Zimbabwe; Mugabe, Mnangagwa our greatest tragedy – I would rather be in Rhodesia

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana

One of the greatest human traits, especially when confronted with unsavoury circumstances, is the irresistible desire to look back into the annuls of their history for comparisons – possibly, as a form of strength, comfort, direction, or guidance.

I am not exactly sure why we do it, but all I know is that, all of us – as human beings – are drawn to such comparisons, at some point in our lives – it is simply unavoidable.  How many times have we complained over the poor standards of today’s
products and goods, as compared to those of yesteryear? …or, how today’s youth are so disrespectful and undisciplined, as
opposed to past generations?

This is human nature at its best…or worst! However, there are times when the comparisons become a bit more tricky
and complex, as the situations being compared both seem unenviable – as this may end up being reduced to a case of ‘the better evil’. One may have to compare two catastrophic situations that they had to endure, for instance, a traumatic and terrifying accident, and the death of a loved one.

Both these scenarios are horrific, but if one is faced with the death of a loved one, then the horrid accident – which, probably, left them terribly paralysed, and traumatized – would suddenly, not appear so bad afterall. This is the sinister and paradoxical predicament that the ever-suffering people of Zimbabwe find themselves in this day and age.

After braving decades of horrendous oppression and subjugation at the hands of the brutal Rhodesia government, the country’s majority would be excused for thinking that things could not possibly get any worse, and that independent Zimbabwe would usher in the well-deserved respite.

What else were they to expect after facing years and years of racially skewed political, economic, and social policies – having their land expropriated, denied equal access to quality education and health, awarded racially-prejudiced salaries, being restricted to certain residential areas, denied their right to vote, and basically treated as second class citizens in their own country?

The only sane recource for such injustices was the liberation struggle, which led to the country’s independence, and huge
expectations for the majority to be finally freed from the overbearing shackles of oppression. Nonetheless, years down the ‘independence road’, that same majority could sense that their joy had been misplaced, and their ‘liberators’ were no better that their erstwhile enslavers.

The land of milk and honey that they had been promised, turned out to be nothing more than a land of ‘pee and pooh’, a sad country where the same brutal repression and oppression persisted, with lack of any meaningful source of livelihood, where university graduates were reduced to street vendors, and hospitals and schools degraded to dying places and rooms where our children were turned into zombies. As is the norm, as human nature dictates, when confronted with such dire circumstances, the people can not help, but look back into the past for comparisons.

This is obviously such a painful task, as it is a journey that can be very traumatic, since the only other situation most, especially older Zimbabweans, can relate to is with Rhodesia.  Again, it is akin to comparing a debilitating and traumatic accident,
and the death of a loved one – but, it can not be avoided. Immediately after independence, Zimbabwe, led by then Prime Minister, and subsequently first executive president Robert Gabriel Mugabe – in a government that he was with current president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, as security minister – embarked on a destructive policy of annihilating a whole tribe of the country’s population, by launching what observers regard as brazen ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands
of mostly Ndebele-speakers of the Midlands and Matebeleland provinces.

When compared to Rhodesia, as much as there was systematic racial segregation, and a tribally-based ‘divide and rule’ tactic, there was hardly any ethnic cleansing of such a magnitude, outside of a war zone. In fact, the most notable acts of tribal violence in Rhodesia were at the instigation of Mugabe’s party ZANU, after its break away from ZAPU.

Any other deliberate mass killing of the people of this country during Rhodesia was during war time – however, the Mugabe and Mnangagwa dispensation’s decision to massacre people enmass was during ‘peace time’ – save for one of two isolates cases of insurgence, which could never be rightly termed as acts of war.

Another major comparison that Zimbabweans find themselves making is with economic prosperity, or lack of, especially during alleged or real sanctions.  After the Ian Douglas Smith Rhodesian regime decided on a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), in 1965, the United Nations (UN), at the instigation of the colonial power Britain, imposed comprehensive economic sanctions on the country.

Vital products, trade, and services were cut off from and to Rhodesia, and it was virtually reduced to an island of isolation – its only friend, albeit, cautiously, was apartheid South Africa. As Rhodesia became more and more isolated, and blocked – especially, after the independence of its neighbours – it had to come up with innovative and ingenious ways to survive.

Although, it was very difficult, they managed to make record-breaking and impressive achievements – even by international standards – such as, the construction of a new railway line to South African ports, in order to avoid the now closed-off Mozambique.

Rhodesia continued to make magnificent inroads in massive domestic industrial and agricultural investments – in spite of, the UN sanctions – resulting in the country becoming a global leader in those areas. In 1979, Rhodesia had some of the biggest industries in the world, and was a leader in agricultural production.  As much as the country was also secluded in the areas of sport and culture, its continued global prowess was exhibited when, soon after independence, the women’s hockey team landed a gold medal at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

However, in the Mugabe and Mnangagwa dispensation, amidst dubious sanctions – which at most, were nothing but targeted at certain individuals and regime-aligned companies – Zimbabwe become the laughing stock of the world, as it dismally failed at every corner.Zimbabwe became well-known for whining and whinging, being the cry-baby of the world – blaming its pathetic failures on flimsy sanctions.

Zimbabwe  could not even sustain the economy that it had inherited, resulting in massive company closures, with multitudes fleeing the country in search of sustenance, those still in employment not being paid their salaries. …let alone, winning any significant sporting accolades at any international grandstage – save for Kirstey Coventry, and the Black siblings, whose achievements had nothing to do with Zimbabwe’s sporting policies.

In fact, in Rhodesia, a Standard Six (possibly, the equivalent of today’s Grade 7), as could easily access tertiary education, for
instance, my mother who trained as a general nurse – however, the same could not be said for independent Zimbabwe. For someone to be enrolled in nursing school today, they would need at least 5 Ordinary Level passes – and even armed with that certificate, their acceptance is not guaranteed, leading to some despicable acts, as bribery.

By the way, the increase in enrollment qualifications had nothing to do with any sort of improvement in the quality of the training, as my mother – who still works today on locum tenens basis – is highly regarded over the younger Zimbabwean-trained nurses.

Soon after graduation, employment was readily available in Rhodesia, as even my mother was immediately scooped up by the then giant Rhodesia Iron and Steel Company (Risco), which paid her well and regularly – a company that the independent Zimbabwe regime destroyed after nationalizing it, and then running it into the ground through mismanagement and rampant corruption.

Rhodesia companies not only paid their workers on time every time, but also provided them with varied social amenities, such as sports clubs – which have since been turned into jungles under the Mugabe and Mnangagwa dispensation.  Zimbabwe can not even construct a high standard road and rail network – actually, in all my life, I have never witnessed the construction of
a railway line in this country.

All the major sporting facilities, except two or three, were constructed under Rhodesian rule – most of which are now laying in
ruin. As much as Rhodesia was under UN devastating sanctions, hospitals and schools, even in those segregated Black areas were well-stocked with the most essential medication, equipment, textbooks, and all the necessary stationary.

In stark contrast to the Mugabe and Mnangagwa dispensation, whereby, even the most vulnerable in our society, such as the elderly, poor,and disabled, are still required to purchase expensive medication from private pharmacies – as government health institutions lack the very basics. As the two presidents of  Zimbabwe, Mugabe and Mnangagwa – the latter having always being in government since independence in 1980, and being an integral part of the decision making – should equally be held
responsible and answerable for the divisions, atrocities, and meltdown that Zimbabwe has been subjected to.

Thus,  Mugabe and Mnangagwa can never be separated as the two men are the most responsible for the chaos and demise of Zimbabwe – and, for the latter to attempt to dissociate himself from that dispensation is futile and deceptive.

The two walked together, agreed together, destroyed together, and no coup d’etat, or any other shenanigans can ever manage to pull wool over the eyes of Zimbabweans.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is the Programmes Director with the Zimbabwe Network for Social Justice (ZimJustice). Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or (calls ONLY) +263715667700, or email: zimjustice@gmail.com. Please also ‘Like’ the ‘ ZimJustice’ page on Face


  • comment-avatar

    Such articles are just a reflection of the minority really. I hate both Mugabe and Zanu pf, but will never EVER wish for relive the Rhodesian life again.

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    Morty Smith 4 years ago

    What is it that keeps decent and capable people out of politics in our country?

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    Zvazvari 4 years ago

    Well analysed mate. The Rhodesians were very industrious. But unfortunately in Africa economic indicators do not count. People give a vote for a pint of beer, a bag of maize etc. Thats what matters. We are good at analysing and blaming someone just like what you have done, Mugabe has done over the years without taking the blame or responsibility. Thats why you have wished to be in someones era without accepting your error which has messed this era. Thank you.

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    Jambanja 4 years ago

    A good well balanced article. I remember those days and l accepted Mugabes hand of reconciliation. Remember “let us turn guns into plough shears”. I am white and l was born in Rhodesia to Rhodesian parents but considered myself Zimbabwean. The vast majority of whites do. The Rhodesians ran away starting in 1978. They bwcame the “when we’s” – when we were in Rhodesia …..blah blah blah. We Zimbo’s avoided them.

    Mugabe and ED (trying to rebrand mnangagwa) have prevailed through out our nasty Zimbabwean history. The events of last November gave us all hope which is why the writer of this article is reflecting on what was and what could be. Alas the events since has shown no change will happen soon and all default into the “wait till after the elections” mode knowing nothing will change and hoping against hope sanity will prevail.
    It will not take much to normalise our country in a very short time but there is no political willingness to do this. The writer mentions the sanctions against Rhodesia and how the country prospered, that is in all Zimbabweans. In 1980 R$1 bought US$1.38 because of our strong economy and demand for quality produce and products. Remember we were also in a costly war. All those resourses are there still but we lack the political will.

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    Fallenz 4 years ago

    The will of the industrial leaders is there, but the politicians will not allow it unless they can grab their fist-full. No one is allowed to improve their lot unless the politicians benefit first and foremost. To those political leaders, it’s not their greed, but their “right”… just as it is their “right” to maintain power by any means. Legality is not a consideration.

    Who had the money and assets before the revolution? Who has it now? The people?? Nope. Who had jobs before the revolution? Who has them now? The people?? Nope. Who had medical care and competent educational opportunities? Who had reliable infrastructure to depend on? Where did all the money, assets, jobs, medical care, education, infrastructure go? Whose life has improved? Who benefitted?? So much for the freedom and equality claimed by the revolutionaries and current ZANUPF apologists. That was, and is, the BIG LIE.

    It is to be noted that the vast majority of the people are under 45 years of age. For most, ZANUPF rule is all they have known and experienced. ZANUPF has kept the people blind by using the state propaganda machine, and silencing any opposition. The people have no benchmark with which to compare their current conditions. They have no concept of how much of a backward move into the dark ages it was to give the communists and Maoists control.

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    Johann 4 years ago

    I always wondered why the Shona built grass huts, thinking they were lazy then I realised that they were actually very clever. They know from the experience of their ancestral leaders not to build anything too substantial because it is highly likely they will be relieved of it. Zimbabwe has always been a place of looting, Mugabe and co used the liberation mantra to get into power not too free the people.
    And that is why the Shona build grass huts.