Tapiwa Maswera Correspondent
Zimbabwe needs a narrative that does not ignore the most fundamental resource – intellectual capital – that drives all human advancement.
There is a naïve narrative which says Zimbabwe is very rich because it is endowed with mineral resources and that to be rich, all we have to do is attract foreign investors.
In that naïve narrative, development means visible manifestations of wealth such as beautiful buildings, tarred roads, spaghetti highways and electric trains.
I call this a naïve narrative because it ignores intellectual capital, while the most fundamental resource that drives all human advancement is organisational governance and management genius.
Organisational governance and management genius is about our ability to develop appropriate solutions to our current problems, collaborate effectively in implementing them and advance ourselves collectively as a society.
The minerals in the bowels of our country will only belong to us if we acquire the necessary intellectual capital – the ability to turn opportunities into profits.
And the assets that insurance companies and pension funds buy with the premiums and contributions that we give them will only benefit us, if we are smart enough to claim them.
We are only as developed as the ability of our society to organise itself.
The following example of the Ndebele Kingdom illustrates organisational capacity and lack of it.
It was a confrontation that had been simmering for years. It was inevitable. Greedy colonialists had been circling on the Ndebele Kingdom for years.
King Lobengula himself had once remarked wisely: “Have you ever seen a chameleon catch a fly? The chameleon goes behind the fly and remains motionless for some time, then it advances very slowly and gently, first putting forward one leg then the other. At last, when well within reach, he darts his tongue and the fly disappears. England is the chameleon and I am that fly”.
The battle of Gadade (Bembesi) remains the bloodiest battle ever fought on Zimbabwean soil. With the victory at Gadade, the colonialists took over the rights to all the minerals in the bowels of our country.
And they have never had to give them back.
A compelling vision
Mtshana Khumalo, the most senior of the generals who commanded the Ndebele army at Gadade was a prince of the royal house of Matshobana.
Some say he did not listen to King Lobengula’s instructions. The King understood that the fly has speed on its side. The chameleon is better organised.
Cognisant of the need to exploit the speed and flexibility of the fly, he had instructed Mtshana Khumalo to attack at a river crossing.
The colonial force would be at its least organisation. The King had also strictly warned Mtshana not to attack a laager. He understood organisational genius.
But Mtshana thought there was no need for such subterfuge. It is said, he called his army at mid-day, pointed a finger at the colonial force’s laager and said to them, “You see those wagons? Go and take them for your king!”
A meagre harvest
Mtshana Khumalo’s assessment of the enemy’s strength and his knowledge of modern’ warfare was not good enough for the day. He did not have the required intellectual capital.
And he wouldn’t have known that. He hadn’t counted on the gun the Ndebele warriors were to call the “Sigwagwa”, the Maxim gun.
It mauled wave after wave of Ndebele attack until they lost the capacity to regroup and attack. The back of the crack Imbizo regiment had been broken. And with it the Ndebele Kingdom.
The losses on either side were telling. More than 2 500 Ndebele soldiers lay dead.
The colonial invading force had lost five men only. Symbolically, these losses represent each side’s claim to the mineral rights of this country.
The colonialists were to always have the lion’s share, and independence did not change that dynamic.
Endoskeleton and Exoskeletons
In nature, the size of any animal is determined by the nature of its skeleton.
All big animals, mammals, fish and birds have what is called an endoskeleton. This is a skeleton that is internal to the animal itself – and its synonymous with size.
We usually call this kind of skeleton a backbone. An endoskeleton facilitates growth.
Insects and most small creatures on the other hand have an external skeleton. An external skeleton inhibits growth.
It’s naïve to assume that foreign investors can grow this economy.
Foreign investors will go where there is money. They do not care for anything else. Money has its own political imperatives. And they will not always coincide with ours.
This is not to say foreign investment is not important, but rather to understand the context of our nation’s backbone.
We would do well to take stock of our own knowledge of organisational governance and management genius.
Visible and Invisible Wealth
Great generals know the importance of a just cause. In a war you need a very clear vision. The just cause makes people want to fight. And a vision imprints a tangible way of advancing the just cause in people’s minds.
People will fight to death when there is a just cause and a vision that articulates it.
When Mtshana Khumalo pointed to the colonialists’ wagons, he meant to communicate the just cause and inspire his soldiers. But he could not have seen the organisational governance and management genius behind the laager.
The love for Western wagons (cars) has exploded in our minds since the time of Mtshana Khumalo. Being somebody in our society is now about the car that you drive.
But we still do not see the invisible wealth. The Western world’s superior organisational and management genius are the key to wealth.
We need to develop intellectual capital – the ability to convert opportunities into profits.
Smart foreigners will benefit more than us from the natural resources in our country’s bowels if we fail to develop the organisational governance and management genius that is required to exploit them for our own benefit.
In the same way other people will benefit more than us from the premiums and contributions that we pay to insurance companies and pension funds.
Development is about superior organisational governance, management genius and ownership – the ability to make things happen for ourselves.
Visible manifestations of wealth such as beautiful buildings, tarred roads, spaghetti highways and electric trains are manifestations of intellectual capital, but they are not intellectual capital themselves. We dare not repeat the mistake of focussing on the wagons. It cost us very dearly.
Tapiwa Maswera is an actuary and founder of Global Worldview, a company dedicated to the development of world class financial leadership. He can be contacted at [email protected]