Was Rhodesia’s Ian Smith right – African rule will lower the country’s standards?
As my dear wife Tinta and I were taking a stroll in our neighborhood- which used to be a ‘Whites only’ suburb during the colonial era – we started discussing how standards had greatly deteriorated since we and our parents moved into the area immediately after Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.
We wondered how in such a short space of time, we, as Black people, could have reduced – a suburb that had been for decades the pride of the nation – to such deplorable standards.
The failure to maintain the houses and their yards – let alone improve them – rubbish strewn all over the streets and nearby bushes, noise everywhere, and a place that once did not have alcohol consumption areas was now a hive for drinking.
I remember confessing to my dear wife that – as some of the first Black pupils at the formerly Group A school of Redcliff Primary – we used to engrave our names on the desks using pointed objects, such as mathematical dividers and compasses, and how we would write all sorts of stuff in textbooks.
Is it then any wonder that there are no longer any textbooks and desks?
It is clear that our group were the Black people to initiate this deterioration of a once vibrant community – something that, unfortunately, has been passed on from generation to generation.
We could not help asking, what the people who resided in this suburb prior to independence would say if they were to return for a visit today.
Would that not be the most embarrassing moment in the lives of Black people?
Thus, the question came to my dear wife and I: ‘ Was Ian Smith right in saying that Black majority rule would lead to the lowering of standards’?
It seems that he was right after all.
My father – who had been a staunch ZANU PF supporter, and had actually been blacklisted by the Rhodesian regime for his political activism – had always been angered by such statements by Smith, labeling them racist.
In fact, he was even more enraged by one particular comment that he attributed to a senior Rhodesian government official that if Black people ruled this country, we will find feces strewn all over town.
How I wish my beloved father had still been alive today so that he could witness for himself what has become of our towns and cities’
alleys – then he would have, most probably, eaten his words.
Our towns and cities now reek of urine and feces – that is if you are fortunate enough not to actually stride on some.
So, was Ian Smith wrong, or is there something else to this sad situation?
I, honestly, do not believe that it has anything to do with colonial oppression.
As a matter of fact, the town of Redcliff was owned and built by the then giant Rhodesia Iron and Steel Company (Risco), now Ziscosteel, and the company was very strict in maintaining very high standards even in Torwood township, where we resided during the colonial days – even awarding regular prizes to the best kept homes.
Therefore, where did everything go wrong after independence?
Should the new government have continued with this strict standard monitoring policy?
I strongly believe that the new government should, indeed, have continued.
However, this is entirely our fault as Black people, as much as it is also government’s role to ensure strict adherence to high standards.
Another question then comes to my mind: ‘Just how racist was the Rhodesia regime?’
I will not try to justify, defend, or even trivalize the gross injustices perpetrated on the Black majority of this country by the brutal Rhodesians, nonetheless, just how far did that racism go?
Would it be racist if those Whites who stayed in Redcliff suburb wanted to maintain their high standards, and denied me permission to reside there, as they would know that I would just mess up everything- as indeed happened?
This issue just does not stop there, as it also touches the political and business corporate landscape.
Once we, Black people, took over the political and business corporate reigns, most of us were just there to plunder resources for our own selfish gain, without a thought for the advancement of the country, community, and company.
Instead of ensuring that high corporate governance standards were maintained, we have managed to turn once vibrant country, towns, cities, and companies into nothing but hopeless embarrassments.
As much as this is our country, and can not be dictated to by foreigners – as that is how we have characterized Rhodesians, and I am not advocating for a return to colonial rule – this is an opportunity to self-reflect as a people.
Instead of rushing to scream ‘racism’, whenever this fact is mentioned, especially by Whites, should we not be focusing more on whether they are wrong or not.
As much as it is our beloved country, and will maintain its independence, but should we not be learning from such criticism of our behavior and change our ways?
Seriously, do we enjoy – or at least, see nothing amiss with – living in the midst of utter filth, corruption, and mismanagement?
Instead of throwing that banana peel, or Chicken Inn empty carton onto the street or into the nearby bush, can we seriously not put them into the nearest rubbish bin – or if not available, keep them till we get home and discard of them properly?
Just how pressed would someone be to defecate in the middle of town in an alley, or in the nearby bush?
Can we seriously not mobilize each other to patch up those potholes in our roads, or to fix our children’s schools?
Are we saying that we can not even train our children to mend their own schools uniforms, such that they do not move around as if they live in the bush?
In Shona we call that ‘kuzviregerera’, which means a deliberate lack of self-control.
As much as this should be common sense, there is an urgent and serious need for our local governments to start focusing on issues that matter the most, such as enforcing by-laws dealing with hygiene and other standards.
If municipal police have the energy and time to be chasing around commuter minibuses, then they are more than capable of strictly monitoring how well we keep our residential areas and towns at the highest levels.
Why should unleashed dogs be allowed to roam around the streets?
These would most likely not even be vaccinated against rabies, let alone been dipped.
Before and just after independence, such dogs were impounded – and all others regularly inspected for vaccination and dipping tags and licences.
We need those high standards back.
I remember being regularly stopped by municipal police, when I was a little boy, to check if my trusty bicycle had a valid licence.
What happened to all that?
We can not afford to live like wild animals in our own country.
To make matters worse, we merely inherited most of these towns, cities, and companies – although, we bought the houses – and all we needed to do was just to maintain what was already there – if improving was asking for too much.
Or was the ‘inheriting’ part of the problem, as people are prone to mismanage something that they never sweated for to build?
As the country spirals out of control economically and politically, we also need to take a good look at the social issues, as these could just be as catastrophic.
We have talked a lot on what is economically and politically wrong with this country and its leadership – as I write extensively about that – but we also need to analyse what is wrong with us as Zimbabweans.
We are sitting on a social and health time bomb, as we fail to maintain the highest living standards.
Added to that, our actions reveal the true nature of our minds and hearts – as what manner of people are we when we find comfort in living in filth?
When we do not lose any sleep even if we plunder a town, city, country, or company to its ruin?
We can not continue as if everything is normal, when in fact the opposite is true.
Let us frankly examine ourselves, as Zimbabweans – without denial and being defensive – and critique our own mindset and behaviour, and what that says about us as a people.
I am someone who believes that the only hope for a better future starts with an honest self -inventory before I start finding fault in others, as that is exactly what our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ said- that we should first remove the plank in our own eyes, for us to see better the speck in our brothers’ eyes.
Tendai Ruben Mbofana is social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should anyone invite him to speak at any event or gathering. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.