A Revolution that Lost its Way: Which Way Zimbabwe?


By Dr Takavafira M. Zhou

This epistle is a historical analysis and must never be associated with any political party or organisation, but historical probity. Historian Andrew Astrow called the Zimbabwean liberation Struggle and its aftermath, *a revolution that lost it’s way.* When I read the book in the late 1980s and early 1990s as a student, it did not make much sense. But when I revisited the book a few years ago, it made great sense and I salute Astrow for diagnosing the faults that developed in our struggle for democracy and sustainable development.

Indeed there was so much hope for better things to come in 1980 when Zimbabwe attained its independence. In spite of colonial subjugation, black marginilisation, disarticulation for 90 years and unbridled racism, we inherited what Nyerere called ‘the Jewel of Africa’ and warned Robert Mugabe to protect and nurture it to greater heights.

Mugabe also pronounced a policy of reconciliation with whites, and ensured we avoided the tragedy that befell Mozambiquans when guerrilla fighters moved from bush to office, and Portuguese systematically destroyed the infrastructure and economy in rage. Yet even then a moment of madness, ingrained tyranny and commandist tentacles witnessed the systematic butchering of Zapu supporters in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the period 1982-1987.

That madness partially ended in the Unity Accord that was reached without external intervention in 1987, but its hangover has continued to the present day epitomised in silencing voices of dissent and attempts to divide the nation into patriots and sell-outs on the basis of political affiliation.

Zimbabwe indeed witnessed phenomenal growth and democratisation in industry, health and education in the 1980s.

However, the adoption of neo-liberal policies in 1991 and jettisoning of the leadership code reversed the gains of the 1980s. Parochial clinging to liberation legacy, routine rather than episodic high profile corruption; political aridity, acidity and rigidity; predatory leadership and warped policies in the period 1991-2021 shattered hopes of a better future for many Zimbabweans.

Deindustrialisation from 2000 virtually caused 90% unemployment and disillusionment among many Zimbabweans.

Indeed, it is often said revolutions end up eating their own children, but the Zimbabwean revolution has not only eaten its children through Gukurahundi (1982-1987) and the red terror ( 2000-2008), but also its fathers (such as Hebert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Nikhita Mangena, Lukeout Masuku, Solomon Mujuru, Robert Mugabe, Rugare Gumbo to mention only a few) and its mothers such as Joice Mujuru – a dangerous situation for a credible revolution.

A defective political system of sultanism, defective economic system of statism, patronage, lackeyism, clientelism, and cronyism have cumulatively shattered hopes for a better future and reduced Zimbabwe to a nation of vendors and keya keya.

The veritable paradise promised in 1980 has turned out to be a diet of starvation and a bullet to the head.

Yet even in this parlous state, egocentricists and one armed bandits masquarading as leaders and blind supporters have found scapegoat reasons for failure in external factors, viz, sanctions.

While sanctions certainly have an effect, they are not responsible for the current parlous state of the country rooted in poverty of leadership, austerity measures that are like a prescription that treats a disease by killing the patient; and unbridled corruption and cartelism.

For the avoidance of doubt development is inside out and not outside in.

However, even in the current quandary Zimbabwe can be steered to people’s desired destiny by responsible leaders that tap and harness it’s natural and human resources for sustainable development. We certainly need nationalists of the likes of Joshua Nkomo, Leopold Takawira, Herbert Chitepo, Josiah Tongogara, Mayor Urimbo, Nikhita Mangena, George Silundika, JZ Moyo, among a few others, and not self enriching individuals masquerading as leaders.

We need to celebrate our political diversity, let alone unity in diversity. Such diversity must not be abused for vilification and scapegoating but harnessed for development. Development knows no political party and benefit Zimbabweans across the political divide. There is therefore need to move beyond the liberation legacy to participatory democracy guided by a shared national vision for sustainable development and eradication of poverty through participation and consensus driven process backed by continuous commitment from those in power and support from the generality of the populace in Zimbabwe. Such a vision must focus on service delivery rather than totalising hegemonic power.

Our minerals must be processed locally to realise greater value addition. Zimbabwe would maximise gains and profits if it sells tobacco in a refined processed state rather than selling it in raw state. There is need to rekit thriving industries in order to produce, and ensure a balance between export and import rather than being a supermarket for products produced by China and neighbouring countries.

We must forget about resuscitating Zisco Steel or Shabani mine that in essence is reminiscent of watering a dry log hoping that it can develop roots and become a tree.

My area of birth Mberengwa (which I believe epitomises most areas in Zimbabwe) is still characterised by development of underdevelopment, and underdevelopment of development 41 years after independence. Only responsible leaders, service and self sacrifice would develop most areas in Zimbabwe, let alone tapping and harnessing our unity in diversity.