Enter 2019: Reviving the ‘New Zimbabwe’ dream

As Zimbabweans enter the gates of 2019 from a forgettable festive season, probably the worst in the past decade, uncertainty abounds about President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.

Guest column: Vivid Gwede

Zimbabweans are deeply concerned about the rapid deterioration in the economy since November 2017.

But what would have been the national reality had the 2018 presidential elections not been pilfered?

An Igbo proverb, popularised by Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, goes: “A man who does not know when the rain started to beat him cannot know where he dried.”

As the Mnangagwa government blunders in the dark towards the cliff, what was MDC president Nelson Chamisa and the democratic movement’s alternative dream for Zimbabwe following the 2018 elections?

A tired Zanu PF regime’s perennial theft of elections has robbed Zimbabwe of fresh-minted ideas and fresh hands to run the country.

The late Nobel Peace Prize nominee and MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, died in February 2018 a wasted national asset, whose transformative contribution to the country would have been much bigger, except that autocrat former President Robert Mugabe and crew stayed at the helm through coercion and beyond their usefulness.

The repercussions of Tsvangirai’s stolen election victory and presidency in 2008 and of failed Sadc mediation, are that Zimbabwe has remained trapped in a vicious circle of political illegitimacy and dysfunctionality.

The 2017 coup and 2018 stolen elections are a sequel to that fraudulent legacy.

Under a different government, the investment climate would have been different and more bullish than the current stagnation caused by the illegitimacy question, the tired leadership, fossilised State institutions, and the August 1, 2018 massacre of civilians by soldiers.

Given the Chamisa and MDC Smart manifesto’s promise to scrap the bond note, there probably would not be price hikes, no forex black market and speculation, no fuel queues, and no doctors’ strike, all are symptoms of zero confidence in the government.

The poor would not be bleeding through the nose because of Finance minister Mthuli Ncube’s “austerity for the poorest.”

To use the language of economics, the opportunity cost (roughly the cost of choosing one product over another) of having a Mnangagwa government, instead of a Chamisa one has been unfathomably huge.

The historical betrayal started by former President Robert Mugabe continues.

Under Mnangagwa’s administration, national independence has further lost its democratic and economic promise for the ordinary people.

It has given place to a vacuous rant about ideologically bankrupt nationalist remnants ruling in perpetuity, a scandal fuelled by the “chinhu chedu” mentality.

Whereas newly independent Zimbabwe had, many years ago, a strong footing, chance and potential to do exceptionally well on many fronts, it has now become just another failing country in contradiction to former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere’s sunlit praise of the country being “a jewel of Africa”.

Mugabe’s moonlight years proved less enlightened than his early years had promised.

Over the past 38 years, Zimbabwe, just like the next African country, especially those which lived through the 1960’s, the coup decade, has experienced State-led genocide, plunder of natural resources like diamonds, massive corruption, blood-cuddling dictatorship, record-breaking economic collapse and a military coup.

The Judiciary’s endorsement of the coup suggests two further dangers, either the country’s Constitution has failed to insulate against a coup or the Judiciary cannot protect the country against one, or both.

The coup has birthed a less popular and less enlightened leadership, an undemocratic election, a brutal crackdown on civil protests, militarised State institutions and poor economic stewardship.

The confidence of the civilian leadership after the coup is doubtful and weak, hence the reality of a silent and absent presidency; a centre that cannot hold amidst the economic miasma.

So Zimbabwe is not exceptional after all, except all this old African political script of a post-colonial State in failure, that is replaying in the post-Cold War period, and amazingly into the 21st century.

Gifted with a good climate, intelligent and hardworking populace, natural tourist wonders, vast mineral resources and the residues of colonial infrastructure like roads, industry and railway system, Zimbabwe has been deficient of servant leadership.

It is the hope of a better leadership that Zimbabweans yearns for, and a democratic movement holds for Zimbabweans going into the future the hope the regime is determined to extinguish using force.

As 2019 begins, it is this true new Zimbabwe vision which Zimbabweans must reflect on and doggedly pursue.

Vivid Gwede is a pro-democracy activist and writes in his personal capacity.