Remember when Bob Marley sang Every man has the right to decide his destiny and Zimbabwe reverberated in song at the dawn of independence.
It was a time of hope as the young nation sought to overcome the effects of war and endeavoured to turn swords in plough shares.
Not too long afterwards, Zimbabwe was producing some of the best talent in Africa in terms of business practice and academic accomplishment.
Before you could spell hyperinflation, Zimbabwe had produced indigenous majority shareholder bankers, CEOs of large multinational manufacturing concerns and tourism facilities that were second only to those in Egypt.
Everyone simply got on with it. Diplomats begged to be posted to Harare for the lifestyle and weather it offered and literally broke in to tears when they had to leave at the end of their posting.
Our cultural life was blooming. Now as our economy shows long-awaited signs of recovery, despite the power and water problems, and as we approach 2012, it is time that the mind-set that put the country in peril is set aside and a new set of values embraced.
When people of influence, whether in business, politics or civic society decide to do right by their country, the rest follows suit. Rampant profiteering, for instance, is highly contagious and does not benefit the country in the end. Nor do violence, corruption or failing to live up to the democratic values that you claim to be fighting for through civic society.
When only a few of the elite wins, the country inevitably loses, a loss which comes back to bite the elite. Everyone regardless of class has to commute through the darkened streets of our cities after nightfall, everyone has experienced a power cut which is why some have generators and water tanks scarring the backs of houses. This is not Zimbabwe! Potholes, dusty verges and forlorn intersections, more traffic lights out of order than are working and chronic unemployment is not Zimbabwe!
It is an unacceptable state of affairs that should be an affront to every Zimbabwean. The hum of generators over the skyline is not and should never become normal. While we recognise the stark reality before us, this recognition must be the acknowledgement of the scale of the challenge that lies before us rather than the acceptance of a situation that we must live with.
If every Zimbabwean, especially those in positions of influence, refuses to accept this state of affairs the world view becomes: How do we overcome?
Well, in September and October 1961, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew gave a series of 12 radio talks on the struggle for independence.
Speaking on the realities of revolution, in the book In His Words, and in that specific context he said:
“We have learned one thing during the last decade: that only those count and matter are those who have strength and courage of their convictions to stick up and stand up for what they believe in, for their people, for their country, regardless of what happens to themselves.”
He was, of course, referring to the battle for the hearts and minds of the political activists of the country. I am writing, in this case, for the people who can play a role in restoring Zimbabwe to the standards it once took for granted.
I am suggesting that there are enough of us, whether acting individually or collectively, using whatever talents we can bring to the table to start this mental movement and its practical application to the fore of our consciousness.
While some are occupying Wall Street and others centres of financial power, we ought to be stirring up hearts and minds to restore manufacturing country-wide, revenue collection and distribution for the good of the country and wealth creation with the country in mind and with an eye on a 100-year horizon as opposed to a culture of amassing wealth for the few.
Do you remember the days of handing pangolins in to State House, national tree planting and the CAMPFIRE programme? Was the nation not united in making these concepts work? Is it not possible, with sufficient political will and leadership, to excite the masses once again about these and other national things? Where is the charismatic clarion call that will stir people of influence in to action?
Lee was asked about his “some degree of dictatorial within your attitude” and his response went as follows: “Fine! But I would like to believe — never mind what historians say, but whoever wants to do a PhD thesis, and perhaps there will be quite a few who might want to dig up the archives-they might come to a conclusion that here was a group of men who went through quite an unusual set of experiences in a very momentous period of the world (. . .)
And perhaps if we don’t fail, and we will not know that really for a very long time until we have stepped down from office, then obviously the criticisms, despite the doubts and queries of how Westerners would have done it, we had our feet on the ground, our heads fairly screwed to our shoulders and we did the right thing by those whose fate was temporarily entrusted in our hands and by our own convictions.”
Zimbabwe is emerging from its own momentous period. It is time for leadership for long-term solutions.