Monday, 11 August 2008

Mutambara: Exalting the Heroic Revolution

By Arthur Mutambara

Exalting the Heroic Revolution

Extracting Inspiration and Pedagogy from Combat


AS WE commemorate our Heroes Day by remembering those that sacrificed for our emancipation, freedom and democracy, we must take stock of the lessons from their experiences. Although it is twenty eight years later, there is a lot of wisdom, institutional memory and revolutionary best practices that we have not sufficiently leveraged for the advancement of our nation.

These key aspects from our heroic revolution provide inspiration and education applicable in both the private and public sectors. Not only did our heroes create a solid foundation for the construction of our nation-state, they also crafted a rich fountain from which we can feed our minds.

Effective Execution of Strategy

The armed struggle was about effective implementation planning and execution. Yes, there was strategic thinking, logistical planning, tactical considerations, and effective consultations. However, at the end of the day the guns had to blaze. One of the major constraints in modern management, both public and private, is paralysis by analysis.

Decision making is slow and the execution is ineffective. Government departments are littered with extensive economic plans, strategic blueprints, and project proposals, all put to waste by lack of implementation planning and execution. If there had been a feasibility study carried out before the decision to wage the armed struggle in the 1960’s there would have been no liberation war. If Nelson Mandela had done a cost benefit analysis and a net present value assessment before joining the ANC or launching MK, the African icon we celebrate today would not have existed. Sometimes you have to jump from the pan into the fire and implement. The rubber must hit the ground as quickly as possible without being bogged down by endless investigation or examination. ZANLA and ZIPRA fighters were about effective execution of the armed struggle. They did not spend time pontificating over the efficacy of an armed response or bleating that the odds were stacked against them. They waged war.

While Josiah Tongogara and Nikita Mangena were strategic thinkers and master tacticians, their greatness as guerrilla leaders was defined by effective execution of the armed struggle.
The problems most emerging market governments and businesses have are two-fold; either too much planning without implementation, or ineffective execution. We need to embrace the dictum: Never forget implementation, it is the last 98% of the task. Execution is the discipline of getting things done. It is a systematic process of rigorously discussing the how’s and what’s of the work, tenaciously following through, and ensuring impact and accountability.

A brilliant strategy, a blockbuster product or breakthrough technology can put you on the competitive business map, but only solid execution can keep you there. You have to deliver on the strategic intent. Enterprises fail because they go straight into structural reorganization, while they neglect the most powerful drivers of implementation effectiveness.

One such a lever is effective flow and management of information. This includes task details, intelligence about the competition, organizational metrics, bottom-line numbers and message discipline. The other driver is defined around decisions rights. This refers to responsibility and accountability for decisions and the corresponding actions. There must be decisiveness and not second guessing of actions to be executed. Line managers or leaders must be involved in making operational decisions.

They must also be sufficiently empowered to deal with ambiguities, uncertainties and unforeseen circumstances. There must be alignment of incentives with strategy, performance based differentiation, effective recognition of high flyers, and emphasis on non-pay incentives, while emphasizing unique and not generic assessments. Structure must follow strategy, and there must be provision for lateral transfers, frequent promotions, balanced delegation, and broad span of control.

In engaging all these drivers of effective execution there must be total buy in, accountability and ownership by the top leadership. There must be clear timelines, milestones, and incentives. There must be effective institutionalization through awareness, education, training, change management, and adequate communication. The adage, “if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it,” reigns supreme. Consequently, there must be systematic and structured ways of evaluating success through metrics, analysis and feedback systems.

The Essence of Self-Selection and Sacrifice

Another key lesson from the liberation struggle is the importance of self-selection and sacrifice. People were not elected or forced to join the war effort against the oppressive and racist Rhodesian regime. Instead they volunteered to fight for the collective interest, and in the process forgoing personal opportunities and individual success. They were arrested, detained imprisoned, and indeed some of them died. Two heroes perfectly exemplify the notions of self-selection and sacrifice. Herbert Chitepo, the first Black barrister in our nation, could have enjoyed the immense opportunities presented to him in the country, region and world, but he chose to abandon self-interest in pursuit of the bigger picture. He died in the process. Similarly, Dr. Samuel Parirenyatwa, the first Black medical doctor in the country, chose to self-transcend, while giving up on personal comfort, pursuits and gratification. He also paid the ultimate price.

As the best of our generation pursue business, corporate, academic and other private interests within and outside the country, what lessons are they drawing from Chitepo and Parirenyatwa? Are we suggesting we have better options and more important things to do than these two heroes had? What do we need to do, both as a polity and a society, to make public service attractive to our young and able people? Of course we need outstanding business leaders, entrepreneurs and academics, but surely we need to attract some of our best human capital and technocratic capacity to the electoral and democratic processes. We cannot outsource the task of our public governance to mediocrity and expect to be globally competitive as a nation. In any case, the personal and corporate brands are a function of the national brand. Given our current damaged national brand, there is neither a single corporate (domiciled in Zimbabwe) nor a business leader that is globally exalted. Why should anyone respect a company or an individual that originates from a country with nine million percent inflation? We all need to take a vested interest approach in redeeming, salvaging and transforming our nation so that we can reconstruct our country brand. While this is clearly in our national interest, it also serves our personal and corporate aspirations.

On Redemptive and Revolutionary Violence

As we remember our heroes we must be very clear on the acceptable norms and standards of a democratic society. Violence, or the threat of it, is not an acceptable part of competitive political discourse. We should never again witness the psychological trauma, brutality, and dehumanization that characterized our polity in the past four months. Any attempts to paint this mindless, state sponsored violence in the tradition of the liberation struggle should be dismissed with the contempt it deserves. The experiences of Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina should be understood as a total negation of the heroic revolution we exalt today. The liberation war was about a popular armed insurrection by the people against an illegal and racist regime. It was not a war by the state against its citizens, in pursuit of the retention of power.

Our heroes were involved in revolutionary combat for the collective good. Theirs was redemptive violence. As we commemorate their sacrifices we must also resist the temptation to embrace the Rhodesian and racist interpretation of history that equates the redemptive violence of ZIPRA and ZANLA fighters to the murderous shenanigans of the Selous Scouts; the revolutionary war efforts of Herbert Chitepo to the repressive violence of Ian Smith. There is a fundamental difference. One cannot equate activities of the Allied Powers in the Second World War to Hitler’s violence. This is the context in which we celebrate our heroes who violently smashed the ugly illegitimacy of Ian Smith and his Rhodesian racists.

Putting the West in its Place

Heroes Day also provides an opportunity for us to evaluate and put into context the role of the Western World in the affairs of our country. As we currently struggle to establish a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe there has been a lot of interaction with the international community, in particular the West. We appreciate the moral, diplomatic and material support our democratic forces and organizations have received from Western institutions and governments.

Under globalization Zimbabwe cannot be an island unto itself. Even our radical transformation into a globally competitive economy will depend on leveraging global strategic partnerships, while unlocking synergies from, and moving up, global value chains. However, we take exception to the irritating ignorance, political insensitivity, double standards, and patronizing arrogance that characterize Western diplomacy with respect to our country.

How does a Western country publicly pronounce that they will not recognize a government unless it is led by a particular leader without undermining the credibility and integrity of that individual? How do you include on the list of the top thirteen people to be sanctioned by the UN over disputed elections in Zimbabwe, an individual such as Dr. Joseph Made, who lost in those elections and was not involved in the problematic Presidential run-off campaigns? How do you have the foolish naïveté to justify his inclusion by saying he was responsible for destroying Zimbabwe’s agriculture?

Are we taking Zimbabwe to the UN over the land question? So all this fuss is about White farmer interests in Zimbabwe? Well, that is not our agenda. We are sick and tired of the hypocrisy, double standards, racism and downright dishonesty. The West must not hide its true motive. Where are the Western democratic demands to Egypt, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Israel, Pakistan, and Kuwait? Moreover, what does the record of the US and UK in Iraq, Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay teach us? What are the lessons from the ghettos of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles? Who took out Patrice Lumumba, Salvador Allende and Kwame Nkrumah? Who created and nursed Mobutu Sese Seko, Sadam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Jonas Savimbi and Osama Bin Laden?

More significantly, since it is our Heroes Day, why is it that there is not a single ZIPRA, ZANLA, MK or APLA fighter trained in the US or the UK? Why? Why did the Western lovers of democracy and freedom not extend arms of war to Africans in pursuit of the same? We thought the slogan was “Give me freedom or give me death!” and the clarion call “The price of freedom is death.” Western Europe and the USA did not train and arm Zimbabwean freedom fighters. They left the task to the “evil regimes” of China, Cuba, Russia and Eastern Europe. How ironic! Is there an apology for this malignant neglect? If there was no Western motivation to support our liberation war then, why should there be any attention paid to our democratization efforts now? Do not give us the moralizing nonsense about violence. Both the US and French revolutions were bloody. Hitler was driven out by violence, and so was Saddam Hussein, just yesterday. What we needed in order to deal with Ian Smith and Pieter W. Botha were arms of war, pure and simple. Our heroes were right.

We understand Henry Kissinger very well when he paraphrases Lord Acton and says; “America does not have permanent friends, only permanent interests.” Every time a Western leader or diplomat speaks about a developing country they must repeat the essence of this Kissinger dictum first and then articulate their national position. Of course each nation seeks to optimize its national interest. What is criminal is trying to hide this motive behind lofty ideals of democracy, freedom and good governance. It is imperative that the West openly declares its economic, strategic, and geo-political interests in Zimbabwe. For the record our angry rebuke of Western bungling is not just driven by principles, values or pursuit of the puritanical. It is about impact and results. For the democratic forces in Zimbabwe, Western double standards and dishonesty have actually damaged our cause and cost us immensely. Western governments have undermined our legitimacy, strengthened our opponents (the dictatorship), removed our moral authority, and ruined our effectiveness and standing among Africans.

As we finalize the political settlement to the impasse in our country, we have heard sentiments from the West indicating that they will look at the agreement and decide whether it is acceptable to them. Who are they, to superintend, judge and grade a collective decision by Africans? It is not the place for Western governments or their institutions to determine whether the agreement is right or wrong. It is strictly none of their business. We will brook no nonsense on this matter. What is essential is for Zimbabweans to agree, own the processes, and buy into the settlement. There is something completely disrespectful, contemptuous and patronizing in the Western attitude that Zimbabwean leaders might actually sign the wrong agreement. What Western arrogance does not seem to appreciate is that the leaders most undermined by this Western imbecilic thinking are those that the West supposedly supports. How do you give your favourite leader such a vote of no confidence? To add insult to injury you impose sanctions in the midst of the negotiations. How can this be an expression of faith in African efforts to solve African matters? On our Heroes Day, we say shame on you!!

Towards A New Dawn

As we celebrate and honour our heroes, it is befitting that Zimbabwe is sitting on the threshold of transformative change. We have a national political agreement that seeks to bring all our people together irrespective of party affiliation. This compromise solution, a suboptimal answer, with its glaring and attendant limitations is the best temporary measure to extricate the country from its worst situation. It is the price we pay for peace, national healing and restoration of human dignity. However, it is imperative that those involved in driving this agreement take cognizance of the fact that it is an arrangement meant to effectively and efficiently deliver services to the people. Hence, the implementation planning and execution will have to be done diligently. This is not a settlement for the sake of settling, through meaningless accommodation.

We are settling so that we can salvage, stabilize, recover and more importantly, transform our economy. We need to create and build an expanded middle class of new taxpayers and entrepreneurs through rapid reconstruction and industrialization. Hence, there is need to underwrite this agreement through diversified sources of both domestic and foreign direct investment, balance of payment support and multi-lateral institutional engagement. There must be a comprehensive economic strategy that includes infrastructural development, natural resource mobilization, local processing of all minerals, economic empowerment, value-added manufacturing, industry-wide beneficiation, optimum leveraging of the Diaspora, and moving up both the skills and global value chains. For this economic framework to deliver, it must be grounded in good governance, a democratic culture, pluralism and competitive politics, all envisioned and built on the solid foundation of a new people driven democratic constitution.

The journey towards a peaceful, democratic and prosperous nation has just begun. It will require a new crop and genre of gallant fighters.

We are a heroic people. Our history inspires us.

Arthur G.O. Mutambara

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