By The Solutions Tower Staff
Zimbabwe is in a tri-challenge of global change, leadership and followership dynamics. Rarely has a perspective sought to locate the current challenges confronting Zimbabwe within the context of global change, and how this variously affects the relationship between leadership and followership.
As Robinson posits, this is in reference to a period of ongoing fundamental change in the social order, accompanied by a complete restructuring of the country at all levels, including regime change politics, changes within the economy, social and cultural institutions and their workings, as well as a reconfiguration of classes, as it were.
Gilbert Ahamer suggests that global change must be read to mean “a concurrent association of several changes in meaning, paradigms, lifestyle, economy, energy, land use, and climate change”.
The world is changing and Zimbabwe is lagging behind, if not retrogressing; stuck with its own peculiar and particularistic worldviews.
What explains our unique situation? How can this be corrected?
It is not as if Zimbabwe’s situation is of a peculiar global and continental nature, we have a unique failure located within the leadership and its followership.
At a planetary scale, other continents have made great strides in many respects and some countries in Africa have also made progress in a variety of ways, yet Zimbabwe is sliding consistently across spheres. Foremost, there has not been much structural changes in social, economic, political and cultural spheres for three and half decades after decolonisation was achieved in 1980.
Much of this was predicted by Frantz Fanon in his book, Wretched of the Earth. In his words, the hope has become ” only an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been”.
The political economy of the country continues to show retrogression. The country’s manoeuvre is being stalked by corrupt politicians, a contraband and informal economy, a dearth in infrastructure development, and absence of modern technology in all sectors of the economy, as Jon V. Kofas observed in his recent article in Pambazuka News. He says instead of capital flowing into the country, much more is flowing out by way of primary agricultural products and mineral resources; aided as it were by huge and disproportionate loan repayments in the wake of a cyclic tragic de-capitalising foreign debt. The heavy dependence on extractive commodities means that the economy remains grossly susceptible to the cyclical nature of the global commodity markets with its huge consequences of unemployment and poverty as is currently imposed on the population.
What has been the role of the nationalist leadership? Retrogression from the post UDI import substitution economy established by the Smith government, notwithstanding the fact that it was serving a white minority few, illustrates how the emergent ruling bourgeois of 1980 have focussed on their own development at the expense of the nation. The national leadership has turned itself to a willing slave of capitalism, but as Fanon predicted; Zimbabwe’s leadership for the past 37 years does not engage in production, nor in invention, nor building, nor labour; it is completely canalized into activities of the intermediary type. Its innermost vocation seems to be to keep in the running and to be part of the racket.
The psychology of the national bourgeoisie is that of the businessman, not that of a captain of industry. When such parties are questioned on the economic programme of the state that they are clamouring for, or on the nature of the regime which they propose to install, they are incapable of replying, because, precisely, they are completely ignorant of the economy of their own country. This economy has always developed outside the limits of their knowledge. They have nothing more than an approximate, bookish acquaintance with the actual and potential resources of their country’s soil and mineral deposits; and therefore they can only speak of these resources on a general and abstract plane.
Because of its incapacities, the industrial development has stagnated; as national leadership concerns itself with ‘the ground-nut harvest’ and an artisan economy completely bereft of beneficiation and viable globally connected marketing options, limiting accumulation prospects for the countryside. The nationalist leadership has taken pride in this retrogression where an artisanal economy has been re-defined as a ‘new economy’ with a new awareness of national sovereignty and dignity to blind the suffering citizenry.
Those African countries that have progressed, such as South Africa, have establish Zimbabwe as their supermarket, selling every bit of product, from matches to tractors. In turn, the country has exported its natural resources and intellectual property in the form of engineers, teachers and bankers propelling those South African industries supplying our supermarkets. Quietly clearly the national leadership has failed. No rhetoric can sway this outright truth.
But so have the citizens – the followership. With a national literacy rate well above 95 percent, what explains our collective failure to resolve our crises? Zimbabwean bureaucracy is well educated and so are the public office holders (Ministers, deputy Ministers Etc), and its masses, yet that education does not seem to help alleviate our solution-drought condition. The tendency by the majority is to apply that education in dealing with immediate situation at a personal, familial and at best, clan level.
The followership is fragmented and have been forced to look inward while the world around them collapses. Rather than coalescing around a progressive national agenda, individuals have become the news centres of attraction, never mind the individuals’ own deficiencies. In the stead of introspection, the followership has been quick to lump blame on an equally fragmented opposition which is seen as the albatross to transition to democracy and progress.
Indeed the opposition is fragmented but far much more is the followership. A whole bundle of groupings: the working class of the towns, the masses of unemployed, the increasing numbers in the artisans and craftsmen, the peasantry, including a collapsing middle class and the opposition in its totality; have all been divided and stand unable to collectively deal with their increasingly desperate conditions under a consolidating nationalist leadership.
The clueless nationalist leadership continue to kick the ball and the rest of us are chasing it. It is not as if those who kick know the direction of the goal post, never. They are simply positioned closer to the ball and so can kick it, anyhow! Meanwhile the masses watch in akimbo as diamonds and other minerals are exported in an elicit fashion with this elite few benefiting.
The little in infrastructure development we witness is geared to service the high offices; road to their rural homes, clean water for their suburbs and uninterrupted electricity for their farms and urban homes. Did we not see similar tendencies among the opposition during their short stint in government from 2009 to 2013? Irrigation facilities and electricity and boreholes for the homes, not villages even? Where does the faulty line for Zimbabwe? To keep pace with global change, the followership and not just the leadership must be prepared for radical transformation towards a better and progressive society.
And what scenarios can we build for the country for the next decade? Without doubt, processes around the coalition, electoral reforms and our collective ability to deal with the infrastructure of violence and fear as well as the broad agenda towards addressing the national questions: mainly livelihoods and progress are central.
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