HomeColumnistsThe art of survival in Zim’s current economic turmoil

The art of survival in Zim’s current economic turmoil

Robert Mandeya

THERE is a saying these days which says if you can survive in Zimbabwe’s treacherous economic environment, then you can withstand hostility anywhere in the world.

This applies to both business and individuals. Life in Zimbabwe has become a daily struggle for survival, with almost everything in short supply. The law of the jungle is what is carrying the day for many; a case of each man for himself and God for us all.

There is total dearth of leadership, with those entrusted with the powers to turn the country’s fortunes showing signs of incapacity or deliberate confusion. It would appear the country is on autopilot and the people are on their own and have developed their own survival methods.

What seems to be keeping people going is their character and resilience. Zimbabweans have developed an amazing streak of coping with the daily vagaries of life at every level of the social strata. Politics seem to have no solution to the relentless challenges.

Importance of character

Character goes beyond just gaining the educational knowledge and years of experience in the workforce. In fact, in this day and age one of the most important attributes that an individual must possess is not the position, title, great office or an impressive set of credentials, but the ability to adapt to the environment and circumstances around.

The character of an individual is basically who the person is. The character of an individual is the one which determines one’s survival. What separates the survivors from the victims is that rare ability, bordering on instinctive intuition, to sense the daily dangers and swiftly respond to stimuli.

This swift reaction is what will make some businesses and individuals stand out from the rest. The current environmental stimuli in Zimbabwe are in the form of fuel, electricity, maize-meal, currency shortages and so on.

People in Zimbabwe are consequently responding differently to these crises. Some naturally fight while others flee, capitulate or wait for fate to take its course. These are the three options people in Zimbabwe are having to go through each day.


Each time I do executive coaching or self-leadership sessions with clients, I have come to notice something quite peculiar. Each one of us has his or her strengths and weaknesses or blind spots. I have also noticed people have their inherent fears.

Some of this fear is real and some is perceived, some of it is to do with one’s background and upbringing. There is also the issue of people’s belief systems which define their character and manner of handling situations.

Whatever the case, people need self-awareness so as to build and shape their character. The secret to understanding the world around you, including people around you, is to know yourself first. What makes you click? What drives you, that is, what is the source of your energy? What are your fears? I have often said to my clients that the greatest battles in life are not the battles with the other person but with the self. The moment you conquer the self, half the battle is won.

We need to take time during our careers and our lives to sit back and think about what and who we are and, equally important . . . why. Without this base knowledge of ourselves, it is very difficult to drive our careers and business forward, as well as to drive ourselves from day-to-day challenges.

Social intelligence

At the core of the survival matrix in Zimbabwe today is social intelligence. This has much to do with self-preservation skills. Each of us has developed some exceptional personal social safety nets to survive the next day.

The same applies with organisations in business. Most foreign investors are said to be packing their bags to go, yet those that have embraced the Zimbabwean streak of survival are soldiering on and even surpassing expectations. Most of these have literally suspended conventional rules of business and come up with their own rules of the game.

Social intelligence develops from experience with people and learning from success and failures in social and business settings. It is more commonly referred to as “tact”, “common sense” or “street smarts”.

While the two are conceptually distinct but overlapping constructs, it is interesting to explore how these play out in real-life situations.

I have been observing different facets in both the social and business worlds and it is quite amazing how the Zimbabwean economy is playing out in these settings. This is a subject for another day: “How to survive in Zimbabwe”.

Knowing your core values

To understand ourselves at this level we are challenged to understand our core values! Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong; they can help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfill their business goals; and they create an unwavering and unchanging guide.”
Core values should become the guiding principles for each of us personally and for our organisations. Core values need to be articulated clearly in writing and tested through daily decision-making.

Defining your core values and living by them should not be a casual, “wing-it” exercise. This requires a concentrated, focussed effort and a defined follow-through.

As Mahatma Ghandi said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”

Whichever way you take this famous quote, life in Zimbabwe today rewards those with a daring character.Mandeya is an executive leadership coach, trainer in human capital development and corporate education, a certified leadership and professional development practitioner and founder of LiRD. —robert@lird.co.zw/www.lird.co.zw

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