HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsEnemy-centred approach has made us a failed nation

Enemy-centred approach has made us a failed nation


Reading Stephen Covey’s great book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I came across an interesting concept which he calls enemy-centredness.

Kamurai-MudzingwaKamurai Mudzingwa Déjà vu

Covey writes: “When someone feels he has been unjustly dealt with by an emotionally or socially significant person, it is very easy for him to become preoccupied with the injustice and make the other person the centre of his life. Rather than proactively leading his own life, the enemy-centred person is counter-dependently reacting to the behaviour of and attitudes of a perceived enemy.”

To clarify his point, he makes an analogy with divorced people: “Many divorced people fall into a similar pattern. They are still consumed with anger and bitterness and self-justification regarding an ex-spouse. In a negative sense, psychologically, they are still married — they each need the weakness of the former partner to justify their accusations.”

I read these deeply psychological words with a sense of déjà vu as they nudged me to apply them to our situation. Thirty four years after independence we are still blaming the injustices of colonialism for our own weaknesses and shortcomings. Psychologically, we have not moved an inch from the yoke of colonialism.

For the past 34 years we have been behaving exactly like an enemy-centred nation that we have chosen to become. We have chosen to see the West, particularly the British — our former colonisers — as the enemy that is always at the centre of our lack of development.

Because of our enemy-centred approach, we have spent 34 years reacting to imaginary machinations by the “enemy” and playing victim at the expense of our progress. This paranoia has led us to policies and actions that have hurt us more than the perceived enemy.

We embarked on the land reform programme not so much as to empower ourselves, but to “chase away and spite the British”, hence the brutal way we chased the whites away from the farms.

If we are serious about empowering ourselves as a nation, why is it difficult for us to resettle the needy like the Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims now that the land is in our hands? Why are we not making the land bankable so that we can access finance for farming development? And the biggest question is: Why are we chasing away the vulnerable blacks who had settled on productive farms?

Having disfigured the country from a breadbasket to a basket case because of our desire to “spite the enemy”, we now want to turn to industry and financial institutions “owned by the enemy” to grab them and chase him away under the guise of indigenisation.

There is nothing wrong with a properly planned and executed indigenous programme, but there is everything wrong with an indigenous programme whose motive is not for national benefit, but whose target is to spite an imaginary enemy.

It is this reactive mode against the colonial enemy we claim to have defeated 34 years ago that does not make us proactive. Why can’t we create industry for ourselves, industry that is better than our perceived enemies’? We have more than enough resources to do that. Obviously, we can’t because we channel our energies to reactive and not proactive thinking since we are an enemy-centred nation.

This enemy-centred approach has brought untold suffering upon us. We adopted the much-touted Look East Policy not for any tangible benefits, but to spite the West.

The Chinese — with our blessings — did as they pleased with our resources and our land. They mined our diamonds and we got nothing. They destroyed our wetlands and our rivers and we did nothing. They abused us by violating the country’s labour laws and we did nothing. We could not act against them for fear of “pleasing” the West — our perceived enemy. We preferred to suffer in silence.

At present, we are failing to deal with corruption that is gnawing at the roots of our economy because we have this deep psychological fear that our perceived enemies will say: “We told you that we are not the problem, but you are your own problem.”

If Japan — one of the world’s most advanced countries — had adopted the enemy-centred approach, would they be where they are now? Definitely not!

They would still be mired in bitterness against the United States over the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic disasters that still have negative effects on some of their nationals today.

Though the Japanese will never forget the disaster and the US’s role, like the mature nation that they are, they have moved on rather than adopt the enemy-centred approach that would have retarded their progress.

In fact, they were courageous enough to shake hands with the US and today, they are not only allies, but two of the most technologically advanced nations in the world.

And where are we with our retrogressive enemy-centred approach? We are somewhere down there making rapid progress towards failed nation status. We are broke, we are clueless (because we don’t think proactively), we are bitter, we are in denial and above all we are foolish.

As they say: “Lord have mercy!”

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