Has Zimbabwe fallen off the edge of the precipice?

Economic analysts now sound like stuck records advising the powers-that-be to slash government expenditure, trim government employees, adopt a firm currency, dismember the tentacles of corruption, sell off unviable state-owned enterprises (SOEs), create an enabling environment for businesses and social enterprises to go as some of the fundamental issues that must be dealt with if the economy is to grow.

by Ndoro-Mukombachoto

Without tackling these and many other issues within many facets of the economy, like, growing low hanging fruit sectors such as tourism, agriculture and manufacturing, the prospects of new job creation are dismal and unemployment will continue unabated. Poverty will remain the hallmark associated with Zimbabwe.

Educationists are clear that if the decline in education quality and the high drop-out rates continue, schools and universities will fail to produce the expertise required to rebuild the battered economy.

Political scientists warn that the continued increase in corruption and general chicanery and lawlessness, coupled with the loss of trust in public institutions, will continue to threaten the long-term viability of Zimbabwe.

As we chart new paths with the dawn of a new year, it appears as if the Zimbabwe has fallen off the edge of the precipice and here is why it is my rebuttable presumption.

Indicators that we have fallen off the edge of the precipice include but are not restricted to the following:

We do not have unifying images or doctrines

Perhaps it is because of our general disenfranchisement that we have become a fragmented and fractured lot. Absolutely nothing right now unifies us a nation except the fact that we live in one country.

What national song unifies us? What makes us proud today to be Zimbabweans? Do we even celebrate our political freedom with the verve and gusto we had in 1980? The flag is probably all we are left with now and yet in certain quarters within the country, celebrating the flag is discouraged because there is a jaundiced belief that, that flag belongs to a single political party, the ruling party.

The Banyarwanda — people of Rwanda, 24 years after the genocide, where up to a million people were murdered in cold blood by their fellow countrymen, are more united today than Zimbabweans. That history unifies them as they choose, “never again!” Rwanda’s national cleanup day, Umuganda, on the last
Saturday of every month, is another rallying point for unity to remind each other of shared values.

Writing for The Telegraph inMay 2002, former British prime minister, John Major, argued that, the Monarchy unites the British nation as a president never could. He continued, “…the Monarchy stands above the partisanship of politics in a way that no elected Head of State could ever hope to do. The Monarchy is an enduring edifice at a time when many ancient certainties seem to have gone.” He defended his arguments further by stating that, “… the Monarchy reminds us of more positive elements of the British nature: service, duty, self-restraint, all of them the essential underpinning of a civilised society.

It upholds tradition, stability and, most reassuringly, continuity. It works quietly and patiently for the public good.”

Are we able to draw parallels, for example, from the statement on “service, duty, self-restraint, all of them the essential underpinning of a civilised society” about our leadership, government or governing party in Zimbabwe? If not, why? Has Zimbabwe fallen off the edge of the precipice?

We have lost our capacity for self-correction

Zimbabwe has not had a viable currency of its own since 2009. The last few years has seen the country going through an acute cash shortage that has been deliberately, gradually and systematically strangling the economy, which is now about 40% the size it was at the turn of the millennium. Yet, at the time of writing this paper, there is no solution in sight to have Zimbabwe have its own legitimate and convertible currency. There seems to be confusion in the Finance ministry and at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

Forbes 2018 indicated that corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic within its political, private, civil sectors and all other spheres of society.

Forbes also mentioned that Zimbabwe is rumoured to have the highest number of unlisted billionaires. Corruption has been a major dent on economic growth in the country for decades. Matthew Davies, BBC News, Africa Business Report Editor, writing in November 2017 on “Five ways to revive Zimbabwe’s economy”, suggested that, “…not that corruption is confined to Zimbabwe in the African context, but it is one of those places that it seems to trickle down (and sanctioned) from the top.”

If Zimbabwe is going to arise and shine, corruption, the worst reputational baggage it is carrying, [should] be stamped out without fear or favour.

Unfortunately the composition of the current Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission precludes it from achieving desired objectives. That said, there also seems to be no political will to tackle serious corruption at the top.

We have lost our moral compass and empathy for each other

We no longer know how to relate as decent members of the human race. The intolerance and hate speech in many platforms on social media, within and amongst political parties and even at familial level leaves a lot to be desired.

We call each other names when we disagree, women being usually the survivors at the receiving end of the kvetching. Recently, I vehemently disagreed with a close family member on an issue I hold dear and still disagree with him on. He called me a “hure” (meaning bitch) because I refused to be persuaded to
view the issue from his point of view.

What happens in political corridors of power, when opposition women politicians are called “mahure” in the Zimbabwean Parliament, mirrors to a large extent, what is happening at societal level. It seems that many of us are not coming out unscathed during this taxing and heart-wrenching season we are going through.

Times are hard. Difficult choices have to be made in a situation where most households are bankrupt or facing dwindling disposable incomes. But there is no justification whatsoever, to disrespect our elderly in fuel, western union and bank queues. Neither do we respect and affirm pregnant women wherever they need to be ushered to the front of the queue in order to make it easier for them to transact.

We have become a highly-strung, unfeeling, anxious and a bitter lot, choosing instead to be inconsiderate, spiteful and inhumane.

It is indeed a choice we are making. At our disposal is another different choice to be gracious, kind-hearted, compassionate and tolerant. When you are repeatedly acrimonious and abusive to others, you become unthinking and unkind. It is a conscious choice and in the fullness of time, this is the heritage older generations are passing on to the younger generations.

We over-joke and over-laugh at ourselves in a crisis

A good number of Zimbabweans across the world compete with Noah in the genre of comedy. The difference is, Noah gets paid for it as a professional and the rest do not.

When faced with real crises, Zimbabweans take on to social media with jokes, and very well crafted and often intelligent humorous jokes. We spend valuable time laughing at our helpless selves for allowing horrible things to be meted on us by the government, instead of setting up think tanks to help government understand how things work. We have accepted victimhood status instead of regrouping in order to reclaim that which used to make us masters and mistresses of our own destinies.

We are now an unforgiving lot

A great development happened when Operation Restore Legacy was actioned in November 2017. Former president Robert Mugabe was removed and allowed to continue in retirement as former head of state with all the decency benefitting his former position. That kind of goodwill ought to be extended to all and sundry so that the citizens forgive and forget the ghosts that haunted them and stop licking the drying wounds of the past and focus only on the now and the future. The witch-hunting ought to stop, lest it compromises our ability to develop and sharpen our competencies for a now — never mind a future which we are already lagging far behind on.

We are no longer futuristic in our thinking

The world around us is moving in leaps and bounds. No one is waiting for household Zimbabwe to get its act together. Whist other countries are making advances in many areas, in particular technology; we seem to be regressing with the yoke of corruption being a noose around our necks. When accountability, service delivery to the citizenry and performance are perceived unnecessary by the governing party, then everything else becomes that — peripheral!

Through a new company, Amaya Space, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), made history in 2013 by the launching of ZACUBE-1 (which was renamed as Tshepiso), South Africa’s and Africa’s first nanosatellite. According to the CPUT website, CPUT vice-chancellor Prof Vuyisa Mazwi-Tanga says “the university has made history on the African continent for being the first to develop and launch a nanosatellite.”

ZACUBE-2, which is the most advanced South African CubeSat to date, was launched in December 2018. According to thesouthafrican.com, “…this satellite will help us monitor our ocean traffic as part of our oceans economy and also monitor veld fires and provide near real-time fire information ensuring a quick response time by disaster management teams.”

Radio systems and other technologies developed at CPUT, already established as a regional leader in the field of nanosatellites, are also used in many satellites from around the world.

According to geospacialworld.net, nanosatellites are those satellites that are just about the size of your shoe box. But they can do almost everything a conventional satellite does, and that too, at a fraction of the cost, a reason why everybody — from government organisations and start-ups to educational institutions are scrambling to get a piece of the small-satellite pie.

Research firm, Markets and Markets is predicting a bullish future for the small satellite industry. The nano and micro-satellite market is estimated to grow from $702,4 million in 2014 to $1,9 billion in 2019. A study by Northern Sky Research predicts earth observation as the primary driver behind this growth. This is because earth observation market suffers from data poverty in many industry verticals, like agriculture, disaster management, forestry and wildlife. The research firm believes that a staggering 40% of the nano and micro-satellites, which are to be launched by the end of year 2024, will be for earth observation applications.

The point being I am making here is, when Zimbabwe’s young and fertile minds continue to be crowded out by daily survivalist issues, thinking futuristically gets compromised and as a result, Zimbabwe lags behind in all facets of innovation, creativity and thought leadership. Here we have a formerly unknown, under-resourced, Technikon type institution, which in a matter of a two decades, has succeeded in catapulting itself to greater heights. These are the kinds of inventions universities and other technology institutions in Zimbabwe should be championing. – The Standard