AS I look into 2016, I can’t make any worse predictions than “Prophet” Blessing Chiza, who boldly declared that Highlanders would win the 2014 Premier Soccer League title, falsely raising the hopes of Bosso supporters, only for their bitterest rivals Dynamos to sneak it again at the death.
By Conway Tutani
But one thing for sure: As we enter 2016, Zimbabwe remains on the political and socio-economic knife-edge. What with government failure to pay civil servants on time? What with the private sector similarly shortchanging employees? What with the kombi wars and other restiveness boiling under the surface? And the last thing we needed was the devastating drought induced by El Nino — not sanctions.
Another thing: Corruption will worsen in 2016. This is neither exaggerating nor being overly pessimistic. From all evidence, corruption is a growth industry in Zimbabwe — in fact, the fastest growing one — and all in the ruling class and their lackeys have a vested interest in its continuation. That is why the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission was abruptly stopped from investigating Cabinet ministers and powerful bureaucrats implicated in industrial-scale graft.
On the opposition front, my prediction is that only two parties will remain standing in 2016: MDC-T and the formed but yet-to-be-launched People First (PF) linked to ousted former Vice-President Joice Mujuru. As things stand, only a party to the left of the MDC-T — that is, one with a more radical and more confrontational approach — can make headway along with PF, who are a known quantity. But it should also be mentioned that there has been a sense that with the huge support at his disposal, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been seriously under-achieving. That’s more than a talking point.
I could be wrong — I hope I am! — but dislodging Zanu PF is going to be mighty difficult.The majority of Zimbabweans — who are much more realistic — rightly recognise this. Unlike bloviators who say the opposition has been less than useless, most Zimbabweans know that this is not so. They know what happened in March 2008. A current survey on the Internet poses the question as to how to remove Zanu PF. The findings so far are as follows: Through elections: 20%; through demonstrations: 20%; through a military coup 60%. As things stand, people know what’s possible and what’s not possible.
As for the other opposition parties, they barely exist on the ground, thus they have very few, if any, bargaining chips. They make demands when they don’t have the leverage. This demonstrates a fundamental lack of seriousness. So, naturally, no one listens to them. There has been a lot of huffing and puffing, but that is all there is to it. As we speak truth to power, we should also do the same with the opposition.
Still another thing: We should avoid being unidirectional in 2016. In Zimbabwe, many — if not most — company failures can be blamed on modern-day robber barons practicising modern-day slavery; that is, white collar criminals masquerading as company executives. The extent of corruption and greed is unimaginable and immeasurable in both the public and private sectors. There is need to strip away unnecessary perks and privileges such as expensive vehicles and office furniture that feed the ego, but hurt the balance sheet.
To broaden its relevance and appeal, the opposition should target such corrupt firms as much as it exposes Zanu PF for the failures around us such as decaying infrastructure and potholed roads. As can be seen, the battle, as we embark on 2016, is actually three-way, not two-way, but the opposition has been over-concentrating on the ruling party to the exclusion of everything else. It’s time to widen their purview from a one-eyed perspective. They must not look in only one direction. They must see all sides of things, not just one side as has been their tendency. They must not be blind or oblivious to other injustices in society. Some companies are doing even worse than Zanu PF.
Corporate greed is destroying the fabric of the nation. Are these people too big to be jailed? Maybe I can answer that one myself: Yes, no sooner had Air Zimbabwe bosses Peter Chikumba and Grace Pfumbidzayi been jailed than they were granted bail. The higher you are, the less likely you will pay for your crimes. Policymakers have to address this in 2016.
Now for a not-so-overtly political prediction, but one that’s needed to change our mindsets if we are to realistically and pragmatically look into the future: Prepaid water meters will finally be installed and this is inevitable. Try as you may, you can’t resist progress. It’s a fait accompli.
You cannot demand that CDs be banned and vinyl records be brought back. The fact that the meters have been invented and been found to be highly efficient means they are here to stay. You can’t discard technology like a used condom. It’s about updating an outdated system. What’s needed is concomitant strong regulations to factor in socio-economic circumstances, not to say water is a human right that should be provided for free — end of story. Education and health are rights, but we still pay for them, don’t we? A form of subsidy could do.
It’s a human tendency to resist new things and mix issues. Remember there was a similar outcry when the Aids levy was introduced, but now Zimbabwe’s HIV and Aids mitigation measures are among the best in the world.
It was the same when the National Pension Scheme was introduced under the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) in 1994.
Now the NSSA pension — a paltry minimum of $60 as it is — is all that most retirees are surviving on after many, many employers in the private sector plundered and squandered workers’ pension contributions. What would have been happening today if the NSSA scheme had not been adopted at all? Would $60 be worse or be better than nothing? Is it policy failure as such, or limited success? Let’s no be absolutist because we will get nowhere with that.
Let’s be futuristic as well.
As can be seen, the trashing of the law had nothing to do with its fundamental purpose. The really big issue should be whether the tax dollars are being used effectively. The point is: Let’s not cut the nose to spite the face. Let’s be focused and measured in our opposition, frustrating as it is. If we do that, we will get there. If we don’t, we won’t. It’s a big ask, but in 2016 Zimbabweans just have to be more methodical — it’s been a long journey which could get even longer.
That said, 2015 showed how things can change so quickly and drastically, so we can’t rule that out in 2016. Everywhere you look, Zimbabwe is in a heightened and accelerated state of flux. You can feel it — something is in the air. You can hear it — people are talking openly. When you look at the totality of it all, something gotta give in 2016.
But Zimbabwe being Zimbabwe, 2016 is about hoping for the best and preparing for the worst because nothing — literally nothing — is beyond this regime. Human cost means nothing to them as long as they remain fully and totally in power. They view things in a solely political context than from a socio-economic perspective. How far are these unpredictable people prepared to go? They are hellbent on taking the country to the brink. It’s in keeping with their nature. Things could — or will — get worse before they get better.
On that rather “happy” note, is it fair on my part to wish you all a fulfilling New Year?
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: email@example.com