Voices from Zimbabwe make for depressing listening. Hearing reports from there on radios like the BBC will rend the heart of any caring human. Hunger stokes the land and it affects all but the politicians who seem to feed off them.
The UN reports that 60% of the population are on the point of starvation. Food security has vanished for 5.5 million rural Zimbabweans and for 2.2 million urban.
But most Zimbabweans call these numbers conservative and say the true numbers are much higher.
Of course it’s true but sad that this can be said of many African countries. Indeed, a reason so many Africans are ready to venture into the fatally searing sands of the Sahara and on lethal, rickety dinghies over the yawning waters of the Mediterranean.
For Zimbabwe, however, everybody had reason to be optimistic. With the departure from power of late Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who had been responsible for sending the country to the dogs, there was hope that the new leadership would reverse the situation.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. If anything, things seem to be spiralling further down, even when many thought there was no further to go.
Unemployment, severe price instabilities, skyrocketing inflation of over 490%, lack of purchasing power and widespread corruption have conspired with poor agricultural productivity, natural disasters and recurrent droughts to grind the country into a hole.
Economic sanctions by North America and the European Union that are a carry-over from the Mugabe era have only helped to add oil to a flaming fire that’s Zimbabwe.
All despite the fact that Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa promised a radical reversal when he took over the reins of power from Mugabe. “Ngwena” (the crocodile), after legitimizing his rule in a controversial election, promised to put all his efforts in wooing investors.
He may have been baptized “Ngwena” for the brutality that marked him when he was still working under Mugabe, say his supporters, but he is a practical man. What he lacks in charisma and oratory, he makes up in pragmatism. And “I recognise that politics is politics but people must eat,” he confirms.
Indeed, Ngwena has gone as far as Rwanda to learn the ropes of how this country is now able to garner impressive numbers of investors, when only the other day it was a mere pile of ashes.
So, how come that, for a country that was described as the “jewel of Africa” or “Africa’s food basket” when it was still under the yoke of colonialism, there is nary a morsel of food for our Zimbabwean brethren and ‘sistren’? In a country of potential plenty, why?
In trying to learn from Rwanda about her ability to attract investment, could Mnangagwa have started from the wrong premise? Shouldn’t the starting point maybe have been how, before she could attract investment, Rwanda came out of those ashes to slowly cultivate a smart image?
For if they had, Ngwena and his team would have seen that it has been an arduously long, patient journey of forgiveness, even where that forgiveness was ridiculed as insane.
Forgiving the killers of over a million of your people, couldn’t it sound insane to Ngwena?
Well, Ngwena, that’s the premise from which to start if you want to create political stability and national security, the minimum requisite features for your country to attract investment.
From there, you will be able to create the conditions to bring all citizens together and embark on the task of mending hearts and minds. Whence, you organize a national dialogue.
And that national dialogue will not be the end. It’ll be the beginning of constant national dialogues that will be culminations of intra-citizen dialogues at all levels and at all times. That’s how citizen-driven, all-inclusive politics is birthed, where decision-making involves all.
In your case, Ngwena, can you go to Matabeleland and kneel down for forgiveness?
Whether or not you were involved in “gukurahundi” (massacre of the Ndebele), you and your political party, Zanu-PF, must seek that mea culpa. It also calls for embracing all the opposition political parties so as to create a platform where you can demonstrate the paramountcy of first and foremost having all hands on deck for building the nation, before all political engagements.
With all citizens coalesced around the vision of building a prosperous future as a united force, the conditions for attracting investment will emerge. These conditions, in turn, will demand good infrastructure, provision of good service delivery, concerted fight against corruption, transparent governance, efforts to ease the establishment of business, et al.
This, however, will have meant a reconfiguration, if not a recreation, of the narrative of politics as Mnangagwa knows it. Politics will no longer be a game, it’ll be about people. Which will mean the dismantling of his patronage structures, especially in the army, to depend on his people’s will for his political influence.
Only then can his government achieve political stability, consolidated national security and a clear, predictable future that would draw investment and innovations for wealth creation.
These and similar more are a sure recipe for regaining the long-forgotten tag: “Jewel of Africa”.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.