The Sunday Mail
There are many idle minds around, and the Devil has his hands full in these workshops. The idleness is seen in the factional self-immolation that some in Zanu-PF have been delighting in when they should be more concerned with the fact that Zim-Asset’s deadline is fast-approaching.
The idleness is evident in the attempts by keyboard warriors to hijack civil service labour issues when they should be the young warriors at the forefront of technological innovation.
The idleness is apparent in Morgan Tsvangirai’s listless travails across rural Zimbabwe when he should be ensuring the opposition is vibrant enough to keep the ruling party on its toes.
The idleness is manifest in the fight of dwarves in giants’ robes that is gripping Joice Mujuru and her surrogates when she should be, well, there really is not much else she can do, is there?
The national plague of idleness takes form in sticky fingers finding the most inventive ways to cast themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods.
It gets expressed in establishment of countless roadblocks where motorists are forced to part with hard-earned money after every few kilometres.
And it congeals in the unlimited supply of deceptively cheap “Bronco” by good-living shysters in the northern suburbs to poor young Zimbabweans in high-density areas.
We are an idle nation and the Devil has been having a field day.
This national indolence is masked behind a veil of innocence behind which we lie to ourselves and everyone else that we really are trying our best to make a better Zimbabwe.
The grotesque innocence in the face of such idleness is well-captured in the Hindu epic “Mahabharata”, when the deity Yaksha asks King Yudhishthira, “What is the greatest wonder?”
The king responds: “Day after day countless people die. Yet the living wish to live forever.” Another version has the monarch saying, “We see death all around us; yet, we think that our life on Earth is permanent.”
We continue to live as if everything will resolve itself, as if our economy will rebound of its own accord, as if medicines will miraculously appear in hospitals and our infrastructure will regenerate by an act of God.
James Baldwin, one of the greatest African-American essayists of the 20th century, was horrified by this numbing innocence which breeds idleness.
In a 1961 conversation with Malcolm X, Baldwin said: “If I know that any one of you has murdered your brother, your mother, and the corpse is in this room and under the table, and I know it, and you know it, and you know I know it, and we cannot talk about it, it takes no time at all before we cannot talk about anything.”
Right now we are talking about nothing as a country.
And yet there is a national conversation we should be having, one that should jerk us out of our torpor and jolt us out of the stultifying innocence that makes us think we are working hard when in fact we destroying our country.
We need to have a conversation around creating a national vision.
Instead of immersing ourselves in merry-go-round bar talk about succession and never-never coalitions — which diverts attention enough for Robin Hoods to go elbow deep into the till — we should be asking ourselves what it is we need Zimbabwe to be as a society, as a polity and as an economy.
This should not be some woolly-headed mumbo jumbo about the Zimbabwe we want, it is a definitive conversation that sets out practical long-term national development goals.
All developed countries have done this. The Chinese put it quite simply: know what you need, outline the resources at your disposal to get where you need to get, and then set solid timelines. Thereafter, enforce, enforce, enforce! As things stand, Zimbabwe does not have a long-term agenda. We live by the day, happy-go-lucky in our idle innocence.
But we cannot continue to base policy on a mishmash of competing popular sentiments of the day as if life is permanent when we see death all around us. Zimbabwe needs a national vision, something to rally around the way our elders rallied around the push for Independence.
They wanted — to borrow from Frantz Fanon — to feel a “national soil” under their feet. They defined each other as “mwana wevhu”. They assessed what tangible and intangible resources they had at their disposal. And they set about the task of achieving their goals.
What truly national conversations are we having today? Do we know what we want to become? Do we know what resources we can deploy towards achieving this? Do we have the tools to enforce adherence to timelines?
Or are we merely coasting along in idle innocence?