My Mercedes is bigger than yours

HARARE - The title of this piece is borrowed from Nkem Nwanko’s novel that was published in 1975. It is true.

We now have a generation of leaders, not only in politics, whose main attachment is to the acquisition of material possessions and leading life on the fast lane.

These leaders are also found in commerce and industry and even in churches.

In previous articles, I have argued that I hate being poor.

Yes, I do.

But in a similar vein, I abhor the primitive acquisition of private, personal wealth through corrupt and Machiavellian tendencies.

While I acknowledge that I am a mere mortal with the usual human frailties, I hasten to add that the unchecked and indiscriminate, corrupt pursuit of personal aggrandisement is the greatest challenge facing Africa today.

This malaise cuts across the political divide.

Africa is impoverished today largely because national assets have been pilfered and privatised.

With a population of one billion people, at least 800 million Africans live on less than  $2 per day, which means that at least 80 percent of Africans live in dire poverty.

I have absolutely no apology to make for being a Pan-Africanist. I believe in Africa and I am not about to lose hope on Africa.

Colonialism ravaged and vandalised Africa.

That cannot be denied.

But then, a good number of African countries have now been independent for more than half a century.
These same countries have not managed to extricate themselves from the vice-like grip of under-development, ignorance, poverty and disease.

Studies have shown that in the past 40years, at least $400 billion has been stolen from Nigerian state coffers and that the bulk of this money has been stashed in various overseas-based offshore accounts.
 
But with all its oil wealth, Nigeria still remains a poor country with dilapidated infrastructure and a growing number of unemployed people.

Nigeria is the largest producer of crude oil in Africa but is it not a total shame that the bulk of Nigeria’s fuel is imported? Can Nigeria still blame colonialism for its apparent failure to sustainably grow its economy and take away the majority of its people from poverty?

 Can Nigeria blame neo-imperialism and neo-liberalism for the rampant corruption and institutionalised looting that defines its national psyche?

There are US dollar billionaires in Africa just like Asia.

But Africa remains the world’s poorest continent in terms of general living standards and per capita income.

When Ghana attained independence from Britain in 1957, its GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was considerably higher than that of South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Fifty years down the line, how does Ghana’s economy compare with the economies of South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong?

It is abundantly clear, therefore, that there is something fundamentally wrong with the manner in which Africa is governed.

Zimbabwe is in a similar predicament.

We have arguably the world’s largest deposits of alluvial diamonds.

The diamond fields in Marange produce at least $1 billion annually.

And yet the annual budget of the provincial capital, Mutare, is a paltry $18 million.
 
Where is the diamond money going?

Mutare, just like all other cities, towns and growth points in Zimbabwe, is suffering from the ravages of a crumbling infrastructure.

The roads are littered with potholes and most buildings are in serious need of repair.

When you go to Mutare today, you do not see any evidence of prosperity and progress.
 
What strikes you is the state of desolation and dilapidation throughout the city.

But then Mutare is supposed to be the diamond capital of Zimbabwe!

Certain elements within the so-called inclusive government have argued that Zimbabwe cannot benefit from its diamonds because the country is reeling under sanctions.

Only an accomplished fool will believe such hogwash.

The long and short of it is that the bulk of diamond proceeds are being pilfered and converted into private, personal wealth for some well-placed individuals.

Suddenly, we now have super-rich cabinet ministers who claim that they are rich because they are hard-working business people.

My foot! Can these individuals come clean and explain to the nation how, within the past few years, they have suddenly become super rich?

What businesses are they running and where?

How many people do they employ?

And how much, if any, are they paying to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra)?

We should loudly denounce the pilfering of diamond proceeds.

We should not keep quiet and somehow hope that the chickens will quietly come home to roost.
 
This country is being looted left, right and centre. And this goes beyond politics.

I am not politicking here, I am simply calling a spade a spade.

I am not against anyone getting rich because, most certainly, I am not a poor man myself.

But I believe, most strongly and passionately, that we should not plunder the nation’s resources and leave the country high and dry.

Most cities and towns in Zimbabwe have no access to clean and safe water today.
 
We have villagised Harare and Bulawayo.

Residents of these cities and other towns now rely on boreholes to access water.

If you go to Mabvuku, Tafara and Dzivaresekwa today, you would think you are in the Kibera slum outside Nairobi in Kenya.

Raw sewage is freely flowing everywhere in these suburbs.

The roads are pot-holed and street lighting is non-existent.

We should be ashamed of our failure to maintain the infrastructure that was left behind by the colonial governments.

We have clowns masquerading as city councillors in Harare.

What are these people doing whilst Harare is burning?

Instead of focusing on real issues that benefit the city’s residents such as water provision and the repair and maintenance of city infrastructure, these clowns at Town House are busy squabbling and quarrelling about who goes to the next overseas trip.

They are more concerned about who has bought the biggest and latest model Mercedes Benz vehicle.
 
These councillors have brought shame to the residents of Harare.

I live in a so-called affluent suburb in Harare but believe you me, my neighbourhood has not had a single drop of water from the City of Harare since February, 2008.

And we still dream and think that the people of Harare will continue to vote for us?

This is the main problem of Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular.

We are looting the country day in day out.

I never liked Ian Douglas Smith because the man was a die hard racist who was convinced that  black  Africans were inferior beings.

But give the man some credit. When he left government in April, 1980, Ian Smith had not looted the nation’s resources for personal gain.

He owned a few assets; a modest house in Alexandra Park suburb in Harare, a farm in Shurugwi and some cattle.

But compare this to Zimbabwe’s nouveau riche!

People who had completely nothing behind their names just a few years ago, are now purchasing collapsed banks and buying everything before their eyes as if money is suddenly getting out of fashion.

People who have never worked anywhere in their lives now own several houses in Harare’s leafy suburbs.
 
Where is the money coming from?  Am I missing something here? The scenario is very simple.

We might change our governments with the regularity with which we change our underwear but Zimbabwe will not get to the next level unless and until we adopt a fundamental paradigm shift on issues of governance.
 
If we continue on the present path; even 200 years from now, we will remain an impoverished country with a few rich people driving around in very posh Mercedes limousines whilst the majority of Zimbabweans continue to wallow in grinding poverty. - Obert Gutu

*Obert Gutu is the Senator for Chisipite in Harare.

He is the MDC Harare provincial spokesperson as well as the deputy minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

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