The year 2015 has been a crazy year, riddled with madness and nonsense. But above all, it has been the year of the fall; from President Robert Mugabe publicly falling at Harare International Airport in February to the Zanu PF conference in December held at the aptly named Victoria Falls at a time the party is riven with divisions and its fortunes plummeting in sync with the gushing, plunging waters at Mosi oa Tunya. Indeed, the factionalism and divisions in the party have become the new “smoke that thunders!”
In between the president’s fall that grabbed international headlines and the plummeting fortunes and divisions that reached fever pitch at the annual conference, many other things have buckled and fallen in sync with the floundering economic fortunes of the country.
It is not only Mugabe who literally fell at the airport as old age and the associated infirmity refused to be glossed over; his Vice-President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa has also fallen down the pecking order both in the party and government, despite being officially touted as the number two. The Croc may be one of the vice- presidents and second secretaries of Zanu PF, but First Lady Grace Mugabe has made it clear that both vice-presidents are junior to her. It must be a first in the world of politics that a First Lady claims to be senior to the vice-presidents of the country, only by virtue of the ordinary attribute of sharing a bedroom with the president!
Yet, it remains fact that both vice-presidents have fallen from the pecking order. It may also be argued that even the president himself is struggling to be the number one citizen; what with his wife stealing the show at many a public function, including at the Victoria Falls annual conference early this month. It could all be because the new slogan, munhu wese kuna amai (everyone to the First Lady), means just that — everyone, the president included!
Indeed, the First Lady’s whirlwind tours across the country that began last year have become a death knell to the political careers of many a vice-president! Whenever she hits the road, someone is bound to fall. In 2014 it was former vice- president Joice Mujuru who was the target and eventually fell by the wayside. This time, it is clear one more vice-president is about to have his career prospects and chances of upward mobility dimmed. There were bound to be casualties. After all, her maiden name is Marufu [deaths]. Given such a name, which means deaths in the plural sense, it is only prudent that many a vice-president had to fall to her sword!
The year 2015 saw the economy making its own huge plunge, with all economic indicators heading southwards. Last week, a research carried out by ZimStat, the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund, revealed that our villagers throughout the country are wallowing in unprecedented poverty, with 96% of families across the provinces surviving on less than $1 a day.
As if we have not fallen far down enough and probably for the first time since time immemorial, civil servants, particularly teachers, will be lining up for their December pay cheque after Christmas — on December 28 to be precise. I am familiar with the sad story of teachers because over 50% of my immediate family members, including my uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, are teachers and they have never faced a bleak Christmas like this one, not to mention the promised bonus whose prospects of becoming a reality are getting gloomy every day. Since independence when we were growing up, we knew that teachers were paid mid-month. But consistent with the national theme of falling in 2015, even their pay day has now fallen way down to the 28th of the month!
This is a new experience, especially for teachers, but it points to how far down we have fallen from the lofty standards we set for ourselves after independence when we were the jewel of Africa and still an attractive destination for international capital; indeed when we were famous for our unstinting commitment to frugality and certainty of government policies and services.
But government pay day is no longer certain as officials struggle to raise revenue at a time when over 90% of national income is now dedicated to salaries alone, leaving nothing for other pressing government commitments. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) is struggling to raise revenue and — consistent with the national theme of “falling” — the revenue chief is one Gershem Pasi. Pasi is the Shona word for “ground” and the name of the revenue chief is the apt summation of how far down our national fall has taken us!
Not to be outdone in the national stampede for the diving board, the national power supply has drastically fallen in the last few months. Energy minister Samuel Undenge has publicly warned the nation of the impending danger. He told the nation that in August, the now almost dry Kariba dam was supplying 750 megawatts, which fell to 475 MW in October, plunging to 280 MW this December and expected to hit new lows by January 2016.
That is why it was befitting that the Zanu PF conference be held at the Victoria Falls — one of the Seven Wonders of the world where the favourite pastime for tourists is bungee jumping. Everything in the country is bungee jumping to new lows. The significance of the venue chosen by the party in government for their annual jamboree speaks to the depth we have plunged, indeed the lofty heights from which we have fallen in harmony with the plunging waters.
When our 91-year-old president publicly fell at the airport in February, his spin doctors resorted to political banter and propaganda, steering away from issues of the president’s age as the reason for that globally famous fall. The president had not fallen, so we were told, he had merely tripped on a folded carpet on the airport tarmac!
And we continue to plunge collectively as a nation in this crazy year of falling! But maybe, in the words of the government spokespersons, we have not fallen — we have merely tripped on the folded carpet of sanctions and sabotage from our international detractors who are mounting a sustained assault on our sovereignty due to the fact that we gave our people land.
How far down do we have to fall and still maintain our silence as a nation, even amid these shrill but laughable denials of our sad national predicament?
In the wake of the poverty and despondency around us, one can only appeal for nostalgic comfort to the fond memories of the inclusive government; that era of abundance with the competent Morgan Tsvangirai on the wheel of government!
Well, tinosvika chete senyika [we will get there as a people]. In the words of Tsvangirai, when we eventually get there — as we shall in the very near future — we shall all cry the tears of joy!
Happy Christmas, Zimbabwe!
Tamborinyoka doubles as Morgan Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, as well as the MDC-T’s director of communications. He writes here in his personal capacity.