Zimbabwe’s race to the bottom accelerates

“Falsehood and favouritism has long dominated political strategy. Most politicians use rhetoric, half-truths, glittering generalities and the sin of omission, biased framing, and other types of deception (to counteract and discredit the emergence of political rivals and) to appeal to the greatest number of people possible for election or re-election.”- Jack Hari; Systems thinking. In brackets is my addition.

Vince Musewe

Vince Musewe

A race to the bottom occurs when the social, political and economic environment of any country deteriorates significantly while politicians and those in public office continue to use several deception strategies to deny and hide the true facts.  This is the case currently in Zimbabwe.

It’s a scenario of one calamity after another as those “in power’’ do their best to deny, reframe or ignore the realities on the ground. At worst they will arrest those who dare to speak truth to power as we are witnessing. It is an unending degenerating vicious cycle which is helped along by the naked lies of those charlatans who seek and are paid to create false sense of normality at all costs. As we face a crisis in Zimbabwe, the deception machinery is at its peak as the state media tries to paint a false picture of our reality while discrediting perceived political competitors and change agents.

We are certainly witnessing continued denials of responsibility for the deteriorating socio-economic conditions by ZANU (PF). We are also seeing the deterioration in the social values and ethics of our society as a whole with the state media at the centre of it. The recent gutter reporting on Mujuru and the attempted discrediting of social movements and war veterans is but an indication that Zimbabwe is fast racing to the bottom however, this is typical of systems that are atrophying. The beginning of the end is here.

In his paper on systems thinking, Jack Harich a systems thinking expert, explains the various forms of deception strategies which politicians like to 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.  In my opinion, the ZANU (PF) machinery has mastered all of these.

A false promise is a promise that is made but never delivered, or never delivered fully. We can all remember the famous 2 million job false promise of 2013 by ZANU (PF). But more recently, there is a false promise that the economy will recover. If anyone believes that our economy is poised for recovery under ZANU (PF) non reformist policies, corruption and mismanagement, I would advise they go for counselling. Added to this has been the false promise that indigenisation will result in broad ownership of economic assets by ordinary citizens and yet we all know it has only been the ZANU (PF) predatory cabal which has benefited. ZANU (PF)’s false promises are plenty, persistent, unrealistic and ridiculous.

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. This issue of creating false enemies at every turn is further exacerbated by a struggle paradigm which most of our leaders still live in. There is this monumental lie that opposition parties represent Western interests and that the West is always plotting some form of regime change or other.  Now everyone who wants Mugabe to go is classified an enemy.

There is this incessant and demeaning lie that blacks can’t think for themselves and must always be representing Western interests and views! This lie has been repeated so many times it has become a truth to the ignorant. The rise of social movements has fed this lie where the ZANU (PF) machinery wants to paint a picture that these are Western sponsored charlatans. Nothing can be further from the truth!

Pushing the fear button has been where ZANU (PF) continues to excel. The recent treatment of war veterans and the continued intimidation of anyone who has a dissenting voice demonstrates this. Instilling fear in citizens and political rivals has worked so well in the past to paralyse any potential dissent but fortunately Zimbabweans are rising thanks to social movements such as #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka.

Rule by instilling fear works to stifle opposition. As Harich says in his paper- “Fear clouds the judgment, 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.” Harich says. “For corrupt politicians such matters come easy, they simply manipulate the public through false promises, create a false enemy, push the fear hot 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 industry which employs all and sundry. In addition the secrecy around a significant economic deals by the government continue to present an opportunity for lies, corruption, myths and lack of accountability.

The sad reality is that all these forms of deception have become normal in our society. The race to the bottom is accelerating at full speed helped by President Mugabe and his coterie of thieves.

For me it is no surprise at all that ZANU (PF) has continually relied on these strategies simply because they have nothing to offer Zimbabweans. As we go towards 2018 we ought to be aware of how the state media will be at the centre of accelerating this race to the bottom. We however need not fear and must try not to waste time entertaining such because the end of ZANU (PF) is near.

Another Zimbabwe is possible!

Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. He is also Secretary for Finance and Economic Affairs for PDP. You may contact him on [email protected]

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