via Zim is collapsing – DailyNews Live 3 DECEMBER 2014 by EDDIE CROSS
HARARE – People watching the evolution of politics and state activity in Africa tend to lose sight of a battle that is being waged in our societies between the different elements that make up the populations of African countries.
To use Zimbabwe as an example, the European settlers arrived in numbers in 1893, subjugated the country by 1900, established a dominion State in 1923 and then governed the country until 1980.
During their period in charge of State affairs, they introduced their language, their culture and imposed a modern, west European form of administration and law on what had been a pre-Iron Age society.
Local cultures were subjugated and ignored except in the “Tribal Areas” where a modified form of African culture and tradition was permitted. Different forms of Christianity became the religion of 70 percent of the population.
In 1980, the forces that had been fighting the settlers over the previous 30 years emerged from the bush and assumed control of the State. They brought with them their ideologies and ideas and tried unsuccessfully to impose these on the societies they now controlled.
Within three years, the white dominated civil service had been “africanised” and only a handful of whites remained in the public service. Even so, the new civil servants absorbed the cultures prevalent in their offices and quickly mastered the complexities of administering the modern State they had inherited.
The Christians in the administration resisted attempts to change the curriculum in schools or to adopt Marxist policies in general. But in addition, the traditions and cultures of the indigenous peoples began to impact how the State was run, decisions taken and the values recognised.
A similar process was under way in the private sector, although more muted. The old white establishment had only limited understanding of the changes they were witnessing and were largely helpless when it came to trying to defend established ways and values.
The new generation of leaders, trained and crafted in the bush camps and in distant training centres in different countries, many holding to Marxist ideas and only a fuzzy understanding of how a modern economy worked, had never managed anything bigger than a cash box in a bush camp. Now they found themselves in positions of authority and control in banks, government ministries, companies and parastatals.
They discovered they could print money, take over assets, exercise authority over others and enjoy a life style they could only have dreamed of when they were either living under settler domination before independence or overseas in exile. It was Christmas everyday.
But the cost was too great for a small, vulnerable economic system. The budget deficit spiralled out of control, the monetary authorities simply printed money to fill the gap. They borrowed money from everyone and were shocked when they were required to repay the loans with interest. They increased the civil service from 67 000 in 1980 to 250 000.
The regular army was increased from two battalions at half strength (3 000 men) to 45 000, a larger force than South Africa.
They stopped investing in maintenance and infrastructure — relying on the good system taken over from the settlers in 1980 and spent their money on immediate needs — schools, hospitals and universities. An uneasy relationship existed between the modern State and the companies that drove the economy and the new elite who saw themselves as chefs, whose authority and control could not be challenged.
In the process the Constitution and the judicial system came to be regarded as a nuisance; its provisions and decisions ignored or brushed aside when they came into conflict with whatever they wanted to do.
The rule of law was seen as a hangover from settler dominance and the new leaders in government paid scant regard to its demands as they strove to extract what they wanted from the system and to exercise their control and authority.
Now we have adopted a new Constitution — the first crafted by Zimbabweans. It is a modern Constitution which entrenches all the values and norms that have been so damaged by the conflicts in our society since 1980. But it is still just a document gathering dust on our shelves.