2016 a year to forget for Zimbos

HARARE - Long-suffering Zimbabweans, reeling from a myriad challenges, say 2016 ranks among the most horrible years the nation has had since the country gained its independence from Britain in April 1980, with President Robert Mugabe and his government looking completely clueless about resolving the deepening political and economic rot.

This sentiment comes as Mugabe, who turns 93 in February next year, faces the biggest challenge to his 36-year-rule both within and outside the ruling Zanu PF, as the country lurches from one crisis to another — amid growing civil unrest as the populace agitates against ever falling standards of living.

Analysts and ordinary citizens who spoke to the Daily News yesterday said instead of tending to the country’s problems and providing hope to millions of impoverished Zimbabweans, Mugabe and his colleagues spent most of 2016 fighting over Zanu PF’s unresolved succession question.

As a result, the ruling party’s ugly and seemingly unstoppable tribal, factional and succession wars had dominated news headlines and negatively affected all facets of Zimbabwean life during the year.

Respected University of Zimbabwe politics lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, was among those who agreed that 2016 was “a very difficult year”.

“For most Zimbabweans, 2016 was probably the nastiest year since the government of national unity, particularly regarding the economy. It reminded people of the 2008 crisis. And as the year ends, there is a health hazard in Mbare, where there is a typhoid outbreak.

“Many people would want to just kiss goodbye to 2016 and hope that 2017 won’t be worse. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to be any better,” Masunungure said.

“We should also take note of other key events that happened during the year, such as the fallout between war veterans and ... Mugabe and Zanu PF.  That was unprecedented since 1977. One cannot doubt that the party is likely to change, having lost an important ally.

“One is also reminded of the #social movements and stay-aways, as well as the protests that followed. These marked a change of alertness and activism of citizens. And 2017 also brings the prospects of a coalition,” Masunungure added.

Ordinary citizens who were canvassed by the Daily News said the problems that they had experienced in 2016 should not be allowed to continue and worsen in 2017.

“Honestly, I just want President Mugabe to go. We are tired, and we need new ideas. I do not care which political party the next person will come from, I just want someone who can offer us something better,” said 30-year-old Barnabas Mudzengerere.

Otilia Mvundura also said she had endured “a very difficult year” due to cash shortages and the introduction of the Statutory Instrument (S164) which banned the importation of basic consumer goods.

“We thought the bond notes were going to solve the cash crisis as was being said, but the problems actually became worse and prices even shot up.

“One other thing that they should solve is the network for pre-paid electricity, because sometimes you are told ‘we are offline’ when you need electricity to the point that you even get switched off while looking for electricity.

“And our health system needs to change because people are dying in queues waiting to be served. Just last month I know of a girl who bled to death in the queue after a miscarriage. They should define what emergency is,” Mvundura said.

“2016 was hard, I won’t lie. Cash just disappeared. For us it was even hard to celebrate Christmas. There was no electricity and we had to use paraffin. There was also no water and we had to go around looking for water,” said Jesmin Chikwiramakomo.

“Seriously, we want solutions in 2017 to the financial crisis we are experiencing because money is life. If you get sick and you do not have money you obviously die. So we need money, even mobile money,” Chikwiramakomo added.

It was also in 2016, in July, that Mugabe faced arguably one of the biggest  challenges to his rule, after fed up citizens staged a massive general strike, which led to questions being asked as to whether the unprecedented stay-away, dubbed Shutdown, marked the beginning of the end for Mugabe and Zanu PF.

From Harare to Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Masvingo, Kwekwe, Beitbridge, Bindura, Chipinge and other smaller towns, all the major urban areas resembled haunted ghost towns as Zimbabweans heeded the social media-driven call to shut down the country for the day.

And not even the suspicious shutdown of the popular multi-platform mobile phone messaging service, WhatsApp, at the time could shake the growing spirit of resistance which swept the entire length and breadth of the country.

The panicking authorities then resorted to thuggish tactics to foil the spirit of resistance, with heavily armed riot police descending on hapless protesters who were toyi-toying against the country’s collapsing economy.

The brutal crackdowns against vendors and pro-democracy activists in particular triggered an outpouring of anger among Zimbabweans, who were shocked by the police’s heavy-handedness.

And in a stunning development also in July, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) served divorce papers on Mugabe — marking the end of a political relationship that dates back to 1975 when freedom fighters catapulted the 92-year-old to the leadership of the ruling party.

The former freedom fighters had served as Mugabe and Zanu PF’s political power dynamos, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian on the throne in the hotly disputed 2000 and 2008 national elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.

To the utter disbelief of many Zimbabweans, the liberation struggle fighters have since gone on to say openly that Mugabe’s continued stay in power is now a stumbling block to the country’s development, adding almost maliciously, that the nonagenarian would also be “a hard-sell” if he contested the watershed 2018 presidential elections.

The country’s severe shortages of cash, which the government blamed on imports and externalisation, also served to heap the misery on ordinary folk, in addition to destabilising the banking sector — leading to fears that the country had slipped back into the 2008 mega crisis which was marked by empty shelves, hyperinflation and untold suffering.

In a bid to mitigate the crisis, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) introduced bond notes which were initially met with serious scepticism by the ordinary citizens, who claimed that the government was re-introducing the discarded Zim dollar via the back door.

However, and despite the introduction of the bond notes, the country remains in the grip of a serious cash crisis.

For the first time in the history of the country, Mugabe’s stone-broke government also began to struggle to pay its civil servants, with public sector salary dates now as elastic and as unpredictable as the discarded Zimbabwe dollar.

As it is, some civil servants will only be paid their December 2016 salaries next year. At the same time, the country’s dying health sector continued to experience serious problems, leading to the temporary closure of some of the State hospitals.

Those that were fortunate to continue, suspended major surgical services due to shortages of drugs, leaving many patients stranded.

Comments (2)

The ZANU machine blunders irregardless. There is something seriously wrong with our country but these gentlemen won't even stop to analyse the problems and listen to the people. Whats needed is a complete shift in the zimbo's perspective, Delivery from suffering, our children dying in hospital ques, police brutality, total disregard of the rule of law, looting of national resources, just to name a few, is not going to come from zanu. We need to believe in an opposition thats been steadfastly anti-zanu. Anything else is the same old.

Dunlop Munjanja - 31 December 2016

ZANU -PF is far from solving the problems of Zimbabwe. As long as they are in power Zimbabweans will continue to suffer endlessly. Best solution is purely change of Governmet - the people must be given freedom to choose their own leadership without being forced. A realistic suggestion could be to establish a transitional government made up of able and knowledgeble personnel selected on merit irespective of their political background to run and try to solve Zimbabwean crisis. This can go for a year up to the time for elections in 2018. During this period all problems would be solved on a non political basis and through preparations for a fair free and aunthentic elections underway. ZANU-PF has failed to deliver and must give way.

Pythias Makonese - 1 January 2017

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.