Call it a week of key economic news and I agree with you. Firstly, there were very good pointers in a bad analysis ran by the South African Financial Mail. The analysis dwelt on the pitfalls of running monocultural or single industries/commodities economies on the continent. It gave the example of three leading African economies, all of them founded on a primary resource each. These were Angola (oil), Nigeria (oil) and South Africa (platinum). All three are in tailspin in the wake of a massive slump in these key primary resources following a dramatic slowdown in the Chinese economy, the second largest globally. It was a very bad analysis of a very good problem, bad because fatuous analogies were drawn with resource-poor Singapore in the vain hope of demonstrating the value of visionary leadership in salvaging the economic fortunes of a country.
Except you cannot draw a comparison on a non-existent point. Singapore has never had primary resources to furnish a useful example on an argument emphasising the need to diversify beyond those God-givens! And to say so is not to diminish the important but poorly illustrated argument. Much as the writer sought to be a better visionary than the African leaders he excoriates for poor development strategies, he in fact illustrated the same handicap by hanging onto a monocultural argument, all in a diverse cosmos. Better fortunes next time!
Then we had two arguments in one, arguments that beautifully illustrated a national schizophrenia that haunts us. We had a dramatic story of Standard Chartered workers picketing the British Embassy for sins allegedly committed by the bank against our nation and our people. The bank, alleged the workers, was involved in massive externalisation of Zimbabwean savings through a myriad of corporate subterfuges which included subsuming its performance into sister subsidiaries in countries like India. It is an argument which politicians have raised before, apparently with nil echo from within the vaults of the bank.
When meagre salaries seem to matter
Now that the workers have been hurt by the bank, they can afford to be a little more forthcoming, a little more candid, in ways most helpful to the development of the indigenisation argument. Better late than never, I guess! It does illustrate a key problem stemming from sheer insufficiency of national consciousness. We embrace or echo a valid argument depending on where it leaves us by way of immediate, short-term salary interest. Never by way of truth and honesty. We suffer a worse fate for our nation to save a meagre salary. For as long as the killer of our Nation gives us some reprieve as individuals, and no matter how thin or threadbare, perish the nation! The nation can suffer instant strangulation as long as we are allowed a gradual death as individuals.
Hang the offenders
It is difficult to resist connections between what the Bank workers allege and what Dr Mangudya raised in his Thursday Monetary Statement. The country, he said, was losing nearly $2bn through externalisation, the bigger chunk of $1,6bn being accounted for through malfeasances of companies. Companies such as? Zimra threatened to name and shame tax defaulters. Should not the Reserve Bank hang these sabotaging corporate brutes from the highest pillar especially erected for the purpose in First Street? And it’s interesting that Peter Hain (you still remember him?) says the following of South Africa: “Companies are either sitting on piles of surplus cash or investing abroad.
Private citizens are spiriting as much money as they are able out of the country.” The result is a falling rand, high unemployment. This is what miffs me: these corporate misdemeanours are never couched in the language of sabotage; they are presented as deserved consequence of African mis-governance. These same companies will not do half as worse for mis-governance in their home countries! If they did, would Italy remain the third largest economy in Europe? Maybe just as well. We can now plan and evolve similar strategies as Southern Africans, now that we find ourselves in the same boat.
Singeing fellow Zimbabweans
The flip side to this major worker-led bank action related to a throng referred to by the media as a collectivity: Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, British Diaspora. In a story done by a reporter of the pirate Studio7 of America, a handful of Zimbabweans living in the UK have promised to picket the British government all to press for the deportation of their fellow country persons — a highly trained and specialised medical doctor couple — for repossessing a tobacco farm under white hands all along.
How to reconcile this action with the preceding one involving workers of a British multinational bank, is probably what yields the schizophrenic cast in the national psyche I am referring to. We can be very nationalistic, that is when it does not hurt our salaries or when it is the final resort when all is lost. We can also be very anti-nationalistic to save or defend our refuge status by seeking greater ingratiation between ourselves and our hosts. It does not matter what greater, more sacred national principle is at stake.
Our Doctor-couple has probably made up its mind to come home finally, and possibly for good, which is probably why they want land and are risking a fight sure to resonate right up to the shores of Albion. But why fellow Zimbabweans would choose to do in their country-couple, over an argument so patently absurd and treacherous, I fail to fathom. The country stands to gain yet another acre of occupied land, gain yet another colonised and occupied skill. How does that raise the ire of bona fide Zimbabweans? Or is it our lot to be hired for any cause, including that which runs against our very interest? Who are we?
The third story concerns South Africa as seen by a British Labour ex-official, one with some claim to association with liberation movements in Southern Africa. I am talking about Peter Hain, former Cabinet minister in Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s Labour Governments. We had running battles with him here, less on human rights, more of gay rights! Don’t tell me that gays are humans! Kikikiki! If they are then let them demonstrate it through a spirit and wish for procreation! Go ye and matapulayi, so said the good Lord, looking at each according to the member they sport, expecting from each according to clear rules of results-based mutual engagement. Kwete kupunza dzinza saHain naTatchell! Kupunza nebwoni!
Hain thinks under President Zuma, South Africa has tumbled from hero to zero, plumped to depths where it is well-nigh impossible to reclaim what he terms “Mandela’s vision”. Said Hain at Swansea University, Wales, this last Thursday: “Can the ANC reclaim Mandela’s vision of the rainbow nation? Perhaps we all expected too much. Perhaps it was naive to think that the party — for all its moral integrity and constitutionalist traditions — could be immune to human frailty especially in the face of such immense social inequalities (of apartheid). Could any political party anywhere (including Britain) have done better?”
Necessary illusions for the demos
Typical neo-liberal arguments! Whining, sentimental arguments! Trying to explain deep social conditions of obvious systemic political causation in terms of matters of the heart, in terms of human idiosyncrasies. So “we were naive”. So we blame it all on “human frailty”. Or pin our hopes on “Mandela’s vision”, that one human magic bullet! But also to blame the victim.
The South African leaders are to blame for deserting Mandela’s vision. Not apartheid which created those monstrosities. A Mugabe who faces the same social question as confronts South Africa, and tackles it with greater boldness than all the South African leadership so far put together, is demonised by the same Hain, left to hang and dangle on the rope of Mandela’s goodness, Mandela’s goodness as constructed by the same white world which Hain epitomises.
They either give us foreign gods or carve their gods out of us. Yesterday Mugabe was a gross departure from both his founding nature (founded in 1980 with reconciliation) and from African goodness personified in Mandela. To be good is to pacify the demos, the oppressed and dispossessed Africans who must feed fat on illusions of a rainbow without the color black.