Having spent the first seven years of my life in colonial Rhodesia, and residing in the native township of Torwood – I would always find it rather perplexing why those of a different skin colour than ourselves stayed in their own separate suburb, with bigger and better looking houses, beautiful schools, and all manner of amazing amenities.
The simple and short answer I would receive was always the same, “it’s because they are white” – and, that was it!
It appeared that was all the justification required, working quite well for most people as a suitable and satisfactory reason, and most convincing explanation, as to why some sections of our country were entitled to a livelihood and lifestyle much more superior and lavish than the rest of us.
It was clear that, for most citizens, there was absolutely nothing amiss with such a undoubtedly lopsided and skewed setup.
I was thinking about this troubling experience in my childhood this morning, as I was going through salaries of various groups in today’s independent Zimbabwe – whose glaring gaps and divide between those in the ruling elite, vis a vis the ordinary citizenry, was extremely worrisome and perturbing.
According to a reliable report I was reading, the president of Zimbabwe earns an average monthly salary of US$111,609 (US$12.163 as the basic salary, plus daily allowances ranging up to US$7,320).
I then took a look at a teacher and nurse’s salary – which is more representative of the average earnings of Zimbabweans in general – and, to say the figure was dumbfounding would be an unfair understatement, since they receive around ZW$20,000 (excluding the US$75 COVID-19 allowance) a month.
…and even if the recently announcement 100 percent civil servants salary increment is agreeable to employees – ZW$40,000 is still ridiculously laughable and insulting.
I had to ask myself, why?
Why should there be such an ocean-sized divide between what the president of the country earned, and ordinary citizens – as if there are those who are deemed more worthy than the rest of us, deserving the best the country has to offer, whilst everyone else lived in abject poverty?
I am sure, as happened in those Rhodesia years, if I asked those who went around supporting and even defending the ruling elite, in spite of their own obtrusive impoverishment – they would confidently respond, “because he is the president”!
This is disgusting and sickening, to say the least!
Under what conditions could it ever be acceptable and normal for an average Zimbabwean to earn ZW$20,000, in the midst of soaring inflation now hovering around 200 percent (with some economic experts placing the figure at 500 percent), a rampaging exchange rate of US$1 selling for ZW$500 on the most-used black market, the June family basket now at ZW$110,000, and the total consumer poverty line standing at a staggering ZW$18,425 for one person?
How, then, is it acceptable and normal when the president reportedly grosses US$111,609 per month – more so, derived from taxpayers’ money, the same taxpayers who earn far below the poverty datum line, with half the population living in extreme poverty, making less than US$1.90 a day (about US$50)?
What manner of a society is that?
So, how on earth can any sane person go around trumpeting the virtues of the ruling establishment?
Is this not the identical mentality as I so shockingly witnessed on those trips from Torwood to town (the nearby Kwekwe), as we passed just outside the white suburb of Redcliff – and, the response to my question would always be, “because they are whites”?
What gives the president the right to be treated, out of our tax dollars, as more important and special than the rest of us?
Just because he is the president?
Is that not the reason he does not seem to give a hoot about our unbelievable suffering and poverty – as he is undeniably living in his own world, far divorced from the rest of Zimbabwe!
@ 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