Prof Jonathan Moyo –the scholar and the idea of changing episodes of reason

File Pic: Former Higher Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, fled Zimbabwe in November
File Pic: Former Higher Education Minister, Jonathan Moyo, fled Zimbabwe in November

A long read on Professor Jonathan Moyo, an academic par excellence (PART ONE)

By Richard Runyararo Mahomva

On the 25th of November 2016 at the Bulawayo Press-Club, The Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Jonathan Moyo –who also serves as ZANU-PF’s Secretary for Science and Technology gave a press exchange mainly described as provocatively maverick by some sections of the media.  Knowing that it was Professor Moyo speaking, I found the presentation intellectually appealing than it was politically correct or not (depending on one’s political preference).  As the Prof addressed the press stakeholders, activists and the general public that evening, the currently rumoured factional dilemma rocking the ruling ZANU-PF became the keynote theme. In his traditional eloquent character, Professor Moyo spoke about the factional crisis confronting Zimbabwe’s nationalist movement.

As a result, the presentation by Professor Moyo attracted both hyped private and public media attention. As usual, it was the factional scoop which got more attention than anything else that came out Cde Moyo’s delivery. The presentation made by Professor Moyo received mainstream media appreciation which ignored that Moyo’s views need to be embraced beyond the limits of mere propaganda.

This is common with our press and how it merchandises perspectives which disarticulate and disjoin the values of Zimbabwe’s national destiny and interests. Well I need not to get into detail about Professor Moyo’s submission on loyalty and succession in Zimbabwe’s current power struggles. However, I should highlight that the presentation by Moyo and the delegates’ interventions left an indelible enquiry in my head regarding the plethora of national loyalties we embrace as diverse citizens of this country. Are we a people who are loyal to the values of our liberation struggle? Are we fundamentally loyal to accumulation of political capital and wealth at the expense of the long call of history for us to re-live the values of the Chimurenga as progressive nation-builders?

Professor Moyo’s presentation also inspired the article I wrote last week in this paper. The main objective of the piece was to understand how the loyalty continues to shape state interests and Zimbabwe’s political world-view against a history of colonialism.  Professor Moyo’s presentation tackled what the media represented as a blunt side of things as far as the succession question in the ruling party is concerned. However, the subject of loyalty to the party –its centre of power, history and future aspirations stands unchallenged. Therefore, last week I had to dissect the dichotomy of loyalty to partisan interests and the nation at large.  Even so, I strongly feel like that submission was not exhaustive. Therefore, I have finally decided to dedicate this series to Professor Moyo’s paper, ‘Generational Shifts in African Politics: Prospects for a New Africa’.  As the discussion unfolds, I will link this particular publication to the pressing issue of loyalty to the nation.

Moyo –a fundi by design or an accident?

In 2004, Moyo wrote a paper titled, ‘Generational Shifts in African Politics: Prospects for a New Africa’. The paper was published during Moyo’s tenure as Zimbabwe’s Minster of Information and Publicity. This alone suggests that Prof Moyo does not only belong to the crop of political geniuses. This is an open and undisputable indication that Professor Moyo also belongs to a revered class of other high distillate intellectual political technocrats of this country such as the late Dr Charles Utete, Dr Stan Mudenge and the likes of Dr Nathan Shamuyarira (May they Rest In Power). Yes, that group of this country’s distinguished political thought-power whose interest in statesmanship is not only politically pragmatic, but is also intellectual. Likewise, Moyo has served in some Ministerial portfolios which were once led by some of these condensed intellectual politicians whom I likened him with. Is it a coincidence? I wonder! His first cabinet appointment as Minister of Information saw him fit into shoes that were won by the late Dr Nathan Shamuyarira. Cde Shamuyarira became Zimbabwe’s first Minister of Information in 1980 until 1987 when he reassigned the top position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 2015 when the President reshuffled the cabinet, Moyo was appointed as Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education – a ministry once led by a distinguished Zimbabwe historian and intellectual beacon, the late Dr Stanislaus Gorerazvo Mudenge.   Dr Mudenge is one of Zimbabwe’s veteran writers of pre-colonial history, just as Prof Jonathan Moyo is one of the early writers of Zimbabwe’s public administration and political science discourse. In 1993, Moyo published a Zimbabwean handbook of public policy formulation titled, ‘The Politics of the National Purse’ this publication was backed by his other significant title, The Politics of Public Administration: Understanding Bureaucracy in Africa. I need not to mention Moyo’s incontestable academic credentials which date back to his days as visiting professor at the University of Witwatersrand. Not to mention that was an adjunct professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and a research associate at the James S. Coleman African Studies Center at UCLA. Moyo also lectured at the University of Zimbabwe.

Academic politicians and periodic consistency

Therefore, when Prof Moyo speaks there is need to understand that the man is not only a politician, but is an intellectual of note –that cannot be taken away from him. At the same time, this makes his work rightfully subject to intellectual criticism than any ordinary politician. The same applies to other Zimbabwean political figures like Ambassador Cain Mathema. This makes it easier to engage Moyo’s thoughts whenever he shares ideas. It should be understood that when Professor Moyo speaks he always delivers new knowledge other than mere political rhetoric. When he writes he always commands his pen to communicate fundamental issues of political continuity and in some instances blatantly explains issues. That is common with men of the chalkboard like Moyo.  As a result, in other sections of the political and academic divide Moyo’s thinking has been problematised as a conveyer-belt of his personal periodic consistency. However, I am of the view that an academic needs to continuously shift their thought paradigm because the world is not fixated on linear perspectives which only reproduce monotony. Therefore academics must always demonstrate epistemic flexibility in a manner which reflects the changing trends of their given socio-economic and political space. In so doing, the academic’s shifting episodes of reason must serve as freely availed surveillance tools for the distant observer the come into contact with emerging perspectives in the sphere of the polity. This is what separates the academic politician from the ordinary politician. In many instances, the academic politician scarcely gives in to the expected. That is not common with obvious politicians and that is the reason why most people misread the political character of Professor Moyo. There is a tendency to understand his reason from a political provincial scope which ignores Moyo’s background as a man of the chalkboard.

This is why I found it crucial to reflect on how Moyo is a bearer a shifting and yet very timeless kind of reason underpinned in conceptualising the political landscape of Zimbabwe. Over the years, Moyo has proved not to be loyal to embracing the tradition of consistency. From a political science perspective, this defines a character of one who is sync with principles of pragma. Unlike ordinary political thought bearers, an academic politician is able to move away from popular dogma. In traditionalized political rhetoric spaces, such shifting episodes of reason may be misread and uncomprehend. Therefore, this calls for the need to analyse Prof Moyo’s intellectual character –his contribution to the academia and how his shifting episodes of reason must be manipulated to harness changing themes of Zimbabwe’s political ideology, culture and change.

The ‘renascent generation and the STEM factor

When Professor Moyo was appointed as the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education many thought that the new assignment conferred to him marked a collapse of his political career. In response to the awash media coverage on that matter I wrote an article titled ‘Jonathan Moyo Saga:  The Height of paranoia and confusion in Zanu PF’. I warned that his appointment will result in a new twist of the portfolio of higher and tertiary education. This prediction did not go down the drain. The introduction of the Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has proved how much Professor Moyo is able to migrate from one faculty of reason to another. Prof Moyo has beyond doubt reflected true character of a scholar who is able to change the guard and express innovative function of reason in confronting new challenges.

Likewise, Africa has challenges and these challenges are never the same from point of the continent to another. This is what makes Professor Jonathan Moyo’s publication, ‘Generational Shifts in African Politics: Prospects for a New Africa’  very relevant in defining the strategic prospects which Africa needs to move forward instead of being stuck in the past and traditions which stagnate continuity:

The fixation on the past haunts Africa. It is uncommon to encounter futuristic policies on Africa based on critical assessments of present possibilities rooted in Africa’s rather unique and rich history and geography. Therefore, it is that Africa appears to be a continent with a past but not a future. When Africa’s future is discussed or presented, it is with predictable gloom. This crippling interregnum should be blown apart. As the 21st century and the third millennium loom on the horizon, it is an auspicious time for a fresh examination of the past, present and future prospects of the human condition in Africa against the background of relevant positive and negative international developments. Several concrete developments simply beg for a fresh look at Africa (Moyo 2004: 4).

Africa’s problems borrowed from the past and are constantly changing from generation to the other. Thus calling for new approaches to change.  Zimbabwean problems are also changing and the prospects of development are not solely dependent on a linear projection. This is where initiatives like STEM come in –though there is need to decolonise STEM and give it decolonial relevance instead of making it conform to Eurocentricity’s arrogation of natural sciences and technological education. From the perspective of Eurocentricity sciences have been accorded preferential superiority over other disciplines such as humanities and commercials. Instead of awarding STEM distinguished beneficiaries trips to Western countries there is need to refocus the merit of this initiative and make it more decolonial. The STEM project must not further affirm the self-arrogated ego of the West for being the great teacher of scientific innovation whose mandate is to mentor other provinces of the world on science. Doing so makes Zimbabwe’s interest to enhance the grooming young scientists to be deficient of decoloniality. As it stands, the STEM beneficiation makes the STEMATISED conform to the idea of Western supremacy which states that patterns of our development must ‘catch-up’ with standards set by the West:

The idea of ‘catching up’ entails learning not only about ideas from abroad but also about one’s capacities and weaknesses. ‘Catching up’ requires that countries know themselves and their own history that has set the ‘initial conditions’ for any future progress. They need a deep understanding of their culture, not only for self-reaffirmation, but in order to capture the strong points of their culture and institution that will see their societies through rapid social change (…). The real issue about ‘catching up’ is not that of simply taking on every wretched instrument used by their pioneers to get what they have- wars, slave labour, child labour, colonialism, Gulags, concentration camps- but of finding more efficacious and morally acceptable ways of improving the life chances of millions of poor people. (…) There would be no point in investing so much in the study if it involved simply regurgitating scripts that countries must follow (Thandika Mkandawire,2011:13).

The STEM initiative must be credited as it expresses how we need to promote scientific innovation. However, is important that we redeploy the initial plan of STEM in a manner which will liberate sciences from Western capture so that the output of STEM is relevant to the Zimbabwean context. Instead of taking outstanding beneficiaries of STEM to the West for orientation why not take our STEMATISED young men and women across the Limpompo for a lecture from Prof Chandra Kant Raju? Professor Raju is a South-African based scholar who has extensively published on the need to decolonise mathematics and the entire science education in Africa. Raju has vehemently challenged the imperial teaching of science education in Africa. Therefore, why not engage such thinkers like Raju to make STEM a better project than it is now?

I speak of STEM not only as a project initiated by Professor Moyo, but STEM represents the yearn for the inclusion of youth in projects of national development. Today’s stem generation represents what Moyo refers to as the ‘renascent generation’:

There is a renascent generation of Africans. While the critical core of this generation is found among young Africans who are currently under-seven-years-old, the essential values and outlook of the generation are already present among teenagers. The renascent generation promises a new form of enlightened nationalism in Africa and is certain to stamp its mark on the continent’s social history by 2050. However, the jury is still out as to whether this generation will transform Africa for better or worse (Moyo 2004: 12).

 

In his paper, Moyo (2004:12) clandestinely extends this view by borrowing the aspect of craft literacy and craft competence from his seminal book, The Politics of the National Purse (1993) to describe this renascent (STEM) generation:

 

What is certain is that, by 2050, there will be a New English or French speaking Africa governed

by a new class, the New Nationalists, dominated by craft-literate intellectuals and a craft-competent technical intelligentsia with little to do with Africa’s political past as given down by conventional wisdom in this century. Africa will have become significantly “Europeanized,” not “globalized” and not “Americanized” in more or less the same way Latin America was “Europeanized” by the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This melting of cultures will by no means suggest the triumph of European values in Africa in the narrow sense that might be conveyed by the notion of “Europeanization” nor will it imply the defeat of African values as they have unfolded in history. To be continued

Richard Runyararo Mahomva is an independent academic researcher, Founder of Leaders for Africa Network — LAN. Convener of the Back to Pan-Africanism Conference and the Reading Pan-Africa Symposium (REPS) and can be contacted on rasmkhonto@gmail.com