At this time of the year, our hearts are supposed to be melting, eyes twinkling and faces glowing incessantly with triumphant tribute to our 35-year-old liberation from Rhodesian racist and discriminatory rule.
Our streets, homes, businesses and offices are meant to be draped in national colour paraphernalia as a public display of collective and carnival celebration in recognition of freedoms and liberties bringing and binding us together as one indivisible sovereign and independent State of equal citizens.
Instead, every true patriot must be hanging his or her head in collective shame at how we got ourselves to be the perfect caricature of a failed African State with its peoples beaten, defeated, in grinding poverty, stalked daily by the specture of hunger and in some cases starvation while scavenging for survival pretty much like our ancestors would do before the dawn of organised State entities.
As if the collect shame of all genuine patriots was not enough punishment what is shocking to the marrow is to witness the colloquialism that President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party, or should I say, his overzealous cronies in charge of their communication, chooses to trivialise what is meant to be a period of objective self-reflection given that Zimbabwe is on an accelerated trajectory of self destruction. The so-called #1980sofarsogood “celebratory” pay-off line is a conundrum – a reckless bravado to deliberately mask the desperate reality of the poverty that’s due to the desperation afflicting millions of Zimbabweans.
Such cunning deception, craftiness and lies have their roots not just in the biblical Garden of Eden as authored by the disgraced Lucifer. Greek mythology identifies Dolos – the apprentice of Titan Prometheus, and Pseudologi and Apate, his female partner – as the couple accomplished in fraud and deception. The prefix “pseudo” echoes with chilling familiarity to accomplished writers because of its context when an author attempts to conceal reality, as in the case of Dolos trying to create a false copy of an elusive Veritas, parented by Saturn and Virtue to bestow truth to the mystical world.
It is not clear how Dolos met his demise – for Greek gods were immortal – but what Christians know is that mortality awaits both man and his satanic deceiver. This is why it is critical to alert you, my fellow Zimbabweans, that Zanu PF’s subtle synonymous application of the words “independence” and “freedom” is fraught with Dolosian treachery.
By any linguistic and contextual standards, it is impossible to see how Zimbabweans – 35 years on – can count themselves truly free and prosperous. I say so because since Mugabe already sealed in fate – or shall we say fortune of a self-anointed life president – edges closer to God-prescribed mortality, many Zimbabweans remain bemused at the destructive nature of his 35-year-old rule – and still counting – rule. One is at a loss what manner of legacy a man of such historic significance wants to bestow a country that had so much hope and promise at independence, but is now embroiled in immolating contradiction.
I was not even 20 years old when in almost delirious happiness, we witnessed the historic lowering of the Union Jack in Harare at Rufaro Stadium on April 18 1980 by Prince Charles on behalf of the colonial British government.
Every Zimbabwean old enough to witness with understanding that coming down of the Union Jack must have shared the overwhelming enthusiasm that engulfed us as fellow citizens and for good reason, having emerged from the bruising, emotionally and physically draining Rhodesian civil war that cost thousands of innocent lives.
It was impossible not to have hope and dream big, what with well-deserved political self-rule about to levitate on a sledge of fairly sophisticated infrastructure hitherto unheralded in the ravaged independent parts of the subcontinent.
Thirty five years ago, Zimbabwe’s economic, technological and social indicators pointed upwards. Ian Smith and his obstinate Rhodesia Front had defied a United Nations-sponsored economic blockade to instill a culture of import substitution. By 1980, this would place at the disposal of Zimbabweans one of the highest, on average, standards of living on the African continent.
However, Mugabe, still dazed by the numbing anaesthetics of nationalist militancy, yet pressured by the Lancaster House Conference to assume a semblance of constitutional decency, exploited his electoral victory to impose a fake, deceptive and self serving brand of Maoist ideology often falsely held out as Marxist Leninist. His obsession with power and control manifested itself in spiting post-independence collaboration with Zapu and late Joshua Nkomo and instead choosing to go for the attempted annihilation of Zapu through a five-year military frolic that cost over 20 000 innocent lives in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces.
The seed of (his) hatred for multiparty democracy had been planted and nurtured. Remember that during this period he preached incessantly his undying love for a one party state.
This week, 35 years into independence, Zimbabwe is saddled with an unpayable $10 billion debt with a government which is totally clueless as to what to do with this debt which sits heavily on our national shoulders, blocking almost every prospect of normalising our international financial relations. Under Zanu PF watch the manufacturing annual indices has slumped by a staggering 70% between 1998 and last year and thereby bringing down installed capacity utilization in industry to below 35%; manufacturing export revenues have fallen from around $830 million in 2001 to just slightly over $100 million by 2013.
In the agricultural sector maize production has fallen from a peak of two million tonnes in 2000 to just over 500 thousand tonnes last year; wheat from a peak of just over 300 thousand tonnes in 2001 to less than 10 thousand tonnes last year; coffee from 10 thousand tonnes in 1998 to around 1 000 tonnes in 2014; beef from a peak of just under 160 thousand tonnes in 1991 to around 25 thousand tonnes by 2014; milk from a peak of 250 million liters in 1991 to about 50 million litres by last year.
As a result, the country’s food imports as a percentage of total imports has multiplied on average almost sevenfold between the year 2000 to date; in the mining sector the same staggering falls in production have been witnessed for just about every significant mineral with a few notable exceptions particularly platinum and platinum based minerals such as ruthenium, rhodium, palladium and iridium.
Notable examples of the decline in the mining sector include iron ore which fell from a peak of 1,6 million tonnes in 1980 to zero consecutively from 2008 to date, asbestos from a peak of over 160 thousand tonnes in 2002 to zero consecutively from 2011 to date and phosphate rock (used in the manufacture of fertilizers) from over 100 thousand tones in 2002 to less than 10 thousand tonnes by 2014.
An estimated 90% of able bodied citizens are engaged only in informal work. Put differently, in 1980 of the seven million Zimbabwes, one in seven had a formal job whereas by last year when the population has more than doubled one in 16 has a formal job.
The banking sector is estimated to be sitting on non performing loans in excess of $700 million. Our trade deficit figures are staggeringly crippling. Save for the four years of the inclusive government between 2009 and 2013 Zimbabwe has experienced negative gross domestic product growth of some big figures continuously from 1999 to date.
Most urban areas have erratic water supplies; central business districts are choking with all sorts of vendors; an estimated more than three million Zimbabweans are in forced economic exile exposing some of them to shocking primitive, inhuman and barbaric xenophobic attacks reminiscent of the dark ages which we are currently witnessing in South Africa.
Many public roads particularly in urban areas are infested with potholes; both the productive and domestic sectors are in daily struggles with periodic and crippling power cuts. Hundreds of companies including some bluechip ones have been liquidated as the State consumes 80% of its meager budget to pay a bloated and unproductive civil service whose maintenance bears no relationship to the country’s production. Public infrastructure including schools, hospitals and universities is in a sorry state due to lack of maintenance and repair. The public infrastructure decay is the hallmark of Zanu PF rule.
Witness the state of decay and dilapidation at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) where NRZ is a pale shadow of what it was on Independence Day in 1980. It has gone for years without paying workers. Look at the comatose Cold Storage Company, once a thriving State entity during its days as the Cold Storage Commission. Look too at Air Zimbabwe which is not just a butt of national jokes, but the laughing stock of the aviation industry. In the 35 years of Independence Zesa has not built a single power station. By the way, I almost forgot, as if to put the icing on the cake of destruction wrought onto our beloved country, we are probably the only proudly independent State in this brave world without its own national currency.
As if to compound the humour in the Zanu PF’s #1980sofarsogood pay-off line, Mugabe has been half around the world supposedly signing “mega deals” to pacify a country resigned to bogus electoral promises, but which never bear any fruit. Calls for the Diaspora to invest at home are laughable, given that those citizens are perennially humiliated by being denied their right to vote on frivolous grounds. Mugabe’s illnesses and obvious mental challenges associated with old age could easily attract impeachment, were we in normal and functional democracy.
But then how did we get here? In the melee of a decade-long political celebration, the booming middle class boosted by emigration of thousands of professionals into exile, was more intent on self-enhancement than political participation and holding the State accountable. The Lancaster House Agreement had immunised white citizens and their assets from the Zanu PF predatory ideology, so they were able to pump the revenue off the functional economy into Mugabe’s populist public projects.
Rapid expansion of education and health delivery facilities elevated Mugabe to undeserved demigod status, so much that the continent and indeed the world were willing to ignore his genocidal shenanigans. Meanwhile, in a bid to satisfy its insatiable thirst for self-justification, the ruling Zanu PF party inundated the country with a dazzling potpourri of fallacious economic blue- prints. Who does not remember the National Development Plan, Economic Structural Adjustment Programme, Framework for Economic Reform, Zimbabwe’s Programme for Economic and Social Transformation, Vision 2020, Millennium Economic Reform Plan, Six- Point Plan, 2003 National Economic Revival Plan, 100-day Plan, Medium- Term Plan, National Economic Development Priority Programme and ZimAsset?
One can argue that during this “glory decade”, Zimbabweans knew very little of economic turmoil since the property rights system was still credibly intact and food security stable. In the Mozambican war and a series of droughts, Zimbabwe maintained the rhythm of grain and horticulture export momentum. Nevertheless, Mugabe’s obsession with political appeasement meant that there would be little attention paid to infrastructure investment and development.
He was not concerned with opening up political space, not even within his own party and this resulted in a “rebellion” from wartime colleagues late Edgar Tekere and Margaret Dongo. Gradually, Mugabe’s economic blueprints were sacrificed on the altar of political expediency, thus failing to add any value to economic lives of expectant citizens. This fuelled discontent even within his then labour allies, triggering food riots in the late 1990s. The honeymoon was well and truly over for the undersiege Mugabe.
The period beginning 1997 was the start of Zimbabwe’s precipitous fall from economic, political and social superstardom. Having partially survived vilifications of his unsanctioned military frolic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, demonic price controls and paralysing corruption, Mugabe choked the life out of the national budget by haemorrhaging millions of dollars appeasing agitated war veterans. In another fit of political rage, he ignored good counsel of sensible, measured and proportionate constitutional reform and imposed property violation clauses onto the supreme law of the land, which opened the way for the deletion of commercial land as an asset on the balance sheet of the country and thereby triggering a stand-off with sections of the international community which has lasted to this day.
It will be remembered that this was done mainly to forestall certain electoral defeat after his thumping in the constitutional referendum of early 2000. This was the same period that political space was obliterated and electoral institutions inundated with cronies to guarantee only Zanu PF victory. Scurrilous State media was deployed to poison opinion and flood gullible voters with anti-opposition propaganda.
As the economy struggled to create jobs, millions of citizens fled the country while industry crumbled under the yoke of antiquated infrastructure. The rhythm of human rights violations quickened with the tempo of Mugabe’s renewed fear of political competition. By 2008, Zimbabwe was suffocating from record-breaking hyperinflation, obscene poverty, and institutionalised diamond plunder, shortage of groceries, arbitrary arrests, electoral violence, forced displacements, collapsed infrastructure and unemployment.
Zanu PF propaganda machinery unleashed a higher grade of Dolosian and Apatean deceit, all but blaming Western sanctions and opposition parties except the culprits themselves.
Between 2006 and 2008 the once booming middle class evaporated. Rural areas and grassroots communities were pulverised into political zombies. The June 2008 presidential rerun degenerated into near genocidal frenzy driven by the military, war veterans, youth militias, the police and secret service and paganistic false prophets. Alarmed by this and torrential electoral cheating, the Southern African Development Community was compelled to dispatch the then South African President Thabo Mbeki to broker a “peace agreement” that gave political opposition a semblance of government presence. Tragically, Zanu PF escaped with a deadly portion of political power which it used to defeat political and governance purposes of the inclusive government. No political party anywhere in the world defends and protects political powere for the sake of it without any intent or capacity to wield it for the public good or public interest as does Zanu PF.
This is a political quasi military organisation which wields political power solely for its sake, greed, self aggrandisement and to do good only to and for itself without even any veneer or pretence of doing the ordinary citizens any good. The zeal, passion and brutality with which they have protected and defended that political power through the application of varied scotched earth strategies and tactics which have brought untold suffering to the people as we mark, as opposed to celebrate, our 35th year of independence, would be the envied by even the most brutal of the medieval mornachs.
The 2013 new Constitution received with such resounding enthusiasm is yet to be properly and fully implemented and furthermore the ordinary national laws are yet to be aligned to the Constitution. Cases of selective justice are prevalent. Unexplained disappearances of activists and stagnation in electoral reforms pervade the political environment.
What therefore has become of Zanu PF’s April 18 1980 independence day proclamation of egalitarian bliss? Answer: Marinated and preserved in paralysing self-interest, hatred, primitive vengeance and Dolosian deceit. #1980sofarsogood? We are either stupid or we must be missing something.