Settler vs the liberator: A painful comparison

Develop me :Tapiwa Gomo

The country is turning 40 years next year and if the ideals and values that inspired the war of liberation subsisted up to this day, Zimbabwe would have been above middle-income country by this time. Instead of progressing, the country has regressed.

The reason for our lack of progress is simple. It is not failure. There is just no attempt – no will. Those who sit in leadership positions do not uphold a vision of a better Zimbabwe, but to better themselves. This is why anyone who joins their political massage parlor, comes out well-fed and oblivious of the stinking poverty that surrounds them. The fact that they can globetrot begging for money for development and yet locally generated resources – which could be used for the same purpose – are looted smacks of a deep-seated pathological ambivalence.

Notwithstanding the slavery, racial segregation and human rights abuses, there is every reason why those of older generations when they assess the current leadership against the colonialist administration, they see a better country for black Zimbabweans during the Rhodesian era. They do so with a heavy sense of betrayal. They feel cheated.

As the war raged on between 1964 and 1979, according to Rhodesian government statistics, more than 20 000 civilians were killed during those 15 years the war. This number of civilian deaths due to armed causes was reached in less than five years of the newly independent Zimbabwe following the Gukurahundi massacre in Matabeleland. A lot more armed causes happened between 1980 and today. Going by that statistic, it means black people were safer before independence than in free Zimbabwe.

The reason our grandparents went to war was to remove colonialism – a policy by European countries, in our case Britain, seeking to extend their authority over African countries, generally with the aim of political and economic dominance. The colonising country sought to benefit from accessing raw material, land, free labour and minerals for their home country industry. Initially it was about extracting our resources out of the country at low cost.

However, in the case of countries such as Zimbabwe and South Africa, the policy shifted as the settlers developed intentions to stay forever.

For that reason, they invested in ensuring the country was habitable and became economically viable by investing infrastructure, manufacturing, industry and services.

By the time the Second Chimurenga or the Zimbabwe War of Liberation started in 1964, the argument was no longer that the Rhodesian government was not economically developing the country, but that the country belonged to back people and, therefore, must be led by black leadership.

Being under a foreign leadership was the major reason for the war including attendant problems such as racial discrimination.

The point to highlight here which differentiates the settler from the liberator is that the settlers had the decency to invest in the comfort of their people locally whose trickle down effects benefited black people. Of course, trickled down effects were not enough, neither did they confer an equivalent sense of dignity as the settlers. When we look at our situation today, the Rhodesian era were arguably better days.

Being a foreign, the settler had a choice to extract resources, enrich themselves and flee back to their countries of origin without leaving an aura of development in Zimbabwe. But instead they built Bindura, Chinhoyi, Gweru, Harare, Bulawayo, Kadoma, Masvingo, Mutare and many other towns. They built roads and communication network to connect them as they established an economic ecosystem that made Zimbabwe what it was at independence. The resources used by the settlers to build these are still available, including the labour and yet we live in a punctured development.

To psych up the masses to take up arms and join the war, our grandparents were told that the settlers – the same people who led the establishment of these cities and towns — were thieves, oppressors and looters who deserved to be chased out of the country.

This is why today, when the older generation looks back, they wonder who the worst between the settler and the liberator is.

The liberator has assumed the same description he conferred on the settler – leadership by oppressing the masses and looting from your own coffers and keep the loot in the former settler’s countries. The difference being that for the liberator, personal enrichment overrides national development.

That for 40 years after the settler left, the liberator is yet to build a single new town, save for renaming those built by the settler, tells a gloomy story about the dominant mentality. It is indeed a serious issue that requires further inquiry. Why do African leaders hurt themselves, their situation and their people?

Let’s look at the basic logic that evades our liberators. An expensive house where there is no reliable clean water, power and other services and supplies is not as comfortable as an average house that is well serviced.

An expensive car in a country with bad roads is only good for display and diminishes value of its comfort. Being wealthy in the midst of abject poverty makes you an enemy to everyone and a target of attacks.

Stealing national resources and saving them outside your own country simply means you are enriching that country while impoverishing yours. It also means that you are contributing to the economic development of that country, while depriving your own country of the same.

A stable economy is a reliable source of peace and using force will neither stabilise the economy nor bring peace.

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