INNERZELLA: Brand Zimbabwe


Despite some spectacular missteps such as the failed campaign to have Nkosana Dlamini-Zuma elected to chair the African Union (AU) commission, South Africans are very good at branding their country with attractive monikers or slogans.

Whether derived from inspired comments like rainbow nation or well-researched slogans, South Africa has taken full advantage of its unfortunate past to tug at our heart strings with stirring messages.

I especially liked their alive with possibilities campaign which featured many of their icons.

South Africa has used all the sights and sounds it possesses to sell an image to the world of a modern miracle in the humanity sense to sell itself as a business, tourist and affinity destination for other endeavours of life.

In addition, they are not shy at all.
They are bidding to host the star gazing telescope project dubbed Square Kilometre Array for heavens sake!

They have of course hosted World Cup tournaments in three sporting disciplines since 1994, the lucrative cricket IPL and the list goes on.
Brand Zimbabwe, on the other hand, has suffered much in the last dozen years or so.

The reasons are hardly debatable and so there is no need to go in to them. I am interested in building, not quarrelling.

We were once all things beautiful, from a branding perspective.

Bread basket of Africa, highest education and health standards, tourism facilities and attractions second only to Egypt, fantastic climate, best managed elephant population in the world, highly sought after diplomatic posting and all that topped with wonderful and hospitable people.

Under apartheid, South Africa was an ugly duckling.

They reinvented themselves despite the challenges they faced in 1994 and the challenges they continue to face today in crime, poverty, youthful exuberance in political revolution and finding their feet in international realpolitik whether at the AU, BRICS, G20 or the UN.

Nevertheless, it is George Bernard Shaw who offered us this gem, among the many others he had in his wonderful mind: Some people see things as they are and ask why. I see things as they could be and ask why not?

If South Africa could rebrand itself, there is no reason why Zimbabwe cannot and I am not talking about some socialist- sounding acronym or slogan.
This calls for a change in mindset and approach.

For the change to take root, we need to drop partisan interests for a national project.
There is nothing wrong with a social contract across the political divide.

Lets start with the icons. Oliver Tuku Mtukudzi is still around, so is Kirsty Coventry. How about an exciting campaign that features them in a short advert on CNN?

Let the tourism industry players (I know they are struggling)chip in to the budget. Remember the television advertisement why dont you stay just a little bit longer?

It was good value for money by the standards of the time and it put a smile on peoples faces.
Zimbabwe needs much more than money.

We need that audacity of hope that Barack Obama used to title his book and it will come from a mix of charismatic leadership, businesspeople inspired beyond short-term profit and supporting infrastructure.

There is has to be someone in the leadership who is visionary beyond the next election. You may have heard of Vaclah Havel, the playwright, dissident and activist and eventual President of the Czech republic who died in December.

Reporting on him Yahoo said: . . . by steadfastly believing the slogan May truth and love triumph over lies and hatred, Havel, who was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, on October 5, 1936, helped bring about the collapse of the Soviet Unions Iron Curtain that covered Eastern Europe from the end of World War II until the Revolutions of 1989.

He gave voice to the oppressed in essays like The Power of the Powerless (1978), in which, with an optimistic eye toward the future, he asked: For the real question is whether the brighter future is really always so distant.

What if, on the contrary, it has been here for a long time already, and only our own blindness and weakness has prevented us from seeing it around us and within us, and kept us from developing it? He also wrote satirical plays, like The Memorandum, which depicted the absurd ways the Communist regime attempted to control the lives of individuals.

Barack Obama, in tribute to him added: His peaceful resistance shook the foundations of an empire, exposed the emptiness of a repressive ideology, and proved that moral leadership is more powerful than any weapon . . . He also embodied the aspirations of half a continent that had been cut off by the Iron Curtain, and helped unleash tides of history that led to a united and democratic Europe.
By all means read up on him.

In fact read up on all those icons who have moved entire societies. The story is really the same with varying degrees of contextual difference.

You see, I am nave enough to believe that we, too, can restore Zimbabwe to heights beyond those reached at our apex.

It is not our destiny to be poor and Robert Mugabe was, ironically right, when he declared:
Zimbabweans are not tent people. It certainly is not our destiny to be a poor nation regardless of some seriously self-inflicted pain.

We can, light a candle instead of cursing the darkness of electricity shortages and everything else.

We can be inspired beyond today by rebranding Zimbabwe.