Determined to Remain Rooted at the Bottom

Energy and Power Development Minister, Dzikamai Mavhaire
Energy and Power Development Minister, Dzikamai Mavhaire

When we send our children to school as parents, generally it is to raise our stature, to increase our horizon. In a narrower sense, it is a form of investment.
Crudely put, there is a belief that you take care of your child so that he/she takes care of you in your second childhood.

This is at the basic level, the family as the basic unit of society.

A clever state does exactly the same. Education policy should be framed so that you have an enlightened nation, you learn new thoughts, ideologies and technologies. It is the foundation, a form of investment in the future development of every nation.

Those of any nation’s children who deserve to be its future leaders must be fully cognisant of their environment in all spheres of human endeavour – politics, economics, law, philosophy, engineering, the different scientific disciplines and the languages – in relation to the geographical security and protection of their nation’s enduring values and legacies.

The pursuit of knowledge can assume the form of personal hobbies or a more serious fashion as a field of competency sure to guarantee a good job and a top-notch pay cheque.

The aggregate outcome of all these endeavours should be the same: to end up with an enlightened nation which can stand its own on the global arena.

No nation should ever aspire to always be underlings, doormats of other nations, a perpetual producer of slaves to toil in the interests of others.

Given an equal chance by the Man above, every nation should aspire and strive to be self-reliant and self-sufficient.

That not always being the case, every nation should, as an existential imperative, use education to narrow its deficiencies and improve its competitive advantages, whether these lie in natural resources such as good soils for farming, water for fisheries or minerals or technological skills and competencies, if you are Japan.

(Japan jumps to mind because almost one in 10 vehicles I can see through my office window is Japanese although they don’t own even half the resources needed to manufacture a car.)

All this should be mundane stuff to the educated. Yet it probably isn’t so mundane when one tries to locate Africa on the rung of development since decolonisation, and the trajectory of its influence on world affairs even as the scramble for its resources hots up.

Where are Africa’s children whom we have been sending to the world’s “best” institutions to be our eyes and ears, if not legs, in the time of our second childhood? What new knowledge are they harvesting around the world which can open new vistas for Africa?

Where are the Kwame Nkrumahs who can resist the glitter and temptation on the Mount like Jesus did, to say I want to return to Africa to serve and save my people?

Why should President Mugabe stand alone as a torchbearer to a more economically-independent Africa when there should by now be more such spiritual guides?

Are we giving our children the right education, imparting and instilling in them the correct values, the correct history and the same passionate desire to protect their geographical space as our liberation heroes had to free their country from colonial rule?

Why do our children, with limited access to research and technologies than their counterparts in the West and Asia, appear to take for granted issues of national security when the same people who pose the greatest threat to us and have better technologies, spend sleepless nights inventing and plotting advanced ways to ward off hazards they instigate?

A cursory check indicates that Zimbabwe has some 16 universities, six of them private.

We glibly call universities here institutions of higher learning, and they should be, and the results should manifest in better living standards of our people through better technological advances.

We want to see the results of research and patenting of discoveries and inventions!

Or even simple adaptations or modifications of what already exists, if for nothing else, at least to demonstrate to the world that an African mind can also add value to an already available body of knowledge. Zilch.
O yes, what a detour!

Well, it’s meant to provoke a serious debate. Zimbabwe has invested so much in all fields of education only to produce babies who prattle political slogans and foreign ideologies which can never move the nation out of the cycle of colonial manacles.

The latest great controversy in Zimbabwe concerns the use of blended fuel, a mix of imported petrol and locally-produced ethanol.

Brazil is reportedly using a ratio of 85 percent (E85) ethanol to 15 percent petrol. It means their vehicles are moving if they are using it. Ethanol blends with diesel are already in use in Scania buses in South Africa.

Reports also show that latest vehicle models and brands such as Chrysler Voyager, Jeep Cherokee and Dodge Nitro, SAAB, Honda and Toyota, among others, are E85 compatible. Almost all vehicle brands found in Zimbabwe are said to be E85 compatible. We don’t manufacture a single vehicle brand. At best we merely assemble.

This is the debate: Government initially introduced a blending ratio of E5 to 95 percent petrol. There were protests. It moved this to E10. The protests grew louder. It is now pushing for E15.

Local vehicle assemblers – not manufacturers mind you – are just short of calling for South African platinum mine-type strikes. Some of them have allegedly advised their clients not to use blend otherwise they will renounce their vehicle warranties.

They say blended fuel corrodes vehicle engines. And the technology being used by Green Fuel to blend reportedly came from Brazil, which is already at E85. What is going on?

Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire assures us that he has done his consultations and that the ethanol blend is safe. The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority confirms that ethanol fuel is safe.

For a good measure, Mavhaire states that he was minister in 1982 and the country was using E25 inherited from Ian Smith’s Rhodesia.

Here is the political argument, for argument’s sake.

Government has set itself onerous targets under its economic recovery blueprint, Zim-Asset. One is to reduce imports and the other is to create jobs.

This is how Mavhaire put it in an interview: “It is (blending ratio) determined on how we benefit . . . there is employment creation, saving money lost through importation of fuel, reducing the price of fuel and generating power.”

That’s not for me to argue. I expect the children Zimbabwe sends to school every year, those who have been to institutions of higher learning locally and abroad, to simplify these things for us, explain to us in a layman’s language why E85 should work in Brazil but E15 can’t work in Zimbabwe.

(I am simplistically imagining that a lot of vehicles used in Latin America also come from Japan, thus plead for your indulgence!)

This is in the interest of democracy and human rights. Let those whose vehicles are sensitive to sugar pay a premium for their unadulterated petrol while the rest of us make do with blend.

I am fighting hard to suppress a fear that there are foreign firms which own fuel dealerships here which are out to protect their profit margins.

E5 reduces that petrol import margin by 5 percent, E10 by the same margin and E25 by a quarter of a US dollar per litre. These are US dollars and Zimbabwe has become an El Dorado, from vendors of trinkets to musicians.

Each day I look at our traffic-clogged roads in Harare at peak hour in the morning and evening, I try to imagine how much imported fossil fuel we burn when we could save money using local, more environmentally-friendly renewable energy from Chisumbanje where we use our home-grown sugar and create employment for our children.

But somebody believes, is convinced, that there is a higher god of vengeance and profit overseas to be served and appeased first.

My conclusion: the finest education without an appropriate ideological mooring and a spirit of independence and self-sufficiency cannot of its own free a nation from economic bondage.

And America has made it its mission to take the best of sons and daughters every year for “free” further education at its institutions to keep us tethered to its cultural definition of this world. Those are the children who come back to decide for us what fuel is good for us. Those are our children who shall be our future leaders.

And we sit here and wonder, what has become of African independence’s promise of a new dawn?

The way forward Africa, when all has been said and done, is a leadership which thinks about self-reliance, local solutions, and technological mastery.

 

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  • Mimi

    Wonder is the choice of Mavhaire as Zimbabwe’s Energy Minister was the right one at all. Does he have educational qualifications to tackle what it takes in the Ministry that he is Minister nhai veduwee, kungobvunzawo hangu.