The good, the bad, the ugly of 2023

Zimbabwe's return to international football brought relief. Zifa Normalisation Committee led by Lincoln Mutasa has their work cut out for them.

THE curtain is coming down on 2023.

It was a fast-paced year of riveting political intrigue, unprecedented economic turmoil, and endless drama gripping Zimbabwe’s sporting fraternity, particularly football.

Indeed, it is understandable if there is no consensus on whether the year turned out to be an “annus horribilis” (horrible year) or “annus mirabilis” (wonderful year).

The jury is still out.

This year was marked by a cocktail of the good, bad, and the ugly.

The Zimbabwe Independent reflects on the landmark events that dominated headlines in 2023.

The good

July: In a move that cast a ray of hope on Zimbabwe’s endless football woes, Fifa unveiled the Normalisation Committee with the mandate to run the affairs of the embattled Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) until June 2024 following the lifting of a suspension on the country.

Before the formation of the four (4) member normalisation committee led by former Dynamos chairman Lincoln Mutasa, Zimbabwe had been banned from participating in international football activities.

However, after Fifa scrapped the 17-month ban, Zimbabwe returned to the fold, culminating in its inclusion in the 2026 World Cup draw.

The Warriors, as Zimbabwe’s senior men’s football team is fondly known, were drawn in the same group with Nigeria, South Africa, Benin, Lesotho and Rwanda.

August: In keeping up with its constitutional obligations, Zimbabwe managed to stage its national harmonised elections on August 23.

On the eve of voting, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) announced that the Treasury had availed the bulk of funding required to run the plebiscite despite a debilitating economic crisis gripping the country.

Close to 7 million people registered to vote in an election that was fiercely contested between Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa and the then outgoing President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa won the contested election by 52,6% while his closest rival Chamisa garnered 44% of the vote — a total of 11 candidates contested in the Presidential election.

Several observer missions including Sadc, the European Union (UE), and the Commonwealth were accredited to observe the elections.

This year’s voter turnout was 68,9%.

During the same month, President Mnangagwa commissioned the Hwange Thermal Station units 6 and 7 as Zimbabwe moved to address its perennial power shortages.

Cumulatively, the two (2) units can generate 600 MW. 

December: After languishing in prison for a year, Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume was acquitted by the High Court. He had wrongfully been convicted for inciting public violence.

 The bad

August: While Zimbabwe had enjoyed relatively consistent power supplies, the nation plunged into darkness as Zesa announced a schedule of rolling load shedding. Output by industries dwindled and companies also lost significant production time. 

The country is currently enduring prolonged rolling power outages owing to reported technical faults at the Hwange Thermal Power Station and scheduled maintenance at one of the units.

Zimbabwe is crippled by a double whammy of load shedding and water rationing.

November: Though Zimbabwe’s senior football team resumed playing international football in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, the country’s stadium including the National Sports Stadium still does not satisfy Confederation of African Football (Caf) standards. This resulted in the Warriors playing its home games in Rwanda. 

Zimbabwe played back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against Rwanda on November 15 at the 10,000-seater Huye Stadium before hosting the Super Eagles at the same venue on November 19.

The ugly

August: Though Zimbabwe successfully staged its national harmonised election on August 23, the polls were discredited by various observer missions including Sadc, the EU, and the Commonwealth for failing to satisfy international standards.

Strikingly, Sadc, which in the past has commended Zimbabwe for running credible polls categorically announced that the country’s polls were “deeply flawed” and lacked transparency.

Head of Sadc’s observer Mission former Zambian vice president Nevers Mumba read the team’s adverse report.

Mumba, who has stood by Sadc’s report was excoriated by senior Zanu PF officials and labeled a Western functionary bent on effecting regime change in Zimbabwe. In the aftermath of the discredited polls, CCC leader Chamisa called for a fresh election.

September: In September, a Cholera outbreak was reported in Buhera, Manicaland province, with health authorities warning that the waterborne disease could spread to other parts of the country.

Over time, outbreaks were reported in other parts of the country including Harare and Chitungwiza with the capital declaring a state of emergency as part of measures to contain the disease.

Wellington Mariga, a Kuwadzana resident has taken the City of Harare to court to force it to immediately provide clean and potable water to the suburb in the face of the devastating cholera outbreak.

As Zimbabwe continues to endure prolonged spells of heat waves heralding the looming El-Nino-induced drought, the Meteorological Services Department (MSD) also announced in September that some areas in the southern part of the country would receive below-normal rainfall in the 2023-24 farming season, but did not rule out sporadic violent storms and flash floods. 

At the last cabinet meeting held on December 12, Zimbabwe's cumulative suspected cholera cases were 10,633, with 10,203 recoveries as of December 6.  

October: Two (2) months after the disputed polls, a hitherto unknown Bulawayo-based opposition activist claiming to be CCC’s interim secretary-general, Sengezo Tshabangu, recalled 15 CCC legislators and 17 councilors claiming they ceased to be members of the political party.

The dispute, which has spilled into the courts resulted in Zimbabwe staging by-elections in the affected constituencies, with the next round of elections scheduled on February 3.

Political analysts have hinted that the emerging fissures in CCC may result in another split of Zimbabwe’s main election as Zanu PF maneuvers to clinch a 2/3 majority in Parliament.

November: On November 30, Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube announced Zimbabwe’s 2024 budget amounting to an estimated US$10 billion though it was denominated in the local currency at a value of $58,2 trillion.

Ncube’s budget, which introduced a raft of fresh punitive taxes for a citizenry that is generally overtaxed was widely criticized as being anti-poor.

Some of Ncube’s unpopular tax proposals included a 150% hike in road toll fees and an increase in passport application charges from US$120 to US$200.

Following widespread criticism, Ncube has since revised the hikes- slashing road toll fees to 50% while passport fees will be pegged at US$150.  

November: Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) activist Tapfumaneyi Masaya was abducted while campaigning in Mabvuku, Harare, and was found murdered.

Masaya was grabbed by armed men and forced into a vehicle while campaigning ahead of by-elections on December 9. The CCC claimed the vehicle was owned by Scott Sakupwanya, Zanu PF’s by-election candidate.

December: At the time of going to print former legislator for Zengeza Job Sikhala was still languishing in jail, having been jailed in 2022 for inciting public violence following the murder of opposition activist Moreblessing Ali.

Human rights organisations have criticized Mnangagwa’s administration for weaponizing the judiciary to clamp down on political opponents. 

Notably, the civic society cites Sikhala’s continued incarceration as an example of how Mnangagwa is manipulating the judiciary to thwart dissent.

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