IT began with the ouster of the late former President Robert Mugabe, who many identified as a liberator-turned despot. At the height of his rule, and in the twilight of his reign, a common factor endured, namely repression. This repression colloquially began to be termed “Mugabeism”.
This term encapsulates the principle where a leader brooks no dissent; it is the capture of all national institutions to serve the purpose of the leader. Further, the most defining element of “Mugabeism” was the use of terror and brutal tactics on anyone with antagonistic views. The phrase is simply an amalgamation of everything that contrasts democracy.
In short, under “Mugabeism”, either one agrees with the leader or they risk death, incapacitation or injury. Mugabe’s agonising rule endured for decades with a seemingly hapless Zimbabwean population resigning to its fate until November 2017. To some, it came so fast that they did not recognise that what they were witnessing was just a manifestation of deep-seated skirmishes that had rankled on for a long time.
At the time Mugabe was ousted from power, the topmost thing on the mind of Zimbabweans was that nothing could be worse than what they were enduring. Life could not possibly get any worse and, therefore, Zimbabweans needed little persuasion to march against Mugabe. He was the epitome of their suffering. He represented and was the personification of anguish. For women whose husbands had gone into diaspora oblivion, the man was the architect. For the unemployed graduate, who had endured eight or more years of redundancy, again, Mugabe was the engineer of his/her ills. It did not take a rocket scientist to realise that anyone who promised or could depose Mugabe would turn into an instant hero. This rings true for Morgan Tsvangirai. He may not necessarily have been the right choice of candidate for some Zimbabweans, but it was apparent that, for decades on end, even his would-be critics threw their weight behind him as it was palpable that Mugabe was the common adversary who had dragged the country into the mud and had to be eradicated.
It was, therefore, no wonder that after Mugabe had been adroitly toppled from power, no one in their wildest imaginations had envisaged Zimbabwe collapsing further. It was as if Zimbabwe had hit the proverbial rock bottom under Mugabe; the only way was up, but unfortunately not so. It is just about two years after Mugabe was unseated, but the current state of Zimbabwe is inexplicable. Those who died in the month that Mugabe was forced from power would immediately die again from shock of the topsy-turvy state of affairs if they were to resurrect today. The economic collapse and decay is unprecedented. Even during Mugabe’s era of economic ruin before the Government of National Unity, the most potent force that brought an economic paralysis was hyperinflation. Hyperinflation made the world call Zimbabwe a failed State, with virtually empty shops and a depressed education system, coupled with a comatose health delivery system.
It is against this background that the current state of affairs in Zimbabwe has crept towards a tipping point. Hyperinflation has returned, and with a vengeance this time around.
Things have fallen apart; the centre cannot hold. It appears like no one has the power to extinguish the raging economic fire. During Mugabe’s era, the old man would at least howl and scare the business community. He would try method X and method Y, although failure remained the hallmark of his rule. The current state of things makes one cringe with fear. There is no one, absolutely no one, to stand with and defend the people who have had to endure all forms of suffering.
In my own assessment, this economic malaise has come to that point we witnessed in 2009. Zimbabwe can only move on with a transitional authority. It is a lie that politics can help alleviate this economic crisis. Zanu PF can no longer go it alone. Meanwhile, the MDC is not even in power to talk of. Something has got to give. Politics has much to do with swaying the emotions of the people, but what is urgently required now transcends that. Zimbabwe needs salvation in real terms.
The debate that can take place now is one pertaining to the composition of the transitional authority. It is not and should not be debated which country the current government can engage. It should be a debate on how to unite as a country and achieve economic stability. Anyone who forces the current situation to go on, cannot be for the suffering Zimbabweans.
In my view, everything being equal, a transitional authority that largely excludes politicians would be ideal. I maintain that such a situation would be the most ideal. Elections should possibly occur under the transitional mechanism, which should itself hand over power to a new government that wins a credible election after about five years.
Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer and writes here in his personal capacity.