2017 — the epochal year that was for Zimbabwe. Things unravelled fast. Many people — including former President Robert Mugabe himself and his G40 faction handlers led by his wife former First Lady Grace — were caught flat-footed by the ouster of Zimbabwe’s hitherto sole ruler since the attainment of independence in 1980. Everything else was overshadowed by this. It’s as if Mugabe’s fall was the sole event that happened during the whole of that year.
By CONWAY TUTANI
To many ordinary people, it was: “Thanks for going, Mr President!” as seen in the jubilant mood in the streets of Harare and elsewhere across the country on November 21, 2017 when Mugabe finally conceded that his stay in power had become untenable and tendered his resignation to avert the ultimate humiliation of impeachment. Mugabe had to be driven out — that’s what happens when you overstay your welcome.
It has not been a perfect year, not even a half-perfect year. Far from it. We still have serious unresolved issues regarding the need for a new political culture and on that one President Emmerson Mnangagwa has to walk the talk with elections looming next year.Cash shortages and other structural crises are still prevalent. But so are hopeful signs after the removal of Mugabe that things cannot get any worse. There is now a new sense of purpose and realism. Listed below are some memorable quotes regarding that.
Wrote development macro-economist Prosper Chitambara: “. . . the 2018 National Budget contains pragmatic measures to cut unproductive and wasteful recurrent expenditures while scaling up social and capital expenditures. This should provide a solid foundation for medium-term development if implemented.” (Zimbabwe Independent, December 21, 2017 — January 4, 2018).
Observed economist Vince Musewe: “It does not take a month to repair an economy that has been damaged for 37 years.” True, true!
Remarked journalist Loughty Dube: “In normal countries, new governments are rated for performance over 100 days. In Zimbabwe, in just over a month you have people parroting how good or bad a government is. Time will tell. Let the government run the course and the results will speak for themselves.” That’s political maturity writ large.
But some in the opposition seem to have adopted an attitude of political spite. They are condemning anything and everything associated with the new government, citing, among others, what they call the unconstitutional removal of Mugabe. But only on November 21, 2017, they were prepared to vote on the side of the “putschists” together with Zanu PF MPs to impeach Mugabe, only to be denied the chance to do so by the arrival of Mugabe’s resignation letter. When did they finally realise that this was, after all, an illegal removal of a government? Would they have said the same had Mnangagwa included them in the government? Such a sour grape reaction is not lost on the people; they neither take it lightly nor kindly.
Wrote another scribe Andrew Kunambura: “The opposition in Zimbabwe should be careful and wary. Their actions and words appear like they wish that Mugabe had stayed on and, by so doing, they risk further alienating themselves from the populace. The vast majority of Zimbabweans did not want Mugabe anymore from many years back. If they (the opposition) continue on this silly boulevard, they could be donating free votes to Zanu PF. This is the time they need proper thinkers, not the pretenders who went to Washington DC recently and carried with them an unwanted stowaway.” Heavy stuff, eh? But true, true
Indeed, the MDC-T has proper thinkers in its ranks like the level-headed Eddie Cross, whose take on the new Zanu PF government has been measured in tone and tenor and so will not alienate not only the floating votes of those people who have seen a lot of good in the ouster of Mugabe and also the initial steps taken by Mnangagwa, but also the votes of MDC-T supporters who, over and above being loyal to the party, have a sense of fair-mindedness and that sense of proportion that they are Zimbabweans above everything else.
Let me illustrate my point. I saw this even-mindedness in September 2017 when Dynamos Football Club supporters, more than supporters of any other club, expressed outrage when Zimbabwe Football Association chairperson Philip Chiyangwa, a known Dynamos supporter, unilaterally rescinded the red card issued to Dynamos’ top striker at a key stage of the season to obviously and blatantly enhance the clubs’ chances of winning the league title.
So, the opposition had better be warned that people, ordinary people, have collective wisdom, and will not swallow hook, line and sinker anything and everything coming their way from whoever and whatever. People are guided by an internalised and institutionalised sense of fairness and justice. There will come a time —if it hasn’t come already — when it does not matter to the people who says this or that as long as he delivers.
These opposition elements are being misled by armchair radicals — those people who act like activists, but from an armchair, from a totally inactive, theoretical position, mostly on social media. They profess radical aims without taking any action to realise them. Their ideas require them to be physically involved in political struggles, but they instead choose to be intentionally dismissive of real-world issues and problems so as to continue believing in the false reality that their views create.
The latest false reality created by such armchair radicals is that former Vice-President Phelekhezela Mphoko’s terminal benefits have been cut on tribal grounds without taking into consideration that this is in line with his short stint in office, as opposed to the late Vice-President John Nkomo, who served much longer and got a much bigger package.
They view the world solely according to their own perceptions, instead of concentrating on what they should really do — absorbing the physical and practical reality of the situation. Instead, they distort people’s understanding of complex issues by abusing social media.
As we head into 2018, we should make a resolution not to be misled by such armchair revolutionaries because we are not that far apart, and neither are we irreconcilably so.
Happy New Year!
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org