LAST week, I stumbled on a conversation that was questioning why African politicians are increasingly becoming wealthier, while their governments and countries are getting poorer. Zimbabwe was cited as one of the examples of the countries that once had strong and solid governance and economic institutions that have now become weaker over time and yet its politicians — both those in government and opposition — who have become increasingly wealthier.
develop me with Tapiwa Gomo
This observation brings to the fore the question around what a government is and its role vis-à-vis its democratic mandate. A government is a system or group of people governing an organised community or a State whose role is to balance societal and individual good. This is made possible when the society or individual is governed by the principles of morality and justice, fairness as well as law and order. The oldest and simplest function of a government is to protect citizens from harm, while promoting the advancement of their wellbeing. And in order to effectively do so, the government collects taxes to fund, train and equip the security sector, judiciary and elect officials to pass and implement the laws.
However, in the absence of these, the ruling elite falls into the category of an organised criminal group. By definition, an organised crime is a category of transnational, national, or local groupings of highly centralised enterprises run by individuals who intend to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit. Some criminal organisations are in the form of political parties and they either lie or force people to vote for them so they can steal with some form of legitimacy. Some even become disciplined enough to form a government, while others are termed oligarchies where political, social and economic institutions come under the control of a few families and cartels.
In the case of Zimbabwe, political criminality is noticeable in the preoccupation with attributing all ills that beset the country as being entrenched in the history of colonialism and its exploitative impact. Even though by now, the use of colonialism as a scapegoat for all the bad things happening in the country lacks relevance, it is still deployed to incite hatred and a sense of retribution, mainly among the rural folks. It has been nearly forty years now since the country weaned itself from colonialism and attained independence, the same time China needed to establish one of the biggest economies in the world.
The deployment of this emotive subject, mainly among the rural folks, blurs their minds from the real causes of their suffering and poisons their views. It is as bad as stealing their ability to see the situation as it is, tamper with their judgement, while feeding them with a view that controls their thinking. Part of this drive has been pushed through the denunciation of the West and its policies on Zimbabwe, masking the abuse of power and national resources by the ruling elite, the reason for which the masses live in abject poverty. The elite’s hold to power, its control of narratives and its use of State apparatuses not only shapes the submissive mindset, but also solidifies their dominance and ability of their cronies and children to take over as age takes a toll on them.
The clogging of the mind is not only limited to its subjection to propaganda. The education system too has continuously perpetuated this narrative, resulting in a vicious circle of economic and intellectual poverty on progressive and transformative ideas. The result of this is that our academic institutions have been churning out conflicted graduates who look to western Europe as examples of development, providers of aid and ideas to industrialise, and yet they believe strongly that our current problems are a direct result of colonial exploitation. Such a mindset is constrained from offering new ideas.
The situation is even worse in rural areas where agriculture is supposed to be the major driver of economic revival. There, the persistent resort to reminding the susceptible villagers that all our problems are not due to the current leadership’s failures, but colonial machinations by the West is both deep-rooted and, indeed, an effective opium that has perpetually blinded the rural masses. And in doing so, it has also denied them the opportunity to free themselves so they can open their minds to innovative approaches to farming, which is necessary for their development.
They have been made to fight non-existent colonial demons. The deployment of the colonialism narrative is one of the many barriers that stands between the current poverty situation and the ability of the ordinary people to achieve the goal of transforming their lives.
As has been the case in the past twenty years, the fascination with colonialism provides the ruling elite with a convenient tool, indispensable for the continuation of their propaganda. It is an off-the shelf opiate that the regime has overwhelmingly appropriated for itself, mainly in the way it defines nationalism and patriotism. While it is beyond dispute that colonialism was a dark phase in our history, which is why it had to be fought and defeated, it is also healthy that emphasis be placed on the ultimate goal of why the war was fought, instead of keeping our people’s mind entrapped is useless mindsets when the country is yawning for new ideas.