By BRIGHTON MANHANZVA
Taking an insight into life under the regime of Robert Mugabe, I would like to describe how the “breadbasket of Africa” became the “basket case” of the whole world while the International community stands idle. A bleak picture is painted of a population struggling with food shortages, disease and crime.
I remember quite well when Zimbabwe became independent in 1980, finally being released from the clutches of the Rhodesian government of Ian Smith and his Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI). It was a historic moment when comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe took office becoming the country’s first fairly elected Black President.
At this point, Zimbabwe was recognised throughout the African continent as the bread basket of Africa. Our economy or infrastructure was second in the region only to that of South Africa whether it was in farming or mining and our tourism industry was growing annually. There was plenty of work for everyone and the upward mobility was a distinct possibility for all.
Everyone in the country was well fed, well-educated and in overall, a happy and a healthy people. The country was a long-standing member of the World Health Authority’s (WHO) immunisation programme and was recording high levels of live births per capita (always a sign of a successful economy). Like other countries within this programme, Zimbabwe was within a year of eradicating the disease of polio, and HIV Aids which was a little known disease of a small proportion.
We are always known for our gentleness and kind approach in Zimbabwe, and although the Smith regime left much to be done for the indigenous population as a whole, Zimbabwe could boast to be a country which was working towards improvement for all. The total population was poised and ready for a “new beginning” as promised by the former Prime minister when we gained independence in 1980.
When Mr. Mugabe took the reins of Zimbabwe, there was hope above all things. The economy was strong; the people were free and ready to help build the country into a great Nation. The land itself was and still is achingly beautiful and synonymous with the inland tiger-fishing sea of Lake Kariba, with the great granite borders of the Matopos Hills (burial-place of the great Oxford scholar and explorer Cecil Rhodes), with the champagne air and log fires of the Eastern mountain cottages and the game-filled wilderness of the Zambezi shores and above all, the timeless thunder-mist of Dr. Livingstone’s Victoria Falls.
But now that hope is dead and here is the reason why in my own opinion: The constitution of Zimbabwe had been drawn up as part of the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 and had served the country for nearly 20
years. The Zimbabwe’s constitution was too heavily influenced by the country’s colonial past and everyone felt that a new constitution should be written in the light of the experience of independence. President Mugabe announced the convening of a Constitutional Convention to draft such a constitution fit for the country.
In February of 2000, a constitutional referendum was held and the proposed new Constitution, which had been drafted by a Constitutional Convention the previous year, was defeated. The new proposed constitution was willing to give power to the government to seize farms owned by white farmers without compensation and transfer them to black farm owners as part of a scheme of land reform – I have absolutely no problem with that but one of the more controversial aspects of the constitution that was argued about was the fact that the Executive Presidency should be scraped and be replaced with the office of the Prime Minister who is accountable to Parliament and Mr. Mugabe would be a titular President instead.
The defeat was unexpected and was taken as a personal rebuff for President Robert Mugabe and a political triumph for the newly formed opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change which triggered the violent land invasions soon after the defeat, the beginning of the end of a beautiful economy I suppose.
The once booming farming sector is all but gone now and there are but just a few jobs left. Crime and corruption are now rampant. There was a time when the Zimbabwean dollar was at an all time low, thanks to the GNU for introducing the use of the multiple currencies for a little over a year now.
Zimbabwe today is a shadow of its former self. The people who were ready to help make the country great have left the country and some of them are now starving and poverty-stricken. The great promise of a chicken in every pot is now a pipe dream and not a reality.
I strongly feel that Mr. Mugabe is responsible for much if not all the destruction of hope which existed in 1980 up to the late 90’s probably up to 2000. He is directly responsible for the great terror which exists in Zimbabwe today. Probably it is the trauma of the eleven years that he spent in prison- which indirectly led to his populist persona- that is to blame for his irrepressible greed and lack of democracy towards his own
people. I would say that Mugabe failed to take up the challenge to use his popularity both within Zimbabwe and the outside world to forward his country.
Mr. Mugabe has succeeded in morally corrupting the Nation by bribing his inner circle so that he can cling onto power by all means necessary. The police look for bribes, the civil service survives by moonlighting, the judges (with one or two very brave exceptions) are subdued and browbeaten, the army is merely a security blanket for Mugabe and his cronies and violence of the crudest sort is used against anyone who stands up against him or anyone who dares open his mouth.
Under Mr. Mugabe’s leadership, Zimbabwe is now a different country to that of 1980. There is more than 80% of unemployment and there is mass emigration that has led to the brain drain of the country. One in five of Zimbabwe’s population has HIV Aids. Water, power, fuel, education and health facilities have collapsed. Many Zimbabweans exist only with the help of the young who send funds from the Diaspora. In the poverty-stricken rural areas many schools have no teachers, clinics and medicine.
Mr. Mugabe likes to blame Zimbabwe’s demise on the West or on “sanctions” but the truth of the matter is that Mugabe has failed the country through greed under the name of protecting the sovereignty of the country.
There are now a few visitors to Zimbabwe and the best of Zimbabwe’s farmers are now doing wonders in neighbouring countries where they are welcomed with open arms.
I wonder where Zimbabwe would have been now if the West had stopped their food aid. It is painstakingly awful to think that the farms that were invaded by these Zanoids are now being used as social places where they have their weekend braai (barbeques) and not being used to benefit the whole country as before.
ONE THING FOR SURE, MUGABE MUST GO!!!