BY Tendai Ruben Mbofana
THAT exactly is this Zimbabwe story we are daily implored to tell by the ruling elitist clique?
Does “telling the Zimbabwe story” also mean “telling lies about our country”?
What did President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa mean when he expressly instructed us, as artists — since writers as myself also fall into that category with musicians, painters, sculptors, and others, who express themselves through various media — to “tell the Zimbabwe story”, during a private preview of artwork by Cyrene High School students produced in the 1940s, at the National Art Gallery in Harare, two days ago?
He further warned artists to be extremely wary of Western entities, who he claimed had a worrying tendency of throwing short-term gains towards us, in order to push for the subversion of our country.
If truth be told, I found this statement most troubling — not on account of this supposed undue interference by foreign forces in our country’s internal affairs — but rather, the insinuation that Zimbabweans were incapable of independent thought and analysis, and could not be expected to accurately discern and articulate the true state of affairs in Zimbabwe.
Surely, why would I need to be awarded “short-term gains” to freely express the unimaginable and unbearable pain and suffering we are enduring in our beloved country — largely, due to our own leaders’ insatiable greed for self-aggrandisement, on the back of relentless and shameless plunder and looting of our national resources?
Are artists such unmitigated daft fools who cannot possibly be expected to tell this undeniable Zimbabwe story, without first being given United States dollars by some faceless and unidentifiable Western entities?
Surely, had I been paid US dollars or had some “short-term gains” thrown my way for articles that I penned nearly on a daily basis then I should have been a millionaire by now, living in filthy opulence even comparable with those looters in power!
Yet, here I am — suffering just like every other Zimbabwean — since I do not need to be bribed or bought by some “Western entities” for me to cry out over the poverty and pain we are enduring in Zimbabwe.
In fact, if what we are experiencing on a daily basis is not the “true Zimbabwe story”, then what is?
What narrative are we expected to present?
If I were to write an article alleging that Zimbabwe had the most equal society in the world, with unprecedented equitable distribution of wealth among its 16 million citizens, without any high-level corruption — would that be regarded as “telling the Zimbabwe story”?
If I said that our national airline was the fastest growing on the African continent, with the largest fleet even surpassing the British Airways fleet — having never been dogged by any repugnant rot, with the culpability of senior government officials — would that be acceptable as “telling the true Zimbabwe story”?
What about if I were to pen something to the effect that gold, diamonds and other precious minerals were not being smuggled out of the country by those aligned to power, costing the country over US$2 billion a year — would that receive a thumbs up from the president as the “real Zimbabwe story”?
If I were to claim that all the billions of dollars earned from above-board sale of our natural resources was, instead, being channelled towards the improvement of our healthcare system — with the procurement of critical equipment and medical essentials, thus guaranteeing wholesome good health for all Zimbabweans — would that be viewed as patriotism par excellence?
What else are we expected to portray in our artwork, that portrays the “true Zimbabwe story”?
That the Zanu PF government had fulfilled all of its 2018 election promises — witnessed by the creation of millions of jobs, improved salaries for workers (far exceeding the poverty datum line), major industries as the fallen iron and steel making giant Ziscosteel having been resuscitated, the local currency and broader economy stabilised, over 1,5 million houses being constructed in a space of five years, as well as free basic education being availed to all — would that pass as “telling the true Zimbabwe story”?
Honestly, as an artist, I do not understand what exactly the country’s ruling elite expects us to tell the world!
However, one thing is undisputed — what they want us to tell are blatant lies, and the truth we tell being considered “subversion of our country”, at the behest of “Western entities for short-term gains”.
Well, as artists who are guided by strong and unquestionable principles and ethics we will never compromise on the truth since that is what defines who we are.
The true Zimbabwe story will forever be — the ruling elitist clique has callously ruined a once prosperous country, running it down through disgraceful plunder and pillaging of our shared
resources, into a basket case, which is an embarrassment to the entire world.