Locating indigenous knowledge systems: discourse on corruption in Zimbabwe.

Author:Jenjekwa, Vincent


There is no doubt, Zimbabwe like the overwhelming majority of Third World countries faces economic challenges engineered by the twin evils of slavery and colonisation as well as through pressure exerted by the unipolar world via globalisation. It should be noted that in Africa in general and in Zimbabwe in particular, the current economic dynamics have their roots firmly entrenched in an exotic European system that has its antecedents in slavery and colonisation. Through the intrusive colonial escapade by Europeans on African soil, the relations of production were transformed at the detriment of Africa's own age old indigenous systems. These systems found themselves alienated, irrelevant and constantly subverted by the new system.

Because of the unrelenting socio-economic challenges, especially in Africa South of the Sahara, there is a new thrust which focuses on home grown solutions to challenges. An inspiring fairy tale of the success story of the success of indigenous solutions to developmental challenges is the success story of the so-called Asian Tigers (China, Korea, India and Japan) (Mwaura in Katola, 2014). These countries have managed to turn around their socio-economic challenges through harnessing local knowledge systems, including their local languages. It is increasingly becoming evident that there will be no economic turnaround for African countries on the basis of foreign prescriptions.

Zimbabwe's case is unique; decades of economic recession exacerbated by Western imposed economic sanctions have driven the country's leadership and general citizenry into introspection. A major challenge which is working against any meaningful turnaround initiatives is the scourge of corruption. This ubiquitous scourge threatens and negates any positive signals of economic transformation, ultimately threatening to obliterate any gains made since independence.

Hence, in terms of definition, "Corruption is the perversion of integrity or state of affairs through bribery, favour or moral depravity ... It takes place when at least two parties have interacted to change the structure or processes of society or the behaviour of functionaries in order to produce dishonest, unfaithful or defiled situations" (Onigu in Lawal, 2007:2), and thus a deviation from the morally acceptable standard of doing business in pursuit of personal selfish gain.

Lawal (2007:1) citing a Policy Forum-Document on "Corruption and Development in Africa" summarises the destructive effect of corruption thus:

Once corruption becomes entrenched, its negative effects multiply. It induces cynicism, because people begin to regard it as the norm. It undermines social values because people find it easier and more lucrative to engage in corruption than to seek legitimate employment. It erodes governmental legitimacy because it hampers the effective delivery of public goods and services. It limits economic growth because it reduces the amount of public resources, discourages private investment and saving and impedes the efficient use of government revenue and development assistance funds. And furthermore, the abuse of public office for self-aggrandisement has led to a general sense of despondence in most countries as economic turnaround initiatives come to nought before they are even conceptualised, because of corruption. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher succinctly defined corruption through her detest for it by declaring that "You can't enjoy the fruits of effort without making the effort" (Lumumba, 2011:2). In Zimbabwe, just like in other Third World countries, the desire to get rich fast at whatever cost has weighed down on the economy. Hanson (2009:1) correctly observes that in Africa, corruption has resulted in "stunted" economic growth.

Unfortunately and sadly, according to Transparency International cited in Hanson (2009), of the ten countries considered most corrupt in the world, six of them are in Africa South of the Sahara which makes corruption a real evil which has to be tackled in the interest of socio-economic transformation. Thus, there is no doubt that any economic turnaround programme like the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIMASSET) is dependent on "the quality of institutions of governance" (Kimenyi and Mbaku, 2011:30) as ZIMASSET is a programme of action crafted by the government of Zimbabwe in 2013 to arrest the economic decline, and spur the economy into positive growth through the use of local resources (ZIMASSET, 2013).

Indigenous Knowledge Systems

Mapara (2009:140) defines indigenous knowledge systems as "a body of knowledge, or bodies of knowledge of the indigenous people of particular geographical areas that they have survived on for a very long time" which are linked to the communities which originate them. These indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) are "the sum facts that are known or learned from experience or acquired through observation and study and handed down from generation to generation" (Mwaura in Chirimuuta et al 2012:2). Inevitably these knowledge systems cover all spheres of life of the people concerned. Thus, indigenous knowledge systems are "African ways of knowing" which define the African's worldview and ways of knowing (Ngara, 2007:7).

Indigenous knowledge systems have stood stubborn to the destructive barrages of colonisation. The European colonial 'adventure' in Africa imposed foreign and alien knowledge systems on African communities. It was important for the colonist to dislocate the African from self, that is, from his/her culture, language, history, food and institutions. This cultural dislocation found ostensible expression in the geographical reorganisation done through renaming. The imperialists rode on a charade of smoke and mirrors and embarked on renaming the toponymic landscape as if the land did not have names prior to their coming. This renaming as a manifestation of indigenous knowledge systems was a colonial strategy to dispossess African people of their land through creating the smoke screen of a "terra nullius"--the impression that the land was vacant before the coming of colonialists (Helander, 2014:330). This renaming alongside the general subjugation and denigration of African systems like the forms of worship was meant to induce some form of 'cultural shock in the African'. Everything African was subsequently subjugated and painted with a brush of inferiority and paganism. And these knowledge systems were "misunderstood, misinterpreted, ridiculed, and ignored during the scramble for and the colonization of Africa" (Ngara, 2007:8).

Unfortunately at the attainment of independence most African countries basked in the euphoria and glory of hoisting their flags, and yet the intricate maze and tentacles of colonialism had spread like a mat to critical pillars of the African way of life.

Today African countries (Zimbabwe included), fight against numerous vestiges of colonialism, some of which have morphed into very complicated cultural practices like corruption. A spiritual journey to...

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