President Robert Mugabe is expected to present his state of the nation address on December 6, but Zimbabweans are not holding their breath, given his dysfunctional government and its dismal record.
Zimbabwe Independent Comment
In a normal country, a speech of such importance would play a crucial role in helping the citizenry to take stock of national socio-economic performance and chart the trajectory for the coming year. Tragically, Zimbabwe is anything but normal.
The triple whammy of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence is demoralising an entire nation and worsening the suffocating sense of paralysis that has come to define the Zimbabwean personality. But this is hardly surprising — a tired leadership cannot have new ideas and inspire a deflated citizenry.
Our simple advice to Mugabe as he prepares to address the nation is that if he is unwilling and unable to urgently embrace far-reaching reforms, he might as well spare us the empty rhetoric by keeping away from Parliament on Tuesday and proceeding on his annual holiday. In this summer of discontent, 5,2 million citizens are facing starvation, 300 companies have collapsed this year alone, thousands of orphans are falling out of school, major referral hospitals are failing to dispense basic painkillers, pensioners are sleeping in bank queues, Harare residents are drinking sewage and Bulawayo has run dry. When all this is happening, the ruling Zanu PF is defending high-level corruption, looting parastatals, ransacking diamonds, hijacking state tenders and widening the patronage ecosystem. In a healthy democracy, the authority of a government is derived from the consent of the governed. Genuine power does not come from the jackboot of a baton-wielding policeman.
One of the most unforgettable memories of 2016 is of a menacing posse of heavily armed policemen surrounding a defenceless old woman on the doorsteps of Rotten Row magistrates’ court and inflicting vicious kicks on the hapless citizen. If the custodians of law and order can violate civil liberties in such a brazen manner in the middle of Harare and in front of magistrates, one shudders to imagine the scale of violence these thugs are unleashing in townships and remote villages.
A rising tide of dissent, anger and hopelessness has been one of the defining traits of a tumultuous 2016. We have witnessed ordinary Zimbabweans taking to the streets in unprecedented numbers. Zimbabwe is now the biggest exporter of economic refugees in southern Africa. Our children are questioning the whole purpose of education when they see university graduates failing to put a square meal on the table. The true state of the nation can be observed in the shanty neighbourhoods of Epworth, Mbare in Harare and Ngozi Mine in Bulawayo where 12-year-old girls from poor families are selling their bodies for 50 cents in broad daylight amid deafening silence from Mugabe’s government as another lost generation is tossed into the depths of hell.
In his usual grandstanding, Mugabe will tell the nation that the government is hampered by a lack of financial resources. This half-truth has become a self-serving mantra designed to hoodwink the long-suffering public. Without fear or favour, we can point out that Zimbabwe’s multi-faceted crisis emanates primarily from leadership failure, and not a shortage of resources.