Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
For many Zimbabwean travellers, it is usually buffeting to see developments in other parts of the world, in Africa and elsewhere, which tend to confirm just how far the country has been left behind or worse.
Zimbabweans are struck by the cleanliness of cities and places; efficiency of systems, organisation and planning; and the general ‘civilisation’ of other countries.
That is not to say Zimbabwe is the worst place on earth — that’s stuff for fake news.
However, given the vast potential of Zimbabwe and its significance in Africa, it is only fair that the country ought to be miles ahead of its present condition.
Most importantly, it has to learn and adapt to the changing world around it.
It is never too late to learn.
The new dispensation of President Mnangagwa should really be seized with this.
The President was well received in China this week.
China provides key lessons about development and how a sleeping giant wakes up from its slumber to reclaim its place among its kind.
For long Zimbabwe has held China as an ally, ideological cousin or even a kind of Big Brother.
It is a pity that Zimbabwe has done little to show for the mentorship of China — even when numerous trips have been undertaken visiting the Asian giant on supposedly learning and exchange forays.
(The guess, of course, is that the trips were underutilised and turned out to be shopping junkets.)
Things must change — and change now.
One can imagine that on the current trip to Beijing, Zimbabweans were envying China and its ways of life and ruthlessly efficient systems.
President Mnangagwa, according to reports from China, was taking notes.
That should be brought home.
There are several areas that Zimbabweans could learn from their Chinese counterparts:
State capitalism is described as an economic system in which the state undertakes commercial economic activity and where the means of production are organised and managed as state-owned business enterprises (including the processes of capital accumulation, wage labour and centralised management), or where there is otherwise a dominance of corporate government agencies (agencies organised along business-management practices) or of publicly listed corporations in which the state has controlling shares. It combines capitalism with ownership or control by a state.
It is what the Chinese themselves describe as “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” — and has been a crushing success with China’s rise in recent times attributable to it.
A 2012 Economist article pointed out that, contrasted with the West, China no longer sees state-directed firms as a way-station on the road to liberal capitalism; rather, they see it as a sustainable model.
The intervening years have borne witness to Chinese success.
And the Economist adds: “For emerging countries wanting to make their mark on the world, state capitalism has an obvious appeal. It gives them the clout that private-sector companies would take years to build.”
It is not a perfect model, as The Economist argues, but one the likes of Zimbabwe would like to give a shot at.
It should be noted that, by the very antithesis, we have seen a lot of state cannibalism in these shores.
President Xi Jinping is noted for his robust tackling of corruption, which has seen hundreds of top party and Government officials being severely punished.
His much-publicised tag line is that the corruption dragnet must get “tigers and flies”.
President Mnangagwa has started a campaign against corruption, which has seen a couple of our own tigers being pursued.
But they have not been caged.
It would be a good thing to see corrupt elements being punished at all levels and as a matter of principle.
Tackling corruption has its obvious advantages in giving better efficiency; responsiveness, accountability and transparency.
Some of the little things that Zimbabweans might admire in foreign lands— like a clean wide street — could just be a result of a corrupt-free administration that pays people who deliver services.
Or an immigration or tax authority that does not look for kickbacks.
The basis of a good political order and by extension, State, is arguably the organic nature of the ruling party. A party governed by laws as by ideology that allows for planning of programmes and internal dynamics is key. Such has been the Chinese Communist Party.
It is organic, plans succession processes and manages itself and the responsibilities of managing the State that is so huge and itself challenging for global supremacy.
Zanu-PF, President Mnangagwa’s party, has far less been clinical with the latest of its weaknesses being factionalism that rocked the party last year.
It does not require special science to predict that in the next five to 10 years, the party will be facing another bout of life-threatening contradictions.
On the other hand, the party appears to come short on forward planning and organisation. Connected to this is the lack of ideological praxis, which the fledgling Chitepo Ideological School has failed to staunch. But there is hope. It is a new era.
Building is thinking big
Organisation is a function of mental planning and building.
Infrastructural development – building of roads, airports, dams, electricity generating capacity, railways, and telecommunications — is as much a function of physical planning as a state of mind.
Investing in infrastructure is a sign of a people who want to grow — and all world economies reflect that to varying degrees. Then men and women, who only 40 years ago transformed a small fishing village called Shenzhen in southern China into a skyscrapping city that it is today had thought big.
Infrastructural development is linked directly to economic growth, and again China is a perfect example. Zimbabwe hungers as much for various installations as for jobs that come with it.
Learning from African countries
Much of this small submission has focused on what Zimbabwe could learn from China. The opening of this piece, however, submits that the country could learn from the world, including African countries.
Not least, some African countries such as Angola, Ethiopia and Djibouti have cultivated strong and rewarding relations simply by being good students of the Chinese and espousing the above paradigms and approaches.
Good regional examples on how to do things better, include South Africa, in terms of infrastructure and industrialisation; Botswana in resource management; Rwanda in terms of planning and governance; and so on.
It is never too late to learn.