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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • New constitution must end Bambazonke mindset
    Ndabezinhle Ndlovu
    January 06, 2010

    Recently the Co-chair of the parliamentary select committee Douglas Mwonzora indicated that an estimated four million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora will be given a chance to contribute to Zimbabwe's constitutional making process. And well here is my small contribution that pretty specific and aimed at addressing the Bambazonke mindset that has disadvantaged other regions cities in terms of national cake distribution.

    The new constitution must have a mechanism in place that other regions of the country are NOT disadvantage by the Bambazonke craze that seems to have hypnotized many in Zimbabwe. I will be straight to the point. It appears to me that you need to travel to Harare in order to get any important document always. Unless you are in Harare you stand to lose out on many items that reacquire head office for authorization. I mean ask anyone outside Harare and they will tell you that you have to go to Harare to get your birth certificate, passport and even a liquor license.

    The Problem

    We can not afford to pile all civic, administrative, sporting, travel, educational activities to one city. In fact this has put a great strain on the one time sunshine city. Ever wondered why Harare can not even clear the garbage the city produces? The reason for this is the lunatic efforts of trying to centralize everything to Harare. You don-t believe me? Read on.

    Economic Growth Deprivation

    Most of the decision and policy makers might not be consciously aware of the long term effects of centralizing everything to one city. Centralizing all services to one city disadvantages and robs other cities and regions of their inherent capacity to grow and develop. How and why? Now when ALL concerts, meetings, rallies, conferences, tournaments, document applications, congresses , state funerals etc are held in one city it means that ALL commercial and business activities follows suit to where the big fish and crowds are. Let me distil this to a very minute level .When any of these major events are hosted in a city , there comes along business activities ranging from hotel accommodation, transport, fuel stations, restaurants, air time, beverage etc which means that for your business to tap into the honey trail, you must be located in Harare to avail your services.

    This inherently deprives, robs and short changes other regions whose industries can experience growth because no big business player wants to invest in Masvingo or Mutare or Bulawayo where there is less activity.

    Ripple Effect

    This has a ripple effect and unintended consequences. For instances mobile companies who run businesses for a profit have no motivation to setup more base stations and increase capacity in areas where there is NO marked activity that always comes with hosting of events seminars. As the chain reaction proceeds, investors in travel and tourism sectors are most likely going to follow suit and channel more resources to the region that will yield highest returns. The ripple effect can not be exaggerated . As a result of this biased distribution of resources which area creates more jobs and business opportunities? Well, the city that hosts everything.

    If I was planning to setup a business in Zimbabwe and had two options of opening offices in either Gweru or Bulawayo, which location do you think will be the best one ? None. Business logic would suggest that I take my plans to Harare.

    International Funds & AID

    As far as the international community that donates and avails money and AID to Zimbabwe is concerned, the money and aid sent to Zimbabwe is set to develop the country and NOT Harare alone. This is where the deprivation and robbery takes place.

    An interesting example of this is in the higher education sector. Now the example I am using here is of an area I know of and other regions are affected in a more or less similar way. My choice of using Bulawayo schools as an example is based purely on my knowledge and familiarity with the higher education system there. As a result this does NOT exclude other areas affected by the same bias possibly in Mutare , Gweru , Kwekwe Masvingo etc.

    Planned and Organized Deprivation

    Bulawayo is basically divided into western and eastern suburbs. The latter is where the bulk of the people reside - emalokitshini. Now during Rhodesia, only 2 schools in the western suburbs (townships) offered A level science. Namely Mzilikazi High School and Mpopoma. There are no more than 40 places for A level students in these schools. So what it means is that the whole western suburbs can maximally produce 40 students to qualify for higher education institutes from a science point of view. No new A level science schools were introduced after independence in the townships! I would be glad if any one out there points out the new A level schools that offer science in Bulawayo-s townships !

    So what?

    On 26 June 2009, seventeen bright but economically disadvantaged Zimbabwean students received full four-year scholarships worth over $5.5 million dollars to study in the United States. Ambassador James D. McGee. None of these came from the southern part of the country because maybe they did NOT meet the high grade criteria? The full list of the recipients and the colleges they will be studying:

    Blessing Havana (Pomona College), Rutendo Ruzvidzo (College of Wooster), Tafadzwa Mahlanganise (Davidson College), Tanya Sawadye (Cottey College), Yemurai Adda Mangwendeza (Yale University), Zvikomborero Alexander Matenga (Wesleyan University), Tatenda Yemeke (University of Chicago), Tatenda Mutsamwira (Jacobs University), Lovemore Simbabrashe Kuzomunhu (University of Pennsylvania), Lovemore Makusha (Williams College), Lesley Nyirenda (Stanford University), Corra Leigh Magiya (Providence College), Joshua Fomera (Duke University), Lennox Chitsike (Hamilton College), Ngonidzashe Madungwe (Tufts University), Stephen Dini (Swarthmore College) and Tinofara Majoni (Colgate University).

    These students probably deserved the scholarships and we are proud that they will do the nation proud BUT they could have benefited from a skewed system that disadvantaged other pupils from other regions. Well that-s NOT these recipients's problem. Such situations have long term effects that may manifest themselves in resentment of some people by some section of people.

    Can not connect the dots with the students in the townships where there are only 2 A level science schools on Bulawayo? The inherent robbery or deprivation of opportunity lies in the very fact that these students from the townships can NOT even compete on a level field to be considered for these scholarships. It-s a numbers game. The more schools in an area with A level science will avail more students to be considered for the scholarships. So an area with 2 schools providing A level science can ONLY produce so much students to avail for consideration .No need for rocket science to figure this out.

    As I said before this is not unique to Bulawayo region alone, but also relevant to other areas that are outside Harare as well. But I chose to use an example whose facts and reality I am very conversant with.

    In simple terms the Embassy did a great job to give kids from poor backgrounds a chance to shine. But as I said the donors only give and then decision makers based in Harare decide to give an unfair advantage to some areas at the expense of other kids simply because they don-t come from the region.

    Soccer Players?

    Ok let me am more brutal. Sometime last year there was an unofficial position from ZIFA that for a player to play for the national team, the player had to come from Harare because it was expensive to transport players from other areas like Hwange, Gweu and Bulawayo. Now this had an interesting side effect. Many players from outside Harare started leaving their teams for Harare based clubs so that they enhance their chances of playing for the national soccer team. Remember this situation arose during tough economic times and as such cost reasons will be sighted as an excuse on this one. But as you might know the performance of the national soccer team nose divided along side with this unofficial ZIFA policy. Recently the national team was twice thumped 3-0 by Thailand and Syria in some Asian tournament. Why ? The "catchments" area of talented players has been shrunk. As such there is no huge pool draw from

    I know truth hurts.

    Part of this problem is due to the mental colonial inheritance. I can assure you that some of the decision makers genuinely believe that everything must happen in Harare. The list of people with such mentality even includes individuals who come from regions outside Harare.

    It defeats logic why less than 20 % of the resources for 2010 readiness have been allocated to Vic Falls, Bulawayo and Mashing (Great Zimbabwe ) the last 2 that are nearer South Africa than Harare.

    More Examples

    I will point to a few recent examples of such incidents, happenings and mindset. Obviously over time the examples are far too many to list here but the following only serve as an eye opener now that we purportedly have a government made up of 2 opposing parties. You will realize that the thinking is the same on both sides of the aisle. I deliberately will NOT discuss the pre GPA beeps and blunders regarding this centralization of services in Zimbabwe.

    (1) Last week the Minister of Tourism and Hospitality Walter Mzembi was surprised that Bulawayo was going to miss out from the South Africa soccer show case Cup because of the collapse of service provision in the hospitality sector according to a report in the Chronicle. He said " .. the collapse of service provision in the hospitality and tourism sectors would lead to the city-s failure to benefit from the World Cup. " Amazing. He looked very surprised why Bulawayo hospitality industry was in such a state. Well the above synopsis of events should help address his amazement and shock. From his reaction it is very possible that the honorable minister had not been in Bulawayo before. Couple this with the reluctance of ZIFA to refurbish Barbourfileds Stadium to meet FIFA standards for visiting teams and the state of Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo airport; you will have a general idea of the less obvious implications of this like the general lack of enthusiasm towards national events by people from regions outside the capital.

    (2) Recently it was announced that a Chinese firm, China Sonangol, is set to develop satellite towns around Harare in a development that is expected to ease housing problems in the capital. "This follows the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Zimbabwe and China Sonangol that will see the latter funding the development of satellite towns. The Chinese joint venture company has already unveiled an eight-billion-U.S. dollar package to fund various developmental programs in Zimbabwe. Ok what is causing the housing problem in the first place ? Yes, you got that right; it-s centralization! Secondly, the financial deal worth $ 8 million was entered between China and Harare the headlines must read, and not the entirety of Zimbabwe. But as far as the Chinese are concerned - they are helping Zimbabwe. If services and resources were distributed widely across the country based on cost and strategic importance, there would be NO such housing and garbage problem in Harare.

    (3) A year, or so, ago a partnership struck between a Ukrainian company Augur Investments and Harare City Council for the development of the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Road (Airport Road) offices, houses and hotels to the tune of US$100 million. Is there any problem with such investments in Harare in Zimbabwe? No. But it creates the suction loop and ripple effect mentioned earlier on. Such a huge project has capacity to create thousands of much needed jobs, which is excellent. And now where will people flock to look for jobs? It follows then that the problem of accommodation continues, coupled with garbage and traffic mayhem.

    (4) The vibrant and hard working Minister of Information and Technology (ICT) Nelson Chamisa declared recently that "In five to ten years, Harare will be the next Bangalore." Bangalore is India-s third most populous city that experienced growth and a rise in living standards because of technological advancement. This came after the good news that Broadhorn Capital venture has invested in two technology companies in the country. The capital raised may be in the form of debt or equity and may be from private or public sources. Obviously this is very encouraging and good news for Zimbabwe and underlines the state of mind of our leaders and decision makers when it comes to investing in Zimbabwe.

    But why would the Honorable Minister imagine the development of Harare alone and not other parts of the country? Or, is it possible that the Minister in his statement implied that Harare is Zimbabwe? Is that then not the continuation of the same old mindset that I referred to earlier on? If so, Zimbabwe deserves a serious shift of mindset, considering that the Honorable Minister, Nelson Chamisa, is still young and definitely the future leadership of Zimbabwe. Our country can not continue into the future with such a heavily skewed baggage whose mindset is such that one region has to develop at the expense of other regions. Developing Harare is not developing Zimbabwe. Harare is a part of Zimbabwe, but not Zimbabwe.

    I could go on for a 100 pages listing similar examples. But the bottom line is that such issues must be addressed if efforts to turn around the country-s fortunes are to remain truly national.

    Centralization and Decentralization

    There are a number of proponents of any modern government that shape the reasons for centralizing services. These reasons may be political, cost, control, efficiency and for quality service delivery. For example, foreign embassies are located in the country-s capital along with other international and monetary institutes. That-s great and that makes sense from a cost and control point of view. But there are instances where centralizing operations for the sake of it makes neither economic, political nor common sense.

    I will sight an interesting but isolated situation in Zimbabwe. ZIMRA is responsible for collecting revenue for the government in Zimbabwe. And quite naturally and probably correctly ZIMRA headquarters is located in the capital city Harare. Now Beitbridge border town is probably the busiest port of entry in southern Africa located in the southern most part of the country. Recently ZIMRA failed to process customs and excise related duties in time and efficiently from Beitbridge, because there is an extremely poor data link between the border post town and computers systems located in Harare to process these transactions.

    Beitbridge is 580kms away from Harare, 288 kms away from Masvingo and 230 kms away Bulawayo. It is therefore twice as much expensive to set up and maintain communications link between the border town and the capital, than it is to set up and maintain a communications link from the border town to Bulawayo or Masvingo.

    So ask a 3rd grade pupil where he or she would deploy computers to process the ZIMRA transactions? No brainer.

    Case for Decentralization

    I must make it clear that I do not purport the relocation of the capital city - not at all! But I am high lighting some long observed traditions colonially inherited and never looked into. The case of decentralization of services where necessary, has both economic and social benefits that can not be reduced into monetary terms or values. Also it helps decongest processes in the capital by off loading other trivial and strategic services to regions where it makes both economic and social sense. And, most fundamental, this helps in developing a nation with diverse skills, backgrounds and cultures to realize its full potential.

    Local Leaders

    But it would be very unfair to conclude this pretty brief and general discussion without mentioning the role or lack thereof, of leaders from outside the capital. Maybe they have simply given up or they care less or they love traveling to Harare for all their meetings, seminars, training, etc.

    It will also be unfair to blame Harare boys like Chamisa and Chiyangwa who are running up and down to develop their neighborhoods. It is also very easy to blame the pre-GPA of the state of things of uneven development and distribution of donor funds and resources. But this I can say with absolute certainty and conviction and I will ONLY speak for Bulawayo and surrounding regions. To the leaders from the region I have few words for you and really not interested in your excuses for failing to grab what must come to the region. As I said my comments are POST new government and NOT pre GPA. The region has a vice president and a vice prime minister. Two party chairmen! And several cabinet ministers from both parties. So this I can assure you that people in the region expect you NOT only to do your national duties that serve the whole of Zimbabwe, but to make NO excuses when requesting or even demanding a proportionate share of the national cake. I know some misguided few, will contend that these are national leaders who work for Zimbabwe as a whole and NOT confined to any region. Yes very true that - NOT confined to any region as is presently the case - confined to developing Harare alone.

    Well as expected these politicians will be making their usual rounds as the parliamentary elections approach. They might be in for a rude shock this time around and not going back to parly. Oh no; not because of a new political party, but due to people deciding to boycotting the process altogether since their election makes no difference.

    Way Forward

    To all concerned and determined activists from all other regions that are on the receiving end of the centralization stick, I urge you to make sure this issue is sanely and fruitfully brought up during the constitution making process and finally captured in the new constitution. For if you don-t speak up about this, very soon you will be required to travel to Harare to apply for a permit to paint your house!

    For the record this problem of centralization and was created during the colonial regime through UDI and furthered after independence. Just to leave you with something to think about Hwange power station located in Matebeleland North supplies a very huge chunk of the electricity consumed in Zimbabwe. But guess what people are used to darkness?

    I am not sure where the proceeds of diamonds mined in Chiadzwa in Manicaland are headed to, but I can surely tell you that Manicaland is NOT benefiting from its natural resource. Quite naturally I do expect those who benefit from the status core to come up with excuses why things are lopsided as they are. But fact remains that these are some issues that must be addressed so that the present generation does not leave a problem for future generations whose approach might be totally different from the our methods.

    I don-t blame those who have been beneficiaries of this bias at all. But enlightening those who have been disadvanted to act and get a fair and proportional stake in the national cake - otherwise the constitution remaking process should called - "Bambazonke Constitution" .

    Feel free to post your suggested solutions to this on the blog . We pretty much interested on how to address these anomalies than just mere opinions. Everyone has an opinion so spare us your opinions and give us more of possible and practical solutions to resolve this head on and make sure it is included in the constitution making system.

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