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Zimbabwe: A promised land that never was.

Opinion & Analysis
Yet we are told that this country was once a land of real milk and honey. For us the youth this sounds more like fairy tales because we have experienced nothing but unending hardships.

BY Tapfumanei Muchabaiwa ALTHOUGH Zimbabwe, at every given opportunity, celebrates the strong relations with its all-weather friends from the Asian continent, the notable gap between the southern African nation and its friends in terms of development sends chills down the spines of us the young generation.

Battered senseless by the country’s unrelenting socio-economic crisis, Zimbabwean youths are now the butt of jokes regionally and internationally. Unemployed and with little clue on how to proceed, we are now being called all sorts of names and being seen as “unfocussed youths”, yet the debilitating situation confronting us is not even of our making.

Yet we are told that this country was once a land of real milk and honey. For us the youth this sounds more like fairy tales because we have experienced nothing but unending hardships.

And when China being the world’s second largest economy from the USA becomes the country’s biggest partner and friend, we end up very wary whether there is still hope for us the youth as some suggest to us that China is after colonising us because if it was a real friend it would have uplifted us since our friendship dates back to the pre-independence era.

Our government will not admit to this colonisation issue, but let us be pragmatic. Just compare how the Chinese got into Zimbabwe and compare how our former colonisers, the British, came here in the 1890s.

Gradually Zimbabwe was penetrated by the settlers who at one time had entered its territory as a friend who held a Bible in one hand and a gun in the other. Anyway, I digress, I am only an innocent youth who is currently trying hard to make head and tale of the untenable situation confronting my generation.

However, I am told Zimbabweans celebrated independence in 1980 with very high hopes that finally the majority would now be part of the land of milk and honey.

As the Union Jack flag was lowered, the emphatic feeling of triumph was felt with the Zimbabwean flag being hoisted up, and the cock crowed as a new era dawned on the nation Zimbabwe. Even the late Jamaican legend, Bob Marley praised the successful story of a people who had toiled for nearly a century under the yoke of colonialism.

But 42 years later us the youths are noticing that something went horribly wrong along the way. And what exactly went wrong is now a serious headache for us.

We hear that back then, getting a job was as easy as a, e, i, o, u just like we learnt in kindergarten. If there was corruption at the time, but no one from the time has recollection of it.

We also hear that when things started to go wrong our government introduced something called the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (Esap). But it appears very few people were aware of the dangers of the programme and perhaps even those that advocated for the programme were unaware that it would haunt future generations.

It seems it is actually true that some people will never learn. After Esap flopped dismally, government then much later drafted what they called the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset). But again the ZimAsset document has since found its way to the dustbins of our tortuous history. Huge sums of money were lost in coming up with a draft that never brought any prosperity to our troubled country. It pains to note how our leadership tried to promote their vain efforts.

And today, we are being rallied to sing the national development strategy chorus which evidently is also suffocating in its infancy.

There is no way these economic blueprints will ever shore up our economy as long as they are championed by corrupt and greedy leaders.

We the youths are yet to believe that this country was really the promised land that our dear old lady Mbuya Nehanda (may her soul rest in peace) was hanged for.

All we know and hear is that our salvation lies in the east, somewhere in China.

Yet we are told that we had our very own thriving industries that needed no foreign intervention of any kind to boost our economy. What happened to all those industries? Were they so colonial that we could not even turn them around to benefit us?

But all we have witnessed so far are individual Chinese people who have come into the country and invested in very simple industries that have seen people flocking to them just to buy recycled plasticware. Other Chinese individuals have penetrated the mining sector and employing us to suck away minerals that we should be by now value-adding on our own.

A Chitungwiza man, Takunda Mbiru, who sells Chinese plasticware says: “I am surviving because of these plastics. I have never had a decent job in Zimbabwe, but through the sale of these Chinese-manufactured products we are surviving. It hurts a lot to realise that these guys are making a lot of money using the recycled plastics that are just being picked at dumpsites.”

So much for a youth surviving in a promised land called Zimbabwe.

Nyirongo says: “We are doing all the donkey work before we sell the chipped material to the Chinese for a paltry reward though. Pelletising and making a new plastic is not that tough. The biggest issue is acquiring the machinery that is used to do the work. This is how the Chinese guys are making a living in the industry because they are already ahead of us in terms of technology and financial muscle.

“The suppliers of these raw materials are paid as little as US$0,50 or sometimes US$0,20 per kilogramme and the buyer will produce a product that will be sold between US$3 and US$5. The fact that we are an impoverished people leaves us with no option but to sell raw material to the Chinese. We have heard that there are government banks that give loans, but we have made several attempts to approach the banks to no avail.”

So much for a youth surviving in a promised land called Zimbabwe.

  • Tapfumanei Muchabaiwa is a Harare-based journalist. He can be contacted on Twitter @tapfumanei03.