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Before celebrating 'flowers' Zimbabweans should first interrogate why previous 'fruits' were destroyed!

13 Oct 2022 at 00:23hrs | Views
I love our language and culture - since they teach us so much about life.

There is a wise adage - 'totenda maruva tadya chakata', in other words, we shall only celebrate the buds or flowers on a fruit-tree, once we have eaten the fruit.

It is quite foolish making a whole lot of hullabaloo over something that promises to be a good thing, without first waiting to see whether the promised 'fruits' actually manifest.

Not only that, but also if we will all have the opportunity to eat of this 'fruit' - as it may only be enjoyed by just a few, or taken by baboons and monkeys, or devoured by pests, or even stolen.

This logic aptly applies to our country.

Thus, as much as there is every reason to be optimistic about developments promising to take place in Zimbabwe - but, at the same time, extreme caution is of the utmost importance.

A farmer who has been repeatedly losing all his budding crops - which, at some point promised a bumper harvest - naturally becomes wary of premature celebrations, since he has become all too aware of the real possibility of another write-off.

No wonder the Shona adage - 'totenda maruva tadya chakata'.

I am sure in English we also say, 'don't count your chickens before they're hatched' - because, 'once bitten twice shy', as most of our apprehension and apparent pessimism in life is primarily driven by tragic past experiences.

Let us take for instance the much touted recent investment in the iron and steel-making industry in Zimbabwe - with the ongoing construction of the US$1 billion plant in Mhandize, Mvuma by Dinson Iron and Steel Company (DISCO), a subsidiary of Tsingshan Holdings of China.

This, under normal circumstances, would undoubtedly be a thing worthy of exceeding jubilation and optimism for a brighter better Zimbabwe - whereby, the country can reestablish its previous domination of iron and steel production on the African continent, whilst our own local downstream industries are revitalized, our economy growing, and our people securing a higher standard of living.

However, why am I not particularly filled with uncontainable joy and hope?

Well, for starters, let me only say, I have been down this road before.

Having been born and bred in the small town of Redcliff - founded on the back of the iron and steel-making company ZISCOSTEEL - I know all about high standards of living, built on the massive revenues of this continental and global giant, which provided its workers and their families one of the best lives and livelihoods in this country.

Founded in what was then Southern Rhodesia in 1942 - at its peak, ZISCOSTEEL was Africa's largest integrated steel works (wholly government owned), producing up to one million tonnes annually, and employed some 8,000 people.

In fact, Redcliff was nicknamed, 'Little London', due to the excellent infrastructural development, exquisite houses, exceptional learning and health facilities, world-class sporting and recreational centres, where workers were some of the highest paid in Zimbabwe.

Actually, when my mother joined the company as a general nurse in 1964, she was awarded a starting salary of £18 - which many of the same profession, including her white counterparts in government (during an era of racial discrimination), could only dream about.

Yet, what happened to that giant?

It fell, faster than Goliath, in 2008!


It became the victim of widespread looting and mismanagement - whose proportions reached such preposterous levels - with company buses vanishing overnight, iron and steel being smuggled to profit individuals linked to political power, under-qualified or totally unqualified relatives being given top jobs they knew nothing about, amongst a whole host of nefarious activities.

These things were not speculation - but, witnessed and known by every employee of the company.

Today, it lies in utter ruin - reduced to a mere collection of dilapidated corroded structures - whose only meaningful purpose now is housing various troops of baboons and monkeys.

In the process, those who toiled and suffered for this company.- including my own mother, who retired in 2005 - abandoned without any retirement packages or pensions, as they languish in poverty, as if they never worked a single day in their lives.

I nearly shed tears a few weeks ago, when I drove my mother to the township of Torwood, as it was painful seeing a place I had not visited in years - in which I was born in 1973, before moving to Redcliff suburb in 1982 - now a sorry disgraceful sight, and even a former tennis court changing room turned into a residential premise.

Then, how am I supposed to feel when I hear of this talk of the construction of a new 'giant iron and steel making plant', which is expected to be 'the largest on the African continent'?

Indeed, I have seen President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa commissioning, a few days ago, this new investment - amid much pomp and fanfare.

We have been proudly shown on state-controlled television various pieces of equipment and machinery being brought into the country, as construction work gets underway on the site.

I have listened as those interviewed, particularly local residents express much delight and optimism at the brighter days ahead - assisted by so-called economic experts and industrialists predicting massive fortunes for the country.

Yet, deep down I keep hearing that quiet still voice saying, 'haven't we been through all this before, didn't we already have a giant iron and steel-making giant'?

However, this was callously looted and mismanaged into oblivion!

What has changed this time around?

What is to be done differently this time around?

Admittedly, DISCO is not a government-owned enterprise, as was ZISCOSTEEL - but, we have all observed how this unholy alliance between the Zimbabwe ruling elite and dubious Chinese companies has harmed us.

Do these deals not appear more about grabbing all that they can lay their hands on from the country (regardless of the trail of destruction left in the process), without a care for both our labour and environmental laws, nor the rights of local communities?

As such, why should I be overly excited about an initiative whose outcome may lead to tears for the people of the country in general, and the local community in particular?

What were the finer details of the deal signed by the Zimbabwe government and the Chinese company?

What are the nitty-gritties and the broader implications for the country - in both the short and long term?

Have we not watched in shock as diamonds are plundered under unclear circumstances in the Chiadzwa area of Marange - where Chinese mining companies are the main players - whereby, only one measly percent of US$25 billion worth of revenue going into national coffers (according to renowned economist, business person, and former RBZ Monetary Policy Member, Eddie Cross)?

In the meantime, over the past 15 years of diamond mining, villagers have been displaced from their ancestral lands, to areas without the most basic infrastructural development and social amenities, to wallow in abject poverty - denied even a small share in that one percent that has gone to treasury.

Is there any wonder I am not too optimistic about this DISCO, or any other of these so-called investments we are constantly told about?

Our ancestors were an intelligent and wise lot - it is true, 'totenda maruva tadya chakata'.

I am one of the millions of Zimbabweans who have suffered enough in this country - and, would naturally welcome any respite from this miserable existence - most especially, through desperately-needed investment (both domestic and foreign).

Nonetheless, I am certainly not a fool!

At my age, I have been exposed to too many lies and dashed hope at the hands of the Zimbabwe regime - and, I would rather be regarded as a 'prophet of doom', than a delusional idiot - who continues to believe those who have proven themselves incapable of telling the truth.

- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or Calls Only: +263788897936, or email:

Source - Tendai Ruben Mbofana
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