Guest Column: Learnmore Zuze
ABOUT a month from today, Zimbabwe marks about 20 months after the departure of former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the liberator once upon a time, who turned an oppressor of his own people. In November, 2017, the atmosphere was engulfed by an electric euphoria that temporarily united even the worst of enemies. The unity that enveloped Zimbabwe in November 2017 knew no political affiliation, cutting across the racial, political, tribal and even religious divide. Black and white pounded the streets arm in arm; the army was immortalised and momentarily a dark cloud seemed to have melted from above the nation.
No more would the nation hear the loquacious Grace Mugabe shaming and deriding grown up men in the form of ministers and senior government officials. The public ululated that the systematic harassment of motorists by the Zimbabwe Republic Police finally had come to end. People saw the end of the monopoly and partisan approach to the media of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Cooperation. There was further hope that the evil of multiple pricing systems was also going to meet its demise. The general populace envisaged a new pride in the long-shamed country; even those across the borders, for the first time, confessed to coming back home.
The truth is that everyone had felt the anguish of living under the Grace Mugabe-influenced rule of Robert Mugabe. The First Lady, then, had become the de-facto president of the country and any shrewd person would have seen that Mugabe, the official president, had become a lame duck despite his persistent denials. To her negative credit, Grace Mugabe, became progressively vocal, tactlessly taking shots at the army. A plethora of ills had dogged Zimbabwe and little doubt remained within the citizenry that Mugabe and his ilk had to go. Zimbabweans had grown weary with struggles. Most people, I included, wholesomely subscribed to the view that anything else should be better than the Mugabe regime. Just two weeks before the astounding coup which toppled Mugabe, I wrote the following statement: “I cannot say whether things will change if Mugabe leaves power, but what I know for a fact is that things have to change if they are to get better in Zimbabwe.” This was a unanimous feeling amongst Zimbabweans; no one could tell with certainty what the post-Mugabe era would be like but, in unison, Zimbabweans believed that somehow things had to change if they were to get better.
And indeed they changed.
Zimbabweans today face an unpalatable truth; it’s an ugly reality, which, in our analyses, eluded us.
The political environment has remained volatile and talk of a delta between those in the top echelons of power today remains rife. In fact, the first demonstration that Zimbabwe was still stuck in a political rut occurred on August 1 when, after the parliamentary elections, the Zimbabwean military opened fire on protesters, culminating in six deaths and dozens of injuries. The offending soldiers did not meet with any consequence following the dastardly act.
Even the subsequent reports from electoral observers from Europe and the US confirmed that there was a semblance, in the handling of the voter process, which existed under the previous regime.
Voter intimidation, some of which was by the military at the presumed instigation by Zanu PF ruled the day. Currently, there remains a standoff between Zanu PF and the MDC regarding the much-talked about dialogue. It’s not even clear what is set to be achieved by the dialogue, but the inescapable truth is that this so called dialogue has no direction neither does it have clear objectives.
Meanwhile, nothing confirms the worst of the current period as opposed to the previous than the incessant economic woes besetting Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans, economically, are wallowing in an orgy of self pity as they look back to the Mugabe era. Bad, the situation was, but today it has become worse. The fading slogan, “Zimbabwe is open for business” exists in name. In reality, new investments splashed in the State media have been slow mainly due to the subsisting sanctions, indigenisation policies and the perennial currency convertibility woes.
The human rights abuses that saw several western nations impose sanctions on Zimbabwe remain intact. As things stand, there are 141 entities under US sanctions including President Mnangagwa. Despite calls for the lifting of sanctions by African Presidents like South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, American President Donald Trump extended US sanctions for another year.
A mere glance at the quality of life of Zimbabweans today pathetically confirms the gory truth of our unenviable situation. The Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority has blatantly failed in its mandate to provide electricity to the nation.
At least under Mugabe, no electrical power cuts were experienced. Zimbabwe has virtually little to no households that still enjoy running water in their homes.
Talking of a problem as archaic as the scarcity of fuel, Zimbabwe has become a haven for weekly fuel price increases. The banning of the use of multiple currencies has further thrown people into the deep end.
It is sad to say that Zimbabwe finds herself under worse circumstances than before Robert Mugabe and the worst part of it all is that there is apparently no end in sight to the afflictions.
Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer and writes in his personal capacity