WHO of us can deny the exhilaration, tension, or extended moment in time as we watched Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, regarded as the fastest human ever timed, receive the baton from Nickel Ashmeade, complete the changeover according to the rules, lift his head and focus on the finish line? With fine support from Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, he anchored the Jamaican team to victory in the men’s 4x100m relay at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Even before Bolt crossed the line we knew that we knew we were watching history: the triple-triple, a remarkable third Olympic gold for the third consecutive games! This established a marker that will challenge generations to come. It was a pinnacle of human physical achievement.
Did we pause to think of other areas of human endeavour, such as the orderly baton changes from inventor Alexander Graham Bell to Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder and creator of the iPad? Their ground-breaking achievements gave rise to the scientific and engineering path that allowed humans in every corner of the globe to watch the Rio Olympics.
How many of us considered how the environment that allowed these men to freely express their God-given gifts came into being?
Lord Denning, the influential English lawyer and judge, described the Magna Carta as “The greatest constitutional document of all time — the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”
Over the last eight hundred years however, the baton has not passed in an orderly manner in many parts of the world as despots have sought to trash the Magna Carta, the cornerstone of individual liberties, in an effort to rule rather than empower their fellow man.
The year 2016 has also seen major realignments in the UK and US, two countries that have probably most successfully used an orderly baton transfer founded on the principals of the Magna Carta. This success has resulted in massive migration to these countries, triggering realignment.
This trigger has also exposed the almost despotic failings of remote governance, with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson saying we need governance for the people by the people, and US President-elect Donald Trump promising to “drain the swamp” of the corrupt Washington DC establishment. Come what may, 2017 will be different!
How does President Mugabe’s (pictured) Zanu PF government, which labels this democratic passing of the baton “regime change”, cope with this realignment?
The last time the world went through such huge realignment was the collapse of Eastern Europe, epitomised by the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Zanu PF watched as their comrades in arms fell like dominos and, to survive, temporarily shelved their stated goal of a one-party state, exchanging it for the World Bank/IMFEconomic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP), launched in 1990.
This programme inspired educated, free thinking Zimbabweans to become innovative and productive beyond the oppression of a despotic government, or so they thought. Once the immediate domino threat had passed however, Zanu PF attempted to put the straight jacket back on the people who had now tasted freedom and were fast becoming an internal threat to Zanu PF’s continued rule.
This threat was rammed home in February 2000 when the people rejected Mugabe’s proposed new constitution — his sweetened attempt with “free land” to entrench himself as president for life. The proposed constitution would have given power to the government to seize farms owned by white farmers, without compensation, and transfer them to black Zimbabweans as part of a scheme of “land reform”.
I was personally told by a cabinet minister and a senior civil servant after this event that Zanu PF would now remove every brick from every brick and then rebuild the country their way.
Their warning proved to be accurate. Just days after Mugabe’s referendum defeat, the violent farm invasions began, triggering the demise of the crucial commercial farming sector and with it the country’s agri-based economy.
By 2008, ahead of the crucial presidential, parliamentary and Senate elections scheduled for March 29, the destruction of Zimbabwe was virtually complete. The people who had been unable to flee the country and swell the ranks of the diaspora had been cowered into submission and Zanu PF’s future was secure. Or was it?
To Zanu PF’s horror, this subjugated people rejected Mugabe for a second time! Sadly the opposition rescued him after the devastatingly brutal government-sponsored violence ahead of the Presidential run-off election on June 27 by agreeing to participate in a Government of National Unity (GNU). This was brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki because no country accepted that the election result was free and fair.
Thereafter, the opposition allowed Mugabe to corrupt them and turned a blind eye as he prepared to hijack the 2013 election. The dress rehearsal for the election was the Constitutional referendum of March 2013. According to the vote count, more than two million more people cast votes than in the 2000 referendum, despite the fact that between three and four million people were estimated to have fled the country. The fact that the Diaspora and alien register had grown exponentially as a result seemed to raise no red flags with a complicit opposition.
The silver lining to the cloud was that when technocrats in ministries were able to carry out their duties freely, without having to concern themselves with regime retention, the recovery was remarkable.I think particularly of the Ministries of Finance, Health, Education and Industry during the GNU.
The same staff who presided over world record inflation, hospitals with no drugs,schools with no books and factories running at below five percent capacity managed in just a few months to turn the situation around and Zimbabwe reached double digit growth in 2010 and 2011. Although this was against a very low base, it was all the same a remarkable achievement.
Furthermore, this was despite the Zanu PF half of the government still acting as a corrupt “swamp”. Their massive plundering of the lucrative Marange diamond fields, discovered in 2006, and commercial agriculture continued unabated. This served to line their pockets and swell the party’s coffers ahead of the crucial 2013 elections.
It also enabled them to employ the services of Nikuv International Projects, an Israeli firm. Nikuv is said to have played a key role inthe successful election-rigging strategy which returned Zanu PF to power. It is alleged that Nikuv was paid US$10 million to fix the election.
In the wake ofthe fraudulent elections of 2013, the Zanu PF “swamp” has increased exponentially and once again the party is on a collision course with the people of Zimbabwe. To keep a lid on this, Zanu PF has had to create “one centre of power”.
Since decision-making processes should be collective and consultative, it is this very action which will ensure that when Mugabe is rejected for a third time by the people of Zimbabwe, he will not be able to shift the blame and defend himself. The baton will pass on. It must be clearly understood that at this moment the people will also have rejected any politician and technocrat who has helped to set up and maintain this system of wanton destruction.
It is this passing of the baton that needs right-thinking Zimbabweans to focus. Is Zimbabwe ready for this momentous event?
As a baby boomer (from the post World War II era), I came across the following interchange between a baby boomer father and his millennial son.
Father: “Did you put those holes in your jeans on purpose?”
Son: “Did you put the hole in the ozone layer on purpose?”
Food for thought! With Brexit and Donald Trump as the next president of the USA — a complete outsider but now a reality, the voice of the common man has come into its own. I am becoming more aware that there are many Zimbabwe millennials who, when they receive this baton will run back into the swamp, rather than clear of it, as they know nothing different. Mugabe (92) has ruled Zimbabwe for 36 years!
A good friend of mine, on returning to the family farm in Tanzania which had been offered back to them after forty years, made the following comment: “I cannot go back, the present generation has no work ethic. They are totally donor dependent.”
As a baby boomeradvising the millennials, when you get that baton I would like to make the following suggestions:
Implement the devolution of power aspects of our Constitution as a new governance model for Zimbabwe, otherwise the real and legitimate concerns that the Mthwakazi Republic Party is raising could lead to Ndexit, a Matabeleland succession. Devolution is clearly a more democratic, citizen-centred, participatory, accountable and locally relevant development-focused governance system.
Ensure that any real estate that you own is registered in the deeds officeand is therefore welcomed as security by a bank manager. It must not subject to withdrawal or destruction in a Murambatsvina type operation at the hands of some fearful Zanu PF party official.
Ensure that individual rights cases will once again be heard in the Southern African Development Community’s SADC Tribunal, so that your endeavours against politically-appointed judges are protected.
Ensure that you are fully and practically conversant in your chosen field of endeavour; understand the local advantage and make full use of it so that you can build a successful career.
Encourage the return of Zimbabweans in the diaspora because they understand the work ethic, innovative thinking and modus operandi of the free world. Diametrically opposed to this is the Zanu PF diaspora of 1980 whoonly understood the use and the power obtained through wielding an AK-47 rifle.
Actively motivate and achieve the closure of the many parasitic government departments which destroy any competitive edge you have on the world market.
As an agriculturist to the millennial agriculturists, I say the following:
Understand that agriculture is one of the hardest professions to succeed in.
Land is finite, therefore develop it; do not adopt the slash and burn attitude of those who claim to have been freedom fighters.
Make sure you develop your own water sources and not have the government control them through its parasitic organisations; use them wisely.
Make sure your enterprise is sufficiently large enough for the market to come to you, rather than you to go the market.
Understand the tobacco rotation and make full use of it. Most large-scale commercial tobacco farmers practiced a five-year rotation and these other crops were an important part of the overall land use system, helping to provide a steady cash flow. Produce high quality blending tobacco rather than filler.
If you are row cropping, use irrigation so you candouble crop to be world competitive.
The livestock of the future in the dry veld of Zimbabwe is wildlife because of its additional earning power for tourism and its ability to browse and survive drought.
Domesticated livestock producers will need to build linkages with farmers in the tobacco and row crop rotations.
Diversify into products that have niche markets in high income countries.
To all Zimbabweans I say understand that, to maintain the current status quo, the Zanu PF regime has had to concentrate more and more power in the office of the President. In 2018, as ordinary men and women comprising the electorate, make sure that the person who receives the baton and occupies the office of the president is a God-fearing man and a servant leader who will be committed to dismantling this destructive centre of power and corruption in an orderly manner.
Conolly is the owner of Centenary Farm in Bulawayo. He can be contacted at email@example.com