Today marks the end of 2018 and what a dramatic year it has been. It started off full of promise and hope coming just six weeks after departure of former President Robert Mugabe.
Develop me Tapiwa Gomo
There was renewed hope among Zimbabweans that with Mugabe out of the way, the road to Canaan was all clear. And there was justifiable expectation for a stampede by foreign investors to come help the nation rekindle its aged economy.
Today, as we say goodbye to 2018, that hope has been decimated as the economy continued to plunge and life becoming harder and harder to the extent that some now wish Mugabe was still in power.
On 14 February, the nation mourned Morgan Tsvangirai, the man whose name was synonymous with the struggle for democracy. There are some who believe that with his death, the struggle for political change took a major step backwards.
While it may be too far-fetched to imagine that he would have won the July 30 election, it is evident that those who remained at the helm of his party are undemocratic power mongers.
Power struggles and grabbing became the determinant factors in deciding leaders. That was a major dent on the party that had been the driver for democratic change.
While democracy was being slaughtered in the MDC party corridors, the command leadership in Zanu PF was gaining and flexing muscle – autocratic muscle.
On 18 April, the country celebrated its birthday without nurses, because command leadership by Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga had fired thousands of them for going on strike to demand reasonable salaries.
“Government has decided in the interest of patients and of saving lives to discharge all the striking nurses with immediate effect,” the acting President Chiwenga said at the time. As the nurses trekked home, so did the ailing patients behind them and some lost their lives the government thought was saving.
Ours is an ironic world, but a weird one too. Who knew that the same scenario would repeat itself seven months later with Chiwenga as the acting President and this time involving doctors.
The irony continued as in both cases the labour-backed movement – the MDC remained aloof as if it was business as usual. They forgot the workers who gave them life. Kudos to the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association for remaining united, unrelenting and standing for your rights against the command leaders.
What followed after April was the dust from the campaign trails. The State media was awash with mega deals. Seas of red, yellow, green and all sorts of colours graced every public space. The opposition parties who were testing the freedom to campaign freely for the first time were both excitable and flamboyant promising bullet trains and all sorts of state-of-the art things, the world can offer. Populism prevailed over logic. Those who spoke sense did not find it easy to be heard. As the campaign drama unfolded, the economy was neglected, the effects of which are still being felt now.
Nonetheless, people voted and results were announced and contested. It was evident that the political environment had changed, but the political game and the umpire had not changed, a factor that has been perpetually ignored.
Maybe, it is worth reminding ourselves once again that in Zimbabwe political power does not reside and has never resided in the electoral processes or institutions of democracy or governance.
What removed Mugabe from power is exactly where power resides and if we want to invest hope in elections, we must first fix that – bring power to governance institutions so it becomes easily contestable. How about that as one of the 2019 projects for the unemployed leaders of the opposition? Surely, it is an available source of relevance.
Elections came and they went and as the campaign dust settled down, reality confronted the unsuspecting nation. A myriad of challenges abounds; cholera outbreak, cash crisis, shortages of basic supplies including fuel. It reduced the technocrats who have been deployed to massage the economy into ball boys who beg a rogue spectator to return the ball so the game can proceed. In response, the nation was fed with some episodes of political mud-sliding. Remember the story of Queen Bee.
What did it mean and what purpose did it serve and yet we desperately grab on to it as if it was our last supper? Those who spilled the story continue to eat from the national trough so are those it sought to tarnish. Nothing changed. Those fired from the Reserve Bank were re-hired, the same way all those accused of corruption are acquitted in what is becoming a revolving door of (in)justice.
All that points to the need to relocate power to where it is supposed to be – the people.
Going into 2019, we know that government has struggled to improve the economy. We know that they control political and military power, but they are unable to use it to improve anything. We know that they have struggled to bring investment in the country, but they find it easy to use their power on powerless nurses and doctors. Shortages of everything and market distortion will continue unabated in 2019. We also know that due to erratic rainfall in the 2018-19 agricultural season, most areas will be hit by drought.
We either bra ce ourselves for tough times in 2019, or tighten our belts and fight to bring power back to the people.