Talk is cheap, Mr President

While officially opening this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo last Friday, President Robert Mugabe bemoaned poor service delivery. He rapped the state of our roads, which he said were responsible for many deaths, and the quality of water, among other failings.

Paul Bogaert
Paul Bogaert

There is nothing to celebrate in these pronouncements. The situation has been like that for more than a decade. Thousands of those who are now teenagers were born into this crisis of service delivery and they find it hard to believe that things can be normal in Zimbabwe. Millions of us are used to drinking dirty water, if we can get water in our taps at all, living with uncollected garbage and ponds of sewage close to our homes, and dying in hospital because there are no drugs.

The first thing Mugabe should have asked himself before talking about shoddy public service is: Who is responsible for that in the first place? Once upon a time, Zimbabwe was a shining beacon in Africa. Our cities used to be clean and we never had problems with water and electricity shortages. Many on the continent and beyond envied us because of our diversified and well-performing economy.

But, from the late 1990s, things started to change for the worse. Our currency lost value, policies inimical to economic growth and health were adopted, especially the ill-advised land redistribution programme, and Zimbabwe became a pariah state because of flagrant human rights abuses. Who was responsible for that?

Restrictive measures were only put in place by the US and EU in 2003, and they only affected top Zanu (PF) officials and their close associates. There were no “sanctions” in 1997 when war veterans were given gratuities in a move that offset the economic downslide. There were no restrictive measures when Mugabe unilaterally sent troops to the DRC, thereby squeezing the national budget and worsening the economic decline.

There is no question that he and Zanu (PF) are largely to blame for the sorry state we are in. Yet, when he talked at ZITF, he sounded as though the buck belonged next door. Instead of moaning over the numerous problems his lengthy stay in power has caused for us today, he should be telling us what his government has been doing to correct the situation.

What Zimbabweans want to hear is good news, not the bad issues we have lived with for so long. Talk is cheap – we want action.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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