Poor socio-political and economic outcomes in Zimbabwe bear signs of a failing and stubborn government that has run out of ideas. The prevailing political malaise is no longer morally and politically sustainable, something has to give before we find ourselves faced by a failed state. When ordinary citizens start believing their lives were better off during an openly racist Rhodesian white minority government of Ian Smith, the government and politicians of today must take heed.
The civil liberties, an inclusive political and economic system and fairer institutions that our forebear believed in and fought for passionately are still not within our grasp and ZANU PF is fully responsible for that.
Given colonialism, a first cousin of slavery, marked the depths of human moral failing and was not compatible with civil society hence its disposal in 1980 was celebrated across the country and continent yet today some Zimbabwean citizens are wondering if independence was worth all the sacrifices of the time; people have gone to lengths and depths of arguing that the Smith regime was better than both the Mugabe and Mnangagwa’s put together.
Controversial as the argument may sound to an outsider, such views shared broadly by the ordinary citizens are based on both subjective and objective indicators of something amiss on the ground. People are dissatisfied; in many developmental measures the country has regressed, today we face the reality of the widening gap between the intentions and impact of independence.
What people had hoped to be a positive political revolution has turned into a disadvantage for the majority. Citizens are more afraid of their government today than they ever were of Smith’s regime. Like during the Smith regime, the policies of the government of today are exclusive, not a reflection of the public but more tribal and elitist in nature.
42 years into Zimbabwean independence, the ordinary citizen is still trying to figure out what socioeconomic and political freedom and liberty feel like. Today more Zimbabweans have left the country, not on vacation but in desperation and destitution, than they ever did at the height of the armed liberation struggle against an Ian Smith regime that also had to circumvent severe international economic sanctions.
To blame current failures and accompanying problems on colonialism, sanctions and a Western imperialist agenda is to try and evade accountability – a tactic that has kept African despotic leaders in power. Their fingers point to the West yet they have the most to hide in the West in the form of stolen public assets.
Diversionary tactics have run their course; politicians cannot turn people’s outcry on deteriorating living standards today compared to during the Smith regime as some naïve and cynical praise for colonialism. Certainly, those citizens who experienced life either side of 1980 know how vile the Smith regime was but they are equally aware of the living standards then and now to make a valid personalised comparison.
Politics aside, reference to living standards is a contextualised argument looking specifically at economic fundamentals and performance, access to basic goods and services, decent pay and accommodation. Some politicians have opted to redirect the narrative to the intention of the Smith government when it developed the infrastructure at the time it did; they argue the intention was more economic than human, while there may be truth in that view, we cannot deny that the impact of that provision is what informs public opinion.
Whether clinics were built and fully equipped to secure a healthy workforce, the fact remains that individuals who required medical treatment had access to the services when they needed them, and that informs public perception of services. This is completely the opposite of what is happening in an independent Zimbabwe where it is not uncommon for major hospitals to lack such basics as blood drawing needles.
Not attaining your goals is one thing, blaming that on others is failure. We can no longer blame Smith and/ or the West for Zimbabwe’s internal political challenges. The government must concede that the country is a dangerous place for ethnic minorities, individuals who hold views other than those shared by ZANU PF and the situation is worse today than it was during the Smith regime; and something needs to be done immediately to address the anomaly. Gukurahundi was ZANU PF’s design and so has been shedloads of abductions of opposition politicians/ supporters and journalists. It is 22 years since the white farming community was violently forced off the land they occupied ostensibly to empower the black majority population yet black communities still do not have access to land and grain imports to meet domestic need have increased.