It's leadership stupid!
A country could be well endowed with natural resources and human capital but with rascals at the helm people will still suffer. Leadership paucity is Africa’s bane and Zimbabwe now best exemplifies this sorrowful phenomenon.
I derive my provocative title from the wonder kid of contemporary American politics, Bill Clinton. His famous remark, “Its the economy stupid!” catapulted him in 1992 to the presidency of the world’s sole super power. True to his clarion call he did not disappoint Americans. He was a consummate politician, capable economic manager, gifted fund raiser, and an efficient administrator, whose government had some of the best brains America could offer. In spite of a checkered private life many Americans are nostalgic about the Clinton days and if the constitution permitted he would have wanted to stay, with the consent of the people of course, a bit longer in the White House.
Nearer home, though controversial to Zimbabweans in some respects, President Thabo Mbeki is representative of this brainy leadership. He is intellectually suave, a visionary thinker, and has assembled a capable team of lieutenants in the form of Deputy President Pumuzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the modestly educated Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel and Central Bank Governor Tito Mboweni.
Although the historically marginalized black majority still have to benefit from the democracy dividend the economy has been growing by at least 3, 5 % per annum for a couple of years now. Ultimately they will benefit if this rate of growth is sustained and the government remains committed in taking those operating on the margins on board. These South African leaders engage with and define themselves to the people.
Unlike the retrospective Fist-Shaking-Shady-Harare-Comrades they articulate also a vision for South Africa that goes beyond their political tenure and even life times. Leadership is not about what you did in the past and why you are in power (Liberation War Discourse) but about mapping a good future for the people, especially posterity. Zimbabwe is under the command of a militant cabal, masquerading as nationalists, that can not build wealth beyond that of their immediate families and that is wrong.
Little Zimbabwe”: State Management by Hypocrites.
Those in the “governance crusade” might argue for the good governance imperative. A fair and transparent operating environment for all our pursuits is the prerequisite for national progress, so the argument goes. Further, in any community bad people can not be wished away so it is better to have some bad people in a good system than to have some good people in bad system. I agree with this. However, you may have a fine constitution, which is one of the indicators of good governance/system, but with a self serving leadership the affairs of a country or organization will still be bungled up. The recent National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) twisting of their constitution is a strong case in point. Some thought the incumbent chair, Dr Madhuku, was indispensable to the organization and decided to tamper with the Assembly’s constitution to achieve that perspective. At national level the country’s constitution mandates the holding of our next Presidential election by the ides of 2008 but some ruling party functionaries have already hinted that the election could be deferred to 2010 through constitutional manipulations. Whether that is good for Zimbabweans or not I can not answer, the court of public opinion can best decide.
The fellows who wax indignant about territorial integrity and national sovereignty purporting to be our leadership are simply shameless hypocrites. Our education system is collapsing due to poor administration by ZIMSEC and the under funding of local universities. Ironically, the ministers send their kids to elite schools where they sit for internationally recognized examinations. Once a certain Honourable minister threatened to withdraw his child from a Marondera based elitist school because its authorities had indicated that they were canceling the Cambridge University based Ordinary Level Examinations in favour our local ZIMSEC ones. They also enroll their children abroad into the world’s most expensive universities because they are not happy with standards in the local universities that they control. In short in Zimbabwe we have a two-tier policy system, one for the political elite and the other for the masses. Good policies about the leadership’s kid’s education are made by their capable counterparts in the West while they mishandle the education of our sons and daughters who live in squalor in Senga and Nehosho (Midlands State University), Dzivarasekwa and Highfield (University of Zimbabwe), and Rujeko and Mucheke (Masvingo State University).
Worse still, the ministers Look East and mastermind Zhing Zhong/Dragon Deals only for the forsaken citizens. They buy their agricultural equipment from the United States, a country they claim to be in an ideological war against us. When vigilant US authorities forestall their deals the ministers disgustingly claim that the “US is wrong because they wanted to import those Ferguson Tractors to produce more in order to feed a starving nation.” Now who is patriotic in Zimbabwe, the workers who toil day in day out for uneconomic wages and the economic refugees who go abroad in order to send remittances back home or the ministers who export capital to the west? Is it still hypothetical that ordinary folks could be more patriotic than their leaders? Has it ever crossed your mind that bad individuals in a country could be its leaders? We all love Zimbabwe and have the best of intentions, I presume.
It is hard to exonerate the current state leadership for causing the general adversities that the people are going through such as food shortages, transport blues, inflation and a collapsing health system. They seem to believe in governance as an incessant volley of blunders. They equate administration of national resources and assets with plunder as evidenced by the abuse of the War Veterans Fund, the Civil Servants Housing Scheme, the indigenization and affirmative action funds and the ongoing Land Reform Scheme. The country is being led by elite with a scotched earth agenda against the people, they destroy everything in their wake like a retreating army. They have no desire whatsoever to bequeath a positive legacy to the nation, they seem to be ‘effective’ surrogates of the Mobutus of the yester era. I have always wondered if a country, organization or even a family can be led by a people who have no desire to be remembered for good deeds long after death.
The fact that none of the major policies and “operations” in the immediate past has been a success in terms of improving people’s livelihoods further affirms this standpoint. Though we still wallow in deprivation maybe only Operation Sunrise/Zuvarabuda was a success because we no longer move around with heavy wads of valueless notes. We now have powerful easier to handle notes for buying nothing.
Again, if one were
to analyze the police’s recent brutal treatment of unarmed and
peaceful ZCTU demonstrators the conclusion that the authorities are
increasingly turning agents of maintaining law and order into instruments
of coercion is unavoidable. The video that circulated on the cyberspace
relating to the beatings showed our police behaving like a rag tag rebel
army. The only difference was that they had uniforms and button sticks
in stead of guns.
Is it only those in the highest political offices in the land who shoulder the responsibility for national depression? I do not think so. It is not only state controlled institutions that are suffering from the leadership inadequacy syndrome. In analyzing the crisis many commentators offer state centric analyses of the Zimbabwean saga. In this framework the culprits are the government which is constituted largely of incompetent and rapacious ZANU PF politicians. This approach has the effect of underestimating the opposition political parties, the business community, corporate citizens, universities and civil society’s monkeyshines. To a large extent its not the best citizens who are making it in both the political and economic realms.
In the political opposition there is a cacophony of dispute about the way forward. Some say lets participate and others say lets withdraw from the electoral process and all forms of engagement with the Zanu PF government. Frenzied analysts eager for action argue that Morgan Tsvangirai should ratchet up the struggle, he is not brave enough, he should mobilise the people, get into the streets and tackle Zanu PF head on.
If the MDC does not get into the streets then, Tsvangirai has failed, is that so? Can Tsvangirai lead a people who are too cowed to get into the streets, who are most likely to forget him when he gets locked up? What happened when Zanu PF arrested him soon after the “Final Push” debacle? People literally forgot him and Zanu PF treated him like a common criminal, arraigned him before the courts unkempt and in dirty prison garb. It was a rueful spectacle of cruelty unbefitting for someone accused for “political misdeeds.”
Further, do you think if Tsvangirai is arrested today he will come out of jail with the multitude of degrees like what the Zanu leadership did in the 1960s and 70s? In as much as I subscribe to the notion that the Zimbabwean political opposition is too refined I also consider it sadistic and base to argue that opposition leaders should get into power through prison. Why should it be so in a civilised post-colonial nation?
However, what is
troubling among the opposition leadership is that some of them appear
reluctant to dislodge the ruling party from power which should be the
mandate any self respecting and serious opposition. During the 2002
Presidential election campaigns NAGG and ZAPU 2000 acted and appeared
as if they were an opposition to the apposition, the Movement for Democratic
Change. Now in the MDC events leading to the October 12 2005 fall out,
especially the Kitchen Cabinet Crisis, have an apparent regional-cum-tribal
tinge and origin. Can a nation be led by regionalists and tribalists
who can not manage and contain diversity and difference in a party?
Recently the Reserve Bank Governor, Gideon Gono, claimed that “many economic gurus and very rich individuals” wanted him dead because of his economic policies. Most likely these are corporate-leaders-cum-racketeers in the black market. Yes, Gono has generated controversy through, for example, Operation Sunrise/Zuvarabuda whose “success” was achieved at the expense citizens’ privacy and dignity. It was an offensively intrusive process whereby ill-disciplined youth service cadres would pry and poke into cars, bags and wallets all in the pursuit of valueless Zimbabwean dollars.
The recent Pinnacle
Properties debacle adds on to the Governors’ repertoire of possible
shenanigans. In spite of all this I still think the Governor means well
for the greater majority. Unfortunately he is a man operating in a political
and economic framework where the political leadership seems to believe
that “effective” monetary policies are substitutes for production
and clear-headed economic management in achieving the turnaround of
the country’s fortunes.
However, the country’s university system is too bureaucratized. We have the Minister, the Permanent Secretary, the Council for Higher education, the State Universities Vice Chancellors` Association, and the “useless Councils,” all overseeing university operations. Therefore, are our universities being managed well? Are the problems they are facing a result of a depressed macro-management culture or their own poor leadership? Do they follow their strategic plans? Do they have any student-lecturer ratios? Does enrollment tally with facilities and staff expertise? Are state university councils still necessary, considering that staff conditions of service are mostly similar in all universities? Don’t we need to streamline these councils in terms of size, mandate and expertise? Are they simply not bureaucratic burdens and rather too big? Can a council with more than twenty-five “non experts” manage a university effectively? I know of American universities with more than 45 000 students and annual operational budgets of over US$100 million who’s Boards of Regents are composed of twelve members only. Well, there is no clear answer to the questions I have raised but the few answers one might stumble upon could not be so pleasing.
There is no doubt that Zimbabwe is now a country that frustrates honest living and promotes outright pilfers and thugs. Business wise everyone tries to supply something without producing anything, an economy of middlemen and speculators. The authorities seem not to be serious about fighting the corruption scourge. Currently the so-called factions in Zanu PF have been preparing dossiers on each other’s corrupt deals. What this shows is that each of these two camps are not prepared to weed out corruption but rather to use the “anti-corruption crusade” to achieve favorable political outcomes. By the way our state leadership does not have a serious record of fighting corruption. They just establish commissions to investigate alleged and apparent corruption cases but lack the wherewithal to prosecute and neither do they reveal to the public the findings of those commissions. This is what happened with the Grain Saga in the 1980s, the Sandura Commission in the late 1980s, the NOCZIM debacle, the War Victims Compensation Fund and now the so-called land audit crusade.
Legally, let us have rule of law not rule by law, rule by might and by individuals as is the case now. In terms of security the police, the army and the Intelligence Services should protect the majority and not the powerful but insecure few. Our conceptualization of security needs urgent redefinition because it is state centric, militaristic, antiquated and bigoted. When we grapple with the security complex we have to ask: Are the citizens free from hunger, deprivation, want, ignorance, disease and even domestic violence? Therefore in a way Honourable Mubhawu’s recent petulant utterances in Parliament in favour of the continued marginalisation of women are in this general sense a threat to security. Whose or what security becomes the question.
Finally, this point in our history has been “the best of times for the worst citizens” in the political, social and economic realms. In other words life has never been so good for reprobates, even those operating outside Zanu PF patronage. Manipulative and corrupt individuals in the upper echelons of national governance, political parties, business and even civil society are calling the shots. Of course I must concede that there are well intentioned leaders in Zanu PF, the Movements for Democratic Change (MDC) and Civil Society but a considerable lot are simply scalawags. Citizens must call for more accountability from their leadership in all spheres of life.
Terence M Mashingaidze is an historian and academic. He can be contacted at Mashingaidze2000@yahoo.co.uk
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