Have national blessings been turned into curses by the government?
By Tendai Ruben Mbofana | The Zimbabwean |
Normally, a country and its people would consider themselves mightily blessed when they are endowed with precious natural resources – and a moment of great excitement and jubilation when a new discovery is made – but in Zimbabwe the situation is quite the opposite, as there is widespread anguish and anxiety once a new mineral is found.
Why should that be the case in Zimbabwe, when, in fact, elsewhere in this world, people – especially in the vicinity of the new found – would envisage newfound hope in their lives and prosperity?
I am always filled with a sense of shared pride witnessing images of the exurberant and bright faces of people in countries where, for instance, new reserves of oil, natural gas, or diamonds are discovered.
They talk so glowingly about how the poverty that they would have endured for generations would soon come to an end – and how their children, and grandchildren, and their children would never smell the stench of poverty.
True to their predictions, overnight, a once sleepy backward village – pestered by suffering loitering idle unemployed people – becomes a vibrant properous town – whose wealth filters down to every facet of that country.
Similarly, we remember how countless numbers of people from across the globe would trek all the way to the newly established American colonies to make a fortune for themselves from gold claims that had recently been discovered.
Scrawny looking men were instantly transformed into elegant, prestine and well-respectable gentlemen – though, some turned out to be worthless drunks, who – as the biblical prodigal son – wasted all their fortune on women and wine.
Nevertheless, most of the world’s wealthiest countries were as a result of the treasures that God blessed them with – or they pillaged the same from African and other ‘weaker’ states.
Be it as it may, a country endowed with precious natural resources counts itself mightily blessed, but the same can not be said about Zimbabwe.
I am still troubled by the anguish, and pure panic in the people of a certain village, after they had been told that the government was prospecting for diamonds in their area.
As mentioned earlier, one would expect those people to be ecstatic at the hope of diamonds being discovered in their area – but, this community was definitely more terrified than anything.
This apprehension was not without merit, as they were altogether too familiar about the disturbing plight of the people of Chiaadzwa – who, when diamonds had been discovered in their region, where inhumanely expelled – whilst, the area codoned off by heavily-armed state security personnel – and re-settled in the most de-humanizing conditions.
Instead of the Chiaadzwa people becoming overnight success stories, due to their windfall, they were instead left worse off.
The diamonds were brutishly taken over by the state, without a thought for the local community.
In fact, the whole nation of Zimbabwe has yet to realise any tangible benefits from these diamonds, as – even treasury admits – nothing much in terms of revenue has reached the state coffers.
Instead, we are so brazenly told that US$15 billion from diamond revenue mysteriously vanished – without a trace!
Whilst, some amongst the ruling elite are obviously living unimaginably lavish lifestyles from such ill-gotten wealth, the rest of the nation still wallows in abject poverty – not to mention the people of Chiaadzwa, who only wish this ‘curse’ had never befallen them.
I am also reminded of two women from a former giant iron and steel making company – which had not paid their husbands, and all other employees for years – who were overheard lamenting the possibility of their spouses finally being paid.
Their major worry was that, if their husbands received their dues, they would revert to their old bad habits of heavy drinking, sleeping around, and coming home late – as they had ceased such behaviour due to being broke.
Such is the dilemma of Zimbabweans, as – although we have endured untold suffering for far too long – and any respite greatly welcome – the discovery of new natural resources would only cause anxiety, due to the expected brutal response of the government.
Local communities would be uncaringly and unceremoniously discarded to a worse off existence, whilst the resources are plundered by a few, without any benefit whatsoever to the nation.
It all then leaves a very bitter question on every Zimbabwean’s tongue, as to whether these God-given blessings have been callously subverted into curses upon the already suffering and burdened people of this country.
* Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should anyone want to invite him to speak at any gathering. Please call +263782283975, or email [email protected]