IF any confirmation was needed that the country has turned into an economic joke and a laughing stock, it was provided when President Robert Mugabe opened an internet café in Dangamvura township in Mutare on Friday last week.
This is the second time he has done so in less than eight months, having opened one in Masvingo in December last year.
That a whole President — who is also the Head of State and Government, and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (can as well add Chancellor of all Universities and Conqueror of the British and Ian Smith in Rhodesia!), is opening internet cafés when his peers in the region are commissioning factories, industries and production plants, transforming their economies and creating thousands of jobs, is a clear illustration of the tragic joke that Mugabe has now become.
Mugabe has degenerated from opening factories, to supermarkets (Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s Choppies) to commissioning internet cafés. This after massive company closures, de-industrialisation and job losses which will continue to define his regime’s extended period of disastrous mismanagement of the economy, corruption and incompetence. Indeed, that the opening of an internet café is celebrated with so much pomp and fanfare is testament to how little in terms of economic prosperity Mugabe and his minions have to trumpet in a sea of failure brought about by his misrule. It is ironic there is so much hullaballoo over the internet café at a time the same government is seized with crafting draconian laws that stymie the development of Information Communication Technologies. One could not make it up.
To be sure, from going to a United Nations Summit on oceans when presiding over a landlocked country to opening supermarkets and now internet cafés, Mugabe now likes majoring in trivia. Those apologists who defended his interest in the oceans summit, yet he fails to be interested in fixing the economy are as ridiculous and trivial as he has now become. Mugabe has truly become a butt of jokes.
The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (Zesa) Holdings has purchased 19 top-of-the-range vehicles for its directors and senior managers valued at US$1,3 million at a time it is retrenching 1 700 workers, while failing to pay for power imports and service internal debts.
The failed and corruption-ridden state-owned enterprise has seemingly taken a leaf from Mugabe who blows millions of dollars gallivanting the globe when his government is failing to pay civil servants on time and ensure service delivery. Zesa, reeling from a series of scandals, has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, including awarding tenders to foul-mouthed convicted fraudsters who have no capacity to deliver like that clown Wicknell Chivayo. At least the big-headed and vainglorious ex-convict drunk with millions of ill-gotten public funds has shut up his big mouth and Muckraker will now leave him alone.
Suffice to say, Zimbabwe Power Company complained late last year over the snail’s pace at which Chivayo’s company was delivering what he had been paid for. ZPC told parliament that his company Intratrek was failing to implement the project on time and had not been forthcoming, resulting in it failing to account for US$1,8 million paid by that time.
Look East scam
Wasn’t it interesting to listen to Mugabe saying, “etu tu Chinese” (and you too Chinese?) to his all-weather friends from the far-flung Asian nation. With absolutely no sense of irony, the nonagenarian told the people of Manicaland last Friday that he was duped into believing diamond mining companies would plough back into surrounding communities about US$10 million.
When Zimbabwe’s relations with the West turned sour, the Look East Policy took precedence and was naively trumpeted as the answer to Zimbabwe’s international isolation. Of course, needless to say except for some loans and trade boost, there was no meaningful industrialisation and development driven by the Chinese whose extractive model does not involve building proper industries and factories, but emphasises exploitation amid colonial-like labour practices and slave wages. While China has helped with massive infrastructure projects and loans, the truth is that overall their approach is exploitative and retrogressive; Western capital has its own problems but it has helped develop Asian nations, African countries and China itself, among other states. Western aid helps the vulnerable on the short to medium term, but in the long run perpetuates underdevelopment. Chinese aid is meant to facilitate resource extraction, hence also unprogressive in the final analysis.
The public fallout between the so-called all-weather friends, while fascinating, is not surprising at all. Did Mugabe really believe the Chinese were going to offer free lunch? This is the naivety of Mugabe, his officials and supporters which has ruined this country.
For the avoidance of doubt, this is what the Chinese believe: “There is no such thing as a free lunch, and only hard work will make dreams come true!”
These were the words of Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 1 in his New Year speech, which reportedly provoked heated discussion, debate and renewed engagement across that nation.
Poverty alleviation, a buzzword in 2016, was among the highlights in Xi’s speech.
The trouble is Mugabe has been thinking that unlike the West, the Chinese offer free lunches. There is no such thing. No one does that.
Zimbabwe has failed partly because it has no pragmatic leaders. It has political dinosaurs masquerading as modern leaders. In fact, educated people who do not know what to do in their offices; in other words educated thieves pretending to be servants of the people.
But their real problem is not just corruption and stealing. It is also lack of pragmatism and cluelessness.
Economic illiteracy, so to speak. Xi is smart. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the Chinese leader delivered a robust defence of globalisation to business, government and civil society delegates during the opening plenary session of the meeting. “Many of the problems troubling the world are not caused by economic globalisation,” Xi said. “There is no point in blaming economic globalisation for the world’s problems, as that is not the case and will not help with solving the problems. We should recognise that economic globalisation is a double-edged sword. The pitfalls of economic globalisation have been laid bare and we need to take these seriously.
Nothing is perfect in the world. It is true that economic globalisation has created new problems. But this is no justification to write off economic globalisation altogether.”
Xi recalled how China had at first doubted the wisdom of joining the World Trade Organisation, but eventually bravely went ahead and made the right strategic choice. “If one is always afraid of the bracing storm, one will get drowned in the ocean sooner or later,” he said.
This is the sort of sophisticated rationale and framework the likes of Mugabe do not get. You do not stand on podiums shouting about your issues like Idi Amin, but engage like a statesman to serve the interests of your country and people. It’s called pragmatism. Xi must give Mugabe free lessons on this; a crash course on how to successfully engage and run an economy in such a complex world.