In Zimbabwe today, parents are encouraged to give the state their cows to secure education for their children, another clear confirmation that President Robert Mugabe is yet again failing to lead his people. This reminds me of an African Proverb that “If you close your eyes to facts you will learn through accidents.” It looks like economists in Zimbabwe still have their head buried deep in the sand. The Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa once told parliament that people in the informal sector should be able to use their moveable assets such as cows, goats, lorries and ploughs to secure loans. That should have been a sign that the country is entering into a slippery slope. Ordinary people in Zimbabwe are already living below the poverty line. They cannot afford to give away such assets which their lives are wholly dependent on. And to add insult to injury, a lot of them do not have these assets. But the million dollar question is: why is President Mugabe and his party not offering free education?
His wife is time and time again accused of living beyond her means. She lives lavish lifestyle while the first family get exclusive medical attention. The worrying thing is that amidst poverty, there are those who continue to defend the family, saying “Robert Mugabe is a freedom fighter”. That is an accurate fact, but to keep using that in the face of all that’s wrong in the country is simply being manipulative. His is a glorious story.
To improve the lives of those who have been disenfranchised, access to education should be free. It is irrational to expect people who were
dispossessed and never properly empowered by way of reparation, to
suddenly pay for amenities that should lift them out of the poverty cycle. The people of Zimbabwe deserve free education, and should be given it. They
do not have livestock or any other collateral security to pay for their children’s school fees. Since the beginning of the economic decline a few years ago, the poor people in Zimbabwe have been struggling to catch up. The decline in the local currency has caused record migration to neighbouring countries in search for better economic opportunities. It is unthinkable that today their leaders think they own livestock or have valuable movable goods. Perhaps, we must remind Minister Chinamasa that due to the collapsed economy, it has become impossible to sustain animal or crop farming. In order for animals to survive they must be fed and taken for medical check-up. All these activities require money. Most Zimbabweans live in the rural areas where they practise subsistence farming.
With an unemployment rate as high as 90 per cent, most people operate in the informal sector where they cannot raise loans from banks because they do not have collateral. That surety includes their animals. What then happens to those who do not have animals? Don’t they deserve education as well?
To resolve this problem of a population that cannot pay for the education
of their children, the state should provide free education. That is a
long-term investment that will yield long lasting results.
Rhulani Thembi Siweya is the founder of Africa Unmasked, she is also an
NEC member of the ANCYL and writes in her capacity as patron of Africa