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By Terence M Mashingaidze

ZIMBABWE is increasingly sinking into a sad cornucopia of poverty, food shortages, corruption, declining life expectancy, repression and indifference. Our leaders persistently force the country to play truancy to democracy and sober economic management.

Currently the country is like a rudderless ship under the command of an inebriated and indifferent crew, floating on sea, being pushed by the winds to shore but aiming at no specific destination. The clearest testimony of this is that for a couple of years now the government has been managing without any coherent programme or strategic plan in national policy formulation and service delivery. Here I am not implying that the revolutionary and patriotic government should have long term plans and projections like they did in tricky-old-arrogant Smythie’s exclusionary Rhodesia or now in the snoopy-wild-imperial-west. No, not at all! I am simply saying lets have those Five Year Plans that we had in the 1980s so that we know the agenda for the nation, development targets and markers of success as we tread along into the future.

Now there is an exigency to redefine the role of the state in the management of economic affairs. There is an increasing perception among some citizens that the state is a tool for personal enrichment rather than a vehicle for broad mass based empowerment and livelihoods improvement. State sanctioned personal aggrandizement is carried out within the ambits of the redistributive discourses and the politics of correcting historical imbalances such as the indigenization and land reform programmes.

Essentially, there is nothing wrong in empowering the marginalized and diversifying the demographic base of economic ownership. What is wrong is that the powerless majority of workers are used by the state as captive agents in underwriting the enrichment of a select few. Without any modicum of accountability taxpayers’ money was used in the 1990s to promote shady indigenization and affirmative action deals and now it is being used for the new farmers’ ventures.

The media has reported on numerous occasions about how funds and resources meant for agricultural production are either abused or monopolized by the politically energized “fat cats”. The land reform, coupled with its associated bureaucratic tomfoolery, has created millionaires (in revalued Z$ term!) out of people with neither the brains nor inclination for farming. Surely this is not the Zimbabwe that we want, a country where political connections rather than talent, expertise and initiative are the modalities for wealth accumulation.

"When musicians produce crazy songs like “The Blair-that-I-know is-a-toilet” which top the charts what does that mean?"

The ruthless and brutal efficiency in the implementation of decadent legal instruments such as POSA and AIPPA and ad hoc operations such as Murambatsvina, Garikai, Taguta or even Zuvarabuda are not signs of good governance. At any stage in life, no matter how strong one’s physical constitution is, if a person goes through innumerable operations the result is death irrespective of the surgeons’ expertise and desire to serve and prolong life. Therefore, these operations are emblematic of paralysis of governance and if the leaders continue implementing them with reckless abandon as they have been doing then the downward spiral of Zimbabwe’s fortunes will continue.

The fellows whom we have given the responsibility to chaperon our republic’s affairs have failed to deliver for the benefit of us all, they are good at safeguarding and maintaining themselves in the portals of power by any means necessary. Like all anti-democratic actors they ride roughshod against the majority’s will with impunity. The chaos in our cities clearly shows this. For the past couple of years the learned Minister of Local Governance and Urban Housing has been working full-throttle to mastermind urban decay throughout Zimbabwe by harassing, obstructing and chasing out of office democratically elected mayors and councillors. He has also appointed and continues to support unpopular and incompetent commissions to run the affairs of the urban areas. The profligate chairperson of the commission (mal) administering the Once-Sunshine-City-of-Harare and the coterie behind or around her are typical of the Minister’s preferred urban affairs managers. Is this the Zimbabwe we want?

Some implacable government departments and officials continue concocting placebos such as the exaggerated sanctions complex, and endless galas and bashes in order to enthrall a potentially restive hungry and jobless population. I revere the heroes in whose honour these celebrations are supposedly held. But is there any tribute surpassing celebrating the lives of great individuals than channeling the resources currently used for these events to the establishment of well-publicized national memorial funds to support HIV/AIDS, housing, (Remember Homeless Murambatsvina victims!), educational, and poverty alleviation programmes? Is it not better to honour our heroes by empowering communities and cushioning the vulnerable than to spend frivolous nights collectively watching seductive gyrations, dancing to museve and drinking scuds at Mbizo, Dulibadzimu or, in instances of gratuitous profanity, at the fragile, somber and sacred environs of Great Zimbabwe? National introspection is highly called for now.

In as much as blame for Zimbabwe’s sorry state can be apportioned to the leadership, the powerless majority are also to be blame. Its either we have resigned to state sanctioned bullying or we have simply become frivolous celebrators of trivia and mediocrity. When musicians produce crazy songs like “The Blair-that-I-know is-a-toilet” which top the charts what does that mean? When a cantankerous chap wants to leave poverty stricken Zimbabwe to go to the USA to donate blankets and clothes to Hurricane Katarina victims in New Orleans and that makes headline news are we being serious? Yes, we can mock the world’s super power for neglecting its vulnerable citizens and make political capital out of the Katarina tragedy but is it necessary and in what way does it benefit the folks in Mhandamabwe, ngale eTsholtsho , Glen Norah or Pumula? I used to queue for fuel for nights on end and we would simply bear the humiliations by saying “ah Zanu itsaona!”, “Zvakapresser maface”, or “Zimbabwe is a tsunami”.

In deed the above statements show that people are perceptive of the country’s mismanagement and the million dollar question is what are we doing about it? Pundits of diverse persuasions posit numerous hypotheses to account for citizen inertia in Zimbabwe. Professor Masunungure’s recent engaging article in The Standard postulated that Zimbabweans are risk averse and lack communal solidarity which is why they do not collectively register discontent against inconveniences such as the on going load shading and the ubiquitous queuing for almost every service and commodity. He further indicated that Zimbabwe’s current leadership and those who went to war were and still are the critical mass of the risk taking element in the country’s population. Without this element’s tutelage Zimbabweans will not complain let alone engage in any meaningful struggle. Some say Zimbabweans are docile, indifferent or too literate to engage in bruising struggles.

Although these views could be true I have some reservations. I still think Zimbabweans are brave and innovative risk takers and that accounts for their continued sacrificing of limb, fortune, home and relationships in their endeavors to eke out alternative livelihoods in unknown destinations abroad. I also think that many people have come to the conclusion that rather than contesting the governance question in a poorly managed and repressive nation-system they would rather move out and creatively adapt in other well run enclaves of the global village.

Besides the above mentioned points, in analyzing our inertia we need to note that the struggles for national liberation and good governance are somewhat different. In the former grievances and agendas are easy to define and mass mobilization is unproblematic while in the latter the grievances and agendas are much more contestable, open to multiple definitions and resolutions. The divisions right now within the opposition, labour and civil society movements about how best to engage the government confirm this point. Such fissures were not so apparent during the liberation struggle, differences in the liberation movements were in degree of emphasis rather than style, policy or agendas. The challenge for any opposition leader now is for him/her to creatively formulate an agenda that resonates with wildly disparate agendas and interests. This is a toll order.

Finally, Zimbabwe’s predicament is largely self-inflicted rather than exogenous. We are a nation that has lost its soul and we need to revive the basics of good human engagement: honest, fairness and solidarity. I wish to live in a Zimbabwe where justice is done any time and all the time. To me the anti-Corruption Ministry is an eloquent and poignant testimonial of national malfeasance rather than a memento of a government’s commitment to put a wayward nation back to the path of good business conduct. I yearn for the day when fellow Zimbabweans who wax lyrically at every beck and call that “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again” will come back to their senses and calmly and assertively say “Zimbabwe will never be mismanaged by anyone and for anyone”.

Terence M Mashingaidze is an historian and academic. He can be contacted at


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