MANY Zimbabweans and the world were bewildered, amazed and left in awe at the enormity of the infamous birthday bash of President Robert Mugabe held in Chinhoyi last weekend.
The bash, which reportedly cost US$250 000 displays in clear detail the dichotomy between the Zimbabwean leadership and the suffering masses.
A simple enumeration of the problems facing the masses shows why the bash was something done at the wrong time, moreso by a leadership that claims to have the interests of the people at heart.
Over 83 000 Zimbabweans have been affected by cholera.
This number is a reflection of those that international NGOs and UN agencies have managed to record.
Thousands more, I believe, are still left out of this figure and thousands more have died, their deaths unrecorded, their names unknown. Millions are without food, many suffering from hunger-induced illnesses.
Many schools remain closed, hospitals are not working, many suburbs are without water and electricity, roads are in a state of disrepair. Zimbabweans are psychologically tortured and have lost hope.
A bash of that magnitude is in sharp contrast to the desperate situation in Zimbabwe. The speed with which the US$250 000 was mobilised is a further testimony of how a few who have benefited from the godfather would want to maintain the status quo.
This bash, we were told by the President’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, was to honour the sacrifices the president has made for this country. Many would have wondered what sacrifices the president bore on his own while others watched.
The liberation struggle was a collective effort that cost lives of the poor and vulnerable more than any other group.
The purpose, ethos and spirit that drove the liberation struggle has been betrayed by the same grouping. The land reform has been chaotic and benefited a few, as a result up to now Zimbabwe is a basket case, notwithstanding the grandstanding and rhetoric on the land redistribution programme.
Hiding behind a finger on sanctions is no longer a plausible argument as those sanctions are about them (the mob) being stopped from their international jamboree of shopping sprees.
Even if, for argument’s sake, we are to agree that we are under sanctions, countries such as Cuba and Iran have been under serious and real economic sanctions for far longer than us but their people have not suffered as we have.
Cuba has managed to develop one of the best health and education systems in under more than four decades of sanctions. Iran has even sent a spacecraft into space, under sanctions, and is increasingly becoming a player on the world political stage notwithstanding whether this is for good or bad reasons.
We ask now, what has Zanu PF done under sanctions? The problem is not sanctions, it is a dearth of leadership, and nothing best illustrates this than a leadership that surrounds itself with champagne, cognac, lobster, caviar and duck at a time when the majority are eating leaves, wild roots and wild fruits.Â
The Zanu PF leadership and the so called friends of President Mugabe who paid for this, including its young leadership who should know better – the likes of Zhuwao – have lost their moral compass.
They see Zimbabwe as far as their shadows can go. They see Zimbabwe from the lenses of what they can get from it and not what they can put in it.
The hunger and deprivation in Zimbabwe, the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe should have driven these people to realise that a birthday bash of such a magnitude by a leadership that says it cares for the people is a non-starter, and a shame.Â
Zimbabweans and the world are in no doubt of the leadership vacuum that this country faces.Â The US$250 000 could, and should have gone some way in alleviating the suffering of the cholera victims.
The US$250 000 could have been an addition to the US$2 billion we are asking other nationals to pay for our own mistakes. This money could have paid for the US$38 000 that Prime Minister Tsvangirai says Harare Hospital needs for its intensive care unit to reopen.
Pictures of the tattered linen at Harare Hospital, broken water and sewage pipes, should awaken the Zanu PF leadership to its years of destructive policies, even as they fly to Millpark Hospital in Johannesburg when they have flu.
This situation should be a moral awakening of some sorts. No sustainable or reasonable argument can be made for the birthday bash in such an environment of want, deprivation and despair. This kind of insensitivity, famous with absolute monarchs in bygone Europe, is shameless, more so in the 21st century and in a country as poor as ours.
One wonders what it will take for the Zanu PF leadership to realise its mistakes. This lack of sensitivity is demonstrated by denials and failure by President Mugabe to distinguish between proper criminal and legal processes and ones based on abductions, harassment and torture.Â
Zanu PF is better advised to stop the orgy of personal glorification which has been permitted to sweep the country. One wonders how then the unity government, expected to be a turning point in the fortunes of Zimbabwe, can survive with such different leadership philosophies and no leadership at all.
A certain newspaper once described its leader as “the great leader”, “father of the people”, “the great helmsman”, “the genius of our epoch”, and “titan of our revolution”. That all sounds too familiar in Zimbabwe today.
The newspaper was the Soviet Union’s Pravda in 1934. The leader was Josef Stalin. He left his country in ruins, millions dead, many thousands in exile and today he is reviled as one of the worst dictators of all time.
His country is still nursing the wounds of his reign. The factory- based towns he built in a quest to rapidly industrialise and modernise the Soviet Union are the worst hit by the current global economic crisis – some recording close to 100% unemployment in the past few months.
His reign demonstrates how a whole country can be caught up and destroyed by a hollow personality cult.
So much for history informing and guiding the future. Zimbabweans can take comfort in the fact that history also records without fail the rise and fall of men like Stalin and indeed many others like him in the past, in our time and in the future. If we are wrong we await the impeccable judgement of posterity.
Rashweat Mukundu is a programme specialist for Media Freedom Monitoring, Misa regional secretariat, Windhoek.
BY RASHWEAT MUKUNDU