So, Zimbabwe govt promises, again, to reopen ZISCOSTEEL – hahahaha!

Most times, it is extremely difficult to tell whether the Zimbabwe government sees us as utter idiots - or, it is they who are the unmitigated fools!

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

Surely, how can anyone explain the elusive logic behind a regime that finds absolutely nothing wrong, or possibly thoroughly entertained, with repeatedly telling yarns, and uttering promises that they have no plans, or ability, in fulfilling?

We, the hapless people of Zimbabwe, have heard it all.

Education and health for all by the year 2000. Vision 2020.

When the current so-called “new dispensation” snatched power from then ruthless tyrant, Robert Gabriel Mugabe – in a military coup d’etat in November 2017 – we had a whole trainload of more promises.

They would build 1.5 million houses by 2023. Free education would be available for all by this year.

Then, the big one – well, for those of us who reside in the small town of Redcliff.

Our lifeline – the once iron and steel making giant, ZISCOSTEEL, would be resuscitated within the first 100 days of the inauguration of Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa on August 26, 2018, after his election as president several weeks earlier.

Yet, a good 1,277 days later – there is still no ZISCOSTEEL!

Well, this is not particularly surprising for us who live in Redcliff – as we still have fresh haunting nightmares of then president Mugabe, and prime minister Morgan Richard Tsvangirai, roaringly landing in their helicopters, in our small town, on August 3, 2011, ostensibly to handover the collapsed former giant to its supposed new investors, Essar Africa of India.

I can still remember the wild ecstatic jubilations, as a population, gripped by hopelessness and helplessness, after their beloved company – which had employed and provided a livelihood to thousands, as well as creating and running Redcliff, had tragically but unsurprisingly closed down in 2010 after decades high-level looting and mismanagement – suddenly saw a huge bright light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Even a government-instituted commission of inquiry into the state-owned company produced a damning report in 2006 confirming these facts surrounding the shenanigans prevailing at the company – although, powerful top regime officials prevented its release to the public.

I also wrote a scathing article in a local Kwekwe newspaper in 1991 – whilst still an eighteen year old lower sixth form pupil – warning of the unsavory consequences of the same, yet laughed off by many as mere rantings of a naive and immature teenager, who did not understand that the government would never permit ZISCOSTEEL to collapse, since it was the backbone of the economy.

Who would not be overly-excited, as a once well-respected, and even envied people – whose reputation as ZISCOSTEEL employees was a national legend, due to the glorious salaries which they were paid, and glamorous town that the company had established, popularly known as “Little London” – were reduced, seemingly overnight, into beggars and paupers after its shutdown?

This was after thousands were laid off without any meaningful pensions and other severance packages – more so former nurses as my own mother, who, despite faithfully committing herself to the company since 1964 till her retirement in 2010. has never received a single cent of her dues.

To make matters worse, the hyperinflationary economic environment of the early 2000s eroded all her savings, insurances, and investments.

Redcliff residents could no longer manage to pay rates and water bills to our municipality (a major factor as to why we have not had any tap water in months), basic commodities became unaffordable, our children kicked out of schools due to non-payment of fees, and saw many dying from preventable diseases as costs of medication were prohibitive (especially, considering the demise of the company’s medical aid facility).

The excitement was so infectious that, I even personally overheard a group of optimistic overjoyed residents looking forward to discarding their old worn-out sofas as beds, right onto the sides of streets!

Yet, even today, Redcliff is a sad lonely shell of its former self – having been reduced into a desolate ghost town – characterized by the fleeing of all banks, moving base of all major supermarkets and other brands.

However, nothing ever came of all these promises.

As such, when the government announced the reopening of ZISCOSTEEL yesterday February 22, 2022 – for the umpteenth time – very few people in Redcliff were amused, by what they saw as another cruel disdainful joke.

In fact, I posted the news report of this announcement in a Redcliff residents WhatsApp group. – as a deliberate move to judge reactions – and, there was no time wasted, as responses immediately came fast and furious.

Comments such as, “please may these people leave us alone”, “2023 is only around the corner so what’s new”, “these people really think we are fools”, and “don’t we have anything better to talk about than these lies”, were the order on the day.

The lack of enthusiasm, and the serious doubts, are quite understandable – considering the numerous unfulfilled promises.

Let us remember that, there is nothing more painful and traumatic than having one’s hopes raised high – especially, in the face of untold suffering – only to be cold-heartedly dashed and crashed.

I repeat what the exceedingly fed-up people of Redcliff – as I am one of them – said and feel.

Quit playing your silly and cruel games with our minds!

Have we not suffered enough for you to seemingly derive some depraved pleasure from breaking our hearts?

If you are genuinely serious about these plans – please, keep quiet, and just surprise us when it all finally happens.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, and social 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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