Zimbabweans have mastered the art of passing the buck. Everywhere you look, people are perfecting their skills in our new national sport — the blame game.
Candid Comment,Brezhnev Malaba
The private sector blames “the system”. President Mugabe blames the “Western-sponsored opposition”. The opposition blames Mugabe. Cabinet blames Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa. Zanu PF factions accuse each other: Lacoste blames G40; G40 blames Lacoste. Amid all this bickering, a nation is reduced to tatters.
The biggest headache we face is that those in power are obsessed with factionalism, political manoeuvring and self-aggrandisement instead of focussing on the economy which is crying out for urgent and decisive intervention.
When someone stands up to speak, the factional vultures are quick to ask: “Which faction is this person from?” In a normal society, the correct question ought to be: “What can we learn from this idea?” In one fell swoop, Chinamasa is reduced to an identikit buffoon who, like his boss, can go to parliament and read what later turns out to be a bogus speech. Our leaders are strong on sloganeering and weak on delivery. Embassies should be run by technocratic diplomats whose main task is to promote investment — not clueless factional deployees who know nothing beyond parroting self-serving mantras.
Zimbabwe’s unfolding austerity circus is a rude awakening for the International Monetary Fund which has been blindly peddling the magnificent myth that Zanu PF is capable of reform. Chinamasa was barricaded by protesters and pelted with eggs in London recently while defending Mugabe’s economic record. One day you’re cock of the walk, the next you’re a feather duster.
Martyn Davies, the managing director of emerging markets and Africa at Deloitte and Touche, says Zimbabweans must learn to take responsibility for their actions.
“Zimbabwe is the Venezuela of Africa without the oil,” Davies says. Anyone who knows the Venezuelan catastrophe would understand the gravity of this withering remark. Instead of building durable state institutions and diversifying the oil-dependent economy, Venezuelan elites have destroyed the economy through patronage, corruption and ideological dogma. Sounds familiar?
When Zimbabwe attained Independence in 1980, the inflation-adjusted per capita income was US$633.
The average income soared to a peak in the mid-1990s, but slumped spectacularly to US$458. In Botswana, incomes rose by 285% in the same period. In fact, all our neighbours are richer than us and we have become the region’s biggest producer of economic refugees, even though we boasted the second most sophisticated economy in Africa until the mid-1990s. Whichever way you look at it, an inept, unaccountable and corrupt leadership is bad for economic development in Africa. Countries that have performed better than us — Botswana, Mauritius, Namibia — are those that have upheld the tenets of democratic governance and good management.