Have black people failed to govern themselves?


I SIT here without any electricity — due to outrageous load-shedding or outrages induced by antiquated equipment becoming a daily occurrence — while not having potable water in our homes for a year.

I cannot help wondering — and, as so often happens in stressful times as these, where everyday is a struggle — what would have become of us had our former colonisers not built all these towns and the houses we still live in today.

Where would we be residing today since we have done a very good job of not only destroying most of what we inherited from the colonial era, and also never constructing or developing anything of note post-independence?

In fact, all our major hospitals, schools, water bodies, power-generating stations, roads, houses, you name it, in Zimbabwe are the products of the colonial period.

It would have been understandable had we faithfully maintained all this infrastructure in good state since even in the most advanced economies, some of their outstanding structures are hundreds of years old, but we only managed to wreck nearly everything into ruin.

Surely, why would a country fail to provide its citizens such basic necessities as water, electricity, well-provisioned medical facilities, well-equipped functional learning institutions or decent housing?

It is even worse in Zimbabwe’s case since we were given a head-start with an economy that was already firing on all cylinders, possibly the best on the African continent during the colonial epoch.

Yet, only 42 years down the line — mind you, the demise having begun much earlier, barely a decade after attaining independence, we find ourselves worse off that those nation we used to laugh at and ridicule, such as Zambia and Botswana, which were able to at least pull themselves out of the mud.

Let us remember that when the late former Tanzania President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere told post-independent Zimbabwe founding father Robert Gabriel Mugabe to run the country well, as he had just inherited the “jewel of Africa”, he was admiring the outstanding work that had been achieved in colonial times.

So, why could we not do exactly that — take good care of this “jewel of Africa”?

We still had the exceptional manpower and skills, and above all else, the tremendous mineral wealth that had built colonial Rhodesia.

Surely, all we needed to do was simply continue from where those we had taken over from had left.

However, instead of focusing on the huge task ahead — that of transforming the country to an even shinier jewel, we elected to turn it into a dull lump of sod.

We looted with reckless abandon for our own personal enrichment that which ought to have been used for the greater benefit of the nation and its citizenry.

We placed incompetent, unknowledgeable and inexperienced friends, relatives and fellow comrades in positions of authority to perform tasks they knew absolutely nothing about.

As a result, today we no longer have the “jewel of Africa” status to be proud of, but have become a shameful basket case and beggar of the world as we cannot even take care of ourselves.

In typical prodigal son fashion, we took that “jewel” we inherited, fought over who should have it, and then sold it for short-lived gains, leaving the country poorer and the people hungrier.

In this article, I have deliberately avoided placing the blame on any political party or individuals — as I am beginning to question whether these failures can truly be attributed to a particular grouping.


Well, in Zimbabwe, we have had an opportunity to observe how even the opposition has managed (or rather, mismanaged) our urban areas — effectively running to the ground what once were the gems that made the “jewel of Africa” shine.

They have shown themselves, beyond a shadow of doubt, to be just as corrupt, greedy and inept as those from the ruling party.

Evidence abound of the disgraceful shenanigans of opposition officials running our towns and cities colluding and working in cahoots with government-appointed management in looting and misappropriating our resources for their selfish benefit.

Recently, both ruling and opposition legislators were in a rare show of unity and oneness of mind — not in formulating laws and policies that would significantly improve the citizenry’s livelihoods, but to share among themselves US$14 million of taxpayers’ money, with each MP receiving a minimum of US$40 000, while Cabinet ministers got US$500 000 and their deputies US$350 000.

In the process, our hospitals remain without the barest of essentials such as painkillers, gloves, antiseptic ointment or sutures and anaesthetic drugs for surgeries.

Our children do not have any text and exercise books, and modern science and technology laboratories in their school, most of which, in rural areas, are still without electricity 42 years after independence.

This then brings to the most painful question of all, which I always force myself not to think of.

Since both our ruling and opposition parties are equally thieves, destructive and incompetent, does this show a deeper challenge in our country than the merely superficial partisan politics?

Is there another more disturbing truth we do not want to accept and face up to?

Could this be a greater indictment to our inability to govern ourselves as black people?

Instead of rushing to being defensive or even enraged, why do we not first seriously ponder this possibility.

I have always believed that the first step in self-transformation is to admit the truth about oneself, no matter how painful and unpalatable.

Only that way will meaningful and practical solutions be put in place geared for positive change.

As long as we bury our heads in the sand, we can forget about any genuine development taking place in our country.

That is how I have personally managed to change my own life, which is why I find it so easy to even write about my weaknesses, failures and struggles for everyone to read as I do not regard them as shameful, but necessary introspection and self-examination that is vital in any real transformation.

We also need to have this honest conversation among ourselves as black people.

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