As the curtain closes on 2016 and we embark on 2017, it’s time to take stock of the year that has been and the year that lies ahead, politically speaking.
Source: 2017 calls for controlled anger – NewsDay Zimbabwe December 30, 2016
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
From the outset, it should be pointed out that 2016 has proved once again that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Turbulent changes — such as the suspensions and expulsions brought by the open warfare raging in Zanu PF, with the previously untouchable war veterans not spared — do not affect reality on a deeper level other than to cement the status quo.
That’s why President Robert Mugabe’s grip on power looks firmer and stronger — much to the chagrin of Zimbabweans thirsting for change who saw factionalism as heralding the implosion of the ruling party. It’s in the vested interests of the system to maintain the repressive status quo, which allows it to loot and plunder without let or hindrance.
That’s why, in cementing the status quo, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo’s star in Zanu PF has not waned — in fact, it’s rising — despite stealing over $400 000 from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund, as shown in the evidence compiled by the acting Prosecutor-General.
That’s why Moyo, instead of being contrite, is thumbing his nose at his accusers as if saying: “Catch me if you can!” It’s not surprising at all because the regime has a vested, existential interest in maintaining the repressive and corrupt status quo. Mugabe did not cover himself in glory. He once again monumentally failed to live up to the mandate of his office and the high standards demanded by such. What a wasted year!
This was exacerbated by the fact that Mugabe more and more looked and sounded like a 92-year-old, a far cry from the 56-year-old of 1980 in the prime of his life when he was at the peak of health and, at least in the first few years, performance.
No falsifying of facts or prettifying of his appearance can conceal that Mugabe has aged like all ninety-something people. While he has not mellowed with age, as heard from his radical language and policies, he has certainly been debilitated by it, as seen in his sapped energy and shrivelled appearance.
We all age, but Mugabe does not want to come to terms with that as heard in his protestations during the year that he was “as fit as a fiddle” despite evidence to the contrary.
It’s a frightening prospect as we enter 2016 that we are being led by an individual who does not accept the glaring reality that he is now old and spent. Can anyone release him from his misery, which misery the nation could pay heavily for?
This has not been helped by the fact that First Lady Grace Mugabe during the year has been conducting herself more and more like a typical prima donna — a person who considers herself or himself immeasurably more important than others and becomes explosively angry when his or her demands are not met.
Her alleged confiscation of three houses from a Lebanese diamond dealer to force the dealer to refund her the $1,35 million she had paid him for a 10,07-carat diamond ring exposed her to ordinary Zimbabweans, some sleeping outside banks to get as little as $30, as living in a different world from them of impunity and opulence when we have bomb-crater-size potholes on the roads.
Only complacency can make people expose themselves like that. Is this only the tip of an iceberg? What else do we not know? This shows another wasted year.
Despite and in spite of that, what has stood out in 2016 is the unflagging human spirit, specifically the Zimbabwean spirit.
People long ago gave up looking up to the government for salvation. It’s in their hands to make bond notes work or not work, not for someone with a vested political interest to say so. Suffering or affected people are very practical and inventive. They know what to do and don’t have to be prompted by ZimAsset.
People are surviving despite and in spite of Zanu PF’s State-sponsored corruption. In 2008, people saw the looming disaster that was coming from the so-called bearer cheques and dollarised by themselves well ahead of former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono because they did not, in the least, believe his mantra that failure was not an option.
That said, in 2016, people did what they could possibly do legally and peacefully to register their legitimate grievances. It’s to their immense credit that we still have peace in this country.
It’s easy to jump on the “opposition-is-a-failure” bandwagon when you ignore the facts and reality on the ground that Sadc, which has backed Mugabe to the hilt, is not like Ecowas, the West African regional bloc, which has given the defeated Gambian President Yahya Jammeh an ultimatum to step down or be forced out militarily.
It’s most difficult to make a balanced judgment when you do not know what you are talking about or all that is at play such as the geopolitics.
We also need to look at this from a historical perspective. If Zimbabweans are cowards, they are not as big cowards as Russians, who took over 70 years to remove Soviet communist repression. It’s never that easy to get rid of an entrenched regime anywhere in the world and across eras.
And we need to look at this from a strategic perspective and not overstretch ourselves. You can’t just flood people into the streets and hope for spontaneity to take over as if the regime cannot fight back. We don’t want a situation like Aleppo in Syria, where there was a stalemate, then total defeat of the rebels — and this after complete and wanton destruction of the city. The rebels were over-reliant on outsiders, but were left in the lurch when it came to the crunch.
Outsiders can come up with all sorts of wrong models and wrong prescriptions. I am sure we have all, at one time or another, had the misfortune of being swayed by this “leave-it-all-to-me” brigade that makes a bad situation even worse. In that vein, we should avoid such hyperactive politicians who jump to the next idea or fad leaving everything half-finished wherever they go. We need ever-present leaders, not those who come and go and who jump from ship to ship.
In the same vein, the opposition needs to refocus. United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean academic George Shire said this year: “The MDC made the . . . mistake in thinking that lawyers could become the vanguard, and swallowed discourses of the West without ever paying attention to the locals or never asking themselves what the economy is for.”
Not beating Zanu PF at their own game — naked violence — is not a sign of failure. People should not be pushed and goaded into hasty and stupid actions that could only serve to delay progress. To be cautious is not necessarily cowardly.
Thus, in 2017 there is need for controlled, disciplined anger, not spontaneous combustion, which plays into the hands of the regime.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: email@example.com