It is now a living reality that Zimbabwe is a country stranded in the murky waters of a man-made crisis, under a failed leadership which is no longer responsive to the needs of the people as it is consumed by primitive accumulation and self-aggrandisement.
Our leaders do not care about the suffering of the majority any more. In essence the arrogance of the leadership is displayed in the character and behaviour of those controlling the levers of the state and power.
How do we reconcile the calamitous actions of our national leadership with the obscene flaunting of opulence by state officials in a sea of poverty and hunger that is cancerously devouring our very fabric of existence as a republic?
The country has lost its brand architecture! It cannot recognise its own brand persona in the mirror. The leaders, who are supposed to be the brand ambassadors, take turns in squandering every available opportunity to re-build the brand.
We have departed from the brand promise borne out of the liberation struggle, a war which was waged by the sons and daughters of Zimbabwe, not a few entitled elites.
The then Zimbabwean Prime Minister-elect, Robert Mugabe, on March 4 1980 aptly captured the national brand promise as his leadership mobilised the country towards moulding the newly established country as a competitive brand in Africa. In that historic founding speech he said.
“. . . let us constitute a oneness derived from our common objective of total commitment to build a great Zimbabwe that will be the pride of all Africa . . .”
Next month, April 2017, brand Zimbabwe turns 37 but sadly that brand positioning statement by a man who has now turned out to be a life president sounds like a hollow brand promise.
The capacity of the country that the very same leader promised to be very competitive in Africa has been decimated under his watch to the extent that no sane person still believes that the brand will ever resurrect from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix.
A few days ago, the country woke up to the news that the President of the Republic had flown out of the country for “medical check-up” in Singapore, a place he casually patronises as if it is located in his backyard.
The irony of this development is that Zimbabwe’s health delivery system has hit rock bottom. We have seen disgruntled nurses and doctors downing their stethoscopes for weeks on end, endangering the lives of poor patients.
The medical aid system is not performing to national expectation, with the bulk of citizens surviving without medical cover. Public hospitals have been reduced to dilapidated buildings, operating with virtually empty dispensaries! There are no drugs, yet the public pays taxes for such institutions to be responsive to their needs.
Functional governments, by design, are supposed to be geared towards servant leadership. Public institutions, in a properly functioning country, make an effort to meet the needs of each and every citizen.
The education system is malfunctioning as well. It has become a “business” with poor quality control systems. Our universities are no longer engines of innovation, research and invention.
They have been reduced to conveyer belts of half-baked brains that are churned out en masse to attend to a weak economy which is failing to absorb a tiny fraction of the total output. Manufacturing, and industry in general, are operating below 20-30% capacity.
With the few aforestated examples, the country’s chief executive (CE) is supposed to build confidence in local brands such as hospitals, schools and universities. To this end, it is the height of irony that the CE trusts foreign brands with his own life and runs scared of the institutions that he established through his leadership.
This is the most profound evidence that the leaders have destroyed the brand and are presiding over an unprecedented national de-branding process.
I have said it before and will repeat it here. The first brand ambassadors of any product are the internal stakeholders, prominently the top management and the employees. You cannot fathom a situation where the CE of Coca-Cola publicly, without any sense of shame, chooses to consume Pespi products, while s/he sells coke to the rest of the world as the finest-ever product to quench one’s thirst.
The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) on February 28 2017 released a damning report in which it interviewed 10 000 tourists between July 2015 and July 2016 on their perceptions of brand Zimbabwe.
The survey was conducted at the country’s 10 national exit ports. Of the total number interviewed: 42,4% rated the national roads as very poor and its infrastructure in general, 25,1% noted that the police harassed them.
Five hundred of the tourists stated they had no intention to ever return or recommend destination Zimbabwe. The reasons for such a decision being quantified by 63,2% who cited high prices, 43,2% cited police harassment while 31,1% noted poor infrastructure. This is the global picture that our national brand touch point has created: that if you visit Zimbabwe, the police will harass you as they solicit bribes.
But what happened to the brand promise and positioning statement as outlined 36 years ago by the founding leader?
One of the major sticking points in our attempts to re-construct brand Zimbabwe is that we are led by the oldest president at 93! Any foreign investor intending to come to Zimbabwe is asking whether their investment will be safe amid such grave uncertainty over the succession question.
Without a currency of its own, the nation has lost its brand identity due to economic mismanagement.
Our universities that are supposed to be centres of knowledge reproduction are breaking records through profaning the sacred process of epistemology through donating degrees to the powerful and mighty!
The belief and investment in meritocracy, which is the engine of success in progressive societies, has been decimated through strengthening of a web of mafia-like connections to those in government for purposes of tenderpreneurship rather than entrepreneurship. Therefore incompetent and corrupt people are occupying positions that are supposed to be the brand touch points for Zimbabwe across the state spectrum—in the process squandering our brand fabric!
Competitive countries invest in their systems and in their people while positioning themselves globally.
Country names are therefore brands: they have power to influence through the spontaneous associations they evoke, for good or for ill, and through the emotions they stir up. Zimbabwe’s brand associations range from corruption, entitlement, greedy elite, policy inconsistency, and incompetent leadership.
This brand power (and influence) is nevertheless linked to specific products: Italy is the great cultural brand, a sign of quality and creativity in the fashion market. The United States has a wide-ranging effect: We voluntarily “consume” its brands and its effective evocations when we buy Coca-Cola, generally referred to as the water of America; jeans (the clothing of America), American cinema from Hollywood; and the whole world accepts the US dollar as the international reserve currency. German is held in high esteem for its innovations and durability in the automobile industry and industrial equipment worldwide among others.
Botswana is a brand built on mastering and perfecting the art of diamond extraction, processing and prudent management of scarce resources.
Even rural communities are electrified from diamond proceeds. The South Africa of Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki was premised on the competencies of being a competitive international relations player resolving conflicts around the continent, self-sustenance in economic management and providing moral leadership for the African Renaissance.
The above-stated examples of global brand recognition for these respective countries was achieved through the following three critical brand management processes:
*Consistent unified communications founded on a central idea of brand positioning;
*Translation of the idea to specific messaging and visual style; and
*Utilising multiple channels of media ranging from film, music, arts, etc, thereby making the brand a living reality.
But while other countries are known for pushing the human race forward, Zimbabwe, which at one stage had grown to be the brand known as the food basket of Southern Africa, has been reduced to penury by an arrogant leadership that insults the whole world while extending the begging bowl.
We are now known for an angry and disarmed populace; a corrupt state-party system that thrives on government tenders while parading thieves as successful businesspeople.
The chief brand ambassadors in the form of the president, cabinet ministers and ruling party elites flaunt their access to foreign products as they escape the collapse of local institutions which they have vandalised.
Moyo is a chartered marketer, brand strategist and communications expert based in Harare. He can be contacted at email@example.com or you can follow his blog https://tabanimoyoblog.wordpress.com