Zimbabwe never ceases to amaze and there are always plenty surprises around the corner no matter where you are, but when I heard this week that public hospitals had run out of a life-saving anti-retroviral drug, I was more than astonished — I was overcome with revulsion.
Editor’s Memo: Brezhnev Malaba
The questions came thick and fast. How could this be? How did we get here? Does the government care at all about the welfare of Zimbabweans?
As I pondered this matter, I dispatched a tweet: “Zimbabwe, which boasts the world’s second-largest platinum deposits, has run out of anti-retroviral drugs at public hospitals. Oh dear!”
The responses to my tweet were raw and spontaneous — another reminder, if anyone needed one, that Twitter is by far the best social networking platform these days. Unlike Facebook, which tends to be boringly formulaic, Twitter makes you think because you must communicate a punchy message in a mere 140 characters.
By far the most prominent response to my tweet came from Local Government minister and Zanu PF national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere.
In just two short lines, he set my timeline ablaze: “We boast but it does not belong to us. It’s owned by investors!”
I gasped as I read his tweet. Before I had even digested the import of Kasukuwere’s remarks, the responses came flooding in. People were outraged.
A Cabinet minister, whose party has been in power for almost four decades is saying the country has no control over its mineral resources. Is it true and, if so, whose fault is that?
Barely a day later, Mandi Chimene, the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs for Manicaland, hit the headlines after complaining that the eastern province did not benefit from the much-glorified diamond mining in Chiadzwa.
I can only imagine what would happen if we were to put Kasukuwere and Chimene in one room. On one hand, Kasukuwere obliquely implies that although Zimbabwe has plenty of platinum, it is not easy for the country to channel proceeds of the mineral to buy ARVs because the resource is “owned by investors”.
On the other hand, Chimene bluntly condemns what she sees as the government’s blatant failure to harness diamonds for the development of Manicaland.
Clearly, these ministers are trying to pull wool over our eyes.
In 21st century Africa, it is unacceptable for any government to fail to harness vast natural resources in the national interest. And when such a government has endlessly paraded itself as the heavyweight champion of resource nationalism, you begin to wonder whether this continent can ever get it right.
In 1998, former Tanzanian President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere brilliantly outlined the link between poverty, corruption and bad governance.
“This continent is not distinguished for its good governance of the peoples of Africa. But without good governance, we cannot eradicate poverty; for no corrupt government is interested in the eradication of poverty; on the contrary, and as we have seen in many parts of Africa and elsewhere, widespread corruption in high places breeds poverty,” said the great African liberator.
Mugabe used to model himself as a disciple of Mwalimu, and yet “Mugabeism” (if we may call it that) has come to be associated with primitive accumulation, corruption and the abuse of public office for private gain. Despite spirited efforts to market himself as Africa’s foremost hero, Mugabe is assailed by a crisis of ideology. What exactly is his defining idea? Is he a socialist? A capitalist perhaps? A champagne Marxist? What is his legacy? Corruption-induced poverty?
In the immediate aftermath of independence in 1980, Mugabe the “liberator” spoke about the importance of accountability and seemed to support the strict enforcement of a “leadership code”. But in the past three decades he has consistently failed to take decisive action against bad governance and its Siamese twin, corruption.