Samba or Sanitation?

What exactly is it that Zimbabwe is contributing at the Earth Summit in Brazil when it is a serious offender on environmental issues? Let me name a few:

-An outdated water system, with rusted pipes which regularly spring leaks which are left unattended for days, and sometimes weeks or months, resulting in the loss of thousands of litres of precious treated drinking water.

-Drilling of numerous boreholes due to the shortage of municipal water which will lead to huge reductions in groundwater levels.

-Widespread pollution because of littering and burning of garbage, including plastics releasing toxic fumes into the atmosphere.

-Failure to educate the population on environmental matters resulting in the dumping of garbage in open spaces.

-Unreliability of the municipal garbage collection system resulting in massive litter dumps in residential areas and the clogging of roadside drains in cities.

-Widespread land clearing resulting in the chopping down of precious trees by newly resettled farmers on commercial farming land.

-The chopping down of trees for firewood as a consequence of regular power outages by ZESA. (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority)

– The pollution of rivers with effluent because of the inadequate sewage systems in High Density suburbs.

Garbage clogging a stream in Zimbabwe

These are only a few of the smaller activities which result in the degradation of the environment.

Some of the larger ones include:

-Development and building of residential areas and hotels on precious wetlands.

-Attempts to develop hotels and prospecting for minerals in precious national parks such as Mana Pools which is a World Heritage Site.

One wonders why such a huge delegation of 92 has travelled to the Rio Earth Summit which has cost Zimbabweans US$7 million.  What will that delegation achieve besides increasing the country’s carbon footprint by a significant amount due to the fossil fuels burnt in the planes transporting them? Imagine how the money would have been better spent had it been invested in improving our environment by cleaning up our filthy cities. Also, how much more so would our environment be improved had the money been put into policing industries that are dumping toxic waste into lakes and rivers? And how much more so would the state of our environment have been improved   had that same amount of money been invested into developing environment friendly systems of transportation?

Why has this delegation been allowed to travel? Is it because they are passionate about the environment, or is it just so they can sample the wonderful shops in Rio de Janeiro!


Should we always blame them?

In Zimbabwe we constantly blame the West and their allies for our problems. We accuse them of trying to westernise us. I believe it’s time we take a long hard look at ourselves and who we are. Do we truly remember who we are and where we come from? Make no mistake I am proudly Zimbabwean but I am not proud of what I see. I have seen a better Zimbabwe and maybe one day the lost lady will come back, who knows.

Our country is rich in many ways including our culture and mannerisms. One of my favourite aspects of Zimbabwean culture that I grew up with is Ubuntu. Ubuntu is no doubt an African concept that we struggle to adequately define because it is a way of life. It can be simply explained as humanity towards one another. Ubuntu teaches us to love self, love others and our belongings, and helping the community achieve what it has set out to achieve.

In Shona we say munhu munhu nevanhu (translated, I am what I am because of who we all are). In traditional Shona culture Ubuntu meant that a society had acceptable conduct of what one could do and couldn’t do. It meant that the wellbeing of the society was more important than the individual person. As Nelson Mandela rightfully put it ‘A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu….’ Ubuntu means we value people more than anything and use everything we have to save a life.

Women serving soup and bread.

I grew up in Harare and although the concept of villages didn’t exist there I experienced Ubuntu in our way of life. I never heard of a family in the neighbourhood that went hungry, because people shared the little they had. No one would sleep hungry because food was given freely at no cost to ensure that everyone survived. I remember one lady who moved into the neighbourhood and lost her daughter a few days after she moved in. Even though people didn’t know her well, they came out and helped her as she mourned. That is how I define Ubuntu in modern day Zimbabwe -knowing your neighbour and helping them out in any way you can.

Have we lost our Ubuntu because of the West? I believe it’s time we start owning up to the mess we made all by ourselves. Ubuntu is an African concept and we make reference to it when it suits us, but our lives betray the very core of who we are. We do not need to look to the West to see how individualist we have become. If we are to own anything African I would say it would have to be Ubuntu. We need to go back to the concept of Ubuntu.

If one would argue that we still adhere to the concept of Ubuntu then I would ask why are certain things available to others and not to the rest of the population?  If you are Zimbabwean you  know that power cuts do not occur in certain areas because of who lives there. You will also know that these are the same people with the highest electricity bills yet they do not pay their bills and never experience power cuts. Where is the Ubuntu in that?

Have you ever wondered why there are so many private schools in Zimbabwe now? People have realised that government schools which were once the pride of the nation have become the shame of the nation. Does anyone disagree with that? Ask all the ministers and government officials where their children learn. Ask all of them which universities their children attend. Ask them why it is so? I can answer for them; they do not have the will power to improve the schools so they send their children to better institutions. Therefore it is fair to conclude that the spirit of Ubuntu doesn’t dwell in this nation anymore!

A bold statement but an honest one! If we are to embrace who we are and celebrate everything African, we need to understand that we have lost certain things along the way that are pertinent to who we are. One day when we have instilled within ourselves that African lives are more important than power , money and recognition then that will be the rebirth of Africa.

What Makes One Person More Equal than Another?

What makes one person more important than the next? This is the question that begs to be asked in the ongoing ZESA (Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority) saga over bill defaulters.

For some reason unbeknownst to the so-called ordinary man on the street in Zimbabwe there are certain individuals who feel that because of their high standing in society they should not be subjected to the lowly practice of paying for electricity supplied to their numerous homes and farms. These individuals are known to have bills running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mugabe’s electricity bill alone is said to be over $US350 000 due to the fact that he not only lives in a huge mansion on the outskirts of Harare but also owns several farms. Other senior ZANU PF officials are said to owe a further $US10 million and that is just an estimate. These same individuals are also well known for milking the taxpayer of millions of dollars to fund external medical expenses, foreign travel with large entourages on hefty per diems, foreign university education for their children and ostentatious lifestyles within Zimbabwe. It has recently been reported in the press that these same people are being treated as “sensitive customers” and therefore continue to enjoy the benefits of power while the rest of the nation suffers crippling power cuts.

Meanwhile the ordinary man, earning an ordinary wage is being punished by having his electricity cut off for a bill that only runs into the hundreds of dollars and sometimes even less. For these same people, having their electricity cut off will not make much difference to their lives as already many of them have 14 hour power cuts on a daily basis. If they are lucky enough to have enough spare money to buy a generator or inverter their lives are made somewhat easier, but for those who can’t, meals are cooked on open fires or paraffin stoves and once the sun has gone down they sit around the fire or go to bed.

Recently a brave individual in the form of the Bikita West MP Heya Shoko (MDC-T) caused uproar in the House of Assembly by naming and shaming several MPs and governors and ministers suggesting that they should be barred from Parliament until their bills are settled. He said “It is high time we named and shamed these people because this country is not moving forward and we want to build (power) generation plants, yet we have MPs who are not paying bills and they attend Parliament dressed in expensive suits.”

Why should the ordinary man continue to suffer crippling power cuts and disconnections for unpaid bills while these individuals refuse to pay their bills? Why should any person be more equal than the next? As a nation we should come out in solidarity and stand up against these injustices. We should insist that ZESA continue to put pressure on these individuals owing vast amounts and ease up on smaller defaulters.