Quarantine me


In the circles of Zimbabwean macho self-delusion, a 32-year-old man without a driver’s licence, passport, car, cellphone and house is labelled a “community disgrace”.

His weirdness assumes cynical proportion if he is unmarried, attracting legitimate spite as an object of shame.

He would deserve quarantine, the sort of “punishment” Old Testament Jews meted on lepers, not fit for human cohabitation!

This feeling of “nothingness” overwhelmed me while traversing Zimbabwe’s lush countryside during the just-ended holidays, reliving the experience portrayed in Chika Onyeani’s iconic book Capitalist Nigger: The Road to Success: A Spider Web Doctrine.

From the desolate cattle sale pens of Plumtree, via the gravel “tarred” roads of Bulawayo, through the dark streets of Harare to the abandoned high-altitude resorts in Mutare — was an encounter with a dysfunctional 32-year-old “African Zimbabwean” country.

The extent of infrastructural dilapidation on farms, roads and settlements left me distraught, concurring with Onyeani there is something fundamentally amiss with African eco-politics.

Call it the resource curse, but I have legitimate reason to term it The Dictator’s Malady — a recipe for development disaster imposed on us by a Robert Mugabe-type, non-bio-degradable model of primitive autocracy.

We have been left empty, abused, cursed and quarantined by a selfish ruling elite with no interest in our welfare, only applying occult power spurred on by an insatiable thirst for self-aggrandisement.

Thirty-two years of “independence” have nothing to show for a once-sophisticated rail network that lies derelict, rest facilities choking with wild grass as vandalised road signs hang precariously.

Ghostly signs of long-abandoned textile mills in Kadoma flap languidly in simmering summer heat, like a set of a Western movie.

Rusty farm equipment is strewn along the dusty trails of Selous as empty grain silos of Norton aimlessly dominate the deep blue horizon.

Zimbabwe’s $800 000 000 diamond deposits, world-class tourist wonders like Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe Ruins and Hwange Game Reserve count for naught as I drive in pitch darkness through electricity-less Harare on New Year’s Eve.

Dry taps in Ruwa and Marondera, empty Rusape shop windows plastered with old newspapers shouting stale headlines on the demise of Air Zimbabwe point to one thing:

Our country was run down by a cabal of self-serving nationalist zealots who had no morsel of a development conscience other than self-enrichment.

Writes Onyeani: “We are a conquered race and it is utterly foolish for us to believe that we are independent.” For 32 years, Zanu PF has deceived us, and now produces a victim-mentality menu that falsely blames our demise on sanctions.

From Bromley to Nyazura, the desperate faces of African women accosting my car with tonnes of red tomatoes have it inscribed on their parched faces:

“We are tired of listening to the same complaint, day in day out — sanctions this, colonialism that. It’s getting us nowhere,” Onyeani would have said.

He may be criticised for “relying on anecdotal rather than factual evidence”, but I bring you crude reality of the once majestic hillside roads of Vumba now enveloped with overhanging trees and faded centre lines. For once, Onyeani is right. Africans are nothing short of “whiners, passive, economically illiterate, intellectually bankrupt and materialistic”.

I drive into the electricity-less parking lot of Leopard Rock Hotel, finally switch off my car engine; close my eyes, soliloquise:

“There is inextricable Siamese connection between 32 years of destructive Zanu PF governance and my country’s state of desperation. How have we left our country for so long to be trampled under this one-man spell? We are pathetic losers, deserving political quarantine, the sort of punishment Old Testament Jews meted on lepers.”