via Are we really Independent? – The Zimbabwean 16 April 2015 by Vince Musewe
In 1980, when I was only 17 years old, I had such high expectations of what our country would become. I imagined that by the time I was 50, I would be living in a developed state. I projected my life forward and had no doubt in my mind that the path that we were on then would bear much fruit, not only for us the lucky generation, but also for our children and our children’s children. I was wrong.
Our infrastructure was second only to South Africa and everything worked as it should. Not one day did I go without power or go without clean municipal water that would gush out of the taps, even in the townships. The public sector and structures that were in place to get things done actually worked and were managed well.
Zimbabweans were proud of their work and were meticulous and dedicated. Our education system was one of the best in Africa and we had a vibrant agricultural and industrial sector. Progress was the only reward of diligence and study. We studied hard with much hope and expectation for a brighter future.
With regard to industry, I always remember hordes of people rushing to work early each morning as they lined up to board buses that were always on time. The products we produced here in Zimbabwe were the envy of the region, if not the whole of Africa, and the quality of our food was the best in the world.
I could not imagine that one day I would see grandmothers having to sit on the pavements in town selling tomatoes to survive. My mind could not imagine young girls who have become mothers much too early queuing at the clinic early in the morning or walking miles to fetch water for the day. Potholes were rare and we took street lighting for granted. It was the best of times.
Well here we are in 2015 and the worst has happened. If you ask me today whether independence has brought any good to us I would say yes it did in the early days but today, our living standards are worse than during pre-colonial times. Our tragedy is that many young Zimbabweans have died without living to their full potential. Millions have chosen to leave the country because they would rather be exiles than independent at home.
The independence for which so many sacrificed their lives has been consumed by the self-interest of those in Zanu (PF). There is really nothing to celebrate.
Today we are financially dependent on the West and the East. We owe billions that we cannot pay and cannot even manage our own currency or our economy. We must rely on the benevolence of others. We have become dependents despite the huge asset base that we have and the education and skills that were invested in during the early days of independence.
What is shocking is the continued denial of responsibility by ZANU (PF) and the blame that they continually place on others for our fate. Yet they have been the major architects of our problems.
Having said the above, we must not forget that it is indeed possible for us to lift ourselves of this rut. Nations that are leading today did not start well off, they had a vision and worked tirelessly towards it. In our case we revel in past glories of the liberation struggle but have failed to move beyond that to create an inclusive national vision of the future we desire.
I always wonder what would happen if people like Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara and even Bob Marley were to return from the dead and look at what we have become. I can see the tears in their eyes as they would shocked and disappointed.
There is no doubt that we are indeed still on the journey to liberate ourselves and be free. We shall have to start afresh by building new inclusive democratic institutions. We shall have to heal the wounds of the last thirty five years before we can rebuild Zimbabwe.
The journey we must now take cannot be led by the struggle generation. Their time has come and gone. However I fear that most educated Zimbabweans are now fatigued and have left our future to fate. That would be the saddest thing that could happen.
I believe we still have a chance to reverse the damages of the past but that will not happen by God’s grace alone. It can only happen through a concerted effort by all Zimbabweans to change our narrative and build a new nation.
I certainly have nothing to celebrate but one thing that I have is the energy to contribute to the creation of a prosperous, more inclusive and more equitable society in Zimbabwe. It is not impossible.
Let us therefore convert the adversity which we have faced in the last 35 years of tyranny into insight and opportunity. What happens in the next 35 years will determined by our attitude and the choices we make today. – Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You may contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org