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When shall we say no to mediocrity?

Legendary Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, in one of his brilliant novels gave the story of a tortoise that fell into a pit latrine and for 20 years no rescue came along.

From the Editor’s Desk with Nevanji Madanhire

One day it heard voices passing by and called out: “Get me out of here, I can’t stand it any longer.”

Zimbabweans can be compared to the tortoise which lived passively in the dung getting used to the smell and the maggots and everything that goes with waste matter.

This is a day in the life of a Zimbabwean urbanite:
He wakes up in the morning to find there is no running water. He carries two buckets to a shallow well in the corner of his yard. Using a rope he draws the water and fills his buckets. Electricity has been switched off, so there is no question of him heating the water for his bath. After the bath he uses the dirty water to flush his toilet.

He opens his wardrobe to search for a decent set of clothes to put on. Because of the lack of water, laundry has not been done for weeks. He fishes out the least dirty of his clothes; it doesn’t matter if his shirt matches his trousers. For socks, he sniffs the different pairs and decides which is least offensive. He is ready for work.

He walks to the bus stop and waits. He just waits for he doesn’t know when an omnibus will pass by and pick him. If he is in luck, the wait isn’t too long; a minibus comes by and stops to pick him. It’s packed with other commuters.

The driver and conductor are rude and curse him for not making way for yet another passenger even though the minibus is bursting at the seams.

The minibus hits the first of dozens upon dozens of potholes. The driver curses as he manoeuvres the vehicle through the craters that have formed in the roads. By the time he reaches his destination, he is dishevelled and cold sweat flows down his neck.

At the block of offices there is again no power, so he has to walk up the staircase to the 11th floor. But, he remembers, even if there was power, the lifts haven’t worked for a while now due to lack of maintenance.

There is no running water in the toilets on the 11th floor; they say there isn’t enough pressure to push the water up. There is a sign on the toilet door that reads: No Water. It means today he can’t answer nature’s call!

Power supply is intermittent; so the computer switches on and off, losing data and damaging the network.

At lunch he descends the steps and decides to go to the nearby hotel to use their toilet. But the hotel staff is now wiser; the toilets are locked and given to patrons only. He walks to the recreational park and pretends to be admiring the flowers while in fact he is relieving himself.

He is depressed as he makes the journey up the stairs again.

At knock-off time, the journey down is pitiful. Then the minibus trip home; the rude crew and the potholed roads. At the shops he has to buy paraffin for the stove and candles for the lighting and chlorine tablets to treat the water from the shallow well. He goes to bed and falls into a dreamless sleep.

He is like the tortoise.

But how did this state of affairs come by and why have Zimbabweans accepted it as normal?

The answer to this must surely lie in our decayed politics which ensure that only mediocre politicians are ever voted into office.

It’s strange isn’t it that quite a number of politicians have been in parliament continually since independence in 1980? They have overseen the collapse of the country’s infrastructure and even superintended it, but still they are in parliament and are positioning themselves to stand again in the coming elections.

What new things have they to offer? But imagine an election without Didymus Mutasa or Emmerson Mnangagwa or Kumbirai Kangai to name but a few?

They will likely be voted back in not only because they will use all methods fair and foul to win, but mainly because voters now see their kind of leadership as normal.

It is normal to the ordinary Zimbabwean that politicians get into power to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority; it’s normal that the politicians are always demanding new cars from treasury while not doing a thing to repair the roads on which they wish to drive their new cars.

It’s normal to Zimbabweans that their politicians can become filthy rich in a matter of months while the general populace wades in abject poverty.

It’s normal when a politician comes to them towards elections with food hand-outs demanding votes which they will happily give.

The populist politician wins the day; the one who comes to a gathering with a tanker full of traditional beer and distributes seed and fertiliser he has looted from the Grain Marketing Board but claims to be his own largesse which he is sharing with the masses.

He will shout revolutionary slogans and use coercion and intimidation to win. He is absolutely not interested in the people’s welfare but is only working towards his own enrichment.

There are some who stand up and demonstrate peacefully for the improvement of their lot but they are ridiculed by everybody else when they are arrested and tortured.

Civil society organisations which stand up to the establishment are harassed with impunity while the rest of the population watches.

One can already begin to foretell what will happen in the primary elections right across the political divide: the bootlickers, the most corrupt and the most violent will carry the day.

They don’t have to have any developmental programmes; simply their fists and loud mouths! The leaders at the top prefer these because they are ready to kill for them.

In the end, mediocrity has become all pervasive; it’s in every government office, in every public institution.

The politicians even promote it because it means less scrutiny on how they are conducting their business. Mediocrity promotes corruption and corruption has become the bane of our country. When shall we as a nation stand up and say no to mediocrity and corruption?

When shall we, like the tortoise shout out and say, “Take us out of this, we can’t stand it any longer”?

The coming elections give us a good chance to lift ourselves out of the dung by electing leaders for their programmes and not for their populism or even their political party.

10 Responses to When shall we say no to mediocrity?

  1. Wafaz February 24, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    I almost cried reading this article,the hopelessness it conjures. The acceptance abnormality as normal is too ghastly to contemplate.Why has Zimbabwe sank so low. It is us the older generation who are being so cruel to the youth,what legacy are we leaving for our children. Don`t we have conscience. The painful part is we remember living in better times,but have no shame in what we are doing to the young generation. Some of us have been lucky to see democracy at work,politicians taken to task. Transparency and accountability is the order of the day. The more I am exposed to this ,the more I get depressed about Zimbabwean politicians.We should look and relook ourselves in the mirror,and stop this rot.Individualism,is the worst character tract to have if you decide to save the people. It is not too late to turn the corner.

    • Ndaba Nhuku February 24, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      You painfully state the truth; tearing my heart out for the love of our motherland. Having grown up in a lovely Zimbabwe whose transition from colonial to independence I saw, and comparing with what it is today and the calibre of idiots we call politicians is staggering. There are very few people worth calling politicians, let alone leaders in the mainstream parties vying for power. It is these people enjoying life in hugely and heavily protected houses, hotels and car who have confined a whole generation into a state of poverty, a whole generation living without having had water or electricity continuously available for more than 2 successive days! Its these people we look up to leave some sort of legacy to our future? God forbid, we are a cursed lot! Wafaz, you just left my soul in tatters as I long for a Zimbabwe that will never return.

  2. Exiled February 24, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    To those who dont know Zimbabwe and those who have been away from Zimbabwe for too long might think that this a fictional story yet it tells nothing but the truth. Maybe its due to space limitation, it actually left a number of pitful issues like the state of the company where this guy refered to in the story works. Taken as if its an individulal, the company is faced by the same predicament. Sorry for Mother Zimbabwe but your children, the fruits of your womb, those you carried for nine months, are directly responsible for your death. To say that you have educated the largest number of your children who end up murdering you like this would cause tears to roll down my cheeks. Oh Mother Zimbabwe, how long shall you wait to see your children killing you mercilessly like this? Its so pitful, so pitful, so pitful.

  3. soulman February 24, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    brilliant article! it hurts tht wat u sayn mirrors zim. we stil vote 4 these pple evn tho they have presided over poor standards in delivery of essentials. no water, zesa, poor roads, fallen local currency etc. it pains jst whr this grt country z goin…zanu wins we r doomed

  4. Nkosi Mambo February 25, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    A very accurate observation of the reality in Zimbabwe. And I know the spooks, i.e. CIOs & ZRP, are already looking at how they can silence people like you; and yet they are suffering the same reality you’ve have described. For how long can we live in intimidatory politics that is ignorant of service delivery? In Zimbabwe the thugs who pretend to be politicians know death delivery more than anything else. Thank you Madanhire. I wish you could repeat this article every week till election time.

  5. wepaGongwa February 25, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    vavudze baTunhie tofira yehondo here.things are fast changing and this revolutinary party does not want that.its no longer the sunshine city we saw during the late 80’s.the inherited a jewel of country kwaakuparadzira .whoever is going to take over must be prepared for a tough task to rebuild this once vibrant economy.

  6. Gutter Poet February 25, 2013 at 9:46 am #

    You outdid yourself on this one Nevanji. This is a graphic representation of our lot as Zibwes. The fact that we continue to fall through the same hole the tortoise fell through is heartwrenching and the saddest of this gory saga is that the fall is continuous. What surprises me and hurts me no end is we actually have people who should be doing something about this but they choose instead to continue to abuse us no end. There is one consolation though..nothing lasts forever. You only have to look at the horror that the Russian citizen lived through under Stalin, Zaire under Mobuto, the kings Kim in North Korea,Mynmar under the brave generals, China under Mao, the Phillipines under Marcos, Chile under Pinochet, East Germans under Honecker (?) and other clowns who are now charcoal as we speak..Like Nobel Laureate Solzhenitsyn says about the mad and totally schizophrenic Georgian..”Stalin thinks we should be grateful to him for allowing us to admire him!” The pits we have fallen to in 10 short years must be a record and sadly the thieves among us are having a field day..but then like all other thieves before the current crop we have.. the ugly dust of infamy waits.It is that patient. Well done again, sir!

    • farai March 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm #

      This is master piece, it is really a shot in the arm explained in both aggregated and disaggregated terms. I m refreshed

  7. musoni March 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    Excellent piece. At one point Zimbabwe went through a fuel crisis and that too became normal. Cash crisis, became normal. Someone started printing worthless money, tried to justify it… We are moving from crisis to crisis and people stick their heads in the sand. If you go to other countries that’s when you realise Zimbabweans deserve better,

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