We are a country, not a nation: That must change

National Council of Chiefs president Chief Fortune Charumbira

DESPITE our pretensions and aversion to the truth, we remain loyal to tribal fiefdoms than we are to the country. We did not have ingredients of nation building since the genesis of the liberation struggle. Since independence we have also remained largely loyal to our area’s origin, tribe, language and race and most of it in the subconscious. Leaders are getting into power to benefit their tribes.

National Council of Chiefs president Chief Fortune Charumbira’s utterances this week were a breath of fresh air, remarkable and beautiful on the need for unity, peace, cohesion and non-violence till he uttered a sordid and pungent diatribe that the possibility of such unity bedrock was on the premise that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa were both Karanga.

Most of the people defending this useless and rogue statement by Charumbira are, unfortunately, also Karanga. Was it going to be difficult to have unity of purpose if Chamisa was for instance a Korekore?

His statement was as tribal as the late strongman Robert Mugabe’s utterances at a Marondera rally that when the sun sets (meaning his demise) it shall rise in the east, which was then interpreted as an endorsement of his fellow Zezuru, Sydney Sekeramayi. Such a disturbing statement by Mugabe was greeted with an equally disturbing song “Zezuru unconquerable”, a very clear message to annoy and spite the then Vice-President Mnangagwa.

Since the struggles within the struggle there has been exclusion of other tribes like Ndau, Tonga, Ndebele, Kalanga, Shangaan and so forth as second-class citizens watching the theatre of Zezurus, vs Karanga. In fact, appointments since 1980 for political positions, boards, commissions, State enterprises, bureaucrats, securocrats and even fringe things like sports leadership tilted from Zezuru to Karanga within a very short space of time.

Just check it for yourself that it is and has always been a loyalty system of reward instead of a competence-based system.

Charumbira’s proposed national dialogue will be premised on both a wrong strategic foundation and warped desired national outcomes. It has been so since the late 1970s as 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 quite a number of these inclusive dialogues but still, we retained nothing, but a country in name and not a nation. As a people, we still have difficulty relating with each other, given the shaky loyalty to the country, leaving us with some sort of identity crisis over exactly what it means to be 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 opposition vs Zanu PF (prior to 1987 Zanu vs Zapu) and the poor versus the rich.

In terms of feasting on the country cake, the divide often degenerates into to allegiance to tribes and cronies which we often define as corruption. Corruption itself is a manifestation of people loyal to themselves, clans, tribes and cronies.

To put our divide into context, it is not 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 people in places like Uzumba, Maramba and Pfungwe are an albatross in the quest for change.

We are a country that politicises everything and this leads to death of inclusivity, aversion to new idea generation and short-termism due to political expediency. Political dialogues have always given birth to political outcomes at the expense of long-term sustainable nation building outcomes.

Building shared values and country loyalty is a lot of work and it will never come naturally. It is a tough call to identify with a nation, 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 15 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, anthem, institutions, holidays, currency, language, food and so forth. These rather important aspects are deemed meaningless and of no value.

To build a nation, we have to start a national process that reduces the value of a political office win. 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 government less important and fewer people will think it is so worth to win it.

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 depended 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, 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’s often monopolised by a clique or perceived as partisan. Nation-building programmes should be led by people loyal to an idea, instead 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 if we are not loyal to one another.

The fear of droughts and floods coalesced the people living along the river Nile to build a nation.  Zimbabweans 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 manner that makes national interests subservient to outside interests. We need our own rallying point.

To build a nation, a transparent and accountable system on the contribution and distribution of the national cake will 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 among a people.

Our new nation to be birthed from inclusive dialogue require developing a core value system and ideologies. Besides the socialism aspect the starting point will be to  upscale 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 this country desperately requires purposeful internal promotion of its heroes of the war, in arts, culture, economy, society and other facets beyond just naming of roads and buildings.

Just like product or service brands that require models to promote, it is doubtful 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 focusing 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.

With the current trajectory I foresee another disputed election in 2023. I have little hope of change in the status quo in 2023.

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.

  • Brian Sedze is as strategy and innovation consultant and President of Free Enterprise Initiative. Free Enterprise Initiative is an advocacy in free enterprise, fiscal and public policy. He can be contacted on [email protected]


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