The good, the bad and the ugly

WITH Zimbabwe in the throes of an economic maelstrom, worsened by the devastating effects of the novel coronavirus, mismanagement and rampant corruption, the curtain is finally coming down on 2020-a year that most Zimbabweans would arguably describe as annus horribilis.

Tinashe Kairiza

According to online sources, annus horribilis is a Latin phrase which loosely translates to “horrible year”. In recent times, the term was popularised by Queen Elizabeth in 1992, who, in the face of diverse misfortunes characterised by the divorce of three of her children, including Prince Charles to Princess Diana and the destruction of her Windsor Castle by an inferno, described the year as annus horribilis. The opposite of annus horribilis is annus mirabilis meaning “wonderful year”.

For Zimbabwe,2020 was debatably a medley of limited good headlines, a few good headlines and certainly a large share of the ugly.

The good

January: For a nation relatively starved of a respectable number of footballers plying their trade in top flight European leagues, Tino Kadewere flew Zimbabwe’s flag high when he completed his move from Le Havre in Ligue 2 to Lyon in Ligue 1 in a transaction worth around €15 million.

Ever since his switch to Lyon, Kadewere has continued to look up to the stars, culminating in his solitary goal which sunk French giants Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in a league game in December. Kadewere’s spellbinding form has attracted the interests of top European clubs.

March: When Zimbabwe recorded its first Coronavirus fatality following the death of media personality Zororo Makamba, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a 21-day lockdown on March 28 as Zimbabwe geared to contain the global pandemic, that has so far claimed over 300 lives locally. The restrictive measures announced by Mnangagwa, have largely been credited in some quarters as effective in keeping the pandemic at bay.

May: The garrulous former information deputy minister Energy Mutodi was fired by Mnangagwa from government after a rollercoaster of public service characterised by acerbic talk from the Zanu PF legislator which often frayed relations with other countries.

Notably, Mutodi torched a storm, among his numerous misdeeds when he derided the measures taken by Tanzania’s President John Magufuli to tackle Covid-19 through micro-blogging site Twitter. Mnangagwa’s administration, through Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo distanced itself from Mutodi’s statements which infuriated the Tanzanians.

June: As a counter move to address Zimbabwe’s currency volatility crisis, compounded by a controlled exchange rate, the Central bank launched the weekly foreign currency auction which has relatively stabilised the market. At its inception, the greenback traded at US$1: ZW$53. Before the launch of the foreign currency auction, the greenback was trading at a fixed rate of US$1:ZW$25 with the local unit. The foreign currency auction system, which is still hamstrung by a number of challenges, was hailed by market watchers as a noble move towards liberalising the exchange rate — a key policy move perceived to foster market stability.

July: Zimbabweans were elated when news broke out that one of their own Stephanie Travers had become the first black woman in the history of Formula One to stand at the podium to collect the winners’ trophy. Travers, who is an engineer with Mercedes, was sent by her team to collect the winners’ trophy after Lewis Hamilton’s victory at the Styrian Grand Prix in Austria.

November: Former Zimbabwe senior national netball captain Felistas Kwangwa – who inspired her team, the Gems, to a strong eighth-place finish in last year’s World Cup — was signed by English giants Surrey Storm.

Kwangwa retired from international netball after the 2019 World Cup held in Liverpool, England.

December: With the year coming to an end, telecommunications mogul and Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa was appointed to the Netflix board of directors. Trailblazing an entrepreneurship journey in the telecommunications sector, which has diversified to other money-spinning portfolios in Zimbabwe and abroad, Masiyiwa’s current net worth has soared to US$1 billion.
Following Masiyiwa’s announcement Netflix co-founder, chairman and co-chief executive Reed Hastings observed: “We are delighted to welcome Strive to the Netflix board.
“His entrepreneurship and vision in building businesses across Africa and beyond will bring valuable insights and experience to our board as we work to improve and serve more members all around the world.”

The bad

March: Zimbabwe came to the devastating reality of Covid-19 following the death of prominent media personality Zororo Makamba. Aged 30, Makamba, who had been on a trip to the US, became Zimbabwe’s first Covid-19 death case at a time positive cases gradually rose.

May: Three MDC Alliance activists namely Joanna Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova were abducted by suspected state security agents. The trio was allegedly sexually assaulted before they were found dumped in Mazowe. Following the ordeal, Mamombe’s physicians have diagnosed her to be mentally unstable.

July: As Zimbabweans psyched up to planned anti-corruption protests on July 31, state security agents swiftly moved in to arrest Transform Zimbabwe International leader Jacob Ngarivhume and award-winning journalist Hopewell Chino’no on charges of inciting violence. Magistrate Ngoni Nduna postponed the duo’s bail hearing on the basis that courts were closing early due to the Covid-19 curfew imposed by the government.

August: Battling to contain an intractable economic crisis punctuated by soaring prices and an acute shortage of foreign currency, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate peaked to 837% in August from 785,55% in June. Before quickening to a record high in August — the second highest case from Venezuela mired in civil strife — Zimbabwe’s inflation stood at 540% in March. Monetary and fiscal authorities were at sixes and sevens in the face of galloping inflation.

September: In a shock policy move that sparked national outrage, Tourism and Environment minister Mangaliso Ndhlovu directed the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to grant two Chinese mining firms the greenlight to drill and explore for coal in the giant Hwange National Park.

Historically, authorities had never permitted mining activities to be conducted in a protected national park. The mining rights, which were granted to Zhongxin Coking Company Mining Group and Afrochine Smelting and later rescinded, sparked uproar from wildlife watch dogs, environmentalists and the general public.

November: On November 8, Zimbabweans woke up to the shocking news that socialite Genius Kadungure had perished in a car accident aboard his Rolls Royce Wraith together with three other passengers along Borrowdale Road in Harare on his way to his Domboshava mansion. In the wake of his death Kadungure, who was popularly known as “Ginimbi” was buried at his opulent Domboshava home which will be transformed into a hotel as per his wish.

During the same month, Zimbabweans joined the rest of the world in mourning following the death of global football icon Diego Maradona. The Argentine, who died at the age of 60 after succumbing to heart failure.

Considered one of the finest players in the history of the game, Maradona became a household name after inspiring his country to World Cup glory in 1986.
At the tournament, he took matters in his own hands, displaying a spellbinding performance against England where he deftly used his hand to score an iconic goal that he later described as the “Hand of God.”

The Ugly

May: With factional fighting escalating to boiling point within the MDC-Alliance, Thokozani Khupe, riding on a court ruling struck first, recalling four Members of Parliament elected on the MDC-Alliance ticket, as the battle to control the heart and soul of the opposition continues. The unprecedented recalling of legislators on a court technicality cast the opposition into disarray.

Douglas Mwonzora, who at the time was fighting in the corner of Khupe, but has now crossed paths with her, drew first blood, recalling MDC-Alliance secretary-general and Kuwadzana legislator Chalton Hwende, Tabitha Khumalo (proportional representation legislator), chief whip Prosper Mutseyami (Chikanga-Dangamvura MP) and Midlands senator Lillian Timveous
The four came into Parliament under an MDC-Alliance ticket in 2018, but Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda and Senate President Mabel Chinomona insisted that they were recalled because they were members of the MDC-T.

July: As Zimbabwe battled to contain Covid-19, health minister Obadiah Moyo was fired from government by Mnangagwa for his role in the unprocedural awarding of a US$60 million contract to a shadowy firm, Drax International, for the procurement of Covid-19 consumables. The contract scandal, which was exposed by prominent journalist Chino’no took an ironic twist as the scribe was incarcerated while the disgraced minister was granted bail in a matter that implicated Mnangagwa’s son, Collins.

September: The grisly murder in Murewa of Tapiwa Makore aged 7 in a suspected monetary enrichment rituals led to the arrest of his uncle, also called Tapiwa Makore. When Makore’s decomposing body was found, parts namely, the head, arms, neck and legs were missing. The gruesome murder triggered nationwide shock and grief.

October: With Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) disclosing that the country loses a staggering US$1,5 billion in illicit gold flows, former Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Henrietta Rushwaya was arrested at the Robert Mugabe International Airport attempting to spirit out a 6kg bullion contraband to Dubai. As her court case proceeded, the First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa and her son Collins were implicated in the high-profile case but were never arrested nor appeared in court. The contraband Rushwaya attempted to smuggle was valued at US$330 000.

December: As the protracted legal battle between Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga and his estranged wife Marry unfolded, the latter, visibly sick and with festering wounds, appeared in court on a stretcher. Marry, among other allegations, is facing charges of attempting to kill her husband.

During the same month, as the rainy season peaked, the government and the opposition exchanged blame following the demolition of 190 houses in the high density suburb of Budiriro condemning scores of people to homelessness.