I cannot help wondering – and, as so often happens in stressful times as these, where every day is a struggle – what would have become of us had our former colonizers not, at least, built all these towns and the houses we still live in today.
Where would we be residing today – since, we have done a very good job of not only destroying most of what we inherited from the colonial era – but also, never really constructed or developed anything of note post-independence?
In fact, all our major hospitals, schools, water bodies, power generating stations, roads, houses – you name it – in Zimbabwe, were the product of the colonial period.
It would have been understandable had we faithfully maintained all this infrastructure in good state – since, even in the most advanced economies, some of their outstanding structures are hundreds of years old – but, we only managed to wreck nearly everything into ruin and dilapidation.
Surely, why would a country fail to provide its citizens such basic necessities as water, electricity, well-provisioned medical facilities, well-equipped functional learning institutions, or decent housing?
It is even worse in Zimbabwe’s case, since we were given a head start – with an economy that was already firing on all cylinders, possibly the best on the African continent during the colonial epoch.
Yet, only forty two years down the line – mind you, the demise having began much earlier, barely a decade after attaining independence – we find ourselves worse off that those nation we used to laugh at and ridicule, such as Zambia and Botswana, who were able to, at least, pull themselves out of the mud.
Let us remember that when the late former president of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, told post-independent Zimbabwe founding father Robert Gabriel Mugabe to run the country well, as he had just inherited the ‘jewel of Africa’ – he was admiring the phenomenal outstanding work that had been achieved in colonial times.
So, why could we not do exactly that – take good care of this ‘jewel of Africa’?
We still had the exceptional manpower and skills – but, above all else, the tremendous mineral wealth – that had built colonial Rhodesia.
Surely, all we needed to do was simply continue from where those we had taken over from had left off.
However, instead of focusing on the huge task ahead – that of transforming the country into an even shinier jewel – we elected to turn it into a dull lump of sod.
We looted with reckless abandon – for our own personal enrichment – that which ought to have been used for the greater benefit of the nation and its citizenry.
We placed incompetent, unknowledgeable and inexperienced friends, relatives and fellow comrades into positions of authority to perform tasks they knew absolutely nothing about.
As a result, today we no longer have a ‘jewel of Africa’ to be proud of – but have become a shameful basket case and beggar of the world, as we cannot even take care of ourselves.
In typical prodigal son fashion – we took that ‘jewel’ we inherited, fought over who should have it, and then sold it for short-lived gains – leaving the country poorer and the people hungry.
In this article, I have deliberately avoided placing the blame on any political party or individuals – as I am beginning to question whether these failures can truly be attributed to only a particular grouping.
Well, in Zimbabwe we have had an opportunity to observe how even the opposition has managed (or rather, mismanaged) our urban areas – effectively running into the ground what once were the gems that made the ‘jewel of Africa’ shine.
They have shown themselves, beyond a shadow of doubt, to be just as corrupt, greedy and inept as those from the ruling party.
Evidence is abound of the disgraceful shenanigans by opposition officials running our towns and cities colluding and working in cahoots with government-appointed management in looting and misappropriating our resources for their own selfish benefit.
Recently, both ruling and opposition legislators were in a rare show of unity and oneness of mind – not in formulating laws and policies that would significantly improve the citizenry’s standards of livelihood – but, to share amongst themselves US$14 million of taxpayers’ money, with each MP receiving a minimum of US$40,000 (whilst, cabinet ministers getting US$500,000 and their deputies US$350,000).
In the process, our hospitals remain without the barest of essentials – such as pain killers, gloves, antiseptic ointment, or sutures and anesthetic drugs for surgeries.
Our children do not have any text and exercise books, and modern science and technology laboratories in their school – most of which, in rural areas, still without electricity 42 years after independence.
This then brings up the most painful question of all – which I always force myself not to think of.
Since, both our ruling and opposition parties are equally as thieving, destructive and incompetent – does this show a deeper challenge in our country than the merely superficial partisan politics?
Is there another more disturbing truth we do not want to accept and face up to?
Could this be a greater indictment of our inability to govern ourselves as black people?
Instead of rushing to being defensive or even enraged, why do we not first seriously ponder this possibility.
I have always believed that the first step in self-transformation is to admit the truth about oneself – no matter how painful and unpalatable.
Only in that way, will meaningful and practical solutions be put in place geared for any positive change.
As long as we bury our heads in the sand – we can forget about any genuine development in our country.
That is how I have personally managed to change my own life – which is why I find it so easy to even write about my weaknesses, failures and struggles for everyone to read – as I do not regard them as bringing shame, but necessary introspection and self-examination that is vital in any real transformation.
We also need to have this honest conversation amongst ourselves as black people.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only +263788897936, or email: [email protected]