I have been following the Oscar Pistorius trial intermittently and I have been awed and shocked by state prosecutor, Gerrie Nel’s cross examination.
From the media, I gather Nel is trying to portray Pistorius as someone who is always passing the blame to someone else and never takes responsibility for his actions. Oscar has shifted blame to his lawyers, his slain girlfriend, his friends, but has hardly taken responsibility for his actions.
It was not always like this. Oscar was the poster boy of South African sport. A double amputee, who had the world at his feet, metaphorically at least. The world’s attention was on him and the media were eating out of his hands.
The London Olympics in 2012 was his moment of glory, and shine he did; a far cry from the man now in the dock, accused of murder and refusing to take responsibility.
Pistorius’s morbid story reminds me of Zimbabwe, a country celebrating 34 years of independence on 18 April.
In 1980, at the dawn of independence, Zimbabwe was the poster boy of post-colonial Africa. It was the last British colony on the continent, gaining independence after a brutal war, probably the most protracted liberation war on the continent.
There were fears that the new government, the blacks, would seek retribution and revenge against the white former rulers. But no, the country’s first and only leader to date, Robert Mugabe was reconciliatory, he told the whites there was nothing to fear and the whites stayed in Zimbabwe and prospered.
Mugabe had the world’s media eating out of his hands, knighted by the British, always a willing international guest and an impeccable gentleman. The Queen of England called him the perfect gentleman. Good times rolled.
It was not long before things went wrong, but Zimbabwe never took responsibility for anything. Corruption set in, a commission of enquiry was set up to investigate legislators who benefitted from a car scheme, but its report was never made public.
In the early years, an estimated 20,000 people were killed in a genocide and up to now the government has hardly taken responsibility, instead Mugabe has flittingly referred to it as a moment of madness. A commission of enquiry was again set up and again the results have never been made public.
Fast forward to today, the government routinely blames Zimbabwe’s problems on sanctions, the west, the media and everyone else but never takes responsibility for its actions.
Sanctions and the west have also had an impact on our problems, but we should take our fair share of blame. That 34 years after independence, the government has failed to electrify our rail roads, failed to increase electricity generation capacity and our roads remain the same as they were in 1990, only in a poorer state.
It is telling that more than 30 years later, we still rely heavily on infrastructure set up in the 1960s to generate electricity, equipment that has become old, obsolete and unable to meet our power demands.
It is an indictment on our leaders that 34 years after independence, authorities are unable to provide clean drinking water in the two main cities and residents go for days without water.
I once followed an argument asking what was responsible for problems in Zimbabwe between corruption and sanctions and strangely some people were convinced that sanctions were the main problem. We have had an unbroken three decades of corruption, where those close to throne have benefitted from a system of patronage.
It will be difficult to solve Zimbabwe’s problems, because like a misdiagnosed ailment, we are treating the wrong symptoms, while our real problems continue to fester. We have created real and imagined enemies, who are all bent on destroying us and it hasn’t occurred to us that we could be our own worst enemies.
Corruption has become endemic, patronage and nepotism are the order of the day, further sinking the country into an abyss.
At our independence in 1980, former Tanzanian leader, Julius Nyerere referred to Zimbabwe as the jewel of Africa, I am certain he would be appalled to see how the value of this jewel has depreciated in the past 34 years and the leaders have done nothing to prop its value, instead shifting the blame to outsiders.
It has not been all gloom in Zimbabwe after independence, but daily the promise of freedom is increasingly looking like a mirage in the desert, we keep walking towards the promise, but more than ever, it is elusive.
At 34 Zimbabwe should start behaving like an adult and take responsibility for its actions. There is no more room for youthful petulance and believing the world owes us something.