Abortion of the intellect

via Abortion of the intellect | The Financial Gazette 27 Mar 2014

HOW did Zimbabwe, once described by former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere as the ‘jewel of Africa’ become a crisis country? Today, Zimbabwe holds records of crises – leadership crisis, economic crisis, health crisis etcetera.

One of the constituencies that has let Zimbabweans down has been the public intellectuals. Most Zimbabwean intellectuals just do not matter as they do not weigh in the public discourse. In fact, the academics and intellectuals must take part in public debates so as to translate their theories into policy proposals.  If they speak it is almost always because there is some non-governmental organisation (NGO) money lurking in the shadows. If it is not political propaganda, NGO speak is the new language.

Thanks to the country’s education system that has since fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience, the education system celebrates mediocrity as the standard, and anything beyond is ridiculed. It does not prepare one for real world analysis.

For all the glory that Zimbabwe derives from being lauded as the country with the highest literacy rate in Africa, it has nothing much to show for it. Yes, Zimbabweans can read but they cannot think. It seems Masipula Sithole, John Makumbe and a few others who debunked this trend went to their graves with the ideals of public intellectualism that is required for Zimbabwe to be a robust country of ideas and vibrancy.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwean universities have long become inhospitable places for public intellectuals. And the real problem is not just money. It is culture, an anti-intellectual culture in Zimbabwean life. Zimbabweans, as a people, have never been curious enough to engage with the problems they face. They wait for their leaders to solve their problems.

Is it not shameful that technocratic Cabinets manned with PhD holders have just pulled the country down the abyss? This slow strangulation has been taking place since day one of independence. It has been deliberate and as a side-effect of simple greed.  Those who claim the roles of public intellectual or public servant are busy spreading propaganda while raising a selection of emotive ideas: ideas of national unity, of sovereignty, of the sacrifices of liberation, and of patriotism. These have monopoly control of the means of communication to exclude any scrutiny of the detail or veracity of the ensuing arguments.

Perhaps we are not being fair to the likes of Vimbai Chivaura, Isheunesu Mupepereki, Tafataona Mahoso who are indeed public intellectuals. In another life, they would have been our heroes but their misdirected, overzealous dumping down of a country into a patriotic lecture becomes nothing but ridiculous. There is no doubt that these were trail-blazing academics in the 70s and 80s but they have since forsaken all that for political expediency.

Perhaps, as a society, Zimbabweans prayed too much to the temple of intellect, and have not spent enough time letting themselves be actively involved in governance; participate in policy formulation, making their way the way.

Have we put too much trust in our leaders and intellectuals? That their ideals matter more than ours because they have a high IQ or more political clout. What a joke. There was a time when the government of President Robert Mugabe censored political discussions and restrained anyone from participating in the free exchange of ideas through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and Security Act. The idea was to instill fear. Fear to question or challenge the prevailing ideology and status quo.

One of the disturbing black holes on the Zimbabwean scene has been the long-standing absence of serious non-partisan forums for discussion of cultural, social, technological, political and other issues. We need our public intellectuals and think-tanks to generate ideas, interrogate policy and leadership in a way that makes Zimbabwe vibrant.

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35 comments on “Abortion of the intellect
  1. John Thomas says:

    Intellectualism is vastly over rated. The ability to be verbose in public is of strictly limited value. This is why there are so few real intellectual in Zimbabwe.

    To be of real use original insight and an ability to make use of these insights is required. Here we fail. It is all part of our difficulty in discerning between words and deeds.

    The fact that the best and brightest of the country are corrupt almost to the last man is not helpful. All seek only the opportunity to prostitute themselves a soon as possible. This in fact is the cultural driving force of the intelligencia of the country. We see it in ZANU, in the opposition and in academia.

    Some time spent concentrating on integrity and honour would not be wasted.

    • apolitical says:

      @ John Thomas. with intellect you don’t confuse politics and the economy with intellectual property, and don’t generalise to the point of looking a fool.
      If its a forum on the economy you discuss that and include outside interference and economic sabotage which all affects the economy.
      If you know nothing and only have the brain power to say down with Zanu you keep it to yourself to avoid embarrassment at illustrating your lack of personal IQ.

  2. apolitical says:

    Factually, sand that’s what counts in the end not some journalistic ramblings.
    The only intellectual property that existed in former Rhodesia was the method of tying tobacco bags.
    Since then we have had the method of removing electricity from water – an international patent putting Zimbabwe ahead in energy conservation.
    The method of manufacturing concrete to indestructible level tested at CSIR Pretoria.
    Against the lack of ability to mix concrete illustrated by the mess at Kariba Dam. – covered up by junior engineers and laymen promoting the maintaining and repair of concrete an impossible task. You cannot maintain or repair concrete – when it cracks you replace it. Resultant of bad Rhodesian workmanship.
    Fact looks better but isn’t anyti- government or political Anti- Zimbabwe propaganga, just truth.

    • furedi says:

      I am sure Kariba was built by Italians, not Rhodesians.I could be wrong.

      • apolitical says:

        All construction is monitored and approved by government or local government, civil engineers building inspectors – at the Rhodesia, just Italian contractors. Its way construction works all over the world.

    • NBS says:

      hey apolitical. you obviously harbour a lot of anger and bitterness. If the so called Rhodies hadn’t built jolly good roads we would be in a much worse situation today. Their roads lasted. And JT has a point. we can have all the so called intellect in the world but without a shred of God’s wisdom and plain common sense it will come to nought. Why are you so critical? Just wondering? Zim is going down the tubes and all I see is terrible suffering. Doesn’t that affect you. The truth is the truth is the truth!

      • apolitical says:

        truth is that Kariba dan was built on friable rock with sub standard concrete. I don’t know your truth because you dont have any to offer.
        Again if roads are built to a certain standard they have a life unlike concrete which if mixed correctly gets stronger as the years pass.
        If the truth offends you then its really not my problem – however those that try and hide the truth will assuredly cause many deaths.
        That’s the truth.

    • Jono Austin says:

      apo you have concrete on the mind-it is apparent to all that not only is it on the mind, but solidly implanted within your skull. Why don’t you leave this forum-nobody likes you. Go talk with your zanu friends-you will feel more at home there

      • apolitical says:

        JONO ill try to explain because you appear to have lost the plot, you don’t form a majority and certainly from what you write have little or no expertise to offer.
        The discussion is about Kariba dam which is made of concrete – get it now I don’t like you very much either but I put up with your idiotic comments because that is what democracy is about, then, there is consideration but clearly you don’t understand that word.

        • Jono Austin says:

          Sorry didn’t mean to make you cry you zanu lickspittle. Who are you to comment about anything you Gukurahundi

        • Jono Austin says:

          Well you are one up on me as clearly I don’t put up with your idiotic comments and in addition no one else on this forum considers your views anything but seriously deluded.

  3. roving ambassador. says:

    A very thought provoking article. And thanks John for that response.
    In the early 80s, there was vibrant debates on the way forward for Zimbabwe. There was Marechera who used to stand in park and broad cast his thoughts. there was Professor Gutto at UZ[hope I got his name]coming up with issues on socialism. There was Tekere, reminding us on the goals of the revolution.
    Zanu ,Mugabe could not take because issues of corruption and mis -governance were being questioned.

    All these people were silenced. Some deported. This was the beginning of our downfall ,because no new ideas were intertained. Only the dear leader was listened to.

    The thinkers stated leaving the country to experience greater freedom. Lots who had come back from the diaspora made a u-turn. This was now in the late 80s.
    The middle class , who are the major drivers of the economy packed their bags and vamoosed. Zanu did not care, not realising they were killing the golden egg laying goose.
    All I am trying to indicate is the brain drain brought about by the repressive policies of Zanu, has up rooted the nation’s thinkers.

  4. Jenandebvu says:

    Apolitical is truly smart, like starting a debate with Prof Moyo or joice Mujuru, the only terms and reasons for the failure is “imperialist”, “west”, “illegal sanctions imposed on us by our enemies”. The way we handle our elections, the draconian POSAs and AIPPA they impose on Zimbabweans are normal.

    Great ideas to apolitical come from Made, Gono, Chinamasa etc whose brain are as good as the cadres lying at the national shrine. I m inspired by apolitical as he joins such forums bcz they have a good message 4 him. Use you brains to think; not to tour the line for merely being ZPF. You are killing it from inside. Perhaps on your return leg, like Moyo, your eyesight will be opened up

    • apolitical says:

      Unlike you I have 100% vision and use my brain and intellect – I am my own master and don’t involve myself with anti-government propaganda which destroys the economy and the countries repute.

      • NBS says:

        Oh come on, apol! Please wake up! And the word of God teaches that it is good not to pay yourself compliments but to rather be humble and if a compliment is die to let someone else give it to you. And ZPf don’t need anti govt propaganda. They do it all for themselves!

      • Jono Austin says:

        apo does your brain and intellect instruct you to write ‘countries’ rather than ‘country’s’

    • apolitical says:

      @Jenandebvu on POSA. There are those like myself that support true democracy.
      That is, just because a few mal-contents wish to demonstrate doesn’t mean the majority who want peace and no violence have to put up with the destructive rabble calling themselves peaceful. Thus POSA is to protect law abiding working citizens- the majority of us.
      If you are not in that group and obviously aren’t because you don’t understand what its like to be innocent and on the receiving end of a Zimbabwe peaceful protect where the organisers say afterwards they are not responsible for the destruction and violence.
      It is clear that POSA is necessary in SA as well -where traditionally we see peaceful demonstrators all armed with sticks and weapons like they used to be in Zimbabwe.

      • roving ambassador. says:


      • NBS says:

        Apol hasn’t a clue! And what is true democracy anyway. I have never seen it in Zimbabwe so please explain

        • apolitical says:

          True democracy is where you don’t get to make the rules for the rest of us and your opinion is simply your opinion – you don’t get your own way.
          Most of us were taught that by our parents.

          • Jono Austin says:

            Looks like Mugabe wasn’t instructed by his parents then? Maybe he can be forgiven as he was only raised by one parent.

          • NBS says:

            You should tell that to the powers that be. methinks they were never taught that. The only rules that will endure are God’s laws. When nations begin to deviate from that truth a collapse is around the corner. Funny! I have never seen the word democracy in the bible

          • John Thomas says:

            Does Mugabe even know who his father was?

  5. The Mind Boggles says:

    Lets give Apo the benefit of the doubt , he’s a free thinking unbiased individual who is not on the ZPF pay roll he’s only expressing his beliefs!!! What does that tell you about the future of the country if it’s full of bufoons???

    • apolitical says:

      I simply cant believe that we should blame government for personal shortcomings.
      If we had a culture of honesty, hard work and peace we the people could be in control – but while we have mal-contents who put nothing into society we are doomed no matter what government we have unless they impose forced labour for mal-contents in society.

      • NBS says:

        Apol I do not know if you are a Christian or not but if you are the Word of God places a huge accountability on leadership. Government are going to be held accountable for what they have done, for how they have governed and for the example they have set to the people. I try and look at things through the Lord’s eyes because I am well aware of the short comings of the human race: self included. It takes a big man or a woman to say, “hey, I/we stuffed up. lets begin to put things right! What this nation needs is repentance! Plain and simple.

        • apolitical says:

          @NBS don’t you think its about time you said it.
          ive stuffed up didn’t do any research or think and, start again.
          Instead of blaming others for your shortcomings.
          How much information did you contribute to the discussion on the dam and its imminent collapse. Don’t you think you should be perhaps a little grateful, to those that chose to debate and offer expertise to try and come up with a solution to save lives or is this not the Christian way in your opinion?

  6. pati says:

    Wasting time reading these comments. Imagine the article is on the much touted Zimbabwean intellect and here we are Zimbabweans having a discourse. Only goes to show how intelligent we are, collectively.

    • apolitical says:

      @Pati really think you should speak for your self. Firstly if you read the article again slowly – start with the heading its in big letters at the top to give you a clue!
      The article is about the lack of intellect which you have clearly evidenced, not available intellect.
      How write a comment that reflects on yourself in one easy lesson.

  7. Bleu spirit says:

    Like a song says” How can an insect damage so much pride”?

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