The Sunday Mail
There are two seemingly disparate and unrelated stories in this week’s edition of The Sunday Mail. The first is to do with Zimbabwe’s capacity to map its geological formations and establish exactly what lies beneath our soil.
The second, in our Business section, is to do with how the Chinese are “working themselves to death”.
Young Chinese, new in the workplace, drive themselves to exhaustion as they put in unbelievable hours all in an effort to get ahead in their careers.
Sadly, they overdo things to the point where the human body says enough is enough and expires.
Of course, this is an extreme example of putting in long, hard and productive hours.
Generally though, the Chinese — like the Japanese — are famed for their work ethic.
There is an anecdote of a Chinese government official telling a news reporter, when asked if Beijing would help struggling European economies financially, saying: “We do not give our money to lazy countries.”
Naturally, the whole of Europe is not indolent. The hard work ethic is often associated with the Germans and the Swiss, primarily.
Is it, therefore, in any way surprising that China, Japan, Germany and Switzerland have the kind of economies that they have?
Zimbabweans have been famed for their hard work, too. Stories are told of how we make admirable employees whenever we up sticks for the proverbial greener pastures. (Perhaps it is partly this being “good employees” that is stopping us from seeing the full benefits of empowerment.)
Talking to just about any South African, Motswana, Namibian, British, American or Australian employer yields comments such as, “Zimbabweans are sharp,” “Zimbabweans are hard workers,” “Zimbabweans are my most trusted employees.”
Our education is also famed, and we have the highest literacy rate in Africa.
So why is our economy not performing as brilliantly as that of, for example, China?
Sure, there are several factors. There are the sanctions, which ZANU-PF says cost our economy some US$42 billion over the last decade or so. Then there is public and private sector corruption, whose cost we are yet to quantify. And then there are sundry other factors, such as unwieldy bureaucratic processes, outmoded legal frameworks and other inefficiencies whose net effect is to curtail economic growth.
All fair and fine. But even if we were to fix all these things and get sanctions lifted, there remains another ingredient that must be factored in for our economy to tick as it should.
There is simply too much incompetence coupled with laziness in key public offices for us to move forward as we expect to.
For instance, how is it possible that 34 years after gaining sovereignty over our resources we still do not know what exactly lies beneath our national soil? It means we have been planning our mining policy on a day-by-day basis over the whole of three decades when other countries are planning 50, 100 years ahead!
This also means that we lose resources and revenue to any Jack and Jill with a spade. After all, does Government know what resources lie under the commercial farms it has been redistributing since 1980? We have all heard of how some white commercial farmers were busy digging for gold and diamonds on their farms, making money that Government did not know about.
Is this not still going on, albeit now it is resettled black farmers who are digging to unearth gems and metals rather than digging to plant crops?
It boggles how we can be called a hard working and highly educated nation when we are almost clueless about our economic wealth. Government should not tell us that it has no money for a thorough geological survey. What has been happening to all the royalties and taxes collected from miners since 1980? Can we not set aside a small portion of this monthly for that purpose?
Yes, some will say the country has other pressing needs and that all mining proceeds should be channelled to these more important things.
But as the cliché goes, failing to plan is planning to fail; and we cannot plan our economic future if we do not know what resources we have.
As a nation, we should reach a point where we simply declare some things as unacceptable and demand real sweat and application of mental faculties by those entrusted with public office.