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Monday, 12 July 2010

A nation without a vision..

Senior Chief Mwamba is my favourite Zambian thinker. An intellectual giant who is able to step back into our history, tie the knots and offer some fresh perspectives on the challenges facing our country. In a recent piece he reflects on "a nation without a vision"  (previous reflections from His Royal Highness on House of Chiefs) :


A vision stands for ‘intelligent ability to foresee the future; an insight to imagine the future; Doorway to the future; determines destiny and marks and distinguishes intellectual capacities of different people. And this was why King Solomon declared: 'Where there is no vision, people perish.'

Chairman Mao related to the vision of the will as all-powerful, even to the extent that (in Mao's own words) 'the subjective creates the objective.' That is, man's capacity for both undergoing change and changing his environment is unlimited once he makes the decision for change the entire universe can bend to his will. But again, the controlling image is the sense of revolutionary immortality that confers these vaulting capacities upon the mind. And during the Great Leap, Chairman Mao declared that there was no poor soil but poor thoughts.

The conscience of a nation pertains to power, though power is a fluid concept with many tangibles. Empowerment means that people get equipped to deal with their own situations in practical and viable ways. Power is neutral until it is acquired and used, but completely without it, we just are lethargic because power enables people and enhances life.

The French sociologist, Raymond Aron defined power in terms of capacities: population, military and economic power, industrial base, territory; policies: the exercise of power by deliberate courses of action to affect the will of rivals and competitors; and motivation: the propensity to act in a certain way in international politics.

What I mean, in this case, is that we in Zambia lack the ability to translate human and material resources into tangible power. Hence we are incapable of transforming our own preponderances in the nation, population, financial and geo-strategic assets into economic power, capable of achieving social and political goals.

And we cannot, therefore, stand up and say with pride, 'we are independent.' We are not, and let no one fool you. If I feed you; decide what you are going to eat and when you are going to eat. So how free are you? I just cannot see how we Zambians are going to develop this country through begging. It is said that the face is the beggar's greatest asset and he must therefore always look miserable. In fact, I wonder if there is a single African country that can survive for over a month without donor support!

Our political luminaries do not seem to understand one great lesson: that all the difficulties and complex problems of each country can in no way be solved by another country's formula, though it may somehow try to help and only to a certain extent. This is because reality does not conform to logic. For example, the western development programmes that are deliberately imposed upon docile Africans fail to transplant successfully in Africa, just because no gardener would ordinarily transplant a fully-grown tree to a new site. Rather, he would plant a sapling or a shoot and be content to bide his time until it grows to its full dimensions.

We must lean on history in order to get a clear picture of how we have unintelligibly mismanaged the affairs of this nation. In the book Central African Witness, historian Cyril Dunn in the 1950s wrote about the aspirations of the then Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe): "To Sir Roy Welensky, economic development has always been the paramount objective. He believes that the federation's potential is immense, except for a shortage of oil and timber can perhaps be as vast as that of the USA itself. He is quite sure that it can be developed only by 'the enterprise, the driving power and the initiative of the whites'...the blacks will get their fair share of the rewards as they develop the sense of the dignity of labour; once he grasps what Sir Roy calls the basic slogan of any industrial society - work or starve. The political aspirations of the blacks must be restrained, since Central Africa's economic progress would be dissipated in 'chaos, corruption and misrule' if ever Africans were allowed to assume control."

Jong- Pak, the South Korean ambassador to Zambia recently said that Zambia and Zimbabwe were far much better economically than his country in the 1950s and 1960s. And the former French ambassador, Jean Paul Monchau said: "Poverty of the Zambian people is mostly unexplained if one considers the country's riches and without going into details, I do not understand why emphasis was not put on agriculture, the basis of any development strategy."

In this respect, the World Bank report in part reads: "The potential of Zambia's agriculture is often cited as the greatest untapped natural resource - the potential of agriculture growth to contribute to incomes and welfare is unequivocal: agriculture is the largest sector employer, being the primary occupation of over a half of the rural population (or 26 per cent of the total population of the country), and contributing three-fourths of the incomes to the average rural population."

What does this really mean to us Zambians? And to me it just means that there is total bankruptcy of dynamic vision for political and economic revival.

There is total lack of original thinking and lack of innate propensity, potential and power to determine our own destiny and spearhead the political and economic revolution that can lift Zambians out of the poverty mire to prosperity. There is bankruptcy of enterprising intellectualism and I just cannot understand how individuals who only become clever after events can be called 'intellectuals and geniuses.'

I now invite Trywell Kalusopa to speak directly to you: "I believe that political and economic brains that do not liberate their own people from oozing poverty when they have the instruments to do so are worthless. Brains that recite a pseudo capitalist agenda for self-aggrandisement are a curse to the nation. Brains that cannot break an exploitative system for the good of the Zambian people are dead brains. They are not worth of the brains! They are sterile! These are the sorts of brains that believe that the absolute drive towards foreign investment is a panacea to national development."

In 1991 Zambians saw the emergence of the supposed young intellectuals into the corridors of power and this was viewed with considerable optimism because the administration was over-flooded with geniuses in various disciplines. The regime introduced the liberation of the economy. The promise of the privatisation programme was claimed to be a constant rise in the living standards of the people and an end to the vicious business circles. The liberation of the economy was sold to us as a science that would enable our country to achieve the ageless ambition of social stability and an ever-ascending abundance and from these triumphs would flow a more caring government and a greater individual liberty.

However, this kind of Zambia's indigenous economic philosophy that was being proclaimed in such extravagant metaphor is the 'township or compound' economy. This is the type of economic philosophy that we usually encounter in urban townships or locations where if a person loses his job, he then begins to sell his household goods in order to meet his daily needs, until eventually he has nothing to sell and is driven into destitution.

The supposed geniuses just went on cheaply selling and destroying what the supposed less educated had put in place and plunder the assets that had been accumulated by the supposed less endowed. And indeed according to John Hatch in the book False Start in Africa, Zambia at the time of independence in 1964 had about 100 university graduates; those with full secondary education - Grade 12 were 1,500 and those with junior secondary education - Grade 9 were 6,500.

When the South African Communist Party, Secretary-General, Dr Blade Nzimande visited Zambia he said: " one striking feature of the Zambian society is the extent to which the structural adjustment policies pursued by the Chiluba presidency have rolled back many years of the gains made during the first two decades of Zambian independence after 1964. We found amongst many of those we met a re-emerging nostalgia for the Kaunda presidency and the advances made then in the fields of education, health and provision of other basic services. The Chiluba presidency privatised all the state-owned enterprises leading to massive job losses and the rolling back in the provision of education and health services in particular."

On the other hand, it wasn't long before the situation began to reveal frightening depths and complexities of enlightened egocentric interests among our supposed best brains. Here is what Isaac Chipampe wrote: "Indeed after 1991, I saw few of the original wealthy people maintaining their riches. To the contrary, a new crop of wealthy people emerged. They never borrowed from financial institutions; they never discovered anything comparable to Bill Gates' Microsoft; they never owned any business that had a workforce or machinery or even buildings to show for and never invested in anything apart from being co-opted in government and therefore government became their major source of wealth. And who can argue against the reasoning that it pays to be in government when one looks at the wealth that the Task Force has exhibited so far."

An international organisation, the National Citizens' Coalition reported in Social Watch Report 2002: "when Chiluba took power, large -scale corruption diverted resources meant for the people of Zambia, while they watched in sorrow and desperation as their country headed towards becoming the poorest in the world - Chiluba's government was the most corrupt in the history of this country. Resources that should have been used to improve the people's quality of life were appropriated in grand corruption episodes. When Chiluba took power from Kaunda in 1991, the poverty rate was 56 per cent. When he left the government after 10 years, poverty had risen upwards to 80 per cent."

But why are we really in this situation? I think Alick Musonda in his book, The Masterminds of Coups D'etat in Africa gives us the clue: "the engineers of the fall of states in Africa are the colonial masters who still pull strings to puppet Blacks. In their 'tactical' withdrawal from the political revolution, they left in their tracks economic, social, political and military booby traps to devastating effect."

And the most effective 'booby trap' is the 'Bantu' education system or what I prefer to call 'factory education.' Miller. J. reported in Sierra Leone in 1841: "the education provided by missionary and colonial schools did not fit the indigenous cultural background either in its general orientation or in details of content, methods, materials and institutional arrangements... the knowledge later produces doubt and fogginess of mind in adult life, resulting in lack of balance. Want of liberal attainments induces imitation of the worst in Europeans."

I was invited to present a paper on 'A Nation Without Culture is Dead' at the National Symposium on Curriculum in June 2009 and the general consensus among the academicians was that the current educational system produces consumers rather than creators.

The purpose of education is to extract a human being from the limited circle of their lower self in order to project them into the limitless circle of cosmic consciousness. Thought is an extraordinary means of action, because thought enables us to understand and also to act. Thought is far more than simply a faculty for the purpose of storing accumulated book knowledge it is a magical wand, the instrument of omnipotence.

Once you have reached the point where you have your thoughts well under control, as in the case of the genuine genius, you can then direct them where you want so that they may do their work of sorting out, organising and harmonising the particles and currents within you and in the entire world. This then means that genuine education enlightens and enables the adherent to attack courageously any challenge before him; it involves subtle lessons that can make one active, dynamic and daring in order to meaningfully contribute to the well-being of society in which one lives.

But why are we being manipulated and exploited to the maximum in broad daylight with our full consent as alluded to by one Professor Akuffo? Our type of education makes us panic too quickly and therefore we tend to swallow everything from the white man because the very first day when we step into a classroom, we are taught to consider him to have a superior mind. And as the saying goes: water cannot rise above its own level.

The capitalist cannot exploit the continent without first demoralising the inhabitants. And so he introduced a key word in the 'Bantu' educational system - lack. This particular word has totally dominated every initiative and it has been used to squeeze out hope of prosperity that existed or could have existed within us. Lack is everywhere in Africa.

There is lack of good climate; lack of good vegetation; lack of good water ; lack of good air; lack of good soil; lack of good minerals; lack of good people; lack of good natural resources etc. The list can go on and on and in short there is lack of everything on the African continent. The only thing that is in abundance in Africa is lack itself. The sole purpose of introducing the word lack into our educational curriculum is to create a sense of fear and hopelessness into our hearts and minds because fear paralyses the faculty of reason, diverts concentration and effort and turns will power into nothingness.

I am not trying to criminalise the colonial education system and a good number of automated and playboy intellectuals it produces, but I cannot, however, hesitate to point out its deliberate failure to lay concrete foundations of self-discovery; self-assertion and the quenching of the pioneer spirit.

And as a result, there is no hunger for real meaning; no search for 'more' and hence the so-called intellectuals allow all sorts of impressions to enter their minds unconsciously and as a result, they are controlled by words, foreign knowledge and cunning powers-that-be that feed their lines as they rob their power of creative individuality. And consequently, there is no search for other dimensions beyond the ordinary conventional western political and economical philosophies that they had swallowed in lecture halls.

On the other hand, Chairman Mao wrote that the image of the human mind is infinitely malleable, capable of being reformed, transformed and rectified without limit. And this is the area where 'Bantu' education system actively play its role since character and thought patterns can be directed to desired ends and whoever controls the mind, controls the man. And so the type of education you receive will direct the way you approach the whole spectrum of life. King Solomon wrote: "Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts." Another unknown author wrote: "Thoughts are forces, subtle, vital, creative and continually building and shaping our lives according to their nature."

And so whoever controls the mind controls the man. The ear is the gateway to the senses and that is why in what is called 'the power of the air,' all governments control the radio because whoever controls what is transmitted controls you. And therefore any teaching which induces a slave mentality or a sense of impotence is not education at all it is an attack on the minds of people.

Of course, no one can overlook the fact that the western man has brought a lot of good civilisation to Africa but it comes with a sly danger, because while celebrating the generous donor aid and such privileges as learning and enlightenment, it can easily blind us to who we really are and come to the fatal conclusion that the white man is the measure of all things. This mentality has subverted the African mind and personality like no other ideology.

In fact, Hasham Nazor in Power of the Third kind: Western Attempt to Colonize the Global Village has warned of the dangers of being foreign-parasites: "If the developing countries' intellectuals do not soon wake up and challenge the colonising operation, it will be too late.

The process has been activated by the western powers using vast amounts of money, time and planning...beneath the overwhelming charm and power to assimilate, some of the developing nations are already submitting too much. Meanwhile, most of the people in developing nations might not even be aware of its complexities and magnitude."

6 comments:

  1. “This is the type of economic philosophy that we usually encounter in urban townships or locations where if a person loses his job, he then begins to sell his household goods in order to meet his daily needs, until eventually he has nothing to sell and is driven into destitution”.

    This is a very powerful analogy, and really sums up what happened, is happening, and will continue to happen in Zambia with things being the way they are today.

    I also like the quote from Isaac Chipampe about the characteristics of the nouveau riche we saw emerge in the 90s. This is something my father brought up time and time again as he shared anecdotes of his interactions with such characters through his work at Zanaco. It just epitomises what’s so wrong with our government; when it’s used as a source of wealth for a few at the expense of the masses.

    Thanks for sharing this commentary!

    ReplyDelete
  2. After living in Zambia for just over 2 months, I feel that your commentary on the state of Zambia helped explain the lethargy and lack of faith the people had in government. Although my project related to health, I couldn't help but ask my colleagues about the health system in general and always came with the same response,"The system is dead," and especially after Chiluba.

    I also have Chinese heritage, and find it interesting how you quote Chairman Mao. Although I agree with the ideals expressed in his quotes--the ideals of the awesome potential of self-actualization--I cannot support his political stances during that time. The Great Leap Forward Campaign killed nearly 30 million people due to famine, and my parents lived through that period.

    Thanks for the insightful blogging, I'm sure glad I found this site!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I had two lecturers who marked my MBA thesis “CHALLENGES OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN ZAMBIA – CONTRIBUTION TO NATIONAL WEALTH CREATION AND THE VALUE PERCEIVED BY THE PUBLIC” One from Tanzania and another from Netherlands. My sentiments on why our Zambia education system is retrogressive to wealthy creation and how colonialism still affects negatively wealth creation were not graciously accepted by my white lecturer from Netherlands. After almost four years that have passed since my MBA graduation, finally I have come across Senior Chief Mwamba. It’s gratifying to know that there leaders in Zambia who think the way I think and they are better positioned to speak for the nation to listen. This chief is one of his kind – a true intellectual. His thoughts in (a must read article) “Zambia, A Nation Without Vision” are well articulated:

    http://www.postzambia.com/post-read_article.php?articleId=11350

    ReplyDelete
  4. Here is my abstract and some extracts from my thesis:

    There are many entrepreneurship boom factors in Zambia. Education and lack of formal employment top the list. Theoretically it is expected that education and lack of adequate formal employment ideally should breed entrepreneurship. However what is prevailing in reality is different from theory. Why is expectation different from what really prevails? Obviously the challenges of entrepreneurship in Zambia far outweigh the boom factors. What are the challenges of entrepreneurship in Zambia? Lack of knowledge inhibits entrepreneurship. But isn’t education equivalent to knowledge acquisition? Shouldn’t education bring about knowledge? Lamentably, education is extrinsic but knowledge acquisition is intrinsic. Culture stands out as a distinction between education and knowledge acquisition.

    Inferiority complex:

    This is a cultural problem that requires a concerted holistic approach. With cultural perspective look at the nature of the endemic poverty, we see it as a deep-rooted problem. It involves negative behaviour, attitudes and beliefs. The legacy of a white boss apparent in the damage that has been done to self-esteem, motivation and creativity cannot be easily corrected. Negative individual mindsets are widespread even among politicians and policy makers. There is lack of initiative, creativity and confidence, and thus Zambian leaders tend to look to the outside for solutions to the country’s problems. A good example is in the external-cure forces that have failed emanating from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. If you go to the core of the problem, many schools continue to inculcate a mindset that undermines entrepreneurship. As early as in elementary school, children are indoctrinated by society through demeaning cultural beliefs that careers out there are all about formal employment and that the white man is an employer just as it was back in the days in the mines. What obtains is lack of entrepreneurship.

    Bad Culture:

    An Onion Layer Model can help us understand the problem and find equitable solutions to the endemic problem. The Onion Layer Model shows how a human being is organized. A human being is characteristically organized like onion layers. At the core layer, we have beliefs that influence how we perceive things. These beliefs are surrounded by values that they influence. Do we value poverty reduction more than wealth-creation? The answer depends on how we value long term solutions over short-term relief of symptomatic temporal treatment. Values create attitudes towards externalities, thus attitudes are in a layer that encases values. And ultimately, attitudes determine what skills we love and eventually acquire. It is the skills that are influenced directly by formal education through the 3 Rs i.e. Read, wRite and aRithmetic. However, choice of skills and their effectiveness are greatly due to the inner layers. The external attributes i.e. skills are a result of professional ethics, code of conduct and but more of core values. Obviously education is not equivalent to knowledge acquisition. Shouldn’t education bring about knowledge? Lamentably, education is extrinsic where as knowledge acquisition is intrinsic. Culture stands out as a distinction between education and knowledge acquisition.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Here is my abstract and some extracts from my thesis:
    There are many entrepreneurship boom factors in Zambia. Education and lack of formal employment top the list. Theoretically it is expected that education and lack of adequate formal employment ideally should breed entrepreneurship. However what is prevailing in reality is different from theory. Why is expectation different from what really prevails? Obviously the challenges of entrepreneurship in Zambia far outweigh the boom factors. What are the challenges of entrepreneurship in Zambia? Lack of knowledge inhibits entrepreneurship. But isn’t education equivalent to knowledge acquisition? Shouldn’t education bring about knowledge? Lamentably, education is extrinsic but knowledge acquisition is intrinsic. Culture stands out as a distinction between education and knowledge acquisition.

    Inferiority complex:
    This is a cultural problem that requires a concerted holistic approach. With cultural perspective look at the nature of the endemic poverty, we see it as a deep-rooted problem. It involves negative behaviour, attitudes and beliefs. The legacy of a white boss apparent in the damage that has been done to self-esteem, motivation and creativity cannot be easily corrected. Negative individual mindsets are widespread even among politicians and policy makers. There is lack of initiative, creativity and confidence, and thus Zambian leaders tend to look to the outside for solutions to the country’s problems. A good example is in the external-cure forces that have failed emanating from International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. If you go to the core of the problem, many schools continue to inculcate a mindset that undermines entrepreneurship. As early as in elementary school, children are indoctrinated by society through demeaning cultural beliefs that careers out there are all about formal employment and that the white man is an employer just as it was back in the days in the mines. What obtains is lack of entrepreneurship.

    Bad Culture:
    An Onion Layer Model can help us understand the problem and find equitable solutions to the endemic problem. The Onion Layer Model shows how a human being is organized. A human being is characteristically organized like onion layers. At the core layer, we have beliefs that influence how we perceive things. These beliefs are surrounded by values that they influence. Do we value poverty reduction more than wealth-creation? The answer depends on how we value long term solutions over short-term relief of symptomatic temporal treatment. Values create attitudes towards externalities, thus attitudes are in a layer that encases values. And ultimately, attitudes determine what skills we love and eventually acquire. It is the skills that are influenced directly by formal education through the 3 Rs i.e. Read, wRite and aRithmetic. However, choice of skills and their effectiveness are greatly due to the inner layers. The external attributes i.e. skills are a result of professional ethics, code of conduct and but more of core values. Obviously education is not equivalent to knowledge acquisition. Shouldn’t education bring about knowledge? Lamentably, education is extrinsic where as knowledge acquisition is intrinsic. Culture stands out as a distinction between education and knowledge acquisition.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Potfer Mbulo,

    Please forward your MBA thesis so that we can read and enjoy it.

    Have you uploaded it online yet?

    ReplyDelete

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