In fact, this is a trail of destruction that has been unleashed upon a once vibrant and boisterous country, at the hands of a clueless and inept ruling elite, whose only “talent” appears to be an insatiable greed for looting and plunder of the nation’s vast resources – which, at some point in the distant past, were the main drivers of the prosperity and fame we enjoyed.
How then, did a country that once topped the global and continental list of high achievers – suddenly become such a pathetic failed state?
What was the reason Zimbabwe suffered such a thunderous and embarrassing fall from grace – which witnessed the closure of some of the country’s, continent’s, and world’s most reputable companies and enterprises?
Why would an entire region in the country be reduced into an empty sad shell of its former glory – with old sign posts being the only things still standing, as monuments and memorials to companies that used to be, in once upon a time Zimbabwe?
If truth be told, what became of Zimbabwe did not particularly come as a shock to most of us who studied the signals, ever since we attained our independence from Britain in 1980.
For those of us who saw the shameless unrestrained corruption, looting, and mismanagement in our major companies, as the then iron and steel making African giant ZISCOSTEEL, from as far back as the 1980s – the writing was boldly and clearly on the wall.
No wonder, in an article I penned in 1991 in a local Kwekwe newspaper – as an 18 year old lower sixth form student – made an impassioned condemnation of this undoubtedly ruinous path, and fearlessly rebuked the government (which owned the entity) for its actions that threatened the very survival of the company.
I found it most interesting, decades later, that my wife Tinta’s father – who was the chief engineer at ZISCOSTEEL during that era – similarly had no kind words to say over the gross incompetence at the firm, whose most senior management and executives he regarded ill-qualified and unsuitable for the mandate.
Of course, those who care to see the truth would know that most of these state-owned companies – which the government took over once in office in 1980 – were headed at the very top by political appointees, who severely lacked the requisite experience and know-how, thereby opting to spend their time and energies in giving jobs to their own equally under-qualified and clueless relatives and comrades…which was a sure recipe for disaster.
Needless to say, most of these enterprises eventually collapsed.
In all this – there were no economic sanctions to talk about.
As a matter of fact, the only sanctions the country had endured at that time, were those imposed by the UN – after the Ian Douglas Smith Rhodesia regime declared UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) in 1965 – which, however, actually spurred the country into a phase of inward-looking profound innovation, that led to such companies as ZISCOSTEEL (then RISCO) making phenomenal successes.
As I sorrowfully watched the decrepit and rundown buildings that once hosted and housed major industrial and commercial giants in Bulawayo and the Matebeleland South regions – that have since closed shop, or those still in existence operating at their barest minimal – I could not help thinking what Zimbabweans imaged as “good days” of the 1980s were merely the remnants of the pre-independence period.
It is akin to an irresponsible wayward son who inherits his parents’ mega business empire and vast wealth – and, in spite of his steady wastefulness of these riches, and mismanagement of the companies – the first few years may provide a false impression of “all is well”.
Nonetheless, as time goes by, the inevitable will eventually come to pass – with all the wealth fizzling away, and the empire crashing down, leaving the prodigal son wallowing in poverty and begging for morsels to eat.
That is exactly what happened to Zimbabwe.
With such truths right there in front of the entire nation – how come quite a significant portion of our citizenry appears to be failing to grasp these undeniable facts?
Well, the targeted sanctions imposed on a few top individuals and entities linked to gross human rights violations and corruption came in 2002.
These were a God-sent for the ruinous ZANU PF ruling elite – since they were imposed right in time to be used as a convenient reason for an economic meltdown, whose arrival was already imminent.
It was like the prodigal son, in my illustration, being a victim of an arsonist’s fire that burns down a tiny section of the little that still remains of the once opulent business empire – and eagerly clutches onto this opportunity, swiftly framing it as the reason for the ruination of the vast wealth he inherited.
Unfortunately, there will never be any shortage, even from within his own family, of those who will buy into this story.
That is exactly what we have witnessed in Zimbabwe over the past two decades – as a significant portion of our population has lamely fallen hook, line, and sinker for the “economic sanctions that have crippled our economy” yarn.
Yet, this has never been farther from the truth.
Zimbabwe’s destruction was authored and implemented the day ZANU PF assumed the reins of power some 42 years ago.
Targeted sanctions or not – the country was already at its ruination “point of no return” by the year 2000.
Let me also kindly remind everyone that, the main reason the newly formed MDC received such rousing and overwhelming reception in 1999 by Zimbabweans – a good three years before any so-called “economic sanctions” – was on account of the citizenry’s utter disgust and outrage over the economic meltdown already being experienced at that time.
Which is why, during the June 2000 general elections, ZANU PF lost virtually all urban constituencies to the MDC – with 63 seats (48% of the popular vote) going to the ruling party, and 57 seats (47% of the popular vote) to the nine-month old opposition.
Zimbabweans were already thoroughly fed up with the increasingly unbearable economic challenges experienced in the 1990s – characterized by skyrocketing basic commodities’ prices, a depreciating local currency (which we mocked as the ZimKwacha), fuel shortages, and unacceptably high unemployment levels, due to company downsizing or closures.
Therefore, this Zimbabwe economic house of cards was already crumbling at the dawn of the new millennium – such that, the targeted sanctions were more of a blessing for ZANU PF, than an albatross around the neck of an already comatose economy.
I honestly believe that, the main reason ZANU PF has managed to hold on to power – above the reign of terror, unequal and unfair political environment, and questionable elections – has been these targeted sanctions, which have been turned around by the ruling establishment to whitewash their own dismal unmitigated failures, that have spanned four decades.
Which is why they will forever loudly sing and rant about “sanctions” – even when, from instance, only one entity still remains on the EU (European Union) list.
© 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]Post published in: Featured