Denials of a crisis don’t wash it away

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Editorial comment

ZIMBABWE is in crisis. Daily power cuts have returned, long fuel queues have refused to disappear while the country is facing what the United Nations has called its “worst ever hunger crisis”. The political and economic crises have rapidly deteriorated such that the country is at a tipping point.

Inflation is at 837%, according to official estimates, as Zimbabweans, for the second time in a decade, watch their savings vanish. It speaks volumes that everyone, bar the government, can see that the direction the country is headed is not the right one.

The public health sector has all but collapsed because the government is failing to solve the challenges it is facing and has, instead, resorted to harassing health personnel for demanding better working conditions, including personal protective equipment and decent salaries.

It goes without saying that Zimbabwe cannot boast of a robust health delivery system when public hospitals are dysfunctional, with nurses and senior doctors on strike.

It is without doubt that Zimbabwe — which boasts one of Africa’s highest literacy rates, has abundant natural resources and was once known as the breadbasket of the continent — can become successful again.

But rampant public corruption, nepotism and worsening human rights abuses under President Emmerson Mnangagwa have made such dreams impossible.

The country needs political stability, policy predictability and respect for the rule of law to prosper. It has the potential to be an economic powerhouse. But this will only happen with political stability. The current situation cannot be allowed to continue any longer.

Two years after promising peace and tolerance, Mnangagwa’s mask has slipped to reveal the wolf that was hiding behind a sheep’s façade.

Last Friday, Western diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe, in a rare move, expressed deep concern over deteriorating political and economic crises.

Mnangagwa, they said, was using the cover of the COVID-19 outbreak to stifle freedoms.

“COVID-19 must not be used as an excuse to restrict citizens fundamental freedoms,” the statement by heads of mission from the United States, Britain, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Norway and Poland read.

They challenged Mnangagwa to “address corruption and the illicit extraction of Zimbabwe’s wealth for personal gain, which continue to undermine Zimbabwe’s development.”

“The government also has a responsibility to investigate and prosecute those responsible for violating human rights,” the diplomats said.

Local churches, opposition parties, civic groups, lawyers and even regional countries, including South Africa (unusually, we might add), can see that the emperor is naked, but he insists on piling on regardless, carrying his shame.