Thursday, April 8, 2010
Now people ponder why we didn’t go the same way as Zimbabwe. I think a more interesting question in why Zimbabwe went the way of Zimbabwe. Let’s examine the country's intrinsic “problems”.
Take natural resources. Zimbabwe is regarded by the mining industry as one of the most prospective countries in Africa. The Great Dyke runs through the country, a tectonic feature which hosts a variety of mineral wealth. Even in the darkest Mugabe days, South African mining companies where snapping up prospects in this area with its stunning platinum, gold and chromium wealth. They knew they were probably throwing away their money, but the odds were high enough to make it worth a flutter.
Maybe the environment makes food a problem? Surely this is behind the land-grabs and expulsion of white farmers? Hardly. Zimbabwe has some of the most fertile soil in southern Africa. Water is reasonably plentiful, and in its heyday the country easily supported itself. In addition, export cash crops included tobacco, coffee, beef.
Well, perhaps the people are debilitated by the climate or disease? Certainly AIDS and malaria are challenges. Now cholera has been added to those. It gets hot, but so do a lot of successful parts of the world. What’s more the people are (or were) very well-educated. They were exposed to the British school system of the day, learned in English, and were expected to meet high standards. (By contrast in South Africa during the apartheid days, children had to suffer the weak and insulting “bantu education” system. Let’s not even go there.)
The world is full of –isms, -ships, -archies, and -ocracies. But there’s another system – and it is a system – which can co-exists with any one of these. But it’s a parasite, and it eats away from the top down. It’s only a matter of time. It'scalled corruption.
Corruption is everywhere in every country (take a look at certain financial institutions in the US), but the country collapses when it becomes the governing system. Many African (and other countries in the world) have disintegrated because of it. Illegal self-enrichment is a system that almost inevitably leads to collapse. It’s a pyramid scheme, but with the added feature that the people at the bottom of the pyramid have no way to stop paying while having no hope of being paid themselves. Services fail because there is no personal payment to keep them going. Salaries are replaced with other more meaningful and lucrative sources of income. Reporting from a trip to Ghana earlier this week, another mystery-writer (Kwei Quartey who will be writing a guest blog for us on Saturday) told of a horrendous road accident. The police arrived an hour later, gave a cursory look around, and left. After all, they couldn’t see any way of making money from the event.
As a political system, corruption always starts at the top and rapidly works its way down until it reaches the base of the pyramid. It has to be rejected at the top, and fought from the top down.
Botswana has many challenges to face now that the diamond income has all but dried up. A political system that rejects corruption will be a good place to start.
Michael – Thursday.
at 8:59 AM