July 2015 saw the start of NASA’S 20th NEEMO mission during which astronauts, scientists and engineers spend up to three weeks in training for living in space conditions aboard Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station. NEEMO stands for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations and the environment there is as close as possible to the kind you get when you are in space. Among other really clever things, some of their activities include practising and developing methods on how to space walk on asteroids as shown by Professor Brian Cox in his BBC Earth series, “The Human Universe.” Most of you will recall the asteroid that struck Chelyabinsk, Russia, in the early-morning commute hour of February 2013. Brian Cox tells us that “it exploded with 20 to 30 times more energy than the atomic bomb detonated at Hiroshima.”
As we all know, nature can be unpredictable and attempting to predict it, so that you can prevent disaster, is intelligent behaviour. Brian Cox uses the word “chaotic” to describe the state in which small changes are amplified with unforeseen changes. Zimbabwe is currently in a chaotic state with all major political parties either splitting several times over or purging formerly cherished comrades in a vicious power struggle. In this chaotic situation, the country has suffered to a point where only 700 000 people are now formally employed, electricity outages regularly last up to 18 hours a day and 1,5 million people are threatened with starvation.
Where is the intelligent behaviour that could have prevented or, at the very least, mitigated this chaotic situation? Let’s start with a real example. Charlie Duke was the lunar module pilot on Apollo 16 and the 10th man to walk on the moon. Chatting with Brian Cox, he says his father was born just after the Wright Brothers in 1907 and “he could barely believe that his son went to the moon” and yet Charlie’s 5 year old son did not see it as a big deal because everyone in the neighbourhood went to the moon.
So what is a big deal for me in Zimbabwe is I cannot believe that a country with the wealth and potential of Zimbabwe has been reduced to the state of affairs it finds itself in today. The bigger deal for me is the politicians are embroiled in a power struggle saga that makes the Ewings of Dallas fame look like kindergarten kids. There has been such unseemly behaviour that Zimbabwe has become the laughing stock of the political world while the country has stagnated and is now moving backwards.
We need a change in behaviour. Brian Cox again: “In democracy things change occurs people like you and me, want them to change.” If the current political players want to carry on bickering while the country regresses, let them carry on. Zimbabwe needs a new generation of leaders that have the same passion as the nationalists had in driving for independence but much less of the behaviour the same nationalists have demonstrated in post-independence Zimbabwe.
That means no more genocide. The killing of 20 000 people in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions started a never-ending exodus of a section of the Zimbabwean population, always heading to South Africa. We started losing our human capital at the same stage. The state-sponsored violence and chaos after the referendum of 2000 led to a second round of accelerated loss of human capital. Our nation has haemorrhaged important human capital, the fabric of society is broken and our politicians are both unwilling and unable to change the tide.
This is a call to future minded Zimbabweans, free of tribalism, racism and a lust for power to come to the fore and start using their intelligent behaviour to help us “write our own chapter” of the Zimbabwean story with a firm eye on our future while learning lessons from our immediate past. We are looking for Zimbabweans who want to research crop varieties suited for Africa, be at the cutting edge of solar technology and other technologies whose application lends itself to our geographical space and time, patent herbal medicines that will set the tone for the health of our people, develop tourism products that will spawn thousands of jobs and wealth for communities, harness the mineral wealth in our soils for the greater good of our country and develop clean energy that will sustain us and our neighbours for eons to come. We must prise our future from the hands of those people who would want to lord it over us but do not have our best interests or that of the country at heart and place it in the hands of a new generation of Zimbabweans who want to always light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. I want to get to stage where a wealthy, prosperous and healthy Zimbabwe is no big deal; just Zimbabweans doing their thing.
Who is willing and able?