Harare — AN American brother living in Zimbabwe, who loathes everything I write, poked fun at me in a recent email: "If you Zimbabweans are so clever, why is your country in such a bad state?" This has been part of my research on development, and the answer seems to be the need for a new paradigm.
Mrs Victoria Chitepo once jokingly accused Professor Terence Ranger of making the study of history so attractive that well over half our doctoral holders are historians -- Dr Jokonya, Dr Mudenge, to mention only the most illustrious ones. The Mukuru himself holds no less than seven degrees.
The true paradigm, embedded in these illustrious minds, as Mrs Chitepo pointed out is their love of philosophy for its own sake, and a lack of the practical. Having never ruled over a village before joining the guerrillas, they came back with lofty ideas, which are nothing but empty sounding cymbals, signifying nothing.
But there is an African ethos somewhere, which assumes that if you talk about a problem, then the problem will solve itself.
I give my students Dr Simba Makoni's budget speeches for the sheer joy of reading the English turn of phrase. Brother Makoni introduced his budget speech in 2001 with this lofty sentence. "The 2001 budget will be guided by, based upon, and targeted at realising the provisions of the Millennium Economic Recovery Programme (Merp) whose objectives are, (1) fiscal discipline." Did my beloved brother think seriously that government would veto any unbudgeted expenditures, say the President's unbudgeted weekly travels abroad? The speech was for style rather than for substance. But that is not to say that it was a useless speech. Good words, according to Bishop Tutu are the essence of Ubuntu itself.
Our beloved Vice President Simon Muzenda, when approached by tourism operators wishing to implement a petrol voucher system for their clients from abroad, were met with kindness and understanding. "We were just talking about your problem in the presidium the other day."
The fact that the vice president had talked about their problem was supposed to be enough to make them sleep well that night. Their hotel mortgages, however, due on the first day of the month, could not be paid by kind words, if no tourists showed up.
In order to run any country, one needs a solid middle class which understands the implications of rising interest rates and the attendant pitfalls of a depreciating currency.
My beloved brothers in government are so ignorant of the simplest things in life. They read about German inflation, a woman carrying a wheelbarrow full of German marks in order to buy groceries. Such people are either intentionally wicked when they allow the central bank to charge minimum interest rates of 540 percent, or they are plain childishly naïve.
Do they know that the great companies like Walmart and K-Mart in the US are lucky to make a six percent profit on their merchandise? These brothers have no understanding when they depreciate money by 18 000 percent. If one owed $100 and the money was devalued by 18 000 times, one would owe $1 800 000.
Apart from their economic ignorance, my brothers are deliciously naïve. This naivety, I believe is embedded in the African ethos as well. Look at the childish naivety in their welcoming the World Bank representatives. The World Bank does not care about Zimbabweans, or the Zimbabwean veterans. It wants us to pay our loans to western lenders. Dr Nyerere asked this question: "Shall we starve our children in order to pay you?" The answer is YES, STUPID. Look at their naivety in believing that Britain and the US will come to their aid? The World Bank is an American bank. It is not going to do anything against US policy -- and US policy requires that formerly white-owned land be returned to its titled owners or there be adequate compensation.
Unless there is a new generation of rulers who appreciate the realities of the modern world, are not naïve in believing that the western world is out to save us from ourselves, who understand that if you build a presidential house in a neighbourhood, one's neighbours too have mortgages to pay. Whispers of confiscation can squash property values, and thus the life savings of one's neighbours.
Now you will say: "Ken, but surely these brothers can learn this new paradigm." I did not learn this new paradigm at school. I learned it by running a real estate business. The smallest whispers, say, that the police are hanging around your restaurant looking for drug dealers, can cause a shutdown of the business, and a man's lifetime savings goes down the drain.
I don't think the brothers have the slightest idea of what they are doing. My sister had a life insurance for $240 000 for which she contributed for 25 years. When she died, it was not enough to buy her daughter's uniforms. My nephew, a newspaper editor, had a good pension of $5 000 a month in the year 2000. He cannot buy one banana with it now.
It is the economy stupid! Mr Blair and Mr Bush are laughing their lungs out till hell freezes over.
These foolish brothers don't understand a thing about economics.
lThis is part of ongoing research on Zimbabwe's Economic Decline. Readers are welcome to contact Ken Mufuka at firstname.lastname@example.org.