Zimbabwe: The crooked timber of humanity
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Nandan Nilekani, the author of the book: "Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation" left some fascinating ideas in my mind with regard to my country Zimbabwe, and where it is going. In his video about the book, he speaks about ideas that have arrived, ideas in contest and ideas in anticipation. I have found it a very valuable way of imagining Zimbabwe's probable future.
In case of Zimbabwe, despite all the intellectual capital we have, I do not think that we have created a broad church of consensus about the future. I noticed with interest, for example, that they were two mining conferences going on in the same week, several investment conferences and many more on this sector and that sector. We seem to talk a lot here in Harare! What is further disturbing is that, each group, gathering or conference has its own agendas and ideas about the future. This has resulted in disjointed efforts towards creating a progressive business and socio-political environment. Added to this, are the political parties who seem not only to have different ideas about the future, but unnecessarily slug it out daily in public arena creating an environment of confusion and paralysis.
If we begin to talk about ideas that have arrived, it is clear that everyone now accepts that we must have a new constitution, that local Zimbabweans must now play a more meaningful ownership role in shaping their own future. Thank goodness the era of dictatorship by politicians is fast coming to an end. The idea of a new democracy underpinned by the right of every Zimbabweans to pursue their ambitions has now arrived.
Ideas in contest, include the extent of the deepening of a new emerging democracy in Zimbabwe, and the role of a powerless Zanu-PF. Will it play a constructive or destructive role in a new dispensation? Zimbabweans have really never tasted a participative democracy and, although this is an idea whose time has arrived, one can contest the likely nature and extent of an open society that we seek to create. In other words, each one of us has their own ideas about what democracy really means and it will take some doing to attain a national consensus on what it really means despite us having a new constitution.
Another fundamental idea in contest is, of course, on the economic front with regard to the nature, extent and flexibility of indigenising the country. There is a false belief within Zanu-PF that indigenisation will save its political fortunes. I however differ, and compare them to an abusive husband, who continually brings home a bunch of roses after each episode of abuse. This time, the bunch of roses being indigenization. Zimbabweans have just had enough; too many promises have been cleverly framed as the evil works of imperialism while the visible avarice and selfishness of our politicians have created wide chasm between the ordinary folk and the politicians. In my opinion, indigenization will not turn the tide of discontent of the masses.
Another idea in contest is that of the status and role of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. Zimbabwe, is the only country that I know of that has not capitalised of its citizens that are outside the country. This can be such a competitive advantage to the country in the future. What a pity because in those Zimbabwean brains all over the world, lies hidden so much potential that can advance this country in a very short period of time.
Then there is what Nandan Nilekani calls "ideas in anticipation". These are ideas that will shape the future that we must anticipate now. In the case of Zimbabwe, the major idea in anticipation is the acceleration of economic development through the use of new technologies and the attraction of foreign investment. Zimbabwe has fallen behind significantly in all areas and it will be critical that we use new technology to take the leap into the future. Zimbabwe has some compelling ideas in anticipation on energy, on information and communications technology, agriculture and mining but the fundamental problem is that, there is no national vision on what must happen, how it must happen, when and where it must happen.
I have sadly noted that, the ideas about the future that we currently have, have been boxed into either "the MDC strategy" and the "Zanu-PF strategy". We therefore do not have "the Zimbabwe strategy" about the future.. We are not thinking as a nation but are busy scheming and protecting our political or economic turf.
Ideas in anticipation can only become reality when there is no disconnect between the politicians who must set the vision for the country, business people who must invest and labour who must work to create the future. "Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made" as stated by Immanuel Kant the German philosopher, aptly describes our situation.
In my opinion, no country can ever progress significantly without some consensus and collective momentum towards ideas about its future. We are caught a spider's web of our own making and what we need is to begin to build a national consensus on what Zimbabwe will look like in the future. If we fail to do that now, we will manage this country through crisis, as has been the case in the last ten years or so. We all know what the results will be: confusion, chaos, corruption, greed, poverty and regression.
Vince Musewe is an independent economist currently in Harare. You may contact him on email@example.com
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Source: Vince Musewe
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