Of course that’s hogwash and I have got to say so with my chin raised. The EIU alleges that the threat of civil unrest, poor health care services and sketchy and overcrowded public transport were serious drawbacks to life in the Zimbabwean capital.
I will begin with a look at the so-called overcrowded public transport. The EIU apparently has never been to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital; Dakar in Senegal or Abuja, Nigeria. I spent a week in each of the three cities.
Have the investigators of the EIU ever been stuck in a traffic jam for three hours on end as I was in Nairobi, Dakar or Abuja? What public transport is there in any of these three cities to shout about? In order to catch a 9am flight at Nairobi airport I had to leave my hotel in the city centre at 5.30 and only just made it.
In Dakar and Abuja the traffic lights (we call them robots here) almost always never work. Has the EIU seen the holy men of Dakar doing their rituals on the streets and pouring their tired water onto the pavements five times a day facing Mecca, or wherever? Have they seen the Nigerians of Abuja doing their thing on the streets?
Obviously the sleuths of the EIU have never been to New Delhi or Mumbai in India. Have they seen the beggars of New Delhi with their children whose fingers have been chopped off so foreigners can feel more pity for them and donate more generously?
I was there and was accosted by street kids at every corner. Mumbai was the only place in the world where I saw a three-year-old street kid smoking a cigarette and enjoying it. In Delhi and Mumbai it’s almost a tradition that every citizen should spit on the road every minute.
I was on my way back to Harare from India at Mumbai International Airport one day when I experienced the most depressing thing in my life: the dirt, the smell and the illiteracy. Behind me on checking in was a South African of Indian extraction.
On seeing my passport he eagerly hugged me as if he had found a long-lost brother. He was a fifth generation South African and had gone to Calcutta to “discover” his roots. He told me a depressing tale and said, with tears in his eyes, that he was only too happy to find a “homeboy” to talk to.
Homeboy? I told him I’m only a Zimbo and he said that was good enough. He had never seen the kind of squalor he saw in the “Black hole of Calcutta”, he was just happy to be standing next to someone from “home”.
Everyone who has come to Zimbabwe as a visitor has gone out waxing lyrical about Harare’s hospitality. Harare is still the only city in the world where anyone, anyone at all, can walk across the city from the Rainbow Towers (formerly Sheraton Harare) to the Holiday Inn 5km away in the middle of the night and never get mugged! Do that in Braamfontein, Johannesburg and live to tell the tale.
We experience power cuts and water cuts on a daily basis. A friend of mine told me that when he went to Nigeria with his family and they were conversing in Shona, a Nigerian, recognising their language, came to them and said he had been in Harare for a week and could speak Shona. Amazed, they asked him to say one sentence in Shona and he said, “Magetsi aenda” (“Electrical energy has been switched off”).
After the uproarious laughter the Zimbos told him that Zimbabweans were hard working people; they were not always cooking and watching TV. They were always out there making things happen.
They knew when “magetsi” (power) would be back and would do their cooking at such times and store their food only to warm it up after the next outage.
They knew when “Zinwa” (running water) would be back, so they stored their water in plastic bins. It’s only lazy people – couch potatoes – who spend their weekends watching Western cultural imperialism in the form of reality television programmes such as Big Brother; Zimbos are, on weekends, only too happy to go fishing or, for men, to play or watch boozers’ football!
We are an outdoor people, so even when “magetsi” are there we would rather go KwaMereki to roast steak on open fires rather than fry it at home on electric cookers!
Although our president would rather go to Singapore for a simple cataract operation and one of our vice presidents to Cape Town, South Africa for a routine medical check-up, our healthcare system is still the best in Africa.
We don’t even know what to do with the 5000 nurses we have trained in the past decade! Indomethacin (a pain killer) costs a dollar for a prescription, so does any antibiotic. You can walk into any pharmacist’s shop and get any drug you want.
You can get any treatment you want (yes this is true) from the general hospital next to you. Our response to the HIV and Aids scourge is the best in the world; we are the only country where the incidence of HIV infection is declining.
As for the threat of civil strife, the EIU must be joking! Every Zimbo is a Gandhi; we believe in passive resistance. It’s already paying off; even the most violent people in Zanu PF now know that violence does not give them votes.
Ask Robert Mugabe what happened to him in March 2008. Ask him what happened when people were butchered in the fake run-off in June of the same year; the butchery delegitimised him as a national leader.
Outsiders, such as the EIU and those Zimbos who chose the Diaspora, should admire our tenacity in the face of adversity rather than spew their cynicism on us.
There are far more fundamental issues that make Harare the best city in the world to live in – the climate, the ubiquitous conviviality and the cultural gravitas — than the trivial ones such as power cuts which the ordinary man on the street has learnt to cope with. Just as Londoners have their underground, we’ve our Kombis — they kill us now and again — but they are ours.
BY NEVANJI MADANHIRE