Zim on regression lane

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe’s visit to Maputo on Wednesday for Mozambique’s 40th independence anniversary on Thursday must have been an emotional trip reminiscent of his hey days as a firebrand nationalist leading Zanu PF at the height of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.

Editor’s memo by Dumisani Muleya

For Mugabe’s stagy history and heroics of the past cannot be written without a dramatic chapter on Mozambique, otherwise it would be reduced to a humdrum account characterised by his rather uneventful prison years and life as a teacher in Rhodesia who initially seemed unable or unwilling to join the anti-colonial struggle until the critical juncture when he returned home for holiday from Ghana in 1960.

Mugabe, whose revolutionary roots in the formative years of the struggle are somewhat fuzzy if not non-existent, did not enjoy a good run in his early political career as he was arrested a few years into the adventure.

The drama really starts when Mugabe, in the middle of dark colonial days, plucked up courage with Edgar Tekere to skip the border to enter the stormy Mozambican territory to join the fray at the zenith of an intensifying liberation struggle amid unprecedented internal strife within Zanu PF. Mugabe was then virtually an unknown quantity as he later discovered in Mozambique when he was initially quarantined and treated with suspicion.

Yet his visit to Mozambique this week ought not to have been just an emotional but a sobering trip which must have prompted some soul-searching on his part as he witnessed the country’s inspiring recovery after being shattered by Samora Machel’s command economics, civil war and a destabilising regional conflict at the time.

The Maputo Mugabe lived in was so different from the Maputo of today. Then it was a socialist backwater, with food shortages, scant traffic on the streets and dilapidated buildings left by the Portuguese after they hurriedly exited following defeat in 1975, but now it is a vibrant economic hub with busy streets, restaurants and hotels.

By contrast, the Harare that Mugabe lived in before independence was the heart of a vibrant economy which despite the civil strife, international sanctions and regional hostilities thrived even if the majority was marginalised.

The Harare of today is the centre of economic regression, company closures and job losses on a massive scale; a hive of informal activities and teeming vendors. Its deterioration from being the “sunshine city” to the “garbage city” symbolises Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown.

However, Zimbabwe’s neighbours — South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique — are relatively thriving even though they have their own problems.

Forty years after independence, Mozambique is on the brink of transformative growth and change, if the current situation is sustained and more sacrifices are made. Zimbabwe in contradistinction is on a recession fast lane.

Mozambique’s 40th anniversary was a watershed in many ways. It came after the country has passed Huntington’s “two turnover” democracy test of at least two consecutive peaceful elections and successful transitions, showing it is firmly on the path of progressive change, consolidation and hopefully prosperity.

Above and beyond, the country’s economy is looking up as it prepares to join the global league of big liquefied natural gas producers. In a few years’ time, Mozambique should be a major gas exporter — possibly the seventh-largest in the world.

Mozambique, one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies but also one of its poorest, has attracted investors such as global miner, Brazil’s Vale and Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto that are eager to develop some of the world’s largest untapped coal and gas reserves.

Four of the world’s top 10 fastest growing economies this year are in Africa and they include Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Mozambique.

The latest World Investment Report 2015 shows that while Zimbabwe attracted a paltry US$545 million in FDI, Mozambique received a staggering US$4,9 billion. Mugabe must reflect and learn from others. At least Machel warned him.

Top