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The big idea: Governance is the issue

My own idea of the big idea is not just more of the same!

By Zifiso Masiye

The lasting importance of the watershed election ahead of us, fellow Zimbabweans, must be the extent to which it delivers a gulf of difference between the Zimbabwe we have always known and a Zimbabwe that is entirely re-imagined, in new and radically reconfigured, structural ways.

The big idea has to be founded, firstly and firmly on an understanding that the resounding failure of Zimbabwe since independence has to do, not simply with Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, for that would limit us to the naïve notion that the absence of Mugabe, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF will result in some automatic resolution of our monumental economic and governance quagmire. The simple removal of liberation governments elsewhere has dashed hopes as sensationally as it raised them, for the sheer inadequacy of the big idea. The big idea must acknowledge upfront that the very ground, the orientation and architecture of African economies and the factory settings of the framework of governance is fundamentally flawed. In their current design, form and content, the entire governance infrastructure and the attendant institutions are utterly incapable of delivering substantive change… and shifting faces and chairs will not begin to change that painful fact.

The big idea must be informed by a commitment to altogether deconstruct the vision, institutions and infrastructure of government and to reframe government in radical and fundamental ways. The big idea has to do with radical re-imagining and reconfiguring of our place, our role and our competence in the region, in Africa and internationally. The big idea must entail our outward offer, a well-thought-out Zimbabwean version of reconstructing Africanism.

Only if we intend to continue to beg and think, as we seem to, in terms of aid and assistance… Only if we remain content to paint our faces and outsmart each other on the global ramp, on the naïve conventional basis of flaunting our raw commodities as do girls in The Avenues and Borrough street can this be a matter of our comparative personal appeal and the confidence that Donald Trump, Theresa May, Xi JinPing, or Europe have in Nelson Chamisa, Nkosana Moyo or Mnangagwa!

The big idea is openly acknowledging the severely broken fabric of nationhood and committing to invest in effective sincere national renewal based on inalienable citizenship of all and a compelling national vision. It is about realising that the ultimate answer to our challenges lies within us, harnessing our diverse and abundant natural, human and technical resource capacity, embracing the folly of our well-known extravagance and brazenly corrupt practices, and committing to full responsibility for radical attitude and process change.

The big idea must be about awakening to the fact, not only that the world does not owe Zimbabwe any charity or benevolence and you are not entitled to global pity, the fact that our power of bargaining, no matter how sovereign we are, is ridiculously skewed when we deal with a united Europe or a mega-economy of 1,5 billion Chinese. The big idea must be in knowing that outside a strategic coalition of Southern African countries and economies and outside the framework of a robust African Union, our piecemeal, inward-looking national strategies count for little more than the perpetuation of archaic personal fiefdoms that entrench the enrichment of successive dictators.

The big idea must be in understanding that Zimbabwe cannot be everything to everyone — and neither can its neighbours. Effective industrialisation of the sub-continent is not only a must, but its success largely depends on scaled- up intra-Sadc trade, which itself must be anchored on Zimbabwe identifying, niching, promoting and bringing competitive value of its unique regional product, to the sustained satisfaction of its partners on the Sadc network and vice-versa. The big idea must be about reconfiguring our internal infrastructure and resource base to leverage the emerging regional and continental scenarios.

The big idea has to be secured on the sound basis of creating reasoned global and regional scenarios of demographics and the anticipated response of the content and the globe to increased climate change, climate refugees and accelerated migration patterns. The visions of the candidates proposing to take Zimbabwe to the next level cannot just be wooly, romantic fairy tales and dreams plucked from the sky. They must be grounded on evidence and a demonstrable appetite and capacity to understand and explore the world around us.

Of the estimated 2,5 billion citizens to populate Africa in the next couple of decades, 50% will flood the cities. Unprecedented urban migration will precede industrialisation, unlike what has happened elsewhere in the past. The big idea, Chamisa, is to anticipate the potential crisis of governance and the opportunities to arise from a rapid increase in consumption patterns and commodity demand, of everything from cars to TVs to fridges, but particularly food, food, food! Food production and food security will be an agenda forced on our governments in a few more years.

The big idea is in the vision for massive structural change and infrastructure revolution that must support jobs, jobs, job! and a boom in agri-business. The big idea must shift the current thinking from poverty reduction to wealth creation.

It must entail a deep understanding that the very foundations of sustained African poverty are in commodity trade, but also that it can never be in the interest of China or Europe to develop your internal capacity to add value to your diamonds, to sell them garments rather than cotton, to sell them the African wilderness experience, rather than your raw elephants, to create thriving markets for your farmers and link them.

The big idea that must move citizens to the polling station is not that you are younger, shorter, handsome and newer on the political stage, my good brother, or that the name of your party happens to be different from ED’s. The big idea has to be the idea that fundamentally shifts the very basis and foundations of our political and economic thinking.

Earn my vote! I want to hear and feel your big idea, without doubt of its distinct integrity, Mr Candidate!

l Zii Masiye writes elsewhere on social media as BalancingRocks

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