PRESIDENT Mugabe was at it again last week, calling for White Zimbabweans to go back to the land of their forefathers. He was quoted as having said; “The British who are here should all go back to England. What is the problem – don’t they (whites) know where their ancestors came from?”
Following President Mugabe’s ranting closely, one can deduce that according to his line of thinking, anyone with forefathers or ancestors not originally from Zimbabwe must leave the country or has no right to Zimbabwean citizenship. But what are the ramifications of such public pronouncements by the head of state?
Zimbabweans with foreign ancestry
In President Mugabe’s view, does it mean that any Zimbabweans born in this country, but with foreign ancestry are henceforth not entitled to live in the country and must go back to the lands of their ancestors?
Can the same statement be construed and extended, for example, to Zimbabweans of Zulu origin who came into modern day Zimbabwe in 1830 under king Mzilikazi, 60 years before the arrival of the British in 1891? Are these fellow Zimbabweans also not likely to fall victim to such divisionary and segregationstic ranting from the Head of State in future? Could this line of thinking explain why the President has not officially apologized for the 1980’s Gukurahundi mayhem in Matebeleland? Must we continue to allow the President of the country to divide people on the basis of their origin and race in clear breach of the provisions of our constitution which accords equal citizenship to all the people born in Zimbabwe?
Foreign ancestry for the President
The current Wikipedia posting on Robert G. Mugabe, states that; “he was born to a Malawian father; Gabriel Matibili and a Shona mother; Bona”. Some of President Mugabe’s siblings use the surname Matibiri, which is a close resemblance to Matibili. President Mugabe has never publicly disputed all these reports pointing to the fact that his father was a Malawian born immigrant labourer.
Why does President Mugabe not want to apply his line of thinking to himself as well? If White Zimbabweans with foreign ancestry do not have a right to live and own land in Zimbabwe, why is he entitled to the same when his father and his ancestry line originate in a foreign country; Malawi? Could this be a clear case of hypocrisy by the President?Advertisement
Adolf Hitler; who fuelled the hatred for German Jews and other Germans of foreign origin, leading to the holocaust massacres, was himself alleged to have been born on the Austrian side of the German border. Could President Mugabe be suffering from a self-induced inferiority complex as a result of his Malawian ancestry, and hence trying to boost his low-self-esteem by attacking other Zimbabweans with foreign ancestry? Does attacking Zimbabweans with foreign ancestry make him feel more Zimbabwean? Why is President Mugabe not proud of his heritage the same way Barak Obama proudly associates with his Kenyan heritage?
Diversion tactic to musk his failures
It has since become a trend that each time Mugabe is faced with the prospect of a challenge to his continued hold on Zanu PF and the country’s leadership, that he brings back the painful and emotional racial colonial past. By bringing the emotional colonial past last week, Mugabe was setting the agenda for the upcoming Zanu PF Congress. In a democratic political party, an elective Congress gives members the opportunity to evaluate the achievements and failures of the current leadership with a view to renew the leadership by bringing on board new leaders with fresh ideas to take the movement forward.
Mugabe’s strategy is simple; bringing the emotional racial and colonial past by ostracising White Zimbabweans, he clouds all rational debate on real issues and masks his leadership record from being evaluated by party members. The Zanu PF members at Congress will be psyched to focus on the emotional yester-year colonial racial issues which ended 34 years ago!
Mugabe also likes to conveniently bring back the land issue (even though only about 200 White farmers remain on farms) as a way to justify his insatiable hold on to power, claiming he has some unfinished business as far as land reform is concerned. This is the reason why the land reform will never be brought to finality, Mugabe needs to create a false sense that he is still working on it, hence deserves more time as President of Zanu PF and Zimbabwe 34 years on and counting!
Mugabe has used the colonial racial past, the never-ending land reform programme and the indigenization programme to mask his leadership failures and shield his leadership record from objective scrutiny.
Mugabe’s leadership record
In modern history, there are a few leaders with a worse leadership record than President RG Mugabe. At independence in April 1980, Zimbabwe’s currency after more than 15 years of UN-backed international sanctions and a gruelling civil war was stronger than the USD and on par with the British Pound. 28 years into Mugabe’s leadership, the currency was worthless and had to be abandoned for other countries’ currencies. Even terrible African leaders such as Mobuto Seseko, Idi Amin and Kamuzu Banda, with all their tragic failures, at least continued to use and manage their own sovereign currencies! Even war torn Somalia still manages its own currency.
Parastatals which used to contribute up to 40% of the GDP have all collapsed under his watch; CSC, ZESA, Air Zimbabwe, NRZ, GMB, ARDA, POSB, Hwange and ZUPCO are all bankrupt. The excellent road, railway, water and electricity infrastructure, which Julius Nyerere described as a “jewel” in 1980, is all now in a deplorable state and dilapidated.
In 2007, about 4,000 Zimbabweans perished in Harare from cholera-contaminated water. This was after Mugabe sanctioned the transfer of the management of all water resources from the Harare municipality to the inept ZINWA.
Probably the worst record to Mugabe’s leadership was the management of the Marange diamond windfall. The windfall provided an opportunity for the country to extricate itself from the calamitous economic performance of the decade covering the period 1988 to 2008. The diamonds provided an opportunity for the country to replenish foreign currency reserves and fund its own economic regeneration. The diamonds could have been a turning point and a game changer for Zimbabwe’s economic development the same way Botswana transformed into a medium income economy in a 20 year period after the discovery of diamonds. Botswana’s diamonds are kimberlitic, which require billions of capital outlay to mine in between hard rock, whereas the Marange diamonds were alluvial, requiring very little capital outlay to extract as the diamonds exist in the sand.
Mugabe presided over the looting of the largest diamond find in recent times by a consortium of Chinese, Israeli, South African, and Lebanese businessmen in cahoots with locally connected political elites. In 2010, Dubai became a top exporter of rough diamonds when the country does not mine diamonds at all. Estimates of diamonds siphoned vary from conservative figures of USD2 billion to USD12 billion. Capital that could have funded infrastructure and industrial regeneration. Now the alluvial diamonds are exhausted and no company in Marange has set aside capital for mining deeper level conglomerate and kimberlitic diamond reserves.
In typical Mugabe leadership fashion, he never bothered to examine and apply the current best business practices of managing diamond findings of that nature to ensure transparency and beneficial revenue inflows for the country. Botswana set up one entity; Debswana to ensure the transparent mining and processing of all diamonds, Namibia set-up Namdeb for the same reasons. In Marange, it became a free for all, with many small mining entities set up to ensure all could “eat”, but oblivious to the fact that the main challenge to diamond mining is transparency, which can be monitored more successfully in a single company. Zimbabweans will live to tell fairy-tales to future generations that once upon a time the country discovered one of the biggest windfall of diamonds, but sadly there is nothing to show for it.
The most glaring proof of Mugabe’s leadership failure is reflected by the largest peace-time emigration of citizens recorded since the Irish emigration of the 16th century. Up to 4 million Zimbabweans, a third of the population, have emigrated to neighbouring countries and countries afar such as the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others.
These are the failures that Mugabe does not want scrutinised by Zimbabweans and on each occasion an opportunity to evaluate his leadership arises such as the forthcoming December Congress, Mugabe pulls the emotional race card to set his own agenda for discussion and mask all his failures!
Economic ramifications of Mugabe’s racial statements
The new world order we live in is premised on the quest for social justice, ethical practices and human rights. Businesses have to tailor their organisational and investment strategies to be in line with these stakeholder values. Zimbabwe does not manage its own currency; hence capital for investment to create employment and economic growth can only come from two sources, foreign investment and exports. With Zimbabwe’s industries, mines, and agriculture in the doldrums, capital to kick-start production for exports can only come from foreign investment inflows.
If Mugabe publicly tells citizens born in his country to leave for the mere reason that their ancestors originate from a foreign country, what message does that send to other foreign investors? If Zimbabweans of British origin can be told to leave their country of birth, what about the Germans, Italians, Greeks, Jews, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, and any other nationalities who have invested in the country and contributed immensely towards the country’s development? Would they not feel that they may be the next in line?
Who would want to invest his hard earned capital in a country where the Head of State can, at a whim, publicly breach the provisions of the national constitution and disempower other citizens? If the President of a country cannot guarantee one’s security of tenure over the land, then how do you invest in that country? All physical investments start by acquiring a piece of land from which the investment is built, if there is no security over the land, then there is no security over the investment!
In the global financial markets, perceptions and sentiments are the most important determinants of the cost of capital and hence the decision to commit investment capital in a country.
Mugabe might get a temporary divergence and reprieve from the scrutiny of his leadership record from these fascist rants, but unfortunately, it’s the young unemployed Zimbabweans who pay the big price through a lifetime of unemployment and poverty. Some will be left with no choice but to track into neighbouring countries, where they compete for menial jobs with locals risking the disastrous backlash as seen in the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2009.
The role opposition parties
It is sad that opposition parties in Zimbabwe continue to let Mugabe get away scot free with his hypocritical tendencies. The role of opposition parties is to publicly expose and humiliate people in leadership authority when they act in ways that are disingenuous. President Mugabe needs to be taken to public task when he continues to push for his personal interests at the expense of, and great damage to, national interests. He cannot be allowed to treat other Zimbabweans as second class citizens merely because they happen to have foreign ancestry; his duplicity needs to be publicly exposed since he has foreign ancestry as well. A progressive and prosperous Zimbabwe can never be built through official segregation of other Zimbabweans based on the origin of their ancestry. This is what the war of liberation was all about.
In South Africa President, President Jacob Zuma was elected on a leftist ticket and projected himself as a champion of the poor and uneducated. The opposition exposed his duplicity to that cause when they revealed how he spent R246 million on his private residence in Nkandla when millions live in informal settlements across the country.
Zimbabwe can never solve its immense socio-economic problems and join the global family of progressive nations as long as the real reasons for the nation’s current failures are always masked and diverted by yester-year emotional issues that are no longer relevant. President Mugabe is 90 years old and has been in power for 34 years, he has done all he could, the country needs to utilize the talents of other Zimbabweans to solve the current myriad problems to move forward. This is the real elephant in the room, and the Zanu PF congress should be focusing on that in December. A country with old men who are not prepared to stand for what is right, is doomed!
Tirivanhu Majaji is a financial and economic consultant.