Saturday, November 18, 2017

Zimbabwe 2017

Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe  for some 40 years.

 Legally the legitimacy  of his presidency has always been open to question as a result of issues at polling stations and the risks or at least perceived risks to life and limb of those  who  were courageous enough to campaign or stand against him.

Nonetheless the military who have recently  placed him under house arrest, appear to be concerned that as he legitimately holds office, simply deposing him would be an act of  sedition for which the responsible officers could, if the attempts to change  the way in which the country is governed fail be tried and perhaps even executed.

The recent actions of the Zimbabwean military therefore seem courageous  though my own view is that there is a substantial risk that even if Mugabe is replaced  the new President  will still fail to work  hard to  enhance the impoverished lives of the majority of the country's population.

Taking a far more positive view however,  the farmers  in Zimbabwe  (ignoring questions of farm ownership) could harvest record crops of grain etc with cattle too thriving at present, owing to  I believe exellent weather for agriculture in the country during 2017.  The country potentially could once more become the bread basket for many other African  countries.

Additionally despite the undoubted poverty and hardships faced by many families and schools , students from Zimbabwe are far better educated than many of their  fellows in Africa. Indeed many Zimbabwean students emigrate after graduation and work in other countries as for  example engineers.

 If conditions in Zimbabwe  improve some of the country's graduates could begin to return maybe setting up small work places with employment prospects for others there  so life in their homeland could begin to improve for ordinary people

Then added to the above positives, is the fact that presidential henchmen and the like apart, most ordinary people in Zimbabwe are peaceful.

 Thus there is huge potential  for improvement at the current time. Of course  that potential may not be realised. Further the generally peaceful protests even now taking place could turn violent at any time so one can but hope and pray. As an aside I  have wondered over the years whether the UK  as the former  colonial power,  might have been be better advised to have entered the country  rather than say Iraq , to attempt to restore some kind of fairness. That thankfully remains purely academic.

One point that illustrated for me the difficult situation in Zimbabwe, occurred a few years ago. A local Jesuit prep school had arranged for a dozen or so pupils from a sister school in Zimbabwe to attend classes  in the Wimbledon school  for a couple of weeks, with the Zimbabwean boys staying with local students' families.

 A dinner  was arranged for the Zimbabwean boys and the staff accompanying  them. As the dinner was arranged at short notice the Chairman of Governors was unable to attend so the Headmaster asked me to give a brief welcome speech at the dinner.  To his consternation, the Zimbabwean  ambassador  then arrived for the meal quite uninvited.

The temptation then was to change  the speech from words welcoming the boys and staff to a rant directed of course to the ambassador, about the regime in their country. Thankfully  (even in hindsight) the temptation was resisted.

Hopefully Zimbabwe will now be able to move forward  certainly from the perspective of the country's  ordinary citizens, to a brighter future but without  bloodshed enroute.

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