ONCE upon a time Rome was ruled by an Emperor called Nero. Nero enjoyed playing his violin, which is also known as a fiddle.
Legend has it that Nero so loved the fiddle that while a fire was ravaging the city of Rome, he was busy strumming tunes on his violin. Emperor Nero’s behaviour gave birth to the idiom “to fiddle while Rome burns”.
Fiddling while Rome burns refers to the impudent act of concentrating on the trivial in the wake of a crisis or an emergency.
It is rumoured that the Emperor of Zimbabwe is reliving the Nero Syndrome by sunbathing in beaches somewhere in the Far East.
President Robert Mugabe is conspicuously missing from the epicentre of his country’s developing crisis.
Mugabe is fiddling while home burns.
Although Zimbabwe is not literally engulfed in a ferocious inferno, events on the ground equate to a conflagration of hellish destructive energy. The country is on autopilot on a journey that spells disaster unless someone wakes up and steers it along a path to recovery. Indeed Zimbabwe is burning and Mugabe is fiddling with his brood and minders in a foreign land far; so far away from his own troubled country.
The country is facing a very hot economic decline that threatens to burn all economic strides born from Zimbabwe’s ambitious indigenisation drive. The economy is refusing to fire in the positive direction and government revenue is declining very fast.
To add more misery to an already precarious economic situation, the rains that drive the agro-industry are refusing to douse the smouldering earth. In the midst of poor economic performance, there is a distinct possibility of a drought that threatens to cause more havoc to the people’s lives.
The country is experiencing the economic heat and a real heatwave in the absence of the Head of State. The President seems to attach more importance to his personal pleasures than to the needs of the people. Civil servants will attest to the erratic payment of their salaries. The country has been drained of all its financial resources to an extent paying civil servants is now problematic. Mugabe has provided the wood splinters to kindle this immense fire. As the fire eats away swathes of land, Mugabe is busy having fun away from the heat.
Zimbabweans would be wondering as to who started this great fire that is eating away Zimbabwe in Mugabe’s absence. Like the fire that destroyed Rome during Nero’s time was rumoured to have been started by Nero himself in a bid to release land to build a new palatial complex, the cause of Zimbabwe’s fire points at Mugabe himself. Mugabe has nursed an ambition to build himself an indelible legacy.
His idea of springing an everlasting legacy meant he had to start from ground zero. He set about destroying everything that was productive in the belief that he was going to spring economic miracles. He saw himself modelling Zimbabwe along the paths taken by the likes of Singapore and Indonesia to make Zimbabwe an economic success. It was unfortunate that Mugabe failed to rein in the rampant corruption within his bloated government. Year after year the economy of Zimbabwe posted negative growth yet Mugabe maintained stubborn optimism that things would become better.
When economic affairs failed to post positive results, Mugabe failed to carry out serious introspection to enable him to see where he was going wrong. He kept embarking on expensive trips visiting foreign lands. Most of the trips brought nothing for Zimbabwe except scorn. The scorn and denigration from some countries he visited was in response to his belligerent approach to his case. He preached the gospel of a righteous black country that was being stifled by the evil imperialists from the western world.
What Mugabe failed to understand was that the global economy was intertwined. The East needed the West as much as West needed the East and so did the South and the North need each other. More unforgivable was the fact that Mugabe thought Zimbabwe could survive in isolation. After feeling the heat from trying to survive on his own, he turned to China in his Look East policy.
This was another fundamental error of judgment as he missed the cardinal rule in geopolitics within the global village. The stubborn President failed to grasp that no matter how heavily China would flood her cheap products in Zimbabwe, Zimbabweans needed to have the purchasing power.
Mugabe eroded the purchasing power of his own people by overprinting the Zimbabwe dollar. He presided over a country that saw record inflation to a point the printing machines at Fidelity Printers were unable to mint the required trillion dollar notes to match the hyperinflation. It was all Mugabe’s stubbornness that brought the flames that set Zimbabwe on fire. Instead of helping put down the fire, he is having soothing moments away from home.
This is why people feel that Mugabe is fiddling while home burns. The people wait to see what other insensitive indiscretion and obscenity he is going to pull in front of the suffering people. People suspect that he is going to lavish his acolytes with a mega feast come 21st February.
lMasola waDabudabu writes in his personal capacity