Zimbabwe: A crisis driven by greed

I was visiting my two brothers, a cousin, a nephew and an uncle who now, due to circumstances back home, are trying to eke out a living there. To my utter amazement, I soon discovered there are literally hundreds of Zimbabweans there, perhaps without a thought of returning home soon. Commenting on how he has been forced to put away his degree certificates and resort to doing odd, often degrading jobs just to survive, all that my uncle said to me was, ‘Look what Mugabe has done to us!’ I felt a deep sadness in the depths of my soul and began to agonise over the root causes on the crisis in Zimbabwe.

This morning, while taking a shower (that is usually my time of greatest inspiration), it suddenly occurred to me that the primary driver of the crisis in Zimbabwe – and the consequent misery and suffering of the people – is greed on the part of those in authority. For the avoidance of doubt, authority in Zimbabwe resides in Zanu PF and its allies, the so-called war veterans, green bombers, and security forces.

Greed has so consumed those in authority so much that they have ceased to care about anything except their excessive desire to accumulate massive wealth, which they neither deserve nor need. Political power, for them, is the vehicle through which they can satisfy their greed, and therefore, they would be prepared to shed blood to acquire and retain that political power. In their twisted sense of logic, they are therefore justified in unleashing waves of electoral violence and coerce people to ‘vote’ them into political power, or to use other fraudulent means to attain political office.

Understanding that greed is the primary driver of the Zimbabwean crisis would lead to a better understanding of the paradoxical situation of Zimbabwe that, in the midst of all this suffering, you find multi-millionaires in United States dollar terms, on the streets of Harare. This also explains how a person like Joseph Chinotimba, a mere municipal guard (no offence to this humble profession intended), who was virtually penniless before he discovered the benefits of Zanu PF membership, can claim that due to loss of his mobile phone for just a week, he had lost business worth US$19 million! And this is not one of those Chinotimba jokes doing the rounds. What business is he into?

Clearly there are a few people who are directly benefiting from the suffering of millions of Zimbabweans. That same group of people is reaping where they did not sow. Again, this is not just a figure of speech. Scores of those aligned to Zanu PF are currently on an invasion spree of white-owned commercial farms and are literally reaping where they did not sow. Zimbabwe has enough resources to support all those who live in it, and also to support the region, but a few politically connected and greedy people are busy plundering Zimbabwe and eating everyone’s share. I would not be surprised if there are people in Zimbabwe whose daily prayer is that the crisis never ends!

Greedy political leaders who do not care about the people they purport to represent invariably breed misery and suffering. This breed of political leaders often have the following distinctive characteristics:

(1) Although generally incompetent and lacking in business acumen, they are involved in all kinds of businesses; (2) they measure they political achievements by the amount of wealth accumulated or cars they own;

(3) they publicly speak against the West and pose as pan- Africanists while privately sending their children to school in the West, drink wines imported from the West and do not miss on their monthly satellite television subscriptions;

(4) all their ill-gotten wealth is derived exclusively from their political connections;

(5) their lavish, and outlandish lifestyles are at odds with their professional salaries (for example, it is not surprising in Zimbabwe to come across a mere journalist working for state media, but with powerful political connections, owning several properties that he can never acquire on his journalist’s earnings).

This breed of political leaders is beyond redemption and cannot be expected to reform and be like the biblical Zaccheus, the chief tax collector who repented and gave away his ill-gotten wealth. Politicians of this kind, who unfortunately at present dominate the political scene in Zimbabwe, must be removed from office and mechanisms put in place to ensure that this breed becomes extinct. This legacy of leaders who doggedly pursue self-serving interests must be broken. Without such a paradigm shift, charting a new political direction for Zimbabwe will remain a pipe dream. It is worthwhile noting for political leaders in government, particularly those in the MDC whom many of us look up to in hope, that greed is not a trait confined to leaders from one particular political party.

Zimbabwe desperately needs political leaders with integrity, who deeply care for others, and have the ability to self-transcend. Political leaders are judged not on the basis of the political party they belong to, but on content of their character and their service to humanity. I am absolutely convinced that if we had leaders who really cared, then Zimbabwe would not have gone through the horror, pain and suffering which characterised the past decade and continues. It is not an act of God, neither is it a freak of nature, that Zimbabwe finds itself in this multi-layered socio-economic, humanitarian and political crisis. The issue boils down to want of able political leadership. Want of leaders who have already distinguished themselves in their private and professional lives who now take up public life leadership roles to serve, deriving satisfaction from putting a smile on an old woman’s face.