Zimbabwe has for decades been referred to as “Mugabe’s.”
Whether the 91-year-old freedom fighter turned despotic president intended for his name to be synonymous with the country and its tragic trajectory remains to be seen. But his frequent claims that ‘Zimbabwe is mine’ at rallies for his party, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), would suggest as much.
Whether at the ballot box or in the day-to-day lives of its citizenry, the political process under Mr. Mugabe’s watch has unequivocally stifled socioeconomic reform and development. And with potential snap elections looming, “hope” and “change” are in the shortest supply.
Take education, where the academic curriculums for Zimbabwean children, who are still learning in dilapidated institutions with little oversight, are antiquated and full of political bias. History has literally been re-written in their textbooks in many instances. Teachers are routinely paid late, if at all.
Agribusiness in the former ‘Breadbasket of Africa’ is also in disarray. It has been reported that we suffer from a shortfall of more than one million tons of maize, which was once our leading export. There’s no progress on the horizon to activate our World Food Program relief package with partners in the United Nations to correct this sorry state of affairs.
Perhaps despite the best intentions of former cabinet ministers, tourism, once a leading contributor to Zimbabwe’s GDP, has remained inadequately low. It’s permanently shifted to Mauritius and to neighboring, more transparent Southern African Development Community (SADC) members like South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia.
As the first lady, Ms. Grace Mugabe, now enters the political foray and may seriously attempt to succeed her husband as president — with a fresh but dubiously acquired doctorate in-hand and a clear intent for the family to maintain leadership — one must ask: In the face of all of these challenges, is the establishment of a Mugabe “legacy” really beneficial for Zimbabwe’s future?
There are those that wish to force such legacy on us.
Historically and into today, voices that rise to oppose the status quo in Zimbabwe often fall on intimidated and subsequently deafened ears because of the ruling establishment. Or worse yet, the politicians and opposition members themselves are removed from the political scene by force.
There’s Ms. Joyce Mujuru, former Vice President and member of Mr. Mugabe’s own Party (ZANU-PF). She was recently ousted for allegedly plotting a coup d’état.
One can also point to the story of former Prime Minister and opposition leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai. He and his supporters were routinely beaten or even killed by ZANU-PF thugs in the lead-up to the disputed 2008 elections. The circumstances behind the first wife of Mr. Tsvangirai’s death, due to a night-time car accident, remain particularly controversial.
We are a nation abundant in natural and human resources. The opposition platform and our party, Zimbabwe First, represent an 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 streets, with most of our lands entirely arable for cultivation.
While history will have to decide on the legacy of the political founders who transformed colonial Rhodesia into independent Zimbabwe, there is positive work to be done to effectively re-integrate us with the international community as a trusted African partner, a conduit for investment, and, once again, power-player on the continent.
We must work 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 a lack of opposition coordination and unity, a problem that has claimed earlier Mugabe opponents and stifled ambitions for a better Zimbabwe.
Robert Mugabe once stated that “there are things one must do for oneself.” Of this, I remain of complete agreement.
Beyond the rhetoric that often follows the launch of a political movement, Zimbabwe First understands that it is ultimately in our hands to create lasting change.
The future is bright. After thirty years of Robert Mugabe’s rule, change is on the horizon in Zimbabwe, even if its form or shape is unknown.
In tandem with a concerned, more informed international community, our Party, that of Zimbabwe First, plans to leverage that change and ensure it brings accountable, bipartisan stewardship of the country.
This change has to serve the betterment of our people, our Republic and its standing in Africa. We have nothing left to lose.
The author is the President of the Zimbabwe First Political Party. The views expressed are his own.