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Is Zimbabwe racing to the bottom?

Zimbabwe flag

“A RACE to the bottom” occurs when the social, political and economic environments of any country deteriorates significantly, while the politicians and those in public office continue to use several deception strategies to hide the facts on the ground.

It’s a true life of one calamity after another, as Dambudzo Marechera once wrote about his life.

It is an unending degenerating vicious cycle which is helped along by lies, denials and the attempt to continually reframe the truth. As we face a crisis of expectations in Zimbabwe, the deception machinery is at its peak.

In his paper on systems thinking, Jack Harick, explains the various forms of deception that politicians continually use. He identifies five common deception strategies used by politicians and these are: false promises, false enemies, pushing the fear button, wrong priorities and secrecy.

We all know what this is about, there is a tendency by politicians to embellish their capabilities and what they can do for us. Unfortunately, this creates false hope but it seems to work. The major false promise made in 1980 remains the fallacy that political independence would necessarily emancipate Zimbabweans from oppression of man by man and bring economic freedom to us all. That has not happened.

The second deception strategy is where politicians create false enemies and blame them for all the problems, while taking undue credit for all the good things that might happen. There is this incessant and demeaning lie that all our problems are due to the enemy out there.

This lie has been repeated so many times it has become truth to many.

Pushing the fear button is common. The issue here is that many people have been led to believe that if they vote otherwise, they might lose something, for example land. In a patronage economy such as ours this is rife.

Rule by instilling fear works to scare voters to vote for competitors. As Harick says in his paper: “Fear clouds the judgement, making it all the harder to discern whether there really is an enemy out there. Because we cannot be sure, we play it safe and assume there is at least some risk. Fearful people are more dependent, more easily manipulated and controlled.”

Wrong priorities is another form of deception that we are all well aware of.

“Wrong priorities stem from hidden agendas. A hidden agenda is a plan or goal a politician must conceal from the public, due to an ulterior motive,” Harick says.

“For corrupt politicians such matters come easy, they simply manipulate the public through false promises, create a false enemy, push the fear button hard and often, repeat the same lie over and over until it becomes ‘the truth’.”

The fifth deception strategy is that of secrecy. There is so much secrecy that we now have a vibrant secret service economy which employs all and sundry.

The sad reality is that all these forms of deception have become normal in our society whether in government or not. Our values and ethics as a society as we all try to fight or hide our poverty have degenerated where the abnormal has become the new normal. The race to the bottom is accelerating at full speed.

In my opinion, it will certainly take us some time and much effort to re-invent a new Zimbabwe underpinned by an ethical, responsible and accountable political leadership.

Vince Musewe is an independent economist. You can contact him directly on vtmusewe@gmail.com

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