Outgoing United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Charles Ray says Zimbabweans are too preoccupied with politics and artificial cultural divisions which he described as harmful to peaceful co-existence and development.
Speaking at a public discussion forum in Harare on Friday, Ray said he had, during his three-year tenure, discovered that Zimbabweans were ‘too preoccupied’ with political discourse at the expense of development issues.
“I have noticed over the past three years that politics dominates every conversation. It’s as if nothing else matters,” Ray said.
“I know that political decisions can affect our lives — bad economic decisions can raise prices, drive away investment and cost jobs, but it’s really the day-to-day personal decisions we all make that truly determine our lives. I’m not saying you should ignore politics, but put it in its proper place, somewhere out there, and use more of your energy in building a better local environment.”
He said he was concerned over artificial divisions that have been created among people, which bordered on tribal lines.
“. . . it’s these meaningless divisions that have been created that keep people apart, that have built automatic intolerance, that make it difficult for people to reach out to people they don’t know or to trust them,” said the US diplomat.
Turning to his experiences during his tenure, Ray said: “I think I have been successful in getting that started. For 10 years, we were just yelling and hurling insults at each other, and we never really had a substantive conversation about anything. We were complaining about some misbehavior, and they were calling us regime change neo-imperialists.
“Reflecting on my nearly three years in Zimbabwe, I remain cautiously optimistic. The long-term future for this country is bright, and that is due in large part to the overwhelmingly energetic, dedicated, and intelligent young people – people who make up the majority of Zimbabwe’s population.”