This is a good time to be in Zimbabwe. There is never a dull moment. Too many issues are unfolding and I am not yet decided whether the advent of social media is a blessing or a curse.
By GLORia NDORO-MKOMBACHOTO
Social media is in the habit of locating us wherever we are and compelling us to peruse and scrutinise the messages it is always delivering. It can be pervasive, often spellbinding but mostly underwhelming. If you lack discipline, you can easily spend the whole day glued to your smartphone or notepad, browsing. Right now social media is abuzz with various news on Zimbabwe, often real time with accompanying analyses and as fact-based news is delivered, so is fake news.
After mining through the information rubble, here is what I believe are the first two important things happening in Zimbabwe today. They are not in any order of importance. Next week we will discuss the remaining three.
l On the political front — The Zanu PF succession race has reached cliffhanger proportions
The nation is getting weary from the suspense. There is no regular information flow at all. The national broadcaster, ZBC, has clearly demonstrated their inability to report anything objective, that is not propaganda, about the armed forces takeover that is not a coup.
The only certainty in our current political climate is that the suspense is both thrilling and incapacitating. It is thrilling in the sense that every day presents a new twist, unforeseen before and incapacitating to the extent it is now very hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
Many are now armchair analysts exchanging with other self-styled political analysts — all of us unqualified — but sharing all the while, on issues around a vicious Zanu PF succession battle not immediately beneficial to ordinary folk.
No matter how close they are to the unfolding saga, anyone who predicts to you what is going to happen tomorrow is lying.
What we know is that there are the captors whose captured are in captivity. There are negotiations with #1 captured to the dismay of the public because what is now becoming apparent is, as time is progressing, that #1 captured is getting support from many self-serving, multi-faced, hero-worshippers within Sadc.
Zimbabwean people are tired. They want change. Now. Any change right now is good change. We are all too aware that there has to be a sequence to that change process, the first one being, seeing the menacing ones, the captured or on lockdown go, by whatever means necessary. Three days ago there was renewed hope as the new dawn seemed to be within reach. Now we are waiting with baited breath.
It is not yet Uhuru
As we remain cautiously optimistic and the jockeying for power continues behind the scenes, the one delightfulness delivered to the nation by the armed forces is the absence of the police on our roads. What a relief. Most of us are self-regulating compliant citizen and intend to keep it that way whether the police is on the roads or not. Be that as it may, the citizens of Zimbabwe remain minimised as outlier spectators, forever seeking basic needs and fearfully distressed as a captivated audience.
What is undesirable and unwanted, however, is for those with the tools and machinery to protect our Constitution, to unexpectedly turn rogue on us causing death, anarchy and mayhem. History is littered with anecdotal evidence highlighting that nothing ever good comes out when this bloc seizes citizens’ spaces. From where I am sitting, your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not this scenario will play out at all. So we shall all wait and see.
l On the employment front — As many with higher education are flat broke, those with real skills are flourishing
We need to have the readiness and preparedness to take advantage of the opportunities that will be presented by a new dispensation. Unfortunately, one of the menacing and disturbing challenges facing Zimbabwe today is education, compromised by lack of knowledge and wisdom. Yes, you can be very educated, but lack appropriate knowledge and relevant wisdom.
On a per capita basis, white folk in Zimbabwe are less book smart than their black counterparts yet on the innovative, creative and highly skilled and adaptable grid, they thrash black people by a wide margin. White folk understand how to live in Africa. The majority of black people do not.
White folk brought us their version of education on a boat, taught it in their language, via a textbook and left us with an insurmountable yearning for a corner office, clad in a “suit” or “costume” (my pet peeves) and disappeared into the veld in safari garb to make a handsome living.
Mentally, we are conquered and defeated. We abandoned all our African knowledge systems and today ourselves and our children are stuck, all weary and sweaty from the scotching African sun, pounding the streets of our towns with meaningless CVs devoid of demonstrable skills, in a hireless economy.
It is shocking that as unemployment in Zimbabwe continues unabated, more and more of us continue to seek higher education in the mythical belief that higher education invariably leads to higher employment and better-paying jobs. It does not because it is nothing, but a fallacy. Nowadays in Zimbabwe, higher education delivers brokenness and pennilessness masked by delusions of grandeur. The MBA that you slogged for, is probably the one thing that is standing between the third world problems you encounter everyday and prosperity because of too much worry about, “what will people think?”
Show me any person’s negative opinion of yourself, creating the necessary currency to pay your bills and I will show you a bald-headed Apostlic faith elder with a straight perm. “What will they think when I tell them that my livelihood is now derived from selling kapenta than from the training practice I had set up that went bust?” You are obviously in wrong company and it is wise to desist and resist from being with characters of that ilk. Their perception of you has got nothing to do with you. It is their problem not yours, unless of course you choose to believe otherwise.
Knowledge can be powerful indeed, in your head, which is a good thing. But knowledge ought to be powerful enough to be transformative. If that “knowledge from college or varsity” lacks the tools to enable you to transform, regroup, revitalise yourself and adapt, when it becomes apparent that, that knowledge is no longer a guarantor of success, then that “powerful knowledge” has bred in you an inflexible ignoramus. Yes, your MBA, your Ph.D, etcetera, would have been captured by your very own self-bred ignorance.
In defence of a higher thrust on the skills development movement in America, Michael Schrage writing for the Harvard Business Review on July 29 2010, in a paper entitled, Higher Education is Overrated; Skills Aren’t, argues, “Dare I point out that Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Dell’s Michael Dell, Apple’s Steve Jobs, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg are all college drop-outs? The point isn’t to declare a college degree antithetical to launching a high-tech juggernaut but to observe that, perhaps, higher education isn’t essential to effective entrepreneurship.”
If you are not using your hands right now to make a living and you have tertiary education and in addition you are flat broke, you are the person under discussion here. Doctors are skilled, they use their hands together with technology to feel, diagnose and heal; so do lab technicians, they use their sight, knowledge and hands, engineers do so too, plumbers use their gloved hands to heal our drains, waste collectors carry those long and heavy plastic pipes to suck the smelly honey from your septic tanks, seamstresses and welders alike use their hands and so on and so forth.
It is never too late. You can adapt and learn new skills. It is never too late to regroup. The problem we have as a nation is a branding issue. A broke brother with a Ph.D is revered at family gatherings than his barely Grade 7 sibling who is a tailor running a small factory in Epworth, a factory from which all and sundry, (including the Ph.D big-headed), within the family are deriving their livelihoods.
What Zimbabwe needs right now are skilled people. The dangerously underrated human capital issue here is not quality education in schools but quality of skills in markets. It is low to virtually non-existent currently. The best skilled ones packed up and left for greener pastures. South Africa and the United Kingdom are benefitting from them. Most of the ones left behind tend to be fly-by-night operators, acquiring their skill on the job, through trial and error, by themselves, while charging a hefty amount.
To get a borehole technician, plumber, welder, carpenter etc, you have to know someone who knows someone, who will eventually get you to the right person. The few good skilled technicians are so well sought-after, often you have to wait days until they are able to assist you at reasonable prices because they are professionals guided by professional ethics.
Zimbabwe needs more technical colleges right now. Government ought to create an enabling environment for that to happen, without thwarting any efforts by entrepreneurial minds because of corruption. The last thing we need are more higher education institutions for they are good at delivering “purported knowledge” and are incapable of transmitting the skills needed to bolster effective entrepreneurship for the future turnaround of Zimbabwe. That preparedness and readiness must happen now.
Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and a regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years. She can be contacted at [email protected]