By Tinotenda Chihope and Clinton Siniwa
Men and women who are in the corridors of power must not analyse philosophy, politics or economics. Instead they must study history because it holds important lessons.
On the 26th of April 1986 in northern USSR near a town called Pripyat events took place that changed the course of the world. A disaster of enormous proportions took place when a nuclear reactor exploded. This led to the emission of radioactive matter into the atmosphere contaminating the environment and all forms of life.
Recently Home Box Office released a mini-series that dramatizes the events that took place entitled Chernobyl. That the historic events have been made into a TV show suggests that the story is theatrical in nature. Possibly more entertaining than fiction.
However just under 6,000 miles south-west of Pripyat, people in Zimbabwe can easily relate to this story. It is unfortunate that a disaster is also unfolding. The political and economic challenges have become a humanitarian crisis.
Mikhail Gorbachev rose to the position of Secretary General of the USSR with the promises of ushering a new era of liberalism. Some historical events suggest that Gorbachev may have not been the reformer he claimed to be. It took Gorbachev and the Politburo 18 days to publicly admit the Chernobyl disaster had happened.
It is documented that the Politburo knew about the defects in the reactors and they ignored the warnings. When disaster struck the Politburo’s response to the crisis was silence. Then came the cover up and the propaganda. The government downplayed the crisis at the expense of its citizens’ lives. This is similar to what is happening in Zimbabwe today.
Emmerson Mnangagwa who is Zimbabwe’s President came to power through a coup in November 2017. He claimed that Zimbabwe was open for business. He called his government a New Dispensation. He said all the words that Zimbabweans so desperately wanted to hear, and this gave hope to many.
The first sign of problems was the disputed elections. Then came the political violence and human rights abuses. The political instability has had an adverse impact on the economy. For the second time in a decade the economy in Zimbabwe has collapsed.
Yanis Varoufakis states that the business of the economy cannot be deferred to politicians. The reason being the impact of the decisions they make will affect everyone. An economy’s forces reach deep into human lives and shapes the future generations. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee estimates that 5.6 million people face hunger and starvation in 2019.
Morton Jaffray Waterworks has been closed because of unavailability of foreign currency to acquire water treatment chemicals. This means over two million residents of Harare will have to do without access to water. The public healthcare system has collapsed due to unavailability of drugs and medical consumables.
As all this unfolds, the ZANU PF Politburo seats in Harare. It is shadowed by other decision-making bodies such as the Presidential Advisory Council. Like the Politburo of the Soviet Union, these men and women are aware of the corruption and incompetence that has destroyed the country.
It is publicly documented and recorded. As the humanitarian crisis unravels, they choose silence. Most of the times they prefer to cover up or deliver propaganda. Their spin doctors speak of mega deals running into billions that are in the pipeline. They blame the crisis on western sanctions.
They conveniently ignore that Zimbabwean products are being exported to Europe. As of today, blueberries and peas grown in Zimbabwe are being sold at Tesco’s in the United Kingdom. What sanctions when the country engages in commercial trade with the EU? What sanctions when they can import wigs for Judges from the EU?
The Chernobyl disaster affected Russia, most of Europe and reached even as far as Canada. Men involved in the clean-up of the evacuation zone were exposed to toxic amounts of radiation. Some suffered immediate deaths, others developed cancers and other gene mutations.
Meanwhile the impact of the Zimbabwe crisis is even harder to quantify. Fourteen million people are caught up in the vortex of a failed state. The crisis has made the region unstable as millions of Zimbabweans have sought refuge southwards.
Xenophobia attacks have broken out in South Africa as the migration has angered native South Africans. What is the impact on future generations of investments, savings and pensions being eroded for the second time in a decade? How can the impact of mass despair and fear be quantified?
Mnangagwa and his Politburo have one likely outcome that awaits them. The economy cannot be abducted or legislated into submission. In 1991 the Soviet Union was dissolved and Gorbachev resigned as its last leader. Some scholars argue that Gorbachev was sincere in his efforts to reform the Soviet Union while most disagree.
Will Mnangagwa and ZANU PF maintain their grip on power as the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe escalates? Will Mnangagwa be remembered as the reformer or the man who made millions suffer? Only the future will tell. What is certain however is that just like the Soviet Union, ZANU PF too shall collapse and fall.
Tinotenda Chihope is a Human Rights Activist and a Member of the MDC Southbeds Executive. She writes in her own personal capacity. You can follow her on Twitter @_mstinoe__
Clinton Siniwa is a Chartered Certified Accountant and an Economic Analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @ClintSiniwa