Isdore Guvamombe

Last week Zimbabwe woke up to the story of the appointment of Simba Chikore as chief operating officer of Air Zimbabwe, our beloved national airline. I was hurt when I read Simba’s story and the comments thereof.

Having been born in the village in Guruve north of Zimbabwe and raised in a huge traditional family where everything was shared, I am worried about dearth of common national vision and a common narrative. Back in the village the four of us shared the same blanket, we shared one plate of food and picked meat in hierarchical order: the four of us herded cattle together and learnt to respect each other for our varied gifts and talents. At times the youngest had a better talent that the elder and vise-versa. One big lesson imparted on us by our granny and grandpa, was a shared vision, underpinned by a shared sense of belonging. We belonged! Even today we still belong.

This villager, later migrated to town for higher and tertiary education and his world changed. His world even changed to the worst when he became a journalist. A wordsmith!

Well, we all know that Air Zimbabwe has been battling with things, like any other company in the country and that the revival of the national airline is our collective responsibility. Actually, it remains a miracle how this airline is still operating given its cocktail of problems.

The majority of Zimbabweans who jumped into criticising Simba’s appointment, have no clue how an airline is run, let alone fly on Air Zimbabwe. They are rabid, critics. Period!

The only person who has been consistent travelling on Air Zimbabwe and paying bills in full, has been President Robert Mugabe. The rest of us, Government ministers included, are guilty of being spectators, who critisise Air Zimbabwe from the terraces. Most Zimbabweans fly other airlines, despite Air Zimbabwe’s outstanding safety record. This is the truth and the truth hurts.

Air Zimbabwe employees get excited each time they hear of President Mugabe’s trip because that month they are assured of their salaries on time. In fact, the more the President flies outside the country the better for Air Zimbabwe for he is the airline’s major paying client.

By flying Air Zimbabwe in our broad totality, we would have helped the airline clog its bank accounts with cash and it would have done wonders, but at the moment very few Zimbabweans fly Air Zimbabwe. Most Zimbabweans are a stupid lot, they spent their time ridiculing the appointment and linking it to Simba being the son-in-law of President Mugabe.

But for a villager like me, the question is what came first, Simba Chikore getting his qualification as a pilot or being the President’s son-in-law? What came first, Simba being a pilot or being the President’s son-in- law? Was Simba picked from a goat-skinning career in his village and thrown into the cockpit? Did Simba join Air Zimbabwe after marrying Bona? What came first comrades? Have we lost our marbles?

Instead of giving the young man tips on how to improve the airline, we concentrate on trivia. We did not help the young man in any way. All we showed is rapid, rabid desire to quickly ridicule what we have no idea about. Fetid!

I personally would have a problem, if Simba was a mere goat-skinner back in the village who, upon marrying the President’s daughter Bona, was handpicked and thrust into the Air Zimbabwe cockpit. To this villager, the critical factor is how Simba is going to contribute to the revival of Air Zimbabwe and honestly, he cannot do it alone. Besides, Simba is not the Chief Executive of Air Zimbabwe, he is the chief operating officer. He has to implement policy.

This villager has not known Simba personally and do not wish to do so but the young man deserves to be supported and then criticised for his failures. But to criticise a person before he even starts the job is plain stupid and folly.

For the record, this villager has worked closely with Air Zimbabwe from a tourism perspective and his inside knowledge of the company is that it has a highly qualified human resources capital that Simba can tap on. Talk of Edmund Makona, talk of Chris Kwenda, the list is endless. So to me the focus, the shred vision is to help Simba see available opportunity while tapping on the expertise of the many experienced cadres at the national airline. But simply challenging Simba’s appointment is too far-fetched. Joking about it is even too stupid. But helping him and all at Air Zimbabwe turn the fortunes of the country is building Zimbabwe.

Today living in Harare as a villager who migrated from the back of beyond is really a horrible experience as you see values, being thrown out through the window every day. With the conventional media and the social media agog with trivia and colluding to dwell on nonsense, the big question is where are we going? Does this narrative get us anywhere? Does this discourse take us anywhere?  Do we still belong?