Zimbabwe: When Shall We Say No to Mediocrity?

editorial

Legendary Nigerian writer, Chinua Achebe, in one of his brilliant novels gave the story of a tortoise that fell into a pit latrine and for 20 years no rescue came along.

One day it heard voices passing by and called out: "Get me out of here, I can't stand it any longer."

Zimbabweans can be compared to the tortoise which lived passively in the dung getting used to the smell and the maggots and everything that goes with waste matter.

This is a day in the life of a Zimbabwean urbanite:

He wakes up in the morning to find there is no running water. He carries two buckets to a shallow well in the corner of his yard. Using a rope he draws the water and fills his buckets. Electricity has been switched off, so there is no question of him heating the water for his bath. After the bath he uses the dirty water to flush his toilet.

He opens his wardrobe to search for a decent set of clothes to put on. Because of the lack of water, laundry has not been done for weeks. He fishes out the least dirty of his clothes; it doesn't matter if his shirt matches his trousers. For socks, he sniffs the different pairs and decides which is least offensive. He is ready for work.

He walks to the bus stop and waits. He just waits for he doesn't know when an omnibus will pass by and pick him. If he is in luck, the wait isn't too long; a minibus comes by and stops to pick him. It's packed with other commuters.

The driver and conductor are rude and curse him for not making way for yet another passenger even though the minibus is bursting at the seams.

The minibus hits the first of dozens upon dozens of potholes. The driver curses as he manoeuvres the vehicle through the craters that have formed in the roads. By the time he reaches his destination, he is dishevelled and cold sweat flows down his neck.

At the block of offices there is again no power, so he has to walk up the staircase to the 11th floor. But, he remembers, even if there was power, the lifts haven't worked for a while now due to lack of maintenance.

There is no running water in the toilets on the 11th floor; they say there isn't enough pressure to push the water up. There is a sign on the toilet door that reads: No Water. It means today he can't answer nature's call!

Power supply is intermittent; so the computer switches on and off, losing data and damaging the network.

At lunch he descends the steps and decides to go to the nearby hotel to use their toilet. But the hotel staff is now wiser; the toilets are locked and given to patrons only. He walks to the recreational park and pretends to be admiring the flowers while in fact he is relieving himself.

He is depressed as he makes the journey up the stairs again.

At knock-off time, the journey down is pitiful. Then the minibus trip home; the rude crew and the potholed roads. At the shops he has to buy paraffin for the stove and candles for the lighting and chlorine tablets to treat the water from the shallow well. He goes to bed and falls into a dreamless sleep.

He is like the tortoise.

But how did this state of affairs come by and why have Zimbabweans accepted it as normal?

The answer to this must surely lie in our decayed politics which ensure that only mediocre politicians are ever voted into office.

It's strange isn't it that quite a number of politicians have been in parliament continually since independence in 1980? They have overseen the collapse of the country's infrastructure and even superintended it, but still they are in parliament and are positioning themselves to stand again in the coming elections.

What new things have they to offer? But imagine an election without Didymus Mutasa or Emmerson Mnangagwa or Kumbirai Kangai to name but a few?

They will likely be voted back in not only because they will use all methods fair and foul to win, but mainly because voters now see their kind of leadership as normal.

It is normal to the ordinary Zimbabwean that politicians get into power to enrich themselves at the expense of the majority; it's normal that the politicians are always demanding new cars from treasury while not doing a thing to repair the roads on which they wish to drive their new cars.

It's normal to Zimbabweans that their politicians can become filthy rich in a matter of months while the general populace wades in abject poverty.

It's normal when a politician comes to them towards elections with food hand-outs demanding votes which they will happily give.

The populist politician wins the day; the one who comes to a gathering with a tanker full of traditional beer and distributes seed and fertiliser he has looted from the Grain Marketing Board but claims to be his own largesse which he is sharing with the masses.

He will shout revolutionary slogans and use coercion and intimidation to win. He is absolutely not interested in the people's welfare but is only working towards his own enrichment.

There are some who stand up and demonstrate peacefully for the improvement of their lot but they are ridiculed by everybody else when they are arrested and tortured.

Civil society organisations which stand up to the establishment are harassed with impunity while the rest of the population watches.

One can already begin to foretell what will happen in the primary elections right across the political divide: the bootlickers, the most corrupt and the most violent will carry the day.

They don't have to have any developmental programmes; simply their fists and loud mouths! The leaders at the top prefer these because they are ready to kill for them.

In the end, mediocrity has become all pervasive; it's in every government office, in every public institution.

The politicians even promote it because it means less scrutiny on how they are conducting their business. Mediocrity promotes corruption and corruption has become the bane of our country. When shall we as a nation stand up and say no to mediocrity and corruption?

When shall we, like the tortoise shout out and say, "Take us out of this, we can't stand it any longer"?

The coming elections give us a good chance to lift ourselves out of the dung by electing leaders for their programmes and not for their populism or even their political party.

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