Cursed by our Leaders
Just 7 years ago Zimbabwe was accepted as a reasonably democratic State
held elections periodically) and we had a diversified economy that was
fastest growing in Africa. The nightmare of shortages and artificial
exchange rates were behind us and our tourism industry was booming with
Today we have the fastest shrinking economy in the world, life
has collapsed, our savings are worthless and the average quality of
life expectancy has declined to all time lows. Critical indicators such
child mortality (indicating malnutrition and poor health services) are
worst in the world while record numbers of women die in childbirth and
deaths from malaria, tuberculosis and pneumonia are at pandemic levels.
Our government is isolated, ostracized and cut off from all the systems
world has put in place to try and overcome poverty in third world
We are treated as a pariah State and if we try to join others on State
occasions or at global gatherings, we are just an embarrassment.
There is only one reason for this state of affairs - our leadership has
failed us as a people.
In many ways Africa is cursed by its leaders. They plunder our
kill their opponents, subvert their democracies and flaunt their power
wealth to a bemused and cynical world. I well recall being in Geneva on
business in the mid 80's when the UN was in session. Curious, I went to
venue to see the great and powerful arrive. It was a sobering sight,
there in the line were a string of luxury cars, with drivers carrying
diplomats of some of the poorest countries in the world. They emerged
their cars in their Gucci shoes and Saville Row suits carrying
made from the skins of their vanishing wildlife.
Then down at the gate of the UN I saw a public bus arrive at the bus
and down from the bus stepped the Chinese delegation - led by their
Ambassador who then walked up the drive to the UN buildings. My
for them as a people and their leadership - it was the start of the
Zhou Ping regime, rose to new heights.
I fought the Smith regime in Zimbabwe for all of its 16 years in power,
joined the opposition, got arrested and detained, was ostracized by the
white community and breathed a sigh of relief when we were finally
from ourselves by Henry Kissenger in September 1976. Then I worked
the transition from Smith to Mugabe and worked in the public sector
1987. In the first few years we were so hopeful. The new leadership was
young and dynamic and we were no longer outcasts. But it was not to
long and the first real signs of trouble came with the killings in
Matabeleland in the mid 80's.
Since then it has been downhill all the way - the ruling elite has
democracy overboard and in fact rules as a defacto one Party State.
have subverted all the ideals they fought for during the years from
when the first Nationalist leaders began the struggle. They are
their people and destroying a 100 years of development just so they can
onto the only thing they value - power.
The gap between good and bad leadership is not large. The principles
good leadership are simple and easy to follow. The results of political
leaders choosing one or the other are not simple or easy to follow but
consequences are very obvious.
The Bible makes this situation very clear. When God allowed Israel to
appoint its own government He warned them that this new institution
tax them and force them into serfdom. He also said that bad government
that is government, which did not follow the rules, as laid out in the
Bible, would lead to hunger, deprivation, political subjugation and
humiliation. Government that followed the rules would be "blessed" and
people flourish in every way.
And so it has been in Africa. South Africa, blessed with remarkable
leadership just when they needed it, found it's way through the post
Apartheid minefields without significant damage. Botswana, also blessed
god leadership became a small, but progressive and prosperous
The Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea have all collapsed under
leadership in the past 20 years. All are potentially rich countries,
natural resources and in their people. Ghana, Uganda and Senegal show
leadership can do to turn around disastrous situations. Zimbabwe and
Ivory Coast demonstrate how quickly a reasonably progressive State can
reduced to anarchy and penury. And it is all about leadership.
When the international community eventually decided that the Smith
had to go, they knew they had to take out Ian Smith. Kissenger was
the task and he writes about this operation in his memoirs. Having
Smith to accept majority rule, it was only the management of the
that was left to do before new leadership was ushered in. If this
not been taken the leaders of the day - Smith, Mugabe, Nkomo and
would have fought that fight to the finish, destroying the country and
economy in the process.
Today we are back at the beginning. Mugabe has become Smith. Robbing
people of the freedoms they fought for, destroying his country in a
desperate attempt to hold onto power. Denying the people the mechanisms
need to effect change without war and violence.
We are in dangerous territory. The people feel betrayed, their right to
choose the leadership they want denied, the economy in crisis and food
shortages reaching critical levels. The options open to the opposition
are in the majority, are limited. In this situation surely it is time
revisit the external intervention option. To force African leaders to
that Mugabe convene a conference within Zimbabwe to draft a new
which will map the way forward and determine how our leaders will be
selected in future. As in September 1976, such an outcome can only be
achieved by the major powers applying their leverage to the situation
demanding action from regional African leaders.
Bulawayo, 11th April 2005