I recalled a boy scouting trip we made in August 1989 to the small southern African country of Swaziland (now eSwathini) – whereby, on our way back, we had an overnight stay at a hotel in then apartheid South Africa’s Johannesburg, which was a truly world-class glamorous city at that time.
As we were still young boys (I was 16 years old), and donning scout uniforms – we typically attracted quite a lot of attention, at which some curious South Africans were eager to know more about who we were, what we did, and where we came from.
Of course, they were also itching to hear what we thought about their country – which, they were obviously quite proud of – to which I boldly responded, “South Africa is a very beautiful place, but your politics suck!”
I honestly did not know how they were going to react to such a cheeky statement – considering that this was at the height of political tensions, with the fervent fight against the unjust and cruel segregatory system of apartheid – but, this was me, someone who spoke his mind without any fear or favour, and believed that it was always imperative to say what people needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear.
After gazing at me for what seemed an eternity (although, it probably was just a few seconds) – with expressionless faces, that did not betray what was on their minds – a smile finally began to form on one of the South Africans’ face, which morphed into a hearty laugh, and eventually a friendly pat of my back, at which he simply nodded his head.
These images played out again in my mind this morning, as Chiwenga went on and on about how our country (and, the African continent) were richly blessed with abundant resources, which needed to be shared equitably for all the people’s benefit.
As I listened to these obviously insincere comments, I could not help wondering why we were so poor, to begin with – yet, being in a country possessing some of the most sought-after treasures of this world?
Why were the likes of Chiwenga himself, and those in the country’s ruling elite, filthy rich and rolling in dough (as we would say in our youth) – whilst, millions of Zimbabweans wallowed in abject poverty, and unable to meet even their basic needs?
Was this not as a result of their proximity to political power, which has enabled them to flex their muscles for their own aggrandizement – grabbing the best land for themselves, ensuring privileged access to crucial inputs and the most sophisticated machinery, as well as forcing their way into huge business deals in diamonds, gold, and other precious minerals?
Is the reason for the untold impoverishment and suffering of nearly 76% of the country’s population (living below the poverty datum line) not the fact that we are no where near the reins of power – and as such, excluded and marginalized from the fat of the land, and this phenomenal wealth Zimbabwe has been endowed?
The main crisis we have in this country is not necessarily economic, but political – originating from a ruling class that is more interesting in enriching themselves at the expense of the rest of the citizenry.
This is no different from the apartheid policies that I came face to face with, on this visit to South Africa in 1989 – whereby, it was glaringly obvious how the vast majority were alienated in their own country, and abandoned on the sidelines of both the economic and political landscape.
This was not an economic issue – but, strictly a political one – as their country was, as still is, also wealthy, but the majority poor.
As I told my small captive audience in South Africa those decades ago – I will repeated it today to my own leaders – Zimbabwe is a beautiful country, but the politics suck!
We are reigned over by a greedy, selfish, and clueless group of people – who do not care about the citizenry’s welfare and wellbeing – rather opting to unleash savage brutality against those who dare speak out, and stand up, as they voice their objection and resistance in the face of unmitigated oppression and subjugation.
Zimbabwe is not in desperate need of sound economic policies – no, not at all – but, desperately needs a new breed of leaders, who put the interests of the people first!
We already have the wealth – so, there is nothing much that is required on the economic front – except, for these riches to be equitably shared, and benefit the wider population.
Our ruling elite is already benefiting – so, why can’t we?
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, 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