The fundamental obstacle to progress and change in Zimbabwe is the military question.
I listened with much attention to the points raised by the BRICS ambassadors at a recent SAPES conference on taking Zimbabwe forward, particularly on the issue of re-engagement.
I also listened to the various political parties and their perceptions and all, but Zanu PF, seem aware of the real challenges we face while Zanu PF representatives decided to gloat and basically be hugely insulting.
I have also studied the Chatham House report on the Zimbabwe problem and some possible solutions. I must say that I found the report to be a mere summary of events as we know them. It did not offer me any new insights or earth-shattering revelations. It is, however, quite a comprehensive summary of the status quo.
I must, therefore, conclude that everyone is aware of Zimbabwe’s problems. However, problems or difficulties have a tendency to speak for themselves very loudly and, in my view, we need not spend too much time or resources on explaining them. What we really need are creative solutions.
The narrative on Zimbabwe has really been about a problem child whose fate is worsened by its cheeky arrogance and sheer inanity. This problem child truly believes that they have been wronged and the world owes them a big favour. Nothing can be further from the truth!
We have a country whose democratic principles suck, with huge debts it can’t service, serious corruption, high unemployment and increasing poverty. On top of that, we have a 90-year-old whom we expect to create a significantly different future for us from the past. We have a country that has everything it needs to turn around except good leadership.
Zimbabwe needs serious help both on its attitude and on finding its way back to its feet. Those who want to help us are there ready and waiting; all we must do is to accept their help. Unfortunately, that assistance demands a degree of humbleness and acceptance by the Zanu PF leadership that they have failed; therein lies our problem.
I want to proffer here that President Robert Mugabe is not serious about change because it will take only a minute to take this country on a different growth trajectory by him admitting that indeed, we need the West and we must seriously re-engage them. That’s all that needs to happen and you will get his minions scurrying to make it happen as usual.
Right now, there is a huge degree of unspoken fear to move this country in a different, but right direction.
We have ministers who dare not rock the boat by promoting a different philosophy simply because they are stuck in a patronage system held together by a big lie; we have a mafia from which they cannot opt out.
My conclusion is, therefore, economic imperatives will not change Zanu PF’s behaviour at all. Rather, political imperatives will and that is the solution we must now seek.
Sadly, the interests of Zimbabwe’s security chiefs will be the only determining factor whether we move forward or regress. Added to that, will be the retirement of Mugabe. These, to me, are the only two fundamental game changers for Zimbabwe; everything else is really academic.
Now, what will make these gentlemen change? What is it that these men really want or fear? What is there narrative about a new Zimbabwe, if at all, and how can we move our country to a state where they win and all Zimbabweans also win? These to me are the fundamental questions we must seek answers to and resolve as a matter of urgency.
We can hold numerous conferences and workshops on what is wrong with Zimbabwe and what needs to be done. We can write very entertaining articles and books on it, but that is not going to change Zimbabwe.
We can also have elections in 2018, but unless we deal with this military issue, we are not likely to see the Zimbabwe we want emerging.
I am somewhat beginning to understand the critical role that military-civilian relationships play in power relations. They have a huge role in determining social progress, particularly in young democracies such as as ours where those in leadership positions still have a war mentality in their heads which continues to strongly influence their thought processes.
To them, the West remains the enemy, an imperialist who seeks to usurp their power by any means necessary except outright war. They still feel that they are the true custodians of our emancipation and must, therefore, continue to hold onto it, at all costs.
We can confront them, shout at them, insult them, organise rallies and produce the most wonderful economic blueprints. However, I am afraid that until we deal with the military issue, we are wasting our time and resources.
The questions I must then ask are: Are we as civilians able and equipped to deal with this issue given our political standing? Are we legitimate enough in their minds to proffer the way forward without them denigrating and looking down on us as mere peasants seeking attention and jostling for political position?
My mind refuses to say “yes, we are”, which means we need a different approach to the problem.
Of course, I have my own ideas on how this could be done, but I think if the international community, the European Union, the BRICS ambassadors, Chatham House and others focused on the military issue as our major and only problem, I am confident we can get Zimbabwe moving forward.
Whether we like it or not, our security service chiefs hold the cards to our future and our energies must rather be spent on understanding their issues and offering a win-win solution.
We may, therefore, need to do the unthinkable in order to achieve the thinkable.
Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare, You may contact him on email@example.com