I picked up my phone and dialled an extension and soon, in came a gentleman dressed in a beautiful green suit and immaculately polished black shoes; he had Ray Ban sunglasses on.
I told the young lady she was right then standing next to a war vet. The war vet gave her a firm handshake and all the niceties that go with the warm Zimbabwean greeting. She looked him up and down and fell into a chair. “But he is human!” she said giggling. We all had a good laugh.
In the week that she was in the country she learnt that Zimbabweans, true to what all tourists guide say, are a friendly people, who love hard work and want the best for their children. They spend their weekends with their children going out to the park and to the movies; if they can’t afford that they don’t feel pity for themselves but instead spend their afternoons at home eating traditional foods such as boiled maize, listening to music.
On Sundays most of them file to church and afterwards they either do sport or go to the stadiums to watch football. The menfolk usually spend their Sunday afternoons in bars guzzling their favourite lagers. Women have their own pastimes too, when they are not with family. They visit each other and have afternoon teas; a huge number also indulge in drink.
She also saw that despite the disharmony of the past few years when white farmers were driven off their farms during the land reform programme, Zimbabwe is in fact a non-racial country. Although different racial groups have different interests, they always share a profound Zimbabweanness. Sport is integrated; more blacks are playing cricket and golf than ever before.
Contrary to popular opinion, Zimbabweans are not always discussing politics. One sees a country in which the majority are fed up with political talk. Politics has failed to change their lives for the better; politics has become associated with violence and death. The people just want to mind their own business in peace because they know the next election will not improve their lives. They wouldn’t give a damn if there is no election at all.
When everything has been said and done, what emerges is a story of courage in the face of adversity. Zimbabweans know they have to work in order to beat the economic crisis. One only has to visit the poor suburbs to see how inventive the people are; how patiently they confront head on their difficulties; how ingenious they are in the face of almost impossible odds. A lot fail and become beggars on the street; others degenerate into criminality but that happens in any part of the world.
But the visitor will, at the end of it all, come up with the inevitable conclusion that Zimbabweans are a people who have been failed by their leaders!
How can anyone who lives in a decent urban settlement in a modern country understand that people living in Zimbabwean cities — including the capital Harare —can go for days, even weeks with no running water in their homes? How can any visitor understand that Zimbabweans, every day, go for long hours without electricity? How can anyone understand that urban dwellers have to track to neighbouring farming areas to hew wood so they can cook food for their families?
What will shock the visitor are the bills when they come! Although there has been no water for weeks and no electricity for long hours, residents are asked to pay hundreds of dollars for non-existent services. If they don’t their power is disconnected and taps laughably locked up.
Where are our leaders when all this is happening?
The truth of the matter is that, even though we have elected parliamentarians, senators and something called the Executive, we have no leaders. What we have are heads that have become a burden on the people. They are not responsive to the people’s woes because they thrive on their own people’s suffering. They are the first to default in the payment of their bills so it’s difficult for them to confront errant services providers. How can a leader who has not paid his electricity bill amounting to almost half a million dollars ask power utility Zesa why it is not generating enough power to go round and then going on to disconnect only the poor?
It is criminal when an elected leadership neglects its people and lives only for itself. This criminality has made life a nightmare for the majority. Last week we talked about how supermarkets are, with impunity, milking consumers by not giving them their change; it is estimated that the big stores make millions of dollars annually by withholding people’s change or giving them items whose value is much less than the change.
Zesa bases its bills mostly on estimates, hence households that have got only a week’s supply of energy in a whole month are asked to pay hundreds of dollars and Zesa gets away with it. The municipalities do the same; they estimate the amount of water a household would use in normal circumstances even if the households have gone for weeks without water.
They get away with it because our leaders don’t care. All they care about is their own political survival; hence they are always harping about elections when even the least literate Zimbabwean knows for sure that elections don’t improve their lot. The politicians only want elections so they can keep their positions, from which they will continue to plunder the country’s resources for their own benefit.
We all know for sure that the new constitution will be rejected in the referendum, but we will go for it anyway. We all know for certain the results of the next presidential election will doctored to suit a certain individual, but we will be herded into the election anyway.
The unnecessary elections, including the referendum, will cost us US$220 million, when we need perhaps half that amount to pay for power imports and the other half to refurbish and upgrade our power generating stations.
By Nevanji Madanhire
How does one explain such a blatant failure of leadership?