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"I do not write for fun": Interview with David Chiweza, author of Out of the Rabble: Ending the Global Economic Crisis with Lessons from Zimbabwe
Marko Phiri,
June 13, 2013

Tell us what inspired your recent book, Out of the rabble: Ending the Global Economic Crisis with Lessons from Zimbabwe.

My nation has grappled with economic challenges to the extent of serious political differences. Since 1992, I had known that the battle was for markets and not democracy and human rights after the infamous George Herbert Bush comments, just before his loss to Bill Clinton, "I have done a lot for America, I have liberated Eastern Europe, I have liberated Africa, therefore go and conquer the markets!" For nearly over two decades and in all the studies I have carried out based on first hand experience, I saw that markets determined the fortunes of every nation including America and Europe. Now that these nations are experiencing the same market challenges as we did then, albeit being misdiagnosed as corruption and mismanagement, we have every reason to question the ability of weaker nations to stand under the weight of global market competition other than the supply of raw materials. As my nation emerges from two decades of decline, I felt that it is important to learn the correct lessons from our strife lest we enter another period of economic mediocrity when we should in fact emerge stronger and wiser.

Your book seeks to not only address the global economic crisis but perhaps most importantly Zimbabwe’s own. You then go on juxtapose China and the US who pursue different economic models as examples of “how to.” What lessons can Zimbabwe draw from the book?

The twin elements of a local and a global perspective differ only in emphasis and positioning. Firstly I establish that the same market forces that affected Zimbabwe under a dominant South Africa at regional level are the same forces that now bedevil the west under a dominant China. Essentially since 1993 we have pursued the same free market economy as is practiced by the USA and now China. Ironically I inform my readers that Chinese free market economy has evolved from a 100% protected economy to a free market economy in tandem with its growing industrial power and the resultant need for larger global markets. The lessons to be learnt are clear. If you are weak, you must of necessity defend your markets, and if you are strong, you must attack other's markets. We clearly undertook a fools game, like the race between a hare and a tortoise and expecting success. The principle is clear; the superior overruns the weaker one. However, just as the biblical David defeated Goliath, not on the rules set by Goliath, but on his own rules, we also need to adopt economic guerrilla warfare tactics to defeat the stronger economies. We cannot beat them on their own terms.

Zimbabwe has a fair share of resources but has a poor reflection of those same resources in terms of GDP. In light of this, can you describe why your book is a must read for policymakers?

Great question. We have resources but they are being mined and exported raw. Moreso, not enough investment has gone in there for them to carry the nation in the absence of value addition and manufacturing industries. The great blunder we did was to dismantle the vertical alignment of the economy i.e. integration from primary extraction to secondary processing to manufacturing and finally to commerce. How we dismantled this is important. It was the free trade dogma, which persuaded government to abandon trade control. So commerce began selling and distributing products made by other nations instead of their own home made products. Commerce became a horse to be ridden by foreign companies to destroy the local industry. When local manufacturing is destroyed, it also in turn affects the fortunes of secondary industries. For example, the secondary industries of textiles died as a result of the demise of the clothing manufacturing industries. There has always been a demand-pull relationship between the people, commerce, secondary and primary industries. Secondary and manufacturing industries are dead and what remains is the primary industry that is completely disconnected with commerce. Policy makers need understand that there can never be value addition without restoring the industry structure in a systemic way. Any sustainable value addition ventures must start with locally consumable products in order to guarantee viability of investments.

You have previously written about AIDS, and now economics. Please tell us what inspires your choice of issue.

Clearly I do not write for fun. I am a thinker and most of the time I get triggers. Mostly it is painful conditions that force me to think and in the process, ideas are conceived and they grow as I process them everyday. At times I feel a burden so big that I have no choice but to discharge my duty. I still find the challenges in HIV being the same as in economics. Generally as a nation we have acquired an incapacity to deal with our problems much like HIV. The reasons are social psychological pollution. I have not been tainted with that having largely grown up being trained to be objective in the military. In the military you just study different terrains for warfare, and you cannot put boxes around terrain. Each terrain has its own unique challenges. Mostly the misplaced view of human rights and freedom concepts have been the largest pollutants. People no longer have the courage to tackle difficult challenges head on and are always preferring the easy but expensive way. For example, if a doctor orders an operation, a violent exercise of mutilating a body, its because it is the right thing to do to save lives. But often wrong thinking minds worry more about the pain or the fact that the person will have organs removed. The correct way is to focus on the correct thing then find ways of mitigating the negative effects of right action. By focusing on the fears of negatives of say mandatory HIV testing, or controlling imports, we have left ourselves with no viable options and therefore instead of decisive action we will nurse solvable problems for decades on end. We need a rethink on this.

One of the difficulties local authors face is getting their work accepted by local publishers. So, when you write, who are you targeting, a Zimbabwean or international audience?

It is true that local publishers do not accept works easily. It is also true of international publishers. The reason is that to be accepted you have to be exceptionally good. It’s about the prospects of making money out of the works. However, these days authors no longer need be limited by publishers as they can now self publish their books. With my writing, the first audience for me is Zimbabweans even though they do not have the culture of reading. All I wanted was to demonstrate what I know and to establish my right to speak as an authority who is thoroughly researched in the area. I did pitch it up for international audience because the free market lessons I have provided are also keys to the US and Eurozone challenges. With my model, I am able to explain every development in that part of the world.

Is writing a full-time job or a “side project?”

Writing is indeed a side project and for me it’s not about money because it certainly has no financial benefits at the local level. One would be very fortunate if they made a little bit of money. If money were the object then I would not have even completed one book. I am motivated by the desire to serve in a situation where I have connected with the truth. When the truth has been fully revealed, no amount of money can stop one from pursuing it. It is the reason why one may spend twenty years experimenting at great personal cost to the point of looking insane. There is draw in the spirit of creativity but it only happens when one has connected with the truth then no one can stop them until they are self-satisfied.

You are a retired soldier, has your military background, shaped or influenced you in any way as an author?

There is great influence from both my natural intellect (which was very good by the way) but benefited from the military environment which introduced me to high-level strategic positions from the tender age of 21. Besides the varied experiences I received, enabled me to understand issues from multiple angles. And besides the military taught thinking and trained me to avoid the thinking pitfalls such as fear, anger, love and other emotions that a commander is not allowed to think under. Sun Tsu says a bad general (leader) is easily angered, so that when provoked by his enemy he will throw all caution to the wind and order the army to advance unprepared and of course make wrong and fatal judgements.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

The thing is I am unlike researchers who look at a situation and then try to find out what the guiding principles are. My research is a life long experience. Because I see and reflect a lot and therefore I am constantly seeing and upraising situations without writing or taking notes. As I keep the thought in my mind, I pick up facts and evidence to prove or disprove the theory. Eventually the idea matures to the point I can confidently share with others. Only then have I connected the idea with our needs and then I start the process of writing by going backwards. I start from a thesis, then go and dig out the information I used to arrive at my position. So the process of writing the actual book becomes shorter because I pretty much know where to get the evidence. However the incubation period will have taken a long time. When I begin to write I just write as passionately as I feel at the time. Then I revisit the work in revision many times. You will find that you will never feel satisfied with your work. Each revision always raises up more refinements. However, you’ve got to get to the stage when you must be satisfied. Getting others to review the book is most helpful. Sometimes they can actually discourage you but you take advantage of the negatives by taking them as opportunities to reword, clarify or research further.

Which Zimbabwean writers do you think are on the up and up?

I am ashamed I do not know many people who can be classified as writers these days. You do get some people who write an odd book here and there but I think there are no serious professionally dedicated writers including myself. Quite visible though is Professor Rukuni who tends to write more in academic scholastic stuff. Milton Kamwendo on motivation though probably incidental stuff. I do not read novels so I really do not know what others are doing in that area.

What is your next project?

My next project is "Leadership at the Highest Level". I have written down the topic and at least 10 different chapters I can write about breakthrough leadership. This is based on my own experiences and observation on the pitfalls of leaders. There are many books on leadership, but I am convinced the stuff being revealed to me, I have not heard it or read it anywhere and therefore feel that I could make a contribution there also. I am worried about the death of the masculine side of leadership with most of us being forced to go feminine, especially in this nation where the father figure role is under attack. It is of course the causal factor in the emerging acquired incapacity to deal our problems.

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Read a review of Out of the rabble: Ending the Global Economic Crisis with Lessons from Zimbabwe in The Herald

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