BY Tendai Ruben Mbofana
DEAR President Emmerson Mnangagwa
I love comparing life in Rhodesia vis-a-vis independent Zimbabwe as those are the only two epochs we have known ever since the establishment of the modern-day State between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers after its occupation by the British in 1890.
Furthermore, the fact that our post-independence government came into power in 1980, on the back of a liberation struggle, premised on promises of a better life for the previously marginalised and oppressed majority — puts the Zimbabwe administration under close scrutiny and comparison with those it pushed out of power.
Your Excellency, this is only natural and the same will befall any political party that comes into office, having won elections under the pretext of being more effective, efficient and trustworthy than the current incompetent, inconsistent and corrupt Zanu PF regime.
If God preserves my life to see that day, I will be one of those at the forefront in keeping a very close eye on the new administration and holding it accountable for its promises.
Therefore, my mind automatically switches to “comparison mode” whenever the post-independence establishment makes any decisions or takes any action — since this should measure up to what they assured the majority of the country’s citizens, to the point of engaging in a bloody liberation war, resulting in the loss of thousands of innocent lives.
Your Excellency, it only makes sense that those lives are seen not to have perished for nothing by ensuring that the Zanu PF regime keeps, or even surpasses, its pledges for a better country for all its citizens, more so, free from foreign subjugation.
Herein lies the problem, Your Excellency.
Zimbabwe never truly became independent from foreign domination on April 18, 1980 — it merely switched from one colonial master to another.
In fact, before 1980, the Rhodesian regime had been at odds with the colonial power, Britain, after the November 11, 1965 attempt by the latter’s prime minister, Ian Douglas Smith (Rhodesia Front), to free the country from British rule, through UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence).
This was such an unwelcome move to the British, which enraged and outraged them to the extent of leading in the imposition of economic sanctions under the UN (United Nations) against Rhodesia — which were in place for 15 years, until a negotiated settlement was reached between the erstwhile master, Rhodesia, and liberation movements at Lancaster House (UK), resulting in the 1980 independence.
What is more interesting about this entire scenario is that, in spite of the Rhodesia regime facing a civil war (against freedom fighters who were clearly receiving military, intelligence, and material support from foreign countries, including global powers such as China and Russia) — Smith never reneged on his UDI path, even for the sake of thawing relations with Britain in order to secure desperately required assistance.
He remained as stubborn as a mule — sticking to his belief of the so-called “independence”, from a domineering power, that was his and, other settlers’ kith and kin — even if that meant using out-dated second world war military hardware against freedom fighters.
Your Excellency, why I decided to bring up this issue is simple.
Here we had a settler regime that craved for its freedom from the domination by its own kith and kin, so much that it was prepared to face international sanctions and isolation — even when confronted by a foe, being militarily and materially assisted by some of the world’s greatest powers.
Although, this was an administration that oppressed and marginalised the majority of the country’s indigenous people — I cannot help admiring such determination for independence from external influence, although an unbreakable bond obviously still existed.
This is in stark contrast to what is prevailing in post-independence Zimbabwe where we have a ruling elite that has not only willingly invited and permitted the country be under the domination of China, but has gone a step further in appointing themselves this emerging superpower’s defenders and spokespersons.
Your Excellency, we now have a regime that actively participates in the recolonisation of our own country — regardless that the Chinese are not even our kith and kin — such that, the highest office on the land will go out of its way to cover up for the brazen trampling of local communities’ rights by Chinese companies, and the ruthless exploitation of workers.
Your Excellency, we are all Zimbabweans, who are actually based right here in Zimbabwe and are fully aware of the hideous activities of these companies such that, we do not need to be told this by any supposed “Western governments which are sponsoring pseudo environmental and mining advocacy groups”.
Who does not know of the plight of the people of Marange and Chiadzwa, who were forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands several years ago (with the aid of Zimbabwe’s military), to make way for predominantly Chinese diamond mining companies and, are still wallowing in abject poverty, having been dumped on unproductive land, without benefiting anything from the vast minerals resources surrounding them?
Your Excellency, it is disingenuous for any leader, who wants to be taken seriously, to defend these abuses by hiding behind statements such as, why did we not make similar objections towards Western companies that exploited the people of this country during the Rhodesia era.
Well, for starters, most of us were still toddlers, who were thinking of nothing except making cars, trucks, and buses out of wire and, most were not even born.
Secondly, oppression should never be justified or defended, but who can deny that these Chinese companies have taken the art of subjugation to new levels?
I was born in 1973, and bred in the mining and steelmaking town of Redcliff and I know well that our parents were treated relatively well, receiving salaries that provided us a comfortable lifestyle and had all the amenities such as world-class sporting facilities (who can forget Torwood Stadium, the home of ZiscoSteel FC), hotel, wonderful schools, a huge hospital that still leaves me in awe today (even though it is now in a sorry state and no longer used for any medical purposes) and shopping centres that provided nearly all we needed, so we did not always need to travel far.
Your Excellency, how is that comparable to what the Chinese are doing?
As a matter of fact, our parents, in the midst of present-day economic hardships and struggles in Zimbabwe, do not hesitate to look back at those years with fondness, or maybe regret at how they supported a liberation struggle based on lies and empty promises.
Only someone who chooses to be intellectually blind can pretend not to see the mayhem, chaos, and misery caused by Chinese companies in Zimbabwe.
Why did the Zanu PF government revoke the operating licence of one of these companies in the party’s stronghold of Uzumba (Mashonaland East provinve), some months ago?
Was it not on account of the outrage expressed by the local community who threatened not to vote for the ruling party in future elections?
What have these same Chinese done in areas such as Binga and Hwange?
Have they not been attempting to evict those communities from their lands and posing a threat to their heritage sites?
Your Excellency, I will not even go into workers who are being paid paltry salaries, while working under an unsafe and unconducive environments.
Let me not get started on the unspeakable environmental degradation caused by these companies, which have no regard whatsoever of the country’s future and how this recklessness and callousness will adversely impact tomorrow’s generations.
Your Excellency, how can the exposure of these evils and nefarious activities ever amount to being sponsored by Western countries?
If destruction and wickedness of similar magnitudes is being perpetrated by companies from other countries, particularly, Western nations, then, these should also be exposed, without fear or favour and those with such information are free to contact me, and I will readily make this known to all.
Surely, are those in power in Zimbabwe seriously telling the world that Zimbabweans are incapable of detecting, standing up and speaking out against oppression and ill-treatment on their own, without any Americans being involved?
Your Excellency, is the ruling elite not giving the US more credit than it deserves and, actually treating it as an omnipotent and omnipresent power, which can control everything and everyone?
The clearly criminal and cruel acts of Chinese companies are there for all who want to see, to see, since, they are not taking place in some foreign land, or hidden behind closed doors, but in communities in Zimbabwe, which we can easily visit, or where relatives and friends reside.
Zimbabweans have to stand up against such wanton violation of our dignity as human beings who deserve respect and honour, especially in our own motherland.
There can never be any foreign entity that should be made to feel above the law — which can ride roughshod over our rights as the people of Zimbabwe with impunity — simply because it is bringing the “much-needed investment”, or assisted us during the 1960s and 70s liberation struggle.
Your Excellency, if that is allowed to prevail, then it can only mean one thing — that “support” to our freedom fighters was not given in good faith, but the Chinese knew that payback time would eventually arrive, and they would be our new colonisers, with the connivance of our leaders.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author and speaker. He writes here in his personal capacity.