Zimbabwe has for decades been referred to as President Robert Mugabe’s. Whether the 91-year-old once-freedom fighter turned despotic ruler of our great nation intended for his name to be synonymous with the country and its tragic trajectory remains to be seen.
However, his frequent claims that “Zimbabwe is mine” at Zanu PF rallies would serve contrary to that belief.
Whether at the ballot box or in the day-to-day lives of its citizenry, the political process under Mugabe’s watch has unequivocally stifled socio-economic reform.
And with potential snap elections looming, hope and change are the biggest norms in the shortest supply.
The academic curriculums for our children, still residing in dilapidated institutions in urban or rural areas with little oversight, are antiquated and polarising from their political bias.
History has, in many cases, literally been re-written in their textbooks, and with teachers routinely paid late, if at all.
Agribusiness in the former “breadbasket of southern Africa” is also in disarray — it has been reported that we suffer from a shortfall of more than one million tonnes of maize (once our leading export).
Perhaps despite the best intentions of former ministers in the sector, tourism has remained inadequate, seemingly permanently shifted to our fellow, more transparent Sadc counterparts in South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia.
As First Lady Grace Mugabe enters the political fray with a fresh, but dubiously acquired doctorate in-hand and clearly intent on maintaining leadership, one must ask themselves: In the face of all of these challenges, should the establishment of a Mugabe legacy be prudent for Zimbabwe’s future?
Indeed, there are those that wish to force such a legacy on us.
Historically and still true today, voices that rise to oppose the status quo in Zimbabwe often fall on intimidated, and subsequently deaf ears because of the ruling establishment or worse yet, the politicians and opposition members themselves are removed from the political limelight by force.
We need to look no further for examples of this than former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, once a member of Mugabe’s Zanu PF party, recently ousted for allegedly plotting a coup d’état, or in the story of former Prime Minister and opposition MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, himself and his supporters routinely beaten or even killed by Zanu PF thugs in the lead-up to the 2008 elections.
Nonetheless, change in some way, shape or form is on the horizon.
In tandem with a concerned, more informed international community, Zimbabwe First political party (ZimFirst) plans to bring that change be accountable, bi-partisan and for the betterment of our people, our nation and its standing in Africa.
We are a nation abundant with natural and human resources and, therefore, opportunity for international integration and successful, mutually beneficial partnerships.
Mineral deposits are dispersed throughout the country; coal often lies just under the surface of our roads, with most of our lands entirely arable for cultivation.
While history will no doubt reflect controversially for the political founders, who transformed colonial Rhodesia into independent Zimbabwe, there is work to be done to effectively re-integrate us with the international community as a trusted African partner, conduit for investment and once again, a power-player on the continent.
We must work with our partners, private and public alike, to form coalitions of strength and like-mindedness.
We must reinstall credibility in the political process and do what we can to encourage international analysis and scrutiny where it is deserved.
If we fail to achieve these goals, we may find ourselves under the clenched fist of a determined dictatorial regime, reinvigorated by the lack of co-ordination and unity that has claimed a collective opposition and subsequently, our ambitions for a better tomorrow for Zimbabwe.
Mugabe once stated that “. . . there are things one must do for oneself”. In this light, I remain in complete agreement. Beyond the rhetoric that often follows the launch of a political movement, ZimFirst understands that it is ultimately in our hands to create lasting change.
The future is bright if we put all our hands on deck bring our fresh ideas and fresh legs. Together we will fulfill the promise of getting Zimbabwe back to being the breadbasket of Africa.
Dr Maxwell Zeb Shumba is the president of the Zimbabwe First political party. The views expressed are personal.