HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsLet’s blame it on the settlers

Let’s blame it on the settlers

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We must take full responsibility of our problems and have ministers in government who think beyond being driven in a Mercedes-Benz.

Guest Columnist Vince Musewe

Don’t you just love it! Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo is at it again and truly believes that Harare’s water problems are because the colonialists settled in the wrong place and should have put the city in Mt Hampden.

A friend of mine remarked the other day that if Chombo believes that Harare should have been built in Mt Hampden, why not build another city there instead of blaming the settlers?

I guess the fact that two million people who were formerly employed in the agricultural sector have had to migrate to the urban areas because of a decimated rural economy has nothing to with it.

The fact that we have not done any serious infrastructure projects since independence also has nothing to do with it. The graft and corruption within the city councils is, of course, also a non-issue for Chombo when it comes to service delivery and the maintenance of our infrastructure.

I think we have a problem: Our ministers are not accountable at all and they just couldn’t be bothered. Imagine a whole Minister of Mines who runs Zimbabwe Minerals Development Corporation and does not keep any records and becomes angry when asked why not.

These guys are just too old to run this country. They have failed to move with the times when it comes to management and so we are effectively stuck with incompetents.

Politicians have an irritating habit of reframing problems and denying answerability. This is a universal problem. According to the wisdom of Zanu PF, our problems either come from outside our borders or the past; they, therefore, have played absolutely no role in creating the current conditions; how ridiculous!
When talking to a Zanu PF member the other day, I was amazed at how everyone has adapted this style of blaming everything on the past. The sad reality is that they actually believe the lie because it has been repeated so many times.

Of course, a major issue is that, after the struggle, our comrades never received counselling and they are, therefore, still suffering from post-traumatic stress and the past still looms large in their psyche. That is an issue that has never been addressed.

True, colonial structures were designed to entrench minority interests and control of both politics and the economy.

What has happened is that post-colonial liberation struggle political parties inherited these structures with pleasure and have used them just as the colonialists did. So institutions created by the settler regime are the same institutions that continue to benefit Zanu PF-entrenched political and economic hegemony. They are extractive and are designed to benefit a few politicians and not the masses.

In the Zimbabwe we want, government ministers will be evaluated by Parliament and must be answerable to the people of Zimbabwe. Those who do not perform must be fired with no remorse. We will also whittle down the political power of ministers to avoid abuse and corruption.

I am told that in Ian Smith’s government, for example, ministers and high-ranking officials had to agree not to do business with government or have conflicts of interest.

Now this term does not exist in Zanu PF’s vocabulary. So we have ministers who run their businesses while drawing salaries and benefits from our taxes. That is not acceptable.

It is obvious that running a political party or an armed struggle is completely different from running a government. All I hear is that Transport minister Obert Mpofu bans kombis and wants to replace them with a State monopoly that went broke; Finance minister Patrick Chinamisa bans exports of raw hides and forgot that our tanneries don’t have the capacity, now we have a glut and a collapsing raw hide market where prices have tumbled; Agriculture minister Joseph Made bans imports of maize and creates a parallel market, causing mispricing of the finished product.

Also the Grain Marketing Board has no money to buy maize from farmers so they simply don’t sell it, but would rather store it, creating another artificial market shortage.

You see, you can never run a competent government by decree without considering the cost of unintended negative consequences first.

This government does that all the time and we end up with inconsistent government policies that have cost the economy a fortune. We will need to restructure our institutions significantly to get different results and behaviours.

We cannot continue this silo mentality, where each minister operates on his own without looking at or understanding how things are interrelated; the latter is called systems thinking; a necessarily thinking tool that is used to understand and manage complex social systems.

That is the thinking methodology we will use in creating a new Zimbabwe where people, especially ministers, are expected to think before they act by looking at things in a holistic manner.

This must apply to all sectors of the economy. By doing that, you make better policy decisions; you anticipate potential problems and avoid them. As a result, you also reduce delay factors and, therefore, the costs of running the economy as a whole.

We certainly have a long way to go, but I want to believe that it shall come to pass, where we take full responsibility of our problems and have ministers in government who think beyond being driven in a Mercedes-Benz.

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