Saving us from ourselves

We are in a real hole. Our GDP is now 25 per cent below what it was in 2013, our budget deficit is again racing towards $1,4 billion in a budget of $3,8 billion. Our schools are crammed with children without books, teachers trying to teach classes of over 50 kids, low salaries and poor working conditions mean that our best are leaving the country. Our industry is dying on its feet and consumption demand is falling by 10 per cent per annum. Our hospitals are undermanned and short of everything except patients.

Our leadership does not have a clue, the banks hold nearly $8 billion in deposits and hundreds of thousands queue every day for a few dollars to make payments for what they need. By mid-morning the queues fade away as banks run out of money. You cannot get a Policemen to attend to a robbery or a crime scene but we have 10 000 Police manning roadblocks every day where the most ridiculous reasons are found to “fine” you, often accompanied by hostility and threats.

Our President insists on attending every function, local, regional and international where he is accepted and disgraces himself by falling asleep – often in public, as he did last week at the State funeral of a former President of Botswana. He travels everywhere with a large retinue of staff and in complete luxury. His trips cost us millions – much of it in hard cash which is now simply not available in our banking halls. Yet very few have the courage (or is it the temerity) to challenge the “old man” and say it is time he retired. His legacy in tatters and no longer able to really make decisions, but still feared and hated.

We operate in an environment where a tiny elite – military and civilian, hold sway and live in absolute luxury with wives driving the top choices in vehicles and shopping in Dubai. Corruption is rampant and completely out of control, the Auditor Generals reports read like fiction and nothing happens to anyone. The Manager of the Medical Aid Society that provides medical services to the entire Civil Service takes a salary and perks worth $12 million a year and walks away scot free and the Board – consisting of 7 top Civil Servants continues in Office.

When we hold elections, we violate every fundamental of free and fair elections and we snub our noses at the International Community when they cry foul. We violate our people’s rights – all their rights, economic, political, human and when sanctions are imposed we cry “they are illegal”, by what measure I simply cannot fathom. We behave in a manner that would have done our previous colonial masters proud and still strut the world stage as “liberators”.

When the people rise and vote to change the leadership, regional leaders rush to the side of the oligarchies that are abusing their people and becoming rich on the blood of our countries. Quietly, the best in our societies creep away to find haven in other lands where their talents and abilities are appreciated and rewarded. Those who cannot escape from the concentration camps that are our villages and Cities, die prematurely from every imaginable cause. Uncelebrated and quickly forgotten their shadows hardly show in the passage of time.

If nothing changes, the reality is that many African States, like Zimbabwe, simply have no hope of recovery and development and, as Angela Merkel said last week, millions are sitting on their suitcases waiting to catch a bus, train, boat or plane to anywhere, other than another African State. The Arab Spring – much vaunted as the revolutionary change to a new democratic dispensation in the Middle East, has collapsed in war and rubble. If anything, the flight of people to other climes has accelerated rather than declined.

If we tried to overthrow our despotic, corrupt regime by force the response would be immediate and brutal – only the journalists would appreciate the outcome as at least they would have a story to tell and graphic images to sell. And for those of us who are active Christians and people of faith, the specter this past week of a Bishop using armed men to evict a white farmer and his family who had given up three quarters of their land without compensation and were living on what was left, even defended by the local Community, simply makes us despair – the rest of the Church is silent on the issue.

Am I being pessimistic – I do not think so, this is the stark reality of our daily lives.

The question is who can save us from ourselves – we certainly seem incapable of doing this at this point in time. I said last week in my weekly missive that elections do not seem to be the answer as the regime has dug itself in over the past 37 years and have so much to answer for that an election will be hand to hand combat between an unarmed and poorly funded majority against an entrenched and well trained and funded minority.

At the G20 this weekend in Germany, Africa will be high on the agenda, but only because of the threat of human flight from Africa. The Chairperson – the German Chancellor, has declared the next 12 months of her leadership as a “compact with Africa”. She has called for the creation of 20 million jobs a year in Africa. However, I hear that Zimbabwe will not feature – the main thrust being directed towards those countries in the Sahel region and in East and West Africa.

For myself I think we have to go back to our roots in Africa and use a combination of our own political and social traditions with modern democratic, legal structures and governance.

When I was growing up in the Matobo Hills and then when I was working in the Gokwe District in my 20’s I was privileged to participate in tribal gatherings of Elders. Among the Shona people these were called the Dare, among the Nguni they called them an Ndaba or Lekothla. In all cases they were dignified gatherings of older men called to decide on critical issues affecting the communities they served.

Decisions were always by consensus – no decision went forward unless everyone had their say and the final decision was acceptable to all. Such decisions were enforced by the entire community and were very strong and binding. The ideas of a “loyal” opposition and the “Government” was a foreign one. Right now, we need a government, not determined by a democratic vote based on first past the post, but on consensus. We need a President and a National Council that is drawn from all sectors of our economy and society. All chosen for their wisdom, understanding and status in their individual roles.

Underneath the Council, a President and perhaps two vice Presidents who would lead a Cabinet of people selected not by ballot but by consensus as being the best for the job. In the next tier of Government, Parliament, the Judicial Services and the Civil Service. The next tier, local and provincial authorities – autonomous and self-administering bodies with devolved power. Parliament and the local authorities could be elected – either by a first past the post system or by a proportional representative system, the rest would be appointed by consensus.

Such a structure could handle the many and complex issues which have to be sorted out and make the tough decisions that are required. The idea that a one man one vote election can sort out the mess we are in is farcical – the only other option is for someone else to come and save us from ourselves and that is simply not going to happen.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 5th June 2017