One cannot really fathom the challenges that Mikhail Gorbachev faced in trying to transform the Soviet Union’s economy and social culture towards a more open and democratic society. After studying his memoirs I have since developed an immense respect for his efforts and principles as he challenged the status quo.
I was intrigued in his analysis and explanation of the resistance to change that he faced despite his well-meaning policies designed to benefit his country. This led me to realize that my country, Zimbabwe clearly needs a Gorbachev and its own perestroika if we are to rescue its future.
The sad fact about Zimbabwe is that it has an entrenched philosophy of personality cults. As with the Soviet Union, the dangers of any personality cult are that it creates a society of cowards, society of men whose sole efforts are to survive through intrigues and a false praise of the chief. It creates backwardness in all social and economic spheres as the priority of the cadres deployed to manage the state apparatus is that of conformity, fear and ambition at the expense of any meaningful development.
The priority of the power cabals in Zimbabwe ceased to be about socio economic development many years ago and has been more about the stifling of alternative political and economic dispositions of its people and the strengthening of the economic domination of party apparatus and those who suck from it.
To change such a system requires more than a free and fair elections but a fundamental shift in the social values of the civil service and a state apparatus more used to managing oppression than development. As Gorbachev realized; it is treacherous and intolerable to expect change to be managed by the old guard, men more comfortable and secure on reminiscing about yester year than imagining a new future. These men, including the state apparatus they have created, must continue to deny the possibility of a new future in Zimbabwe regardless of its inevitability.
Beyond free and fair elections, it is necessary that the whole economic and social structure must have its perestroika, a purging of old thinking and thinkers, a complete destruction of old systems, relationships and beliefs and in their place a new culture of existence a new reality based on the aspirations and ability of Zimbabweans to determine their own destiny unencumbered and unshackled by the past.
I am disturbed when I see seemingly enlightened and allegedly educated and possibly competent individuals, professors and all aligning their future and livelihoods in defense of what has clearly become an antiquated and irrelevant disposition about the future as enumerated by Mugabe and his cadres. I am amazed that we have not seen or heard a strong anti-conformity and anti-rhetoric and anti-past social movement of Diaspora Zimbabweans to nullify and counteract old thinking.
In its stead we have seen a growing opposition party whose philosophies and suppositions about a new social reality focus on free and fair elections and recreating a Zimbabwe of the past, an agrarian society exporting large volumes of primary products and depending largely on foreign aid and loans to address its social development deficits.
I am very afraid that nothing much may change.
Vince Musewe is an economist and you may contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org