RHODESIAN founder Cecil Rhodes, buried at the Matobo Hills outside Bulawayo, once said “to be born an Englishman is to win first prize in the lottery of life”.
Editor’s Memo Dumisani Muleya
Although Rhodes, a British colonial fortune hunter, had a mindset coloured by supremacist views (for he believed the English are the “finest race” in the world), by inference the same thing could be said today about being born in Singapore.
The Economist in 2013 wrote a piece about Rhodes and being born in the Nordic countries, probably the best-governed states in the world, hence this extrapolation.
Singapore is certainly one of the best places in the world to be born in and to live in from the perspective of the most basic human needs: food, water, shelter, education, health and employment. That’s why President Robert Mugabe shuttles to the island city-state for medical attention.
By contrast, Zimbabwe is currently one of the worst places in the world to be born and live in. Again that’s why Mugabe doesn’t trust its medical facilities.
When it became independent from British colonial rule in 1963, Singapore’s GDP was just slightly above US$700 million, but now it’s above US$300 billion. Its economy is now one of the most advanced globally; with futuristic infrastructure and great social service delivery.
Yet it looked destined to be a failed state when it was expelled from the Malaysian federation in 1965. But amazingly, it became one of the world’s greatest success stories.
What is the moral of the story?
The point is Singapore’s dramatic success was largely due to effective leadership, good governance, pragmatism and meritocracy. Lee Kuan Yew was the architect.
This brings us to the process of selecting a new chief justice to replace the outgoing Godfrey Chidyausiku.
Instead of authorities allowing political expediency and nepotism in the context of Mugabe’s succession politics to muddy the waters, meritocracy should be the guiding principle. Chidyausiku’s successor and, indeed, other state employees and leaders, must be selected on meritocracy — on the basis of talent and ability, not patronage.
Society must be governed by people selected on merit, where everyone with talent, skill and imagination can aspire to reach the top. The selection of the chief justice is a litmus test in that regard.
Four candidates were nominated for the chief justice post and public interviews were done in December last year in accordance with constitution. Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba, Constitutional Court judge Justice Paddington Garwe, Judicial Service Commission (JSC) secretary Justice Rita Makarau and Judge President Justice George Chiweshe were nominated.
Chiweshe withdrew from the interviews after Justice Charles Hungwe granted an application by University of Zimbabwe law student Romeo Zibani challenging the process.
However, the JSC appealed to the Supreme Court, effectively suspending Hungwe’s order and allowing the interviews to proceed. The Supreme Court ruled in its favour this week, clearing the path for Mugabe to appoint a new chief justice.
As first reported by this paper, Malaba came tops with 91%, Makarau second with 90% and Garwe third with 52%. While the difference between Malaba and Makarau’s marks is marginal, there is a gap between them in terms of seniority, experience and jurisprudential capacity. It is widely agreed Malaba is far ahead even if Makarau is also sharp.
Given this, Malaba must get the job on merit if there is equal opportunity and fair play here. This is very important not as a Malaba issue, but as a way of starting to dismantle the current corrosive patronage system which has destroyed the country.
Zimbabwe must abandon its spoils system in which people are appointed on the basis of loyalty, nepotism and corruption, and embrace a new culture of meritocracy. Civil society and the media have an important role to play on this. This is the only way the country can dream of becoming a success story like Singapore.