THE champagne socialists who run Zanu PF are an amusing lot.
They throw a tantrum when Zimbabweans tell them the truth about the ruling party’s catastrophic economic mismanagement and ruinous leadership failure. Their kneejerk response is that such criticism is peddled by imperialists and their puppets.
Well, Joaquim Alberto Chissano is neither an imperialist nor a puppet. The former Mozambican president is a founding member of the Liberation Front of Mozambique (Frelimo) and is the kind of leader who earned his stripes as a bonafide revolutionary in the halcyon days of post-independence euphoria.
Chissano was in Harare this week in his capacity as chief facilitator of Zimbabwe’s High-Level Debt Resolution Forum.
Aso in attendance was the forum’s debt dialogue champion and African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina. Chissano was frank and forthright in his assessment of the challenges at the heart of what he called the Zimbabwean crisis.
For decades now, Zanu PF mandarins have stridently denied that there is a crisis in this country — despite the glut of evidence as shown by extreme poverty, economic mayhem and political instability.
The former Mozambican leader hit the proverbial nail on the head when he said Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted crisis is hampering development in southern Africa. “The crisis in the country is having terrible consequences for the region, as Zimbabwe lies at the heart of southern Africa.”
Speaking at Zimbabwe’s debt dialogue in Harare, Chissano added: “Many regional infrastructure development plans, including roads, railways and power transmission lines have been brought to a standstill, as they have to run through the country. The continental free trade is also undermined by the situation prevailing in Zimbabwe.”
What now? Will the patriotic comrades in Harare denounce Chissano as a sellout, a counter-revolutionary and a running dog of imperialism? In the best traditions of Zanu PF’s vacuous politicking, are they going to launch a blistering propaganda onslaught to haul him over the coals and tarnish him? They cannot afford to.
Chissano was Samora Machel’s Foreign minister and is credited with transforming war-torn Mozambique into a promising democracy.
In 2004, Chissano refused to run for a third term in office — even though the national constitution allowed him to. Where in Africa have you ever heard of leaders who opt to step down despite the glorious opportunity to retain sweet power?
It was by no fluke that he was awarded the inaugural US$5 million Prize for Achievement in African Leadership by the respected Mo Ibrahim Foundation. By refusing to perpetuate the tragic caricature of African leadership failure, he demonstrated to the world, in practical ways, that there is life after occupying high office.
He now continues to serve the continent as a remarkable African statesman and consummate negotiator.
We must learn from history. Chissano was best man at Robert Mugabe’s wedding to Grace in 1996. It beggars belief that Mugabe could spectacularly fail to learn from his own friend. In the end, Mugabe suffered the indignity of being ousted by a military coup in November 2017.
His death in a hospital in Singapore was itself a metaphor for monumental failure. But even before his demise, he fell out with his former lieutenants and will be remembered for famously exhorting Zimbabwean voters to support the opposition.
Since 2017, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has squandered an outpouring of goodwill from Africa and the world.
It is not “imperialists” who are demanding a credible general election in August. It is the people of Zimbabwe who want a clean poll, not only in line with the national constitution but also in fulfillment of the liberation struggle whose central motto was “one man, one vote”.
In February, Chissano warned President Mnangagwa that the Zimbabwean government needs to shake off its unfavourable reputation on the international stage before it can normalise relations with its creditors.
Adesina, the AfDB chief, was also forthright this week in plainly stating that for Zimbabwe to move forward, governance issues should be taken seriously.
“The issues are not just economic or financial. They also involve governance, rule of law, human rights, freedom of speech, political level playing field, electoral reforms that will assure free and fair elections; as well as fairness, equity and justice for the commercial farmers and other businesses who were dispossessed of their lands, for which there is a clear need for restitution and compensation,” he said.
Mnangagwa does not need Chissano and Adesina to remind him of all these important responsibilities.
He simply needs to implement Zimbabwe’s constitution and fulfil his own government’s political and economic reform roadmap.