Reason Wafawarova on Monday
The human mindset is materialistic by natural inclination to fight for survival and most if not all of the world’s glories and tragedies are a result of the natural drive to satisfy material desires and wants.
We are headed for an election at a time our material needs as a nation are in a critical crisis and to most of our people this election is about voting our materials back, voting back cash in the banks, voting back jobs, voting back food and so on and so forth. The how questions is terribly underrated.
Materialism has two extremes, happiness and sadness, especially from a capitalist point of view. There is a seamless marriage between plunder of the vulnerable and accumulation of wealth.
The acting chief financial officer of the United States’ Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation hanged himself in the wake of the economic cringe of 2008, the chief executive of Sheldon Good, another US real estate firm also shot himself in the head and a French money manager who had invested royal funds to the tune of $1,4 billion in the collapsed Ponzi scheme of Bernard Madoff slit himself to death after all that money was lost. These are just tragedies of accumulation.
There is a hazardously incorrect belief that prosperity in itself quenches the yearning for happiness and many people go to extreme efforts to amass wealth in the firm belief that material success is the source of all happiness.
Even some gospel preachers are now fully convinced that this myth is truth. Such hope is hopelessly illusory and there is this unmitigated obsession with national prosperity that leads politicians to override the tenets of justice — sometimes taking ruthless strides and inflicting so much harm and misery on peoples of weaker nations.
There is a strange melancholy that permeates Zimbabwe today — a despair that is not without cause. It all began with the painful diminishing of our former sense of national prosperity, especially after the 2000 land reclamation programme.
Most of our young people are building their lives on a false hope that the answer to our economic woes lies in the political ballot. The truth is this. No politician is capable of turning around the economy by mere political manoeuvring and there is no national development outside the collective effort of the entire society.
There is a blind faith that says there is an election outcome that will inherently come with unlimited material benefits for the nation. Sadly, the illusion has many takers among our people. We cannot simply vote away poverty. We work it away.
We see President Mnangagwa trying hard to run from the rhetoric of simplicity of promises: calling for investment and opening up space for business. No doubt the effect of disinvestment has never been more pronounced than we have seen in the last eighteen years.
President Mnangagwa’s more excitable opponent Nelson Chamisa still insists that he knows “people with money” from whom he is going to get money to give us bullet trains, to pay doctors handsomely, to improve our road networks, and indeed to simply catch up with the developed world, just like that. No one can really blame much a promising politician with willing cheerleaders.
We have an amazing sense of forgetfulness when it comes to the lessons that history teaches us and this is precisely why we are so cheap as to believe that the people from whom we once liberated ourselves can today become the messiahs to bring to us prosperity, freedom and liberty.
To contemporary Christians the word idolatry conjures images of primitive people bowing down foolishly before statues. Slavery to most of us is about images of chained semi-naked Africans crowded in overloaded boats. Colonialism to us is a historical narration of gun-wielding conquest men dressed in 18th Century tunics.
We openly condemn the slave masters that took our African ancestors across the oceans to the Americas and we furiously loath the European colonisers that partitioned Africa among themselves in 1884, just as we are absolutely appalled by the historical acts of the murderous English convicts that carried out the callous genocide that nearly wiped out an entire Aboriginal race in Australia.
The reality is that our contemporary society is not fundamentally different from these ancient ones we often ridicule and condemn. Slavery is not necessarily a forgotten ancient brutality. We have contemporary forms of slavery, colonisation and conquest.
We Zimbabweans have no currency of our own, no jobs, no cash in banks, no food on the table, no happiness and we are heading for an election promising each other salvation from our former colonisers. Robert Mugabe would have none of that, for all his faults and weaknesses. If there is any legacy that Mugabe has left us which needs to be preserved, it is the legacy of national pride — the legacy of sovereignty.
We are a people so obsessed with the doctrine of prosperity — yet without a culture of hard work and sacrifice. Our clergymen are leading all of us to the altar of prosperity without work — miracle wealth.
Our people are expecting instant wealth in 100 days, even 14; if Nelson Chamisa’s promises were to be taken seriously. This does not make sense, yet some voters seem to be cheering the empty promises.
We are not going to prosper Zimbabwe by simply waiting for investors and re-enrolling into the Commonwealth. Neither are we ever going to develop this great country by gallivanting across Western capitals soliciting for grants, aid, loans or any other forms of monetary handouts. No country in human history ever made it to first world industrialisation on the backdrop of handouts from other countries — not even the Vatican.
The problem with materialism is it seeks greatness at the expense of goodness. Investors seek their own greatness, not that of the countries in which they invest. Aid givers equally seek their own greatness, not that of the beneficiaries whose poverty and vulnerability they love to preach so much about.
The truth of the matter is that there is no visible quick fix solution to the economic problems affecting Zimbabwe right now — not for the long term at least. Tendai Biti enjoys illusionary historical successes of 2009, yet he forgets that by 2013 the country was still dependent on hope for assistance from external players with next to nothing in terms of production.
Apart from the scandalous Marange Diamonds mining and tobacco production, there was hardly any meaningful production to talk about.
The god of success is very hard to appease and this is why the insidious breed of puppet politicians gracing the African scene can go all the way to sacrifice their own countries to greedy imperial powers.
We as Zimbabweans must in our re-engagements efforts never be as desperate as to be stupid. We cannot attract investors by floundering our vulnerabilities.
Money makes up the strings by which the limbs of a puppet politician are manipulated around and it can take on divine attributes. Our relationship to it can easily approximate worship and obeisance.
Most of our people in the civic sector are not driven by the moral values they so much preach about. Rather they are driven by an obsessive greed that reduces them to donor mongers masquerading as justice seekers. Of course foreign donors have their own selfish undeclared intentions and these hardly ever coincide with the needs of locals.
It is sad when our own people — all for the selfish drive to benefit from imperial donor funds, do the sanitisation of evil intentions. We have among us people who idolise donor funds to the point of sacrificing the destiny of our own country and among them are politicians seeking to occupy the highest office in the land. We live in a sad day for Africa.
Money can easily become much more than just money. It can be a powerful life-altering, culture-shaping god — an idol that can break the hearts of an entire nation. It is moneybags from the West that altered the MDC from a workers’ party to an employers’ party fronting the cause of imperial investors.
We are so fixated on the problem of prosperity, just like we are on the ideology of democracy and liberty. We define these concepts by pointing to “those rich countries over there,” and that has become our greatest undoing.
Just like athletes sometimes get so obsessed to reach the Hall of Fame level as to get to the point of taking steroids, we have politicians so obsessed with the hunger for power that they can sacrifice even the national interest just to get the fame that comes with the greatness of leading a nation.
These are people who can support and stand with anything that can leverage for them a pathway to power — even if it means burning down the country they so wish to lead, so they can facilitate their ascendance.
We had the Contras ravaging their own country with full military backing from the United States in the 70s and the 80s. Nicaragua was economically strangulated and militarily ravaged just to make sure that Ortega’s Sandinistas were removed from power to make way for the unpopular pro-West Contras.
We had a similar script for Zimbabwe when about 32 Western countries connived to illegally sanction the country in retaliation to the compulsory land reclamation that pushed out some white commercial farmers from colonially acquired farm lands in 2000.
Were we ever united as one people in reclaiming our land? Were we ever united as one people in condemning the sanctioning of our own country? Today where are those of our own who opposed land reclamation when we did it? Where are those of our own who mobilised more sanctions against our own country as a way of trying to dethrone Robert Mugabe? What is their narrative today?
The MDC support for the strangulation of the country was a clear show of willingness to be great rather than good — a shameless resolve to achieve political greatness at the expense of the people’s good.
Democracy is a good thing, just like liberty, freedom, financial security, or athletic prowess, but when a good thing is turned into a supreme thing; then there is often this obsession that leads to this particular thing overriding all other competing values.
This is what the mantra about change became at the formation of the MDC in 1999. Change became the overriding political factor that elevated some of the most unmeritorious characters to high ranking public offices like parliament or senate.
In the name of change, the insane were voted to lead the sane, the uneducated to lead the educated, the stupid to lead the wise and the primitive to preside over matters of civilisation.
As a result Zimbabwe’s Parliament has had the worst mediocrity ever known to post-independent Africa. The greater the good the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.
The greater good of democracy must not make us create for ourselves a counterfeit sovereignty, a counterfeit democracy, a counterfeit independence and we must remember always that democracy is about aspiring to be ourselves more than it is about carrying out a political ballot impressive to all others. Democracy is not necessarily about our elections being rated the best ever to be carried out.
A peaceful and non-eventful voting process is not necessarily the mother of democracy. The mother of democracy is made up of the material needs of the people — the bread and butter matters of society.
True democracy is born out of the economic ballot, not out of the political ballot. We want political leaders who are willing to be good rather than great — leaders that will seek the good of the people they lead more than they seek the greatness of their own names and legacies.
We are trying hard to save the legacy of our iconic Robert Mugabe — yet he seems prepared to throw away his legacy in pursuit of personal greatness at the age of 94. This is sad. Very sad.
Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!
Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in SYDNEY, Australia