Time to focus on circle of influence

THE elections have come and gone, but what is critical for us Zimbabweans is to learn from this plebiscite then move on because tomorrow will not wait for us.

Dumisani Nkomo

It is important for those who won the elections to move forward carefully, objectively and pragmatically learning lessons from the past, including the collapse of the economy.

It is equally important for the vanquished to move on and not be stuck in a moment of history because they cannot cry foul forever.

The world is moving on and is already focussing its attention on countries such as Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Egypt and the Middle East.
In moving forward, I would like to suggest that we as Zimbabweans embrace some insights from award-winning author Steve Covey.

In his best selling book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steve Covey suggests that in order to avoid stress, paralysis and hopelessness, people have to concentrate on what they have control over or their circle of influence.

He goes on to suggest that by concentrating on what we do not have control over — “our circle of concern” — we merely depress ourselves more and wallow in self pity and hopelessness. I would like to suggest that the two MDC-T formations have spent too much time on things they have no control over and should in the next five years focus on what they do have control over.

It may be difficult if not impossible to overturn the entirety of the election results and as such, the MDC-T could find itself being obsessed with winning back a stolen election instead of focussing on re-energising, restrategising and refocussing the party for the 2018 elections.

By the time they go through the circle of hopelessness lobbying Sadc, the African Union and the international multilateral agencies, they would have burnt themselves out and risk being totally irrelevant instead of doing what Covey describes as “sharpening the saw”.

Sharpening the saw refers to refocusing, reflecting and refreshing so that one can have greater impact. As Covey notes, while one can use a lot of energy trying to cut with a blunt saw, it may be wiser to sharpen the saw instead of using a lot of energy on work with little results.

At times it is wiser to take a step back and ask whether the tools we are using are effective.

It may be wise for the two MDC formations to ask themselves whether their political tools and strategies are working and if not, they need to sharpen the saw. Sharpening the saw may include leadership renewal, structural overhaul and review of strategy etc.

For the past 10 years our politics has been dependent on Sadc, the African Union and other international players. This is a clear sign that there is lack of creative political competence by some of our politicians who seem to think that doing the same thing the same way to the same people will have different results. How profoundly dumb!

Most of the leaders of the two MDCs have to learn to just shut up and listen to people instead of assuming that they know what people want. Progressive political parties will have to use the influence they have, including the 70 odd MPs (including senators) to lobby for good governance and accountability instead of locking themselves out through a boycott whose outcome they do not have control over.

They should concentrate on their circle of influence not their circle of concern.
Covey also argues that a person may be moving very fast and covering ground, but as long as that person is wrong, this may be a complete waste of time.

The two MDCs and other oppressive parties have to ask themselves whether they actually have the right map to a new Zimbabwe or they are just in rapid motion and engulfed in emotion.

Indeed they have been clear that we need to get out of our figurative Egypt, but they seem to be unclear on the map that will get us there. The MDC led by Welshman Ncube has suggested that devolution of power is the map that they are using, but the pathways leading to this destination appear to be unclear as the party fielded very weak candidates at local government level indicating that their map needs renewing. The MDC-T, which has benefited from protest politics epitomised by the “Mugabe must go mantra”, needs to urgently review this strategy — if at all it is strategy — as they could be rendered irrelevant by new political players pursuing third way politics.

Zanu PF, as the new ruling party, should move away from the politics of blame and embrace practical politics and economics.

Failure to learn from the man-made disasters in the form of the fast-track land programme could result in mass economic genocide culminating in political suicide for the party in the next elections if they insist on a chaotic and unpragmatic indigenisation and empowerment programme.

Absence of pragmatism could draw us back to the pre-2008 years of rampant inflation and food shortages.

I advise Zanu PF to adhere to the carpenter’s rule — measure twice and cut once. The lessons of the past 30 years help us to appreciate the fact that it is important to measure the impact of populist policies first before blindly implementing such policies.

If we fail to measure twice, we will cut many times and indeed it will be the economy and livelihoods of the people we will be shredding away due to policy indiscretion.

Nobody is really opposed to empowerment and indigenisation, but it is how it is done which is important, lest we scare much-needed foreign investors and find ourselves with only our sovereignty to feed millions of Zimbabweans.

Dumisani Nkomo is an activist and opinion leader

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