By Rejoice Ngwenya - Harare, Zimbabwe
EITHER WE AFRICANS are blind, selfish and greedy or something worse is holding us back. As a Zimbabwean I have seen my country turned from bread-basket into basket case and I can tell you that our educated and hard-working people are not fools but victims.
Although we are an extreme case, these oppressive economic and political policies are not exclusive to Zimbabwe.
The fallacy of the African dream of Ghanian founding father Kwame Nkrumah about self-rule as been exposed by the brutal failures of governments with a revolutionary history. Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, Milton Obote, and perhaps even such so-called models of excellence as Yoweri Museveni and Thabo Mbeki, all espoused Nkrumaism, meaning state control of the economy and even of society.
Just down the road where I live, there is Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who was not only a student of Nkrumah's but taught and married in his country.
Many Africans believe we should cooperate with each other instead of overseas markets to achieve the economic, political and cultural integration which could raise our continent to the level of Europe or the United States.
The challenge is not cooperation but how we should learn from history.Before Zimbabwe overthrew white rule, in 1980, a pothole on the highway was a disaster. A late train would cause public outcry. Now we have unfinished roads, bulldozed neighbourhoods and hyperinflation, while our dictator blames the West.
Why is it that when the white man handed over Air Rhodesia to a black manager, the airline had 30 airplanes but now there are only three left? Why is it that before 2000 there were only 4,000 white commercial farmers in Zimbabwe and we were the bread-basket of southern Africa, yet now there are 40,000 black commercial farmers and we have to import maize from little, poor Malawi?
I know. There is a fine line between self-criticism and self-loathing. But our problems are not caused by our being black but by authoritarians with incompetent and even urderous policies.
Today, Zimbabwe's health system has collapsed. Our main university once had 1,000 staff, now there are 300. A typical high-school teacher now earns around $20 a month. As you read this, my car is grounded because of lack of petrol. Service-station owners cannot sell it for the paltry controlled price of about 11 U.S. cents a liter when they have to buy it for about $1.
My home has neither running water nor electricity. Mugabe's ZANU-PF government inherited one of the most sophisticated hydro-electric power plants in Africa, Kariba. But because of a gluttonous army, expensive anti-riot gear and military adventures in Mozambique and Democratic Republic of Congo, Mugabe has failed to maintain Kariba. It is about to stop completely.
Hwange Colliery Mine has some of the richest coal deposits in the world, yet the thermal power station across the road does not have enough coal because the railway has collapsed.
In Harare, raw sewage flows openly in residential areas, contaminating scarce treated water because of pipes that have rotted since they were inherited from the white regime 27 years ago.
No private radio or television station is allowed to operate in Zimbabwe, while it is almost impossible to register a private newspaper. Yet Robert Mugabe masquerades on the regional stage as the spokesperson for the beleaguered citizens of Zimbabwe. He has absolutely no right to speak on our behalf. Those who do are the citizens protesting in the streets and some judges and lawyers struggling valiantly to hold together the shreds of the rule of law.
The lessons of history include the basic principles of good governance. There are plenty of examples for us to emulate but the Mugabes of the world ignored them in favour of ideology.
Africans do need each other to develop but our ability to learn from each other's mistakes is miserable.
Even our neighbor, democratically elected South African President Thabo Mbeki, repeats with nauseating frequency that Zimbabweans have the capacity to solve their own problems. But during Mbeki's protracted struggle against apartheid he had the frontline states backing him, led by Mugabe.
Today, Mbeki and his ilk treat Mugabe like a hero but Zimbabweans like dirt.
South Africa goes on military "peacekeeping" forays to faraway Sudan and Burundi. Why does Mbeki not believe those countries can solve their own problems?
We Africans will remain smothered in self-deceit until this generation of Nkrumaists, the greedy, the corrupt and the accidental democrats, has expired. Then African citizens may become free to cooperate with each other, economically and politically.
The one form of cooperation we need right now is world pressure on Africa's democratically elected leaders, not the avoidance seen at the recent G-8 summit in Heiligendamm. Only then might they face up to their moral, political and economic obligations to embrace freedom and boot the gangsters out.
(Rejoice Ngwenya is a Zimbabwean columnist and campaigner for liberal democracy and a free market economy)
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Friday, July 20, 2007
By Rejoice Ngwenya - Harare, Zimbabwe