Zimbabwe’s Intellect Is Much Ado About Nothing

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

“Genius is more often found in a cracked pot than in a whole one,” – E. B. White

Harare, Zimbabwe – MANY Zimbabweans pride themselves in their intellect so much it’s sickening. They think they’re so special they’re guaranteed a special place in the sun because of their famed intelligence. They’re also quick to cite examples of how their country has the highest literacy in Africa, and how many of their fellow country men and women occupy high positions in some leading institutions around the world.

Many like to walk around thinking they know it all or whatever. They’ve an excessive or exaggerated sense of self-importance and are impossibly self-conceited – an offshoot of their highly rated intellectual prowess. Their egos are so inflated like their own currency which they abandoned so shamefully after failing to come up with solutions to salvage it.

They think they’re so witty, like they’re James Bond himself, and perhaps they are that witty and intellectual and sharp, but they’ve got nothing to show for it. Surprisingly, most of them simply opt to be labourers of grand objects that simply do not utilise their so-renowned intellectual prowess. They also have so many excuses why they cannot pursue tangible solutions to rectify their deep-seated challenges, situations or problems.

As I see it, it’s time that we begin to tear apart Zimbabweans’ obsession with their higher thinking capabilities. I mean, let’s ask it bluntly, why do Zimbabweans think highly of themselves when they’re providing no solution to their country’s decade-long political and socio-economic cesspit? The educational system that most of them pride in is in dilapidation and none can proffer credible solutions except merely fingerpoint.

Their pride has done little to solve the country’s problems. They can’t at least innovate new solutions to old problems. If Zimbabweans have one of the highest intellectual capital in Africa, then why have they not engaged that capital to create, innovate and build new things. It’s simple: we simply talk, talk and talk beating our own chests to smithereens.

All this egoistic posturing that is characteristic of the Zimbabwean is simply nothing but a shame. In light of this we should endeavor to use our intelligence to further help our fellow beings in their lives. We should keep humble and not laud over others with our self-bloated great intellect. Instead, we need to use that intellect for good in action. We must be innovators and creators, and not simply sit on the laurels of our intellect.

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11 thoughts on “Zimbabwe’s Intellect Is Much Ado About Nothing

  1. What’s with the ranting, Masimba? Who are these Zimbabweans? Do they have a name and all have the same mindset? I think this is too narrow and subjective.

  2. True words. I think we have bought too much into our own hype. The truth is yes, we are very intelligent, and the world has realised this which is why we have such a robust diaspora everywhere! But while we are good at leaving for greener pastures, we haven’t put our grey matter to work to discover how to cultivate the green in our own backyard. We have good brains for doing work that’s set out for us, but little capital when it comes to entrepreneurship and innovation. Some are trying though, to be fair. But the problem is we aren’t supporting our own designers, writers, artists etc because we are sold on the idea that nothing good can come out of people in Zimbabwe. All the good ones are in teh diaspora, so think many.

  3. true tht…we r so gud @pointing fingers…remember the mozambican civil war refugees who spilled in2 zim?every bum blamed these 4their situation…then same thng happens 2us in s.a and botswana…we scream blue murder…if its nigerians in zim its nt ok but a million of us in s.a is very ok…Ever noticed hw we r racial and tribal…we dnt care as lng as thngs r ok 4us @tht tym…we nid an overhaul…do away wth th double standards..accept tht other countries r educating their citizens as well and wth better education at tht…no wonder th elite of zim send their kids 2skools in asia,europe,u.s.a etc so tht they wnt b hoodwinkd in2 ths stupid idea tht we th best in th world…the best @what really?sub standard stuff?

  4. An interesting article but I could not get its central argument. It is punctuated with angry tirades (rants) and rhetorical questions. It is written as it would have been said orally. It would have worked well as a YouTube video where people often express their thoughts or rants on a wide range of issues. Once you decide to convert your thoughts into written prose you have to be careful how you do it. Unless if you write for yourself (i.e. you are the only person who is going to read what you’ve written), you should respect your readers and the precious time they bother to spend reading what you’ve written. So it is important to express the same angry feelings in a language and style that is analytical, rational, and mature. In order for readers to agree with or believe what you are saying they have to trust you as a writer. Very often, your writing is all they have to go with in deciding whether or not to trust you and take you seriously. So it is important to take the craft of writing seriously otherwise YouTube videos provide a platform for those who are impatient to be heard without having to carefully construct and deploy their views.

    This article’s argument, if at all we can call it that, seems to be that the population in that country should not pride themselves for having the highest literacy and education rate on the continent when they are failing to use the same education to change their poor economical, political, and social conditions. This is a very flawed argument. Throughout human history, since the ancient Greeks (in Europe) or the ‘Abbasid Empire (especially from the 8th to the 10th century CE, the so-called Golden Age) in the Middle East or Mansa Musa’s Sankore Madrasah or University’s intellectual revolution which began around 13th century in Africa, there were always been communities and nations of highly educated and intellectual people living under very oppressive systems of government or monarchs. There are also many similar examples in Europe (Spain, France, Britain, Eastern Europe, etc). Yes, in some of the cases the oppressed populations managed to liberate themselves from their oppressive rulers although this took long. Let us not forget that Hitler managed to invade and control countries which at that time were considered intellectual superpowers of Europe. This is why for the major part of the 20th century elite universities in the UK and USA were dominated by professors and scientists who escaped Nazi rule and occupation in many parts of Europe. This is also why when you watch Hollywood stereotypical depictions of intellectuals and professors in the USA, they are often depicted as having “foreign accents” and of being from foreign countries. It is has always been an open secret that the media, academia, and other intellectual institutions in the West are places were having an “exotic” or “foreign” accent along with excellent qualifications can be a great advantage!

    I am not trying to attest to the intellectual abilities of any country because I personally believe that there is a big difference between having the highest literacy/education rate and between being a nation of intellectuals. Every intellectual is educated but not every educated person is an intellectual. I do not believe that there are any notable intellectuals in or from that African country (Zimbabwe). If there were any we would know about them. The reason why most African countries have failed to produce intellectuals is very simple. Soon after independence from colonialism there was a drive by many African governments to produce “professionals” and civil servants to occupy positions which had been left by the former colonisers. So education curricula in Africa emphasised and focused on producing “labourers” and not “thinkers”. When there was a shift in Africa towards “development” the education also reflected that shift. Academic subjects which are regarded as the traditional intellectual subjects in the West, have never been as emphasised in Africa as the “professional subjects”. The education culture and system in almost all African countries is not designed to foster intellectual pursuits or produce intellectuals. When I see an African student on a university campus in a Western country I can accurately guess the kind of degrees or courses they will be studying before they even say tell me. On the other hand, the emphasis in the West has always been on traditional intellectual subjects. That is why the few African students who were inclined such subjects when they were in Africa tend to suddenly rise to prominence great fame when they arrive in the West because they discover a culture that is already designed for their interest.

  5. @ Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha. I forgot to mention that my comment (above) is intended as constructive criticism and no meant to offend. I took the topic of the article serious enough to spend time reading it and then writing feedback. I offered the specific detailed comments above because I thought that the writer may want to develop this article further and improve on it.

    I would also like to add on what I have already written above and say perhaps the reason why the situation in Zimbabwe, bad as it may be, has not ended as extremely violent as it has been in countries like Somalia, Rwanda, Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, South Africa and other violent African states is because they have better education and higher literacy levels on the continent which have enabled them to exercise better judgment.

  6. Hmmm, Uthman Ibn Fodio is rather ‘hectic’. I think the writer was really not writing for a technically intellectual audience but for the general public. That said, the Western form of ‘argument’ or stating things need not be the only form and I don’t see why it should be adhered to in this instance. This is a Zimbabwean stating a Zimbabwean issue with a Zimbabwean flair and really, it is enough that he has stated it in English. It reads as half-stern, half-jocular. It would be beneficial for a wider audience to attempt to understand the context of the piece with all its Zimbabwean influences, rather than come in and prescribe, without much understanding of context. Just as when others read Western texts, say a British text with a British flair, they may attempt to understand it in its context. English no longer belongs to the West; its mannerisms have been textured in different countries; as such, in the spirit of diverse cultural influences, i see no reason as to why the gentleman ought, on his own blog, adhere to Western/ technically intellectual forms of argument. And really, unless he is seeking employment in the West, a West ( theoretically speaking) which may not get his Zimbabweanness and the context of his article, then really, i dont think this one part-stern part-jocular piece will cost him his employment. I think that in this instance, Uthman Ibn Fodio may have projected his own perspectives on the piece, instructing it according to how he himself would have liked to have it written, and missing completely its other tones and textures, which appeal to other audiences.

  7. The observations put forward by Uthman Ibm Fodio are sound indeed, very sound, but the problem, i think, is that they may be misplaced. The title itself ‘Zimbabweans’ Intellect is Much Ado about nothing’ and lines such as ‘Zimbabweans think they are witty, like they are James Bond’ attests to the laid back tones of the piece, its half-stern, half-jocular vein. It is not intended for a technically intellectual journal. It is laid back. In that sense, it achieves just that, to be half- jocular half- stern, to be fun and light, in the serious face of the topic. And it makes for an enjoyable read on this wed morning, something to pass on to a friend to read and engage in some light argument during tea-break. (this is taken from facebook Masimba, on a discussion about your piece which invariably moved to the style, technicalities and aesthetics thereof)

  8. I am not a journo but being a Zimbo I understnd were Masimba is coming from. Good for thought. I also agree to al ot of what you have said. Utahman thanks for critique I just loved it though as I said I am not at all technical in this feild, but I think it really was constructive criticism.

  9. I believe Masimba was being sarcastic and thought provoking contextually. While I understand Uthman I feel that from a distance he might not have found the piece engaging because of the fact that it does not relate to him and his circumstances. Uthman had a wonderful grasp of the message in the article and turned to provide a critical and useful anti-thesis; so why claim the argument was lost in wrong use of written English?

    Clearly, Masimba wanted to to use sarcasm to challenge Zimbabweans to provide solutions to the challenges that they face and, that he did! If you understood the big egos of Zimbabweans when they celebrate their literacy levels compared to the state of their country, then you would have found no better way to discuss the irony than Masimba did.

    The arguments Uthman gave appears to me that he mistook Masimba piece itself as a an intellectual writing inviting academic criticism yet he was simply discussing the subject of ‘intellectualism’ in an artistic, laid back way. Being a Zimbabwean, it had an effect – it made me think that as a nation, should we not be humble than praise ourselves for being literate when that literacy does not work for us?

    I also want to think that both Masimba and Uthman’s two pieces considered as not fighting each other will provide two interesting pieces for reading. I have already justified why Masimba’s is interesting. I think, Uthman too, takes further that debate and in addition provides an important lecture for ‘Beginners in English and New Media’.

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