Just walk the straight and narrow

In this week’s issue of The Sunday Mail, our columnist Richard Runyararo Mahomva handily reminds us of the words of Italian politician Massimo d’Azeglio.

D’Azeglio has been quoted saying” “We have made Italy. Now We Must Make Italians.”

Some accounts attribute the time of this nationalist rallying call to 1867, when Italy was in the grip of its Risorgimento, or Resurgence.

Whether or not Italy and Italians lived true to d’Azeglio’s watchwords for nation building – in 1867, or in 1871 when reunification was officially declared, or today when rumours of a possible return to politics by the oft politically incorrect Silvio Berlusconi periodically resurface — is a question for the people of that country to answer.

The question we must answer is: having made Zimbabwe in 1980, have we made Zimbabweans?

To help answer that, we must self-introspect and interrogate if we are a nation, a State or a nation-State.

It is by answering this question (having made Zimbabwe, have we made Zimbabweans?) that we can begin to mould the culture of putting Zimbabwe first in our politics and more importantly in our economics.

Readers of Antonio Gramsci, another Italian, will appreciate the importance of a cultural bedrock to nation-building.

This speaks to creating norms and mores of business at both micro and macro levels, something that evidently has been lacking in Zimbabwe if the madness around the black market, corruption and willy-nilly price hikes are anything to go by.

To create this culture that will ensure we start acting as Zimbabweans and not merely as people who happened to born in a place called Zimbabwe, there will be need for both the carrot and the stick.

As President Emmerson Mnangagwa points out, as we publish elsewhere, “This means everyone must play to rules and norms, including respecting the laws of the land.”

Before the President takes out his stick, the citizenry would do well to appreciate the carrot: there are no winners when we allow the black market to become a powerful economic Hydra that devours productivity, especially when all indications are that senior Government officials are behind such lawlessness and normlessness.

When criminality is not only unchecked, but indeed promoted by those who should know better, we are not being Zimbabwean. The new norms of the Second Republic cannot just be about demanding that Government alone changes its way of doing things.

It is noteworthy that Government is pursuing fiscal discipline and reimagining the business of running a country.

But that alone cannot be enough to turn things around.

Everyone must play their part.

The citizenry, and this includes the private sector, too must act responsibly and constructively.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has promised policy consistency, and better monitoring of Government spending, among other necessities.

To all extents and purposes, Government is walking the talk.

Surely we cannot expect Government to implement reforms that we are not prepared to implement in our own spheres both big and small.

As writer Ruzvidzo Mupfudza was fond of pointing out, one hand does not wash itself.

That we can contribute to creation of a better country for ourselves and our progeny should be carrot enough to instil norms and mores that are consistent with an aspirational society, in this instance one aspiring to upper middle-income status by 2030.

If that is not sufficient motivation, then the stick will have to be brought out.

President Mnangagwa rightly and timeously points out that: “We need to show all offenders that crime does not pay, but that it is painfully paid for by way of compounded grief it visits upon all such offenders.”

For now, that stick is going to get its strength from the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act.

That legal provision, as the same implies, provides temporary relief.

Which means we expect our Parliament to come to the party by expeditiously bringing into law a statute that contains an adequately big stick to motivate those who need such coercion to start behaving like real Zimbabweans.

Failure to do so would not only be a let-down for nation-building and an endorsement of the current criminality, but would also compel wider society to reconsider whether or all legislators are truly honourable after all.

There is no need for those who walk the straight and narrow to fear this stick, for it is not meant for them.

Blessed are they who in their politics and economics are true Zimbabweans.

But woe betide those who believe they can get away with selling a standard loaf of bread for $5!

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