forty days and forty nights are not over
I AM a strong character under normal circumstances. In the last few
months, that resolve has been severely tested by the Zimbabwean story.
The Zimbabwean story reads like a very sad fairy tale; whereby Zimbabweans
lived sadly ever after!
When Zimbabwe attained political independence in April 1980, the Zanu
PF government inherited a modern national infrastructure. Since then,
no meaningful improvements have been made serve to leave infrastructure
derelict and abused resulting in dilapidation.
A normal national
road must undergo serious maintenance after every seven years, and the
same has not happened to our national roads in the last twenty six years.
When Botswana attained its independence in September 30 ,1966, their
government inherited not much in terms of national infrastructure. This
nation of about 1.6 million (I am tempted to say old currency) and made
up of about eight tribes had diamonds as their main natural resource.
In recent history,
Botswana has had three presidents, two from the North and one from the
South. As they celebrate their 40th anniversary of independence, they
have begun conversations around what went wrong and what went right
in the last forty years of their self rule.
What became very
profound to me was the presence of their former President Quett Masire
in a panel on a television programme that was discussing views on Botswana
governance since independence. This panel took questions ranging from
succession to national economic management (Here I wonder aloud when
Zimbabweans are going hold national conversations with their former
Botswana has started asking questions around diversifying its economy
with a view of moving away from reliance on diamonds. And God has blessed
them with the opening up of four new mines, one of them with major coal
deposits. My prediction is that in five years time, Botswana, host to
the fastest developing capital city in Africa, will be a country with
modern day infrastructure and with the most stable economy in Africa.
When South Africa attained freedom and political independence on April
27, 1994, they inherited a massive national and private sector infrastructure.
I am aware that South Africa is busy improving the infrastructure, and
commercial infrastructure is sprouting everywhere. I am also aware that
they still have a serious challenge in the area of housing as those
shacks in Alexander Park, Khayelitsha and other place are an eye sore.
This huge African democracy and home of African capitalism, is home
to ten tribes that speak eleven official languages. It is recorded that
an average South African speaks or understands at least five languages.
The last eighteen months have been very testing for this twelve year
old democracy. They have had to deal with a creeping dictatorship, whereby
the presidency was effectively centralizing power. The same president
had surrounded himself with his "yes men and women". President
Mbeki did what only happens in Nigeria where those with political ambitions
are smeared with corruption charges and then gotten rid of from government.
Thabo Mbeki must take a leaf from the relationship between Tony Blair
and Gordon Brown in the British government. In the last few months,
Gordon Brown has been part of a group within Labour that has been pressing
Tony Blair to announce his departure date. Gordon Brown is still in
office today much to the surprise of many African politicians.
Thabo Mbeki must
remember that the struggle against colonialism and oppression seriously
began in KwaZulu led by Chief Bhambatha and it climaxed in 1906. He
must also remember that he presides over a movement that was formed
in KwaZulu six years later, and has had about seven presidents. Of these
presidents three were Zulu, one Sotho and three Xhosa.
The ANC has always had a tradition of being a membership party. All
ANC members have always agitated to have a say in issues of governance.
Thabo Mbeki tried in vain to stop that. The recent court skirmishes
with Jacob Zuma have been breathtaking. The bright side of the whole
saga was that democracy and politics, especially the judiciary, is alive
and well in South Africa.
I have cited the three countries because they are all neighbors separated
from Zimbabwe by some odd river. I also cite them for sentimental reasons
because, barring citizenship rules in Zimbabwe, I am a citizen of all
the three countries and follow events in each country very closely.
Zimbabwe is land of my birth, South Africa is the land of my father
and fore fathers, and Botswana is the land of my mother and my grand
mother. However, their progress towards the future is pointed in different
Driving through the City of Harare one Friday afternoon, on a month
end, does not give one the impression of a capital city, neither does
it give one a feeling of being in the Sunshine City. Traffic volumes
have sunk so low that you can almost drive from Chisipite to the city
center at 120km/h. I recall when I came to stay in Harare around 2001,
it used to easily take one about an hour to drive from Westgate to the
city center, if one left after 7am.
Harare is now littered with brilliant professionals that have quit their
jobs either due to lack of adequate reward or down sizing. All these
sharp professionals, who would better serve the nation by holding strategic
jobs in huge companies, are deeply involved in the black market. They
are either selling fuel, buying and selling foreign currency, dealing
in cement, imported liquor or some goods that are in short supply.
I have a friend,
a holder of Masters Degree in Business Leadership with fifteen years
of corporate experience at senior management level, selling cement bags
for a living. On the same breath, my uneducated, jail frequenting cousin
who hails from Makokoba also erking a living from selling cement.
I happened to be in a hotel, where a big company was holding its strategy
session for 2007 and bumped into some participants in the men's bathroom.
All seven of them were talking about their applications for jobs in
South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Australia. This gave me an impression
that those professionals still in employment are in the departure lounge,
just waiting for the next ride to their desired destination. I am not
surprised that service in Zimbabwe has deteriorated to unbelievable
levels -- it is because no one cares!
From an economic standpoint, this country cannot be built on these economic
fundamentals that are driven by these uncommitted professionals. The
same professionals can easily be seen driving Land Cruisers, Pajeros,
Prados and other types of vehicles from either Botswana and South Africa.
The load on these cars are reminiscent of UN trucks driving through
war tone zones like Sudan and Somalia. In my entire life, I have never
witnessed a country where you have to go to a neighboring country to
buy bath soap, margarine, tampons, washing soap, curtains, clothes including
underwear, blankets and even meat, if you have a cooler.
This is the sad Zimbabwean story.What then should be done?
My faith has never so strong like when I recall the Zimbabwean story.
I get a deja vu feeling .Deep inside me I feel God has allowed this
country to deteriorate for it to be built from ground up. I am tempted
to recall the forty days and forty nights story in the Bible. God may
have allowed this situation so that we realize and rediscover who we
really are and thereafter choose life over power.
One Albert Einstein was quoted as saying you may not solve a problem
while you are still in the mode when they occured. Therefore, if Einstein
was right and if we apply that principle to our situation, we need to
come down to mother earth and start afresh.
God should allow
us to go down right to the bottom so that everyone has nothing and then
we will all start anew. The world over, wherever one travels you meet
Zimbabweans still with their pride, with their racial and tribal prejudices
still intact, shouting at the top of their voices in typical Zimbabwean
accent, that they are the most educated people in the continent. Surely
if education was so important in life, why will so many educated people
be economic refugees in almost all countries of the world? And truly
educated people do not run their country like how Zimbabweans have carried
on! I also have a deep feeling that tells me God allowed this situation
so that Zimbabweans that used to shout foreigner to the next person
might experience being a foreigner in another country. My God and all
Gods work this way at times.
A victim was once quoted saying that "when they were going for
Jews, I kept quiet because I was no Jew; and when they went for Catholics
I also kept quiet because I was no Catholic; but when they came for
me I had no choice."
The same can be
said of Zimbabwe that "when Gukurahundi came, I kept quiet because
I was not one of them, when they went for MDC I also kept quiet because
I was not MDC, when they went for white farmers I also kept quiet because
I was not white but when the national and economic collapse came I could
not run away.
At some point we developed faith that we had some opposition to the
ruling party. However, Morgan Tsvangirai has carried himself in such
manner that privately and tears streaming down one's cheeks, one begins
to believe Robert Mugabe is not too bad. The arrival of one Professor
Arthur Mutambara onto the political scene offered hope to Zimbabweans
who blindly believe education is everything. Soon, AGO began to show
his true colours, that of leadership defficiencies.
Our first call in self regeneration will be look closely at our identity,
at who we really are. There is evidence on the ground that almost eighty
percent of the population in Zimbabwe are immigrants. What with public
pronouncements of one Malawian minister! Their forefathers either came
from Mozambique Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa.
And there is just nothing wrong with wherever one comes from, all of
us are now Zimbabweans by widely accepted United Nations citizenship
definitions. There was an attempt by some naughty elements that tried
to define, for their own benefit, who a Zimbabwean is.
For us to move forward, we need cast away all our prejudices and start
doing the right thing. Poor countries of this world like Botswana, Zambia
and Mozambique have shown us that beginning to do the right thing helps
set a country in the right direction of progress. Not so long ago Zambia,
with its eight million people and 72 tribes and their weak Kwacha, was
denigrated by bubbly Zimbabweans. Now the tables have turned.
Our job has been made all the more difficult by how low we have sunk
in retrogression. God has made our lesson all the more difficult, maybe
for the lesson to be well learned.
I am now in a serious
panic! I am panicking because the prospects of me seeing a prosperous
Zimbabwe are diminishing each day. The prospect of watching very brilliant
Zimbabweans doing the best they trained for is getting more remote.
The more I meet Zimbabweans that are enjoying this situation and are
still stuck in old mode, the more I come close to tears.
Like I mentioned above, my faith has been strengthened by the Zimbabwean
story. I now believe that God has a plan for Zimbabwe and what is happening
now are just lessons for us to learn.
Written by Ndaba Mabhena a social and leadership commentator based
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