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Africa 2011 – Confronting obstacles


Yesterday, like every Monday, I was a beneficiary of inspirational quotes under the heading Facing Obstacles sent by Egias Musundire who works for Place Care, a recruitment company operating in Zimbabwe, as a management consultant.

Musundire drew his inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci who observed: “Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.”

The next quote was borrowed from Frank A Clark who observed: “If you find a path with no obstacle, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.”

Rick Beneteau held the view: “You cannot climb a mountain if you will not risk a fall.”

The final one was borrowed from Comer Cotrell whose perspective is: “The greatest inspiration is often born of desperation.”

In life obstacles are inevitable, but unpredictable. Equally in the growth of any nation-state, obstacles are inevitably part of the narrative.

What is important is not the existence of obstacles, but the instruments to address and resolve the challenges that any motion brings with it.

Some nations/states have surrendered their future to fate while other African states have creatively used obstacles to build foundations for progress and prosperity.

Each person’s dash is pregnant with false starts and setbacks, but the journey of life is full of surprises and opportunity.

As we approach the end of this remarkable and eventful year that has seen great African leaders relinquish power unceremoniously while in Europe regime change has taken root without the intermediation of elections, we are compelled to pause and reflect on certain fundamental building blocks that have to be in place to a secure a future that offers hope to the majority.

Greece and Italy have introduced a new dimension into the equation of power dynamics in a world just trying to put meaning to the real implications of the Arab Spring on democracy.

What lessons do we draw from the unfolding European drama?

Naturally, many Africans would hold the view that leaders should not be accountable for the economic condition of the states they preside over.

However, a leader acquires the right to lead because that person is expected to see where ordinary people would not see and imagine things that are unimaginable.

In raising the independence flag, we must have been acutely aware that the mountain that we were about to climb had its own challenges and opportunities yet the results so far from the journey travelled would seem to indicate that we were less prepared for the journey.

When Zimbabwe gained its independence in 1980, I was 20 years old and at the time I was studying in England so I missed the independence celebrations. At that age, I knew change had to come to the then Rhodesia, but had no clue as to what kind of society independence would bring about.

Like many, I naïvely assumed that the future was the business of the liberators.

Hitherto, I was aware that educational success would not bring the material and substantive changes that needed to be in place to offer hope to all.

I knew then as I do now that the obstacles I knew existed at the retail level called for a wholesale approach. Such an approach required more than cosmetic changes.

Zimbabwe, my country of birth, has travelled its own journey like many post-colonial African states.
In April 2012, Zimbabwe will turn 32 years old and the African National Congress will celebrate its centenary.

Da Vinci correctly observed that he who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.

Can we safely conclude that in navigating through the post-colonial experience we made attempts to identify and fix ourselves to a star that would remain constant but distant?

We have to ask the question that must and should be asked about what kind of institutional framework we wanted to see in post-colonial Africa.

In embarking on the journey of self-rule, did it ever occur that our historically generated disadvantage was ultimately our secure source of inspiration?
As I look back at my own journey, I am comforted by the fact that I have been privileged to have had people investing in building obstacles in my way.

I know that for every step I make up the mountain there are many in the valley who would want to pull me back by more than one step.

This is inevitable, but I never thought as I celebrated the dawn of a new era in 1980 that a day would arrive when state power would be borrowed to assert and assist other citizens in improving their negotiating and bargaining power with me.

I have now understood that any obstacle faced by another person is a laboratory for others to draw lessons or inspiration as applicable.

Knowledge that is never shared is condemned knowledge. It is for these reasons that in reflecting on the message from Musundire, I could find no better subject to add my voice to than the issue of obstacles in human life and their place in informing human choices and actions.

It was only last night that I received a phone call from a friend who had just watched a news bulletin in which Hon Obert Mpofu had indicated that he had approved a budget of US$4 million to be spent on reviving the mines owned by SMM Holdings Limited (“SMM”).

In making the statement, he also alluded to the fact that there were certain forces who did not want the mines to be reopened.

No other person would qualify for this description than me. So I knew what I have known for some time now that the baton had now been handed to Hon Mpofu who evidently has staked a claim of invincibility based on the ACR/Canadile/KP battles.

It would be naïve to assume that in the battle of ideas State actors are delusionary. The campaign to vilify me has now taken a new twist.

What Hon Mpofu would like the world to know is that I am the cause for the demise of SMM and that in assuming the control and administration of SMM, no legitimate rights or interests are being infringed upon.

In short, he does not recognise any rights that were in place prior to the placement of SMM under reconstruction.

Such a view is only valid if Hon Mpofu is acting on the premise that the holder of state power can never be wrong.

In fact, in acknowledging that his actions are solely based on the instructions of the President, he is making the point that the republican ideology on which the post-colonial state is founded upon is not applicable as only a president whose powers are derived outside the Constitution of Zimbabwe can have the power to alienate a shareholder from a company.

Even Hon Mpofu would be aware that the power the authority he purports to rely upon is as temporary and perishable as fresh produce.

Although the climb is full of setbacks and will not be easy, I would rather fight on than give in to blackmail and obfuscation.

Mutumwa Mawere is a businessman based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.

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