Guest Column: Tendai Ruben Mbofana
Of late, I have been quite irritated by my smartphone’s maddeningly frequent demands for me to upgrade its system at times, as little as only two days after my last upgrade. What I, however, found very interesting is every new upgrade’s claim to “fix bugs” — so-called “debugging” — that is, to identify, correct, and remove defects, in the previous system.
Typical of my mindset, I always soon found myself comparing this to how we, in Zimbabwe, still try to “debug” our government — particularly, through criticism of its destructive and anti-people policies, or proffering advice on how it could improve its operations and the country’s welfare.
Nonetheless, what has become so clear to me is that, after 40 long years of continual bungling and messing up — through persistent unfettered and systemic corruption, institutionalised incompetence, and inherent brutality — it is now foolhardy for anyone to expect any genuine, sustainable, and significant reform from this government’s modus operandi, such that any manner of “debugging” is a lost cause. As with any computer system that has become too corrupted to be fixed — the only reasonable and progressive action to take would be its complete replacement.
Period. Similarly, this Zimbabwe government is way beyond any fixing, and the only way forward is its complete replacement.
The only question that should be on the people of Zimbabwe’s minds should no longer be how to fix this system of governance, but rather, how to completely replace it with a modern, more effective, trustworthy, and truly democratic one.
This, of course, requires national debate, and consensus but, as a law-abiding, patriotic, and loyal citizen of this great country, I firmly and unequivocally stand by the tenets of constitutionalism, and democracy — as anything else is certainly a recipe for disaster.
That is why — as much as I fully understand and empathise with everyone who has had to endure 40 years of untold suffering, anguish, and torment at the hands of this cold-hearted, kleptomaniac, and dysfunctional regime — my viewpoint has always been for us to desist from narrowing our struggle to only an individual.
That is the grave mistake that landed us in these troubles we find ourselves in today under this so-called “new dispensation” — as we myopically reduced our plight to only one man, then President Robert Gabriel Mugabe — instead of focusing on the replacement of the entire system. We found ourselves engrossed in such simplistic slogans as, “Mugabe must go!”, yet our problems transcended any one individual, but captured the entire system of governance — such that when the coup d’etat of November 2017 occurred we were ready pawns in this purely internal ruling Zanu PF party factional fight, thereby supporting and celebrating the debugging of one problem, and its replacement with another similar problem. Yet, what was clearly required was the complete replacement of the entire corrupted system.
Today, we find ourselves crying out, “Nothing has changed”! Of course, nothing has changed. Why would anything have changed, when we blindly endorsed the continuation of the same old outdated, antiquated, contaminated, and dysfunctional system?
In fact, that is why we are even further saying, “The situation has actually become worse than before”. Yes, it has — and it will only get worse! These days, we are inundated with mostly unverified online stories about another possible coup d’etat in the country — this time around with the rumoured planned removal of incumbent President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa (himself a product of the coup against Mugabe), by his Vice-President Constantino Guvheya Chiwenga (the mastermind and ring leader of that same coup).
I cannot help wondering why this renewed excitement in the possibility of the recurrence of such a catastrophe — which, quite obviously previously never worked to the ordinary people’s benefit?
If, indeed, another coup were to take place today, are we to find ourselves back onto the streets again singing, dancing, and waving the Zimbabwean flag? Are we to allow ourselves again, to be gripped by a false and misguided sense of renewed optimism for a better, more prosperous, and democratic future?
Then, a few months down the line, reality sets in. Again, we repeat the same expressions of regret, “Nothing has changed”, or, “The situation was actually better under ED”, or, “At least under ED we had such and such”! Did we not learn anything? Do we ever learn? Let it be abundantly clear to all Zimbabweans that the hope for a brighter and better future for this country does not lie in piecemeal changes in the country’s ruling establishment. It does not lie in debugging one or two things within the current system. The situation has long since deteriorated beyond such mediocre measures. After 40 whole years of corruption, incompetence, and brutality, the system is beyond repair or fixing.
The government can replace a political appointee like Patrick Chinamasa, with a technocrat and internationally acclaimed financial wizard in the mould of Mthuli Ncube, but this will never improve the well-being of the ordinary Zimbabwean. We can be relentlessly bombarded with endless mantras, such as “Zimbabwe is open for business”, or “Vision 2030”, or “Upper middle income economy by 2030”, but as long as this outdated system is still in place, nothing will ever change. The people of Zimbabwe may converge around the table with the government, discussing and sharing all manner of economic blueprints, strategies, and plans — yet, these would be nothing better than patches on a torn trousers, which would never make it new, as acquiring a fresh pair would be the only reasonable way forward.
This also includes the now popularised issue of “talks” between the two main political parties — Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change — or, the current house-play between the government and some pseudo-opposition parties (who embarrassingly and dismally failed to garner any significant votes in the 2018 harmonised elections.
As the saying goes, “One cannot put new wine in old wine skins”, the days of trying to fix this obsolete system are long over — as only a bona fide imbecile can ever dream of anything positive coming out of such. Zimbabweans do not have the luxury — in time, energy, and resources — for misguided, ill-conceived, and misconstrued hallucinations that this government is redeemable — while, the country burns, and millions of people wallow in unending and increasingly toxic abject poverty.
Let us no longer waste our time figuring out how to push, or assist this government to function better — but, rather, we now need to do what we should have done a long time ago.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org.