Corruption: The Common denominator 

Happy Thursday everyone! I hope you have all been having a blessed week – especially my European counterparts who are experiencing a rare bout of good weather! Enjoy it while it lasts. 

When I did my thesis, even though it was on Zimbabwe, I read a lot of literature on other African countries and how they had developed (or not) – since the gaining of independence. I was really shocked because as much as we know Africa is a huge continent, I was struck by the number of similarities I was finding between countries. These similarities were dominantly in the political realm. Everyone who has been reading my blogs already knows how deeply dysfunctional Zimbabwe is, but I discovered that there are actually a large number of countries (or citizens rather), who are facing the same fate that Zimbabweans are. Aside from colonization (of course), the only other thing these countries had in common was gross and inhumane corruption. Now don’t get me wrong, each and every country in the world has corruption but in other parts of the world, like the Netherlands for example, the corruption that exists does not impede the functioning of the country or the people. Whereas in most of African countries, the beats of corruption and greed take away from the people in the country and leave everyone except an elite few in extremely vulnerable and devastating circumstances. 

I was reading a book on some other African country – I can’t really remember which it was, I think Zambia or Angola and the book explained the percentage of country resources that actually went back into the country. I don’t know why I was surprised to uncover that most of the money goes to the military and financing prestigious expenditures rather than improving healthcare, education or social welfare. But I was. Our leaders preach about escaping the shackles of white imperialism and the dark cloud of colonialism, yet they miss the very obvious solution(s) to advancing the state of all our countries. Yes, we were pillaged by other nations, stripped of our resources and dignity but you tell me, what is so different between what was happening then and what is happening now? Simply the perpetrators have changed. Truly, it hurts a little more now because our leaders are meant to protect us, advance us, and have the interests of each and every citizen in mind but instead they are taking food off citiznes’ tables to line their pockets. It hurts a little more because those nations that stole from us back then did not owe us anything – they saw us as beastly and nothing more. But our leaders…our leaders now fought for liberation so that they could make life better for all of us but have followed squarely in the footsteps of the people they fought and condemned. 

Let me even play devil’s advocate for a second and highlight the fact that our leaders are not even good at corruption. To me – with greed in mind, it would make more sense to invest a little into the country, grow the economy and increase the value of resources within the country because in this instance, you would ideally have more to loot. This seems logical to me, no? I am advocating for corruption but simply highlighting the fact that laying waste to the country is really counter-intuitive to the overall goal of getting rich. Because at some point, without investment or maintenance, things will run out and what happens then? 

“A man who has never gone to school may steal a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” 

Theodore Roosevelt

Lastly, when I was reading all of this information on the relationship(s) African countries have towards their leaders, I came across a book about Namibia which eerily felt and sounded like Zimbabwe. People were describing potholes on the road, a failed medical system, load-shedding, failing and underfunded government schools, unemployment and so on… And just like in Zimbabwe, the cause of all of these problems could be pinpointed to the corrupt government that is doing a complete and utter incompetency of ruling. What surprised me at first, but no so much as I read on, was the nostalgia everyone had about the colonial regime. It disheartens me to consider this, but I also understand why people would prefer to turn back the hands of time because while we were second class citizens with little to no rights, people had food, healthcare and a modest salary. But now, we are still treated as second class citizens (unless you are part of the elite), with no food, no job prospects, no educational prospects etc. When I say we, I also need to re-iterate the fact that I do not mean myself, I am very much aware of my privilege and my place in society. Although, even though I have never gone hungry and have always had a roof over my head, I do see the struggles of fellow Zimbabweans as mine too. 

So, I guess I am saying two things in this post, the first being that in our contemporary times, corruption, greed and nepotism are our primary problems and we need to address these if things are ever going to improve. The second is that our leaders ought to be ashamed of the mockery they are making of all of us and the states they lead. One of the major justifications of colonialism was that non-white people were not fit to rule which I am sure everyone agrees is a totally absurd and stupid thing to say/assume. But with the way our leaders are doing things right now, it is easy for the hateful to now say, “we told you so.” 

Left for Dead

Happy Monday everyone! I would like to thank you again for coming and reading the thoughts I have to share with you today. I hope you are all doing well or at least keeping your head above water; sometimes that is all we can manage and if you are managing it, well done!

Throughout ‘civilisation,’ there have always been people/ groups/ entire communities/ countries who have been left for dead by the rest of the world but did not die. I had a conversation about this with someone who held the sad position that it would’ve actually been less evil if the forgotten or left behind would’ve just died as opposed to fighting for some semblance of existence after they have been left for dead. I see the allure of this argument because sometimes it is just like; what is the point? As I mentioned in the last post, I still cannot answer this “what is the point” question but I firmly believe that the ones left for dead would not be better off dead.

It is probably important that I elaborate somewhat on who I am referring to when I refer to people left for dead. In an individual sense, I refer to the poor. As much as we would like to believe that we have changed as a collective humanity, the truth of the matter is that we always leave the poor in society behind. We pretend they don’t exist and hope that somehow; on their own they will better their lives. I actually intend on writing a full post on this sometime in the future because of all the countries I have visited in my life, the common thing I see is how badly every society treats the poor. In terms of groups and/or communities, there are always marginalised groups within society who either ‘look weird’ or ‘behave weirdly’ who are left out of what it means to part of that society. They are the group left alone because for some unknown reason, the rest of society does not want to interact with them. In terms of entire countries, you all know them, mine is one of them. The countries whose history has been erased or re-written. The countries whose people are seen as lesser and the ones that are never considered in ‘global problems.’

In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. 

Peter Godwin, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

Thus, my focus today on those who have been left for dead is the Zimbabwean people. For the life of me, I don’t get it. Never in my life have I met people with the same or even slightly similar spirit as Zimbabwean people. We are earnest, hard workers, always happy (truly I do not understand this one), we like to talk, we love strangers and we are very expressive with emotions. When I meet people in different countries who have been Zimbabwe, naturally, I always ask what their favourite part of the country was and 100% of the time, the answer has been “the people.” Zimbabweans are always smiling, even when something bad has happened (because we have a toxic habit of turning everything into a joke), but I think that is how we survive all that has been hurled at us. We smile at each other and we laugh together.

The sad part of this, I suppose, is how surprised I am that Zimbabweans are still so happy, because we have been forgotten time and time again and left to die. Sadly, that is what is happening; Zimbabweans are dying, from things that could easily be avoided. And why is that? because the people that are supposed to care, never have. I am currently writing my thesis on the desperate state of Zimbabwe and whether it can be attributed to the destabilisation caused by colonialism or the corruption and inefficiency of our independent governments. While writing, I realised that I don’t actually care about the answer to that question; I do not care whose fault it is that Zimbabwean people are suffering, I just care that they are. But if we are to tackle the question of blame, it is both to be blamed because all governments Zimbabweans have had treat(ed) the Zimbabwean people as dispensable. We have come secondary to capital, political influence and political ideology. We have been tools to create profit and we have never been treated as anything more than that.

But we have not died. After segregation, oppression, genocide, economic crisis, poverty, disease outbreaks… Zimbabwean people are alive and pushing through. I have always said that if Zimbabweans had to see the fruits of how hard they worked; if the work actually went into the country and not into the pockets of the nefarious then Zimbabwe would be one of the richest countries in the world. Because Zimbabweans work HARD but it is because that is all they have ever known. They have had to work hard since the dawn of time to just keep their heads above water. So while we struggle with one uphill battle after another, while I see people breaking their backs to feed themselves and their families, I will still never believe that Zimbabweans would be better off if they died. We have a spirit of survival and while we may have been left for dead time and time again, there will come a time when life is breathed into all of the lives of Zimbabweans who have managed to persevere through and we will live on for those who have not been so lucky.

“We’re hungry but we’re together and we’re at home and everything is sweeter than dessert.” 

Elizabeth Zandile Tshele a.k.a NoViolet Bulawayo