Imagine these scenes in Zimbabwe.
A group of townspeople gather under the scorching sun, awaiting the long-awaited arrival of President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, to officially hand over a borehole and clinic to the community.
The crowds are understandably enthusiastic – given that they have been without tap water for years in their homes, and forced to fetch the precious liquid from a lonely borehole a few miles away, or beg and buy from exasperated neighbors who have their own sources.
Additionally, in the unfortunate event of illness or even pregnancy within the family, or an urgent need to replenish ART (antiretroviral therapy) – residents must travel long distances, often paying hard-to-get money for exorbitant transport costs to reach remote health facilities.
Indeed, this community apparently has every reason to rejoice – as Mnangagwa proudly commands these two desperately needed “projects” – in what is being touted as “a clear sign of his administration’s development push”.
However, let’s hold our horses, before we all get too excited!
How did a country that once had perfectly flowing water from its taps and modern, functioning healthcare institutions end up in this shameful and deplorable situation in the first place?
For anyone who wants to remember, Zimbabwe was at one time one of the most developed countries on the entire African continent.
To be sure, after ZANU PF took power in 1980, the new government made commendable efforts – through a massive injection of capital into infrastructure development and major breakthroughs in expanding education and health care systems. health to most parts of the country – during the first decade of independence.
Yet after 1990 – perhaps out of complacency, influenced by the waning of liberating fervor and fueled by the absence of any formidable opposition to keep the regime constantly on its toes – the ruling elite quickly lost the cap, is sitting on its laurels, and is discovering a new interest in plundering national resources for personal enrichment.
As a result, investments in building viable new water sources to cater to an exponentially growing urban population, as well as upgrading water treatment facilities and distribution networks, have completely dried up.
The creation of new health care facilities and the upgrading of equipment have been halted.
The major highways that had made the country the envy of the southern African region – some of which linked the ports of South Africa and Mozambique to the rest of the continent – have been woefully neglected, and left to hare nests of chicken.
Not to mention the schools and other educational institutions – which were practically left to rot and decay, with little significant investment – except for the establishment of a few public universities, most of which were simply polytechnics or converted teachers’ colleges.
As everything on planet Earth will surely die, without proper maintenance and care – the same grim situation was not to escape Zimbabwe’s hospitals/clinics, water supply, roads and schools.
At the turn of the new millennium, virtually everything in the country was on the verge of collapse – which is one of the main reasons why the formation of a new political party, the MDC led by Morgan Richard Tsvangirai in September 1999, was massively welcomed by the generality of the citizens.
Which explains why the ruling ZANU PF party was nearly defeated by a nine-month-old party in the June 2000 general election – where the MDC won all the urban constituencies – because of a seriously dismayed and displeased.
Of course, I won’t even bother to talk about the economic ruin that seemed married to the ruthless abandonment of every other facet of Zimbabwe’s infrastructure – with the collapse of the economy, through woeful mismanagement and rampant corruption, dragging millions into unprecedented and unimaginable poverty and suffering.
Unemployment has reached shocking levels – as state-owned companies (such as the steel giant ZISCOSTEEL, which once supplied the whole region) have been plundered by the political elite – while other private companies have found the economic environment weak. conducive to profitable operations.
Therefore, having thrown the people of Zimbabwe into the abyss of indescribable pain and need – lacking almost everything necessary for a semblance of normal existence – the ZANU PF regime decides to mount as saviors.
Isn’t it amazing how even the president, and all those present, fail to spot the irony of the commissioning of boreholes and clinics – even more so, in areas that at a time in their history, had functioning medical facilities and first-class service delivery?
Doesn’t presenting this as some kind of “development” make the whole circus even more absurd and shameful?
Is it not a mockery of Zimbabweans, when the government seeks praise and glory for “having come to the rescue” of the very people whose suffering and lack it has caused – through greed and the reckless abdication of the ruling elite from their duties?
In fact, now (forty years after taking power) – if the ZANU PF regime had not taken citizens for granted and slept behind the wheel – every household would have tap water geysers and clinics locations where major surgeries might be performed.
Across the country, so-called “spaghetti roads” would have been the norm – and all of our schools, including those in rural areas, offering the most advanced educational standards, with state-of-the-art science facilities.
There is absolutely no logical reason why we did not reach such a high level of development at that time – if only our leaders had done what was expected of them, in particular by continuing the momentum established during the first decade of our independence from colonial rule. .
Yet here we are – still patching up colonial roads, and calling it ‘development’.
Instead of building new schools, the government wants to be thanked for erecting a block or two of classrooms in already very inadequate institutions – and that should be considered ‘development’.
This is how far the Mnangagwa regime has fallen!
Letting the people of Zimbabwe suffer, to sad levels of desperation – and then come in as ‘saviors’ with mediocre plans to salvage the situation – can never and should never be seriously considered ‘development’.
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher and social commentator. Do not hesitate to contact him on WhatsApp / Call: +263715667700 / +263782283975, or Calls only: +263788897936, or by email: [email protected]