Source: Zimbabweans and their barren patriotism | The Financial Gazette June 2, 2016
“PATRIOTISM means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president.”
These were words of wisdom from Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), the 26th president of the United States of America.
This definition should surely have left many Zimbabweans at crossroads last week when the ruling ZANU-PF party’s youth decided to hold what they called a million man march in solidarity with President Robert Mugabe, a man whom they insist has rare leadership qualities that make him peerless.
However, after the reportedly “resounding success” of the march, many Zimbabweans started asking what had changed for the better in a country that is in the throes of a debilitating cash shortage, where half the population on the verge of starvation, and where the government is failing to meet basic financial obligations.
Though valid, these questions are only met with indignation and self-righteous anger from a crop of Zimbabweans who equate getting angry on behalf of the President to patriotism.
But the sad reality is that ZANU-PF supporters successfully marched, but nothing changed.
This is the stubborn reality that is sinking in even the long-time faithful disciples of the President Mugabe.
This has prompted once sclerotic pro-government political analyst and Herald columnist, Reason Wafawarova, whose pen is increasingly becoming acerbic by the day, to post the following message on his Facebook page: “Dear Zimbabweans. We cannot protest away our problems, we cannot write them away in our newspapers, we cannot preach them away in our churches, we cannot speechify them away at political rallies, we cannot sloganeer them away, we cannot sing or dance them away, and most certainly we cannot march them away even in our millions.”
Wafawarova is a former senior commander at the National Youth Service programme whose long stay in Australia appears to be completely changing his understanding of local politics.
“The politician’s mouth is the only place where success comes before hard work. This country will only be revived by hard work and commitment, and my resolve is that we start getting down to the business of hard work and supreme sacrifice,” added Wafawarova, who seems to be increasingly drawing inspiration from Thomas Jefferson, another former United States president who is remembered for also having an opinion on patriotism: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism!”
According to Wafawarova, what Zimbabwe needs today is hard work and supreme sacrifice.
Sadly what it gets instead are barren marches and hollow speeches and these can certainly not take the country anywhere.
Instead of making all that deafening noise, while they were organising this barren march, suppose the ZANU-PF Youth League chairman, Kudzai Chipanga, had decided to mobilise one million youths, who would undertake to each put one hectare of land under maize anywhere in this country within the next eight months without asking for any assistance whatsoever from the government or anyone.
Just one hectare per each of the one million youths who would like to honour President Mugabe and making sure they get maximum harvest from that piece of land.
Good farmers used to produce 10 tonnes per hectare and there are reports of yields of as much as 15 tonnes being achieved by serious farmers.
Suppose each of the one million youths produce an average of just seven tonnes per hectare, that would be a cool seven million tonnes of maize in the next 10 months —double what neighbouring Zambia is boasting of having produced this year.
Imagine our youths leading that initiative, without demanding any form of help from the government or anyone, just going it on their own to bring this country back to food sufficiency after more than a decade and a half of semi-starvation!
Then every Zimbabwean would be able to walk tall, as they would have exited the little cage of beggardom into which they—for years — have condemned themselves.
Could there be any better way of honouring President Mugabe in a more practical way?
Pushing the food situation from a deficit position to a surplus inside a year from each quietly putting just a single hectare under maize.
Is this something that is far far-fetched and impossible?
It is this spirit — infact lack of it — of patriotism that makes Zimbabweans so different from the Rhodesians from whom they forcibly grabbed the country at Independence in 1980.
The absence of selfless dedication to the country is there for everyone to see.
One thing Rhodesians could be trusted on, was doing that which their country — even no matter how bizarre — wanted done.
The Rhodesians would do it, no lip service, something that Zimbabweans find hard — if not impossible altogether — to do.
Zimbabweans behave like visitors or passers-by, who cannot make definite decisions and implement them.
If anything, they can only do that which they cannot avoid doing because if they can avoid do it, it would never be done.
Of late the most euphonious tune “illegal sanctions imposed by the West” has made it so easy for one mandarin after the other to escape responsibility and accountability.
Yet it can be remembered that towards the end of the settler colonial rule in this country, Rhodesians were under real — not imagined — economic sanctions.
Instead of being crybabies, they made sure they displayed the best of themselves to the world.
After the future leader of Mozambique Samora Machel closed his country’s border with Rhodesia, in 1974 Rhodesians decided to open another export route to South Africa, by building a railway line linking Rutenga and Beitbridge.
Although engineering experts put the timeline for the construction of the 145 km railway line to take 24 months to complete, such was the commitment of the Rhodesians that the project was completed in a world record time of just 93 days, 21 months ahead of schedule.
In cruel comparison, it has taken the people’s Government of Zimbabwe nearly 20 years just to plan the construction of a 30 km railway line linking Harare and its dormitory town of Chitungwiza.
Many people marvel at the engineering feat displayed at the Victoria Falls Bridge.
For anyone to believe it took the Rhodesians just 14 months to construct the 198-metre long steel structure across the might Zambezi River would appear like a real miracle.
Another jaw-dropping project, the Birchnough Bridge across Save River, at 329 metres, was the third longest single-arch suspension bridge in the world when it was completed in 1935.
In comparison, it took about 12-years for the Government’s ever-changing contractors to dualise the 40 km road between Harare and Norton at an unknown cost.
At this rate, one can only wonder how many centuries the dualisation of the 900 km Beitbridge-Harare-Chirundu highway could take.
It took the Rhodesians in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland just four years (from 1955-1959) to construct Lake Kariba — the world’s largest man-made water body which is four times bigger than China’s Three Gorges Dam — but it has taken Zimbabweans several decades to construct a few dams in the country such as the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam (since 1997), the Gwayi Shangani Dam, Kunzvi Dam, Manyuchi Dam, and Semwa Dam among others.
Such was the indefatigable fighting spirit of the Rhodesians that it was said everything that they put their hands on turned to gold.
The real reason why Rhodesia had to remain the last of the British colonies was simply because the British public lionised (if not outrightly feared) Ian Smith, the Rhodesian fighter pilot, who had narrowly missed death thrice while defending the Queen during the Second World War.
Infact, Rhodesians had earned their stripes by being more British than the British themselves during both WW1 and WW2.
While Britain and all her other colonies had to resort to the desperate measure of conscription and gang-pressing to raise armies to send to the war front, Salisbury — in contrast — had to put in place laws to stop its citizens from abandoning the country in order to sacrifice their lives in defence of the British Queen.
As their contribution to the WW2 effort, Southern Rhodesians single-handedly trained a third of the British, Commonwealth and Allied fighter pilots at their flight schools under the Empire Air Training Scheme… and contributed (on a pro rata basis) more men than any of the British colonies — which prompted the British Royal family, in April 1947, to travel to Salisbury to thank the Rhodesians in person for this spirit of selflessness.
In Zimbabwe today, people are busy shouting patriotic slogans in the day, while at night they are busy doing everything to advance their personal and very selfish interests. If there is anything that is never in short supply in this world, is a cheap commodity called excuse.
It is unlike the sands of the seas or the stars of the sky, this one is found almost everywhere for anyone who wants to cling onto it to do so happily, but surely no excuse — no matter how valid it sounds — has ever taken anyone anywhere.
Let us wait and see where barren patriotism and excuses will take Zimbabwe to.