Are Diaspora Zimbabweans Letting The Country Down?
Carlos Mambosasa and Wisdom Nzvimbo are two Zimbabweans living and sleeping rough in South Africa. They are seen here in Cape Town on June 8 2009 with all their possessions at the spot where they sleep out in the open every night in the South African city. They went to SA in search of jobs, trying to use their skills to sustain their families back home, where opportunities are being denied skilled people unless their politics are "correct"
The US Congress Resolution on Zimbabwe, issued this last week, bemoaned the fact that "many of the reform-minded individuals within the new transitional government are limited by a severe lack of qualified personnel and material resources."
This was after one of the Congressmen from the States physically came to Zimbabwe and met with The Solution as well as the Prime Minister and others. He saw for himself the severe constraints that hamper government efforts.
First amongst these constraints is the fact that the MDCs lack any policy platform whatsoever.
Second is the shocking insincerity of Robert Mugabe, despite the Prime Minister's insistence that he is The Solution to Zimbabwe's intractable problems.
Third is the culture of cronyism that has now crept into the MDCs (or perhaps it was there all along and was not seen because the MDC was not in government.
But the lack of "qualified personnel" as stated by the US lawmakers is perhaps where we should start. And end.
Zimbabwe has, without a shadow of doubt, the most skilled people in sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa included. We stand head and shoulders over any other nation in terms of the range of skills and expertise we have produced over the last 30 years or so.
But those skills are not in this country anymore. They have been poached by countries as far afield as Australia and the United Kingdom.
Previously, our problem was that, even with these skills, Zimbabweans were excluded from contributing to the development of our nation by ZANU PF. It was more important to be a card-carrying member of ZANU PF than it was to be skilled.
So we found skilled people marginalised, their ideas scoffed at or stolen in broad daylight, to be butchered because no one can implement an idea better than its originator. Witness the case of Strive Masiyiwa and Econet.
I remember how Strive Masiyiwa, Enoch Hwande (who owns an advertising agency in Zimbabwe) and myself would sit at Enoch's office in the Avenues of Harare as Strive prepared to launch Econet. I witnessed first hand the spanners that were thrown into his path by the government of the day, simply because he was not a screaming, grovelling ZANU PF card-carrying zealot.
He was frustrated by politicians who sought to steal a march on him and launch their own cellphone companies, even though they had never thought of the idea until Strive brought it up.
Eventually, he triumphed, but he had to play the political game and was saved by one of the most principled men ever to take part in politics in Zimbabwe, Dr Joshua Nkomo, who was a vice-president of the country by then.
Skilled people, professionals and geniuses of Zimbabwe, rarely, if ever, meddle in politics. Their passion lies in their work.
This is proving a problem for them, really.
It is now clear that the MDC-T, especially, has caught the ZANU PF fever and is rewarding loyalty to Tsvangirai ahead of competence. The skilled people we need to turn this country around are not welcome here unless they prove sycophantic and bow before the political masters.
Professionals have professional pride and they are not prepared to do that. This is why the US lawmakers see such a dearth of skills in this country.
The skilled people do not want to come back because, no matter how good their ideas are, they will be marginalised unless they take part in the destructive politics of Zimbabwe.
To many of them, it is easier to stay away, to stay in countries that reward competence and ability regardless of the politics.
Tsvangirai and the MDC-T, as the embodiment of hope in this moribund GNU, are, in fact, the ones betraying the dream of Zimbabwe by following the route of filling their offices with cronies and sub-standard people, alienating critical thinkers and so on.
Simply because someone criticises you does not mean that they do not support you, that is a lesson Zimbabwean politicans should learn.
But, as things stand right now, companies like ZESA, National Railways of Zimbabwe, ZINWA, Hwange Colliery and even the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority are all staffed by bootlickers of ZANU PF and, if the MDC-T had its way, they would instead be staffed by MDC-T bootlickers, not by professionals.
The people running government now, as well as those in state-owned companies, know that they can retain their jobs if they sing the praises of the ones who hold real power in government. Competence is not a factor.
This collapse will continue and Zimbabwe will slide further into mediocrity unless this changes.
Zimbabweans with skills need to be given space to contribute to a new Zimbabwe, regardless of the politics.
We can end our electricity, water, housing, job and economic problems today if we allowed professionalism to triumph over politics.
That this is not happening can be blamed on both ZANU PF and the MDCs. Their approach to government, seeking to reward party functionaries ahead of professionals, is contributing immensely to the death of Zimbabwe.
So, to answer the question: It is the politicians who are letting the country down by focusing on party allegiance and not competence, not Zimbabweans who simply seek a place where their expertise is valued ahead of their political character or allegiance or skin colour or tribe.