via We need coherent, pragmatic leaders November 29, 2013 Zimbabwe Independent
IN an increasingly integrating, interlinked and interdependent world, countries and their leaders must understand the world has become far more complex and is forever changing. This requires a paradigm shift to a pragmatic framework over ideological considerations.
Rigid ideological beliefs and solutions to critical issues, particularly economic matters, no longer work effectively and thus alternatives must be tried.
Seeing things in binaries, like during the Cold War, doesn’t help anymore.As the world changes, and changes fast, informed people have lost the appetite for extreme positions and views. Rather than admiring those with strong political views, progressive people now increasingly understand and acknowledge that those frozen on fossilised ideological templates are blinkered and poor at both listening and understanding, for they belong to the past.
Ideological captivity makes people self-righteous, even consumed by hubris, whereas pragmatism requires compromise between different world views, and the world is now dotted with such compromises.
So, pragmatism is a buffer against ideological extremism, as well as a tool for rational and progressive development.
When Xi Jinping became leader of the Communist Party of China, he did not pay tribute at Mao’s tomb or tour the rural heartland of Hu Jintao but instead travelled to Shenzhen, a prosperous special economic zone once overseen by his father. There he laid flowers at a bronze statue of Deng Xiaoping, acknowledging the architect of China’s current prosperity and its rise as a global power.
We were reminded of the subject of ideology and pragmatism by our government’s recent threats to ban exports of raw platinum to force foreign mining companies to refine locally. This came amid the latest official threat to ban foreigners from owning bakeries, barber shops, estate agencies and other such businesses at a time when local companies are retrenching and shutting down en masse.
Of course, indigenisation and value addition are necessary, but the underlying assumptions of this campaign smacks of incoherent ideological thinking. Ironically, the January deadline for companies will affect nationals from China, DRC, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, among others. This and other things like the “Look East” policy actually dramatise the problem.
Zimbabwe is “looking east”, while the East is looking West and in every other direction. Deng, with his cat metaphor, and Kwame Nkrumah’s words, long debunked this misleading linear thinking.
The truth is we don’t need such things as the “Look East” policy; we need progressive thinking and strategies of economic development. Governments can’t afford to think within the “Us versus Them” premise; their policies and decisions must be based on research, data, technocratic advice and citizen needs.
We live in a world of complex matrices and perplexing choices, so we need to be more nuanced and discerning in our understanding of issues. Crude and crass thinking doesn’t help anymore. Zimbabwe needs a coherent and pragmatic leadership, not insular and myopic rulers, more so when clashes over resources have become a political lightning rod in many mineral-rich countries like ours.