THE political scene in Zimbabwe over the last few years has been gravely polarised. The MDC blames Zanu PF for all that is wrong with Zimbabwe, and Zanu PF blames the MDC. Everybody blames everybody else.
We have seen this partisan polarisation extended into every sphere including business and unfortunately even into churches. Nation building has been replaced by narrow partisan political agendas. Parties refuse to accept responsibility even in circumstances which are as obvious.
Zimbabweans have been complicit in this blame game by suspending objectivity. The reality is that for Zimbabwe to move forward, we should all acknowledge our sins, be it at political party level, government, religious, business and even at individual level. We have all sinned at one time or the other.
The religious among us will be familiar with Romans 3 v 23, which clearly spells that there are no saints in our midst. We have all sinned. Zimbabwe is what it is today not because of one man, not because of one political party, not because of business but we have all shared in pulling down our country.
In diverse ways, we drew our six-pound hammers and battered our heritage down. Our sins or mistakes could be of omissions, things we did not do, or of commission, things we did. It is true that we can never remake the past, but it is equally true that we can seek to understand what transpired so as to learn from our mistakes and failures.
It is time we all took responsibility for our actions, or lack of, and maybe we can begin to find one another and begin to work together to build our future, if not for us, then at least we can do that for posterity.
A fair share of mistakes is attributed to Zanu PF for their contribution in bringing Zimbabwe’s economy into its comatose state. They have been in the corridors of power since the demise of minority rule in Zimbabwe in 1980.
It is easy to give credit to them for the heroic fight against colonialism, racism and the injustices that existed in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and even the rest of Africa. There are a lot of good things that Zanu PF did in Zimbabwe especially between 1980 and 1995. Of particular mention are the sacrifices they made in improving the education and health sectors. It was a true government of the people by the people.
But things changed somewhere along the line. They became so familiar with power and turned their backs on the people. They even forgot some of the fundamentals of the liberation struggle.
The cancer of endemic corruption and greed set in and everybody shifted to mind what fattened their pockets. Pot bellies and thick necks began to be the identifying mark for politicians and those close to them. That was the first visible signal of an apostate party.
As they say, a politician who is poor is a poor politician. It became clear that the state had abandoned the fight against corruption as they had sought to do in the 80’s. Some may remember the skulls of the Willowgate Scandal and indeed other scandals that had been summarily dealt with.
One other mistake which Robert Mugabe’s party did over the years was failing to prioritise infrastructure development. They forgot that infrastructure development is the bedrock of any industrial advancement. Roads, railway and air travel largely remained as they found them at takeover in 1980. Zimbabwe imports the bulk of its power supply. There can never be any excuses for this lack of planning that the government exhibited because they could have generated the funds from tax and other levies and revenues.
The government policy inconsistencies resulted in zero progress despite the many blueprints that have gathered dust without any meaningful implementation. Some projects have had an annoying tendency of being pulled out around election time only to die again a choking death when elections pass. We remember the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project. We remember the Tokwe-Mukosi dam. We remember the Chitungwiza rail project. The list is endless.
The result was soaring unemployment levels that resulted in the disenfranchisement of many in Zimbabwe and the resultant threat to the survival of the liberation movement. Government debt, both domestic and foreign, soared in the period from 1995. Much of the debt is what could be described as “odious debt”. It is difficult to justify what the funds were used for given the non-development of infrastructure over the same period.
Government controls were the other major mistake. This control resulted in monopolies that only served to scuttle development. We can pause to see how many jobs would have been created if the media, for example, had been freed. In countries like South Africa, thousands upon thousands of jobs are in the media fraternity.
The print media has done its fair bit in Zimbabwe but I believe the same could have been extended to other forms of media. The Air Zimbabwe monopoly has scuttled development in the domestic air travel business in Zimbabwe. There are countries in Africa whose economies and peoples have benefited from budget airlines. Why should more than 80% of the nation wonder what air travel is like all their lives? More liberalisation of the economy could be the way to go.
One of the costly mistakes which the Zanu PF government made was in 1997 when the nation woke up to find our soldiers at war in the DRC. It is estimated that the war cost Zimbabwe about US$400 million. Most SADC nations refused to be drawn into the reckless venture. It doesn’t help to mention that Zimbabwe never benefited directly when the war was over.
Countries like South Africa who were ready to pounce when the opportunity beckoned have much to show from that country in terms of investments although they never participated in the costly war. I shudder to imagine how much benefit that amount could have generated if it had been put to infrastructural development.
There are many who think the major mistake which Zanu PF made was embarking on the land reforms. Although I do not agree with the implementation part, the land redistribution in principle was long overdue. In itself the land redistribution was not a mistake. But having said that, the mistake that was made was the politicisation of the whole programme. This resulted in violence which the international media was quick to blow out of proportion resulting in worldwide condemnation which later brought sanctions that almost brought Zanu PF to its knees.
A more properly planned process done in a legal way would have ensured that there would be minimal condemnation. There was no need to embark on the fast track land redistribution process in the form in which it was pursued. Zimbabwe paid dearly for taking such a short-cut.
I have deliberately chosen not to focus on the recent mistakes made because most of these were unfortunate knee-jerk reactions to a bad situation, which we all know can be very disastrous. We could mention the violence, the militarisation of state institutions, the inconsistencies regarding indigenisation, the quasi-fiscal forays of the RBZ, the failure to exploit our vast mineral resources and may other mistakes which are too numerous to mention.
Scenes of jubilation were heard and seen far and wide when the MDC was formed in 1999. People thought the messiah had come to take them back to a land of milk and honey.
But the MDC too committed mistakes which have largely been the reason why they have failed to wrestle power from the grip of the liberation movement.
The timing for the formation of the MDC was just perfect. Why then has it taken so long for them to dispose of Zanu PF? Like I said, we all have sinned. The MDC, strong as it was, made many fatal mistakes.
The main mistake made by the MDC was to allow itself to be perceived as a party which was formed to protect the interest of the white farmers who were opposed to the agrarian reforms. I contend that much should have been invested in shedding that stigma.
The “NO Vote” during the Constitution Referendum of 2000 was actually a rejection of President Robert Mugabe and a political triumph for the newly formed opposition group, the MDC. But the referendum was the MDC’s first mistake.
We all remember the retribution campaign that followed against white farmers and supporters of the MDC because Zanu PF successfully convinced, at least their supporters and the war veterans, that one of the main ideals for the liberation struggle had been thwarted because the main proposal in that draft constitution was a provision for the government to repossess land without compensation.
The MDC should not have campaigned for the “NO Vote”. The current bickering on the constitution process would have been avoided.
While it was within the rights of the whites in Zimbabwe to exercise their freedom of choice and association, it was disingenuous for them to have openly signed fat cheques for the MDC. I believe it was going to have been more prudent if they had taken a less prominent role. This can be controversial, but in my opinion this compromised the opposition party and limited its function as a genuine people’s party. This is especially at a time when a crucial process of addressing land imbalances was gathering momentum.
The other mistake was that the leadership of the party allowed its membership to get carried away in sloganeering. Those who cared, like me and a few others, lamented in our hearts as we heard the “ Hezvo uko, Bhwa! Bhwa! Bhwa!, kwaZvimba nekujeri” slogan crescendo into the air at MDC rallies. That only served to harden the hearts of some within the leadership and the security sectors who felt that the slogans were a declaration of what would come when Zanu PF is disposed from power. This created a monster within the security sector.
Another debatable mistake was with respect to sanctions. With hindsight, it can be argued that the spurious position of the MDC with regards to sanctions did not help Zimbabweans at all. It may be argued that Zanu PF inflicted the sanctions on themselves by the violence and other atrocities committed in the name of the land reform.
But I believe the MDC must have, as a matter of principle, renounced sanctions for the sake of the people they purported to represent. In this way, the MDC became a willing accomplice in the suffering of the masses of Zimbabwe. We have also seen how the sanctions have been effectively used as a scapegoat by Zanu PF in hindering necessary reforms before free and fair elections can be held in Zimbabwe.
When calls for land reform were gathering momentum, it had been sounded that ways had to be found of compensating farmers who would lose some of their land. We may remember the Donors’ Conference that was organised in 1998 and how it sought to raise funds for the land redistribution. The spirit then was positive.
The farmers’ failure to cooperate under the willing buyer willing seller was evidenced by the exorbitant prices that they placed on the farms. The farmers contributed to their demise. One would have expected them to have cooperated in the land redistribution when it was initiated.
The initial proposal was not going to be as harsh as it turned out when the reforms were done under the fast track exercise. Literature available shows that more than half of the over 5,000 white farmer were going to retain their properties. This is compared to the current 500 or so who retained their farms after the violent land seizures.
Business in Zimbabwe has been accused of diverse forms of sabotage. The government complains that whenever they came up with policies which were meant to encourage manufacturing, business would then embark on profiteering and various forms of cartels aimed at lining up their pockets. This has resulted in reversal of those policies as government sought to protect the people.
Recently, former South African President Thabo Mbeki presented a talk where he claimed that some sources suggest that as much as US$854 billion was siphoned out of Africa between 1970 and 2008, with another US$945 billion due to other cross-border illegalities such as under-invoicing and smuggling
Much of this is attributed to mining companies and other businesses. Now, Zimbabwe being one of the most minerally-endowed countries, how much of that could be from the land between the Limpopo and the Zambezi? This issue is now at the core of arguments for indigenous people to be in control of their resources.
The church also should not be spared of blame in the state of affairs in Zimbabwe. The church has largely abandoned their “salt of the earth” role in favour of bickering on petty issues such as who draws more people than the other and who does this and/or that more than the other.
I believe one of the primary reasons the church exists is captured in “the Lord’s Prayer” which Jesus taught his disciples: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
The church should have focused more on prayer for the nation and giving direction to the political leaders. There are mysterious forces which seem to cause the demise of nations. It is the role of spiritual leadership in leading a campaign to reverse that. The role of the church transcends just safeguarding against moral degeneration. It is therefore a vital cog in the wheel that spins the affairs of any nation.
The year1980 was declared by the then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe to be “the year of the People’s Power”. Indeed the people have power. That power can only be realised when people decide to be united for a common good or bad cause. The people then cannot stand aloof and blame politics.
What happened to the people’s power? Zimbabwe, lets arise and reclaim our heritage. We can do it with unity of purpose.
We could go on and on to chronicle the mistakes made by this party or that. The lists can never be exhaustive. But the important thing going forward is for all parties concerned to play ball to ensure that our nation can be restored of its pride. It is our collective responsibility to stop whatever has been dividing us and we go like a swarm of bees and participate in positive contributions for our nation.
We have all sinned. We have all, in one way or another, contributed to destroying our nation. But, we can all participate in rebuilding it. The recognition that we have all made mistakes will form the foundation of the next brand of Zimbabweans who will cause a turnaround in our nation.
Zimbabwe needs people who will not allow stupid polarisation to hinder objective assessment of our situation. The country needs a new generation that will not drive looking into the rear view mirror but will only occasionally take a glance thereon to enable smooth flow going forward. Our children deserve better from all of us. I am in. We should all be in.