MAY 25 was Africa Day. Given the fact that there are numerous holidays in our calendar, this day might be dismissed by cynics as yet another day that is symptomatic of Africa’s lost opportunities. It isn’t. It is a day that should signify Africa’s break with the past. A past that is historically associated with the ignominy of slavery and colonial exclusion of the indigenous people in governance processes.
Paul Themba Nyathi,EX-MP
MAY 25 was Africa Day. Given the fact that there are numerous holidays in our calendar, this day might be dismissed by cynics as yet another day that is symptomatic of Africa’s lost opportunities.
We, in Zimbabwe, are celebrating our 36 years of Independence as part of Africa that should be celebrating a new dawn. Thirty-six years of independence is a milestone in many ways. We, as a nation, need to carry out an honest inventory of both our achievements and failures. This is important because such introspection enables us to assess the extent to which we have achieved the goals that drove us to take up arms, risk our lives in pursuit of independence in the first place.
We have achieved a lot as a people in the past 36 years. Some of these achievements, in some cases, are both quantitative and qualitative. We won our right as black people not to suffer the humiliation and indignity of being ruled by a racial minority. We won the right to exercise our right to vote on the basis of “one-man-one-vote”.
Never mind the disastrous manner in which it was done, we dealt with the historically unjust land tenure system.
We paid attention to the education of our children by opening up opportunities to more of our children than was the case before Independence. I could go on and on about many other things that constitute achievement as a result of the advent of an independent Zimbabwe. Put simply, the reason human beings seek independence is so that they can achieve happiness; another intangible objective that is however, value laden.
We have, after achieving Independence, neglected investing in a number of things, processes and systems that bring about happiness. Our failure to change Zimbabwe’s leadership in the past 36 years has meant that whatever bright ideas and strategies that we deployed in the first 10 years of our Independence, have suffered from lack of rejuvenation, renewal or innovativeness. We have been stuck in a cul-de-sac.
In order to protect and defend this in-bred form of leadership, we have had to run elections that lack credibility.
We have had to deny our people the opportunity to use their vote in a manner that enables them to hire and fire leaders in search of the best available talent, skills and brains in the land. We have entrenched 36 years of breath-taking mediocrity. Look at our decaying infrastructure right across the length and breadth of our development requirements and you will understand the magnitude of that mediocrity. We do not lack inappropriately trained bureaucrats who have an amazing ability to lecture you for hours on end about how things cannot be done.
They cannot, in less time, tell you how things can be done to achieve happiness for our people. Public offices are gloomy centres that betray everything that the fight for our independence was not about.
A typical example is this strange tendency of blaming every failure on the “illegal Western sanctions”. Yes sanctions are a reality, this nonsense of describing them as “targeted” is what it is “nonsense”.
However, for me as a citizen of Zimbabwe who desires happiness, it is not my business to quible whether there are sanctions or not, those who occupy public leadership positions should get rid of those sanctions. I don’t care how they do it, they should just get rid of them so that they do not affect the economy negatively and then my happiness.
It does not make sense to me for a leader who got elected on the basis that they would solve problems better than the other person to seek my sympathy as they play victim because of sanctions. Get rid of them whichever way — that is what leadership is about. That is why Iran embarked on those historical protracted negotiations to get rid of sanctions legal or illegal so that the Iranian people would be happy when the economy began to perform well.
Independence gave us the opportunity to have our human rights acknowledged enhanced and upheld. We distorted and undermined them as soon as we embraced politically motivated violence as a tool for enhancing electability. Nothing brutalises the perpetrator as well as the victim like violence. It has no place in a country that seeks happiness for its people.
As a Zimbabwean, this is the only country I have. This is the only space I have to express my desire. I have one overarching desire, I wish to be happy. I cannot be happy when over 80% of my countrymen and women are unemployed. In this huge percentage of the unemployed, are my close relatives. Zimbabweans are easily related to each other, I would not be surprised therefore if it turns out that that those who are unemployed and are related to me run into thousands.
How is it possible to be happy when, as a Zimbabwean, I see my country become indifferent to corruption? When corruption becomes endemic, as has become the case in Zimbabwe the economy suffers , and when that happens there is not enough money to run our hospitals, schools, roads, railways and everything else that is meant to enhance citizen’s quality of life leading to happiness. If anyone does not know how bad corruption has become in Zimbabwe, they should listen to President Robert Mugabe when he talks about what happened to his Alpha Omega Dairy project.
Corruption degrades the moral fibre of a nation, you cannot achieve reasonable economic growth in a country were corruption has become the norm.
One cannot be poor and happy at the same time. Poverty piles indignity on its victim. Poverty denies one the God-given right to enjoy one’s country’s full citizenship. You cannot be poor and also participate meaningfully in the governance processes of your country. About 75% of the Zimbabwean population exists in rural areas where poverty is at times mistaken for culture or tradition. Witness the under-nourishment of our rural folk, the massive school dropout, the underage pregnancies, child marriages, poor water and sanitation structures and the lack of access to mundane information that would enable one to make informed choices with respect to one’s life.
Our country, I dare say, displays an amazing pre-occupation with partisan issues that do not offer practical solutions to the plight of ordinary people. Day in day out we read in our newspapers, hear on radio, view on television, who has offered the choicest insult to whom lately. We have for leaders, the less gifted of our people, and yet out there, there are solid men and women, who, if given a chance, would do us proud and restore the lustre to our Independence.
I have this strange feeling that the hardships experienced in the past 36 years have taught Zimbabweans a salutary lesson about political leadership generally. Freedoms of citizens are compromised when we bestow on one person the right to substitute himself or herself for the generality of the citizens of the country.
Despite all this, I like the idea of an independent Zimbabwe!
Nyathi is the director of Masakhaneni Project Trust. He is also former senior MDC official and MP. He writes in his personal capacity.