Zimbabwe needs national psychological safety


Nations that prosper do so on the back of the collective ingenuity and creativity of their citizens. Ideas and creativity thrive in a culture where citizens feel they have freedom of creative expression and freedom of speech without repercussions.

This culture starts from home, the education system, the workplace and permeates all facets of national discourse.

The Memory Nguwi ICWT episode had the nation abuzz with the importance of psychological safety at the workplace.

As hugely important as this is, we seem to forget that psychological safety cannot suddenly emerge at the workplace among a citizenry that does not practise it at home, school, in church and neighbourhoods.

In an article in the Zimbabwe Independent, Nguwi argues that psychological safety is necessary for improved communication, creativity and productivity at the workplace.

When people are not afraid to express themselves, they are creative and engage in robust disputation which allows the best ideas to rise to the top.

Thus, a national marketplace of ideas is created which powers innovation and productivity. 

Citizens cowed by intimidation and fear are not able to express themselves, resulting in a stunted marketplace of ideas and low levels of entrepreneurship.

At an individual level, we owe each other this psychological safety. We are all agents of psychological safe places at work, in church, Parliament and Cabinet.

 The quality of our conversations contributes to our national wellbeing, entrepreneurship and productivity.

We can’t expect miracles at the workplace because the same toxic and suffocating atmosphere pervades our workspaces.

Our toxic conversations on social media and live spaces suffocate a multiplicity of views and ideas.

As Nguwi says: “We can’t be creative until we are in a psychologically safe environment.” Our national environment needs each one of us to play their role in cleansing it of numbing toxicity and fear.

Our nation will only prosper when we are not threatened by ideas we disagree with or other people’s ideas.

Zimbabwe will prosper when we tolerate all views and ideas within acceptable societal norms and values.

We set limits to our creativity and entrepreneurship if we participate in closing spaces for debate.

Institutionalised and systemic intimidation and intolerance, particularly by the State and its actors, have badly affected our society.

Our political parties must be bastions of energy and creativity but, alas, they are straitjackets where members are expected to march lockstep in conformity with their leaders. The ineptitude this engenders explains our impoverished politics and economic collapse. Each one of us must look in the mirror and honestly ask how we are contributing to national psychological safety.

Trevor Ncube is the chairman of Alpha Media Holdings

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