People continue to die from curable disease in Zimbabwe as the health sector remains paralysed while the country is going through what has been described by the United Nations as a man-made drought. Some have radically suggested that Zimbabwe is experiencing a “soft genocide”.
By Tapiwa Zivira
Yet, with all this, a visitor coming into the country through the Robert Mugabe International Airport, into the city, and perhaps to one of the major hotels, there is everything to show a picture of normal country.
The road from the airport is freshly mended, while the airport itself is not in such a bad state, and is currently undergoing major renovations — a sign of progress.
Perhaps, it is in the city centre, where there is general chaos and high vendor activity, that gives hints of a country that is unwell.
But which city in Africa is not chaotic? And Harare cannot be an exception.
It is only when one goes to places like Mbare, Highfield, or travels to the rural areas, any hospital or clinic that the true state of Zimbabwe can be visible.
The story of Zimbabwe’s crisis has been told since the late 1990s, and it is now two decades.
Everyone has grown tired of the Zimbabwean story. It is crisis after crisis, conflict after conflict and it has somehow become normal that Zimbabwe is a country that is not working properly.
The situation has been made worse by a government that perpetuates the crisis for political gain and the recent police raid of the MDC headquarters on suspicions of being behind the machete attacks is testimony to that.
Everyone knows who is behind the machete attacks and while covering the story of the gold wars and the gold rush in Kwekwe in 2017, this writer came face to face with the political conflicts behind the crisis.
Another crisis that seems to be slipping away from the headlines is the collapse of the country’s health system.
There is no doubt people are dying either because there are no doctors to attend to them, or there is no medication. Where there is medication, it may simply be unaffordable as the country is experiencing government driven hyperinflation, which has resulted in people’s income being eroded significantly.
An ordinary Zimbabwean worker is earning an average of less than US$40 a month.
In light of this, there is no doubt that Zimbabwe is now a complex political emergency.
While Zimbabwe’s chain of crises cannot be equated to virtual conflict countries like Sudan, Sierra Leone or Burma, the effects of the economic, political shocks the country has experienced in the past two decades can never be underestimated.
This is because by their nature, complex political emergencies, also known as forgotten crises, are underlined by the political nature of their internal conflicts, with their complex origins and multiplicity of players.
Complex political emergencies are not isolated events but linked with power relations, domestic and foreign policies, and political and economic interests.
The conflict in Zimbabwe can be traced back to independence when the two major liberation struggle movements, Zanu and Zapu, remained in conflict.
This was to result in the Zanu led government, with the current president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as the State Security minister, deploying troops to massacre civilians in Matabeleland in what has become known as Gukurahundi.
Mnangagwa has since brushed aside Gukurahundi and other issues, saying the past is dead.
This is despite the fact that there has been no recourse to the victims and survivors of Gukurahundi, or even an apology.
In the early 2000s the country adopted an anti-west stance in response to the west’s call for respect for human rights and the Zimbabwean government accused the west of undue interference.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean economy slipped into a black hole and government was paying a blind eye as corruption and misgovernance ate into what was once a thriving economy.
Things came to a head in 2008.
The economy was at a standstill, the health sector was dead and hundreds of people died due to cholera, and state sponsored political violence.
There was a political agreement facilitated by Sadc and it lasted for five years, a period that Zimbabwe, for the first time in a decade, appeared to stabilise.
Post inclusive government, Zimbabwe’s deterioration began again, and in 2017, there was a coup that led to the ouster of long time rule Robert Mugabe.
However, the political system that presided over the crisis remained in place, and was this time even more aggressive and brutal.
Two years after the coup, soldiers have shot and killed people in broad daylight, and the economy is worse than ever before. Ordinary Zimbabweans — those that do not feed from the trough of political elites — are poorer and living off crumbs.
Corruption has deepened its roots, with daily reports of powerful, untouchable cartels linked to the ruling elites.
The president appears to be a happy man, going around the country making speeches that mock the suffering people he leads.
True to the nature of complex political emergencies, ours in Zimbabwe has widespread human rights violations; and administrative, economic, social, and political collapse.
Health services have invariably deteriorated and each day, the current government — whose officials get medical attention overseas — appears less and less capable of addressing increased health needs of the ordinary people.
So, in order to address the situation in Zimbabwe, it requires a broad-based approach, where government first realises that there is indeed, an implosion that has gone on for too long and needs to be addressed.
President Mnangagwa needs to realise that history should record him as a man who decided to forgo his economic and political interests, and not a man who perpetuated the suffering of his compatriots.
With that realisation, he can use his influence to end corruption and to submit to a proper dialogue that goes beyond the circus called Polad.
Zimbabwe’s crisis, while chiefly political, is also very much about the economy and social fabric that need to be restored and no amount of propaganda and a Finance minister who is good at nothing but pronouncing fancy English words and making false promises will do it.
Zimbabweans need a robust and inclusive approach to the questions that we face today and with will power from the President and his government, everyone else, including the region and the international community can then join in.
The good news is that in Zimbabwe, there so many non-state players in almost every sector, who are making efforts to create an environment that can allow the country to move forward and it will only take political will from the powers-that-be for Zimbabwe to start progressing.
Without that, people will continue to hurt and die and our crisis can only get more complicated.
It all starts at your doorstep, Mr President.
This was first published in the Standard