TOWARDS the end of last year, Eddie Cross wrote what was probably one of his best pieces in recent times. It was titled “The Need for a New Road Map”. He posited a very discerning analysis of China’s economic development since 1980 against Zimbabwe’s decline in the same period, unpacking contributory factors for the dichotomy of the two economies in a very incisive fashion. It was a brilliant article!
Interestingly, it took Fay Chung, former Minister of Education, nearly a full month to craft a response in the form of a counter-analysis. Hers was titled “Mugabe ouster no panacea for Zimbabwe’s economic problems”. What prompted me to invite myself to this discourse was Chung’s description of Eddie’s key point of argument as “superfluous”. If anything, having objectively read both articles a number of times, I found Cross’ postulation much more convincing and quite to the point as opposed to Chung’s desperately defensive and partisan position.
While Cross convincingly argued that the problem with Zimbabwe’s economic decline was caused primarily by poor leadership, Fay Chung strongly disagrees, opting to put the blame squarely on lack of innovation and initiative by business leaders and industrialists who should have transformed the structure of Zimbabwe’s industry by now. In other words, her argument is that the failure of Zimbabwe’s economy has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with lack of strategic thinking in industry and commerce, which is nonsense!!!
Given her level of education and social standing, one would have expected a person like Chung to understand and appreciate, without much effort, the nexus of politics and economics. If the two are not pulling in the same direction, it is like a misfiring engine. This is an obvious reality which doesn’t need the resurrection of John Keynes or Albert Einstein for anybody to understand.
In her forlorn attempt to defend Zanu PF, especially its leader, President Robert Mugabe, Chung ended up embarrassingly contradicting herself. I was somehow concerned to recall that she was once my education minister when I had a short stint as a teacher. To paraphrase her “In the case of China, while Mao concentrated on internal policies, his successor, Deng, focused on taking those policies to the world stage. In the process, Deng sent 10,000 Chinese students to United States of America to take study in different areas. When these troops returned home, they transformed the Chinese economy”.Advertisement
Now, my question to Fay Chung is “What would have happened if Mao had remained in power up to the present day as President Mugabe has done? Didn’t change of leadership from Mao to Deng result in outward-looking policies which ultimately transformed China?”
While it is true that President Mugabe’s departure may not immediately elevate Zimbabwe to utopia, the fact remains that his exit from centre-stage will certainly usher in a new era and bring with it some new impetus, thrust and focus just as Deng did for China. And this is not without precedent in Africa. Look no further than Zambia, if in doubt. When Kenneth Kaunda was defeated by Chiluba without resorting to the new Nikuv science, the former willingly moved out of State House and focused more on playing golf, Zambia started recovering steadily. Today, we shamelessly import grain from what was once Southern Africa’s poorest country. Ghana, Tanzania and Mozambique are other examples. Of course, Chung would like us to believe that these are just ominous coincidences; they aren’t!
Anybody who doesn’t believe that Zimbabwe’s problems are a result of poor political leadership is disingenuous, naive or simply clownish. Zimbabwe has more than three million of its people in the Diaspora, much more than the 10,000 Chinese that are said to have transformed China. If we consider Diasporans per capita, Zimbabwe will be among those nations at the very top. Most of these people have skills, education, qualifications and experience that can easily change our country for the better. Why hasn’t this happened? The answer lies in our political leadership as epitomized by none other than President Mugabe together and his party. To them, Zimbabweans in the Diaspora are enemies of the State or prodigal sons and daughters who abandoned home and chose to clean bums in Western countries. What a misnomer!!!
In her weak analysis, Fay Chung anxiously avoided the issue of corruption. Why didn’t she tell her readers that China has zero tolerance for corruption while in Zimbabwe, “chefs” actually get rewarded and protected for it? Not long ago, Xi Jinping, who was touted as next in line for the Chinese leadership, was given a lengthy prison sentence for corruption. Can this ever happen to Ignatius Chombo, Obert “Obedient Son” Mpofu, Joice Mujuru or Emmerson Mnangwagwa?
If Morris Nyagumbo had not carelessly taken his life, (some say Tongogara still wonders which country makes a rifle called Cressida) he would still be in Cabinet today. Fredrick Shava and Calistus Ndhlovu (the real one, not Webster Shamu) are still beneficiaries of the patronage system; so are many others. So, yes, Madam Fayie, our problem is bad political leadership no matter how much spin you put to it. Isn’t it obvious to you that while China is still stuck with one party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) gets a new leader every ten years? How many leaders have we had in Zimbabwe since 1980? While I never liked Kamuzu Banda, at least he openly declared himself life president though that was not to be.
Chung also talked positively about Chinese products flooding Western markets as a big win for China. One thing she forgot to tell us is that there are several American, European and Australian companies operating in China, using it as a base for cheap labour as well as an easy access to a big market. Which Zimbabwean companies are in Guangdong, Shanghai, Peking or Xian? However, I agree with Madam Fayie on one point, which is that some of the wages and salaries in Zimbabwe are detrimental to the economy. While I wouldn’t want to see a university professor earning US$150 as she suggests, it is totally unacceptable for anybody to earn as much as US$40,000 per month for heading a corporation that has no clue what “profit” means. This is worse than looting!
Zimbabwe desperately needs a new generation of leaders whose agenda is different from that of the nationalists. Yes, our forebears played their part by fighting and defeating colonialism. Beyond that, they have now become obsolete, just like typewriters in the digital era. They should have been focusing more on writing memoirs, grooming and providing advice to young leaders. It is now time to navigate the future with a new generation of leaders. Who needs a 286 PC running on Dos 3.0, Lotus 123 and WordPerfect 5.1 in the era of Wi-Fi, iPad and iPhone?
Zanu PF probably thinks people eat acronyms. They are experts at creating them. From ESAP all the way to Zim Asset, we have literally lost count but nothing positive has happened. This points at nothing but poor leadership. Madam Chung, you were there when your government crafted Health for All by 2000. A visit to Mpilo, Gomo or Parirenyatwa hospital today tells us exactly what you meant by that! I won’t talk about dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge road, construction of Chitungwiza railway line, Matabeleland-Zambezi Water Project, rural electrification program – all of these failed as a result of poor leadership entrapped in a vicious circle of corruption and self-aggrandisement! If we had good leadership, some of these programs and projects would have been delivered in our time.
When a whole Minister of Finance dishes out US$200 million to the president’s office alone against a combined allocation of less than US$40 million for the crucial ministries of Education and Health, this is not only grossly incompetent but terribly criminal. Zimbabweans have every reason to suspect that such an unjustified allocation is used to oil the patronage system as well as fund covet operations. No wonder why some people would want to see Zanu PF ruling forever, they just can’t afford to forego sordid privileges disguised as presidential budget. Yes, the president requires frequent trips to the Far East but would those have been necessary ahd Zanu PF did not destroy what was once the best health delivery system in Southern Africa?
Even if Zimbabwe were to adopt the economic template from the so-called Asian Tigers or BRICS, with the current crop of leaders we have, nothing would come to fruition. If we don’t transform the structure, nature and content of our politics by embracing a new generation of leaders as well as new thinking, we will always be like a person on the treadmill; running very fast and sweating profusely but not covering any distance. When we have failed dismally, we blame everybody else except ourselves! Madam Fayie, it is poor leadership. Period.
Moses Chamboko is the Interim Secretary General for Zimbabweans United for Democracy (ZUNDE). You may visit us on www.zunde.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.