WHEN Zimbabweans joke that even former president Robert Mugabe was better than his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa — incredibly this has an element of truth — you know things must be really bad. And indeed they are.
No one would have scripted this: that Mnangagwa — who seized power through a military coup in November 2017 — would be worse than Mugabe in a short 20 months or so.
Yet it is now common to hear people say Mnangagwa is worse; a serious indictment on his fitness, as well as competence and capacity to rule. It is badly unflattering to be compared to Mugabe in general.
When Mnangagwa came in, some people warned about this. However, most people — including us — were willing to give him a chance. They still want to, but he is making it difficult and even impossible for that to continue. For how long can people wait while the situation deteriorates without any real prospect for a turnaround anytime soon?
What makes it worse is that Mnangagwa and his government do not seem to appreciate the gravity of the problem. In his public speeches, he behaves as if it is business as usual. His ministers and other officials do the same. It is as if they live on another planet.
Even if they live in ivory towers — in a state of privileged seclusion or separation from the facts and practicalities of the real world — at least they must appreciate what is happening around them. But they do not. In fact, they are proud of isolation. Blindly so. That is why they flaunt their mansions, cars and other forms of ill-gotten wealth — the profits of corruption — to the desperately poor masses insulted and brutalised daily.
All the while, the economy is crumbling. People are running out of superlatives to describe what is happening around them — with words like crunch, crisis, meltdown, collapse and disaster regularly used in public engagements and debate to refer to what is happening to the economy and attendant social consequences.
The politics is often described as toxic, confrontational and brutal. This is Mnangagwa’s so-called new dispensation. It has all the hallmarks of the Mugabe era, and worse in some cases.
The economic emergency is characterised by power outages, shortages of fuel, bread, water and cash — in fact most people now hardly lay their hands on banknotes. They have been forced to migrate to electronic transactions because of liquidity and cash problems. The currency problem has now come to define the current crisis. That is over and above problems which the ordinary people are struggling with daily — poor service delivery and the national rot.
The mess is so omnipresent and suffocating that life has ceased to be normal, from the basics — education, health and utilities — to the cost of living. People’s salaries are now more than 10 times lower than they were just 20 months ago. The return of the Zimdollar has not helped the situation.
Besides, Zimbabwe is also now in a humanitarian meltdown. A third of the population — up to five million — now faces starvation. Hence, the heightened risk of civil unrest and instability.