‘Them belly full, but we hungry’


HARARE – “Cost of living is so high, rich and poor they start to cry, now the weak must get strong, they say, ‘Oh ,what a tribulation!’ Them belly full, but we hungry; a hungry mob is an angry mob.”

I have quoted some of the lyrics from Robert Nesta Marley’s hit song, Them belly full (But we hungry) to illustrate the crisis of expectations that faces most, if not all, African countries in the modern era.

Post-colonial Africa has been largely misgoverned.

The average African country, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is ravaged by poverty, disease, infrastructural decay and general institutional dereliction.

Of course, it cannot be denied that colonialism was a crude form of gross human rights abuse where black people were generally treated as second rate citizens.

It is also true that colonialism perfected the art of separate but unequal development amongst races; what was notoriously referred to as apartheid in South Africa.

We cannot, therefore, run away from the ravages of racist colonialism.

Neither should we wish it away.

Colonialism was bad for Africa. There is absolutely no doubt about that.

But then, we shouldn’t and in fact, we cannot continue to blame colonialism for Africa’s continued state of under-development.

We have to introspect and ascertain why Africa is under-developing while other continents like Asia, are on the rebound.

In terms of natural resources, no other continent under the sun has got more resources than Africa.

The average post-colonial African nation state has generally suffered from lack of a precise, scientific and growth-oriented development trajectory.

Zimbabwe is a classic case in point.

At independence in April, 1980, we were intoxicated by the euphoria of so-called majority rule. We forgot to plan for the future as we committed one economic blunder after another.

And perhaps more importantly, we were too trusting and somehow believed that in a new independent Zimbabwe, corruption was not going to be a major problem.

That was the kiss of death. That became our ultimate fatal attraction.

Instead of establishing an egalitarian society where honest hard work was duly rewarded, we perfected the art of patronage, chicanery, obscurantism, pilferage and kleptocracy.

What mattered most was not what one knew and could do but how well-connected one was in the political and socio-economic matrix of Zimbabwe.
It became a mumbo jumbo interface of sleaze, graft, tribalism and nepotism.

From 1980 to the present day, our development agenda was also skewed in favour of those who were perceived to be pro-establishment.

There was no broad-based and holistic development plan.

 As a result, the government hopelessly failed to transform the former tribal trust lands (now referred to as communal areas) from poverty-stricken barren enclaves into facets of economic development.

We failed to stop or at the very least, curtail the scourge of rural to urban migration because we had absolutely no formulae to address these challenges.

In no time at all, millions of people moved from the under-developed communal areas into the major cities and towns.

Most of the infrastructure in these cities was never designed to sustain the swelling urban population particularly in the first two decades after independence.

For example, Harare’s water supply infrastructure was only designed to cater for a population of 500 000 people but now Harare metropolitan has a population of about four million people.

Little wonder, therefore, that Harare cannot supply clean and safe water to a majority of its inhabitants.
The new government that took power in April, 1980 hopelessly failed to plan for the future.

There was no forward-looking mechanism in place to plan and ensure that infrastructural development would match population growth.

There was no vision. It was just a jamboree of nationalist jingoism.

The so-called land reform programme that violently commenced in February, 2000 was a major exercise in futility and self-destruction.

There was no scientific and rational master plan to unleash this disastrous programme.

 It was just a knee jerk, angry and emotional reaction to the people’s decision to reject the draft constitution at the referendum that was held in February, 2000.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination, justifying those only 4 000 white commercial farmers should have continued holding onto about 90 percent of the country’s prime land.

No, I am not. My argument is that you should never, in life, throw away the baby with the bath water.

Zanu PF government was in complete panic and self-destruct mode when it unleashed the madness that was referred to as the so-called fast track land reform programme.

The government had been angered by the people of Zimbabwe’s rejection of its fascist constitution draft.
In anger and frustration, the government, rather unwisely, suspected that white commercial farmers had mobilised for the “ No’’ vote against the draft constitution.

And they then decided to go for the white commercial farmers hammer and tongues.

It was all systems go as an unprecedented orgy of mayhem and violence was unleashed in the commercial farming areas.

Instead of addressing the land disparities in a rational and sustainable manner, the government decided to shoot the messenger instead of shooting the message.

They completely lost the plot. In a moment of sheer madness, Zimbabwe’s hitherto sophisticated commercial farming sector was razed to the ground as reason and logic senselessly gave way to emotion and misguided “patriotism’’.

Zimbabwe is yet to recover from the ravages of the so-called land reform fiasco.

In no time at all, the bulk of the prime commercial farmland has now been reduced into barren patches of agricultural land where massive tree-cutting and related environmental degradation has become the order of the day. – Obert Gutu

*Obert Gutu is the Senator for Chisipite in Harare. He is also the MDC Harare provincial spokesperson and deputy minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

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