Has politics incapacitated our scholars’ reasoning levels?

I was watching a documentary on the history of the Great Zimbabwe, and other African historical sites - which was probably produced in the 1980s - and was amazed by the magnificent intellectual capacity that a scholarly Stanley Mudenge displayed in an interview.

Stan Mudenge

What immediately came to my mind was, ‘where did all that intellectual capacity go, as the politician Stanley Mudenge sounded more like a dud – as do all his former comrades?’

Just listening to most of our politicians, who hold amazing degrees  – some even with Ph.Ds – one can not help but wonder if these were genuine degrees.

In fact, I must confess that – as most of these qualifications were acquired during the liberation struggle – at one time, I haboured strong suspicions that they were either fraudlently acquired, or these politicians were merely lying to us, as we had no way of double-checking if they truly had the qualifications they claimed to possess.

At that time, I even believed that these were the guys who left school in primary level to join the struggle, yet return claming to possess PhDs.

I remember reading that during the Lancaster House talks in London, the Rhodesian delegation was heard whispering to each other that, ‘there seems to be more Ph.Ds on the other side of the table.’

Actually, I used to find it ridiculous, especially during the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) news bulletins, when nearly every senior government official was referred to as Doctor so or so.

The ones without Ph.Ds were mostly referred to as Comrade.

Be it as it may, nothing that these government officials, especially ministers, did or say revealled any amount of intellect.

Up to today, the actions and words of these politicians – now the list including professors – leaves a lot to be desired.

Most times, it is most difficult to differentiate between a scholarly politician and a shebeen queen.

This scenario brings up the question, ‘what goes wrong when an academic becomes a politician.’

I know that politics is a game of numbers, and as such, politicians need to appeal to the masses, but this transcends all rationale.

This goes far beyond mere politicking.

These academics have failed, since 1980, to even run a country.

That same group of politicians that the Rhodesians said had ‘more Ph.Ds on the other side of the table’, could not sit down together and come up with even one workable development plan.

Since 1980, Zimbabwe has been in a freefall, sinking deeper and deeper into a catastrophic abyss, with a clueless scholarly leadership at the helm.

The only solution that such a highly educated leadership has had has to brutalise and spew vitriol towards any dissent – a language that would have been more suited with an uneducated street gang.

So where does all that intellect go?

Does it disappear just because someone has decided to become a politician?

Evidently, it was there at some point.

If the late Stan Mudenge could be so eloquent when he was more a scholar than a politician, then the potential was there.

I am reminded of the story of Cambodia’s Pol Pot, that when he was being groomed by  the Chinese to lead a revolution in his country, they saw in him vast politican potential, thus the name ‘Pol Pot’.

However, when he eventually took over, he became a monster that even shocked his mentors.

Anyway, back to our own…apparently being an academic does not fit in with being a politician.

I do not have an answer, but it is clear that these people would have been better off teaching at a university, doing research and other academic work.

They should have never been allowed anywhere near government offices.

Probably, that is why the Rhodesia side had very few, if any, scholars – yet they did a far much better job of running the country, and were more civilised, at least towards each other.

Which then may prove that positive political attributes are far divorced from being a scholar.

We, as the people of Zimbabwe, should learn something from that.

Lets stop this insane competition to attain useless Ph.Ds in the hope of receiving respect and votes from the electorare.

We now know that those degrees are better suited for something else, but most definately not political office.

The people of Zimbabwe would rather look at the leadership skills, and other personal attributes of the candidate, which are not defined by academic qualifications at all.

I would rather be led by an illiterate person who is passionate about the welfare of his or her fellow compatriots, and is genuinely democratic and prepared to listen to and galvanize the people.

Admittedly, I am sure there can be a rare someone who is both a great scholar and politician, but the current crop of our leaders has left doubt and a bitter suspicion in our minds.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is Programmes Director at the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice), but writes in his personal capacity.
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