Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Hopewell Chin’ono: The arrogance of the political elite requires citizens to change strategy but remain focused

By Hopewell Chin’ono

We are one year into the post Robert Mugabe era and as such, it is important to reflect on the road traveled so far since the dramatic power grab of November of 2017.

Hopewell Chin'ono
Hopewell Chin’ono

I can imagine our rulers continuing to laugh at how the citizen is constantly fixated with inane stuff and being off the mark regarding what should be important to them.

One day it is Lumumba, the next day it is the “Big Fish” arrests, then it is the headlines on the ruling party infighting followed by 2023 Youth league presidential candidate declarations, then you throw in the oil discovery myths and you have a never ending circus….

Who is holding the rulers of our land to account for the economic mess that we are in today whilst we are captivated and being entertained by all these pointless sideshows?

Shouldn’t we be focused on what the elected government of the day is doing or failing to do in fixing the economy, a mess that they seem not to have cogent answers for?

I think we should leave the sideshows alone, when someone is arrested, let them be dealt with by the courts, that shouldn’t stop the real discourse on the economy from ensuing.

Human life is about survival and survival is about the economy.

That is what we should be focused on at the moment, all this other stuff does not address the survival question of the day.

It is quite evident that the political elites are running a patronage system meant for themselves and not for the citizens or “mere mortals” as we were reminded of our place the other day.

We are only meant to keep the patronage system lucrative by oiling it with the 2% tax and many other punitive taxes that we have to put up with under the groaning pain of the current economic hardships.

The evidence couldn’t be much starker than the frenzied elite punch-ups over space on the looting and feeding troughs.

That is where our problems are coming from, THE ECONOMY and the gross incompetence in running it.

This incompetence is further underpinned by a manifestly corrupt bureaucracy that works hand in glove with buccaneer business people, whose job is to front for the powerful politicians who are opening the window of opportunity for all this to occur.

The fact that John Mangudya has the support of the President and the government shows that this is not about us anymore, it is about them and what they see fit and not how the citizen feels.

Initially after Robert Mugabe’s oust in November, I was convinced that we were now going to do more economics and less politics, but alas, we are still in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe of daily useless politicking.

The government is not showing respect to the citizen who gave them a mandate to rule on the basis that they were a changed lot, a new dispensation, as they like to call themselves.

The President promised that there was now a point of departure between the Robert Mugabe regimes and what he intended to do, we shouted, “Give Him a Chance Folks.”

One year since taking over from Mugabe, I see very little shift or change in the ways of doing business between the Mugabe regimes and the current government.

Perhaps some of us were too optimistic, maybe these things take time, maybe we should have constantly remembered that what changed was the Presidency and not the government.

So instead of spending our energies on what we now know to be the same old team, same old strategies, same old looting and same old inertia, what should we now do?

The citizen should be asking searching questions that are relevant to their own survival and not spending time on comical political entertainment stuff, the citizen should seek solutions to address their own economic sustenance.

Until the government starts responding in a logical manner to the economic mess that we are facing today by getting rid of folks like John Mangudya, we simply have to help ourselves knowing that we are on our own until 2023.

The government can’t blame the citizen for not having given them time, they were given a mandate, they should have responded by immediately addressing things that do not need money to act on.

They should have given markets hope by getting rid of dead wood like John Mangudya because doing so doesn’t need money to implement, instead they want to renew his contract.

His continued stay at the RBZ is to serve personal interests and is a pat on the back for having played ball in November and revealing Mugabe’s economic secrets at the bank.

But is that how a modern country should be run and how different is it from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe?

They could have given Mangudya his pat on the back and even a hefty pay out and allow national interest to prevail supreme by appointing a competent central bank governor.

This would have instilled confidence where it matters, international finance.

Keeping Mangudya does nothing but demoralize the citizen and more importantly, it knocks off the confidence from the rest of the world, a world that we are looking to for financial help.

Who would want their money looked after by John Mangudya and his lot at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe?

This is a central bank governor who doesn’t even know where the RTGS balances in our bank accounts are coming from according to the state run Herald newspaper, and yet he is the head of the central bank.

This has made the much needed Zimbabwean brilliant minds scattered around the world turn their backs on the idea of coming back home to join the government in rebuilding the shattered economy.

I travel a lot around the world with my work and I always make an effort of meeting compatriots in those countries.

12 months ago Zimbabweans in the diaspora were ready to jump in and many were intoxicated with the possibilities and opportunities that lay ahead.

Now all you get is cautious optimism at best or disillusionment with how things are panning out back home.

How do you dispute and fight that legitimate feeling of disillusionment when the language used in government has not changed?

How does one talk of a new republic when we still have people like Karikoga Kaseke as head of the tourism sector, a man who personifies everything wrong with the Mugabe regimes, a man who has been at the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority for 13 years?

The arrogance, the dismissive attitude, the sense of entitlement, the lack of compassion for the suffering citizen, as they say, it is suffer continua.

Until there is a dramatic shift and change in how government engages with the challenges facing the country, the President is headed for an inconsequential Presidency.

He could have gone down in history as the reformer who took over from his boss and turned the ship away from the rocks.

Unless someone who cares about the President’s place in history whispers to him that he needs to cut loose of the dead wood around him, he will not have that place in history as a reformer.

So instead of joining in the politicking, let us help ourselves by sharing ideas on how we can make our lives better and at the very least, less painful.

The long and winding road to finding and eventually using our voice is not an event, it shall be a process that should start with us doing it for ourselves and if all fails, we prepare for 2023.

Removing Mugabe was not the ultimate act of democratizing the state and the nation, it was the beginning of a long road to achieving that goal of moving away from a state where dissenting voices were seen as enemies.

A place where having a variant perspective was punished with repression and harsh recriminations, those enforcers who did the punishing are still there in the current administration.

We now need thinkers and organic intellectuals who can provide alternative ideas and assist in paving the way out of this economic and political mess.

It is not enough criticizing without offering solutions to the problems that our broken and yet beautiful nation faces.

Self evidently, the government has NO understanding of the political economy judging by the decisions being made, many in there rely on the instrument of violence to settle contestation.

This cant be the new dispensation that we so yearned for, not for now at least.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.

He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa leadership Institute. 

Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

Hopewell can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @daddyhope