I am sorry, but I personally find the idea of people tripping over themselves to restore Robert Mugabe’s legacy instead of focusing on pressing for the full emancipation of the Zimbabwean people not only obscene but grossly insensitive.
When time renders its full judgment, it will be clear that Emmerson Mnangagwa (and the post November 2017 repression that has caused the abductions of Dr.Magombeyi and many others) is Mugabe’s legacy.
When the late President is buried in his extravagant mausoleum, over 72% of Zimbabweans, including people from Zvimba, will still be living under the poverty datum line.
The old lady in Murehwa who broke her hip and can’t afford what is being demanded for her treatment will still be groaning in excruciating pain, or worse still be dead from septic bedsores.
University graduates will still be street vendors, and unemployment will still stand at over 90%.
Queen Bee will still be plundering the economy and we will still be enduring 16-hour power cuts and long fuel lines.
The officially gazetted wage for a gardener and housekeeper will still be RTGS 160 and 168 respectively, or about US$10 per month.
Owen Ncube, Victor Matemadanda, Energy Mutodi and Ziyambi Ziyambi will still be ministers, and Chinotimba will still be considered our best parliamentarian.
Wicknell Chivayo and Obert Mpofu will still be enjoying their ill-gotten wealth, and the billions of dollars missing from Chiadzwa and Command Agriculture will still be unaccounted for.
People will still be perishing from needless accidents on the horrible Harare to Masvingo road whose improvement is currently stalled by the highly suspicious awarding of tenders without a road design.
Barring an act of God, Emmerson Mnangagwa will still be president. SB Moyo will still be Foreign Minister and claiming that a Third Force is abducting Zimbabweans, while the government will still be viciously putting down legitimate protests and blaming sanctions for the consequences of their own incompetence and corruption.
Kirsty Coventry and Mthuli Ncube will still be pretending that the principle of collective responsibility for the repressive and violent actions of cabinet does not apply to them because they are a special category of citizen.
Some of us who refuse to travel with “eyes wide shut” are struck by the commitment of leaders elsewhere to simply make their nations work. I was thoroughly perplexed recently by how a relative whose savings completely disappeared under Mugabe’s rule and who in his old age cannot afford his own medical care fondly remembered Mugabe thundering that Blair could keep his “little England” while he (Mugabe) kept his Zimbabwe. I reminded my relative that Mugabe had reduced him to a life of penury, while he (Mugabe) and his family lived like British Royals.
They carved out a life where everything worked for them in a country that was not working for everyone else.
Or they would simply fly out to Singapore, Dubai, China, South Africa etc. to access services that were not available to ordinary men and women at home.
I am sorry but my definition of a hero is radically simple and has little to do with the qualities I hear being extolled even by those who claim to be fighting for change in our country.
My hero is someone who inspires me to be my best self. To be the best citizen. The best worker. The best leader. The best entrepreneur and businessman. To produce the best social and economic good.
True heroes inspire us to build the best hospitals. The best schools. The best communities and the best nations. The breakthrough for our communities, nation and continent will happen when we start minting those kinds of heroes.
Its not my responsibility to grant or take away the place in history that only time and their deeds can give anyone. My duty to myself, my country and my children’s children in the event that there are few heroes in my own context to inspire me to be my best self is to do all I can to find that inspiration elsewhere, or die trying.
Is There Not a Cause?
It’s impossible to land in a place like Doha, Qatar as I did this morning without thinking of the absolute heartlessness of the people who have led our nation for the past four decades.
Qatar is a desert nation of sand dunes with no perennial rivers or lakes. Qatari leaders have essentially two natural resources, oil and natural gas which they steward well for their people.
Unlike Zimbabwe’s rulers who simply plundered Chiadzwa’s diamonds and continue to plunder our gold, chrome, platinum reserves etc, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund from oil and natural gas revenues now stands at over $170 billion.
The country works in spite of the demographic peculiarity of only 600,000 out of a population of 2.6 million being citizens, and the rest migrant workers and expatriates. Instead of allowing the outnumbering of their citizens by foreign workers to stoke their paranoia and threaten their sovereignty, Qatari leaders manage the foreigners as a critical resource for their economic well-being.
That Qatar, it’s complicated history, location in one of the most volatile regions in the world and the current diplomatic standoff with its powerful neighbors notwithstanding, could still have a vibrant and well-managed economy (Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world) and Doha could still be the vibrant gateway to the world that it is, speaks volumes of the commitment of its leaders to make their country work not just for the ruling elite, but for the majority of its citizens.
By the way, in June 1995, Hamad bin Khalifa deposed his own father, the then Emir of Qatar Khalifa bin Hamad not to continue the plunder as happened in the case of our own coup, but to accelerate the country’s modernization.
We believe at our own peril that Emmerson Mnangagwa does not know what he is doing simply because he can’t deliver a speech as effectively as his predecessor did.
He knows perfectly well what he is doing now, just as he and his team knew what they were doing during Mugabe’s tenure when they came up with brutishly sophisticated schemes to plunder resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at Chiadzwa and in the rich gold and chrome fields in the midlands and the rest of the country.
He knew what he was doing when he appointed Owen Ncube as State Security Minister in spite of his reputation in the midlands.
He knew what he was doing when he appointed Matemadanda as Deputy Minister of Defense and Energy Mutodi as Deputy Information Minister.
He knew what he was doing when he did not take action against the people in the military who ordered the shooting of protestors in January.
He knows what he is doing by not coming out strongly against whoever is abducting and brutalizing citizens right now.
When we laugh at our leaders for being clueless buffoons, we miss the point that it was not the ability to give great speeches that enabled them to craft these schemes, but the fact that they are committed and calculating plunderers who understand that applying what makes other nations work in Zimbabwe would threaten their criminal enterprises and hold on power.
The late Robert Mugabe’s extravagant foreign trips at the public’s expense earned him the nickname Vasco da Gama. The difference between da Gama, the 1st Count of Vidigueira and Portuguese explorer who was the first European to reach India, and Mugabe was that while the former’s travels were to benefit Portugal, the latter’s trips and those of his successor were/are largely for personal benefit.
Our leaders travel to foreign places not to learn anything but to strike personal deals, to enjoy the services provided by other nations which they deny their own people at home and to siphon money out of our economy.
We must not forget that it’s not just the logic challenged Matemadandas and Chinotimbas among our leaders who insist that “we have the strongest currency in the region.” That claim is made by much traveled and well-educated leaders who could have easily learned from their recent junket to Japan the elementary lesson that the real strength of a currency is its purchasing power for the average citizen, not where the decimal point in expressing the rate of exchange relative to other currencies is.
By the logic of our leaders, the Japanese Yen at 0.0093 US$ would not only be weaker than our RTGS, but would suggest that our own economy is stronger than Japan’s which at US$4.87 trillion GDP is the third largest in the world.
I recently had a long conversation with a member of the PAC who said the view from the inside was shocking, and that we don’t understand the extent of the corruption and the depth of the hole our leaders have dug us.
While he was pessimistic that we would see change anytime soon, I was personally encouraged by the fact that there are those on the inside who are finally seeing what Zimbabweans on the outside have always seen and experienced.
I suspect that the scales are finally beginning to fall from the eyes of some on the inside because the country that has not been working for the majority of citizens for decades is beginning not to work for them. What was affecting ordinary citizens is beginning to impact the business interests of the elite.
May more of them who are on the inside see the light so that this house of cards may finally fall under its own weight for the sake of the people of Zimbabwe who have suffered enough.
Is There Not a Cause?
In the final scene of “The Godfather” trilogy, Michael Corleone, the once feared head of the most powerful organized crime family in the world who ordered the deaths of many of his foes including his own brother Fredo, dies alone in the courtyard of a run-down home, his ultimate encounter with the Grim Reaper witnessed only by a not-so-healthy dog sniffing around for some food.
It’s one of life’s terrible tragedies that powerful men who were once admired but lose their way never seem able to learn not just from such fictional but true-to-life stories, but from the real lessons of history that things rarely end well for those who brutalize their own people and abuse power. Robert Mugabe is hardly the first erstwhile national hero turned despot who died a bitter, lonely and tormented old man.
Sadly he will not be the last.
I read the message announcing Mugabe’s demise attributed to President Emmerson Mnangagwa this morning and could not help but wonder what this moment says to him and those who run our country now. Does this represent the final triumph for the Lacoste faction and their military backers to put their own brutal and ruinous stamp on the history of our country free of Mugabe’s shadow, or is this a moment that will make them change their ways and do the right thing?
At such moments, many of our people will choose to be charitable because speaking truth about the dead is supposedly “disrespecting the dead.” We are in this terrible mess in our country partly because our “culture” makes it difficult to speak truth to power. Its supposedly “unAfrican” (kushaya Hunhu/Ubuntu) and uncultured to speak truth to or about one’s elders and those in authority whether they are dead or alive! It is one of the tragic reasons we are often unable to solve family, community and national problems.
I am always puzzled by some of the things we choose to define us as Africans, and specifically why in order to prove the moral superiority of our culture, death has to expunge anyone’s bad deeds.
If this is indeed our culture, it would have to apply to everybody. If death absolves all bad deeds, then what would our incentive to reform while we are still living be? Why would we even bother fighting against the evil living?
If they will simply find redemption in death, if once they die we will simply absolve them in the name of Ubuntu and “Tsika Dzedu,” then the wizards and witches in our villages, and those who deny us our freedom, abduct, beat and kill the innocent (and that includes the monsters currently murdering other Africans in xenophobic attacks in South Africa) might just as well continue doing what they do.
It’s tempting to attempt to redeem Robert Mugabe’s legacy in order to make Emmerson Mnangagwa look worse. No one’s death can retroactively change history. Both men and their company are responsible for the current state of our country. The only difference is that one still has the opportunity to go a different way. The other one doesn’t.
I believe in honest grieving that does not devalue the tremendous pain caused by those who were once admired. I mourn the legacy of shame they leave their families and the nation.
I mourn out of frustration that a life once full of great promise could end in such an inglorious way. I mourn that a freedom fighter would leave a legacy of such brutal repression and that his leadership legacy would be people like Energy Mutodi who believe that Ndebeles are South African foreigners.
I mourn that after four decades of championing the economic empowerment of Africans, he would leave behind a country whose economy is run by thugs and is in ruins, while over 72.5 percent of the population is trapped below the Poverty Datum Line.
I mourn that after the Manpower Planning Survey of the early 80s and investment in education which resulted in our country being one of the most literate on the African continent, he would leave behind hopeless generations of graduates and 90% unemployment.
I mourn that Zimbabweans and Africans desperate for a pan-African hero would be put in a situation of being needlessly conflicted about whether Robert Mugabe’s rightful place is in the pantheon of heroes, or a villain who must be consigned to an eternal hall of shame.
It is my prayer that we would all be able to draw the right lessons from the lives of the departed and choose the right way.
Is There Not a Cause?
The free lessons history provides are only useful if we choose to learn from them. We have had many elections in Zimbabwe which have not solved any of our fundamental problems.
In the absence of fundamental political reforms, complete and thorough purging of corruption and the restoration of the rule of law, we will be having the same discussion after 2023, albeit in even worse conditions.
The point of political reforms must not be to guarantee that any specific party wins the election, but that we have accountable, corruption free and competent servant leaders after any plebiscite.
One of the results of our mis-education is the belief that everyone who fights for freedom can be trusted with power. I have heard many stories from many of his peers of the young Robert Mugabe’s lust for power and his Machiavellian outmaneuvering of fellow nationalists since the 50s. Writings by the late Masipula Sithole, Faye Chung and Freedom Nyamubaya about the vicious power struggles within the liberation movements leaves one in no doubt that many were motivated more by the desire to be in power than to free anyone.
Calling everyone who participated in the war a “Freedom Fighter” is therefore a misnomer, unless we also mean by that those who fight not for, but against freedom as we have found some of them to be preoccupied with once they are in office.
Zimbabweans should not have been surprised by how Robert Mugabe turned out as Prime Minister and President, because that is who he always was. We should not be surprised by who Emerson Mnangagwa has turned out to be for the same reasons. Both are merely older versions of their young selves.
They never led a benevolent party where differences of opinion were respected, but have a vicious historical record of enforcing the party line (Gwara remusangano).
The only reason we would get surprised when erstwhile “freedom fighters” like Yoweri Museveni, Joseph Kabila, Charles Taylor etc turn out to be vicious dictators is because we pay scant attention to the details in the open books of history.
The devil truly is in the details. It’s in the details of the vicious treatment of dissent in the liberation movements. It’s in the details of the abuse of women, including rape, as told by brave women who were victims during the war. The reaction of a ZanuPF government to citizens exercising their constitutional right to protest, while tragic, is hardly surprising. According to the historical record, there is a young man who built the intelligence services of this country into the feared repressive machine they are today. That young man is our president today.
By the way, the devil is also in the dismissive arrogance of leaders from any side of the political divide who assume they know what they don’t know, and in the rabid partisanship that assumes that only leaders on the other side can’t handle excessive power and the “kutonga kwaro” type of adulation.
It’s hard to imagine that there would be anything more tragic than what is happening in our country presently. I suggest however that it would be catastrophic for us to get the political reforms we are desperate for, but because of a culture of leadership selection that ignores the critical lessons of history, end up replacing one group of bad leaders with another as has been the case in many different African nations.
Once again, it was not age that turned Mugabe and Emmerson into Svengalis. If we paid attention to history, we would know that that is who they have always been, and would never have handed them the reigns of political power.
We must pay attention. Is There Not a Cause?
Several years ago I went to a meeting with a senior executive with a global financial institution who was personally responsible for a multi-billion dollar portfolio.
He had no office. Just a cubicle.
He did not have a private secretary. No one to make him coffee or tea or to send to do personal/non-work related errands.
No company car or housing allowance.
No one called him “Chef” (everyone called him by his first name) or trembled in terror when he walked by.
He didn’t think he owned the institution he worked for. He was an employee just like the guy or lady in the next cubicle. Because he had more responsibilities and was well-remunerated, he put in longer hours than everyone who worked under him.
He was not entitled to, but earned his bonus. He paid for his children’s school fees, his cable tv subscription and his family’s vacation.
In the early 2000s, I got a rather excited call from a Zimbabwean diplomat who could not believe he had just run into Madeleine Albright who only a few years earlier had been the United States Secretary of State (and had been my professor a decade and half before) on a New York-bound train from Washington DC. As far as he knew, she had not fallen on hard times, so he couldn’t quite understand why this eminent person would choose such an ordinary way to travel.
In October 2018 after a lunch meeting at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Birmingham UK and as I walked towards an adjoining building, I encountered a group of about seven people on the breezeway, only realizing when I got close enough that one of them was Theresa May, then UK Prime Minister. No one pushed me out of the way, as I would have been by Emmerson Mnangagwa and Robert Mugabe’s security detail, or by the entourage of some business people and even some African clergymen these days. Instead she stopped and chatted for a minute before proceeding on her way.
Four years ago at a relative’s birthday celebration, I spent the evening sitting next to an ordinary-looking man who I discovered later was the billionaire founder of a major Silicon Valley company. He and his wife had arrived at the event by taxi, and not once during the evening did he mention his achievements or boast about how much he had in his bank accounts.
Our governance, business and work culture and our sense of entitlement can turn the best of us…erstwhile liberators, today’s champions of freedom, professionals, men and women of faith, into pompous, self-serving, greedy and dangerous monsters.
The reality is that no one can handle the power, perks and un-deserved honor that is part of our governance, business and work culture. It is the reason those who are supposed to be trustees of our pensions and medical aid contributions end up thinking they are entitled to the people’s money and behaving like owners of the public institutions they are entrusted to run, instead of being the fiduciaries they are supposed to be.
It is the reason many of our politicians believe the rules of morality, responsibility, stewardship and honor mere men must live by do not apply to them.
It is the reason Emmerson Mnangagwa and everyone else in power believes the security services meant to protect the state exist for the protection of their own privilege.
We must not be naive to believe this will automatically change by replacing one group of politicians, civil servants and “professionals” with another without a drastic changing of the culture which rewards and honors the un-derserving and makes it impossible for true servant leaders to emerge. The reality is that we can never build a great country as long as many who are not in power or in positions of authority are merely waiting for their turn to be the new “Chefs,” the new plunderers, the ones who never pay their ZESA or ZINWA bills etc. etc.
Our country desperately needs political reforms and to crack down on corruption.
That and more.
If we don’t take a hard look at ourselves, if we don’t make sure we don’t raise leaders who expect salaries, cars, diplomatic passports, perks and honor which are totally inconsistent with their productivity and responsibilities, if this governance, business and work culture that turns people into pompous, self-serving, greedy and dangerous monsters persists, then the November 2017 coup that brought in the violent and corrupt administration of Emmerson Mnangagwa will not be our last letdown.
Is There Not a Cause?
As we approach the protests planned for the 16th of August, the Zimbabwe government’s propaganda and psychological operations (PsyOps) teams have gone into overdrive. They are aided by the fact that we are a people so thoroughly mis-educated we will believe anything and thoroughly play ourselves.
There are messages circulating right now that Donald Trump has “hired” 17 flights to ferry people to Zimbabwe for the protests. No one in their right mind should believe Trump is spending sleepless nights over the situation in Zimbabwe, but many of us do, including highly educated people who totally misapprehend what it takes for foreign countries to be engaged in solving problems in other nations.
It wouldn’t take much to remind ourselves that for three months starting on April 6, 1994, the Interahamwe/Genocidaires in Rwanda massacred over 800 000 people before the Clinton administration and other leading world governments lifted a finger. Even then, much of their response was focused on ensuring the safety of their own citizens, not solving the Rwandese problem.
There is no external savior coming to our rescue. There are no foreign airlines that are going to risk ferrying protesters to Harare, and as we all should know, the Zimbabwean government would never grant them permission to land knowing their mission.
All this, and the rumors that the US government has deployed four drones over Harare to cover the protests simply feed the lie that protests are “foreign sponsored.” Those peddling these falsehoods without common-sense fact checking must know they are aiding and abetting the enemies of change who want to provide a trigger-happy government justification for a brutal response to people exercising their constitutional right to protest.
These lies can cost lives, and those peddling them must know that they too will have blood on their hands when Emmerson Mnangagwa’s soldiers, black boots, CIO, Zanu(PF) thugs act on them.
Our mis-education also makes us prone to “uninformed exceptionalism,” or the lethal belief that we know what we don’t know and that the laws of political and economic gravity don’t apply to us. As a result we expect investors to flock to our country even if we have not created an environment that guarantees a return on their investment. We are surprised when the “friends” we trade with no longer overlook our habit of not paying our debts and refuse to supply us with electricity or extend us credit. We expect the world not to care that we are one of the most misgoverned countries in the world with public institutions run by plunderers and swindlers. We expect them to simply accept what we say about ourselves and to deal with us on our own terms.
Again, there is no external Superman coming to our rescue, nor should there be. One of the bitter lessons those who sought relief from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein learned is that the freedom the oppressed don’t secure for themselves is hardly freedom at all. It is naive in the extreme to think the primary motivation for foreign intervention in any place is to free the natives. The reality is that in Iraq, the coalition partners were primarily focused on securing their immediate and long-term strategic interests. Those interests were not necessarily congruent with those of the Iraqi people.
There can be no greater celebration of our heroes and honoring of their lives than us exercising the constitutional rights they laid down their lives for. Those rights include the right to protest and to demand corruption-free, competent and accountable government. Peddlers of falsehoods provide justification for the government to deny us that right and must be condemned with all the force we can muster.
Is There Not a Cause?
I have used the quote below from Martin Luther King Jr. a countless number of times, but I am tempted to include it in all my posts because of its timelessness.
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today” MLK wrote.
In other words, the future is not coming, but is here now. The world of compressed timelines MLK describes and which we are living in today is particularly unkind to the procrastinator who thinks there is no hurry in Africa and must always start over because it’s always too late for them to finish what they put off.
“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.” MLK continues. “In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.”
Economic/monetary solutions often fail to work as well as they should because we are always discovering that it’s too late to make what we started work. That was the case with the “Growth with Equity” economic blueprint championed by Dr. Bernard Chidzero in 1981, and everything else that came between that and the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset) of 2013.
It does not serve us well to be too patient to hold leaders accountable to finish what they start. Because we have also not built a culture of early and timely intervention, any solutions we ultimately adopt must deal with problems that have metastasized.
It’s tempting but dishonest to blame dollarization for all the problems we have been having. But even if that was true, it would be too simplistic to think that all the problems will go away if we just de-dollarize. That would be as illogical as saying all a lung cancer sufferer needs to do to reverse the disease is to simply stop smoking!
True…continuing to smoke would not make their condition better. However, the idea that the disease would be reversed by simply abstaining from smoking is voodoo medicine, just as thinking that de-dollarization alone will solve all our problems is voodoo economics.
Our problems have metastasized. It will take more than de-dollarization to heal this diseased nation and economy, to deal with 90% unemployment, bringing 72% of our people out of poverty and rebuilding irretrievably broken but essential infrastructure, etc.
It cannot be done without comprehensive political and public policy reforms that will ensure that every Zimbabwean is fully engaged in the urgent business of rebuilding our nation with the backing of all those who wish us well.
Rebooting our economy is made challenging by the fact that our nation is caught in an infinite loop, much like a computer or electronic gadget which is continuously restarting before it has fully started because of a coding error where the program lacks a functional exit so that it repeats indefinitely.
There is something in our culture and politics that makes us continuously restart before we fully start. Our spirited discourse seems not to have a “functional exit” and never leads to concerted action to solve our problems. Dollarizing in 2009 was meant for us to re-start our economy, which we never fully did. We are re-starting now not having finished the course of treatment we prescribed a patient with a terminal disease. We expect the disease to stop progressing while we re-start, but unless we break out of this loop, we will never finish before we have to re-start again, and again, and again ad infinitum.
It seems trite to reduce this to the need to catch up with a world in hyper drive. In reality this is about the plight of the Zimbabwean people, the dying patient who suffers the most because of our inability to break out of this fatal loop. As the condition of the patient worsens, we reduce the treatment options available to us until all that’s left is an intervention that might obliterate cancer cells while killing healthy ones in the process.
It’s tragic that what our leaders demand most is praise for re-starting and for the powerful articulation of their intentions, rather than for the successful finishing of what they start. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, it is tragic that what is expected of Zimbabwean citizens by their leaders is not holding the leaders accountable, but a perverse patriotism where we consistently demonstrate that we are the most “patient” people God ever created out of fear of losing our souls.
It’s not considered good writing to repeat a word in a sentence, let alone a quote in the same article or two successive ones, but I do believe we are right when we say “dzokororo inesimba.” It’s true in Latin (“Repetitio est mater magisterium”) as it is in English: “Repetition is the mother of mastery.” If what it will take to set us free from the tragic loop we are trapped is hearing them multiple times so we can understand them enough to act on them, then allow me to share Martin Luther King Jr’s timeless words again:
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency.”
Is There Not a Cause?