One of the enduring criticisms about Zimbabweans is that we live on hope. ‘Kuzolunga’, ‘Zvichanaka’ It shall be well. That’s been the mantra when faced with the most harrowing times we have had to endure as a nation. I am pretty sure that most times even as we recited those encouraging words to ourselves and others there was always a bit of trepidation in them. Will things really ever change? Can this country still be fixed or we have slid down too deep into the abyss?
November 2017, we woke up to news that President RG Mugabe who had ruled the country from 1980 had ‘stepped down’. It’s come to be known as a ‘coup not a coup’, whatever you choose to call it the reality was that he was now gone, a man who had loomed so large in the country’s existence. He had garnered a cult like following and had seemed invincible for so many decades. At first there was disbelief, it seemed impossible. Processing this news was confusing, then, slowly the realisation that indeed it was true finally took root. The soldiers had ‘saved the country’ liberating it from an unrepentant dictator and there was gratitude and happiness with carnival like celebrations in the streets. Finally, we were free of the albatross around our necks. This was a new beginning for the country and citizens. The euphoria was palpable; a new chance to make this country come right. Once again we became optimistic but this time it seemed we could reach out and grab the bright future that was to follow this ‘second independence’.
Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as president on the 24th of November 2017, in front of a full jubilant National Sports Stadium and even opposition leaders who usually shunned or weren’t invited to national events were in attendance. We were now in an era known as the ‘new dispensation’. The new president said ’Zimbabwe is open for business’ and spoke of creating ‘jobs jobs jobs.’ We cheered and welcomed the military intervention in November because we had gotten to a point where we had nothing to lose. A desperate population that had for so long sought to be rescued from the clutches of tyranny. Ironically the said rescuers had themselves been part of the very system we sought reprieve from, however at that moment as we stood between the cusp of history versus the future, we chose what was offered as the quickest salvation never mind that it was truly a contradiction, oddly enough it had the scent of freedom.
Once 2018 election campaigning started, however, that unity came to an end. We have been a politically polarised nation for decades now and it was on full show, the toxic vitriol from both sides was staggering in intensity, both main campaigns (Zanu PF & MDC Alliance) weren’t taking prisoners, it was either you’re with us or against us. Ironically, a coup brought the nation together and an election exposed the divisions that existed. As is custom with all our elections it wasn’t smooth sailing, they were contentious with accusations and counter accusations of impropriety, suspicion of rigging with plans to aid the incumbent, threats of ‘stopping the elections’. An uneasy, stressful and nerve-racking period. Now President Mnangagwa has been given a five year mandate to lead the country. Promises have been made of a ‘New Zimbabwe’ which is poised to become the jewel of Africa as it previously was with a prosperous economy and citizenry.
We have gone through a lot since November 2017 to where we are now. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions. What happened in November it could be argued, was really just housekeeping, a party and government down on its knees from internal fights, waning popularity with the masses and an opposition movement loudly knocking on the doors of power. ‘The November Event’ as I call it, was going to happen with or without the citizens’ endorsement, resistance was futile. We were presented with a chance for change and we acquiesced, anything had to be better than what we were living through.
Once again, we find ourselves back to living on hope, it’s what we do, kuzolunga, zvichanaka. Was that said with a quivering voice?
Source: Thando Khumalo
Thando Khumalo is a political writer and analyst who has written several articles on the Zimbabwean political landscape. Other interests include women’s developmental and political participation issues as well as children’s education. Thando has a BA in Communication Science from UNISA.