Amadoda Sibili (Men of spine)

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I am big a fan of the intelligentsia, the technocrats and any other such class of people who have a strong technical and educational background who decide to dive head first into politics. Listening to intelligent people speak is a privilege, the way they approach a problem and define a logical and often sequential solution for the problem is admirable (The pragmatism is often up for debate). I have spent countless hours listening to Professor Jonathan Moyo, Professor Welshman Ncube, Professor Arthur Mutambara, Dr. Simba Makoni amongst others whenever I manage to fish their ideas from the internet. Dr. Nkosana Moyo belongs to that same intellectual class of politicians (If he can be labelled as such).

When Dr. Moyo left cabinet in 2001 after he had strong objections with how the country was being run, President Mugabe labelled him a coward and stated “I do not want ministers who are in the habit of running away. I want those I can call amadoda sibili [“real men”], people with spine……….Our revolution was not fought by cowards. If some of you are getting weak-kneed, tell us and we will continue with the struggle”.

For the 2018 elections, Dr. Moyo has put his hat into the ring and decided to wrestle the levers of power from the ZANU (PF) regime and create a Zimbabwe where a 2.2 million job count does not include washing my brother’s clothes. Having been more used to listening to Dr. Moyo’s ideas from an intellectual perspective on YouTube, I always thought he was more fit to be a senior bureaucrat or a minister of finance much like Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda, who served as the nation’s finance minister between 1997-2005.

One aspect of Zimbabwe’s current political landscape particularly in the opposition has been a failure by the intelligentsia to grab power within the opposition ranks. Few would argue that Morgan Tsvangirai is more strategically and intellectually adept than the likes of Arthur Mutambara, Welshman Ncube, Tendai Biti et al in the fight against ZANU (PF). But Uncle Morgan has maintained a vice grip on the levers of power and influence in the opposition ranks.  I would love for someone to tell me a really logical reason about what makes MT stand out besides the fact that the people love him. As a faithful student to the teachings of Robert Green and Niccolo Machiavelli I would argue that his creation of 3 VP’s in the MDC is a way to remove a point of concentration to oppose him if the party ever decides to remove him. I would argue that the “Handiende” (I won’t leave) syndrome seems to be getting the better of him, he argues that Mugabe must go yet he has been at the apex of opposition politics since 1999 (when I was still in nursery school) A common reason amongst the folk who love him is “Ndiye akaita zvivindi” (He had the courage in other words he is “Indoda Sibili”) which is indeed true. In the past his lieutenants who have deserted the MDC (or kicked out depending on who writes that particular piece of history) have accused him of using violent tactics to get rid of opponents.

The violence and cult politics of the ruling party are public secrets which I shan’t delve into in an effort to keep this short. However the rise of lunacy in the ruling party is something that has to be mentioned. The choking of intelligentsia in the political discourse has resulted in the rise of blasphemous men such as Kudzanai Chipanga who equate the president to angels. It has resulted in intelligent men such as Psychology Maziwisa abandoning logic and common sense to spew hot air about how doing laundry is equivalent to a job created by ZANU (PF).

The above examples about the state of 2 of the biggest parties in Zimbabwe’s politics tell a story about our political culture, our political landscape and those who the masses are currently allowing to succeed in the current political framework. When Dr. Moyo came to UCT on 17 July 2017, I had hoped that beyond an intellectual discussion of the African and Zimbabwean problem he would discuss how he, as an intellectual and evidently exceptionally intelligent person, intends to navigate through the murky waters of Zimbabwean politics. How intends to beat the bullies at their own game and usher us into a new era of Zimbabwean politics where others of his intellectual strata have failed. Unfortunately I was not convinced but I was hopeful for the future given that many such people of his calibre are trying to change Africa through organisations such as AfDB etc. Perhaps starting at parliamentary level in a carefully chosen constituency like Advocate Fadzayi Mahere would have been more advisable for Dr. Moyo and it would have partially buffered him from the above mentioned. Maybe Robert Mugabe was right our politics is only fit for “amadoda sibili”.

In the future, I dream of a Zimbabwe where we shall debate ideas and policies during elections and not who spent more years fighting a bush war and who has more scars from ZRP baton sticks. I dream of a Zimbabwe where during elections the future shall be debated and not history analysed. I dream of a meritocratic Zimbabwe where people shall be judged by their work ethics and talents and not who they suck up to. For now that Zimbabwe is not upon us and 2018 is chance for us to map our way forward. In the words of a song sung during #FeesMustFall protests “Phambili ngechimurenga” (I suppose both the ruling and opposition parties can use that as an inspiration, whoever fits the shoe is free to wear it).

Written by Tafadzwa H C Kwaramba

On this day, Wednesday 19 July, in the year of our Lord 2017

 

 

 

“The headless heart” ?

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I’ve been closely following the candidature of certain independent candidates in the Zimbabwean political landscape particularly Fadzayi Mahere and Nkosana Moyo. I have always had an affinity for high academic achievers who delve into the treacherous waters of Zimbabwean politics. Perhaps this affinity is because they embody a lot of what I hope to become.

One post that has popped up on social media was posted by Fadzayi Mahere and dated September 2014. In this post she talks about the tendencies of trust school (private school) children to complain and yet refuse to be part of the change with respect to the Zimbabwean crisis (sorry cde Thabo there is actually a crisis in Zimbabwe). I was fortunate/privileged enough to attend a trust school and arguably the best school in the country, St. John’s College. My favourite subject during my 6 years in high school was history particularly the lessons on the cold war and anything that was related to Marxism.

I was the kid who lived in town, away from the plush suburbs most of the kids lived and cyclically missed school for financial reasons (we all know how unforgiving that economy is) but I still made it through thanks to tenacity, hope and faith. Nonetheless being the kid from the other side (in relative terms and not in absolute terms), in a space dominated by rich kids of ministers and those in the top social strata, I found the ideas of Marxism and communism attractive due to their emphasis on equality, particularly equality of service provision and opportunity. I largely tried not to juxtapose my life at school from my life at home, I tried to remain a genuine kid.

I give this background so as to provide context for my opinion about Adv. Mahere’s post. The superiority complex present in the post is rather disturbing. Particularly when she talks about trivial issues such as the accents with which ZBCTV news anchors present the news. What does that have to do with national development and quality of ideas ? While I appreciate Adv. Mahere’s attempt to bring an intellectual dimension into Zimbabwe’s politics (a politics that is tired and bereft of new ideas), she seems to be out of touch with the soul of the common man. While she campaigned against bond notes and also spent a night in the notorious Chikurubi prison, her campaigns have been campaigns of affluence. They have been campaigns of potholes in Mt Pleasant, campaigns against the burning dumpsite in Pomona, campaigns of selfies in prison. They have been campaigns of bringing accountability which is good but in my homeland no one with friends in the right places ever gets arrested. Adv. Mahere would be a great politician in another political realm that is not Zimbabwe. Reading a lot of what she stands for I wonder, how much of it actually benefits the “gardeners and house-keepers” who stay in the boyskys of Mt Pleasant without a direct benefit for her and those of her social strata. A friend of mine juxtaposed the treatment she gets in the hands of the police to that meted out to tenacious fighter for the vendors in Zimbabwe, Stern Zvorwadza. Stern has been a recipient of severe police beatings but there is something about the things he stands for, he stands for the poor, he is from the poor.

We have seen how our leaders (both opposition and ruling party leaders) have tended to drift and wade from the people and their aspirations as time, power and responsibility have consumed them. The question is does can an Adv. Mahere bridge this gap without ever having been on the other side of the gap. I remember vividly in high school how an announcement would be casually made “Please bring $50 or $100 tomorrow for ABC or D” and I would think damn, that’s an amount I need to tell my parent days prior its need not 24 hours before. This shows the different world many of those referred to in Adv. Fadzayi Mahere’s post come from. Paul Collier, an Oxford scholar warns of good intentions that are not well thought-out. He talks about the “Head-less heart”. I wish Adv. Fadzayi Mahere well in her campaign.

Written by Tafadzwa H C Kwaramba

On this day, Friday 30 June, in the year of our Lord 2017

The eulogy or the CV?

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The sands of time have seamlessly slipped through the proverbial hourglass and some are at the job hunting phase. When browsing through the internet looking for a job to claim a stake in South Africa’s $300 billion+ economy and help grow it, the realities of being a Zimbabwean citizen creep in. Despite being on the path to being armed with the requisite degree for certain jobs, many companies state that they only hire South African citizens and permanent residents. Looking at the low economic growth in SA and the contentious issues of social justice engulfing the country, one can hardly question the necessity of legislation that arm twists firms into adopting such practices.

Preparing and writing a CV for the few jobs one can apply for has brought into perspective the activities I have engaged in over the last 3.5 years in university. It makes one think of the intrinsic value of extra-curricular and co-curricula activities they engage in beyond the aesthetic value of having them on a CV. Oft times we have been bombarded by the importance of living for the moment and being true to ourselves. This message in some ways contradicts what we were told in high school that we must strengthen our CVs for university applications. As we go through University the message  continuously reverberates through campus that we must strengthen our CVs so as to look attractive to potential employers.

At this critical juncture, one wonders at what point it will be beneficial and permissible to live for ourselves and our passions without attempting to create a CV to please A,B or C institution. Many many years from this day, our eulogies will be read and our epitaphs will be inscribed in our tombstones. What will they say? For some of, they will speak about intrinsic human qualities such as ubuntu, love, kindness and honesty despite a paucity of admirable achievements on their CVs. For others they will have CVs laden with achievements that are stuff of legend and can scarcely be repeated but their eulogies will be bereft of the virtues stated previously. For others their eulogies and CVs will be empty such that they would have touched no lives through their achievements or actions. They would have literally lived as silent passengers on this planet. For others their CVs and eulogies will espouse many attributes that make life worth living. Passion, achievement, ubuntu, love and honesty.

We are all wired differently and are a sum-total of our life’s experiences and hence the decisions each of us takes will be different. Our places in the above defined spectrum will be different but above all, we would have lived. As the great sage King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 2:24 “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good.This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God.

 #KusvikaMatipaMabasa

Written by Tafadzwa H C Kwaramba

On this day, Tuesday 20 June, in the year of our Lord 2017

Rules and their purposes

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The malleability of the human mind is fascinating. The capacity of the human mind to imagine things that don’t exist and to create rules and systems through such imaginings is part of why society has grown and thrived according to Yuval Noah Harari in his book “sapiens a brief history of humankind”. Yuval Noah Harari points out that the capacity of humans to imagine entities such corporations and make them their own legal entities capable of borrowing and lending money and being sued in courts of law outside of their physical owners is a large part of what makes humanity different from other animals. He refers to this human capacity as a capacity to believe in myths. In a TedTalk on his book he remarked “If it cannot suffer, it is a myth”.

This human capacity to create rules and laws (effectively believing myths) to enable the efficient functioning of society is explored in detail by Hernando De Soto in his book, “The mystery of capital”, with particular attention to the evolution of property rights in Western societies and America. Hernando De Soto states the poor must be permitted to register their land and homes so that the properties may be turned into capital and help the entrepreneurial spirit of the poor thrive in our capitalist societies. He further argues that the poor in the so-called “3rd world” already operate outside the conventional law as squatters and vendors etc and have their own set of laws and rules which are usually unwritten but evolve as the interactions in the societies in slums etc evolve which they abide to in their “illegal” (He refers to this as extra-legal) businesses and homes ( so-called illegal shacks) etc.  De Soto argues that conventional law must be tuned to accommodate the extra-legal law that poor abide by so as to create inclusive societies and enables the poor to register their properties (which are officially non-existent in many cases) and help them unlock the latent value of the land their properties are built upon (note how the value transcends beyond the physical land but into a financial space where things can’t be felt or touched ie myth). In a nutshell De Soto posits that as long as the law does not adjust and subscribe to how the majority people live their lives it is effectively moribund as the extra-legal law will dictate the tide of events.

Along this train of thought a question arises of “What if the majority of people are actually acting in a way that is detrimental to society?” (think tragedy of the commons). In industrial disasters, it is interesting to note that many incidents are caused by cultural violations ie. instances where a rule is commonly broken to increase the efficacy with which work is done. This can be translated as a type of extra-legality. While the majority of the time accidents do not happen in industry, when they do it is catastrophic. A typical accident that was caused by such “extra-legality aka cultural violations” is the BP Texas disaster. Hence due to such incidences the chemical industry has pretty rigid rules and laws with respect to health and safety despite the extremely low probabilities of disasters happening.

While the industrial example might seem extreme, one then wonders where the line should be drawn between the flexibility of accommodating extra-legality tacitly or explicitly and where rigidity is required particularly on issues that pertain to the livelihoods of the poor. Are we to stop the vendors selling fruit in the streets of contemporary Harare and condemn them to grinding poverty based on how they flout city by-laws or are we to tacitly allow them to expose the citizenry to typhoid. Are we to legally allow those who have built their homes in “illegal settlements” to claim ownership of places they have stayed in for +-15 years etc, what would this precedent mean for future invaders of urban space. Innovation and a high level of creativity will be required to solve and optimise these challenges that contemporary Africa faces.

Written by Tafadzwa H C Kwaramba

On this day, Thursday 11 May, in the year of our Lord 2017

*Disclaimer: I write as a layman. I am neither a student of history, law, economics or an expert at any such trade. I write only to explore and share ideas.

The sacrifice of the entitled

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So, best part about a long weekend is it gives you time to think about useless stuff and do a whole bunch of “Thought experiments”. Zimbos always discredit ZRP traffic police and share videos humiliating them on social media and we all sprinkle likes as is our moral duty as keyboard warriors. When people (students) complain about white monopoly capital or how the west steals African resources, we all rally together behind these noble clarion calls of pursuing social justice and we dutifully comment on such issues on social media, blending into the so-called “right-side of history”.
As I am in (hopefully) my final year of undergraduate studies, I actually wonder where the intersection of pragmatism and principle lies and what lies in this intersection with respect to seeking for a job and slef-preservation financially. Today I bet many of us engineers would accept jobs from Glencore (who’s record of transfer pricing in Zambia is a public secret albeit not illegal) and help them suck the African continent dry. Many of us would accept jobs in the financial industry and use our talents to sustain this industry despite confessions of banks to dishonesty and manipulating the Rand.
Yet, we would all stand and mourn that we are hopeless victims of a system and we need to survive which is a fair point. There will be the few brave one’s who will sacrifice much in the name of principle in an effort to gain control of the levers of power and enact the change we yearn for. History has recorded many such men, Zimbabwe’s own revolution was led by Robert Mugabe (who could have stayed in independent Ghana and lived comfortably as a school teacher, Herbert Wiltshire Hamandishe Chitepo who was the nation’s first black lawyer and could have absconded national duty and lived a comfortable life as an attorney in the then independent Tanzania. South Africa also has many such sons and daughters eg. Thabo Mbeki). When these men gain the levers of power after taking immeasurable risks (when many others are/were being cowards and blaming the system), they gain a sense of entitlement which breeds cronyism, corruption and general kleptocratic behaviour.
Would it be right for us to to one day blame the current breed of political lions fighting for African democracy if they fail to adhere to the promises they are making us. Perhaps these men who govern us are entitled to their entitlement, perhaps those who shall displace the current despots will be entitled to their entitlement. Many of us are hardly willing to sacrifice anything for the greater good yet we complain and have an immeasurable capacity to produce all sorts of intellectual reasons why change is necessary. Every time I speak to someone who was once involved in student governance in Zimbabwe during the 1990s and a few from the 1980s and I ask them why did they stop politics, the general response is so middle-class-like along the lines of “It was too risky” or “My family and myself would have been exposed to danger etc”.
Anyway my take home point is maybe, just maybe, these despots deserve their pound of flesh and so will the next set of despots who’s systems we are voluntarily oiling as the generation of middle-class Africans.

Written by Tafadzwa H C Kwaramba

On this day, Saturday 15 April, in the year of our Lord 2017

Morally corrupt: The wounds of honour

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I come from a land which was well summarised by Ayn Rand in one of her passages, she described a society where the corrupt thrive at the expense of the honest and hardworking and she concludes that such a society is doomed. Many great sages have touched on the subject of corruption. One of the wisest men to live king Solomon wrote on bribery. In the contemporary African space, former South African president, Thabo Mbeki gave a glowing philosophical speech on corruption  where he poses the question of “is it possible to corrupt that which is already corrupt?”. In his speech he also continuously quotes king Solomon. This tells us that the conundrum of dishonesty and corruption has been a part of societal DNA from the back of beyond of time.

I have always been inspired by high ideals that are espoused in the readings of great leaders and kings. The media has also taught us to hate corruption, from exposing national leaders who steal, loot and plunder to exposing the smaller fish who think no one sees them. There is another type of corruption which is hardly talked about in great texts but is often talked about in the quiet of our homes. This is the “necessary” type of corruption!

Imagine trying to earn a living in contemporary Harare and you decide to be a taxi (kombi) driver. As soon as you start your job, traffic police and their rent-seeking behaviour, armed with their many roadblocks solicit for bribes so you can freely operate everyday. Being a person of high ideals you decline to pay and you are kept hostage at police roadblocks. While every kombi makes people sit 4 per seat against a design capacity of 3, the police tend to overlook this, however your refusal to pay the initial bribe results in you being fined for overloading. If a person in this situation opts to pay the bribe, are they as guilty as the person who asks for the bribe?

This question is easy for us to answer in the comfort of our homes as the self-righteous keyboard warriors we are. If the hypothetical kombi driver was a father of 3, would it be honourable for him to let his family die for his integrity. The game of life is heavily skewed against many and as long as those who control the levers of power at whatever level do not attempt to level the playing field those who cheat and circumvent the system will often escape unscathed therefore creating a moral dilemma for those with strong moral campuses.

When the game of life is rigged against you, how does one react? Are they to mutate and conform to circumstances or do principles always guide the course of action despite the consequences? I conclude by saying quoting a movie I watched called “Last Knights” where one of the protagonists accepts his fate before execution and before submitting himself to thee executioner he says “The wounds of honour are self-inflicted!”.

The means or the end ?

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My mother has often told me “The ends do not justify the means”, this is of-course a very objective statement which is not a an incontestable truth. A differentiation between a means and an end has been something I have often thought about since the day I got my A level results. I remember on January 24 2014 silently disembarking a kombi (taxi) collect my A level results. I was anxious but expectant. A few teachers who had already seen my results saw me before I received my results and gave me huge hugs and hearty handshakes but still I remained anxious, perhaps they were happy because their level of expected excellence was a notch below my own. I stood in line and got handed my results. It was a clean sweep in all the 4 subjects I had written (Straight A’s). When other parents who knew me saw  my paper (My mom opted not to accompany me as the precedent had already been set with older siblings) they were euphoric and showered congratulations. However later, alone, I sank and looked at the paper and felt like I was still the same guy I had been before the straight A’s. I questioned how different would I have been if I had gotten straight B’s and not A’s, if that’d have fundamentally altered my self-worth. The following two questions bugged me as I looked at the results “And then ?” and “But what’s the point?”.

These questions gave birth to my attempts to differentiate between the means and the ends. Often in high school and even through our time in university we are reminded and remind ourselves of our dreams and ambitions.  Many dream to be big-shot CEOs, others dream to be professional athletes, others dream to be teachers and educate the next generation of lawyers, engineers, social workers etc. Admittedly all the above professions and jobs are noble in their different ways (though some would be more glamorous than others in the social hierarchy). I would like to posit that the above jobs and professions should be merely means to an end, the end of which should include making the world a better place.

Unfortunately throughout my science education and career guidance since I was 17 seemed to conflate the means and the end. Eg, back then I dreamt of becoming CEO of a petroleum company and I was always encouraged to pursue my goal, but I was never encouraged to be conscious of how I can be a good CEO. See, being a professional athlete, for example, gives one influence over hordes of adolescent beings ie. being an athlete can be a means to encouraging the young to avoid destructive behaviour (which would be an end in itself in this case). Being a CEO or an executive often reflects one’s capacity to deal with complex problems, this problem solving capacity can be used to help create vibrant companies (and by extension satisfied workers) and also help in being social leaders and role models for the upcoming generation as well as their peers. Being an executive is as important a career target as determining the type of executive one wants to be. Observing business moguls such as Strive Masiyiwa shows how money he has earned is not an end in itself but he has used it as a means to provide education for thousands of vulnerable children.

Only after the above reasoning did I realise that my grades enabled my increase my realm of influence (involuntarily if I may hasten to add), the question was how was I to use this influence on those who looked up to me.

In a nutshell, it is important that as we progress through our respective careers, whether in entertainment, sport, social or corporate worlds that we continuously evaluate what means our careers have given unto us so that we can dutifully make the world a better place and use these means constructively. In conclusion I ask you to ponder, how will you use the influence you are to garner through your trade ?

Written by Tafadzwa H C Kwaramba

On this day, Sunday 5 March, in the year of our Lord 2017