Form 'a new federation'

HARARE - My loyalties have always been divided between Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. I was born in Zimbabwe to Zimbabwean and Malawian parents.

I owe allegiance equally to the three countries — no “buts” about that. I have lived most of my life in Zimbabwe. I spent seventeen-and-a-half years in Zambia and forged my journalism and writing careers in that country. I was fired from two jobs in that country and three from Zimbabwe.

I was officially declared a prohibited immigrant from Malawi in 1974 — for political reasons. I was then a journalist working in Zambia, with a Zambian passport.

I was unofficially expelled from Zambia in 1980, after Zimbabwe’s independence from the British. I was informed, unofficially by a Zimbabwean official, that if they had known when I intended to travel to Zimbabwe, they would have barred me from entering the country.

He might have been joshing. But I have never taken seriously this official’s pretence at humour.

I was in secondary school in Southern Rhodesia when the British foisted federation on the territories.

But a few years later, I was in journalism in Salisbury in the thick of the fight against the federation.

At the breakup of the ill-advised union, I was lured into Northern Rhodesia to continue my career there.

I returned again to Zimbabwe after independence in 1980. My distinct impression of political life in the three former federal states is that they could have done better, both politically and economically.

Mostly, I blame the leadership. In all three countries, the bloodshed which preceded independence was totally unnecessary. Zimbabwe’s was particularly savage — 20 000 dead.

In Zambia, there were unnecessary deaths too, over a religious conflict that had so many stupid causes it could never be written off as something “understandable” in any context.

A woman named Alice Lenshina caused it and was never able to explain how she could lead people to die in such a senseless cause.

But the killings in Zimbabwe must have been rated as the stupidest of all.

My view is that the three former federal territories should start negotiations to perhaps rebuild what was the failed federation.

With their considerable natural resources, the three countries could start at rebuilding the union.

I realised from the beginning that not many people would be enthusiastic about this project. Most of them are so proud of what they believe they have achieved so far that they would be aghast at the idea of going through that task again.

Yet, who among ordinary citizens in the three countries would speak with pride of their leadership?

Who of their leaders would they speak of as having done their country proud? Kenneth Kaunda had a bright start. So did Kamuzu Banda and even Robert Mugabe.

These three men might have begun with a vision that looked as if it could be solidified into a shining reality. But somewhere along the way, each one faltered in their calculations, the worst blunder being that of Mugabe.

Zimbabwe had by far the most attractive prospects. Apart from its fertile land, there is also the mineral wealth, which the whites turned into wealth that was envied by many countries, including the West.

Mugabe’s greatest blunder was the agricultural reform programme, a blunder which he himself will not admit to anyone. But even the people he hoped would react with enthusiasm to this new paradise must know that only new, fresh brains would make any difference.

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