BY TENDAI RUBEN MBOFANA
Yesterday was certainly one of those days when I felt a deep sense of shame and embarrassment for my own country.
What is even more tragic is that, it is not a rarity to feel this way – but it has become disturbingly too often and frequent to find myself feeling greatly ashamed at who we have turned into as a nation.
It is as if we have become accustomed to and now accept as normal being ‘marombe’ – good-for-nothing, directionless, and disgraceful people.
An unsavoury character finds it so easy to embrace ‘hurombe’ such that, over time, he is unable to see anything wrong with it.
In fact, he may come to perceive it as ‘cool’ and some sort of status symbol that makes him appear special and important.
Yes, there are actually people who come to a place where they perceive ‘hurombe’ as something to be proud of!
Take, for example, a man who fails to adequately fend for his own family.
Yet, in all this, he chooses to show off within the community – as he dons expensive designer wear, drinks and dines only the most exquisite meals, and loves driving around in a range of posh cars.
Yet, his own children walk around with tattered old clothes, are emaciated due to hunger, and do not attend school on account of unpaid fees.
As a result, well-wishers end up chipping in to buy this man’s children new decent clothes, ensure they have adequate food to eat, and pay their school fees for them to finally resume their learning.
In all this, their father being a ‘rombe’, regards himself as some special person within the neighbourhood – who is so popular and well-loved that he has all these people doing all these things for his family!
In his own twisted mind, he perceives what the people are doing for his children as a sign of his importance and fame!
As a matter of fact, all this makes him boast and inflates his sense of self-worth even more.
That is exactly what we witness occurring in Zimbabwe, most particularly pertaining those in power.
Yesterday, when I was watching the main news on state television, I could not find a rock large enough, behind which I could hide in utter shame.
There was a whole head of state and government feeling so good about himself as he received a donation of a parliament building from the Chinese government.
I could not help but wonder why a country as ours – so endowed with the world’s most sought-after minerals, earning the country billions of dollars annually – could not construct its own parliament building.
In fact, it had become such an embarrassing sight as 280 House of Assembly Members and 80 Senators crammed into that tiny building along Samora Machel Avenue in the capital Harare.
This was constructed way back at the very dawn of colonialism in 1895 as a hotel for white settlers, and was later converted into a parliament in 1898 – which was, from 1937, gradually expanded to accommodate 100 legislators.
From the time Zimbabwe attained her independence in 1980, it is beyond comprehension why the post-colonial ZANU PF regime never saw it fit to construct a totally new parliament building.
This would have been an unambiguous statement of our independence and break from colonialism.
Furthermore, as time progressed with a marked increase in the number of legislators, common sense would have dictated this imperative.
Surely did we not feel embarrassed as a nation when 360 people crammed themselves like sardines into a tiny 100-seat parliament building?
The new parliament building seats 650 people.
Why would a country boasting of possessing the largest reserves of lithium in Africa, the second platinum deposits in the world, the seventh largest producer of diamonds, and the second largest gold reserves per square kilometre behave like a ‘marombe’?
What difference is there between this and the children I highlighted earlier who went around with old tattered clothes – some maybe bought ten or so years back?
Should a thing as a parliament not be a nation’s identity and a symbol of national pride and sovereignty?
So why had the government elected to act the fool by humiliating the country in such a way?
It does not stop there!
It was so shocking hearing President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, during the handover ceremony, bragging that one of the three things he begged the Chinese President Xi Jinping for – during his 2018 visit to the Asian giant – was a new parliament building.
Again, how different is that from the flamboyant man mentioned earlier, in spite of his evident wealth, going around the neighbourhood begging for someone to buy food for his children?
What is happening to the billions of dollars which we are supposed to be earning from our resources annually?
Surely, we could afford to spare a mere US$200 million for a new parliament building!
In addition, let us not lie to ourselves that this ‘donation’ was purely a sign of a deep ‘all-weather friendship’ with China, which spans half a century from the days of liberation struggle.
No, this is not the same thing .
As much as it is commonplace and a normal facet of life for loved ones to give each other gifts and presents – nonetheless, this is quite different.
Usually a gift, as a sign of affection or friendship, can either be given as a mere token – oftentimes something small but with a symbolic value – or as a way of assisting a loved one in times of need.
Nonetheless, what we find in the case of Zimbabwe fits none of the above.
Here we have a typical example of the ‘rombe’ – who, despite possessing more than enough resources to fend for his family – expects his supposed loved ones to take over his responsibilities, whilst he splashes cash on his own extravagant lifestyle.
He then views this as a sign of deep friendship.
Nonetheless, can the relationship between Zimbabwe and China ever be described as an equal yoking?
Real friendship is not about dependency and even exploitation – as that of a horse and the rider – but should add value to both parties involved.
Frankly, what value is China adding to Zimbabwe?
In fact, are we not the ones who are entirely dependent on the Chinese, whom we need even to give us a parliament building?
At the same time, we allow them to exploit our minerals resources in ways that are questionable, with very little benefit to our country and local communities where these mining activities actually occur.
What real value have the Chinese added to the people of Marange, Binga, Hwange, and many others – whose minerals (as diamonds, lithium, and coal) worth billions of dollars are being taken daily?
Are they not languishing in indescribable poverty amidst a lack of genuine development – yet sitting on wealth that could easily transform their rural areas into the Dubais of Africa?
With the country now boasting of nearing the US$12 billion mining industry target – where is all that money going, and who is it benefiting?
No prizes for guessing the right answer!
We have all watched the ‘Gold Mafia’ Al Jazeera investigative documentary – which exposed the grand looting and smuggling of our minerals, as well as money laundering by those in power in Zimbabwe.
As a matter of fact, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and China are possibly the only countries benefiting from Zimbabwe’s resources – since that is where our ruling elite, in cahoots with mining companies, are stashing their loot.
That is why we even have those aligned to power who are not ashamed of flaunting their ill-gotten wealth in the face of a population, half of which live in extreme poverty.
Our country is losing over US$3 billion annually due to illicit cross-border financial flows, smuggling, and other corrupt activities.
In all this, we are not even able to construct our own parliament building – and have to beg for a ‘donation’ from the very people our leaders are working with in looting our minerals!
We are a sad people in Zimbabwe – a very sad people!
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: email@example.com, or visit website: http://mbofanatendairuben.news.blog/