Ngomakurira – Ownership

Owning things is one of the joys of life and is written into the book of Genesis where we are told God gave us the earth. Maybe the third word we learn after 'mai' and 'baba' is 'mine.' New shoes, a new dress or a new house give immense pleasure. The trouble with ownership is that it carries some im

plications.

I met a man from a foreign country who worked in forestry in a neighbouring state for 15 years. He studied the trees that were suitable there; he worked out conservation measures that were enforced by ‘forestry police’ and he advocated regular replanting. He trained a team of colleagues. When he left he felt he had done something really useful for the country.

That was twenty-five years ago. Now he says he has heard from those colleagues. None of the measures he taught were followed. The place where he put in such hard work is a desert. The people have to travel six to eight kilometers to find firewood. He is not bitter but he is disappointed. He says, ‘perhaps we imposed our ways?’

He is almost certainly right. People will never ‘own’ what they are forced to do. We lament the collapse of the water system in Harare, the ecological devastation in the countryside and the failure of maintenance in our power plants and even Kariba Dam. But it all comes down to ownership. Why worry about something that you do not own?

People did not ‘own’ Zimbabwe in the bad old days before independence. But even since 1980 there has been little sense of ‘ownership’ of the country even though lip service is paid to the new owners of land. The basis of real ownership is secure title. And who can have that when you can be thrown off your land or out of your house at any moment.

We can never get tired of saying that the basis of secure title is an inviolable constitution which binds everyone and which can only be changed with the consent of the citizens.

My little friend had to learn that, while he had his present, others were entitled to theirs too.

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