ONE of the hottest debates emanating from Zimbabwean social media platforms in the past fortnight was triggered by a simple question: Who is the best leader between Emmerson Mnangagwa, Robert Mugabe and Ian Smith?
Before we can even tackle that topic, it would be helpful to ask ourselves why citizens are finding such a question necessary, 42 years after Independence.
The question itself is a damning indictment on Zanu PF — a former liberation movement which lost its way and catastrophically degenerated into yet another kleptocratic autocracy.
Nobody should be surprised by the direction the debate is taking.
The overwhelming sentiment out there on social media is that although all three leaders were brutal and cruel, Smith stands out because he bequeathed the country food self-sufficiency, one of Africa’s most stable economies, a solid currency and infrastructure which still exists today.
This is how disastrous Zanu PF rule has been. It has destroyed the country, plunging citizens into an abyss of hopelessness and convincing many that Rhodesia’s racist regime — with all its unspeakable crimes against humanity — was a better devil than today’s corrupt dictators. Nothing screams failure louder than this. What is worse, when people speak out against corruption, mediocrity and injustice, they are viciously victimised.
Smith left behind hospitals which segregated white from black, but the health facilities were decently stocked with essential medicines. In Mnangagwa’s crumbling hospitals, patients cannot even get basic drugs. If the Zanu PF government does not consider the health sector a priority, then where is taxpayers’ money going?
Smith left behind tarred roads, even in high-density suburbs, and a piped water system. Today Mnangagwa is patting himself on the back for drilling boreholes in Harare’s impoverished townships. His ruralisation of urban areas is dragging Zimbabwe 60 years backwards.
State revenues are not meant for funding the decadent lifestyles of political elites; that money should be making a difference in the quality of life of long-suffering citizens.
The rulers are not accountable. The High Court this week found it unacceptable that nine years after the adoption of a new constitution, Zimbabwe has no code of conduct for vice-presidents, ministers and deputy ministers.
Zanu PF has been a huge disappointment to all self-respecting Africans. With such clueless leaders in power, the continent appears doomed.
Recently we witnessed a shocking spectacle when the African Union sent a high-powered delegation to Moscow to grovel for food supplies.
African leaders are blaming the worsening hunger crisis on the war in Ukraine. But it is a crying shame that Ukraine, a country of 44 million people, has been feeding Africa, a continent of 1.4 billion folks. Are we not ashamed?
Africa has all the necessary ingredients to attain food self-sufficiency — well, all the decisive factors are in place except competent leadership. The world’s most arable land is found in Africa. With a median age of 25, Africa has the planet’s youngest population and superb human resources. Despite the global climate crisis, rain-fed agriculture is still a viable prospect in some countries. All the same, there are lots of dams and rivers to sustain sizeable irrigation. Above all, the continent’s huge population means there is a ready market for farm produce. So why are African leaders grovelling for food in Russia and Ukraine? The answer is clear: failed leadership.
We see the same pattern in Zimbabwe where millions of citizens are wallowing in hunger and the government is deploying police and soldiers to seize maize from farmers.
Deceptive politicians are peddling the lie that there is no food crisis in Zimbabwe. Finance minister Mthuli Ncube is claiming — with a straight face — that there is no economic crisis in this country. He conveniently forgets that Zimbabwe has the world’s highest inflation rate and half the population lives in extreme poverty.
Zanu PF’s failure has been so tragic that many citizens are now openly declaring that the racist Smith regime was a better evil. Can you wrap your brain around that?