The Arab spring was borne out of similar frustrations pervading Zimbabwe, where the arrogant and exceedingly wealthy ruling class ignored whispers for change and better governance.
Zimbabwe has been rocked by spontaneous protests plunging the country into political uncertainty and highlighting the economic desperation most Zimbabweans grapple with daily.
The former Rhodesia is plagued by over 90% unemployment, a crumbling health and education system with unpaid and restive civil servants. The beleaguered Southern African state experienced record hyper-inflation surpassing World War II Hungary at an astronomical 79,600,000,000% in November 2008, according to the CATO Institute. Consequently the worthless Zimbabwe dollar was ditched for the stable American unit, a first for Southern Africa. After thirty six years of self-governance Zimbabwe is a stellar example of failure when it seemed as Samora Machel of Mozambique put it, Mugabe inherited the “jewel of Africa.” Why then is Zimbabwe the mess it is today?
Robert Mugabe has attained infamy for his anti-west rhetoric and blaming his country’s spectacular decline on former colonial master Britain in particular. The 92 year old leader and his government have never and it seems will never blame themselves for the political and economic disaster that is Zimbabwe today,instead sanctions are proffered as a possible explanation. Ironically Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa was in England recently to court the west for an emergency financial bailout to pay civil servants and keep tottering government institutions afloat. It appears the “Look East “policy must also be consigned to Zanu PF’s litany of failures. Chinamasa was accorded little welcome by Zimbabweans in England who derided him and implored the West not to finance an “illegitimate regime of thieves”, so read one placard. During that same week Chinamasa appeared on BBC’s HardTalk and bizarrely refuted any insinuations that Zimbabweans are going hungry as a direct result of failed agricultural policies and underinvestment in the agricultural sector by the Zimbabwean government, in direct contradiction to UN reports. The strangest revelation of all by Chinamasa was that although he accepts that USD15 billion has disappeared from the treasury, this cannot be assigned to looting, but rather “mispricing”, a uniquely Zimbabwean economic phenomenon when it comes to diamonds. It may be unknown by most, but Zimbabwe is the seventh or eighth largest producer of diamonds in the world with little or no evidence that the revenues realised are capitalised in its economy.
A new generation of Zimbabweans is finally coming to the fore with no connection to Mugabe and a liberation struggle that brought independence and freedom, which they scarcely enjoy. This generation only knows political repression and wanton corruption by the state. Fuelled by social media they took to the streets, protesting an inordinately large number of police road blocks, where the police are accused of fleecing operators, but it soon exploded into an indictment of Mugabe’s regime. People on the streets decried the insensitivity of the government which banned the importation of food stuffs leading to riots at the border town of Beitbridge and the burning of a government building and vehicles. Perhaps the era of the passive populace has ended. The state security agents were retributively unleashed to devastating effect, unsavoury images of police brutality akin to the Rhodesia Police Force went viral on social media amidst government attempts to curtail WhatsApp service. Zimbabwe was burning, literally. Opposition politicians have not and cannot claim responsibility for this spontaneous combustion; ordinary people are fearlessly voicing their disapproval of empty promises from a government bereft of new ideas. The state driven violence visited on social justice activists Jestina Mukoko, Occupy Africa Unity Square leader, Itai Dzamara and many others bears testament of a government ostensibly at war with its own people, again.
Regardless of crumbling national infrastructure, deepening poverty, widespread hunger and health concerns the Zimbabwe government found it necessary to invest over USD700 million in defence and state security as Chinamasa put it so the the military is strong enough to deter external and internal threats. This expenditure is largely seen as an appeasement for the “securocrats” or military aristocracy, who have remained loyal to Mugabe since 1979. They stood firmly with Mugabe when he declared war on the Ndebele people in 1982 in an effort to rid Zimbabwe of any opposition parties and safeguard his ambitions for a one party state. They stood firmly with Mugabe when he refused to release election results in 2008 and instead launched a horrific campaign to “re-educate” voters who had voted for Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change. The highly partisan Zimbabwean military has and continues to fail the nation by failing to safeguard democracy choosing rather to protect their veteran leader from the ire of his own people. Growing and deep rooted discontentment exists in Zimbabwe and Zanu PF itself is hurtling towards 2018 elections as a highly polarised entity with many no longer subservient to Mugabe who has already declared his candidature. It leads many to question the nature of people in Zimbabwe for it is only them who can change their country.
Zimbabwe is ripe for revolution, perhaps not the armed struggle which catapulted Mugabe to a seat he refuses to vacate today, but a peaceful transformation to democracy, social justice and the rule of law, driven by ordinary people doing for themselves what politicians promise but seldom deliver. The Arab spring was borne out of similar frustrations pervading Zimbabwe, where the arrogant and exceedingly wealthy ruling class ignored whispers for change and better governance. Zimbabweans it appears cannot accept that their economy is in ruin because of “mispricing and under-invoicing” as Chinamasa claims, but simple mismanagement, looting, misdirection and repression. The government of Zimbabwe still refuses to be held accountable for any failures even though copious evidence exists to suggest that no other party is as guilty as them. The transmogrification of Mugabe is perhaps reaching its end; from revered nationalist to reviled dictator because of the shared misery his people endure today. In 2018 Mugabe will be 94 and yet he still harbours ambitions of leading Zimbabwe. Where to? Progressive nations today speak of governance and elected officials, not rulers and ruling parties. Interestingly, Mugabe was born before television was invented and expects to rule a country in 2018, a generation in Zimbabwe today might simply not let this happen.
NB: The name of the writer has been withheld to protect them from victimization.