Of stentorian voices, moral and political bankruptcy

I HAVE been thinking about our beautiful country, I always do. I never dreamt of leaving Zimbabwe, not at any moment. As a young Zimbabwean, I always looked forward to a happy future after my studies. Domestic felicity is something that I have never taken for granted, and I still don’t. I don’t know if I could, in retrospect, attribute that to my naivety or mere patriotism.

MUTSA MURENJE

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Even as I am writing from the Oceania, my mind remains glued to my home country. A day never passes without me reading news about developments in Zimbabwe. Somehow, I feel so strongly that Zimbabwe has a place for me. That’s where I belong. Apart from Zimbabwe, my life will never be as complete as it ought to. Zimbabwe has a deep place in my affection. Hear me for my cause, dear readers.

Like Albert Einstein, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” I think and dream about the kind of country that Zimbabwe must be. I don’t think we have realised our fullest potential as a people. A lot still needs to be done. Our stentorian voices are still pointing out the moral and political bankruptcy that exists in our country. Moral and political bankruptcy have eroded the legitimacy of President Robert Mugabe’s administration.

Our voices need to be heard. Someone, somewhere, must respond to our endless cries. Honestly, this is not the way to live. Like all patriotic citizens, I seek the peace and prosperity of our country. If Zimbabwe is prosperous, we too will prosper. We are all impoverished because our leaders are morally and politically bereft of the political will to take us out of our deep political and economic malaise.

I have taken a mental flight to Zimbabwe between 1953 and 1980. I have seen Britain, in 1953, creating a Central African Federation made up of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). The federation didn’t last, it broke up the very moment Zambia and Malawi gained their independence in 1963. I have seen too that, in 1965, the white minority rule government of the Rhodesian Front, under Ian Smith, broke away from Britain.

Stripping black people of rights, this government sparked international outrage and economic sanctions. Guerrilla warfare broke out, turning into civil war in the 1970s. Civil war was crippling the country and Britain helped negotiate a ceasefire and a new Constitution in 1979. Elections were held the following year. The Republic of Zimbabwe became independent in April 1980 and Mugabe became Prime Minister (1980-1987) and Executive President (1987 to date).

My fellow citizens, we are back in the Smith era. We have been stripped of our rights yet again and this time, by one of our own. Our black dictator is even worse than Smith. The Mugabe regime has sparked domestic and international outrage, including sanctions. The regime is crippling our country. We need to get rid of it. As Marianne Williamson observed: “In every community there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”

My message to Mugabe and his followers is: “If your beauteousness scorns me, if your worth does not favour me, if your disdain is my humiliation, I shall ill be able, albeit I am well furnished with longanimity, to suffer a grief that is not merely intense but protracted.” (Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, translated by John Rutherford, 2000)

Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa presented the mid-year fiscal policy review statement about two weeks ago. He stated, in no uncertain terms, the need to reverse an unsustainable consumptive position. To achieve this, the minister suggested there was need to restructure the civil service, which included a reduction in employment numbers by 25 000, a cut on salaries and allowances and foregoing of bonuses for two years.

These measures were expected to reduce employment costs to around 60% of total revenues by 2019 from the current 97% and ultimately redirect revenue towards capital expenditure, which would stimulate production. There can be no doubt that the fiscal space remains tight and revenues keep underperforming, while expenditures continues to outstrip targets.

However, Information, Media and Broadcasting Services minister Christopher Mushohwe has since contradicted Chinamasa. We have been told there are no plans to cut salaries and that bonuses and allowances will stay. What has happened is Chinamasa’s proposals have been shot down! Now, this is the last thing we expect from a caring government. Why the inconsistency in government positions? I would like to believe that Chinamasa best understands our financial position as a country. He knows what needs to be done hence his proposals.
Wherever he is, Chinamasa is saying, with Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”

The Zimbabwean government has launched the National Diaspora Directorate as part of efforts to enhance engagement and the participation of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora in the national development agenda. This is a positive development in spite of the fact that pessimistic views on migration pervade the literature. Migration has largely been portrayed in negative terms and it is not uncommon to discuss migration using the emotive language of floods, tides and influxes. Nevertheless, migration is also welcomed, even encouraged.

Although migration can put great strain on destinations or shatter the economies and daily lives where migrants leave, it can also provide much-needed resources for sending and receiving countries as well as migrants themselves.

Throughout history, migration has been intimately linked to social and economic development. Migrant networks and organisations interact with State institutions through financial remittances, knowledge and political ideas.

Migrant Diasporas’ transnational practices have direct effects on aid and development. Financial remittances carry a huge potential for poverty reduction and local investment and are resistant and counter-cyclic to economic recession. They are double the size of aid and are targeted at the poor. But the question is: Can we trust the Zimbabwean government? The level of policy inconsistency leaves a lot to be desired.

In conclusion, I am merely a social worker. I have learnt that compassion is a functional prerequisite to effectual social work practice. I suffer with others and I am willing to join with and enter into the pain of those who are distressed or troubled. It is common for people to view themselves as compassionate.

However, a high level of compassion is not typical of most people. In fact, it is natural to want to avoid involvement in the pain of others. A social worker who lacks compassion is likely to distance himself or herself from client concerns. I am not that type of social worker.

Social work also demands personal courage, not in the sense of being bold or daring, but rather in being able to confront on a daily basis human suffering and turmoil and, not infrequently, the negative and destructive behaviours of the human species.

I am only fulfilling my citizenship and career roles. I hope we will one day write a beautiful chapter about the history of our beautiful country.

May God help Zimbabwe! The struggle continues unabated!

Mutsa Murenje is a social activist

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