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Who are we? Zimbabwe at 35.April 10, 2015, 11:03 am
Dear Family and Friends,
Next weekend Zimbabwe commemorates its 35th anniversary of Independence. We have had only one leader for the entire thirty five years of our Independence. At first he was called the Prime Minister and then the President but whatever the title, Mr Mugabe has occupied the top position of leadership in Zimbabwe for three and half decades. It’s easy to wax lyrical about how many schools, universities, hospitals and dams have been built; how many graduates have been capped and what the literacy rate in the country is. It’s not so easy to understand why then, after thirty five years, we find ourselves in such a shocking state.
Three and a half decades after Independence Zimbabwe doesn’t even have its own currency anymore. Economic mismanagement, hyperinflation and repeated devaluations left us abandoning the Zim dollar and trading mostly in US dollars and South African Rand. It’s also legal to use Botswana pula, British pounds, the Euro, Australian dollar, Chinese yuan , Indian rupee and Japanese yen. All this leaves us with one simple question about our identity: who are we?
Thirty five years after Independence Zimbabwe, which was a regional food exporter and known as the Breadbasket of Africa, now imports at least 80% of the food it needs to support our population of 14 million people. In clothing and hardware shops you can get anything you want but almost everything says Made in China. In the supermarkets the shelves are crammed with goods which have come mostly from South Africa. Most are three or four times more expensive than in South Africa so some fat cats are making a lot of money at the expense of ordinary people but still we’re left with the identity question: who are we?
Three and half decades after Independence 90% of people in Zimbabwe are unemployed. Everyone from university graduates to school dropouts tries to make a living selling things on the roadsides. The borders are crammed with Zimbabweans going to neighbouring countries to buy goods they can sell on our pavements. Across the country industrial areas have deserted factories and locked warehouses: grass and weeds sprout from concrete while big rusted padlocks on heavy chains tell the story without words of our massive unemployment. It’s the same on farms where once half a million people worked. Many farms are now empty fields without crops, livestock or fences; the infrastructure’s been looted and buildings are derelict. Even our President of 35 years admitted a few weeks ago that large farms seized from white Zimbabweans and given to black Zimbabweans were not producing anything, they were just being used as status symbols he said.
Then there’s the issue of our debts. As of April 2015 we have domestic and international debts to the tune of 9.9 billion US dollars and no chance of repaying any of it. As we turn 35 all these things are too painful for most Zimbabweans to think about as we struggle to stay afloat, pay our rent, keep food on the table and kids in school. But we haven’t forgotten them and as we commemorate 35 years of Independence we still ask: where is journalist/ activist ITAI DZAMARA? Abducted one month ago and not seen or heard from since. We also offer condolences at the murder of Australian conservationist Greg Gibbard working with Zimbabwe’s painted dogs, found axed to death near Hwange.
And lastly, as we turn 35 we look to Mr Mugabe for mercy for 36 baby elephants, captured in the wild and about to be exported to the UAE and China. We look to Mr Mugabe to honour his promise of 2002 when he addressed the UN Summit on Sustainable Development. He said: “ We look after our elephants and ivory. We look after our lions as they roar everywhere. They attract those who would want to see them. We sustain our environment. We are committed to that not just now, but in the future because we want a heritage as a legacy. We want that to pass on to future generations.”
Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.