Zimbabwe [column]: An Open Letter to Zanu PF Old Guard

March 16, 2006 at 6:10 pm Leave a comment

Financial Gazette (Harare)

COLUMN
March 15, 2006
Posted to the web March 16, 2006

THIS is an open letter to the living old guard of the ruling ZANU PF that saw Zimbabwe through the battles of the Second Chimurenga.

They are, among others of course, President Robert Mugabe, Vice-Presidents Joseph Msika and Joice Mujuru, national chairman John Nkomo, secretary of information, Nathan Shamuyarira and Ministers Emmerson Mnangagwa and Didymus Mutasa. It is very easy to condemn and there is much that is condemnable in what you have done but from time to time we have to be constructive. And this is the spirit in which this open letter is being written to you.

For I believe very strongly that journalism’s ultimate justification is not to solve problems but to look truth in the eye, even if it hurts. “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” John 8:32. Someone once said that free speech is not free if it is only to say nice things to people. I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. The key point to be made in this regard is that if people disagree with you, they are just being different. They are not your enemies.

Having stated these preliminary remarks, let me get straight into the topic under discussion. You are occupying the highest offices in this land and by virtue of that as well as your track record in the liberation struggle; you are the people with the power to do something to stop this madness.

I believe powerful individuals like you could dramatically change the course of the history of this country if only you decide to open your minds and hearts and listen to pleas from men and women of goodwill both at home and abroad. In your hands lies the ability to resolve our crisis and I do think that it is a responsibility you should take lightly.

Zimbabwe has become a ‘House of Hunger’. Life under your rule has become a living nightmare. Good and productive Zimbabweans are leaving the country in their droves. The crisis is acute and the future very bleak indeed. Agriculture is in bad shape despite the good rains this season. Companies are closing shop all the time. Tourism, which was once the milk cow of this economy, has virtually collapsed. Not to mention the current assaults on sectors that have been beacons of hope: mining, education and a few others.

With an inflation of 800 percent and galloping to 1 000 percent, how do you think fellow Zimbabweans are coping? It does appear to me that the reality of life without work as a permanent state has yet to strike home to you. Have you ever thought of the stresses and strains of people going for days and weeks without water, without electricity and with nothing to eat? The country has been transformed into one big circle of despair.

You need no reminding that Zimbabweans are much poorer now than in 1980. In 1997 the Zimdollar was 12 to 1US dollar. Now it is more than 200 000 to 1US on the parallel market and free-falling on a daily basis. Scarcity of fuel is now the norm and the little that is available is prohibitively expensive not only for the ordinary traveling public but for businesses as well. Forex — ah, well, very very little and no way of earning it. Prices of goods and services are skyrocketing everyday to the point where there is now a feeling of resignation and helplessness in the vast majority of Zimbabweans. Needless to say, stress has really become the No. 1 killer in this country.

The question is often asked: How are people surviving? Yes, Zimbabweans are incredibly resilient but this resilience should not be taken for granted. The ability of ordinary people to inflict damage on the political leadership, if they are driven to do so by frustration and hopelessness, should not be underestimated. For that ability is a function not only of power measured in conventional terms, but of desperation and a willingness to resort to extreme actions even at great cost to themselves. We need to avoid that and the ZANU PF old guard has the power to prevent that from happening.

Edmund Burke once warned that “there are critical moments in the fortunes of all states, when they who are unable to contribute to your prosperity may be strong enough to complete your ruin”. It is a warning worth pondering. Indeed, at a certain moment, the people will have had enough and when they reach that point, the groundswell of discontent will take the political leadership head-on.

In times of crisis like we are going through now, there are decided limits to which a leadership can continue keeping the lid on the discontent of people.

We have to get our house in order. Others like President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa may help but South Africa and the rest of the world does not owe us a living. We must take responsibility for our own actions. Yes, the legacy of colonialism has a lot to do with it but that legacy should not be blamed for everything that has gone badly wrong in this country. The time has long passed for our political leaders to drug themselves with recollections of imperialism and neo-colonialism. For heaven’s sake, colonialism ended more than 20 years ago. Let us therefore stop blaming outside forces.

The most important question for the ZANU PF old guard at this time is whether you are willing, able and ready to make change ‘your friend and not your enemy’. I will be the first to admit that change is always difficult. It implies pain, inconvenience and the agony of foregoing the privileges of power and sweetness of office. But there are times when these have to be surrendered in the interest of the majority of people. If we are to survive as a country and survive we must, then we must be prepared for change and we must change.

Problems are there to be solved and not to sit back and watch them worsen. There is no point in haggling within the ruling party and between political parties while the country is burning. When a house is on fire, it would be naïve in the extreme to start trading accusations over who started the blaze. The most critical thing is to put out the fire first. The quarrel can begin — if people are still in a quarrelsome mood — when the house is secured, not before. What is important at this particular juncture in our history is to get Zimbabwe out of the intensive care unit that it finds itself in now.

My message to the old guard of ZANU PF is that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. Admitting mistakes and explaining errors that produced untenable positions and turning the rhetoric of building bridges into a practical policy is the only way forward for our country. It is indeed a time which requires cool heads, a time to build bridges, not burning them. It is never too late. Timing is everything — in politics, in life, in everything that one does. The policy of national reconciliation President Mugabe enunciated in 1980 was remarkable and a huge success in the first 15 years or so of our independence. If you did it then, why can’t you repeat the same feat now?

I think the time has come for the ZANU PF old guard to reflect on these matters. There are good Zimbabweans within ZANU PF and from without who are working tirelessly to return Zimbabwe to normalcy. Gideon Gono, Morgan Tsvangirai, Archbishop Pius Ncube immediately come to mind. There are many others in civil society, the churches, the media, the private sector, in the grassroots organisations as well as in the international community who wish Zimbabwe well and who want Zimbabwe to become the granary of Africa once again. They need to be supported by those who wield power at this time: the ZANU PF old guard.
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It is now a race against time. Unfortunately, we do not live forever. Time therefore is not on the side of the ZANU PF old guard. I am sure President Mugabe, Vice-President Msika, Nathan Shamuyarira and Didymus Mutasa would be the last people to want to leave a terrible legacy to their children and grandchildren.

I strongly and sincerely believe that the possibility of fruitful discussions between political parties and Zimbabweans of goodwill is now greater than for a long time past — otherwise the kind of Zimbabwe that you the old guard and the rest of Zimbabweans fought for will no longer be there.

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Entry filed under: Future, Present.

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