This was a headline The Insider carried 10 years ago on a review of Blessing-Miles Tendi’s book: Making history in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.
The book said critical public intellectuals in Zimbabwe had commercialised the struggle for democracy by inventing a “crisis industry” which was bankrolled by non-governmental organisations and foreign donors.
And there was competition among activists about who got bashed most as this meant more income and continued survival for them.
“There is competition between activists in civil society over who gets more badly treated, beaten or imprisoned by the state,” the book said. “The greater the history of one’s ill-treatment at the hands of the State, the greater one’s legitimacy as an actor in civil society.”
The reason for this, the book said, was to create a “permanent Zimbabwe crisis” which guaranteed continued donor funds for more consultancy work and for the formation of more NGOs.
To make sure that the money continued to flow, some of the intellectuals were bending their analysis to perpetuate the crisis.
To illustrate this, the book reproduced a conversation between Tendi and a University of Zimbabwe academic.
UZ academic: Today I learnt that a security guard at the government’s Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe earns a higher salary than me, a UZ lecturer. UZ intellectuals hold PhDs, are getting old, do not have cars or drive an old car, have lousy houses and have not accomplished much. What else can they do but sell out (for money)?
Interviewer: But you have stayed out of it and managed to maintain your integrity.
UZ academic: Who says I am not in it? I do consultancy work for NGOs and I bend my analysis to please them. I tell NGOs what they want to hear. I tell them Mugabe is bad and there is a serious crisis and I say it loudly so they are satisfied. That way they will come again next time for my analysis and even bring me new clients. That is how I survive.
This interview was conducted in 2005. Is history repeating itself?
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