It is quite easy for a president to tell rural folk that he met with his US counterpart, who promised to steadily address the thorny issues of sanctions targeted at a handful of individuals and entities, accused of human rights violations and corruption.
And, they will believe it!
It is even unbelievably easier to actually make these rural people swallow hook, line and sinker the yarn that these travel bans, assets freezes, and transaction restrictions on a paltry 73 people and 37 establishments had caused the near collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy, and subsequently their intolerable poverty and suffering.
Moreover, the real causes of the immense unbearable misery and anguish of the ordinary citizenry, due to the economy’s crumbling – through the disgraceful and disgusting looting of national resources by those in power, with reckless impunity – is never made known to these people.
In the same vein, those in power do not have to break a sweat at all, as they convince our marginalized grandmothers, grandfathers, fathers and mothers with tall tales of the phenomenal development taking place throughout the country – leaving no one and no place behind – in spite of the glaring impoverishment visible across the breadth and width of Zimbabwe, which is actually worsening on a daily basis.
In so doing, the political elite have made a career of cutting off those in rural areas from any meaningful access to information – as such, making them believe that their region or area or village was the only place left, and was next in line for all the advancements occurring in other parts of the country.
This, then, instills false hope in our poor rural folk – who are made to believe that, the only way this ‘development’ can eventually come to their villages, is by keeping the ruling ZANU PF party in power.
Of course, hardly any real meaningful development ever takes place in the next five years after re-electing the same political party that presided over their pain and suffering, to begin with.
What is witnessed, though, are livelihoods sinking deeper into poverty – with food and agricultural inputs handouts, as well as one or two poultry/goat/pig rearing, or detergent home-making projects being touted as ‘development worthy of celebrating’.
Indeed, there is much jubilation and excitement when such programs are unveiled in rural communities – with villagers unable to run out of superlatives in describing their profound appreciation for the ruling party, government, and of course President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa for his ‘visionary leadership’.
Why would anyone genuinely regard such mediocre initiatives in their community as some form of ‘development’ deserving of celebration?
There is no greater and more powerful tool for oppression and keeping a population subservient and accepting of mediocrity – than cutting them off from accessing information and knowledge – or worse still, feed them relentless propaganda and lies.
As long as a people is kept in the dark on what was happening in other parts of the world, or even within their own country – as well as, completely unaware of the real reasons for the type of life and livelihood they were living – a leader can be guaranteed unending and unchallenged rule.
In fact, this is a natural phenomenon – as an individual’s beliefs and worldview are predominantly shaped by the amount and quality of information he has accumulated, as well as the environment and lifestyle he has been exposed to.
As such, if one grew up learning under a tree, and the only ambition in life being a literate cattle herder – then, that is the only thing he will aspire for, and once achieved, be celebrated as ‘success’.
It would, then, be shocking if this person were to wake up one day, demanding high schools built of brick and mortar, equipped with state-of-the-art science laboratories and equipment – on top of well tarred roads, investment that brings manufacturing companies, as well as community shares in locally extracted minerals.
How would he have come to know of all these things?
That is what meaningful access to information does to people – it awakens them to the reality about their lives, inculcates an understanding of their inalienable rights, and the appreciation to demand such rights.
As to be expected, any government that wants to keep its citizens accepting of anything and everything that is thrown their way, never knowing any better, and seldom standing up for themselves – prefers denying them any access to information.
Which explains why our political elite in Zimbabwe is fond of accusing any who dare resisting the rampant state-authored poverty and wanton abuse of citizens’ rights in the country, of being sponsored by Western countries or supposed imperialists.
In the mind of those in power, Zimbabweans are expected to be ignorant of any life that is better than what they are currently experiencing – as such, any sudden awakening to their miserable existence, and demanding for their rights, can only be as a result of someone coming to them (more likely, surreptitiously), and feeding them ‘bad ideas’.
No wonder, those in social justice and human rights work are the prime target of the vitriol and hatred of the ruling establishment, regarded as ‘bad apples’ and ‘regime change agents’ – with the dagger of the PVO (private voluntary organizations) Act harrowingly hanging over their heads, holding threats of deregistration and banning.
This fear of citizens accessing information is most glaring in the prevalence, or rather lack of, in the ICT (information communication technology) sector in rural areas.
As long as there is no deliberate concerted tangible efforts in promoting investment in incorporating rural areas in the cyber and digital space – where most urban Zimbabweans already find themselves in – then, there will be no genuine development to talk about in those communities.
How can there be any meaningful development when the people themselves do not demand for it?
And, how can they demand for something they are not aware of?
There is an urgent need for the sincere rolling out, with the co-opting of companies involved in new technologies, in massive infrastructural development in marginalized communities – whilst, ensuring that both the necessary devices and data tariffs are affordable – in addition to widespread awareness programs on the benefits of ICTs in not only communicating more smoothly, but also improving their own lives and livelihoods, through the plethora of opportunities available online.
Knowledge is power – and, communities need to know how they can market their produce (both domestically and globally), or forge vital linkages and attract investment, or up-skill and improve their education (with people even attaining PhDs in their homes), through the digital space.
Nevertheless, as long as those in government are more concerned about holding on to power (at all cost), by keeping the population ignorant and cut off from the rest of the world – then, these numerous benefits of ICTs will always be denied our rural folk…who constitute nearly 70 percent of the Zimbabwe population, according to the latest census outcomes.
This will translate into the continued underdevelopment and under-investment of these areas.
Yet, as seemingly obvious and undebatable this may sound – the great tragedy of Zimbabwe is that, we are led by a group of power-greedy people who would rather watch the country’s population wallow in poverty, as long as that helps secure their hold on power.
● 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: email@example.com