Back to School Blues: Zimbabwe gets the Dunce’s Cap

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIRecently, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation published its extremely comprehensive rankings of African governance providing a pretty interesting insight. On their web site, the Foundation indicates that it compiles its measure of ‘effective delivery of public goods and services to citizens’ from no less that 86 indicators and from 23 data providers. Saliently, Zimbabwe is not doing too well. Out of the 53 African countries surveyed, Zimbabwe ranks 51st. That is shocking, though not surprising.

The categorisation of governance into four principal areas and Zimbabwe’s ranking therein must surely be a cause for concern. Principally Zimbabwe ranks second last in the category “Sustainable Economic Opportunity”. This surely cannot be too proud a moment for Zimbabwe’s leadership, beating only Somalia (score of 3.6/100 versus Zimbabwe 24.5) as the worst country in Africa within the category. The sorriest sub-category is apparently Zimbabwe’s business environment – ranked 52nd (scoring a mere 9.3 %) – perhaps a true reflection of government’s racist and xenophobic policies angled towards indigenisation. With a per capita GDP of just US$131, one may guess, one should not expect more.

In the category “Safety and Rule of Law”, Zimbabwe steps up to 51st place with a score of only 28.2%, whipping the two bad boys in the class, Sudan (21.0%) and rotten Somalia with 4.8%. Not surprisingly within the category Zimbabwe ranked poorly with respect to Accountability, but also a very low score for “Personal Safety”. That latter score needs to be opened up a bit, since for all intense and purpose Zimbabwe is a peaceful country, except when it seemingly spills blood in election campaigning mode. The nation has not had elections recently, but reported incidents of party political violence continue to sully the record.


The nation is ranked 47th in the category “Participation and Human Rights” and 42nd in “Human Development”. It is not all bad, Zimbabwe did not do too poorly with a sub-category labelled “Infrastructure”, but then we know Zimbabwe inherited one of the best structured nations in Africa, probably only second to South Africa at the time, from its Rhodesian or perhaps colonial benefactors. Zimbabwe ranked 15th for Infrastructure. Encouragingly, Zimbabwe ranked 24th in Africa for Education. Top scores in the survey, for Zimbabwe, were in the categories Health (56/100) and National Security 55%. Those are the only two subjects passed!

Zimbabwe’s overall score card is a sad 31 percent, which in most of our books is a failure, it is well below the African and the regional Southern African averages, and has been for the last few years. Clearly, it is back to school for Zimbabwe. The nation should not object to wearing the dunce’s cap and standing in the corner, but the fact is there is no headmaster nor wicked teacher to punish not so sparingly with the rod.

Political self criticism is just too suicidal in Africa, no politician can do wrong, so it will be up to the people to bring about change. The problem is that the people don’t see these indicators as a measure of success or failure, it is they who are getting the stick from those who should be sanctioned for this abysmally poor performance. Does anyone care?
Mo Ibrahim Foundation –

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We are the Patriots, You are the Incorrigible Puppets

By Andrew Field – Follow on Twitter
Flickr_Andrew_XIRecently in Zimbabwe, it seems to have become vogue to dangle the national flag from the rear view mirror in your car, ‘emergency’ taxi or truck. Of course, such patriotism is to be entirely commended, if not praised, it is the ultimate in belonging. What could a nation be if it its people are not proud of their country and heritage? Zimbabwe has good reason to be proud in many spheres, some quite unique. Its politics is not one of them.

It turns out that this sudden display of patriotism has been hijacked, apparently, by a certain political party. The party is actually distributing and selling these flags, ostensibly to raise party funds, but it goes a little deeper than that. It seems like this wave of popular patriotism should be reserved for the party cadre only and is not something to be fared by just any Zimbabwean. Zimbabweans’ patriotism is being cunningly converted to party support.

The worrying thing about this trend is that several companies are gearing up to being ‘Proudly Zimbabwean’ too, slapping the national flag behind their logos. Again this is a most worthy practice and a justifiable demonstration of national pride. Why not? The skeptical can’t help but think that this is a somewhat fogged response to party driven, nationalist, company indigenisation aspirations. A not too subtle, ‘we belong’, but whether to the state or party is not clear.

Those non-indigenous business bosses are in for a rough ride. If the ‘patriotic party’ has its way, company chiefs are going to be dragged on stage to denounce sanctions against Zimbabwe, or lose their businesses to rogue want-to-be businessmen in the ranks of the party. It will be a continuation of the property grab, the political weapon which has plagued the country’s economy for a decade. The truth is that the nation is not actually sanctioned. It is the party hierarchy who face that challenge and do so in their personal capacities. Remember though, the Party is the State.

These rumblings are nothing new. Up until its defeat in the 2008 parliamentary elections, the then ruling party had always dabbled with the ethos that the Party is the State and only the party faithful can be truly loyal Zimbabweans. Those outside the party were simply not patriots, but the traitorous ‘incorrigible puppets’ of their former colonial masters, or the remaining white phratry.

So, we are rumbling towards the next election. Election dates have not been set, but the ‘patriotic party’ is vying for an early contest. Clearly, the former ruling party is on the move. The drums are beating, the troops are rallying, and the message is being carried to all corners of the nation. And it is not only the drums which are being beaten, according to the independent press. Violence has flared. The party is gearing itself for the forthcoming battle royal and the crusade is much apparent.

Indeed the timing is opportune. Although difficult to gauge, due to conspicuous inactivity, the opposition MDC parties are perceived weaker now than before the last elections. The opponent party is still split between two camps, when a unified organisation would tackle the contest better. Power hungry politicians will never learn that particular lesson in Africa. And then there are the intecene, petty power squabbles within the individual camps to overcome. The opposition has lost focus, they seem to be cradling in a comfort zone oblivious to the challenge erupting.

This is no reflection on the will of the people. Everyone knows in which camp their political heart lies, or where it may be swayed, but it would be wrong for aspirant leaders to believe they have achieved their victory before the scuffle starts. The problem appears to be just this. One party, being not too sure of support or victory, has stepped up its campaign; the others give the appearance of mellow complacency.

As political commentator John Mukumbe says, referring to Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC,

‘Somehow the party thinks that it has arrived’.

Clearly, it has not. It is time for someone to smell the coffee, to use a worn, but appropriate cliché. If they do not take a whiff, then vote rigging and vote buying may not be on the patriotic party’s agenda. It may be a popular landslide in their favour.

Pillage, Plunder and Patronage

By Andrew Field
Flickr_Andrew_XIZimbabwe’s ruling elite have certainly demonstrated their ability to ‘hoist with one’s own petard’! The recent legislation concerning the ‘indigenisation’ of business in Zimbabwe is so much a case of ‘cutting off one’s nose’ that one can only marvel at the sanity of its originators. Africans most certainly bore the burden of colonial subjugation, but eventually gained their freedoms and acquired well developed countries with working infrastructures in the bargain. Mr. Mugabe certainly did. The people of Zimbabwe inherited a southern African powerhouse, a land flowing with milk and honey.
One would have thought that with freedom gained, the new regimes of Africa would have treasured, nurtured and developed further their new won nations. Not so. For some reason, which remains elusive, Africans have managed to reduce their nations to proverbial dumps, created untold death and destruction, and relegated their populations to pauper status in endemic proportions. And while this, so uniquely indigenous, degradation is taking place, the ‘colonialists’ continue to take the blame. They respond by pouring in aid, while clearly looking the other way.
Zimbabwe has just suffered the worst ten years of its existence. It was the era of racist revenge and vindictive pillage during which a tiny class of people of Caucasian origins were isolated, victimized and deprived of their land and property, their homes and their livelihood. In the bargain a significant proportion of the ‘indigenous’ population were impoverished through the loss of their livelihood and homes on the farms. This inhumanity could never be and will never be justified, yet, stunningly, Africa’s often corrupt now ‘dump dog’ despots, still hold the wrongdoers in awe. The Western world conveniently looked the other way.
The knock on effect of destroying commercial agriculture, second only to mining, in wealth generation, was the near collapse of the Zimbabwe economy. The nation experienced some of the worst inflation any nation has sustained with the ultimate collapse of its currency. The Zimbabwe dollar was globally reduced to ridicule. Those who benefited from all this racist plunder were a mere handful of party faithful and useless wealth grubbing sycophants. Political patronage reared its ugly head. Yet clearly this was not enough for these artful architects of hatred.
Now, apparently, the nation is to sustain another five years of pillage and destruction which will echo around all the corridors of commerce and industry. Mugabe’s ‘men in black’ have been scheming, clearly ultra vires, to usurp even the pillars of constitutional law in the making of the Indigenisation and Empowerment Regulations. These are designed to empower black people with 51 percent stakes in all companies of reasonable wealth, basically without compensation to their owners. As heroic as that may sound, and, yes, it is already being heralded as the 4th Chimurenga, in reality, it is yet another scheme to deprive that tiny class of people of Caucasian origin of ownership.
Any Zimbabwean worth his salt, who has any aspirations towards self employment, ownership of business and contributing to the growth and well-being of his country, would have bust his back to achieve this, during the last thirty years. Many did and much wealth transferred to black Zimbabweans in the process. There is absolutely no hope though, for those who waited in anticipation, to piggy back upon the party gravy train, with lucrative endeavour, seeking unearned gains.
Business is an intricate matrix of networking and experiences, vulnerable to the sensitivities of both, and no place for those who are gutless and cannot invest their money and energy in its success. The Government of Zimbabwe has created a conduit through which many aspiring businessmen will now have false hopes of reaping where they have not sewn. The failure of land reform, and the collapse of commercial agriculture, as we knew it, should have been sufficient a deterrent to those who structured the Indigenisation and Empowerment scheme, unless they were clearly intent upon wrecking further havoc and ruin on Zimbabwe’s economy. There should be no illusions here.
What, one may ask, prevents Zimbabweans taking courage and exposing themselves to the risks of developing their own business networks, integrating with existing networks, building their own companies and getting onto the competitive platform that any existing company has had to do? Do they really lack the guts, courage and determination, so much so, that they cannot be self made men and women? Are Zimbabweans really reduced to receiving patronage for the rest of their days? We think not, so what magical formula is there in disenfranchising a small class of hard working people on the grounds purely of their race?
Zimbabweans need to tread very carefully upon this evil and perilous road of political patronage and handouts. Unwittingly, perhaps, they will be placing yet further misappropriated wealth into the hands of the same buffoons who failed them with the land reform programme. It is the same vindictive and vengeful formula, but with concrete, machinery and trading stock as the toys, rather than mealies, tobacco and livestock.
Yet, strangely, Morgan Tsvangirai believes that ‘indigenization program aims to promote broader-based economic participation, not discourage investment’. With such a thoroughly naive view, little wonder the hawks are sharpening their beaks in anticipation. White Zimbabweans are just as Zimbabwean as any black Zimbabwean, Mr Tsvangirai. There is no excuse for this blatant discrimination. Martin Luther King’s words seem appropriate here, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”