via Rebuilding a ruined Zimbabwe February 20, 2014 by Prof. Ambrose B. Chimbganda
In William Shakespeare’s tragic play, Julius Caesar, Brutus justified his assassination of Julius Caesar by passionately claiming that he wanted to free his Roman compatriots from Caesar’s dictatorship. The Romans gleefully applauded this dastardly act; but not until the eloquent Mark Anthony exposed Brutus’s treachery by pointing out that the Roman citizens had loved Julius Caesar because he had done so many good things for them. Mark Anthony reminded them that Caesar, in fact, had never harboured ambitions of becoming a dictator, as evidenced by his refusal to be crowned King. The subsequent events are as tragic as the brutal killing of Julius Caesar: Rome and its empire descended into anarchy, because neither Brutus nor Mark Anthony had a preconceived plan for the reconstruction of Rome after Caesar’s death. (I hope you, the reader, will be able to see who Julius Caesar, Brutus and Mark Anthony is in the context of Zimbabwe)
This classic tragedy could easily repeat itself in Zimbabwe because, neither the protagonists nor the antagonists, the heroes nor the villains, the powerful nor the powerless, have a clear plan for the reconstruction of the country. Because the country is now in a state of paralysis, it is imperative that not only should we find a solution to deal with institutional decay, but also plan for the economic recovery of the country so that we don’t end up with the chaos that descended on ancient Rome or present day Libya, Somalia, Central Africa Republic, Syria or Iraq.
Unity of purpose
When one looks at the narrative of our struggle, the gratifying thing is that there is already a foundation for the unity of purpose from which all Zimbabweans, whatever their tribe maybe, can draw inspiration from. For instance, in 1896 in the first Chimurenga war, our people united to fight a common enemy: the settlers who were usurping our land and imposing themselves on us. With the growth of African nationalism, black people united at various points to form a common front that was intended to wrestle power from the oppressors. In the 1950’s, for example, the formation of the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (ANC) and later the National Democratic Party (NDP) was intended to provide a common platform for the articulation of grievances such as the limitation of how much land and livestock an African could have, racial discrimination, limited opportunities for education, etc.
When it became clear that the minority white settlers were not prepared to share power, militant political organizations such as ZAPU, ZANU and the Patriotic Front (PF) were formed in the sixties and seventies. Although there might have been some differences in terms of how quickly the settler regime could be forced to capitulate, there was consensus on regaining our independence, self determination and the removal of all vestiges of colonialism.
In the meantime the British government wanted to legitimize the unilateral declaration of independence by the white minority; and in order to do so they asked Zimbabweans to vote in a referendum in 1971. The question was whether Zimbabweans, as a whole, wanted independence under the then constitution. There was a resounding “no independence before majority African rule” (NIBMAR). Once again, Zimbabweans of all political persuasion, religion and tribe united under a common purpose to reject the British machinations of trying to legitimise the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by a minority regime.
In the mobilization of our people to reject the British manoeuvres, one needs to acknowledge the distinct role played by Churches and underground political movements. In the towns and cities, farms and villages, schools and colleges, trains and buses, beer halls and bars our people were united in their resolve to reject minority rule. This was grass root support, which arose not because there was one person or one party leading the agitation, but a swelling support emanating from a deep seated desire for emancipation. At this time in the seventies, one also needs to singularly salute the decision by many of our young people, both boys and girls, to join the liberation struggle. Some of our current leaders, including this writer, joined the struggle because we saw it as a noble cause to fight for our collective freedom and dignity.
In our current economic melt down and political decomposition, we need to draw inspiration from the spirit of the seventies, when the churches, our young people, students, workers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, academics, politicians, mothers and fathers united together to fight for the removal of our shackles. Virtually everybody stood up to be counted in the march towards freedom. This spirit led us to our ‘independence’, and we can invoke the same spirit to make us confront the monstrous challenge of rebuilding our country in which political, social and economic institutions are in ruins.
We can also draw inspiration from the fact that in our post-independence era the MDC has tried to unite our people: the Ndebele, Shona, Whites, Kalanga, Nyanja, Tswana, Tonga, Shangaan and Venda. Our people, like in the pre-independence era, have found a common platform from which they can vent their feelings. However, the leadership of the party has taken the people for granted by not pushing hard enough for a logical conclusion to the agenda for social justice, equality, economic development, political transformation, unity in diversity and above all – hope for a prosperous Zimbabwe. The internal split and wrangling inspires nobody but those driven by egotism and self-aggrandisement.
Similarly, ZANU and ZAPU raised the hopes of many Zimbabweans before and after independence, especially by bringing independence and by making education and health facilities accessible to more people than ever before. However, because both parties have been more obsessed with self-enrichment and self-preservation than uplifting the lives of ordinary citizens, they have fallen from the high moral ground upon which they can speak and act on behalf of the vast majority of our people. Spectacularly, the two parties have failed to unite our people through reconciliation. And, sadly, like many of the liberation movements in Southern Africa such as the ANC, MPLA, FRELIMO and SWAPO, they have now become the new masters, land lords and exploiters who are above the law and accountable to no one else except themselves. This is, unfortunately, the unpalatable tragic irony of our liberation.
What has gone wrong?
What has gone wrong in Zimbabwe is clear to every right thinking person, and what I can write about here is to reiterate what is common knowledge. Just to give you an anecdote of how our institutions are despised by some of our people, the other day a family friend visited me with his wife and children. When I switched on to ZTV, which I rarely watch, one of the children as young as five years shouted: “Do you watch these lies”? This speaks volumes about the integrity of our institutions.
The first thing that comes to mind about what is wrong in our country is the trustworthiness of our leadership. While the President is a towering and widely respected person whose political credentials and academic qualifications are the envy of many people, the same cannot be said about the integrity of some of the ministers and politicians who surround him. A simple audit shows that some of the ministers have been involved in one form of corrupt activity or the other, such as the abuse of power, farm grabbing, money laundering, graft, diamond smuggling, game poaching, housing scams, nepotism, debauchery and unbridled property accumulation. These ministers have not been brought to book, which suggests that the laws of the land are meant for other people, not for ZANU (PF). This has irreparably damaged the image of the government both internally and internationally, leading to a crisis of confidence in the government and its institutions.
The second thing that has gone wrong is misgovernment, which is directly linked with the rule of law, accountability and corruption. For instance, no one can forget the hyper inflation that Zimbabwe went through in the last decade. Every one knows that it was brought about by the reckless expenditure of the government and a decline in the productive sector due to self-destructive and crude policies of land redistribution and indigenisation which reduced the country to an empty basket.
You can shift the blame to sanctions, whites, political opponents, bad weather, floods or anything you like; but the fact of the matter is that the hyper inflation occurred under ZANU (PF) which ruined the lives of millions of Zimbabweans whose bank accounts suddenly became worthless. The current liquidity shortage is sounding alarm bells for a return to the previous rodent economy, which only benefited the rich and the well connected, when our people scrounged to eke out a living and when life was worse than death. And it shall go down in the annals of history that a tiny country called Zimbabwe under a ZANU (PF) government produced the highest inflation rate in the world!
The other serious problem is the astronomical level of corruption and lack of accountability. Again, the reader probably has more accounts of corruption than I have. What I can only do is to ask some questions. Why is ZBC in the sorry state in which it is? Why have some of the senior executives of Air Zimbabwe been arrested? Why is Zisco closed? What about the Harare city council, ZUPCO and Zimbabwe Railways? Is it fair to pay obscene salaries to heads of parastatals when those companies can hardly pay their workers? Why are so many companies closing down? And most importantly, how much money cannot be accounted for from the sale of our diamonds? Why is the government not acting on some of the glaring cases of corruption?
In seeking answers to these questions, one is tempted to conclude that we have an uncaring government with a thoroughly corrupt system which lacks accountability and has failed to reform itself. And the fear that many people have is that the longer the state of decay continues, the more difficult it will be to rebuild the country. Therefore, the sooner all of us get involved in an open discourse to find ways of rebuilding our country the better. This should include civil society, political parties, the diaspora, strategic multi-national companies, SADC, our international friends and the UN. In opening up space for dialogue, we need to heed Bernard Shaw’s advice that “in order for evil to triumph, let the good men keep quiet”.
Steps towards rebuilding
As a first step, we (writers, teachers, colleges and universities, politicians, civic leaders, the church and others) need to encourage our people to develop a culture of speaking up against injustice, especially against corruption and oppression because we are the ones who are going to be hurt more. We need to talk openly about the future of our country and our children, the direction that we want our country to take, the state of our economy, the political system, our social organization and the bread and butter issues that affect our daily lives.
Also, the churches need to wake up from their slumber so that they can give the necessary spiritual fortification and guidance to our people, to preach vociferously about freedom, social emancipation, justice and equality, deliverance and salvation. As an institution, churches ought to side with the oppressed and not the oppressors because Jesus and other prophets and saints stood for the poorest of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless and the down-trodden. This spiritual fulfilment will restore hope to our people and will make them realize that their indivisible human life and spirit, their country and their inalienable rights are sacrosanct gifts from God, which are worth living for.
I would also suggest that we, the civil society, should establish our own independent organ for monitoring governance, corruption and the activities of public officers as well as those of the private sector. We can be assisted by the UN and other agencies which monitor corruption globally. We need a completely independent organ to monitor corruption because it is obvious that a government appointed organ, which is paid by the government, cannot be expected to be free to ferret corruption in state institutions. On this issue, I am aware that in the present circumstances it will not be easy to establish such an organ; but it is a noble effort which is likely to save our country from being bled to death.
More importantly (and I humbly avail myself to such an initiative) we need to talk to each other as Zimbabweans right across the political divide, which should involve civil society, the diaspora, the business sector, multinational companies, and other international organisations. The objective is to convene an economic recovery indaba for Zimbabwe which will focus on drawing up specific plans for a short, medium and long term economic recovery programme, as swell as fostering national unity.
The emphasis should be on how to attract international capital for industrial, mining, infrastructure and tourism development which will provide wider scope for entrepreneurship as well as jobs for our people. I am aware that different political parties have their own blue prints for economic recovery. These different blue prints can be used as starting points for a broad consensus. Given the current political situation, each one of us should swallow our pride because no single political party or individual person can save the country from inevitable ruin. We need to open our hearts to one another, as brothers and sisters, so that we can work together for the betterment of our country.
In my final thoughts about the rebuilding of our country, allow me to leave you with the precious advice given by Bernard Shaw, one of the greatest orators of our modern era, who has this to say: “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future”.
Prof. Ambrose B. Chimbganda firstname.lastname@example.org