Very sad indeed, how a country can be brought down to its knees so brutally as everybody watches impotently. I am talking about Zimbabwe, the torch-bearing paragon of African emancipation at independence in 1980.
I was reading the ill-concealed joy of a Western correspondent who was last week observing an office secretary pay her ‘bus-fare’ to a conductor in downtown Harare.
The secretary handed over three ‘bricks’ of neatly folded bundles of currency notes, each brick a trillion Zimbabwe dollars! In turn, the bus conductor accepted them without a second look.
Yet, the Zimbabwe dollar is officially ‘dead’! Listen to Tendai Biti, Zimbabwean finance minister: “The death of the Zimbabwe dollar is a reality …. Since 2008, our national currency has become moribund.”
This, for a currency that was stronger than the US dollar at Zimbabwe’s independence, in 1980. Then, one ZWD was equivalent to US $ 1.47, and the country was cosily nestling in the ranks of developed countries.
However, as inflation continued to sky-rocket and the economy continued to nose-dive, under Robert Mugabe, finance ministry officials continued to shear zeros off the Zimbabwe currency without success.
In what was gloriously dubbed “Operation Sunrise”, the Zimbabwe dollar was redenominated in 2006 at the rate of 1 re-valued dollar for a 1,000 old dollars. The third dollar came in 2008 with 10 billion equalling 1 dollar.
The 4th Zimbabwe dollar this year cut off 12 zeros to change 100 trillion dollars into 1!
Still it didn’t work and Central Bank went back to its trillions and let the currency blunder its way around until it went astray and fell into a death pit.
And with it fell salaries, food, clothing, shelter, health, education, transport …. in short, the country. Today, the lifeline for Zimbabweans inside the country is the Diaspora and foreign currency is the de facto currency.
What happens that a bustling economic powerhouse, as Zimbabwe was in 1980, can crumble and become insignificant ‘ivhu’? For your information, ‘ivhu’ is ‘soil’ in Shona, and in 2006 it was the name suggested for the Zimbabwe currency!
As to the question, I think Rwandans can provide an answer: not on how to send a country to the dogs, but on how to lift a country from furnace-hot ‘ivhu’ and build it into a cultural and socio-economic powerhouse.
Rwandans should know. In July 1994, Rwanda was a wasteland of carcasses: dead citizens, dead institutions, dead land, abandoned and blood-stained dwellings, hills, valleys, rivers and lakes.
It practically belonged to the dogs.So, how has it managed to rise from that pitiful abyss and become the African exemplar of security, justice, order, cleanliness, incorruptibility, transparency, social wellbeing, name it? Personally, I think the answer lies in good leadership.
From a ragtag rebel army of young liberators at the fringes of Northern Rwanda, the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) and its armed wing, the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA), have enjoyed focused leadership that knew what it wanted and went for it.
That is how RPF/A managed to wear down the formidable forces pitted against them in diplomatic as well as armed warfare.
These forces included the whole Western world that was used to being in cahoots with despot African regimes, and did not entertain anybody intent on rocking the boat.
After defeating the leading Western foe, France, and its litany of African running dogs, RPF/A set about working towards realising its dream: one Rwanda, one Rwandan!
The country could only advance if it was built around the social wellbeing, prosperity and equality of all Banyarwanda.
That is how the forces of genocide were defeated, and that is how accusing RPF/A of committing the same génocidaire atrocities, as Human Rights Watch (HRW) is wont to, is to completely misunderstand their philosophy.
Good leadership is leadership that has a dream and wants to own it, to articulate it and wants to live it. RPF/A has demonstrated that it is able to effect its dream of a united Rwanda for sustained growth and development.
The road to this apex has been through building coalitions and harnessing the energies of all Rwandans in their different capacities.
In fact, this strategy has led some to accuse RPF/A of shielding génocidaires (which again contradicts HRW!), without appreciating the intended timing for an eventual greater good.
So, whereas Rwanda today is a product of good leadership, Zimbabwe springs from delinquent, lacking, partisan and dictatorial leadership.
Authoritarian leadership that craves influence, power, wealth and popularity without a vision and which is incapable of effecting efficient management of human and material resources of the country.
Talking of which, leadership in National Bank of Rwanda (BNR, as its French acronym) needs to quickly effect President Kagame’s points of advice: to modernise, cut on excess baggage of employees and set a proper salary structure, among others.
We don’t want to sink into the Zim-pit!