Zimbabwe’s Tailspin: The Lessons for Africa
Once upon a time, Zimbabwe was a country that all of us looked up to as how post-liberation Africa could look like.
- Zimbabwe was a country that all of us looked up to as how post-liberation Africa could look like.
- As we watch developments in Zimbabwe, we must ponder to ask why the continent continues to lose its massive potential.
- The army helped Mugabe steal election after election since 2000 – no wonder people are sceptical about its sudden change of heart.
- Some businesses are already sending their employees home or flying them out of the country. This will plunge an already battered economy into doldrums.
- We should make our leaders account for their actions in the demise of what was once a promising dream.
Nineteen years ago, I wrote a very sad story about the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) preparing to invade Lesotho.
I had been stuck in the country for months covering the bitter fallout between the elected government of then Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on the one hand — and the opposition parties and the army on the other.
The Lesotho precedent
Within 72 hours of my story being published, SANDF tanks rolled into Maseru. The word intervention quickly replaced invasion.
Needless to say, what followed whatever the whole operation was called resulted in death and destruction that Lesotho is still yet to recover from.
The role of the army
I was reminded of Lesotho thus Tuesday when I saw the Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF) tanks rolling on the streets of Harare in an apparent show of force. It was meant to rid the government of “criminals” and “counter revolutionaries” who had made themselves comfortable on the senile 93-year old President Robert Mugabe.
This is the same army that assisted Mugabe to steal election after election since 2000. It chuckled and looked the other way as Zimbabwe’s feared police thugs bashed the skulls of opposition activists in full view of international cameras.
Ask former Prime Minister and Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai if you do not believe me.
It is also the same army that publicly declared that it would never salute anyone but a Zanu-PF president.
Small wonder then that most people are sceptical about the their sudden change of heart.
If the chilling warning from army chief General Constantino Chiwenga was anything to go by, then the language and the careful choice of words point to a frightening future that the country may never recover from.
Already, some businesses have started sending their employees home, if not flying them out of the country. It is a situation that will plunge an already battered economy into doldrums.
Mammoth task to rebuild
As in Lesotho before, whoever takes over after the madness will have more than a mammoth task to rebuild what was once a thriving African country.
Lesotho and Zimbabwe hold a particular special place in my heart. My maternal parents trace their roots in the beautiful and scenic lands of southern Lesotho.
Zimbabwe on the other hand contributed immensely in my development, both as a person and as a journalist.
It was in the bars of the northern suburb of Avondale that ideological differences between South Africa’s then liberation movements took second place to important discussions about fears and hopes, as well as the parents we had left behind to fight for freedom.
Zimbabwe as an example
Most importantly, Zimbabwe was a country that all of us looked up to as how post-liberation Africa could look like.
Besides the massive construction site that Mugabe turned the country into, investors were falling over themselves to seek opportunities in mining and infrastructure development.
Sleepy towns such as Rusape and Mutare were suddenly waking up to their economic potential, while the mighty Victoria Falls looked as if recording the massive development taking place below its majestic waters.
Today, this beautiful country that boasted the best tourist attractions is on the verge of complete disaster.
The once good education system that was the wonder of the world and the progressive health services have all but collapsed.
The country that easily exported its produce now relies on imports from its neighbours for basic essentials. The agriculture and mining industries have become fiefdoms of a few connected individuals.
The country’s erstwhile currency, the Zim dollar, is today worth less than the monopoly board game money. What was once a thriving democracy backed by a booming economy has literally been catapulted into bankruptcy by the very people who once offered hope to Africa. It is a story that is frighteningly familiar in the continent.
Africa’s lost potential
So as we watch the developments in Zimbabwe from the comforts of our homes, we must ponder to ask why the continent continues to lose its massive potential in world trade.
We should ask ourselves how it happened that the continental economic powerhouses of Nigeria and South Africa are suddenly faced with stagnant growth and inevitable downgrades from international ratings agencies.
If we do that, we will then be able to make our leaders account for their actions in the demise of what was once a promising dream.
That way, we will be able to send a clear message to the rest of the world that parasites like the Gupta family have no place in Africa’s renewal. And only then will Africa fulfil her potential.
Editor’s note: Adapted from an article that appeared in South Africa’s Business Report.