By Mutsa Murenje
History can be tentatively defined as the study of what happened in the past. The study of history has present and future implications. Regarding the present, history enables us to learn fundamental lessons from past events, correct, and avoid mistakes that might have been made.
In other words, we use the present to correct past mistakes and make improvements on those things we did well in the past. For instance, land reform can be a prime example of addressing historical injustices and imbalances in so far as land ownership and use is concerned. As for the future, our thinking has to be in terms of future generations.
It is incandescently clear that there have been significant improvements in information, communication, and technology. The beneficial aspects of these developments suggest that our lives can actually be better than they are today.
There are diseases that many years ago had deleterious effects on populations but are now manageable due to advances in medicine. With this in mind, I would like to suggest that a prosperous future for Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular will depend on how we address our past mistakes, learn from the good things that happened in the past, live correctly in the present and plan for the future.
I am one of those people who celebrated the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya in October 2011. I had paid uninterrupted attention to political developments in parts of North Africa, including Libya, and the Middle East. Dictators fell in Tunisia and Egypt. I should hasten to say that Tunisia seems to be the only country, to date, to have succeeded in rewriting its history since political developments in that country changed the face of North Africa and the Middle East since November 2010.
I admired the manner in which Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood rose to become Egypt’s president and yet frowned upon how he and his party exited the political scene in 2013. I had high hopes for the Egyptian authorities particularly the security forces.
What we have in Egypt today is far from the democracy we are hungering and thirsting for as Africans. Rather, we have in Egypt a military junta almost akin to what we are fighting against as Zimbabweans. Our civilian president, Robert Mugabe, exists only in name. The security forces have played a decisive role in electoral processes thereby undermining democratic processes and practices.
As a result, Zimbabwe has become some kind of Sodom and Gomorrah. It isn’t necessarily sexual immorality that we are dealing with, but political and economic molestation in the hands of those wielding political power and authority. This is a sad commentary, one that we are hopeful will be corrected in our lifetime. Yes, we can!
Gaddafi had ruled Libya with an iron fist from 1969 till his shameful fall from power in 2011. The excesses of his regime became apparent during uprisings against his government. He allegedly described his opponents as rats and he was determined to exterminate them. It is a public secret that rodents transmit diseases and must be contained. But to describe human beings as rats is dehumanising them and undermining their dignity.
Gaddafi had the chance to exit the political scene peacefully without endangering his life and the lives of others. This is a path he ignored although it made more political sense at the time. His stubbornness resulted in his death and some of his loved ones. He could avoided this end but sound advice fell on deaf ears.
Gaddafi is definitely not the only African leader to have been intransigent. Laurent Gbagbo lost an election in the Ivory Coast but wouldn’t allow Alassane Dramane Ouattara to become president. Gbagbo had to leave violently and is now being tried for crimes committed against the people following his electoral loss.
The expectation was that the fall of Gaddafi would have improved the Libyan situation. This, however, hasn’t happened. For me, this is the greatest regret I have for having celebrated Gaddafi’s demise. Libya is worse than it was when Gaddafi was in power. Military intervention may have its successes but we should endeavour to always give diplomacy a chance. There are times when diplomacy has failed us.
This is our Zimbabwean reality. Sometimes diplomacy serves to deepen dictatorship and worsen the people’s condition as what happened in Zimbabwe. Thabo Mbeki protected the Mugabe regime and neighbouring countries continue to bear the brunt of hosting Zimbabweans, some of whom have become pundit criminals in destination countries.
Just a few days ago, the South African media reported that a car was stolen in Durban and was spotted in the Limpopo River being pulled by donkeys. The thieves, most probably Zimbabweans, swam to the Zimbabwean side of the river abandoning the vehicle when they sensed their luck had run out. This is what happens when democratic processes and practices are undermined in our respective countries.
The West African bloc, Economic Cooperation for West African States (ECOWAS), has given Gambian President Yahya Jammeh a chance to leave peacefully, having lost the December 1, 2016 election to Adama Barrow. Instead of heeding sensible advice from his counterparts, Jammeh has decided to follow the Gaddafi route, the most dangerous way to exit the political scene.
The failure of diplomacy in the Gambia will likely see military intervention. Prevention is surely better than cure and Jammeh has the opportunity to save his life and the lives of his citizens. We continue studying our history reminding ourselves of our past mistakes and how we ought to live correctly in the present and plan for the future.
This is good for us and our children. Children of our children will surely be proud of us when they eventually study our history, especially with regard to how we made sound decisions for our benefit and theirs as well.
In conclusion, the year 2016 is coming to an end. We have had serious challenges (e.g., poverty, unemployment, crime, inequality, corruption, ill-health, etc).
These problems have their roots in bad governance. We would do well to replace bad governance with good governance for there can’t be any better solution to our problems than this one. What will you choose? I choose good governance. May God help Africa! The struggle continues unabated!