When the abnormal becomes the new normal

Guest Column: Cliff Chiduku

ZIMBABWE has a fascinating history of defying the norms, failure to be moved even by horrendous acts of its leaders and more frequently taking the grotesque in its stride like all is normal. Could this indifference be the major reason of the country’s regression despite very high hopes when we attained independence in 1980, after a protracted liberation struggle?

Since independence, Zimbabweans have gone through trying times to the extent that they have resigned to fate. They cannot hold their leaders to account even when taxpayer’s money is being abused. Many a times, people have settled for less because we have told ourselves that half loaf is better than nothing. Time is now to hold leaders to account for the actions. The abnormal cannot be the new normal.

In 2016, former President Robert Mugabe (may his soul rest in peace) told the world that the country had lost US$15 billion of diamond revenue since the mining of the precious gems started close to a decade ago. But since then, no arrests have been made despite the country losing revenue that could have changed the living standards of its people. Right now, hospitals have ran out of life-saving drugs and civil servants have been turned paupers as if the country is not endowed with natural resources. It is unimaginable that family planning pills are out of stock in Zimbabwe at the moment. To the new dispensation, the diamond grand theft is a closed chapter. However, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe is open for business mantra is unlikely to bear fruit if the government “sees nothing and hears nothing” of the great Marange diamond heist.

The Warriors’ prospects of making it to the 2022 Qatar World Cup last week suffered a major blow when the senior men’s team fell 1-nil to minnows Somalia in the first leg qualifier in Djibouti. Losing to bottom-ranked Somalia is a new low by any standards. The entire Zifa leadership should do the honourable thing; shoulder the blame and resign en-masse. Even a 6-0 win in the return leg at the National Sports Stadium today cannot atone to such an embarrassment. An apology cannot appease soccer-mad Zimbabweans. Don’t we have enough problems in the country already? Such an embarrassment should not be taken as the normal; someone must pay for it.

In an abnormal country like Zimbabwe, a government has the luxury of splashing $8 million in hard currency to procure snow graders. Maybe, this was a precautionary measure in the face of climate change. To show that the abnormality was the new normal, then Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Joram Gumbo told local authorities that despite the boob of purchasing snow graders, it was time to bury the past and focus on the future.

“You (local authorities) were given graders by Zinara from a company called Univern. There was a misunderstanding between Zinara and Univern on how to operate the graders. It is true that some of the graders are not for road-making at all. They are for snow grading,” Gumbo said. “But we have them, we have to use them. They were bought by us; that is corruption between us; that is what we did, that is how we failed. Those who bought them erred. But let us forget about it. Let us move forward,” Gumbo added.

A few ago, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) took banking to a new normal when it introduced surrogate currency – bond note – which Zimbabweans were told was trading at par with the United States dollar. RBZ governor John Panonetsa Mangudya even vowed that he would resign if bond notes failed to solve the currency conundrum the country was facing. A few years down that line, the economy is regressing – the Gresham’s law is taking effect – bad money is chasing away good money. Savings, salaries and pensions have been eroded.
While the government was rubbing hands in glee at the windfall, those who had money in banks and e-money wallets were left counting losses as their accounts were credited with worthless Zimdollar. Another grand heist! Mangudya was not only allowed to get away with murder, but in May this he was rewarded with another five-year contract. Now Zimbabwe has reached a new normal as money changers are “burning” greenbacks, reminiscent of the 2008 baccossi era.

In an abnormal country, an opposition leader can support the ruling party at every turn. NCA’s Lovemore Madhuku and MDC-T leader Thokozani Khupe have taken opposition politics to a new normal. For the sake of Zimbabwe, the two “former” opposition party leaders should have snubbed Mnangagwa and show support to Chamisa in calling for an all-inclusive dialogue process and appointment of a neutral convenor. Mnangagwa stooped to a new low by dialoguing with briefcase party leaders, leaving out Chamisa, who gave him a ran for his money. Killer Zivhu has seen what Madam Khupe and Madhuku have not figured. Some Zanu PF cadres must be jealousy because the two opposition leaders are getting more attention in the State media than those in the “ruining” party. Maybe it is their time to eat!
However, it is not too late for the two to sign out; they cannot mourn more than the bereaved.

It is only exclusive in an abnormal country like Zimbabwe where opposition parties are of the opinion that demonstrations and protests can force a sitting President to the negotiating table. Before staging the peaceful demonstrations, supporters are “commandeered” to seek divine intervention. Zimbabweans are tired of demonstrations; there is need for Nelson Chamisa-led MDC to change tact in confronting the elephant in the room. Politics in Zimbabwe has always been a dirty business, but it appears to be getting dirtier every day and marrying politics and religion is trading in dangerous waters. It might breed religious fundamentalism. By the way, God is apolitical. God is not in it. Simple!

Last week, Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi confirmed on social media that Zimbabwe has reached a new normal when he sensationally claimed that Bustop TV comedienne, Samantha “Gonyeti” Kureya’s abduction was stage-managed. Mr Minister, how can Gonyeti self-inflict that damage? It is a fact that her abduction was meant to silence her. There’s nothing funny about the country’s economic and political problems, but humour is among the few ways Zimbabweans have mastered as a way to cope up with desperation and frustrations. It is proven that laughter can be therapeutic to orient people in troubled and increasingly polarised. Zimbabweans are laughing as the saying goes so they don’t cry. It is only in an abnormal country where jest is a crime.

In 2015, journalists-cum-activist Itai Dzamara was allegedly kidnapped by five men at a barbershop in Glen View, Harare. Four years down the line, he has not been accounted for. But someone in the corridors of power knows what happened to Dzamara. A person cannot just vanish into thin air unless when a country reaches a new normal.

For certain, Zimbabwe will not prosper unless leaders are held accountable to their actions. Citizens should stop believing that the abnormal is the new normal. The ability for Zimbabwe to prosper will depend on having leaders with integrity; who are prepared to stand up for the truth and die for it. It will also depend on the masses placing nation above government and truth above party loyalty. There is no need of normalising the abnormal. Don’t we have enough problems in Zimbabwe already?

Cliff Chiduku is a journalist. He writes in his personal capacity. He can be contacted at cchiduku@gmail.com

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