Category Archives: Civic Responsibility

06Jun/20

Which Other Side Are the Silent “People of Conscience” Afraid to Offend? /Dr. Noah Manyika

I write this to my brothers and sisters in the United States where I spent over two decades working in the American missionfield. I would normally build up to the following statement and put it at the end of my write-up, but I will open with it for the sake of those who only need a condensed version of where I stand. In my view there is no man nor woman more dangerous than one whose self-righteousness will not allow them to be moved by the spilling of the blood and the taking of the life of an innocent man simply because that person doesn’t look like them.
 
So here is the rest: Sometimes life drops the equivalent of what in Anti-Submarine Warfare is called a “depth-charge” which is designed to either force an enemy sub to surface from the depths of the sea, or to destroy the sub altogether. Proverbs 20:5 describes the intents of man’s heart as “deep waters.” Jeremiah 17:9 talks about the desperate and unknowable deceitfulness and wickedness of man’s hearts. The reality is that it’s not always easy to force the wickedness buried deep within our dignified and pious selves to surface so we can deal with it.
 
Those who have simply never been caught, or who live in a world where their felonies and misdemeanors are often overlooked or diminished, nurture their indifference in the “goodness” of not having criminal records, and never having been fired from their jobs for using inappropriate or politically incorrect language. They feel completely justified to be resentful of anything that makes them feel guilty for the heinous and reprehensible acts of others who cannot exercise public self-restraint like they can.
 
Their “self-restraint” extends to their silence when something bad happens to people who don’t look like them. They say: “Since I have never lived their experience, I don’t want to misrepresent their pain.” They conveniently forget that we empathize with others not because we have lived their exact experience, but because we, and they, are human. Unless of course we don’t believe they are human. That was why many of us were traumatized by the images of desperate people who didn’t look like us choosing to jump to their deaths rather than being burnt alive in the infernal flames of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
 
Equating the killing of a person with destruction of property and adopting an absolutist stance that criminalizes all protests as acts of violence and people taking the law into their own hands, reveals a frightening depth of callousness. Those who adopt such ahistorical stances conveniently forget that the right to protest was one that was exercised by the Sons of Liberty in Boston, Massachusetts in December of 1773, an act of defiance called The Boston Tea Party which stoked the flames of the American Revolutionary War, and ultimately led to the independence of the United States in 1783.
 
There are too many supposed men of conscience and faith leaders who think their silence or muted response is a sign of leadership. They claim they don’t speak out of respect for the good people on the other side. It’s only at such times that they forget one of the great lessons from the life and ministry of Christ that true leadership distinguishes itself by taking an unequivocal stand for what’s right. We see that leadership demonstrated by the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18:21 when he challenged the children of Israel with these words:
 
“How long shall you hold between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.”
Elijah could take that stance because he was not confused. Unfortunately, too many leaders who have always been certain about scripture become confused when issues that challenge their attitudes towards people of other races present themselves. I am at a loss to understand which other side the silent “people of conscience” would be afraid to offend by saying out loud and clearly that the killing of George Floyd was murder, and that no one should meet such an end at the hands of law enforcement officers. Because I am very black, as is my son, what would they say if that officer’s knee was on my neck, or my son’s?
11Aug/19

We Have Been Tragically Mis-Educated

As we approach the protests planned for the 16th of August, the government’s propaganda and psychological operations (PsyOps) teams have gone into overdrive. They are aided by the fact that we are a people so thoroughly mis-educated we will believe anything and thoroughly play ourselves.
 
There are messages circulating right now that Donald Trump has “hired” 17 flights to ferry people to Zimbabwe for the protests.
No one in their right mind should believe Trump is spending sleepless nights over the situation in Zimbabwe, but many of us do, including highly educated people who totally misapprehend what it takes for foreign countries to be engaged in solving problems in other nations.
 
It wouldn’t take much to remind ourselves that for three months starting on April 6, 1994, the Interahamwe/Genocidaires in Rwanda massacred over 800 000 people before the Clinton administration and other leading world governments lifted a finger. Even then, much of their response was focused on ensuring the safety of their own citizens, not solving the Rwandese problem.
 
There is no external savior coming to our rescue. There are no foreign airlines that are going to risk ferrying protesters to Harare, and as we all should know, the Zimbabwean government would never grant them permission to land knowing their mission.
 
All this, and the rumors that the US government has deployed four drones over Harare to cover the protests simply feed the lie that protests are “foreign sponsored.” Those peddling these falsehoods without common-sense fact checking must know they are aiding and abetting the enemies of change who want to provide a trigger-happy government justification for a brutal response to people exercising their constitutional right to protest.
 
These lies can cost lives, and those peddling them must know that they too will have blood on their hands when the soldiers, black boots, CIO, Zanu(PF) thugs act on them.
 
Our mis-education also makes us prone to “uninformed exceptionalism,” or the lethal belief that we know what we don’t know and that the laws of political and economic gravity don’t apply to us. As a result we expect investors to flock to our country even if we have not created an environment that guarantees a return on their investment. We are surprised when the “friends” we trade with no longer overlook our habit of not paying our debts and refuse to supply us with electricity or extend us credit. We expect the world not to care that we are one of the most misgoverned countries in the world with public institutions run by plunderers and swindlers. We expect them to simply accept what we say about ourselves and to deal with us on our own terms.
 
Again, there is no external Superman coming to our rescue, nor should there be. One of the bitter lessons those who sought relief from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein learned is that the freedom the oppressed don’t secure for themselves is hardly freedom at all. It is naive in the extreme to think the primary motivation for foreign intervention in any place is to free the natives. The reality is that in Iraq, the coalition partners were primarily focused on securing their immediate and long-term strategic interests. Those interests were not necessarily congruent with those of the Iraqi people.
 
There can be no greater celebration of our heroes and honoring of their lives than us exercising the constitutional rights they laid down their lives for. Those rights include the right to protest and to demand corruption-free, competent and accountable government. Peddlers of falsehoods provide justification for the government to deny us that right and must be condemned with all the force we can muster.
 
Is There Not a Cause?
26May/18

We Must Vote for The Best

We must stop bewitching ourselves and stealing the future of our children by listening to those who want us to believe it’s “too late” to make the best choices for ourselves. African countries fail to to eliminate poverty because of the electorate’s acceptance of the promise of “better” instead of the best that is possible. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations not to settle for less when we can have the best.

Its never too late to vote for the best councilor. It’s never too late to vote for the best MP. It’s never too late to vote for the best presidential candidate. It’s never too late to reject the idea that all we Africans deserve are slight improvements of our terrible conditions. Not only must we demand more of ourselves and from our leaders, we have a duty and responsibility to make it clear to those who think we are too stupid to know who we are and what we deserve that we are children of God who deserve the best.

Is There Not a Cause?

10Oct/17

We Must Do The Right Thing, Not What Is Easy.

There are many things I don’t like doing but which I do because they are good for me. Running up this hill is one of them.

The leadership culture we must build in Zimbabwe is one of doing things not because they are easy or we like doing them, but because they are right.

We must have difficult conversation with our relatives in the security services about doing the right thing, including disobeying illegal, immoral and unconstitutional
orders.

Part of the leadership code the ruling party adopted in 1984 says:

“In the case where a leader believes that an instruction from a Zanu official seriously violates Zanu’s constitution or policies, he may decline to carry out the instruction and promptly notify the immediate authority above him of his reason for his refusal.”

In other words, even the ruling party recognizes that it is legal to disobey an illegal order. It may not be easy to do so, but it is the right thing to do.

Choosing a competent leader who is not from your tribe over a corrupt relative and tribesman may not be an easy thing to do, but it is right.

For some war veterans and relatives of those who have been in power since 1980, voting for a different generation of leaders who are equipped to bring our country into the 21st Century even though they don’t have liberation war credentials may be difficult, but it is the right thing to do.

Recently Minister Patrick Chinamasa agreed with our position that Zimbabwe cannot afford a legislature the size of ours. It will not be easy for MPs to vote to eliminate their own constituencies, but under a BZA government they will do so for the good of the nation.

Because of our commitment to reduce the size of the cabinet to 15, senior members of our party will have to accept that not everyone is going to become a cabinet minister. They will do so not because it’s easy, but because it’s right.

During the election next year, standing in line for the whole day to vote will not be easy. Great nations are however not built on easy choices. We must register to vote right now and on Election Day turn out in unprecedented numbers not because it is easy, but because it is right.

Zimbabwe. Our nation. Our heritage.

Zimbabwe! Ilizwe lethu! Ilifa lethu.

Zimbabwe! Nyika yedu! Mhaka yedu!

13Mar/15

We Need Each Other To Build Zimbabwe

In a recent article reviewing Joe Studwell’s book about how countries like Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China (The Asian Economic Tigers) have become development success stories, Bill Gates asks if “The Asian Miracle” can happen in Africa.  According to economist John Page, the success of these countries had clear policy origins. Growth and development were ignited by “combinations of policies ranging from market-oriented to state-led that varied both across economies and over time.”  They have been sustained by good macroeconomic management and timely and effective responses to macroeconomic shocks.

None of this is beyond our capacity as Zimbabweans to do.   I am not convinced we don’t know what to do technically to right our economy.  If we don’t, we certainly should. We are too educated and too world-traveled not to know.  Our problem lies elsewhere.  At independence, manpower development was, along with land reform and raising the standard of living of the population, one of three economic objectives in the first National Development Plan announced by a government led by the second most educated cabinet in the world.  Education and manpower development had been a critical part of the war. Those who are old enough will remember the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Survey of 1982.  Today many of Zimbabwe’s sons and daughters who are products of this manpower development strategy have the opportunity to provide their best thinking to other nations and Fortune 500 companies, but little opportunity to do so for their own nation.

Zimbabwe can become a high-performing economic tiger if we decide to need each other, and engage every Zimbabwean at home and abroad in the business of building our nation. This is something we need to do as a matter of urgency.  We are a nation of exceptional entrepreneurial talent with significant human capital outside of our borders, all of which can, along with our abundant natural resources, be leveraged for rapid economic growth should we choose to.  I am not one of those who believes that there are no external forces that work against our success.  At the same time, I believe we owe it to ourselves to succeed in spite of them. As long as we continue pretending we do not need each other, Zimbabwe will not be able to succeed in a competitive global environment. The cost of not leveraging everything we have to advance the common good is unacceptably high. If we are not moved by the urgency of this moment, our non-performing economy will prove to be the greatest enemy not just of our present and future, but of our past. It has already become an effective weapon in the hands of those who seek to delegitimize the efforts that brought freedom to our country, even as it distorts the present and delays the future.

My late grandfather (Asekuru as we all affectionately called him) worked as a cook for some prominent people in Rhodesia, including Chief Justices Tredgold and Lewis, Prime Minister Godfrey Huggins and Governor Herbert Stanley. His determination to gift each of his thirteen children with a life he could only dream of produced great educators, diplomats, a freedom fighter, a government minister, nurses, etc., a generation which did not think like him, but which he was rightly proud of.  Asekuru not only gifted his children, but himself in the process. By the time he died in 1969, the quality of his life was much better because of his children. Had Asekuru lived long enough, he would have been proud of one of his grandsons who is an advisor to a US$17 trillion economy and a much sought after consultant to the world’s top technology companies.

The reality is that we do not have a shortage of intellectual capital to deal with the problems of an economy that is a fraction of the size of a company like Google. The World Bank puts Zimbabwe’s GDP at US$13.49 billion. Google’s Market Capitalization stands at $391.16 billion. It makes no sense that a $17 trillion economy and companies worth hundreds of billions of dollars would be more desperate for the counsel of a Zimbabwean than our own country! Other important global entities Zimbabweans touch or work at  include The World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, sovereign wealth funds, global private equity firms and other technology companies from Google to Facebook and Twitter. They play leadership roles in many of the world’s leading hospital systems, banks, not to mention all the successful homegrown businesses. Let me repeat what I wrote earlier:  Zimbabwe can become a high-performing economic tiger if we decide to need each other, and engage every Zimbabwean in the world in the business of building our nation.  Again, it is something we need to do as a matter of urgency.  Every Zimbabwean must be recruited for this effort and each generation given the space to contribute in its own way to the building of our country.

Allow me to close with this thought: The nationalists who brought it home in 1980 did not think nor fight like their forbears, even though they shared their values. They were a different breed who used the best thinking of their generation and the tools available to them to win the war. I have no doubt that their predecessors were cheering them on all the way to the finish line. They in turn successfully paid it backwards (made the sacrifices of those who preceded them worthwhile) and forwards (made self-determination a reality for future generations) by winning the war for everyone. Zimbabwe can become an economic tiger, and in short order too if the different generations can cheer each other on. Together we can get the job done.

Is There Not a Cause?

06Aug/13

My Daily Vote: A Challenge for My Countrymen

In the interest of time and space, let me cut to the chase: the problems facing our country (Zimbabwe) will not be solved by the despondency of those who lost the July 2013 elections or the gloating of the victors. What we are dealing with is far too important for us to waste time and energy in pointless pouting or unseemly revelry.
And yes…both do take time and energy that needs to be focused on the serious responsibility we have to rebuild our country and to make it work.

When the prophet Samuel went into a protracted time of mourning after King Saul met his demise in 1 Samuel 16, the Lord asked him how long he was going to mourn for Saul. There was nothing wrong with mourning for Saul. What was inappropriate was the length of time Samuel was at it, mourning as one who had no hope and putting off critical national work so he could have a good cry.

Gloaters are not given an easy pass either in the word of God, being warned in Proverbs 24:17-18:

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Or the LORD will see it and be displeased, And turn His anger away from him.”

For those who cannot resist the temptation to gloat, it is clearly not the way to invite God’s blessing on their work.

The fact is there is work to be done, urgent work that we cannot afford to postpone because of our emotions. I feel personally challenged by the story of young Joseph, the Hebrew teenager who was sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers. Upon arrival in Egypt, he was bought by Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. According to Genesis 39: “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man” even though he was a slave. The scripture continues to tell us that

“his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him.”

Joseph had every reason to be despondent in Potiphar’s house. He chose instead to affect the space he occupied and to impact that household. He excelled in spite of being confined. Potiphar had no choice but to acknowledge that Joseph was special, so much so that he made the young slave the overseer of his house and put everything he had under his authority.

When we become Josephs in our own spaces, we become irrepressible, uncontainable, unstoppable. Our personal and collective journeys might take us through dark valleys, but we must go on knowing that it is only those who persevere beyond the disappointing “almost there” moments of their lives who fulfill their destinies.

Falsely accused of attempting to rape Potiphar’s wife, Joseph ended up in prison where he continued to be a problem solver and was promoted by the warden to be in charge of all the prisoners. What Joseph did everyday was a vote for Israel. It was because of his diligence and faithfulness while in confinement that he eventually came to Pharaoh’s attention and received the ultimate promotion that set him over Egypt and saved the Hebrews from the famine that ravaged the land.

We need a movement of Josephs, irrepressible, uncontainable and unstoppable problem solvers and game changers in whatever space they occupy. Our communities need that. Zimbabwe needs that. Africa needs that. It is time for us to be embarrassed when missionaries from other nations come to perform work we can do for ourselves. How difficult is it for a group of villagers to get a few buckets of paint to repaint their own school or replace missing window panes? How difficult is it to organize ourselves to pick our own litter and keep our communities, cities and villages clean?

The truth is that it takes more than a change in government to turn our communities and nations from aid and charity dependent centers of poverty, conflict and dysfunction into vibrant, self-sustaining communities of hope. While the political environment in our country can be blamed for the economic difficulties we have gone through, it is not responsible for the employees and executives who, through pilfering and embezzlement, bring the companies that provide them with employment to their knees, something that has happened to institutions started by investors I am acquainted with. For every tragic leadership story, I can tell you several stories of citizens who seem to think it is normal behavior to cut their own noses to spite their faces.

As much as we need new types of leaders, we need a new type of citizen even more, one who believes that what they do every day, and not just on election day, is their vote. That daily vote for our country through our diligence and faithfulness in our space is tamper proof and will always be vindicated.

Does that mean the vote that comes once in four, five six years is not important? Here is my conviction: we can only prosper when we allow our best citizens to become our leaders, when it is not their wealth, length of time as members of political parties, ability to throw stones etc. that qualifies them, but how much of a Joseph they are in their space.

We set ourselves up for disappointment, for faux dawns and faux springs when we are led by whoever outruns everyone to the front of the line, whoever shouts loudest the slogan we want to hear rather than the truth we need to hear and promises us the quickest and easiest route to a destiny that can only be reached through patient endurance.

In other words, elections are only as meaningful and as important as the quality of people contesting them. Indeed it must be the commitment of every political party in our country to field our best, those who vote for the country daily with their deeds. That way we make sure that the country always wins even when a political party loses the contest.

Is There Not a Cause?