A year after the elections that consolidated President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s power, it is impossible not to see his posters in Harare’s streets and the country’s highways and not feel a tinge of irony.
Mnangagwa made some lofty promises, most of which would have turned Zimbabwe into some form of utopia. As far-fetched as they were he, however, had his most impressionable supporters eating out of his hand.
Some of the promises that Mnangagwa made were on power provision, world class health services and a thriving economy.
His promises were lapped up with jingoistic fervour by his most ardent supporters, and anyone who dared question Mnangagwa was accused of one of Zimbabwe’s most heinous crimes; lack of patriotism.
Pointing out the folly of believing some of Mnangagwa’s promises triggered the wrath of his supporters, who often conflate Mnangagwa and Zanu PF on one hand and Zimbabwe on the other as being one.
Critics were accused of being pessimists who did not want Zimbabwe to succeed.
There was a stupefying chorus to give Mnangagwa a chance, with the chance-givers arguing that he was different from his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
This argument, no matter how improbable, resonated with many; in spite of Mnangagwa’s half a century or so serving loyally at Mugabe’s side, some were convinced or at least convinced themselves that the two men were different.
New mind-numbing and totally pointless clichés were introduced into our lexicon; “New Dispensation” and “Second Republic”, whatever that means.
While not much of an orator, Mnangagwa delivered well-crafted policy statements that had some people believe there was, indeed, change in Zimbabwe and that the country was on a new trajectory.
The stodginess of most of the presentations was ignored. After all, Zimbabwe had a master orator for 37 years and all he had managed was to rundown the country.
Maybe it was time to give dourness and stodginess a chance, after all, charisma and oratory had ruined our country.
But as I asked before: Besides the rhetoric, what else does Mnangagwa offer?
A year after the elections, it is time for us to take stock of where we are and ask if this is the Zimbabwe we want.
I will start with the simple things; a year ago, inflation was barely an issue, most salaried people could afford basics, although there was the obligatory grumble.
Mnangagwa promised a better economy and on simplistic terms, Zimbabwe should be better than it was in 2018 or in 2017, when he was ushered in to lead the country by a wave of ecstasy, where we temporarily ignored his history in politics and celebrated the fall of Mugabe.
When Mnangagwa came into power, petrol was selling at $1,34 per litre, a loaf of bread 90c. Medication was expensive, but not out of reach, while people did not have to break the bank to get transport into town.
But since Mnangagwa and his dispensation rolled into town, the cost of almost everything has gone up 17-fold, salaries have remained static and most basics are not available.
Where available, they are out of reach.
Most businesses are in real trouble right now, with mass retrenchments and shutdowns being a real possibility.
Instead of being responsive, our government is tone-deaf, harping on about abstract issues that mean nothing to us such as budget surpluses.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube has become the poster-boy for this tone deafness, making promises that he cannot keep; for example, that prices would have started going down by this July.
Well, Ncube, yesterday was the last day of July; any update on how low the prices went?
When Zimbabweans complained about the price of fuel, Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi told them to cycle to work, in probably one of the most cynical responses to a national problem, ranking high up there with Marie Antoinette’s “let them have cake”.
Among other promises in the Zanu PF manifesto, Mnangagwa promised to fight corruption.
Most of the arrests for corruption have been of “small fish”, so far, until the arrest of Prisca Mupfumira, the Tourism minister over corruption at the National Social Security Authority.
The government expected loud cheers, but instead got sneers and cynicism. It is because we have been here before; we know how it ends.
But because this lot governing us are out of touch and believe in their own exceptionalism, where they believe they are blazing a trail, they fail to read the mood of a very sceptical nation.
Information ministry permanent secretary Ndabaningi Nick Mangwana probably threw an air-punch, declaring Mupfumira’s arrest as the first of a serving minister, which was supposed to be an illustration that the “new dispensation” was sincere in its fight against corruption.
He forgot or he had never heard of the arrests of Kumbirai Kangai and Chris Kuruneri. Despite their arrests, the former is buried at the heroes acre, while the latter served as a Zanu PF legislator long after his arrest.
We do not get excited over such arrests, Mangwana, but instead are engulfed by a sense of deja vu.
Mnangagwa also promised to free-up the airwaves and allow for free speech; I do not need to tell you where we are in this regard.
I have lost count of the number of people who have been arrested for saying Mnangagwa has failed. So, to avoid arrest, here is my summation of his first year in power; it has not been successful by any stretch of imagination.
The campaign posters that lineup our streets seem to be laughing at us and questioningly looking down at us on whether we really expected anything new from a party that has been responsible for the mess.
We are learning the hard way that a leopard can never change its spots.
Nqaba Matshazi is AMH head of digital. He writes in his personal capacity. Feedback: email@example.com. Twitter: @nqabamatshazi