I am one of those people who find immense joy and pleasure from reading, especially immeasurable delight in continually acquiring new knowledge everyday – but, when I set my eyes on a recent article by the Zimbabwe finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, entitled, “Zimbabwe is opening up”, the only feeling that managed to engulf me was that of utter disappointment and shame, mostly at the frightening levels of disingenuousness and fantastical inexactitudes contained – that appeared more intended at massaging his own ego as the principal of the country’s purse, whilst simultaneously seemingly seeking to score cheap points with his master, president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, by showering him with undeserved praise and worship.
To begin with, the title itself is grossly misleading, as it is hard to understand what the country really is opening up to – since, there is hardly any serious investment, due to both inconsistent and inapt macro and micro economic policies, working hand in hand with rampant corruption at the very highest of the corridors of power (with their willing cartel partners-in-crime, who have virtually overridden most of Zimbabwe’s economic space, via dubious and underhand dealings, most of which are now in the public arena, and under parliamentary scrutiny).
As such, there is no serious investor who has been foolish enough to potentially pour his or her hard-earned money down the drain – unless, as part of the gravy train, armed with guarantees of protection on their investments, which we have sadly and hurtfully witnessed with the planned dispossession of indigenous people from their ancestral lands, to pave way for some dubious business schemes.
Otherwise, if I am wrong, let the minister kindly provide the nation, and the world, the actual statistics regarding meaningful investment into the country, the jobs created, and how that has improved the citizens’ livelihoods.
If anything, contrary to his unworthy bragging about reducing wasteful spending, and increasing revenue – with the prospect of doubling last year’s surplus in 2021 – the country has so far been overly reliant on donations for the devastating and lethal COVID-19 pandemic (that has not spared any nation), whilst most health care facilities continue to face serious PPE (personal protective equipment) for frontline workers, on top of lack of essential medications, on the other hand schools remain poorly equipped (even without the most basic of facilities, let alone new information communications technologies vital today under the ‘new normal’ of COVID-19), and teachers perpetually incapacitated due to their salaries being shrank from their 2018 levels of US$520 per month, to just over US$100 today.
Indeed, there has been a marked increase in local goods on Zimbabwe’s market shelves. Why? Good economic policies by Ncube? Not at all, as this has merely been attributable to lockdowns, particularly border closures, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless Ncube wants to take credit for the virus!
Yet, faced with such realities, Ncube had the audacity to loudly claim that Zimbabwe is much better today in 2021, compared to how it was when he and his master took over power in 2018 – through heavily disputed elections, that even the international community he (Ncube) is clearly appealing to with his deceptions, unambiguously announced as having been nowhere near the “freest, fairest, most credible, and peaceful in the country’s history”.
I wonder which country’s history he was alluding to, because everyone knows very well that – except for the presidential elections of 2008, where then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe refused to release results for over a month, after his humiliating, but expected, defeat, by the opposition’s Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, after which he unleashed a reign of terror, whereby hundreds of people were brutally murdered, leading to the formation of an inclusive government – the 2018 elections were vehemently disputed.
Who can forget television images (beamed all around the world) of the subsequent widespread protests by opposition supporters on 1 August 2018, and the horrendous brutal crackdown, whereby over six unarmed fleeing bystanders were shot dead, in cold blood, by the country’s security forces – leading to the establishment of the Montlante Commission of Enquiry, that substantiated the accusations of the military’s culpability, and ordered the culprits to be brought to book…which of course, has never happened.
The ‘losing’ opposition candidate, Nelson Chamisa, later appealed the election result at the Constitutional Court – which, however validated the result – yet, even a book, “Excelgate” written by political science professor, and former cabinet minister, Jonathan Moyo, appeared to put weight behind the opposition claims of massive irregularities.
So much for the “freest, fairest, most credible, and peaceful elections in the country’s history”!
As far as the opening up of democratic and media space is concerned – well, let those in the international community (who may be unaware of the daily goings on in Zimbabwe) simply Google such names as Hopewell Chin’ono, Johanna Mamonbe, Cecilia Chinembiri, Netsai Marova, Job Sikhala, Tendai Biti, Obert Masaraure, and the list goes on and on (maybe, it would actually be better to search for “Zimbabwe political arrests and abductions”) – and, a clearer and louder picture, which speaks more words that this article can ever tell, will emerge.
They will find reports of numerous opposition, human rights, and labour activists, as well as anti-corruption journalists who have been repeatedly arrested on spurious charges with hardly any convictions, allegations of abductions, beatings up, torture, and sexual abuse.
This shows that a country may repeal oppressive and “antiquated laws” – as Ncube claims – but, that has never guaranteed the respect of media, expression, and peaceful demonstration rights and freedoms – as the world has witnessed in Zimbabwe, more so after Ncube and his boss came into power.
In a nutshell, Ncube and his master’s regime has done more to harm and hurt the livelihoods of the people of Zimbabwe – deepening their poverty and hunger, whilst brutalizing any who may seek to stand up and speak out.
If anything had been opened up in Zimbabwe, then these are the floodgates of pain and suffering.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975 / +263733399640, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org