DURING a relative’s funeral last week, I had an opportunity to mix and mingle with friends, family, neighbours and people from all walks of life.
Interactions, especially with those who read my articles, inevitably touched on the state of the economy and country at large.
Most of those I talked to had one common question: “So, what will it take for Zimbabweans to finally rise, in the face of untold suffering?”
Of course, that has also been a central theme in quite a significant number of my writings which we can say is the “million-dollar question”.
Sad as it was, I had no definite answer to give, not before, not yesterday, and I seriously doubt if ever I will have it.
What baffles many is how, even after the famed Al Jazeera exposé on the unparalleled grand looting of our gold by those in power, Zimbabweans are still unbelievably calm, not appearing nerved or agitated by the entire scandal.
Despite the undercover investigations signalling the massive plunder of our gold — Zimbabweans are still going about their business as if all is well and absolutely nothing has happened.
With estimates pointing to Zimbabwe losing over US$100 million each month through smuggling, most times with the direct participation and complicity of very high offices in the land, Zimbabweans do not seem aggrieved or angry.
- Chitungwiza sewer infrastructure collapses
- Chitungwiza sewer infrastructure collapses
- Low tariffs weigh down ZETDC
- Zesa doubles power charges
In fact, there are those who are poor and suffering as well, but are at the forefront of defending the plunderers, and trivialising or legitimising the impact of despicable criminal deeds.
The country is being prejudiced billions of dollars more in illegal diamond, chrome and lithium sales, illicit cross-border financial transactions, and other corrupt economic activities, particularly by powerful cartels and mafias aligned to the political elite.
It appears not to matter that all these dirty dealings directly contribute to citizens going for years without accessing adequate water — not only causing serious inconvenience, but also placing entire communities at the risk of contracting such diseases as cholera (which is already rearing its deadly head, in many parts of the country).
This, as those in authority fail to construct sufficient water bodies, as well as never expanding and modernising distribution systems for the precious liquid.
Zimbabweans do not seem to mind enduring incessant electricity outages lasting up to 20 hours each day, in spite of repeated insincere claims by both the government and power utility, Zesa Holdings, that the situation is improving.
This has forced the nation to resort to archaic and environmentally damaging alternatives such as cutting down trees for firewood but threatening to further cripple an already limping economy, thereby worsening the plight of a severely impoverished population.
How can we not suffer when the Zanu PF regime sat on its laurels for the past 43 years, since the country attained independence from Britain, never investing in meaningful electricity generation infrastructure or sufficiently maintaining those in existence?
What manner of leadership sees nothing amiss with relying on antiquated colonial era equipment that was second-hand when it was installed in the 1960s, due to economic sanctions imposed on the Rhodesian administration?
On top of this, as manufacturers increasingly depend on fuel-powered generators for electricity, the additional cost is inevitably passed on to the consumer. This further exacerbates an already dire economic situation, whereby half the population lives in extreme poverty, while two-thirds of the workforce earns below the poverty datum line.
As Zimbabweans go on with their lives unperturbed, their healthcare facilities are on the verge of collapse, lacking basics thereby rendering them not fit for the purpose and actually turning into death traps.
After watching all the unashamed plunder of our vast mineral resources on television, with some of the culprits proudly implicating not only themselves, but also the highest office in the land — why are Zimbabweans so calm, unmoved and unconcerned?
In my conversations last week at the funeral, I made one comment — let us not forget that these are the same people who just a few years ago bought a loaf of bread for billions of useless Zimbabwe dollars yet never raised a finger!
Despite the ordinary citizenry failing to not only afford, but even access basic commodities like cooking oil, mealie-meal, salt, sugar, meat and so much more — everyone went about their lives as if all was normal.
In fact, during my short stint in South Africa between 2008 and 2010 — the first non-governmental organisation I worked for was quite active in sending food to Zimbabwe every week for those starving — which was an insurmountable task considering that nearly every household in the country (including my own family back home in Redcliff) was suffering.
Yet, still Zimbabweans did nothing.
Maybe as we are witnessing today, they placed their hope in elections as the best way of removing a government that had turned their lives into a horrifying nightmare.
Well, we all know how that turned out.
After losing to then MDC-T leader Morgan Richard Tsvangirai in the March 2008 presidential elections — ruthless dictator Robert Gabriel Mugabe, with the encouragement of his henchmen, unleashed a reign of terror on the population, in the process, callously butchering hundreds of opposition supporters.
This was not before Mugabe — through the partisan Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, delayed announcing the election results, and then, fraudulently reducing Tsvangirai’s victory margin, so as to force a re-run.
In fact, Mugabe himself was to later inadvertently reveal that his main rival, Tsvangirai, had actually won by over 70% of the popular vote yet this figure was scandalously changed to 47,9%, with Mugabe given 43,2%.
Despite the 2008 daylight robbery, which later culminated in an ill-fated Government of National Unity — after the run-off turned into one huge farce when Tsvangirai withdrew from the race.
These people appear to conveniently forget that the country is now in the hands of the Mugabe henchmen, who encouraged him not to concede defeat in March 2008 — but instead, launch a barbaric campaign on a defenceless population.
In addition, what “huge turnout” can one surely expect in an election, when Tsvangirai’s over 70% victory was easily reduced to a paltry 47,9% by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission?
I still do not understand why Zimbabweans are not willing to undertake the relatively peaceful, non-confrontational and virtually risk-free option of national stayaways, strikes and shutdowns?
Mahatma Gandhi managed to lead the people of India to victory and independence from British colonial rule through “passive resistance”.
As I told those I met last week, that people of Zimbabwe will get a rude awakening after this year’s elections — as they wake up to the news that the same people who callously ruined their lives are still in power.
Well, at least it is my hope that the impoverished and struggling citizenry will then wake up.
l Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author and political commentator