A couple of weeks ago, Hopewell Chin’ono joined Gabz-FM, a radio station broadcasting from Botswana, to discuss the current situation in Zimbabwe. Chin’ono is a Zimbabwean award-winning documentary filmmaker and international journalist.
The central theme of the discussion was corruption and how corruption destroys healthcare and consequentially people die. Zimbabwe’s problems can be solved if the cancer of corruption is removed.
For populations in the West pushing back against a corrupt global “elite,” apart from becoming aware of the true nature of Africa’s problems, there are lessons to be learned as the West seems to be now following a similar trajectory that African nations have done for the last 40 or more years.
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State Persecution of Hopewell Chin’ono
In 2020, Chin’ono posted several comments on his Twitter profile with the hashtag “#ZanupfMustGo.” Additional tweets linked the then-Minister of Health to the misallocation and misappropriation of funds destined for use in battling the Covid-19 pandemic.
In January 2021 Chin’ono was arrested for the third time in six months on charges of “communicating falsehoods” that aimed to silence him. The law used by police to arrest him was later found to no longer exist. The three charges carried the punishment of a total possible 26 years in prison.
In October 2021, the American Bar Association published their review of the state persecution of Chin’ono and concluded that “the criminal proceedings against Mr. Chin’ono from July 2020 to date, [ ] have thus far been marred with numerous due process violations.”
Based upon their review of the facts and proceedings to date, they have concluded that Mr. Chin’ono’s arrests and current criminal prosecutions appear to be politically motivated. In particular, they appear to be in retaliation for posts he made on social media on matters of corruption and bad governance as well as his support of nationwide protests, which under Zimbabwe’s own Constitution and its regional and international obligations are a violation of his rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly, as well as his right to participate in the conduct of public affairs.
… relating to allegations of publishing false information concerning the excessive use of force by a police officer (allegations which Mr. Chin’ono has denied), it appears that he was charged under a law that should no longer exist under national law, having previously been ruled by Zimbabwe’s courts to be unconstitutional. Further, regional and international human rights bodies have called for the decriminalisation of false information laws as these are inconsistent with the right to freedom of expression.The Persecution and Prosecutions of Hopewell Chin’ono, American Bar Association, 20 October 2021
How did Zimbabwe Get to Where It Is?
Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980. “We inherited a very prosperous economy from the colonial government. The first 10 years were okay, economically,” Chin’ono tole Gabz-FM.
In terms of politics, there was a genocide during the early years known as the Matabeleland Massacre – known locally as, Gukurahundi.
Politically, Zimbabwe spiralled down under Robert Mugabe and the 1983-84 massacre of Ndebele in Matabeleland will forever be a part of his legacy, the trauma of which is felt to this day. The International Association of Genocide Scholars estimates that the 5th Brigade of the Zimbabwean army murdered some 20,000 Ndebele in Matabeleland although some speculate the number of victims to be significantly higher and the true number may never be known. South Africa’s Daily Maverick published a story that credibly argued that Mugabe almost certainly orchestrated the massacre.
“But in terms of economics,” Chin’ono said, “the country was doing fine.”
Our [economic] troubles started in the early 90s. [Robert Mugabe’s party, still ruling Zimbabwe today] started looting public funds. There was misgovernance, I think, driven by incompetence. There was nepotism – people were being hired who were not skilled to be doing the jobs that they were being hired for. So, the economy started tanking.
I think around 1995 things were getting worse the looting of public funds was now getting out of control. And then got ourselves involved in a war in the DRC where we were spending millions of dollars every day.
By the time we got to 1999, the World Bank and the IMF had stopped lending money to us because we were now failing to service our debts … There was no semblance of judiciary … [No] honesty on the part of our government.
Then in 2000, there was a strong opposition that was formed by Morgan Tsvangirai called the Movement for Democratic Change. It was very powerful and Mugabe and ZANU-PF realised that they were going to lose power. So, their last card their last trump card was to grab land violently from the white farmers* to try and appease the rest of black Zimbabweans … it destroyed the economy.
And then because of that violence, human rights abuses – people were being killed – the western world then imposed sanctions on the ZANU-PF government and entities that were involved in the violence and human rights abuses – and the looting just went wild, it was on steroids … until it got to the point where we now had the highest inflation in the world.
Currently, inflation stands at 520%.
*The land grabs by the state did not stop with white Zimbabwean farmers. A search on the internet will reveal how the state has since 2000, continued to steal land from the population. Such as the article ‘Fresh Land Grabs in Zimbabwe Kick Villagers Off Ancestral Lands’ published in April 2021. In a disgusting display of propaganda, Wikipedia refers to the Zimbabwean state’s land grab as “land reform in Zimbabwe.”
How Corruption Destroys Healthcare
The healthcare system in Zimbabwe has collapsed. Doctors in Zimbabwe earn as little as USD$150 per month. “That’s less than what gardeners were being paid 10 years ago in Zimbabwe,” Chin’ono said.
There are six central hospitals in Zimbabwe: three in the capital Harare and three in Bulawayo. The biggest hospital in Zimbabwe was built pre-independence, in 1977.
The hospitals themselves are not working. Zimbabweans are having to go to South Africa for hospital treatment. For example:
- 2,500 Zimbabwean women die every year during childbirth because there is no maternity care provided by the government in hospitals. But to build a maternity centre only costs USD$37,000. One of the “thousands of land cruisers in government service could build 10 maternity theatres,” Chin’ono told Gabz-FM. “The ruling party ZANU-PF has never built a single maternity theatre at the biggest hospital in the 42 years it has been in power.”
- The whole of Zimbabwe’s public health system does not have a single radiotherapy machine to treat cancer patients.
- The two biggest hospitals in Zimbabwe only have nine dialysis machines between them.
- At one point the country only had six psychiatrists when there was an ongoing mental health crisis.
“This is basic [healthcare] that any government should be able to provide but it’s not being provided because the ruling elites are involved in the systematic looting of public funds,” Chin’ono said.
To give an understanding of how bad the corruption is, “every month the ruling elites smuggle gold worth 150 million US dollars outside the country to Dubai, mainly, and a bit of it to South Africa. And that’s one of the reasons I was arrested: when I exposed the President’s niece had done a corrupt deal to get bail … [when] she had been caught trying to smuggle six kilograms of gold to Dubai.”
All six of Zimbabwe’s central hospitals, in total, only need US$50 million annually to function properly, Chin’ono explained. The US$150 million worth of gold smuggled out of Zimbabwe each month could run all six central hospitals for three years.
So, what they steal in one month can run the hospitals for three years. What they steal in one year from gold alone can run all our central hospitals for 36 years. That is how bad it is.
Leadership matters … you will find that each of the government ministers has got about four cars parked in their courtyard and yet we don’t have painkillers in the hospitals … The money is there but there’s no desire to do the right thing. There’s no desire to serve the interests of the citizens. And because of that, we end up in a situation where our people are dying from cancer because there’s no treatment, our people are dying from kidney disease because there’s no treatment.
The response by the Zimbabwean government is to intimidate those who speak out, expose or oppose the corruption in Zimbabwe. “The intimidation even happens on social media. And it’s not being done in any subtle way. These are ruling party officials that will come and intimidate people … Their response is just [non-supply of] food, violence, and throwing bogus charges at people, throwing them in jail.”
How Corruption Affects Food Supply
Countries that have stable democracies breed leaders that are able to do the right thing. There’s no country in the world that doesn’t have corruption but it’s the levels of corruption that differs.
Taking food as an example, as a continent, Africa imports 85% of the food it needs. “That’s a total failure of leadership,” Chin’ono said, “because we have the best land and the best conditions for agriculture in the whole world.”
The Netherlands is a tenth of the size of Zimbabwe and KwaZulu-Natal, one province of nine South African provinces, is twice the size of the Netherlands. “And yet the Netherlands is the second biggest producer of food in the world. So, it shows you that we have the best land but we don’t have the best minds in terms of running those countries.”
Every African leader is blaming Ukraine for its failures. “And yet, Ukraine which is at war is still able to provide food to Africans.” Africans sent the President of Senegal to “plead with Putin” for food. “It’s so embarrassing because we have the land and we have the people” to grow our own food, Chin’ono said.
How Corruption Affects Immigration
All the government’s time is spent inflicting pain on citizens. “We have created an immigration crisis, not only in South Africa but in Botswana as well,” Chin’ono said.
It is human nature for people to go where they think they will get a better life. And immigration is causing a skills crisis as well. Because conditions are so bad, Zimbabwe is losing skilled people to, for example, the UK.
We are not just losing these professionals [and their skills] but we are losing their children as well because they are being born in other countries and their chances of coming back to Zimbabwe or Africa are very slim. It is a very big crisis which is not taken seriously by the leadership because the leadership chooses to look the other [way].
You can listen to Chin’ono’s very informative interview with Gabz-FM below.
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