HARARE - Very few things demonstrate more poignantly why democracies such as America’s deliver much better for ordinary citizens than US President Barack Obama’s illuminating interview with Zimbabwean student Takunda Chingonzo at the just-ended, and exceedingly successful US-Africa Business Forum in Washington.
Here was the world’s most powerful leader by a mile, fielding rather taxing questions from a 21-year-old student and rookie ICT entrepreneur, and not taking any umbrage at all.
In fact, the down to earth Obama did not just answer Chingonzo’s probing questions in full, he went a long way to try and put the young man at ease, and to offer possible solutions!
How so exemplary and endearing. Let us take a step back and contemplate the same scenario in our motherland. Yes, imagine the consternation in official circles if the same young man were to put it to the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, His Excellency President Robert Gabriel Mugabe that the West’s targeted restrictions are not the cause of Zimbabwe’s worsening economic problems!
US President Barack Obama takes part in a conversation with Takunda Chingonzo, Co-founder of Neolab, during the US-Africa Business Forum in Washington, DC.
Chingonzo, a National University of Science and Technology student and co-founder of SaiSai Wireless, suggested to Obama that the targeted restrictions were hampering efforts by Zimbabwean business people to engage their American counterparts, as some US businessmen perceived such engagement to be discouraged.
Obama calmly and empathetically explained to the rookie businessman the difficulties of balancing America’s twin objectives of nudging Harare to respect human rights and trying to achieve this without impacting negatively on ordinary Zimbabweans and business people.
To this end, and in view of Chingonzo’s concerns, America would consider meeting Zimbabwean business people to devise ways that would ensure that the targeted measures did not end up punishing the very people inside the country that were supposed to be protected by the restrictions.
But as expected, the usual official and propaganda quarters in Zimbabwe moved swiftly to claim that Obama “admitted” in this interview that the sanctions were not targeted — which is patently untrue.
It escapes these hired guns that in celebrating Obama’s non-existent “admission”, they expediently overlook the fact that Chingonzo is unlikely to ever dream about, never mind have a meaningful opportunity to question this forthrightly our president, or any of his myriad minions for that matter, on these kinds of critical issues — because the requisite democratic space and culture simply don’t exist here.
If anything, the truth of the matter is that Chingonzo would, at best, be accused of being a lackey of whites or the “evil” West if he tried it here, or worse still, would potentially find himself in big trouble — as in opening himself to outrageous interrogations and persecution.
To drive the point home, one simply has to consider the recent arrogant and vexatious performance in court by a senior member of Cabinet, who either refused to answer pertinent questions put to him by counsel or was full of buffoonish sarcasm when he chose to “indulge” the court with answers. To the huge credit of the presiding judge, and our men and women on the Bench in general, this offending bigwig was rightly called to order. And very importantly too, Zanu PF’s lickspittle bootlickers are never willing to analyse properly the real dynamics of Zimbabwe’s tortured political economy.
Indeed, which Western company or national in their right mind would contemplate pouring big money into a project in our country when at any time soon afterwards authorities can arbitrarily decide that 51 percent of that investment must be “indigenised” into the grubby hands of politicians and their lackeys?
The Chingonzo-Obama interview also demonstrates starkly, for the umpteenth time, Zanu PF’s embarrassing predilection to always blame someone else for its evident corruption and misrule.
Things have become so bad that even when our politicians burp from over-indulgence, as they always do, they are wont to blame sanctions!
It is insane.