Obert Gutu: Zimbabwe at Ground Zero?

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 “I am an African.
I was born of the peoples of the continent of Africa.
The pain of the violent conflict that the peoples of Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, Burundi and Algeria is a pain I also feel.
The dismal shame of poverty, suffering and human degradation of my continent is a blight that we share.
The blight on our happiness that derives from this and from our drift to the periphery of the ordering of human affairs leaves us in a persistent shadow of despair.
This is a savage road to which nobody should be condemned.
Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace! However improbable it may sound to the sceptics, Africa will prosper!”
THE above-quoted words are derived from the historic speech made by Thabo Mbeki in Cape Town, South Africa, on May 8, 1996 on the occasion of the passing of the new Constitution of South Africa. At that time, Mbeki was the Vice President of South Africa under the Presidency of the iconic Nelson Mandela. In my book of rules, that speech remains arguably the best and most incisive speech ever made by Mbeki. It articulates the vision of every Pan-Africanist. It is a sublime and passionate summation of the African dream. Put simply, that speech was a masterpiece.
Africa is on the rebound. A beautiful and otherwise rich continent made up of 53 countries, Africa is on a new trajectory of hope, peace, civilisation and socio-economic development. Africa is not a dark continent. Africa is beautiful. But in the same breath, Africa is at the crossroads. It is a continent that is, unfortunately, still ravaged by poverty, war, hunger and disease. Still  bearing the savage  scars of a brutal history of colonial subjugation and the economic plunder that defined the very essence of colonialism , most of Africa is yet to recover from the ravages of   dictatorship and socio-economic subjugation of the majority of its 1,2 billion inhabitants. Sadly, Africa is fabulously rich but at the same time hopelessly poor.Advertisement

Zimbabwe is a small African country of about 14 million people. With virtually every natural resource known to mankind (with the exception of oil and natural gas for now), Zimbabwe deserves to be called the warm heart of Africa; with its beautiful sub-tropical climate and abundant savannah vegetation. Reality, unfortunately, points to the contrary. At least 80 % of Zimbabwe’s population live on less than US$2 per day. In other words, they are classified as living in abject poverty. The nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of Zimbabwe in 2011 was put at just over US$9 billion thus putting Zimbabwe at number 31 on the African continent in terms of ranking. GDP measures the market value of all final goods and services from a country in a given year. In the same year, South Africa, which is currently Africa’s biggest economy, had a GDP of US$408 billion. Nigeria, which is Africa’s second largest economy, had a GDP of US$238 billion. The figures for the nominal per capita income for Zimbabwe do not look good either.
In 2011, the per capita income in Zimbabwe was a lowly US$741; ranking Zimbabwe an embarrassing number 31 on the African continent. Compare this figure with Botswana which had a per capita income of US$9,480; ranking Botswana number 4 on the African continent. The country with the highest per capita income in Africa in 2011 was Equatorial Guinea at US$14,660. South Africa was number 6 with a per capita income of US$8,066 and Nigeria with a per capita income of US$1,490 was at number 19. Zimbabwe’s statistics did not compare favourably with other countries within the SADC region. Mauritius had a per capita income of US$8,776; ranking number 5 on the African continent. Within the SADC region, Botswana had the highest per capita income.  Zambia’s per capita income was US$1,413; ranking number 22 on the African continent.
The statistics for our beloved country, Zimbabwe, are anything but impressive. These figures point at an economy that is not doing very well. It is beyond the scope of this opinion piece to undertake a detailed analysis of the impact of the restrictive measures that were imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002 as a direct consequence of the so-called land reform exercise which was generally carried out in an extremely chaotic and violent fashion. This particular topic deserves to be tackled in a more detailed article space permitting. Suffice to state that Zimbabwe’s economy is not yet out of the woods. Put bluntly, Zimbabwe‘s economy is not performing favourably compared to other countries within the SADC region. Taking into account the fact that we have a fairly sophisticated industrial infrastructure, we certainly deserve to do better than what we are currently doing.
Where, exactly, is Zimbabwe getting it wrong? This is a clarion call for all patriotic Zimbabweans to take a long hard look at ourselves; introspect and ascertain why our economy still remains tottering on the verge of collapse. Is it the impact of the restrictive measures? Is it because of the well-documented and rampant corruption that has virtually become a way of life in Zimbabwe? Is it because of bad politics? Is it a direct result of poor governance coupled with a system that promotes and rewards patronage at the expense of merit and genuine, honest hard work? There is no denying the fact that something is fundamentally wrong somewhere. The hotly disputed harmonised elections that were held on July 31, 2013 cannot just be wished away. Did the results of the July 31, 2013 reflect the true wishes and aspirations of the majority of the people? Was the election deliberately massaged and manipulated in favour of a particular political party?
These are the hard questions that we cannot and in fact, we should not simply wish away.  The ghost of the July 31, 2013 election is morbid and rabid. If we fail to carefully and resolutely deal with this ghost, Zimbabwe can easily embark upon an irretrievable path to socio-economic doom and trepidation. The winner-take-all syndrome that is currently obtaining in the country will only save to further divide the nation and drive an otherwise recovering economy into an abyss of despair, hopelessness, retrogression and trepidation. As long as a significant portion of the population feels marginalised, trashed and left out, Zimbabwe is going nowhere very fast. Even the much touted Zim Asset economic blueprint will soon be proved to be an exercise in political  futility; a dodgy and utterly misdirected trajectory into socio-economic kwashiorkor.
We have to get our act together very quickly or else we shall all perish and die. We have to reach out to one another as patriots. No one has a monopoly of patriotism. We are all of us sons and daughters of the soil. Why should we allow a situation where other citizens deem themselves super patriots? We should refuse to allow our otherwise beautiful country to be torn apart by polarisation, hate and intolerance. At this rate, we are fast approaching the lowest ebb of our human existence. Is it our wish and desire to hit ground zero?
Obert Gutu is the MDC Harare Provincial spokesperson. He is also an international corporate legal consultant.