Zim @ 35: Not Looking Good

By Sij Ncube

Bulawayo, April 16, 2015 – #1980SoFarSoGood is the harsh tag Zimbabwe’s Minister of Information Jonathan Moyo and his lap-dog apologists in the state media have created ostensibly to give an impression all has been well under President Robert Mugabe’s controversial 35-year octopus-grip on power.

Zimbabwe turns 35 on Saturday, but for the past sixteen days, the state media has been bombarding readers and listeners with puff pieces extoling Mugabe and Zanu(PF) so-called achievements since the country gained independence from colonial Britain in 1980.

But there is a general consensus among Zimbabweans canvassed by Radio VOP on the eve of the independence celebrations there is nothing to cheer about. They point at the internal crisis in Zanu(PF) which has halted development, the imploding economy, collapsing infrastructure and the general suffering of Zimbabweans, the majority of which are said to be surviving on less than a dollar a day.

All sectors of the country’s economy are in a dire state yet the state wants citizens to believe it is all good. In the state media, Mugabe’s controversial land reforms, which left several white farmers dead and more than 300 000 farm workers displaced, are parroted as one of his most successful achievements since 1980.

But the facts on the ground point to a sorry state. Commercial production in agriculture has declined to alarming levels after he kicked out more than 4 000 commercial farms.

Zimbabwe, which at independence was a bread basket of Southern Africa, is now regarded as a basket case as it is failing to feed its own people with more than a million people estimated to be in urgent need of food hand-outs.

Presently the country is in the marketing seeking to import about 1, 3 million tonnes of grain due to a huge grain deficit attributed to the collapse of the commercial farming sector and flight of requisite skills to neighbouring countries such as Zambian and Mozambique.

But as usual the mandarins in government and the state media already have an answer for the grain deficit – successive droughts.

Although it is agreed Mugabe created more than 300 000 new farmers after parcelling out farms and plots, albeit to the Zane PF faithful, among them his aides, there have been a handful of success stories in tobacco farming.

Instead of tilling the land to feed the nation, the few successful farmers have opted for cash-crops particularly the golden leaf while the rest are “cell-phone” farmers who do subsistence farming while new most black wildlife safari farmers are content with shooting for the pot.  

Mugabe, the Machiavellian politician, has constantly rebuffed opposition incessant calls for a land audit intended to correct the crisis in the commercial sector, instead the Zanu PF leader has continued to allow his side-kicks to boot out successful commercial farmers such as David Connolly and Peter Cunningham in Matabeleland South.

Due to the crisis in the commercial farming sector, Zimbabwe would be taking delivery of grain from Zambia to starve off starvation, particularly in southern Zimbabwe where farmers failed to harvest. 

The bad state of affairs does not end with commercial agriculture; it cascades down to other sectors of the economy. For instance in the education sector, the Zanu PF administration has proposed introducing examination fees for Grade Sevens, which is a first for the country since independence and is a flagrant violation of the country’s constitution which states that every child, be it a boy or girl, has a right to basic education.

The introduction of examination fees come in the backcloth of concerns about the drop of standards in public schools countrywide.

It is dire in industry and commerce where Mugabe’s policy inconsistencies have resulted in the collapse of companies. Bulawayo industries have virtual come to a stand-still with most factories now turned into churches.

More and more companies nationwide are applying for liquidations while the few that have remained operating have instituted retrenchment schemes in desperate attempts to avert imminent collapse, giving ammunition to Mugabe’s critics that his 35-year reign, particularly in the last decade and half, has been a monumental failure.

Because of Mugabe’s indigenisation policy which requires that foreigners surrender 51 percent of their shareholding to Zimbabwean blacks, investors have opted to invest in Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Zambia yet Zimbabwe boasts of the highest literacy rate in Africa.  Unemployment is estimated at over 80 percent.

“We have been turned into a nation of vendors,” opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, famously remarked in his recent state of the nation address.

More than a million Zimbabweans are estimated to be eking out a living in the diaspora, mostly in South Africa and the United Kingdom, after Mugabe’s bad policies forced them to take the gap between 2000 and now.

Critics say it is reminiscent of the eve of independence in 1980 when some whites took the gap in fear of black rule.

“In 1980 we got rid of a brutal minority dictatorship of dominantly white people and replaced it with a similar dictatorship of black people,” said Maxwell Saungweme, a Zimbabwean development analyst based in Afghanistan.

Critics view the Zanu PF mantra #1980SoFarSoGood as a desperate political gimmick to mask Mugabe’s failures in a country where every corner in towns and cities is occupied by vendors.

Analysts are adamant the So-Far-So-Good slogan is intended at hoodwinking the long-suffering citizens into forget about their problems and instead have a feel good effect on Independence Day.

“It is (So-Far-So-Good strategy) a ruse to divert attention from the prevailing Zimbabwe crisis,” said Rashweat Mukundu, a Harare-based political analyst.

Blessing Vava, a Zimbabwean political analyst furthering his studies at South Africa’s Wits University, said it was an insult to the people of Zimbabwe to want to sweep under the carpet problems that have bedevilled the country since 1980.

“Certainly it cannot be good with the state of affairs in Zimbabwe right now. The economy is going down, there are no jobs, corruption is rampant and the situation is getting even worse as every day comes. The 35 years of independence have been a joke and it has lost its meaning,” said Vava

 Political analyst Charles Mangongera did not mince his words, pointing out that for the majority of the citizenry there is very little to celebrate as they are wallowing in poverty.

“Only a tiny minority which is using its control of the state for primitive accumulation of wealth can claim that it is ‘so-far-so-good’. It seems to me that the dream of a prosperous Zimbabwe in which all citizens enjoy the fruits of independence has remained a mirage for the majority,” said Mangongera, adding that the so-far-so-good mantra was a desperate attempt by those benefitting from Mugabe’s patronage to create the impression that “all is well when we know the reality is that this country is in a deep crisis. Jonathan Moyo is an expert in make-believe and fantasy creation and he is one of the brains behind the hash-tag ‘so-far-so-good’.”

Thabani Moyo, a Harare based media expert who works for the Media Institute of Southern Africa, charged that Moyo’s propagandist approach to national engagement is “self-defeating and serve nobody a purpose in the end.”

“We need to be frank that the key challenge we have is an entitled individual (Mugabe) with a misplaced understanding that the war was discharged by all Zimbabweans not Zanu PF alone.”

It is so far so not good when motorists have to navigate through potholes in the capital Harare and people still sleep outside government offices to acquire public documents such as passports, death certificate and liquor licence