I am sure we have all come across (at least once, in our lives) that guy who wants to appear wealthy in the eyes of the community – shops only at high-end stores, dons expensive attire, drives around in flashy cars, and loves dining at upmarket restaurants.
What we Zimbabweans would label being a ‘mbinga’.
Yet, in this guy’s case, his children are out of school as a result of non-payment of fees, they walk around in tattered clothes, and always looking miserable and emaciated due to hunger – whilst, his two-roomed rented home hardly has a decent bed to sleep on, has wooden stools for sitting, and the family has to cook the little food he manages to bring home on a one-plate stove.
Does this ring any bells – even though the situation may not be as exaggerated as in my example?
Well, for me it does – and, it is not any particular individual that comes to mind…it is our government.
Surely, I do not know how many people were as shocked as I, when the permanent secretary in the ministry of information, Nick Ndavanin’i Mangwana, took to his favorite Twitter, proudly announcing that the clueless and rudderless Zimbabwe authorities were seriously going ahead with launching a satellite into space, as early as February next year!
Typical of the ‘poor Mbinga’ – we have the misfortune of a ruling elite that appears more interested in looking wealthy, advanced, and prosperous in the eyes of the world, yet the nation practically wallowing in abject poverty.
I am not against progress and advancement – nonetheless, as with my early illustration, the government of Zimbabwe seems to have its priorities not only upside down, but appear motivated by a cold unsympathetic heart, which is driven more by personal ego and arrogance, than the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry.
What type of a leadership prefers pouring national resources into launching an expensive satellite into space, yet refuses to pay its own employees decent, fair, and livable salaries?
Why have a satellite up there in space – coupled by the additional expanses of its regular maintenance (this is the same government that can not even look after the country’s electricity generators, buses, trains, and even companies) – whilst, ordinary retirees are given pensions that are not enough to buy the most basic foodstuffs?
As I went through the list of ‘benefits’ of Zimbabwe having its own satellite in space – facilitating mobile banking, tracking environment disasters, managing educational and transport systems, and the way Zimbabwean companies operate – these are things that are being accomplished today with the current systems.
I am reminded of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), after the Second World War (WWII) – which prioritized competing with the USA (United States of America) in an unsustainable arms and technology race, including being the first to launch a satellite, and send a man, into space (Sputnik, and Yuri Gagarin, respectively), as well as developing atom and nuclear weapons that could destroy all life on Earth several times over.
Yet, its own citizens could hardly afford a loaf of bread, anyone out of these space and weapons industries would virtually be an unemployed beggar, and the economy continued to sink into an abyss – until the demise of the USSR, and its fellow satellite communist states, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989.
I wonder what could have become of this communist project – had they not focused on acting like ‘poor Mbinga’, but concentrated purely on developing the lives of ordinary citizens.
If Zimbabwe had any wise leaders, they would learn from such grave errors of judgment – interestingly, committed by their so-called ‘all-weather friends’.
Maybe, that is where they get these ridiculous ideas of launching satellites into space, in the midst of poverty and suffering – but, the last time I checked, countries as Russia and China have since moved on into an entirely different trajectory, and now focus on improving their own people’s economic standards of living (in spite of the continued dictatorial tendencies, and gross human rights abuses).
When the Zimbabwe government reintroduced state-owned ZUPCO buses (a result of the January 2019 fuel increases protests) they promised state-of-the-art technological advancements – including, tap cards (that would enable a swift and smooth payment system), a smartphone app that would show realtime bus timetables, and so many other dreamy promises.
All I can say to that is – How Far?
Zimbabwe needs to learn to live within its means.
It is very good to dream big – but, it is entirely another thing to be delusional.
We need to go back to the basics, get that right first, before moving on to more complex dreams and aspirations.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and political commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936 / +263733399640, or email: [email protected]Post published in: Featured