MOST progressive Zimbabweans, including our opposition political parties, talk about the need for a new narrative, but I think that we ought to be very specific what that new narrative ought to be.
Our problem is that, to date, our political discourse has been more about the past and because of that, we have failed to create a compelling national vision that captures our collective imagination of the future as a country.
We must begin to dream and plan now, because if we do not know where we are going, any road will take us there (Alice in Wonderland) and we shall find ourselves in a place where we do not necessarily intend to be.
Despite numerous blue prints since 1980, we have not achieved much as a country. In fact, if we look at our social indicators today, we have actually regressed. This is mainly because of a lack of leadership and a commitment to broad-based inclusive economic and social development.
First and foremost, any new narrative has to be based on the principle that Zimbabwe belongs to all who live in it and those who were born in it. Up to now, our politics have been unnecessarily racist and exclusive. This has marginalised the majority of our people from meaningfully contributing in building a better future.
In any country where a significant sector of the population feels excluded and marginalised, as has been white Zimbabweans, women and our youth and those in the diaspora, that country will never live up to its full potential.
What continues to boggle the mind, for example, has been the obsession with excluding white Zimbabweans from the farming sector and yet, they not only make a miniscule portion of our population, but have the invaluable skills which we need in agriculture to assist us in achieving food security. Next, once again, Zimbabwe will be faced with serious food shortages and yet we have the skills and the resources to grow enough to feed ourselves and even export as was the case before.
We also still have some degree of tribalism within our society where one’s tribe can either open or close doors. This is such a pity given the talent that Zimbabweans have. Our new narrative cannot afford that.
Our skills and talents can never be fully realised until we develop a sense of a collective responsibility that is inclusive in nature and we dare to imagine a better future for all. Unfortunately, most of us have accepted the narrative of control, intimidation and selfishness by those who are in power as normal.
Secondly, we must learn to be proud of who we are once again. Zimbabweans have faced so much violence and emotional abuse and the result is that we no longer believe in ourselves. We are no longer a proud nation but instead, we have low self-esteem and apathy. Until we get our pride back, we will continue to accept abuse by the state security and the police. That needs to change.
In his book titled Crossing the Threshold of Hope, his holiness John Paul II admonishes us not to be afraid of man.
“For man is always the same” he wrote. “The systems he creates are always imperfect, and the more imperfect they are, the more he is sure of himself. This comes from our hearts because our hearts are always anxious.”
It is only when we destroy the throne that we have created in our hearts for other men that we can begin to live to our full potential and gain the self-confidence necessary for us to create the Zimbabwe we truly want.
In our new narrative, we want Zimbabweans to be creative, innovative and wealthy without fear of expropriation of their wealth or assets by the state. In other words, the government must have nothing to do with allocating economic resources or assets to citizens, but must merely create an environment for success.
We want Zimbabweans to speak their mind and explore who or what they can become under a government that respects the dignity of its people and the right to pursue their personal ambition unhindered.
Zimbabweans fear to challenge the status quo and have created cocoons in their minds hoping that things will change by themselves. Fear is arresting our potential. We need to be courageous and always challenge the status quo, that way we will become better and be able to create the Zimbabwe we truly want; it will not emerge through mere hope or inaction.
In addition to being fearless, Zimbabwe must see the emergence of legitimate and selfless leaders who put the country first. This requires that all of us to have the courage to speak truth to power. The future we desire can only be created through sacrifice and vision.
“While there are manuals on how to put up the most complex structures, there is no toolbox on how to rebuild a destroyed nation. People have to look to their culture, their history, the nature of the crisis they face and come up with their own solutions.”
These were the words of the president of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, with regards to Rwanda.
As Zimbabweans, we need to appreciate that nobody but ourselves is going to rebuild Zimbabwe and we must stop expecting others to do it for us. We are the masters of our own destiny.
I have always wondered why most African nations are poor despite having all the resources while others are rich but with much lesser resources in comparison.
Authors Daron Acemoglu and James in their book Why Nations Fail Robinson, explain quite clearly why countries fail. They found that it has nothing to do with culture, geography or ignorance, but more to do with extractive political institutions as opposed to inclusive ones.
Extractive political systems do not create inclusive economic institutions that allow citizens to live up to their full potential. They are, in fact, dictatorships or oligarchies that oppress the majority. Liberation struggle elites have created extractive political institutions to protect their economic interests at the expense of the majority. Liberation from colonialism has turned out to be oppression of blacks by blacks. This is evident in most of Africa today.
In Zimbabwe, our challenge is to begin to move towards inclusive political and economic institutions. However, that can only happen if we are serious about creating better social conditions.
My contention here is that, even if we are to pour billions of dollars into our economy, we are unlikely to see any significant change until we address the value system of “none but ourselves” which has prevailed in Zimbabwe since 1980. We are unlikely to see any profound fundamental economic and social change until we change the way we think about ourselves, our country and our future.
Another interesting observation in the book Why Nations Fail is that politicians actually know the right answers and what needs to be done to create economic prosperity, but it is not in their interest to do so lest they be rendered powerless. The slogans by politicians to “empower and develop” citizens can therefore, never be sincere because their fulfilment would lead demand for change.
For far too long we have bought the lie that only those who participated in the struggle have the inalienable right to rule us. Even when they have shown us that they are unconcerned and disinterested in creating the future we desire, we seem to have accepted their claim to power. We have waited patiently for things to get better and to this day, our country is in no better shape than it was during the colonial era.
We have even bought the lie that we are victims of exogenous factors such as Western sanctions.This victim mentality has disempowered us since it assumes that we can do nothing to change our economic and social circumstances.
In fact, we are complicit victims of the greed, corruption and selfishness that we have seen. The time has come to reject the lie and we must now free ourselves from this paradigm which only serves the interest of a few.
In order to create the Zimbabwe we want, we desperately need leadership renewal which is underpinned by accountability and the promotion of a national inclusive agenda that nullifies all vested political interests, particularly tribal prejudice.
We must include of our brothers and sisters in the diaspora in building a new modern state by the adoption of new management techniques, cultures and new technologies. They have international experience that the country really needs in order for us to create a modern economy.
We have to reinstate private property rights and the rule of law as these are sacrosanct to successful private enterprise.
We have to see the de-politicisation of state security and the police to engender a culture of social justice and the protection of human rights. We must see the healing of past injustices committed against all Zimbabweans and we must take the necessary steps for restitution. We must compensate all those that have experienced loss, material or otherwise, since 1980.
Lastly, we must ruthlessly deal with corruption, greed, theft and the rampant abuse of public resources.
For me these are the hard issues that the current leadership has avoided.
In my opinion, a new narrative for Zimbabwe can never be created by those who created our current circumstances, they are too lost in the past and are irrelevant in the future we imagine.
Musewe is a Harare-based economist and author. These New Perspectives articles are co-ordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society (ZES). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, cell no. +263 772 382 852.