Hon Folks, if Robert Mugabe, the senile Zimbabwean president, forgot the saying: “a hungry man is an angry man” then he has a handful from the so-called war veterans to learn from.
Having defended his politically-correct but economically disastrous indigenisation policy, including the appropriation of white farmland for re-distribution to the indigenous citizens, all these years, now they’ve fired the warning shot and trained the gun at the boss.
Their grievance: Mugabe’s increased dictatorial tendencies amid growing poverty and misery in what might be termed modern Zimbabwe Ruins.
No pun intended but Mugabe inherited from Ian Smith an economy that was arguably only second to South Africa in the region. In terms of food, it was the region’s bread basket. Its beauty and the rich history its civilisation made it the region’s haven for tourists.
Today, Zimbabwe is a basket case with no electricity, no running water, no currency, just a beautiful economy of hard-working and proud nation bruised and weary by years of deprivation and uncertainty.
The veterans persevered hunger and deprivation, hoping that eloquent Mugabe—in some quarters rated as the most educated leader in Africa, if not the whole world—would somehow pull off a home-grown or indigenised strategy to economic growth and improved living standards.
So far, no luck. Instead, they now see a government struggling to pay it’s workers their miserable wages on time. The US dollar—the currency adopted after Zimbabwe threw away its own Zim dollar—is scarce, very scarce indeed.
They also see their brothers and sisters who migrated en masse (some estimates put the number at 4 million!) mostly to South Africa, suffer humiliation at the hands of black South Africans who blame them for anything and everything from soaring crime in Johannesburg and other major cities to taking up jobs meant for black South Africans. Great people condescendingly called makwere-kwere!
Any lessons for Malawi? Mugabe has two roads named after him, the only foreign leader to enjoy such a status. His averse for neo-colonialism appears to have inspired Bingu wa Mutharika’s agenda for economic independence.
APM, in the wake of budgetary aid freeze and generally deep reduction in donor support through the budget, sometimes equates patriotism with willingness to suffer deprivation in support of his government’s effort to wean Malawi from aid dependence.
Mugabe could not be faulted on the land reform agenda or his eagerness to ensure that after winning the liberation struggle, the people of Zimbabwe enjoy a fair share of the wealth that came from the abundant resources of their beautiful country.
The problem was on how he went about doing it—fast-track land-grabbing from white farmers sometimes violently, ditching IMF programme and antagonising development partners. The veterans supported him all the way, stomping proudly to Chimurenga songs.
When the euphoria subsided, investors were on their heels heading to Zambia, Mozambique and other places, their capital and know-how taken along with them. The comrades had plenty land and excruciating poverty to share, hoping that someday soon indigenisation would yield an economic boom. It never happened.
Instead, it was poverty and misery culminating into hunger which induces anger. Now the veterans say Mugabe should deliver or else…
Our leaders should appreciate that we are intelligent enough to know that financial aid alone cannot grow an economy. They should also respect that we know that aid has so many flaws and often comes with many strings—good, bad and controversial—attached.
What aid, if used properly, can do is to give poor economies the necessary push so they can gain momentum and take off. This was the underlying thinking in the Millennium Development Programme which has helped significantly reduce poverty in Africa.
If the economy is very weak, as is the case with ours, domestic revenue alone may not even be sufficient to pay salaries in government and meet the cost of public service delivery. It’s hard to get out of that web of abject poverty without help.
Given another chance, Uncle Bob would probably tackle the economic and social problems of his people differently. Unfortunately, there often isn’t a second chance. You make a bed, you lie on it. n