BY TENDAI REUBEN MBOFANA
DEAR President Emmerson Mnangagwa,
Zimbabweans are proudly patriotic people — who, never hesitate to show unquestionable devotion and love for their country — but, that dedication should never be equated to foolishness, idiocy, or blind support, which can be abused and stretched beyond limit, as they are taken advantage of by those who seek to fulfil their own malicious and selfish ends, at the expense of this devoted nation.
Your Excellency, patriotism does not mean lamely supporting something, just because it is a product of one’s country, nor simply on the basis of it being a product of one’s government — irrespective of whether, whatever has been produced, runs contrary to national interest, and what is genuinely good for the citizenry.
In fact, true patriotism entails standing up, and speaking out, against anything that demeans the lives and livelihoods of the ordinary people of a country.
That takes us to the issue of the “Buy Zimbabwe” campaign — whose noble cause is the encouragement of Zimbabweans to give first preference to locally-made products, as opposed to imported goods and services, in order to promote local companies, thereby not only creating employment for our own people, but also saving the nation billions of dollars in foreign currency through reduced imports (and even gaining should our own goods and services find export markets).
Which patriotic person would not love and fully support this?
Your Excellency, support is only rendered where support is earned.
It is akin to respect — which is earned, and not entitled to or demanded.
As a people who are already faced with immeasurable economic hardships — or, even those who are financially well-off, but clever enough to make intelligent monetary decisions — no one would be so foolish as to flush their hard-earned money down the toilet, solely in the pursuit of patriotism and promoting local companies, yet purchasing sub-standard goods, and notoriously shambolic services.
Your Excellency, I was shocked to hear from my mother that the stove she bought, only two years ago, at a well-known and reputable electrical and electronic gadget retailer, had broken down — as a matter of fact, this breakdown started less than a year after the stove’s purchase, as that was when the first plate ceased working.
And, the stove had a very noticeable sign at the front, proudly and loudly telling everyone who could read, that it had been made in Zimbabwe.
What a shame!
Your Excellency, is this the image of our country that we want to portray, not only in the citizenry’s minds, but also regionally, continentally, and globally?
My mother’s case, is just but one example among a plethora of disgruntled Zimbabweans, who have made the terrible mistake of “Buying Zimbabwe” — including mobile phone service provision, household appliances and furnishings, building material, building equipment, food and beverages, dismal customer service, the list goes on and on.
As a matter of fact, at this rate, I would like to believe that we have far surpassed the “Zhing Zhong” notoriety of Chinese sub-standard, and usually counterfeit products that we once had the misfortune of being dumped on.
Honestly, is there any wonder that, most Zimbabweans would rather search high and low for the scarce, and highly expensive, foreign currency, in their quest for foreign-made goods and services, while ignoring those locally-made rotting on shelves in stores located only a stone’s throw away?
Your Excellency, does it not make perfect sense, when we witness buses travelling from neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Mozambique laden with stoves, sofas, beds, wardrobes, and so many other locally-available products, in their luggage racks?
Using the excuse of the sorry state of Zimbabwe’s economy, does not hold water, either as all I need to do is simply read the product information engraved on most appliances and implements in my house, and readily find out that, those that have survived the longest were actually made in Rhodesia, in the 1970s, at the height of United Nations (UN) approved economic sanctions imposed on the country, and a raging liberation war ravaging most parts.
Yet, local companies of that period produced what I would term, world-class goods and services, that would have easily given the famed Germans, a run for their money, and turned them green with envy.
In fact, the stove that my mother owned — before finally purchasing the ill-fated “proudly Zimbabwean” disaster of a stove two years ago, as she felt a new one was long overdue — had served her faithfully and diligently since 1974. Just a year after I was born — and, it had been “proudly sanctions-crippled Rhodesian!”
Actually, a new wire here, and a screw there, could have that 1974 stove back in operation for another decade or two. No wonder in those days, they had heirlooms — which, were passed down from generation to generation. Quite frankly, what heirlooms can we possibly have these days, when nothing survives for more than two years?
Your Excellency, there is absolutely no excuse for Zimbabwean companies not to up their game, and be a force to reckon with, regionally, continentally, and even globally — more so, after the African Continental Free Trade Area came into effect on January 1, 2021 — as that would be the height of unpatriotism, considering that their executives’ Hollywood-style lavish lifestyles are in stark contrast to the rubbish they are churning out to their customers, who are enriching them with their hard-earned money, which is not easy to come by.
As long as the image of “Proudly Zimbabwean” carries with it a tag of shame and unacceptable sloppiness and sub-standard workmanship, then there is definitely nothing to be proud of, and we will forever be preferring the more expensive foreign brands — thereby, using up the little foreign currency the country has to offer.
What choice do we have?