19 November 2017

Two depressing sights/sites in Harare

About twenty years ago, I went to Zimbabwe to run a presentation skills course for an American company with branches in almost every country in Africa. One of their managers met me at Harare airport. When he asked "Is this your first time in Africa?", I said "Yes."

"Well just be thankful you've come to Zimbabwe, because they haven't had time to really mess things  up yet. Most of the things you take for granted - like phones that work, banks with cash, buses and cabs more or  less work - unlike in some of the other African countries where we work. That's why we all opt to hold our meetings here whenever we can."

In this 'popular; country, Mugabe and ZANU-PF had already been in power for quite a while, but they'd yet to set about the country's agriculture and currency was reasonably stable. It also had a flourishing tourist industry, with easy access to world famous sights like the Zambezi and Victoria Falls.

But there were two sites which, even then, before there had been any hint of rampant hyperinflation or the hardline dictatorship of Mugabe, there were two buildings in Harare that I found rather depressing and, in retrospect, realise were totally prophetic of what lay in store for Zimbabweans.

Image result for picture of bank of zimbabwe building




The tower block above had just been finished and is still the highest building in town. It was and is the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, standing at 120 metres tall and located (appropriately?) on Rotten Row. Even then, before hyperinflation, the country hardly seemed wealthy enough to spend so much on such a lavish building to house its central bank.

Image result for picture of zanu pf headquarters building in HarareAt the same time, there was another large  building still under construction: the new headquarters of Mugabe's ruling political party, ZANU PF, now completed (left).

What worried me then and worries me now is the way that post-colonial Zimbabwe has been so inextricably linked with Mugabe, the Shona-speaking majority and ZANU-PF.

Who now remembers the Lancaster House negotiations, Joshua Nkomo, ZANU, and the Ndebele-speaking minority?

In the last few days we've been reminded of the massacres around Bulawayo and other horrors committed by Mugabe and his cronies in ZANU-PF (not to mention rigged elections, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats).

A political party may at last have seen the error of its ways and ousted Mr and Mrs Mugabe.

ZANU-PF has fired its leader and his wife, but let's not forget that ZANU-PF is a wealthy political party (see the building above) that's both controlled and benefited from running Mugabe's one party state.

Until the party reforms itself, there's little likelihood of free and fair elections in the country.