How Did We Get Here

\"\"It is perhaps instructive of the state of our country that the only thing that currently works with clockwork precision and efficiency is the times at which the national Power utility switches us off and on. For most of us – the vast majority I think – this means that you get switched off in the early hours of the morning; sometimes as early as 4 AM, and not get any electricity again until ten or eleven at night. They have not failed to do this with predictable certainty for the last few months! Zimbabweans will, of course, ‘make a plan’ so that in a recent radio call-in program, several people said that all they do is sleep early, get up when the power comes in order  to do their chores like ironing, cooking and so on, then go back to sleep in the early hours of the morning!

Many of us are asking the question, ‘How did we get here? The easiest and commonest response is, simply, ZANU-PF! But then, how come so many people still vote for them every five years? Even allowing for the fact that there is widespread intimidation and a less than transparent electoral process, there is still a large number of votes cast for the party that is supposedly responsible for our woes. Even in 2018, the opposition appeared to accept that they had lost the Parliamentary vote, and only contested the results of the Presidential Poll. Is it perhaps that there is a tacit acknowledgement that while most of the problems of the country can indeed be attributed to our political leaders we have also been complicit in bringing our country to its knees? By thinking that the end of the war of liberation was the end of our struggle, most of us resigned from active politics and decided to enjoy the benefits of our ‘freedom’. As a result, there has not been a civil society robust enough to hold our leaders to account. The politics of opposition only came to the fore when the country was already some way down the slippery slope, but by then the politicians had entrenched themselves with structures that, by means fair or foul, could keep them in power.

In my first book, When Freedom Came, I tried to explore some of these themes using a character called Godknows Kuzvida, who, after independence in 1980, comes back from studying abroad with high hopes for his country and naively lofty principles. Unfortunately, the lure of quick money is too strong for our hero and he quickly succumbs, embarking, like the country itself on the road to ruin. Coincidentally, the Power utility is one of the organisations targeted by Mr Kuzvida and his fictitious mentor, Bill Chiipe, for their corrupt amassing of wealth. Indeed,corruption has been identified by the leaders of what is being called ‘The New Dispensation’ – which looks, sounds and smells much like ‘The Old Dispensation (with some subtle differences, I must add) –  as one of the major scourges of our country. But it seems to me that this started from the top.

Prior to independence, the country was divided along racial lines; after independence, the division changed so that now it is between the ruling class and its hangers-on, and the rest. The ruling class, had learnt – from the colonialists – that it was okay for one group of people to oppress another. So, while they preached equality, they tried to emulate the lifestyle of their erstwhile colonisers , which took lots of money that they did not have and therefore had to be found quickly. They therefore set about acquiring the required ‘wealth’ by looting and pillaging national assets like the Power utility (ZESA) ,The National railways, Government departments and others which now all lie in ruin. ZISCOSTEEL, whose iron ore deposits at Buchwa Mine are said to have the potential to turn the Steel giant into one of the world’s largest steel producers, today is a shell of what it used to be because of the insatiable avarice of those who rule over us. Yet there has not been a shortage of suitors wanting to invest in that potential; but the culture of wanting to amass personal wealth is such that decisions are made based not on what is best for The Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Corporation (ZISCO) and the nation, but on “What’s in it for me”!  Over the years therefore, we have seen ‘blaring’ headlines declaring that the Steel giant is about to be resuscitated, and indeed from time to time, there has been some tinkering there, but it still remains idle and the town of Redcliff, built around the steel producer, is slowly dying!

The settlers, who came to this country had a system of governance that was patently unfair and racist and unapologetically so; yet they still invested in the country; in infrastructure, in the productive sector and even in social amenities. The new leaders and their cronies, on the other hand, seem more interested in conspicuous consumption, so that even today, while the majority are suffering, there are people who can post on social media, receipts showing how many thousands they spent on alcohol in one evening! Some of the houses being built in Harare, in a country whose economy is supposedly in meltdown, would not be out of place in Hollywood! But they do these things because we let them; and we let them because, for most of us, what they are doing is wrong, not because it is essentially so. The only thing wrong with the present system is that we are not benefitting from it! Most of us wish we were!

As former American president, Ronald Reagan (whose views on world politics I did not always agree with) once said:

“Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. We don’t pass it to our children in the blood stream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same”.

We fought for our freedom, but forgot to protect it so that it can be handed down to our children!

Of course it must also be said that the leaders of the Liberation Struggle did raise some expectations of those who went to war. A friend of mine sent me the cover of a book entitled: English Reader, Grade Three,  which was produced by the ZANU EDUCATION AND CULTURE DEPARTMENT, presumably during the Liberation War. It goes on to say:

One Day Zimbabwe will be free

We will be free by fighting

After independence, we will be rich

We will be rich because we work hard

Hard work makes a country rich

The People will work Hard to make the country rich

After independence, we will work hard to make our country rich

We will be rich too

After independence, the people of Zimbabwe will be rich because they will work hard

Today, the people of Zimbabwe work hard but they are poor

They are poor because the settlers steal the riches of Zimbabwe.

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