The Chronicle

Stephen Mpofu, Perspective

WHICH African country or countries stand a better chance than most others of transcending underdevelopment which is often replete with ethnic, regional or political divisions that destroy unity which forms a strong bridge for a nation to cross into a brave new future socially, economically and politically: one where leaders are mere observers and reactors to challenges or one where leaders watch out and nip in the bud any ugly head reared up?

Many readers of this discourse will no doubt opt for the second category of leaders as being in great need to take our continent from the woods of underdevelopment where they were dumped by colonialists who left a divided and impoverished continent in a huff when the winds of change swept across the African landmass with freedom fighters and their AK47s completing the job left unfinished by the wind.

But would it be an exaggeration by this pen to suggest that leaders whose mettle is publicised not by the sweat on their brows and not by their swanky appearance or by whose presence is advertised by waves of intoxicating perfume in the case of women, can be counted on one hand on our continent?

What, on the contrary, has field days in leadership positions in many African countries are people with a frightening propensity for grabbing news headlines something they see as standing a better chance of propelling them, like actors, actresses and singers, to stardom and not rolling up their shirt sleeves or braving hot or cold days to ensure that the job for which povo voted for them is done and done to the benefit of the nation as a whole which is what contribution to national development and self-emancipation is all about.

If any follower of this conversation disagrees with the claim just above that a good many leaders in strategic positions are not busy bees toiling to fill their honey combs with the juicy stuff but merely there to grab publicity with pronouncements about terrible things or situations in a particular area but which these same leaders could have prevented from getting worse since the challenges were not of an Idai cyclonic nature in the first place.

In fact one might even go so far as to suggest that because such leaders are not made of the sterner stuff that poor nations sorely need to move forward developmentally, they should be strictly monitored by the powers that be with regular performance appraisals on them being conducted in order to weed out the slovenly among those chosen to serve the nation.

Let us get closer to home on this critical matter of life or death as far as development across the continent goes.

There have been press reports these past few days that Zimbabwe and Zambia are eager to co-operate in combating corruption.

Those listeners to the news on the air will no doubt have clapped their hands, accompanying their joy with: “Yes! Yes! That’s good.”

It is fine, no qualms about it, but the question is. But where were the leaders in either country when corruption first reared its ugly, fledgling head, say like a pimple that grew into boils and spread to be seen by all who became ashamed by it for giving their different countries a terrible image in the global village to the extent of now seeking collective efforts to combat it?

Is it not correct to suggest that there must be cases here of sour grapes by those who saw what was happening but looked the other side but now feel jealous on discovering that they had let a golden chance slip through their fingers and now have no chance of making good their loss?

Let us again get much closer to home by citing action reportedly taken by Gweru City Council which cordoned off part of Randolph residential area to drive away gold panners who had swooped on the area, massively digging up roads and residential stands.

Gweru Mayor Councilor Josiah Makombe was reported on Monday as saying: “We are here as councillors and management to ascertain the level of damage on residential stands that has been caused by illegal mining activities. This is council land and that is why we are here. The illegal mining activities are getting out of control in this area.”

But, Sir, what would you say if a reader of your remarks asked: “But, Honourable Mayor, which way were your own eyes and those of the people working under you looking when the gold panners besieged Randolph in the first, causing such massive damage ? Or did they wreck that massive havoc in one night when all of you were snoring cosily under your warm blankets, considering that Gweru is renowned for its bitter old?”

Similar dismay may be expressed in respect of reports that nurse-training hospitals in Bulawayo are recruiting students especially from Mashonaland at the expense of girls and boys from Matabeleland.

But were local leaders, who ought to have scrupulously monitored the enrolment of trainee nurses at all times, on leave from their posts, or did they sleep on the job when what now came as news headline grabbing and obviously tarnishing the image of our two regions.

A source for many years close to the nursing fraternity in Bulawayo claimed that “the authorities here (Bulawayo) were helpless to act against instructions from there” to enroll the applicants from that province, apparently Mashonaland.

But the source declined to say precisely what instructions were issued to whom, by whom, and in aid of what cause.

[To be sure, the human frailties mentioned above are not unique to our region but are a matter of germane to our continent as well as to other developing nations around the globe]

Perhaps laws that celebrate, and therefore protect whistle-blowers as heroes and heroines in the struggle against inverted patriotism and selfishness stand a better chance of eliminating pervasive greed which triggers a great deal of crime abetting underdevelopment in many cases.