THE official countdown to Zimbabwe’s 41st Independence anniversary has been remarkably subdued and somewhat funereal in tone.
State media has valiantly tried to hype up what ought to be the most auspicious occasion on the national calendar, but the “[email protected]” campaign has been a hard sell, by all objective measures.
There have been feeble attempts at sloganeering. This week, a grotesque message from President Emmerson Mnangagwa was circulated on social media, in which he asserts, rather glibly:
“Zimbabwe has lagged behind in many areas as a result of isolation for the past 16 to 18 years. Now we are saying to the world, Zimbabwe is open for business.”
Whoever wrote those two lines for Mnangagwa has a brilliant sense of mischief. Let us critically examine his message.
Although Zimbabwe is indeed lagging behind other countries, the reason cited by Mnangagwa for this tragic state of affairs is false and misleading. He is advancing a self-serving narrative.
First things first. Zimbabwe has lagged behind not just for “16 to 18 years”, but has completely regressed to quality-of-life standards last witnessed in the 1950s. In other words, most of the so-called gains of Independence have been reversed by the corrupt and incompetent Zanu PF elites.
It is the height of deception for Mnangagwa to attribute Zimbabwe’s catastrophic socio-economic decline to Western “isolation”. He is playing a cheap game of smoke and mirrors while poverty is terrorising the population.
Just this week, the United Nations warned that 38 000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition and at risk of starvation. The UN says 7.9 million citizens — more than half the entire population — urgently needs humanitarian rescue. This includes 4.1 million children. Who is benefitting from Zimbabwe’s massive gold, platinum, diamonds, chrome and nickel earnings?
When more than half the population of a country is so impoverished that their only lifeline is a packet of food donated by “imperialists”, then the government is guilty of criminal neglect. Bizarrely, officials continue villifying the same countries that are donating food, medicines and pocket money to poverty-stricken Zimbabweans.
Zanu PF elites must take responsibility for extreme poverty and the collapse of infrastructure such as roads that have become a collective source of national embarrassment.
Nobody was surprised this week when angry and frustrated civil servants declared that, with effect from 12 April, they will report for duty on only two days per week. They say this incapacitation has been caused by worthless salaries. What has worsened the workers’ plight is the government’s lack of seriousness in addressing their grievances.
In 2013, civil servants were earning, on average, US$500 while shop-floor workers in the private sector were getting US$300. Today, these long-suffering employees are expected to survive on pathetic salaries as low as U$50.
Zanu PF’s corruption-induced poverty has turned Independence Day into an occasion for national mourning.