HomeCommentCandid Comment: Why do Zimbabweans Keep Repeating Same Mistakes?

Candid Comment: Why do Zimbabweans Keep Repeating Same Mistakes?

ZIMBABWEANS and outside observers are constantly amazed by how often history repeats itself in Zimbabwe. 


Many of the events that we recently witnessed, for example after the March 2008 elections, during and after the presidential re-run in June 2008, are a repetition of history. 

Didn’t the same thing happen during each election since Independence?  Didn’t the same thing happen under Gukurahundi? 

Another repetition under Murambatsvina?  

Didn’t the same thing happen in the Rhodesian days?  Those of us who lived under Rhodesia, ie half the population of Zimbabwe today, will remember exactly the same things happening in the 1960s and 1970s:  African nationalists were captured, tortured, killed. 

Their families were pauperised, harassed and destroyed.

It will be a tragedy if we continue to repeat this sad history in the future. 

It is essential that we analyse and interrogate our propensity to repeat our tragic history so self-righteously, in the process destroying many of the good things we also managed to build up since Independence. 

Our glorious achievements in the first decade and a half after Independence, such as education, health, clean water supply, good roads, have been reversed in the last decade. 

During that decade we concentrated on destroying each other.  We totally forgot that it was our responsibility to build the nation.  Instead we were intent on self-destruction.

The main reason for this repetition of tragedy is our failure to address our inheritance:  we accepted what we gained from the Rhodesians uncritically, resulting in the preservation of many of the institutions, laws and regulations which characterised the colonial system. 

Our mantra was:  “What Ian Smith did, we can do too.” Indeed in some ways we did “better” — we refined the systems of violence, torture and pauperisation.

Our analysis also was a repetition of the past:  we blamed all our failures on Bush, Blair and Brown.  This is the only analysis we have:  all our problems are caused by outsiders, imperialists, and their agents.  It is as if we had and have no responsibilities.  

What did we do about it?  We condemned them, and killed their “agents”, identified as anybody or any grouping that dared to criticise what was happening in Zimbabwe.  

Clearly we have had a very irresponsible form of governance, where those responsible for governance repeated the past unhesitatingly, whilst taking no responsibility for what they created or neglected.

We must move away from the analysis which blames personalities for all our problems:  these problems were there before Independence, and they are still here. 

They will continue to be here in the future.   Whatever personalities gain power in the future, they will have to overcome these problems rather than blaming each other, killing each other. 

All this violence and killings have not brought Zimbabwe any solutions.  Instead Zimbabwe has been plunged into an abyss.

We need to transform the way we do things.  The unity agreement between Zanu PF and the two MDCs presents Zimbabwe with a wonderful opportunity to review our colonial past, its values, principles, structures and institutions. 

We should stop repeating the same mistakes.  We should move forward.  We should only preserve those parts of the colonial past which are good, and we should now discard the bad things which caused us so much suffering before Independence, and have continued to cause us so much suffering after Independence.

Zimbabwe’s political problems have both historical and contemporary roots.  Historically, the political framework, analysis and values were inherited from the colonial political values and systems. 

Into this potent mixture we added the political values and systems of the liberation struggle. The liberation movements aspired to a nationalist, socialist future. 

Most nationalist leaders envisaged a takeover of the country’s institutions by the black majority, without a major systems change.   In general it can be said that whilst the rhetoric was very radical, the reality was that the colonial system remained intact.  

Zimbabwe was praised by all for the peaceful transition which enabled the colonial system to remain intact.   

But it is this very same “peaceful transition” that has created the problems we face today.

The contemporary roots comprise changes which have taken place worldwide and in Zimbabwe itself, affecting the political scene profoundly. 

These include the strengthening of regional groupings, in the case of Zimbabwe, with particular emphasis on Sadc; the development of a more global economy and culture as a result of the improvement in the means of communication and the development of better information technologies such as television, video, DVDs, internet, etc; and the greater emphasis on human rights.  

The increase in the population from 7½ million to 14 million meant that young people, most of whom had no experience of the liberation struggle, were soon to become the majority. 

Many of these young people had little appreciation of the colonial traumas suffered by their parents and grandparents. 

However, since the economy failed to double, it meant that most of these young people would not be able to find employment. 

With the higher level of education came a more critical approach towards decision makers:  the young tended to question decisions being made by their authoritarian elders. 

In particular they were highly critical of the fact that they were left without prospects of employment after receiving a good education.

Thus the higher educational levels brought about a generation that was much more critical of the post-Independence government.

lFay Chung was based in Mozambique during the liberation war and later became Minister of Education.


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