Dr Stan Mudenge, the late national hero and Foreign Affairs Minister of Zimbabwe during one of the toughest periods in our post-Independence era, once recounted a conversation he had with Robin Cook back in 2001. Cook was Britain’s foreign secretary. Harare and London were about to engage in full diplomatic hostilities. The bone of contention was Britain’s refusal to accept democratic land tenure in Zimbabwe.
During the conversation with his Brutish – pardon – British counterpart, Dr Mudenge said Cook informed him that Zimbabweans would “suffer until they stone you (the Zanu-PF Government) in the streets”, if authorities in Harare insisted on land reforms.
“Stan, you guys must get rid of Bob (President Mugabe),” Cook told Dr Mudenge.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs Minister responded, “For the same reasons that you guys want him out, we want him in.”
A bristly Cook retorted, “Ok, you guys must not say we didn’t warn you. If you don’t get rid of Bob, what will hit you will make your people stone you in the streets.”
This exchange comes to mind when one considers last week’s stone-throwing, inspired by a rented social media lobby. A point to note – there was a one-day strike by civil servants, a peaceful one by a workforce understandably worried about livelihood issues; and then there was hooliganism by opportunists working to achieve what Cook ominously foretold in that conversation with Dr Mudenge.
The strike and violence are very different things. But oddly enough, the solution to the concerns of civil servants, and putting paid to the destablisation schemes of the rabble rousers and their sponsors, is the same.
That solution lies in something said by one of Robin Cook’s predecessors at the United Kingdom’s foreign and Commonwealth office, Douglas Hurd.
Hurd reportedly said, “The trouble with (President) Mugabe is that he thinks like us.”
That makes at least two UK foreign policy chiefs whining about President Mugabe as the man blocking their ambitions in and for Zimbabwe.
That should tell us something.
More so, it should strengthen our resolve to support President Mugabe because evidently there is a visceral desire to undo what our leader seeks to achieve for this nation.
In essence, both Cook and Hurd are telling us that President Mugabe is onto something right for Zimbabwe and it is for this reason that they want him out.
You see, President Mugabe has an empire state of mind.
He wants for Zimbabwe what the British have for themselves and want to deny to everyone else, hence the he-thinks-like-us Hurd statement and the get-rid-of-Bob Cook threat.
But what is it exactly that President Mugabe has done?
Well, apart from leading the country to Independence (which caused the West to back other political parties over Zanu in 1980), spearheading land reforms (causing the West to create MDC and then imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe), and articulating economic empowerment and indigenisation (prompting the West to encourage factionalists); his Government has now sought to boost local manufacturing – and the stone-throwing anarchists are not happy about it.
Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016 is just the latest in line of policies by President Mugabe that demonstrate the kind of empire state of mind that the anti-Zimbabwe lobby does not want to see.
SI 64 of 2016 speaks to an industrial aspiration that oppositional forces want to claim is short-sighted and detrimental to ordinary Zimbabweans.
But surely, how can encouraging growth of your own manufacturing and industrial capacity be seen as anti-development?
Already, local manufacturers have come out saying they are happy with the SI.
But apologists for dependency want to convince us – by throwing stones and hashtags – that this is the end of Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans need to stop thinking like victims, like shackled non-actors without power of agency over the development of their own industrial and manufacturing capacity.
We need to start nurturing that empire state of mind that spurred other countries to growth and better livelihoods. Development starts with a state of mind.
The right state of mind will take us to the level where we don’t have to worry about where the next pay cheque for civil servants will come from, and get rid of the conditions that allow the nuisance of stone-throwing and hash-tagging apologists to thrive.
As the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce will tell you, there will be no progress until we have the “vision to see, faith to believe, (and) courage to do”.
That is the lesson President Mugabe enjoins us to learn. That is the challenge we must accept.
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