Zimbabwe not on a development trajectory but merely trying to return where it was a few decades ago

Two or so days ago, my wife and I were reminiscing about the past, and found ourselves - as we enjoy goofing around when we are alone - reciting popular advertisement jiggles that we still remembered from the past.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana


We would sing the Willard’s chips, “Making music in your mouth”; the Zimbabwe Sun Hotel’s, “Won’t you stay just a little bit longer”; Cashel Valley’s, “We are, we are, can’t you see, the best ever beans in Zimbabwe”, as well as so many other most lovable and memorable yesteryear sing-along adverts.

Immediately, as to be expected, our hearts sank, as we wondered what ever happened to that Zimbabwe – which appeared to have everything that could be found in any other part of the world, and was the envy of even a country like South Africa.

I recalled how, when I represented Zimbabwe, and the southern Africa region, at a Scouting jamboree in Australia, in 1988, there was nothing outstandingly astonishing about that country – besides meeting, and establishing friendships with, amazing new people – considering that we also had pretty much what they had.

Our industries, commerce, farming, education and health sectors, and tourism competed with the very best on the planet – as we were a regular and viable feature on the ‘top ten’ of nearly every list of the largest producers of any product one could think of.

When all those railway lines our youth see today, criss-crossing our towns and cities, especially in the industrial sites – if they are still detectable at all, and not covered by tall grass – were busy with trains, which ferried goods that were shipped off to many parts of the southern African region, and abroad.

When, “Made in Zimbabwe” was still a stamp of quality and high standards.

Our towns and cities were just as beautiful and glorious as any others across the world – bright with street lighting, glamorous fountains that spewed water in exquisite city parks, water that flowed out of our home taps whenever needed, as well as spotless and odourless streets.

Yet, today, Zimbabwe is a sorry sight. A miserable shell of its former self.

In fact, it has become the ridicule of the world, making being Zimbabwean the laughing stock, and butt of jokes in homes and offices in major capitals.

As if such thoughts were not terrible enough, I had the misfortune of watching today’s lunchtime news report on the state broadcaster, boasting about one of our two or so functional airplanes, embarking on its maiden flight to some regional country.

I did not even get the name of the destiny, as my mind had already been severely disturbed by such a report – with my thoughts asking, “Did we not, at some point, have an entire fleet of world-class jumbo jets?”

That is when the thought occured to me – contrary to the news story, and the frequently peddled government narrative, is Zimbabwe truly on a development trajectory, or are we merely trying to return to where we were some decades ago?

Honestly, let us say, Tawanda, in his heydays, possessed a modest five-roomed suburban house, a lovely car, and was able to live a relatively middle class lifestyle – but then, unfortunately, fell into drugs and substance abuse, as well as other amoral and irresponsible behavior, resulting in him losing basically everything… turning him into a penniless vagabond, surviving on begging.

If he were to make some efforts (whether sincere, or half-hearted) to put his life back together, leading to him securing a menial job, finding a room to rent, and able to, at least, afford a basic meal a day – can we, genuinely declare that he was developing, or advancing?

I am sure that could be a matter of debate – especially on semantics – however, in my book, development would be improving on one’s previous best.

In other words, if Tawanda, at his best, owned a five-roomed suburban house, a good car, and lived a middle class life – developing would entail improving on that…and, anything less can never be described as development.

The same applies to Zimbabwe.

As long as we have not reached the economic and social levels we experienced in the country’s heydays – of which, the country even had a functional fleet of airplanes that would transcend the world, whose industries and commerce were the pride of the globe, and our education was the envy of the entire continent – we would not have started developing.

At the present moment, we are like an unsuccessful student who is still supplementing his failed subjects – so that, once those have finally been passed, he can then be allowed to progress to the next grade or level.

We are not on a development trajectory at all – and, let us not lie to ourselves – but, merely trying to go back to those glory days.

If that is possible at all, considering that, our government is still misbehaving, and indulging in irresponsible behavior (corruption and mismanagement) – which landed us into this mess, in the first place.

© 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]

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