On parasites and productivity in Zimbabwe

By Hilton Mendelsohn

I am not a pessimist by nature. I have a very strong tendency towards optimism and even when there seems to be no possibility for success I refuse to believe in the possibility of complete failure. Perhaps I simply adjust to the reality of what is achievable and celebrate that realising that there are still levels of failure that you would have never thought possible. Whatever success is achieved is therefore something. This is a condition many Zimbabweans have become all too familiar with.

Last year I sat down with my uncle and discussed what the economic situation had done to him personally. We discussed in detail the decimation of his pensions and savings and the bleak prospects the future held for him. during the same visit I also got to ‘roll’ with Zimbabwe’s Nouveau riche guys who had made a killing by either exploiting the collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar by buying commodities using cheques that by the time they were cashed were worth a fraction of their value or by literally buying and selling currency. I was taken to their fancy homes and I rode around in their fancy cars, I enjoyed the good life with them in the midst of devastating and growing poverty.

The one thing struck me as I looked around was that inherently Zimbabwe was and still is largely as wealthy as it ever was. The resources that existed previously still exist; the wealth that was there previously still exist, the amazing potential although smothered in despair still glows like an ember in the coals. Put simply you cannot create or destroy wealth only transfer it. It can therefore be argued that what has taken place is that the wealth once spread amongst the productive many has ended up in the hands of the unproductive few. Where once the farm and factory workers hand real value in their bank accounts, wages and pensions this had been abruptly taken away from them and placed in the hands of briefcase businessman and the shadowy characters that stalk the conference rooms and bars of Harare, Mutare and Bulawayo.

The problem is that while the wealth albeit limited that the productive masses had was largely employed in building up their capacity to generate more income. For an example they ensured that they had the means to go to work, and that the school fees were paid in order to improve the prospects of millions of children. These capacity along with their jobs is now gone. What we have now is a situation where millions of Zimbabweans are living on good will of friends and family and the multitude of aid agencies that are there to help but not really in a position to help build capacity.

There is an urgent need to get Zimbabwe back to work. There is an urgent need to restore some value to the masses so that we can build up capacity once more. The industry of these Zimbabweans can help create new opportunities for the rest and rebuild the capacity of the nation. For this we cannot look to those to whom the wealth has been transferred to because they do not have the skills not the inclination to develop any meaningful capacity for production, this is not in their nature. They instead will always look for the opportunity to make the next fast buck and God forbid this involve any actual work.

In a lot of respects we are as a nation reliant not only on external investment to get productive activity running again but also the skills that this type of investment will bring with it. Skills that can be passed on to a generation of Zimbabweans whose current skills development revolves around dreaming up ways to access aid or to become the scam artists that are their role models. Skills that can be stored as institutional memories in the forms of processes that can be passed on from generation to generation.

Listening to SW Radio Africa the other day I heard Super Mandiwanzira representing the Affirmative Action Group speak on the Indigenisation law in Zimbabwe. In a brash and boastful tone he call on Zimbabweans abroad to come home because “they can now own businesses”. It does not take a genius to understand that by this he meant they can now join in the plunder of existing businesses facilitated by the Indigenisation law. What Super does not realise is that many of these skilled Zimbabweans would have owned businesses in Zimbabwe through their own graft had the government of the time not made this impossible for them. In fact many of them own their own businesses now in South Africa, Australia, The UK and USA today and this at Zimbabwe’s expense. These are real businesses with real products built up by their own very real efforts.

Of course the majority of Zimbabweans abroad do not own businesses due to the simple fact that not everyone is cut from the same entrepreneurial cloth. The majority of people in the world are happy to enjoy the security of a job where they need only turn up and execute their assigned task and accept their pay check at the end of the day. By doing this they avoid the stress of the decision making responsibility, the long hours involved in running your own business and the frightening knowledge that if you don’t make a success of your business you don’t get paid. There is a dignity in working and doing your job well that people like Mandiwanzira do not seem to grasp.

Now that the farms have been taken and made derelict, the wealth and value that was once in the hands of the productive masses has been decimated and hope in Zimbabwe is all but lost it seems that people like the AAG are making their final move. They seek to transfer what wealth is left in the declining business sector and even that of potential investment is transferred into their hands. They are a group of people who seem to be intent on playing the role of Lion, Hyena and vulture on carcass of our beloved country. They seem intent on leaving only dry bones on the barren fields where once healthy people worked fertile lands and all this so that they can indulge in an MTV lifestyle. These people have got to be stopped and the will of the sensible, pragmatic and productive majority of Zimbabweans must prevail.

Zimbabwe as a nation with all its promise and its hope is on the verge of collapse unless somehow we can find a way to stop the parasitic predators that are feeding at the very core of our being all of this promise will be lost.

Source: – www.wezimbabwe.org published in 2010.

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