Zimbabwe 2018 election: Ethics versus Prosperity


On Thursday 15 February 2018, I was part of the crowd outside Harvest House in Harare listening to Nelson Chamisa and crew politicking, and appearing to anoint themselves as Dr Morgan Tsvangirai’s successors a few hours after his passing, and days before he was laid to rest.



What many people thought would be memorial rally in honour of the former Prime minister at Harvest House, turned out to be a rally which saw Nelson Chamisa’s faction declaring themselves as the rightful heirs to the MDC-T throne.



The event seemed distasteful to many who attended desiring to honour Morgan Tsvangirai, and not to participate in MDC-T factionalism.



That matter got me thinking about whether or not our politicians still consider ethics in politics, or do they seek power at all costs?



Interestingly, in town on the same day, I overheard a conversation between two youthful gentleman, during which one said to another “kana zvisingasungise muZimbabwe hazvina mari (if the business you are doing in Zimbabwe is not illegal it is not profitable.”



This made me ask if we, as a citizens still consider ethics in our day to day lives, or are we out for prosperity at all costs?



All this made me recall a research project I steered in a Pentecostal church in Pretoria some years ago.



The aim of that research was to determine what social benefits the church’s brand of ‘prosperity gospel’ had for the wider Pretoria community.



After an insightful period of twelve months, the research was concluded, and it was found that the church’s “prosperity gospel” did indeed inspire members of the congregation to aspire for prosperity and consequently to engage in various forms of enterprise and ingenuity in attempt to achieve that end.



Yet, one fundamental question kept on arising: do the church members pursue wealth using moral methods? Or do they attempt to achieve prosperity by any means necessary, irrespective of morality?



Put plainly, in our contemporary society is morality still important in the pursuit of wealth?



In the course of that research, I found that many church members engaged in dubious practices in their pursuit of wealth.



This was not surprising, because that particular church was an inner-city congregation located in an area well known for unemployment, informal sector trade, violent crime, substance abuse, and prostitution.



In fact some members of that church were rumoured to be hard criminals, yet they faithfully attended church, paid tithes and offerings and believed with all their hearts that they too could attain the ‘blessings’ of prosperity.



That old research seems relevant approach the harmonized elections.




Politics and Ethics



Prosperity is a key theme of political party manifestos at election time.



The various political manifestos will propose how they intend to bring prosperity to the country, and improve the lives of our people.



Already, we have heard politicians pronounce how they were promised 15billion.



Such pronouncements beg the question: do our politicians consider national ethics when they make us promises about national prosperity?



The difference between ethics and morals, is that morals are subjective and usually inspired by an individual’s religious beliefs, while ethics are commonly recognised despite an individual’s religion.



For instance, a follower of traditional religion may believe that polygamy is moral, while a Christian may believe that it is in fact immoral.



Yet, from an ethical perspective, both the tradionalist and the Christian will agree that spousal abuse is illegal and therefore unethical, despite their contrasting moral standpoints.



While morals deal with people’s personal beliefs, ethics refer to general codes of conduct.



Now, since the year 2000 Zimbabwe has suffered economic decay that has affected citizens across political persuasions.



Yet, ironically, one could argue that the nation has become morally stronger since 2000, despite our economic regression.



This is because in the midst of our economic backslide, our country has seen vast growth in the religiosity of our citizens with ninety percent of Zimbabweans belonging to Protestant or apostolic religions in 2018 as compared to sixty percent in 2000.



Yet being moral doesn’t make you ethical, and perhaps we can agree that since 2000 corruption has become endemic in Zimbabwean society.



In fact recent Transparency International reports state that Zimbabwe is the most corrupt country in Southern Africa, and one of the most corrupt countries in Africa- this despite our intense religiosity.



We are the most religious (and perhaps moral) country in Southern Africa, yet we are also the most corrupt, and therefore unethical.



We have become a people that wholeheartedly pursues power, profit and prosperity without considering ethics.



We are a conflicted nation.



Nevertheless the 2018 elections provides a golden opportunity for our politicians to begin the process of reintroducing ethics to our people.



So far, I commend president Emmerson Mnangagwa for his consistent calls for investment and his reiterations that Zimbabwe is open for business, while simultaneously saying that the new dispensation has a ‘zero-tolerance approach’ to corruption.



This is a bold first step towards reigniting an ethical society.



If government continues to take firm action against corruption and other unscrupulous behaviours, then people will think twice before engaging in unethical conduct.



In this light it was encouraging to see the flamboyant Wicknell Chivayo appearing before parliament this week.



In the past, Chivayo’s open profligacy and social media pronouncements had embittered many citizens.



For instance in April 2016 he reportedly posted a picture on social media with the caption: “Had dinner in Dubai yesterday with my mother (Grace Mugabe) and my little brother (Robert Jnr).



“I love my parents…Mungandi dii? Hapana kana zvamunondiita (What can you do to me? There is nothing that anyone can do to me).”



For the record this is Wicknell Chivayo, the self-confessed ex-con, who told parliament that he has no qualifications, yet he allegedly somehow, a few years ago managed to convince government ministers to advance him seven million dollars for a project which to date has never materialised.



He did this, in a country with ninety percent underemployment, and graduates that sell airtime and live with their parents.



Perhaps I’m wrong, but I say that controversial Wicknell Chivayo deal portrays how unethical our society had become.



Ethics should be reflected in Politics



As we approach elections, my hope is that the positive rhetoric that we have been hearing from president Mnangangwa with respect to corruption and ethics goes beyond talk and becomes enunciated potential policy in the various political manifestos, so that the talk of building an ethical society becomes national policy post-elections.



We have examples across the world of countries that have managed to restore ethics after years of decline.



China for instance has had a far-reaching campaign against corruption since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012 steered by that country’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI).



Also Singapore (considered to be one of the most ethical societies in the world) seems to have won the war on corruption through strong political will, and by institutionalising a robust, comprehensive anti-corruption framework that spans laws, law-enforcement, the public service and public outreach.



In any case, it should be the priority of our political leaders to achieve sustainable prosperity alongside ethics beyond the 2018 elections.



If we build our reputation as an ethical country, with an ethical workforce and an ethical policy framework then naturally investment and revenue will follow.



Tau Tawengwa

Executive Director



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