Are Zimbabweans too poor or too stupid?


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A tweet by Munyaradzi Brian Nyika today which read: “E.D has turned out to be a different proposition altogether  unfortunately we are cursed enough not to see what the people in Germany, U. K or even Botswana see in him simply because we mark the man not the ball” reminded me of a series that I wrote four years ago entitled: Are we too poor or too stupid?

Here is one of the articles in the five-part series which was entitled: Is our education turning us into mental cripples?

Agricultural growth should naturally lead to industrialisation or manufacturing. It did once, but this has since been reversed. According to MDC policy coordinator, Eddie Cross, who has enjoyed the best of both words- under the Ian Smith and Mugabe regimes- “In 1980 we were a middle income country with a higher GDP per capita than China, we had virtually no debt and a currency that was worth twice the value of the US dollar. We produced 90 per cent of what was sold in our supermarkets and our farmers employed 350 000 people, supplied 60 per cent of the inputs required for our industry, generated half of all exports and provided food at prices that were well below any other country in the region.

“Today our GDP per capita is among the lowest in the world with half our population in abject poverty. Only 5 per cent of our population is working in the formal sector, we import 70 per cent of our food and pay higher prices for it than any of our neighbours. Only half of what we buy in our supermarkets is made in Zimbabwe – and even then most local products are produced using imported raw materials. Nearly half our children under 5 years of age are malnourished and we have one of the lowest life expectancies in the world and child and maternal mortality rates that are well above those in all other southern African States.”

It is easy to brush off Cross’s sentiments as those of a disgruntled Rhodesian yearning for the good old days. One cannot totally write that off either, but Cross did not leave the country when others did. He even worked for a state enterprise after independence and is an elected Member of Parliament. This means his roots are in Zimbabwe.

Even though he is privileged, the question remains: If Zimbabwe was producing 90 percent of the goods on its supermarket shelves, what happened? Yes, the Ian Smith regime was under sanctions and was inward looking. Zimbabwe is under sanctions now, why is it not inward looking? Zimbabwe’s currency was stronger than the United States dollar but the country was doing well. Now it is using the United States dollar, why is it not doing well?

There can only be one answer. It is the education. Zimbabweans are highly literate, but their education, it seems, teaches them to hate themselves, to doubt their own capacity to run businesses, to run factories and even to run their own country. As South African writer Andile Mngxitama says, education, especially mission education, turns most blacks into “mental cripples”.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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