While I may not have been very conscious at the early times of my life about them, I somehow recall a thread of people and events. From my earliest years, I remember the politicians, winners and losers, and issues they were talking about. Always the people found themselves at the receiving end. Over time, I have seen patterns of the same promises over the same issues, and the same failures to address those issues effectively.
The significant changes have come, not because of presidents or ministers or members of parliaments, but because of the people themselves. Presidents have been unable to resolve perennial problems of poverty and corruption when they do not include the people in addressing them. In other words, always the people and not presidents are the real power in our country.
Escape from national poverty
Take poverty. The millions of overseas Zimbabwean workers over the last 35 years have lifted themselves and their families out of poverty. Yes, there was a great sacrifice in the process. Separation is an abnormal price to pay, but historical poverty is a great curse to dismantle.
History tells us that many developed nations used their own poor or peasants as armies when they do battle with other countries. The tide of material fortune depended on whether a country won over another and gained the proverbial loot and plunder – or whether the country lost and went deeper into poverty.
In our case, our diaspora families raised such a massive chunk of the population out of poverty. They became like soldiers for their families and motherland, but they, too, they conquered their poverty. They have only themselves to thank, their determination to bear the pain of separation and the unknown treatment they could get in another country.
Our foreign workers found opportunity because other countries needed their services, not because of political leadership. Political leadership can only slow them down through restrictive regulations or inadequate support services. Again, it is the people themselves who slug it out daily to work in times zones not their own, punishing their body clocks along the way.
It does not mean that our government and politicians have not been contributing to the dismantling of poverty. They are also responsible for building the necessary infrastructure that can carry the talents and roles of our people. But if we listen to all the complaints about the last several decades, it can very well seem that government and politicians did not do enough in both speeds, volume and quality.
By far, it remains not government policy or leadership but private initiatives from the people, always the people or businesses that are much responsible for whatever progress we have by today.
Now, to corruption. I do not think that Africans can claim substantial success in this field. That means government and politicians have struggled and failed, in really making us more honest people. Our record of corruption argues well for the case that poor people will make a corrupt country just as the more progressive countries have become bastions of good and honest governance.
The ultimate escape
It is like the chicken and the egg, but I am convinced that the less poor we are, the more demanding we will be of our public officials. I do hold an optimistic view of the future, though. Just as we have our diaspora, we have new generations claiming their place inactive society. The mindset of new generations is less rooted in past political patterns and more in rapidly advancing technology.
The mobility of people, the light that the Internet brings to once ignorant minds, these makes for newly empowered young generations. If they are less rooted in the past, they will be less entrenched in the corruption that had enslaved our people in the past. It will be most interesting to observe how our people and countries will grow in this 21st century.