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Home is where the heart is

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It had been a couple of years since I had last visited Zimbabwe. Work and other commitments have made it increasingly problematic for me to be constantly in my country of birth.

guest column: MUTSA MURENJE

Despite this physical absence, allegiance to the homeland has never diminished. My love for Zimbabwe remains strong. There has never been, there isn’t and there won’t be any country, in this whole wide world, where I will ever feel I belong apart from my country of birth and citizenship. I am a Zimbabwean and my heart is always with this great country of ours. It is here where I hope to work and enjoy my retirement. My soul will be at peace if I were to also die here than anywhere else.

Nobody knows the amount of disruption that has been wrought by the current dislocation. This isn’t the way things ought to be. Migration should be the last resort and not the first port in the storm. For us, however, migration seems to be the only option to mitigate the poverty, marginalisation and inequality that the Mugabe regime has condemned us to.

Towards the end of 2016, I decided to “be home” for whatever brief period I could get. I managed to spend only a week. As a parent, I had to make sure that my children were sufficiently prepared for school and crèche, respectively. I would have loved to be there for long, but I couldn’t do it to the detriment of my own children.

Their best interests take priority, well above my own interests. I believe the sacrifices we made and continue to make are meant for our children to have the good life that we couldn’t have ourselves due to bad governance and gross mismanagement of economic affairs by the corrupt political class.

I took a flight from Johannesburg to Harare and completed the rest of my journey by road. It was a brief flight given the short distance between the two countries (my studies in the Oceania keep seeing me flying for over 10 hours when travelling to my Johannesburg base). In Harare, I particularly liked the dualisation project that has made significant improvements to Airport Road. I am reliably informed that the Harare-Mutare and Harare-Bulawayo roads are equally impressive. I keep looking forward to such a time when I will be able to see for myself the good that is shown in these roads.

The Harare-Beitbridge road remains underdeveloped despite the revenue it generates. Road users pay for their vehicle licences and money is collected from them at tollgates. It’s a pity that the generated funds aren’t used to improve our roads and safety. It would also be a lot better if our welfare, health, and education sectors benefited from these funds instead of meeting the needs of the first family and those close to them.

This is also our country and we need to share burdens and opportunities. Zimbabwe’s survival hinges on the sacrifices made by many people at home and abroad and not necessarily the political class that happens to be the main beneficiary of our suffering and human-made poverty.

I had hoped that the trip from the airport to the central business district (CBD) would be enjoyable till the end.
I only realised that the enjoyment was ephemeral and spasmodic and as short-lived as the dew that easily disappears. The entire CBD, it appears, is filled with potholes. For God’s sake, this is a country that has been independent for close to 37 years and has never seen change of government in almost four decades.

If this is the level of underdevelopment in the country, then there is clearly need for a new administration, an administration that promises a radical departure from the corruption and economic stagnation that we are now known for. The challenges we are facing cannot be solved by those who created them, let alone the magicians calling themselves prophets in our country. I wish I could write in depth about my position on the proliferation of prophets and churches that promise a quick fix to our problems. Crimes (eg, rape and fraud) are being committed by these churches and their leaders. We need to protect our people against such criminals.

Zimbabweans are a desperate lot and are looking for anything that can mitigate their challenges. Unfortunately, the government hasn’t been responsive to their needs. Our leaders only exist in name because the truth of the matter is they have abdicated their responsibilities. Government corruption and incompetence have aggravated an already desperate situation. Without doubt, it is survival of the fittest. Those without the means to survive are susceptible even to the antics of the false prophets masquerading as “men of God”.

Education is still greatly valued in Zimbabwe. I had to witness my brother and his wife preparing their first-born son for secondary education. He did well, scoring six units in the Grade 7 examinations. He and two other pupils topped the school. This is a huge feat for a country whose social and economic fabric has been destroyed. To reward the child and possibly to motivate him, my brother and his wife (both primary school teachers) have taken him to a Catholic boarding school for him to receive the good education that we want for our children. This is a huge sacrifice for both of them and I pray that they and many parents like them, who are making such sacrifices will be joyfully reaping when the Zimbabwean political and economic storm finally clears.

While in Zimbabwe, I watched the news. As a writer, I always look for news, on radio, on television, in newspapers or on the internet. My internet connection was, however, poor compared to what I am used to. I am used to having WiFi in the house. I spent a couple of dollars on airtime, whose data would not last. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that the country’s leading mobile phone service provider has been caught in the current storm involving data tariffs. Access to the internet is a basic right and it is something that other countries provide for free. We are living in the digital age and our children need to be exposed to the good and beneficial side of the internet.

Of course, the entire week had repeated news. Topical during my visit was how command agriculture was bearing fruit, with many farmers expecting a mega harvest. It rained for the greater part of my time there. This also came as a huge relief especially in light of the El Nino-induced drought that we faced in the 2015/16 agricultural season. It was reported that Bindura alone had 7 500 farmers under command agriculture. They all expected to exceed the 5t/ha required of them.

For the record, this agricultural initiative is nationwide and if it succeeds Zimbabwe will have enough maize for consumption and for the export market should there be need. As a patriotic citizen, I hope for this initiative to work because it is good for our country. However, Zimbabwe reportedly had only 4 000 white farmers before the violent land seizures. And, we would survive from their hard work even during droughts. A lot is, therefore, expected from the unknown number of the current crop of farmers.

The major disappointment for me was the advert by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) television channel that they are the pioneers of local content. The only question that I asked each time that the advert was displayed and the question that I still ask now is: Does ZBC have competitors? It is a futile exercise to claim to be inventors or creators of anything especially when one has full knowledge that there is no competitor. State institutions, just like the government, have killed talent. They don’t want competition and yet this is the only way we can move forward.

The past year has been a lot difficult for Zimbabweans. This year should be a better year for everyone. It is my sincere hope that all will be well with us and our children because for me, home is where the heart is.

May God bless Zimbabwe! The struggle continues unabated!

Mutsa Murenje is a social activist

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