Once a bright red welcome sign, now, like the rest of the city, everything is being left to fade
In the past 20 years we have watched Bulawayo crumble and we have stood by and complained that the government wasn’t doing enough.
Whether rightly or wrongly, we have accused the government of deliberately side lining the city and the rest of Matabeleland. I think the government could have done better, it doesn’t make sense that 30 years after electrifying the Harare to Dabuka railroad, the government could not complete the 170 odd kilometres to Bulawayo, where after all the Zimbabwean railways is headquartered.
The rail network is key to Bulawayo and the city became the hub of industry because of the rail connections it had with South Africa, Botswana and Zambia etc. The moment the government neglected rail transport, the city was bound to suffer, and suffer it has.
I am not giving an economic history of Bulawayo, but rather just an example of how government neglects the city.
However, what riles me most is how you and I have neglected the city. We have seen government’s failures and instead of standing up for our city, we have become the most apathetic, unimaginative people in this world, content to blame anyone and everyone for our problems.
We do not have an entrepreneurial spirit and are more than content to flee to South Africa, where we hope that the similarities between our languages will camouflage us, as we pretend to be South Africans. I know the stereotypes about people from Matabeleland and Bulawayo regarding our excursions to South Africa and I don’t want to dabble in them right now.
Before this is mistaken to be an Ndebele rant, I need to make a few things clear. I am talking about everyone from Matabeleland, the Tonga, Venda, Nambya Sotho and Xhosa etc. Our languages are spoken in neighbouring countries and it is easy for us to seek refuge there than face our problems at home.
It is also easy to mourn that people that people from other regions (read Shonas) are taking our jobs, our women and everything else that can be taken. But because we are leaving Bulawayo to settle for the comforts of neighbouring countries, a vacuum of both skilled and unskilled labour is being created in the city and who do you think is going to fill that vacuum.
The government has shown an unwillingness to build more schools in our rural areas. But what if we took the initiative. Imagine if we could all contribute $10 a month and build at least a science lab or classroom block in our rural areas, don’t you think this will be better than always blaming a government that we clearly see won’t do anything for us.
Imagine if we all could contribute a book a year to the schools we went to as children, we would be far better off than this miserly lot we are. I have seen so many stories saying people of Matabeleland are cry-babies, this makes me sick but somehow it’s true.
Instead of confronting what makes us cry-babies, we have become comfortable in our situation are aren’t too bothered to correct it. We have allowed ourselves to be taken over by a mentality of being “the vanquished”.
Activists among us will point to Gukurahundi massacres that killed an estimated 20 000 of our people. I will not want to belittle that episode in our lives and will talk about it some other time.
Japan was bombed to a pulp, but today is an economic giant because of the innovativeness of its people. Why can’t we do the same?
Let’s be honest to ourselves, those textile firms in Matabeleland will never re-open because we remained technologically behind, while countries like China and Bangladesh can make cheaper textiles. Rather why don’t we turn those factory shells into some technological hub, some form our on Silicon Valley for example.
Kenya is doing it, we can copy best practice from there. New technology, appropriate technology, which fits our environment is needed. Science labs, anything, to experiment or to improve our agricultural, cattle ranching methods, or even to improve our water situation.
Let us be masters of our own destiny, rather than wait for an outsider, government or anyone to get us out of this mess.
More than ever, Bulawayo needs you. Masiye Phambili