When a president is reduced to donating bricks, then he has failed!

by Tendai Ruben Mbofana

There are simple things in a country that are unmistakable indicators of real development that improve the lives of the ordinary citizenry.

The most obvious is the ability of the population to adequately fend for themselves without the need for any handouts and donations for survival.

Once the people of a country are reduced to charity cases, then this is an undeniable sign of abysmal failure on the part of the leadership.

I was watching in utter disgust as some government officials, without any shame or regret, proudly announced a donation of 50,000 bricks to Chindunduma High School (in Shamva) from President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa.

As I watched these scenes playing out, with a gnawing pain eating away at my heart, I could not help wondering why a leader would not see that being reduced to making donations was a sign of failure on this part.

Of course, we do come across donations being made all across the world, at any given time, since there is no place under the sun where the needy and less privileged are not found.

However, it becomes rather unsettling and worrisome when half the country’s population lives in extreme poverty, such that they have no other way of surviving except through handouts.

Surely, why would a school be unable to pull together enough resources to undertake any necessary renovations or construct additional classroom blocks?

As a matter of fact, why has the Mnangagwa regime not constructed enough decent learning institutions in the area – or all across the country, for that matter?

Does the inability to mobilize resources by the local community to expand their school not point to the fact that they are languishing in poverty?

The story does not end there, particularly in rural areas.

This is where the vast majority of those classified by the UN (United Nations) as living in extreme poverty (earning less than US$1.90 a day) reside.

These are the people forgotten by the ruling elite – who have been abandoned to eke out a living from subsistence farming, usually on land that is unsuitable for agriculture.

This, while those in power, have given themselves maddeningly enormous pieces of fertile land – with most being multiple farm owners.

Who can easily forget Bona Mugabe’s alleged 21 farms, amongst countless other properties strewn all over the country?

As a consequence, these rural folk are never able to make enough to sustain their livelihoods without receiving one form of handout or another.

That is why they constantly need free agricultural inputs (mostly seed and fertilizer) – as well as the occasional food aid, in the event of poor rains, drought, or other natural disasters.

In urban areas, it is so shocking witnessing how the sinking of community boreholes has become the norm.

Instead of holding our leaders to account for destroying our towns and cities, thereby reducing them into glorified rural areas, we find those actually praising Mnangagwa for these boreholes.

Nonetheless, that is not how a country’s people should live.

There is nothing that says ‘empowerment’ than one’s ability to adequately fend for oneself without the need for aid from anyone.

It is liberating!

Yet, that has been rendered impossible in Zimbabwe due to government mismanagement, corruption, and looting of national resources for the enrichment of those in power. 

In so doing, the poor – who are in the majority – are never independent, but always slaves of the ruling clique.

There is no higher form of modern-day enslavement than making the population entirely dependent on those in power.

Any thoughts of rebelling are swiftly discarded and erased whenever prospects of losing the desperately needed assistance are planted into their heads.

At the same time, always portraying themselves as knights in shining armour, who ride in to rescue the less privileged with handouts, instils a hero-worshipping culture in the nation.

In fact, this mindset has been so deeply entrenched in the population that they have been rendered incapable of deducing that their supposed ‘heroes’ are actually also the authors of their misery.

Zimbabwe is led by a callous cold-hearted gang that has perfected the concept of the ‘arsonist fireman’.

This is whereby a leader with a ‘hero complex’ seeks to receive reverence from the people by creating problems that he himself comes in to solve.

Over time, this leads to the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ – where captives develop positive feelings for their captors.

Psychologists have never been able to place their fingers on the precise reason for this phenomenon.

However, it is believed that, when individuals are placed in situations of immense desperation, where they now expect the worst – they can develop positive feelings towards their captors when they are shown basic acts of ‘kindness’, maybe by giving them needed food and sparing their lives.

In Zimbabwe, these two scenarios – arsonist fireman and the Stockholm Syndrome – have apparently managed to successfully blend and operate together.

That is why we then find those who end up praising and glorifying the same people who authored their unspeakable poverty and suffering – simply because they have come in as heroes to save the population from what appeared as imminent hunger, death, or other lack.

The citizenry then misses to understand what is truly going on.

As such, those in power in Zimbabwe are having their cake and eating it at the same time.

On one hand, they are able to plunder our national resources with reckless abundance  – enriching themselves to filthy deplorable levels.

Whilst at the same time, those whose poverty they have caused, as a result, still remain loyal to them through the Stockholm Syndrome.

Surely, can anyone expect the Chindunduma High School community to fault Mnangagwa for anything, when he has been so ‘kind’ as to donate 50,000 bricks they so desperately needed?

In their feelings of eternal gratitude and indebtedness to him, how on earth will they be able to see that the main reason they do not even have any decent schools in their area is the Mnangagwa administration’s own failings?

The same applies to those who sing with joy and endless praise for free agricultural inputs and other handouts.

Or, those who finally get a clinic in their area – yet having spent the past 43 years of independence walking over 20 kilometres to the nearest health care institution, which, in all likelihood lack the most basic essentials.

How can they discern who really is at fault for their poverty and misery?

It will require a whole new level of enlightenment and wisdom for the people of Zimbabwe to finally understand who is causing their pain and suffering.

The Mnangagwa government are not the heroes in the Zimbabwe story – but the unrepentant villains who have subjected the ordinary citizenry to unimaginable poverty.

Without grasping that truth, the people of Zimbabwe will forever be crying.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate and writer. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email:, or visit website:

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