IT is not unusual to hear Zimbabweans, mainly those of 45 years and above, saying the Rhodesian era was better when they look at the suffering our people are currently experiencing. They do not say this to spite the current administration or to undermine the importance of the war of liberation, but evidence suggests so.
The infrastructure and architecture that shapes the socio-economic character of the country was designed and developed by settlers (vapambevhu) who believed that the best way to enjoy colonising a country was to develop and make it comfortable for its people. This is contrary to what we are experiencing from our own leaders who believe the best way to free a nation is to steal from it and impoverish the people by denying them personal freedoms and progress. And they see the renaming of roads and infrastructure, built by the settler, as a sign of development. They make it appear as if it is impossible or illegal to use our very own resources for our development.
It is not my intention to compare the two eras as doing so would require more space and time. In this instalment, I want to discuss how the varying attitudes of leaderships determine the course and fate of a country. With all due respect to those who genuinely and wholeheartedly gave their lives to freeing Zimbabwe, the current state of affairs in the country makes the entire liberation struggle read like one huge fuss.
What really went wrong? Our country is in this desperate state today because of politics which destroyed the economy. The same politics has not allowed he country to move forward and foster economic growth. We are in that state in which nothing grows or moves forward without addressing the political problems.
By political problems, we simply mean the ruling party — a party that knows how to win elections by all means possible, but lacks the acumen and impetus to govern. Maybe they lack the will and interest to do so and yet the welfare of the nation rests in their hands. It is a party that is quick to react to protests because they challenge their political power and yet they cannot address life-saving sectors such as health, water, food and others. Power and plunder are their priorities and not developing the nation.
Those who went to war to liberate the nation have mutated into an insatiable and destructive virus that devours everything and anyone who challenges its short comings. With every battle to right the wrongs, the people’s power and ability to fight is gradually and yet steadfast emaciating. The resolve — the remaining power to change the situation — is sadly dying.
Because of the ruling party’s dexterity in protecting power even at the expense of human lives — money and investments — the key drivers of economic growth — have continued to shy away from the country. No one and nothing believes in us unless there is change. This includes earnings from the exploitation of our natural resources. Political will, resources and the people are the main drivers of any form of growth. And yet in our case, it is not only the lack of will that is blurring the way, but available resources mean nothing to the people who are supposed to benefit from them.
It is the same resources that attracted the settlers to come and colonise Zimbabwe and other African countries. These are the same resources they used to build the current infrastructure, improve access services and to establish a strong economy. One critical lesson we learn from the colonialists is that accumulating wealth is nothing unless your people are able to enjoy it.
This explains why the white settlers did more to improve the lives of their people, the trickle down benefits of which were enjoyed by black people compared to what the country is going through today. The 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), for instance, was partly to cut Britain’s control over the Rhodesian government’s economy and the means of production. They understood that in order to develop, they needed to invest local resources and the earnings from them than to perpetually feed the British economy at the expense of their own development. While UDI was received with anguish by Britain and its international allies, it paid off as it resulted in one of the biggest economies in Africa in less than 15 years.
This is not a matter of comparing performance between the pre and post-independence regimes, but simply elucidating how the varying interests and attitudes of leaderships determine the fate of a nation. Today’s politician, mainly in the ruling party, is obsessed with personal gain and enrichment, short-changing the development of their environment. It is possible that they have externalised more resources out of the country than the settlers in their quest to prosper alone.
If the settlers knew that this was the mentality of the African politician, there was certainly no need to invest in arms to colonise countries as our leaders are doing exactly or even worse than what the settler did. As they plunder and externalise resources, while globetrotting asking for development aid, one wonders if it is illegal to use funds earned and raised from the exploitation of local resources for our own development?
Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.
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