There just seems to be no good news coming out of Zimbabwe lately. Just from being inundated with news of a free falling Zimbabwean economy, widespread security forces brutality, boom the legend himself Oliver Mthukuzi is no more. This is definitely overwhelming for our brothers and sisters beyond the southern border of Zambia as Tuku, as he was fondly called, really epitomised everything that was right about Zimbabwe.
Today, before we go deep discussing Zimbabwe, we would like to pay tribute to a gallant son of Africa who has impacted our lives positively for as long as we can remember. Oliver Mthukuzi was a Zimbabwean music legend who sang among others, the never-forgotten legendary song called Neria, which became a sound track for a Zimbabwean Movie of the same name. The movie was a hit we loved to watch in the 90s either on ZNBC TV or on Video Cassette Recorders where he even featured. We know that people are not perfect but Tuku demonstrated that discipline is an integral character in pursuing your career or calling. This can be attested from almost a zero negative headline on him, at least not that we are aware of. We say thank you for the memories and may you rest in peace legendary son of Africa Oliver Mthukuzi.
Our pick on Zimbabwe is based on the events that have escalated in the past few weeks. This is also to highlight the importance of having the right leadership in place to avoid such escalating levels of injustice and lack of a direction for a once admired country. Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown should serve as a big warning to the people of Zambia to do whatever it is within their power to avoid going through the same path. While we complain about the cost of living in Zambia, in Zimbabwe it’s a nightmare. Zimbabwe was once upon a time deemed the breadbasket of Southern Africa. Visiting Zimbabwe about two months ago, it was frustrating to see a beautiful country having been run down by a few greedy men. The cost of commodities is way too high with unending fuel queues. We had to carry gallons with our own fuel to avoid being caught up in the same crisis.
The challenges of Zimbabwe did not start yesterday, last week or last month or just the other year. This degeneration did not start at full blast but slowly and surely the damage was being created. It all started with political parties not having the space to operate freely, unfriendly business policies by the government resulting in the economy performing poorly and people losing jobs. The Zim-dollar then was slowly depreciating against major convertible currencies. There was also a rise in police brutality against people with divergent views. We have heard time and again of stories about how later the policy was to abduct people who opposed the political establishment and a good number of people disappeared. Many were never heard of or seen again ever since. All this started slowly.
Of course the freefalling of the economy was escalated due to the policy of land redistribution where white owned farms were grabbed without compensation. Then, aid was withdrawn and sanctions and trade embargoes against Zimbabwe followed. As a case in point, in February 2002, the European Union imposed a number of sanctions against the republic because its government was found to have been in serious violation of human rights, as well as violation of the freedom of opinion and freedom of free assembly. And today our neighbours are not even sure of what their currency is. This is sad for a country that we really admired. What’s also sad is the amount of talent that has been wasted or exiled due to lack of opportunities in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe not only has one of the most educated populous but it also has some of the most skilled people.
The problems of Zimbabwe have not been due to lack of skilled labour, resources or any disadvantage you can think of in a country but it’s been due to leadership. The problem comes in when you have a leadership whose sole purpose is to keep power as opposed to serving the people. It seems they are hell-bent on doing anything possible even if it means stifling institutions such the Judiciary and Police just to make sure that they are in control of everything. The problem comes in when we think these are just politics and yet we cannot notice the danger of such acts in our society.
There is definitely a problem with the leadership of Zimbabwe. They are out-dated and not in tune with our times. There sole purpose is power and they care less about the people just as long as they, and their children are guaranteed of a meal, shelter and the luxuries you can think of. As we have advocated time and again for Zambia, Zimbabwe needs a leadership shift. The Zanu-PF system must be ripped off and replaced with a new generation of patriotic leaders. It’s clear that the current leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Vice President Constatino Chiwenga are only in power for the luxury of it. They seem to have no clue whatsoever about what’s happening in their own country. Hence, they have forgotten and have started brutalizing the same people that supported their takeover in November 2017. I believe Zimbabweans can identify a leadership that wants to work for legacies as opposed to enriching themselves.
Not surprisingly and probably conveniently, many African Presidents, including our own President Lungu have decided to turn a blind eye to such atrocities. Our appeal is that President Lungu must speak out against what’s happening in Zimbabwe if he treasures peace and the brotherhood we share with Zimbabwe so much. Many politicians when elected to office forget that these countries they are given to govern are not their countries but belong to the citizens. That’s why citizens have the right to protest. But because they feel they own the country, and that their enjoyment must not be disturbed, they end up firing bullets at the owners of the country- the people. The PAC government will not play quiet diplomacy when such things are happening anywhere around the world especially in Africa and more especially to our neighbours.
We want to appeal to the people of Zambia to be wary and stop being tolerant of things that we can clearly see that are wrong and heading in the wrong direction. Since the PF took over government, we have seen things getting worse in as much as they want to sing the song of roads everyday. There are thin opportunities for employment in this country; the exchange rate moved from K5.6 to a dollar to around K12, fuel prices have soared from K8.5 to around K18. Worryingly, debt is rising and we have seen reports of how our forex reserve are depleting. Opposition political parties’ operating space has been reduced and confidence in key institutions is at its worst since the introduction of multiparty democracy. It’s also clear how the PF have demonstrated their desire to keep power by all means; they show lack of tolerance for divergent views and violence in elections. Zimbabwe started from a place much like where we are as a nation today. With the debt repayment plans this year, we cannot expect the cost of commodies such as fuel to reduce or the exchange rate to appreciate but all we can expect is an increase.
While we are not yet at Zimbabwe’s level, we should never forget about how it all started. Please let us open our eyes. Let’s not tolerate things that we must not tolerate otherwise we will let a few greedy men run down our country for the luxury of power just like what has happened to our brothers in Zimbabwe. Let’s speak and pray for our brothers in Zimbabwe so that they can get their lives back to normal. And for our own sake and future generations’ sake, let’s be vigilant.
Andyford Mayele Banda
People’s Alliance for Change (PAC)