Very often as Zimbabweans we get caught up in the protracted debate about why Zimbabwe is struggling. Every time we have this debate, we come up with the same myopic conclusions that usually obscure the real reasons why Zimbabwe is stagnant.
And because we are too egotistic to be honest with ourselves. We will always lack the tools to resurrect our nation because we keep deliberately mis-diagnosing the problem.
Passing The Buck
It’s always easier to pass the buck on everyone else when assessing the bane of our problems, rather than locating the blame on ourselves as individuals first. This, when accompanied by the fact that Zimbabweans find it difficult to understand that neo-colonialism is a reality plaguing Africa, makes the conversation a greater challenge. We revere our European masters far too much to see a full picture.
The People Who Ate The Golden Goose
The fact is, as Zimbabweans we ate our golden goose. This is who we are, shortsighted people who roasted the goose that was laying the golden eggs because we were craving a meaty treat. Too addicted to instant gratification we couldn’t wait for the goose to lay eggs to hatch more golden geese.
It all starts where all conversations on Zimbabwe start, at independence. From independence, our parents were content with being paid a pittance by white companies to exploit their nation. This small working class minority [8-10% of the population] were content with being slaves as the nation was sucked dry at the expense of future generations and the majority languishing in rural poverty.
Riding the staff bus to work and eating lettuce sandwiches in the corporate blue chip canteen was enough to make this elite group of blacks think Rhodesia had left a utopia for them.
Subsidized Education And Food
The new government came in and gave this small percentage of city dwelling black workers subsidized township housing, transport, fuel, healthcare, food and night classes to advance from colonial bantu education.
Their children were given the best primary, secondary and technical school education on the continent. All at the expense of this endless gift-that-kept-on-giving called the national treasury.
Never did they see the exploitation by their white masters. Never thinking that their menial jobs could some day come to an end because of globalization. Neither did they think that their gift-that-kept-on-giving would run out of treasure to support their subsidies, healthcare and world class education.
Consumption Over Production
With these endowments they [the minority black working class] squandered their earnings on western consumables: clothes, cars, colour TVs, VCRs, trips overseas and occasionally the western university education for those who were well endowed with disposable income earned from administering colonial exploitation. When not squandering they saved a few cents for a rainy day in their savings accounts.
Their jobs were rudimentary, repetitive, small parts of a bigger puzzle that never gave them the skill to produce a complete deliverable without the supervision of the master. Such jobs were in many cases held in uncompetitive British companies like Leyland, Bedford and other such that became redundant globally.
The Day Master Left
Sadly, the day exploitation could no longer be tolerated in a nation of independent educated natives inevitably came. When it dawned the exploiter packed his bags and left with the knowledge and the largess he built over the ages. He externalized his ill-gotten gains, imposing sanctions on this native that got too big for his boots and left hoping to return.
Our parents were left disillusioned and bitter. Bitter at their loss of jobs and wages. Bitter at being given factors of production to think and produce for themselves. More critically the privileged working class minority resented that they now had to compete for survival with village peasants [albeit educated peasants] in a free market.
It was now a free for all. Their elitist privilege of staff buses and blue chip canteens was shattered. Now they had to work the land and extract the resource for themselves to survive, but this was beneath these professional employees.
Given land and minerals to chart their own destiny, they cursed and scorned making the excuse that they didn’t have the capacity to use the land. They told us [their kids] that the nation was doomed and we needed to migrate and seek employment else where with our world class education. What they didn’t realize is the world had changed, globalization had collapsed British industrial dominance and Rhodesia was a bygone era.
The sloven parents soon infused their indolence in us. Instead of learning and teaching us how to use the land or invest money to gather machines of industry. They chose to throw their hands in the air in despair and sit hopelessly hoping for a saviour. Some pressuring their children into overseas slavery to be their retirement pension.
Even at this point it never dawned on them that their savings should be employed to produce the goods and forex they kept consuming. They never thought that their savings needed to be leveraged into production before they lost value sitting in idol savings accounts.
They did nothing to create employment for themselves and their children to pay taxes that could maintain the subsidized education, world class healthcare, transport and food they were accustomed to. The gluttons continued to consume like locusts without sowing adequately to ensure more was available in future.
They never realized that they couldn’t keep consuming without producing what they consumed. Neither did they realize the true impact of the sanctions imposed by their slave master so they never did anything to mitigate the economic warfare. Sooner than later the castle of consumers who couldn’t sow inevitably came crashing down.
Twenty years later their children, now grown, have learnt nothing from their indolent parents. Proud and puffed up with an international, Western “miseducation”. Scattered across the world in top global companies doing rudimentary pieces of the bigger puzzle jobs and mundane tasks that don’t enable production.
Our PHD holders are pen pushers in NGOs, in the business of donor administration. Doctors of begging essentially. Meanwhile the MBA graduate is a colonial administrator for global banks and corporates pillaging the continent.
A task doer but never a finisher, the MSc holder and engineer don’t know how to apply for a patent, create a prototype or register for a mining claim in a nation of vast resources. No ability or initiative to self direct independent of a white man. We are a nation of slaves and colonial clerks.
Never Returned What We Received
Some of us were privileged to get a subsidized education from primary to tertiary that qualified us for these great vocations. However, we have never paid a cent in tax in our country to replenish the treasury we drained. All because no one in the previous generation created the jobs for us.
Even though two generations didn’t create the jobs or pay tax, we still expect our parents to get world-class healthcare at home. We expect functioning schools and to get passports when we apply for them. We even have the gumption to expect to vote in our diasporas on some other “person’s” taxes. Like our bantu educated parents, we still believe in a treasury that miraculously replenishes itself. No wonder we find the gospel of miracle money plausible.
From the amazing subsidized education we benefited from, we fail to create solutions for Zimbabwe’s problems as a return on national wealth invested in our development. We don’t build schools or hospitals after making money. We don’t donate to improve those facilities that we used. Nevertheless, we expect a nation with world-class facilities, infrastructure and industry.
Investment From Thin Air
We do not invest or save in Zimbabwe, even though our nation is under siege and needs more home based investment than ever before. But somehow we expect jobs for youths and children to miraculously materialize.
The moment we become politicians, we think that national coffers are limitless, personal piggy banks. We consume the little public purse on western luxury vehicles which cannibalize our own industry. We have delusions of grandeur, seeing ourselves as royal monarchs entitled to the largess of treasury.
This is the nation we are. A nation of ravenous parasites just like our colonizers. We expect to eat where we did not sow. A nation of adults who still think they are children. Everyone waiting for some adult to come from some where and build Zimbabwe for us 30, 40 and 70yr old children who can’t register a claim or apply for land.
Who is to build our nation if adults still think they are children waiting on adults to fix Zimbabwe? Who must create the jobs when we externalize, consume and don’t invest in creating the industry and commerce?
Who must revive the infrastructure, world class schools and subsidies of the past when we don’t pay the taxes? Who must make good policies when we are not contributing to the national debate with books, proposals, research, attendance of public office meetings or participating in politics?
We are the epitome of post colonial Africanness. Always absconding responsibility for someone else to do for us instead of us being active participants in building our own desired reality. This is definitely not how the Mutapa Empire was built. We must change and we must change fast if we are going to build Zimbabwe.
Cecil John Rhodes ran his first business, a cotton farm at the age of 16 in Natal without experience in farming. He bought his first diamond claim at 18 without any experience in diamonds or mining. Continuous learning is how he developed and what we and our parents have refused to do…….
For most part of the time I was drafting this piece, it had the title, “dakukutukai sterek…” then I realized, I am actively part of what I’m talking about…. Well, lessons are meant to be learnt daily.
A trickle has since become a flood, what are you doing to build our nation???