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Political naïvety laid bare

AFTER President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF’s controversial landslide victory in last year’s general elections, which almost wiped out the main opposition MDC-T despite its 2008 good showing, there were euphoric expectations among some Zimbabweans the country would now get back to a wholesome state.


Although Mugabe and Zanu PF seemed oddly subdued in triumph, with some people suggesting it was because they knew the election results were stolen in the first place, certain sections of society celebrated, asserting since there was now going to be a single party in government renewed and sustained economic recovery was on the horizon after the rebound phase seemed to be fading.

This was largely because during the preceding coalition government, Zanu persistently claimed the arrangement was dysfunctional due to paralysing internal power struggles and policy contradictions between the two MDC parties and itself.

Ordinary citizens, business executives and some civil society leaders demanded elections despite a skewed playing field, saying that would crack the government gridlock, although some people argued that would not make a difference — except for the worse — unless it resulted in Mugabe’s departure.

Those who contended even a Mugabe victory would take the country forward reasoned Zanu PF would come back a bit wiser after learning it the hard way during the decade-long political and economic meltdown, characterised by untold hyperinflation.

They thought Mugabe, perhaps in his last term of office, would want to do things differently to correct his previous egregious mistakes to salvage his legacy.

This was based on the assumption he won’t seek re-election in 2018 at 94 as he would finish his tenure at 99 if he were to live that long.

Given that the results were endorsed by Sadc, Comesa, the African Union, United Nations and some sections of the international community, outside the West, as free and peaceful, even though not fair and credible, some hoped Zimbabwe would finally draw a line in the sand and move forward.

The feeling among those was the endorsement of the outcome symbolised Harare’s re-admission into the international community, even though the EU, including the UK, United States, Australia and others, expressed deep reservations about it.

Optimists held Mugabe would go back to basics, embrace standard nostrums to fix the economy and begin a Nelson Mandela-like process of inclusiveness on his terms to deliver Zimbabwe from misery.

This might have included a serious economic recovery plan, addressing unemployment, a crackdown on corruption and fixing of social service delivery, among other things.

Mugabe, it was believed, wanted a grand exit and to go as a reigning master, not bruised by electoral defeat and a tattered legacy.

Those hoping for an epiphany in Mugabe’s leadership — a moment in which he would suddenly see or understand things in a fresh and progressive way — largely banked on his appointment of a new cabinet, which to their disappointment turned out to be bloated with deadwood and also-rans. Nothing seemed to move, with everyone saying let’s first see the new cabinet before we can make the next move.

Yet many seemed to have forgotten the cliché that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Or better still that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still remain a pig.

Now, reality seems to be dawning as the expectations of euphoric political naïvety among utopians evaporate. Realists are not surprised, except perhaps by the cluelessness of Mugabe and his government in face of a damaging economic deterioration.

Company closures, retrenchments and job losses, unemployment, a stinging liquidity crunch, poor service delivery and general social problems are now back in full force, giving the population, particularly those who voted for Mugabe and Zanu PF, as well as wishful thinkers and woolgatherers, a serious rude awakening.

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