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Zimbabwe, the numerate Nation that can't count

22 Mar 2014 at 08:14hrs | Views
Matters are hurtling to a head in the MDC-T, are they not? But I must correct myself. I was rather hard on Biti and Mangoma last week. Or is it Mangoma and Biti? Just who is who? And what is the hierarchical sequence? I wonder. Last week I suggested the duo is doing nothing on the ground, nothing to challenge Tsvangirai organisationally. I was wrong. There is lots of activity going on, activities calculated to challenge Morgan Tsvangirai organisationally, while tethering him to endless, distracting court battles, themselves the real chink in Tsvangirai's knuckle-in-place-of-head armor! There was some activity in Matabeleland North last week, and possibly in Bulawayo, activity sizeable enough to cause a rumble in Tsvangirai's insides.

The calculating keeper
A worse rumble in Chamisa who appears to punch on the side of Tsvangirai when in reality he is clearing ground for his own ambition, a vaulting one if you ask me. Get it from me: Chamisa is not fighting to keep Tsvangirai. He is fighting to depose him soonest, which is why the likes of Mangoma and Biti have to be stumped out, all in the name of saving Tsvangirai, "the face of the struggle".

Of course not many asked what it is that is behind that much vaunted face of struggle. Let me favour you with indicative titbits. Of course you have Chamisa whose bid seems pre-empted by claims that he is eyeing for Biti's secretary generalship. He denies, correctly too, for his aim is much higher and, when Biti's name is mentioned, Macbeth-like, Chamisa quips: "Thane of Cawdor!/That's a step/ On which I must stumble, or else overleap,/ For in my way it lies./ Stars, hide your fires,/ Let not light see my black and deep desires;"

Vacuum or vortex?
It will be a real setback if Chamisa has to vie for secretary generalship, as that would mean he would have stumbled and "failed to overleap", failed to neutralise Biti beforehand. This is what all this bembera around Biti is all about: to rattle him and goad him into punishable excesses, in order to be rid of him, kangaroo style. But many outside and inside "the tent" have the same ambition, the same target.

There are many originally associated with this British political project who sense a vacuum, while incorrectly reading a vortex for an opportunity. Put the likes of Sikhala in that category. He is not positioning himself close to Tsvangirai in order to take the sacrificial bullet; he is there in order to be near enough to push Tsvangirai over when the tipping hour arrives.

But you also have Simba Makoni with his naive thinking that joining the MDC-T places him close enough for a similar takeover, without the burden of history, of ‘99. Interestingly that threatening prospect of a Makoni's ahistorical rise in the run-up to July 31 united the likes of Chamisa, Biti, Mudzuri and Mangoma against Tsvangirai who was suspiciously viewed as seeking an unofficial handover to a non-member. And donors liked the idea too, which is what made it so menacingly real to other MDC-T's aspirants, across factions.

I hope this clarifies why Makoni, all along a Presidential candidate, chose to run for a mere provincial constituency in Manicaland, in the process earning himself the political jab of a proverbial god aspiring to be mere man. And failing in that lowly ambition too! The bigger idea was to get his butt in, in the hope of a tackling elbow.

Shattered shirtfront
And then you have your Mudzuri. A very brave man indeed, but he made a big mistake of showing that bravery too early. Made a big mistake not against himself but for his rivals in the MDC-T, and these are Biti and Mangoma. He was misread as about to announce a pre-emptive power-bid, well ahead of the maturation of the Biti-Mangoma leadership-change strategy.

That triggered panic, precipitating a premature declaration of intent by way of Mangoma's fatal advisory, the writing of which triggered consequences so dramatically represented by his shattered shirtfront. I am not so sure whether Mudzuri has been pre-empted, or spared to fight another day. He has this habit of being absent when you want to read him. Initially I thought it was a strategy, until I got convinced that far from being an actor, he merely exacerbates actions of others. Between his dropping from Government and from organising secretaryship, he could have done many things. He didn't.

Aura of calculated mystery
As for Tsvangirai, well, Harare, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Bulawayo, Manicaland and of course Mashonaland East remain fundamentally unsettling propositions. This is why Chamisa is battling to seal suspension or cause preordained restructuring in those same provinces, a move which Biti hopes to abort through a reading of the party's statutes.

And the threats to charge any MDC-T MP who does not attend "the president's" rallies does not suggest a winning team. The Biti faction's decision to speak to the world through Mafume, Mangoma's lawyer, is not only a way of building some aura of mystery and inscrutability over their real thoughts and intentions; it is a presentiment of a legal accent in leadership battles ahead.

And the upshot? Well, a clear indication that the hive of activity around MDC-T is analogous to brisk movements ahead of a clearance rummage sale: many throng the business site not to show its market pull, but to pick bits and pieces. See you in November!

When the hyena hires a lawyer for the lamb
The other day I had a discussion with a western diplomat who shall remain nameless. We discussed lots of things, including the Chinese role on the continent, and the continent's readiness for a new, entrepreneurial China with its gargantuan appetite for raw materials so abundant on the continent. Smugly, she lamented Africa's lack of capacity to do deals on the economy and resources.

Pretending to be polite to me, she added that Zimbabwe is in a much better position, what with its educated populace. "You know what, a few years back one of our leading energy companies engaged an African country for the exploitation of huge offshore gas deposits. The company would not make progress, much to our frustration as a mission. And what arrested progress was not tough bargaining on the part of the African owners of the resource. It was stonewalling based on raw ignorance.

They really did not know what to defend, what to wring out of the deal. They chose the safety of stonewalling. We really were frustrated, I tell you! And hey, you know what we ended up doing?" Of course I did not. "We got a very good lawyer from my country for the energy firm, and another good lawyer, again from my country, to help the African country!" We had a laugh, a good, hearty one for her, a tragic one for me.

For this was an African country, African intellect, an African resource, African ownership, African fate and African destiny, all of it shaped by this western country, from both sides of demand and supply. Not even the-Zimbabwe-are-much-better pamper would mollify me. It was depressing to hear this pontificated sympathy, in reality this brag of power. And are we better, any better, I was left wondering.
But the books are in Chinese, Sir?

Another anecdote is appropriate, one nearer the bone. Not too long ago, I had a discussion with Minister Walter Chidhakwa, the young Minister of Mines. He gave me a dolorous tale on the goings-on in the mining sector, in its diamond sub-sector specifically. Recently he went on a tour of the diamond fields, a fact-finding tour.

He visited the first diamond company, the second, the third, all the time getting some coherent story, however suspicious. When it came to the fourth mine - a joint venture with the Chinese - he met the chief there: a man wearing my complexion, wielding a surname that is decidedly Zimbabwean. "So, what is happening here", asked the Minister, tall ears ready. "A hmm, a hmmm I don't know, Cde Minister."

"But you are our representative in the joint venture?" "Ahmmm, yes Minister, but the Chinese brought in their own people." "Yes, they were minding their own interests, you were minding ours?" "Yes Sir, but all the papers on the mining activity are in Chinese", added the Blackman, penitentially. Another laughter, but this time pregnant with nervousness, so full of shame and a shared sense of national mortification, national tragedy. That's sample us.

Sleeping to fruity bubble
We have a problem, a big one too. We sought the political kingdom. Sought and got tools for securing that political kingdom. It was a good fight, a very good fight which cut us above much of Africa, cut us above as an heroic people. We died. We killed; we suffered setbacks, we won, in the end, securing the political kingdom ever so firmly.

We are happy, have been from 1980. But soon after, we slid into a deep slumber, enjoyed the deep sleep of an accomplished people, an achieving nation. In that sweet sleep, the outsider tiptoed in, armed with a sweet ditty with which to serenade us into uxoriousness, a lullaby that got us to sleep from one market day to another, to another and to yet another. In West Africa I am told, sleep that goes beyond one market day becomes something else.

We are still asleep, at the very least drowsy and recumbent, thanks to the outsider's soporific song, gentle stroke and pat. It is sweet sleep, the kind that loosens all the bolts, hind ones included. Kusunungura mbambo dzese zvadzo, leaving us in fruity bubble, the type that adds smelly warmth to the sleep.

Forbears who forearmed us
Goodness me, the warrior people, the warrior nation defeated by mere sleep. A warrior people who can't catch, can't eat, can't own, can't trade to advantage! We have a saying in Shona: chidyamatovo wakadzipwa neganda remhuru. Roughly translated: the legendary eater of raw, hard hides, choked on a piece of veal. You want another, just to show you that dutifully, our forebears have been our fore-armers? Garoziva kuroya wakahukurwa nembwa.

Again roughly translated: on that fateful day, the master-witch drew an alerting bark from a sleepy puppy. She was caught red-handed, and a dry nail was driven right down her fontanelle. Today she walks with a limp, and no one dares disclose the cause of it. Such things are never repeated in the village. The rains will not fall.

Why are so heroic a people so ill-equipped for the economic battle they knew was fated to follow the political war? The battle they knew was the only way to make real the political kingdom just won, just so dearly won with so much blood shed?

Owning what we can't keep
We got the land, wrestled it from the Boers in fact. Today we own the land. But what we have won, what we now own, we can't keep. We can't use. We are leasing it. We are leasing it, often back to the very white man we ejected at such horrendous cost to ourselves and those we sire. As we all know, the arm of the white man is long, his pale heart unforgiving. In remembers all hurts, forgiving none. In 2000, we started a fight set to last across generations, until we succumb, or succeed emphatically.

Now, that which we have wrestled through so much, for so much, today we lease back to the despoiler. What are we saying about our Independence, our sovereignty? It is up for lease? It has a buyback value? It is something we own sentimentally yet are prepared to lose in usufruct terms? Is that the disposition of keepers, of owners, of an economic people? Are we deserving owners of the biblical vineyard? Are Zimbabweans ever "homo economicus", ever economic beings? Or we seek the political kingdom only?

But the war had economic goals?
The issue of indigenisation. The political goals are remarkably clear, well beyond faulting. We must own our resources, benefit from them, be controlling sharers in their exploitation. They are non-renewable, finite. Who quarrels with that speckless argument? Who? Yet a people who fought and won a vicious war today cannot translate that laudable wish into a simple, workable policy? We have policies to keep the 400-plus British companies here, all alive, comfortable. We have beautiful policies for a perfect neo-colony, even intellectual warriors to defend and press for it. But we have no policy, not even an iota, with which to assume ownership of what is ours, and to turn that which is ours into a performing asset able to feed our children. Or to fashion partnerships that ensure we have a substantive presence in that equation.

Those we send to represent us in those partnerships think they are there to draw trinkets from foreigners they themselves must fool with trinkets to conquer knowledge, expertise and technology. What happened to the instinct of conquest? Those we send to represent us don't even know why they are there, where to look, what to get? We, the most numerate on the continent can't count what a 50-50 percent partnership brings home? Biti raved about diamond revenue, yet two of his officials sat on the Mbada Board. Yet he prats about catching what we eat when we can't even eat what we have caught? Or even know we have caught and must just skin, cook, then eat? Did the war not teach us to sing: "Nyika yedu yeZimbabwe ndimo matakazvarirwa/ Vana mai nababa ndimo mavari/ Tinoda Zimbabwe nehupfumi hwayo hwese/ Simuka Zimbabwe!" The war had clear economic goals: the land, the economy. We have forgotten and so we have a real problem. And as in the Augustan age, the message to ourselves is a very simple one: man, know thyself!

Spoiled in second start
I was at some planning meeting recently. There is a new blueprint for the alluvial diamond industry. Foreigners will soon leave, and we shall restore ourselves as sole owners of that resource, or what remains of it. We have to buy out those foreigners. And again, this is where the horror begins: what subsists in buying out foreigners? The subsoil asset which is ours, which foreigners will proffer and offer back to us as theirs for purposes of being bought out?

Or it shall be those mangled pieces of moving parts of iron only, which is what they brought in from their far off lands, all to scoop our subsoil resource? Or worse, buying out imaginary shares, all of them falsely stout, and buying real liabilities, ever mounting, incurred in extracting our finite resources which were spirited out of the country, leaving behind mounds and mounds of dead soil, mounds and mounds of unpaid bills? The national genius must be brought to bear on this one, and Government must summon all the legal skills which it built anyway, so we get this one right. It is a harbinger to many more deals we shall have to make, or many more chances we are fated to miss in this new war against the same old enemy.

Production-sharing agreements?
Interesting thinking is beginning to evolve. Some little bird is whispering about production-sharing agreements with foreigners in mining. Over 20 countries across the continent are doing that. But what is that? Let's research, dear reader, so we contribute to this critical debate in which inheres the fate of our nation, possibly of Africa to the extent that we have become the trail-blazer in this new yet old war for statehood.

You do not demand 51 percent shareholding, something which can easily translate into 51 percent of dead shares, of liabilities. You claim 51 percent of mineral output, all after proper costing and discounting inputs. You demand 51 percent of real minerals, real mineral output, not the dollar value of that output, much worse dividend. That way you handle real wealth, stockpile it, dispose of it advantageously, use it to back up your currency, to borrow, etc, etc.

Not this ridiculous and ludicrous habit of waiting upon the goodness of an investors, who are never good definitionally. You can't inventory what is happening in the business. Today most of the platinum claims are due to expire, and soon we will have to take a decision as a nation whether to renew the present unfairness for another two decades, whether to cancel the unfairness completely, or whether to set out completely new parameters of engagement in ways that begin to give form to the inchoate indigenisation "policy" we brag we have. And couple those new parameters to refining, thereby maximising value and accountability of these habitual swindlers called foreign investors. We are on the cusp of new things, and one hopes between those broad national shoulders balances a thinking head, not an ankle bone decorated by sinewy tissue.

Restructuring for the Pope?
And lately we have seen more gokoras - ankles - between national shoulders, not brains. We have two sets of tendons pretending to be thinking heads. In Government, the focus - total focus - has been on restructuring parastatals and state-linked companies. All laudable, all most laudable. Corruption must be extirpated, branch and root.

But the main and only preoccupation can't be to curb corruption and salary abuses. The raison de être of those enterprises was never to employ executives, apparently the current misconception guiding the hand of Government. The reason for their existence was and had been to actualize an entrepreneurial State, to actualize State presence in the market as a proactive player. It is a timeless goal, one made more timeless by this resource era Africa is living through. Where is the restructuring blueprint for such an eventuality?

Long after we have descended our parastatal executives – whether gently or roughly – from the stratospheric incomes zone to the terra firma which you and me inhabit, we shall soon discover we are doing no better in our interaction with foreigners, or in our performance as a State that must transform from being a political formation into an entrepreneurial proposition. For the greater thieves have been foreigners, never these petty, pilfering or filching, consumerist officials. Those steal small change, where the so-called investors steal a destiny, an endowment.

The morning after, we shall realize we have become a vanquishing nation of upright paupers, never a dashing nation of economic players who own. Even when read against the four goals of ZIM ASSET, the current restructuring, if one it is, does not make sense. How does trimming a CEO's income help value-addition, make ZMDC an enlightened partner in a joint venture with Mbada?

The return of flashes of genius
The second strand comes from the opposition and its institutions. In a bid to divert attention from the warring MDC-T, and from the dying Tsvangirai, there is this contrived discourse struggling for attention and currency. It is the discourse on an economy supposedly sinking deeper and deeper into destitution, its leadership completely clueless and inattentive. That discourse is dutifully backed by statistics of folding companies, and phony, oppositional yells of offers of help. I have a plan, Tsvangirai says, a plan I am only ready to share with the President if he invites me to State House for a talk. Is it hankering for those pancakes?

Here is a man who has been in Government for a full five years, under Mugabe. For that long he had no plan to unveil. For that long he could not even redeem his record, which is why the voter spat on him. Suddenly he has had a flash of genius, the same week his leadership comes under siege, all from within. Who does not know he needs a photo-opportunity with which to stabilize the politics of his party?

Crying over dying Rhodesia
But that is not my point. It is this incapacity of Zimbabweans to read the real economy they must seek to revive, the real spurts that give impetus to recovery of the real national economy they must focus on. Surely it cannot be those decrepit pieces of gnarling, fangled metal we call "our" industry, those things we collectively group under this misnomer acronym, CZI! What is there to salvage? Who is there to look at that Rhodesian relic?

Tsvangirai maybe, with wistful eyes shining with tears of nostalgia of his days in Bindura. It is the sight and childish dream of a worker, not an owner of a country. Much worse, it is the yearn of a disembodied worker, not a proud son of a peasant or landowner. Much worst, it is a hankering after a white Rhodesian economy but without grasping its real quick. Surely even the Rhodesians will tell you on their half-wakefulness that their economy came from the countryside, came from agriculture? And when a full-blooded Zimbabwean, of peasant born, does not realise or read that something dramatic has happening in agriculture this season, then you wonder why colonialism still distracts him so severely, so efficiently.

And when that Zimbabwean does not realize that when the countryside smiles, the whole economy burst into guffaws of fitful laughter, then you know his head can't be correct. Much worse if they are politicians. Then they don't realise 2018 is being won today, what with what had become of agriculture under the Inclusive Government. When defeat comes they will still murmur about a stolen election. The Rhodesian economy is daily folding up; the Zimbabwean economy is well on the rebound.

Let the dying Rhodesians cry; let real Zimbabweans strategise on how to turn this agricultural bumper into the beginnings of an industrial boom. Or we shall be the numerate nation which couldn't count.


Nathaniel Manheru can be contacted at

Source - zimpapers
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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