Why have Smith’s prophetic words about Zimbabwe come to pass?

If ever there were any painful words spoken about an independent Zimbabwe – none, arguably, can surpass those supposedly uttered by Rhodesia Prime Minister Ian Douglas Smith.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

He is alleged to have commented, “If blacks are to rule themselves, people in towns will walk on sewage until they believe it’s normal, all the gains from colonization will vanish, infrastructure will collapse, roads will be impassable, trains will kill people until they’re abandoned as an usable mode of transport, hospitals will be closed, farms will be grabbed and nothing to feed the people”.

Can anyone, who wants to be brutally honest with himself, ever dispute the truths packed in these prophetic words?

Whenever I read these words, my heart is wrenched with unmanageable torment and torture!

Yet, not at the audacity of the colonial leader saying such words – rather, at the piercing truths and accuracy contained.

I find myself wondering why.

The same troubling question gripped me this morning, as I watched local 3kTV news – where they highlighted the flow of sewage on the streets of Sunningdale, which is reported to have become a permanent feature of suburbs of the capital Harare.

To add insult to injury, these are the same towns and cities that have gone for months and even years without any potable tap water in homes – and, have to rely on boreholes sparsely distributed distances away.

Of course, in addition to such deplorable disgraceful scenes – most of our roads in Zimbabwe have definitely become impassable – due to neglect and a total lack of significant repair, resulting in humongous potholes resembling warzone craters.

As a matter of fact, there has not been any significant construction of new roads in the country for the past four decades – with most roadworks merely being the expansion of narrow roads from the colonial era, and the rehabilitation of a few others.

When it comes to infrastructure – the tragic truth is that, most of what we are still using, some 43 years after acquiring our independence from Britain, is also from colonial times – meaning that, they have seen better days, and most nearly in a state of dilapidation.

This is compounded by a sickening lack of care and proper upkeep – since, these various infrastructures, as hospitals, schools, bridges, and other buildings were of top quality – and, could have easily still been in excellent shape, had we looked after them.

Nonetheless, what we find are hospitals, schools, bridges and various buildings, which could actually have been preserved for posterity and as heritage sites – being reduced to eyesores, which have become a humiliating sight.

Not only that, but our institutions are now teetering on the brink of collapse – without the most basic of necessities, such as text and exercise books, or chalk, let alone modern science and technology equipment – four decades after what was supposed to be our self-determination as the majority of Zimbabwe.

Our health care facilities are practically dysfunctional – operating without simple pain killers, protective gloves, antiseptic ointment, antibiotics, anesthetic or surgical equipment – whilst, countless cancer patients face needless anguishing deaths, due to the disrepair of the handful of available radiotherapy machines.

To make matters worse, infrastructure that had been constructed post-independence is so substandard to the extent that, ironically, is the one appearing much older than that built in the 1950s and 60s.

It is never surprising learning that, after a heavy storm – bridges and buildings that have been swept or blown away are the recent ones, built after independence – yet, colonial structures remain unscathed.

In fact, in my own hometown of Redcliff – an ECD (early childhood development) classroom block constructed with the aid of the military about five years ago, now appears worn-out, with paint having peeled off or faded, with rainwater gutters falling apart – yet, the rest of the over sixty-year-old Redcliff Primary School still looks relatively intact.

I will not say much about the country’s railway service – which ceased proper operations decades ago, mainly as a consequence of ramshackle trains, which are now only fit for museums – and, their continued use now posing a grave danger to passengers.

Furthermore, industries, mining companies and commercial farms, which used to be the mainstay of our railways, have largely been destroyed – on account of massive corruption, mismanagement, and an economy that has spent the past two decades in the intensive care unit.

Why have we failed to govern ourselves to such shocking and shameful levels?

Surely, do we not feel a sense of embarrassment when we read, or even see with own eyes, such depths of failure and ruination?

Having waged the armed liberation struggle on the basis of the cruelty, unfairness and injustices of colonialization – should our country now not be far much advanced and developed, with the citizenry enjoying a higher standard of living – than the Rhodesia era?

Should we not be boasting of how colonialism had kept us down as the majority – yet, now living the best life, only comparable to those Western countries that colonized us?

However, we find ourselves in a worse place – standards having severely depreciated, and our livelihoods trapped in poverty and sorrow.

Do we even look ourselves in the mirror – without ever resorting to blaming anyone else for the shameless destruction we have brought upon our country?

In this discourse, I am not even going to point a finger at any particularly group – since all of us need to take full responsibility for how our once beautiful prosperous country has turned out.

Each and every one of us has a role to play in the advancement and development of our own nation.

What does it take for me to ensure that my own son’s school, or our local clinic, or the community in general is well kempt and everything working as is intended?

Surely, are we unable of taking our slashers to cut all that long grass in our neighborhoods, or repairing those chairs and desks our children are using in schools, or stop throwing litter all over the place?

It is rather silly and ridiculous watching all those people driving their expensive Toyota Fortuners and Prados on streets that are riddled with potholes and lacking adequate lightning.

What stops them from putting their monies together to have their roads and street lights fixed?

Of course, I cannot end without also referencing our leaders, who prefer looting our vast national resources – which built that wonderful developed country we inherited at independence, in the first place – for their own self-aggrandizement, whilst the rest of the country falls apart.

What was the purpose of this so-called ‘majority rule’, if we are unable or unwilling to take good care of ourselves and our country?

Are we to say that all those lives that were lost during the liberation struggle perished so that sewage can glow freely on our streets, hospitals turned into death traps, schools producing mindless robots, urban areas going without water, and our infrastructure crumbling right in front of our eyes?

Did our fathers and mothers go to war so that we go hungry in a dysfunctional  economy – where only those in power, and aligned to them, have access to everything?

My own take is that we, as Zimbabweans, are a selfish lot!

We only consider what is good for our own selves as individuals, and our families – with scant regard for the greater interest of our communities and nation.

Is that not the same reason someone riding in his car would rather thrown litter out of the window onto the road – as he prefers cleanliness in his own surrounds – without a care for the filth he has left behind?

Nevertheless, our selfish attitude only exposes a worrying absence of wisdom and intelligence – since, lack of concern for others and what we have around us, will eventually catch up with us, and adversely affected our own lives.

We need to move away from this selfishness – but, start placing the interests of our communities and country ahead of our own.

Unless and until we have a total change of mindset, then Smith’s words will always be there, in living proof, right in front of us.

As hurtful as they are – but, they are as true as they were prophetic.

We have absolutely no one to blame for the manner we have ruined our own country.

  • Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected]

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