A tale is told of Marie Antoinette, the queen consort of King Louis XVI of France. In a time of immense turmoil—and so the story goes — she asked why the French people were upset. After being told that it was because they did not have bread to eat, she replied rather callously: “Let them eat cake!”
Candid Comment: Brezhnev Malaba
I am reminded of this narrative by recent events in Zimbabwe which have left me convinced that the ruling elite in this country have become latter-day Marie Antoinettes who do not give a hoot about the welfare of ordinary people.
When a strike by doctors and nurses paralyses public hospitals, what do we see? Lethargy, inaction and arrogance from officials.
What we are witnessing in this country is nothing short of outrageous. Selfishness, greed and unbridled individualism have become the dominant threads in politics.
Without being malicious, let’s consider this for a moment. The most memorable photograph emanating from President Robert Mugabe’s 93rd birthday bash on February 25 was an ironic, grotesque, farcical and tragic portrayal of the state of affairs in this troubled republic.
Although far from award-winning quality, the picture will not be forgotten in a hurry. It shows the long-time ruler tucking into a packet of Lay’s potato crisps. On the table in front of him, you can clearly see some Valpré bottled water.
The untold scandal is that in terms of Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016, Zimbabweans are restricted from importing these very products. That’s not all. Why is the revolutionary Mugabe partaking in “imperialist” goodies anyway? What’s going on?
The grotesque irony is that barely 150 kilometres away, hundreds of families had been rendered homeless by the heaviest rains in a century. It is an indictment on the collective conscience of political leaders that while the people of Tsholotsho were grappling with life-threatening floods, Mugabe and his entourage feasted merrily. Is this how the President wants to be remembered?
Spare a thought for 97-year-old Rosina Dube, a Tsholotsho villager, whose lucky escape from the surging floodwater would have remained unreported had our news crew not reached her.
With her home completely destroyed, Dube was marooned with other villagers and only survived by clutching onto the hands of neighbours as they waded through waist-high water in a dramatic moment that would alter her life forever.
“It was scary, so frightening,” recounted Dube, who lost everything she has toiled for in life, including goats, chickens, utensils, clothes and savings.
Where is the decency of our leaders when they squander millions of taxpayer dollars on luxury cars, meaningless foreign excursions and hollow ceremonies while flood-hit communities are scrounging for food, medicines and shelter? Profligate leaders who plunder, vandalise and mismanage their nations should not expect the donor community to pick up the tab. It is obscene.