Guest Column: Paidamoyo Muzulu
Santa Claus the mythical Northern Hemisphere man who brings presents at Christmas is now world famous. Every year, each Christmas, the young and the old look forward to the exchange of gifts, but for Zimbabweans — Santa has forgotten the forsaken land. In my travels, I saw desolation, blank stares and empty begging bowls. A few diaporans made a cheap imitation of the merry festivities; a braai here, some dancing there, but generally the spirit was long gone.
The year that began with the shock deployment of the military to quel civil unrest comes to an end with people bereft of hope, their souls crashed.
We saw the price of bread spiral, the cost of meat and mealie-meal skyrocket. Fuel became scarce, and even service stations selling the commodity in forex have intermittent supplies, causing many to draw and redraw their festive season plans.
The rolling power cuts have not ceased and potable water is still not available to most urban residents. They now survive by drawing the special commodity from some backyard wells. Many look up to the unyielding skies, hoping the storm clouds would gather, but the scorching heat is withering their hopes and heightening their trepidation about the future.
Somewhere, the First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa gave the aged and less fortunate some temporary respite by cleaning the houses of a luck few and giving them a decent lunch cooked over open fires. They danced and ululated, but today, Christmas Day, they are as desperate as they were before the hour the First Lady came.
It touched the hearts of many who read the State-controlled newsoapers and watch Zbctv. She got the best optics, endeared herself to the masses and bagged some 2023 votes for her husband, President Emmerson Mnangagwa. The crude joke was missed by many that Zimbabwe has been reduced to a country of two tenses — the past and the future. Zimbabwe no longer has a present tense. It is just one big void no leader is willing to fill. In short, no leadership for today exists.
Yesterday, State media led with Mnangagwa going through the motions of Santa Claus in his home town of Kwekwe. He visited the vending sites and the main bus termini. One lucky lady sold the President some groundnuts, maize and matohwe.
We hear Mnangagwa was told about the hardships citizens are going through. Just like the people — and probably in the sense of Chinua Achebe’s Man of the People — Mnangagwa used crispy Zimdollar notes to pay for the goods.
And for good measure he received some change. I wonder what the change was, considering the lowest note is $2 and the highest is $5. If he got 50cent coins I wonder where he would use them next, seeing the market has since demonitised coins.
For Kwekwe, their most eminent son had returned triumphantly — riding his highend motorcade, sirens and armed soldiers in tow. He saw and heard their problems, smiled with understanding and empathetic face, but the most he could do was promised to look into their issues — no immediate (now) solution.
It goes without saying that a week from now it would be New Year, a year that starts with Mnangagwa on his annual leave and citizens scratching their heads about how to pay schoolfees, commute to work if they are luck to have a job. These are people with incomes Finance minister Mthuli Ncube says are too low to be taxed Paye. However, they are not too poor to be spared paying 2% mobile money transactions and 14% Vat for their daily purchases.
Santa, Mnangagwa, came to Kwekwe, but forgot the goodies — for now the people have to survive on hope for a good future just like all other citizens across the country.
Maybe 2020 will restore the elusive present tense into our collective lexicon — yesterday and tomorrow are short of making us complete citizens like other nations. Hoo-Hooo Merry Christmas.
Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org