How long oh Lord, how Long?
We seem to have been putting up with lousy Government, corruption, nonsensical monetary and macroeconomic policies forever. First we had the Rhodesian Government from 1960 onwards which resulted in the imposition of mandatory UN sanctions and then the liberation war. Were these inevitable? I do not think so but with the national leadership we had at that time, both were unavoidable.
Then we had the Mugabe Government for 38 years. Was this inevitable? I do not think so but given the situation in 1980 and thereafter it was probably unavoidable. The cost has been staggering by any measure. Our GDP per capita is a miserable US$1 200 – in Botswana it is now close to US$13 000 while in Mauritius it is now about US$35 000 per capita – both States were poorer than Zimbabwe in 1960 and in 1980. China was poorer than Zimbabwe in 1975!
The human cost of bad policy and leadership has also been heart breaking. A third of our population has fled to greener pastures, another 4 million have died prematurely from every malady you can imagine. Many diseases we thought were beaten in 1980 are back. The migration of millions to other countries has been qualitative as well as quantitative – most were well educated and many with vital experience and skills.
The problem? One word – leadership.
When finally, the Mugabe regime overstepped the mark and forced the Mnangagwa group to take action against him, the relief throughout the country was palpable. The people of Zimbabwe, from Beitbridge to Nyamapanda, poured out onto the streets in celebration. The celebrations went on for days and I saw perhaps a million people gathered in Highfield – the very centre of the Nationalist movements that had won our Independence in 1980. The symbolism was inescapable. We were delighted and relieved to see the back of the corrupt oligarchy that had abused us as a nation for nearly 4 decades. It brought to mind the fall of the Wall in Berlin in 1989.
Perhaps we could tolerate a bit of a mixed bag in terms of leadership after the ‘Military Assisted Transition’ but when Mr. Mnangagwa achieved a narrow majority and became President, I think we had the right to expect more. He had made all the right noises – he was going to put the past behind us and build a new Zimbabwe in which every Citizen would have the same rights, he was going to compensate the farmers, he was going to engage with the International Community and institute the reforms needed to secure assistance. He was going to deal with corruption and end the culture of entitlement. He was going to restore the rule of law and respect for the Constitution.
Who could argue with that? No one who had the welfare of the country at heart. Then he appointed a new Cabinet – younger, 5 technicians and a significant proportion of women and Ndebele speaking Ministers. The two Vice Presidents did not inspire but so what? They did not have much influence or real power. In particular, we welcomed the appointment of a real professional as Minister of Finance.
That was six months ago. After the high expectations that we all had once the Mugabe era had been closed down, the country has slid deeper and deeper into a feeling that nothing has changed, corruption continues, even at the highest level of Government leading to implications that the President himself is involved and a beneficiary. The President of Pakistan has just been sentenced to a long prison sentence just because he could not explain where his wealth had come from. If we applied that principle here, I do not think a single person in the past Cabinet would escape the net. Many others would end up in jail – Military Officers, senior Civil Servants and managers and Directors of State Corporations.
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