By Crispy Kaheru
Coordinator – Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU)
Once Africa's sung hub of intellectualism and professionalism, Zimbabwe is now nothing less than an orbituary of a departed academic sector, a dying corporate segment and a country feared and haunted by its very own 'professionals'. Now, when you scratch beyond the surface, you get to interesting findings; this predicament has little to do with the economics of Zimbabwe but it has everything to do with the politics of the country.
On this one sunny Monday afternoon, am having lunch with a professor at one of Zimbabwe's top University. Our lunch graduates into a tête-à-tête on a range of issues affecting 'Uncle Bob's' republic.
In a chronological manner, this middle aged professor outlines how education in Zimbabwe has lost as much value as the economy itself. She later narrates how the government has in recent years resettled most of her colleagues to South Africa and Botswana. Not just resettling them but helping to process their work permit applications as well as obtaining employment for them. It is not because their services are not required in Zimbabwe; It is not because the government can't employ these people locally; it is not because the government wants to increase its Gross National Income (GNI) from their remittances and neither is it because it cares so much for its 'professionals'. It is because these so-called 'professionals' are the source of trouble for the ruling regime – they interrogate governmental policy positions, they provide an intellectual support base for alternative views and 'worse still', they are a potential financial muscle for any individual, political party or organization that may seek to challenge the party or individual in power. We are talking about professionals such as teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, business men and women. Now you understand why these are not 'good' people to keep around 'your courtyard' especially when taking criticism is not your point of strength. They poke their fingers in all public issues and they never let you have a comfortable time in your position of 'power'. Actually, simply put, they threaten your office all the time!
One quick solution is to keep them as far as you can from 'your' power. Now, you can do this just like how Uncle Bob has done it in Zimbabwe – export them to other countries and make sure they are comfortable there so they don't return home. The other option is to subject these 'wiseacres' to tight conditions such as very poor pay so that they can volunteer to migrate to 'greener pastures'.
Meles Zenawi (RIP) did it very successfully in Ethiopia. Am not sure about now, but during 'his' time, doctors, lecturers and most professionals had a pay ceiling of not more than three hundred dollars a month. Actually, the highest paid doctor received two hundred dollars per month. Teaching tools were just as limited as health facilities. All these were paired with the main aim of compelling professionals to leave Ethiopia 'kindly by force'. Meles fought the dual citizenship law; but successfully instituted laws to facilitate remittances from these migrant 'wiseacres'. Indeed, true to his deeds, 60% of the doctors in Texas in the U.S are of Ethiopian origin.
A couple of weeks ago, when my own President declared a no-pay-rise for teachers, I wondered if he was indirectly facilitating a forced intellectual capital flight. Oh by the way, come to think of it, they've been branded as the 'wiseacres', always striking, challenging the government, now some of these professors (teachers) are even contemplating standing for presidency! Little wonder their pay rise may never ever see the light of day!
This is why someone you know scoffs at these professionals and tells them to go find better paying jobs elsewhere but not Uganda!
Oh Uganda! The land that feeds us?