundamental foundational matrix that a new future and a new Zimbabwe can be built. This regime understands this more than anyone else, which is why in the first decade of Independence it spent in real terms 3% of its GDP investing in education. The result was massive enrolment of students and extensive capitalisation, particularly in the rural areas. The net product is that in Africa, Zimbabwe, with a literacy rate of 85%, is second only to Tunisia and has more degreed citizens per capita than Kenya, Ghana or Nigeria.
Sadly, the crème de la crème of our education system has been sucked up in the diaspora. You will find a Zimbabwean at the UN, at Goldman and Sachs and at virtually every decent university in the world.
That this regime can therefore be allowed to kill the education system is unacceptable. Moreso when one considers that the majority of these pedagogy terrorists have their children in schools and universities outside Zimbabwe.
What is indeed most unacceptable is the fact that for five years Gono has been allowed to run amok, dabbling in quasi-fiscal activities. These activities have seen him become the de-facto prime minister of the land. In 2008 alone, he has spent over US$150 million in the farm mechanisation programme. He also spent millions of dollars bankrolling the Zanu PF campaign in the March 2008 election.  In short, his hands have been seen everywhere where clientelism is an issue. For instance, he spent huge amounts buying the judiciary vehicles, generators and satellite dishes.
Thus, Gono could easily have saved the 2008 education year if he so wished. That however could not happen for three reasons. Firstly, there is no immediate short-term benefit for Zanu PF. Secondly, teachers and their ilk are perceived to be MDC territory. Thirdly, his children are not in the system anyway.
Gono aside, the fact of the matter is that this regime has failed.
Central to the failure is of course the limitations of nationalism.
We have made the point over and over again that nationalism has a limited agenda; that of the national question captured in the slogan one-man, one-vote.  Beyond the national question, nationalism is out of depth and is limited. Moreso when it is the inheritor of the little enclave, gatekeeping colonial state totally corrupted by the vagaries and avarice of international capital.
Faced with the frustration of failing to transform the colonial state during the national democratic stage of the struggle, nationalism degenerates and decomposes into neo-patrimony, clientelism, the imperial presidency and patronage. In short, it converts the state into a rogue state where violence, corruption and personal accumulation become vehicles for the continued reproduction of the state.
The Abhurian State, so brilliantly described by Ngugi wa Thiongo in The Wizard of the Crow, which state had been fore-written by Chinua Achebe in A Man of the People, Sembene Ousmane in The Last of the Empire and Ayi Kwei Armah in The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born. At that stage, the highest level of decomposition, nationalism needs to be saved from itself or it will take the nation with it.
That is exactly where Zimbabwe is at the present moment. Zanu PF needs to be saved from itself or it will annihilate the construct that Zimbabwe is.
The September 15 2008 agreement must thus be seen in this context; an attempt to save Zanu PF from itself so that Zimbabwe can be saved. Sadly, Zanu PF, which can’t see beyond its nose and is on autopilot to ultimate self-destruction, continues to frustrate that agreement by refusing to consummate the same and more importantly by making demands that will reduce the MDC to an innocent and disinterested bystander in that cabinet.
For us in the MDC, we are fully aware of the historical duties on our shoulders and will do everything to save this agreement. However, our elasticity is only marginal.


By Tendai Biti 

Tendai Biti MP is MDC Secretary-General.