2018: Zim's annus horribilis

HARARE - The Latin term, annus horribilis, meaning a bad and unfortunate year, would probably for most Zimbabweans best describe the year 2018.

Average Zimbabweans would be forgiven to think that the ancestors, nature or God, the Supreme Being, has forsaken this land between the Zambezi and the Limpopo rivers.

With the long-awaited departure of autocrat Robert Mugabe in November 2017, Zimbabweans broke into unrestrained celebrations — standing on rooftops, hugging strangers, hanging dangerously on open car doors, jiving with much abandon, enjoying instant street parties, and drinking like fish from every open bar.

Tough luck, if there is no child christened November!

But what should have been an annus mirabilis (miracle year 2017) of Mugabe’s departure has led to what has been an annus horribilis (horrible year 2018).

One year later, under the Emmerson Mnangagwa administration, the tired and weary faces are back, telling the old story of slavish suffering and despair.

At a time when things should have radically changed, they have disconcertingly taken a very familiar turn — night-long fuel queues, shortages of basic goods like cooking oil, rise in the forex black market, medical doctors on strike, teachers protesting, rise in school fees, and carefree government.

Inside every Zimbabwean soul, there is the quiet and deep pain of betrayal, anger, disappointment and trauma.

Need I repeat, it has been too much bad news in a single year, too much for a single lifetime for many Zimbabweans, if you like?

Largely known as Mugabe’s henchman and enforcer, new ruler Emmerson Mnangagwa is slowly building a debauched reputation of his own on both the political and economic fronts. Like many times in the past, the 2018 harmonised elections have left the people feeling cheated and molested.

The August 1 shootings and killing of six civilians, and the Kgalema Motlanthe Commission’s whitewash of the terrible episode of human rights violations have left a sense of de javu, the people are feeling they have been here before under Mugabe’s watch.

Like those poor animals in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm — who look through the windows of the farmhouse at the Manor Farm after the revolution, to see man and pig indistinguishable — Zimbabweans look from the successor to the predecessor and see no difference? Everything is rotting in Mnangagwa’s hands, but he cannot smell it.

If Mnangagwa is smelling his failure, then he is determined to hang on to power no matter what just like his predecessor Mugabe.

In more ways than one, Mnangagwa is a patriarch of the ancient regime. The recent Zanu PF conference’s endorsement of his candidature in Esigodini in December, five years away from the next elections and just four months from the previous one, has all the traits of dictatorial Mugabe’s obsession with power over people’s welfare.

If anything, many people would know that Mnangagwa’s assumption of power in November 2017 had nothing to do with what political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau 
called “the general will” (common good) but what Friedrich Nietzsche called the “will to power” (selfish interest).

The popularity of the youthful MDC president Nelson Chamisa, haunts the regime’s sleepless nights, hence the paranoid threats to tamper with the constitutional age-limit for presidential candidates in 2023.

But Chamisa’s call for dialogue (typical of Tsvangirai’s magnanimity) has also been met with familiar arrogance again typical of Mugabe’s days.

The re-introduction by the so-called Zanu PF annual people’s conference in December 2018 of the youth militia called the “Green Bombers,” for a regime whose legitimacy is contested, cannot be second-guessed in terms of its unholy intentions.

Little doubt exists that Mnangagwa, like Mugabe did, wants to use the militia to harass the communities, intimidate them and secure his rickety rule.

The truth is, in all its subterfuges, the regime has been caught pants down.

Now that it is known, it was not only Mugabe who was bad for Zimbabwe, but the entire system, it is high time Zimbabweans reclaimed their future.

If Russian social democrat, Vladimir Lenin, asked of his colleagues in 1902 (in a pamphlet by the same name), “What is to be done?” then the answer to Zimbabweans today is organise and defend the people’s freedom.

• Gwede is a pro-democracy activist

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