guest column Cliff Chiduku
“FELLOW Zimbabweans … the situation in our country has moved to another level. Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency, President Robert Mugabe and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed,” bellowed the harsh-voiced unfamiliar presenter on State television, clad in military fatigue,
“We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice. As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy,” added former Zimbabwe National Army chief of staff logistics, Major-General Sibusiso Moyo, on November 15, 2017 soon after the military took over control of State affairs.
His announcement came at the climax of a coup that toppled former President Mugabe, replacing him with his right handman Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mugabe was accused of running the country through repression, mismanagement and corruption. The nonagenarian leader was also accused of grooming his wife, Grace, for the country’s top post.
Soon after his inauguration, through his “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra, Mnangagwa — Mugabe’s enforcer for more than four decades, charmed the world, promising a better Zimbabwe for all. He promised zero tolerance to corruption. To show his seriousness in fighting graft, a special anti-corruption unit was set up in the President’s Office. Anti-corruption courts were set up countrywide. While people were still popping champagne over Mugabe’s departure, Mnangagwa unleashed the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) on his predecessor’s inner circle.
Since then, several politicians and bureaucrats have been arrested in a smash and grab exercise. A coterie of Mugabe’s allies made a beeline for the courts to face corruption and criminal abuse of office charges. While Zimbabweans were still celebrating that at least something was being done to the cancer that has been destroying the country’s economic fabric, the criminals were released.
However, a year-and-half after Mugabe’s demise, Zimbabwe finds itself in the same situation it was before the November 2017 coup. It’s de javu. The late French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr rightly captured the Zimbabwe situation now when he said “the more things change the more they remain the same”.
Parallels between Grace and First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa are being drawn. While Grace was accused of usurping Executive power, it seems Auxillia is travelling on the familiar road.
Early this year, Auxillia was accused of interfering in government programmes when she berated Health minister Obadiah Moyo and NatPharm board members in front of the media about drug shortages at health institutions.
Just like when SB Moyo read the “good” news on ZTV, the situation in Zimbabwe has moved to another level. At the moment, Zimbabweans are grappling with shortages of cash, fuel and electricity. Even bread is now a rare commodity. Passports are now almost impossible to get. Millions of economic refugees in the diaspora face deportation because they cannot renew their permits. People are sleeping outside banking halls because of chronic cash shortages and fears of financial collapse that rivals the 2007-2008 meltdown, when inflation shot beyond 500 billion percent, are rising.
While in November 2017, the inflation rate sat at 3%, it had risen to 176% by June this year, an all-time high since dollarisation. And last week, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube did the unthinkable, he suspended the announcement of inflation figures for half a year. Ncube is concealing evidence of how bad the situation has become. This is exclusive in a country whose situation has gone to another level of economic meltdown.
While Zimbabweans paid 50 cents to commute in urban areas for eight years since 2009, they now have to dig deeper into their virtually empty pockets, forking out six dollars per trip. The elderly are developing sore feet waiting for the few Zupco buses. It’s a punishing and dehumanising experience.
Prices of basic commodities rose four-fold at a time salaries remained stagnant. Last week, a Mutare woman took her life and that of her son and left a note blaming “economic hardships”. This can only happen in a country whose situation has gone to another new level.
The power load-shedding situation in Zimbabwe has reached another higher level. Zesa is owed more than $3 billion by consumers, mostly politicians whose identities are known. No need for scapegoating.
The government must act on such defaulters if the situation is to be rescued. Now companies bearing the brunt of cruel load-shedding schedules as they resort to diesel and petrol generators to power their operations. It is unsustainable. Productive time is being lost in fuel queues.
A country cannot be run by generators unless the situation would have gone out of control.
In the 2018/2019 season, government poured US$3 billion into the Command Agriculture hole, but half of the population faces starvation.
A look into Auditor-General Mildred Chiri’s latest report shows a gloomy picture of the state of affairs in parastatals. There is rampant corruption, mismanagement and looting; and it seems no one cares.
However, such vices can be swept under the carpet in a banana republic – when the situation would have reached another level. The effects of corruption are taking a toll on the economy. Corruption is a crime against humanity – it increases the cost of doing business and it drives away investors – it should be erased, but not yet in Zimbabwe.
Zacc chairperson Justice Loice Matanda-Moyo should now walk the talk on corruption – no more catch and release shows. The anti-corruption dragnets should not let any big fish slip through.
The situation in the healthcare has also reached another level. After inheriting a “jewel of Africa”, almost four decades after independence, the country has no healthcare system to talk about anymore.
Hospitals have become death traps. Referral hospitals have run out of basics such as painkillers and bandages. Health workers are forced to improvise as they work without consumables such as gloves.
Imagine that expecting mothers are now required to bring water and candles at council clinics as the institutions are experiencing water and electricity shortages. Should Zimbabweans resort to prophets for healing sessions?
It is only in a country whose situation would have gone out of control, that a President hires a private jet from Dubai for a 20-minute journey to Gweru to preside over a “mere” graduation ceremony. Maybe, it’s justified because our roads are riddled with potholes.
Even though Mugabe had a penchant for luxuries, he would make it a point to use either a presidential helicopter or travel by road. This shows that our leaders do not comprehend the magnitude of the problems that Zimbabwe finds itself in.
The boil this country is nursing can burst at any time, unless our leaders brave the pain and act. The rate at which the situation is deteriorating in Zimbabwe is alarming. It seems criminals around the President have resurfaced ten-fold!
If Mnangagwa knew what the ordinary person, who thronged the streets to demonstrate against Mugabe’s misrule, is experiencing, then the time to act and rescue the situation is now because the situation in our country has moved to another level. Desperate times call for desperate measures.