National dialogue should aim at nation-building, not narrow political outcomes

guest column: Brian Sedze

The proposed national dialogue may be held in a toxic environment and would be premised on both a wrong strategic foundation and warped national outcomes.

It has been so since the late 1970s because our leaders have failed and or neglected and or have been incompetent at nation building, mapping a sustainable country vision and deploying a comprehensive, sustainable and inclusive strategy.

Since 1978 the country has had three significant national dialogues leading to the Lancaster House Agreement, National Unity Accord (1987) and the Government of National Unity (2008).

The foundation of these national dialogues were devoid of any national strategy imperatives and did not build a nation. Parties to the dialogues were force-marched into them due to fear of war, violence, death, tribal decimation and economic meltdown.

After the “milestone” agreements, we retained nothing, but a country in name. As a people, we still have difficulties relating with each other, have shacky loyalty to the country, and somehow have some sought of identity crisis on exactly what it means to be a Zimbabwean.

We remain a greatly divided nation.We have uncommon challenges, different aspirations and fragmented visions. Our great divide is mainly between urban versus rural, the north vs
south, the MDC vs Zanu PF (Prior to 1987 Zanu vs Zapu) and the poor versus the rich. In times of feasting on the country cake, the divide often degenerates into allegiance to tribes and cronies which we often define as corruption. Corruption itself is a manifest of people’s loyalty to themselves, clans, tribes and cronies.

To put our divide into context, it is uncommon for urbanites to view rural folks as of a lower class, with questionable intellect and, therefore, of no consequence in solving the Zimbabwean question. It’s often cited by opposition party supporters that the rural areas, places like Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, are an albatross in the quest for change.

We are a country that politicises everything and this leads to the death of inclusivity, aversions to new idea generation and short-termism due to political expedience.

Political dialogues have always given birth to political outcomes at the expense of long-term sustainable nation-building outcomes.

The dialogues are a quench for both material things and power. The outcomes are not about propagating a good country governance system, but more about ruling. The proposed
national dialogue should be inclusive and help build a shared Zimbabwe value system.

Building shared value and country loyalty is a lot of work and it will never come naturally. It is a tough call to identify with a nation and let alone be loyal to it, especially in times of strife and often in times of opportunity. As a person you are not likely to name, meet and let alone be loyal to all the 14 million Zimbabweans. What
should build loyalty to our country are visionary leaders, who pursue nation building.

Zimbabweans have little or no respect of national symbols, culture, anthems, institutions, holidays, currency, language, food and so forth. These, despite being important aspects, are deemed meaningless and of no value. Imagine Jews had no homeland for decades, but they remained relentlessly loyal and passionate to the then non-existent nation of Israel.

The Jews maintained the core values and visions of being Jewish.

I bet you can take a Zimbabwean to any country and he/she will acquire that country’s accent, traditions, symbols and value system and subsequently discard their own within mere
weeks. Anything foreign, from people to products, is deemed superior worth revering by our people. We have a very low sense of worth.

In contrast, the defence of Israel and what it means to be a Jew is a cult-like-culture, fanatic, cohesive and non-fragmented. It is a duty and obligation of every Jew within and without borders.

To build a nation, we have to start a national process that reduces the value of a political office. People don’t fight endlessly over things that are immaterial, yet to lead a government or a party was designed to be immaterial.

To stop the scourge of the ruling appetite, we don’t have to remove the people responsible, but rather diminish the value of the win. Make the government less important and fewer people will think it is so worth to win it.

How great it would have been if the war time leadership codes were adopted to become part of country’s DNA. Unfortunately, they were discarded and leadership in a few years of
existence becomes a monopoly of a political party.

It is an imperative that a system of good country governance is entrenched, which is not dependent on one centre of power. A country should be led not ruled. A clear web of systems and structure of governance, not dependent on individuals should be designed and deployed. An enhanced system of transparency and accountability, designed around a system will enhance a sense of belonging.

Just like the Zionist State, this country should invest massively in propaganda, indoctrination and promotion of the nation.

In Israel this works a little easier because such information blitz to citizens finds fertile ground because of fear. Zimbabwe can find its own unique rallying point.

The idea of internal marketing often finds limited traction because it is often monopolised by a clique or perceived as partisan.

Nation-building programmes should be led by people loyal to an idea, instead of loyalty to political parties.

Loyalty, which is the genesis of nation building is when people build bonds with the nameless. This can be achieved when we believe in the uniqueness of our country, its
superiority, and that there are benefits or a lot to lose without loyalty to one another.

The fears of droughts and floods coalesced the people living along the river Nile to build a nation. In Zimbabwe we are devoid of a common fear and we have a Pareto benefit system in sharing the national cake.

A little punitive Act of Parliament is often essential to deter citizens who deliberately deploy strategies that cause harm to our generality or act in a manner that make national interests subsevient to outside interests. We need our own rallying point.

To build a nation, a transparent and accountable system on contribution and distribution of national cake should ensure equitable development in education, health, security, infrastructure and the economy. It is generally perceived that a clique or some tribes or some parts generally have for years been benefiting more than others. This increases
the chasm between a people.

Our new nation to be birthed from inclusive dialogue requires developing a core value system and ideologies. Besides the socialism aspect, the starting point would be upscaling the ideals and ethos of the Second Chimurenga. These should start with the young and the youth. Unfortunately, the national service, which was a great start, was perceived as a party driven programme, thereby losing traction.

The other great idea to pursue is that these countries desperately require purposeful internal promotion of its heroes of war, in arts, culture, economy, society and other facets beyond just naming of roads and buildings; Just like products or service brands that require models to promote. It is doubtful that national pride can be entrenched without celebrating our icons.

An inclusive and an all-stakeholder dialogue will ensure long term sustainability and future reference point when the country faces similar challenges like we currently face post-2018 plebiscite.

A political dialogue should ideally be a cluster within a broader all-stakeholder negotiation forum, focussing on the short term. The cluster on nation building and healing should take a long term focus on future challenges and building a nation that everyone is truly proud of. It should build a reference point for future dialogues.

I do not foresee President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government relenting on their 2019 ”win”. With the current trajectory, I foresee another disputed election in 2023. I have little hope of change in the status quo in 2019.

The future, therefore, lies in an inclusive dialogue that ensures a framework to resolve national challenges like we face. This framework has been elusive because we value
politics beyond anything else.

We need to build a nation.

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