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The Year Past and the Year Ahead

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The end of the year is usually a time when we reflect on the months behind us and meditate on what was and what could have been. This period of private rumination is not confined to the faithful who claim the risen Christ as their Lord and Saviour in their lives, but even the non-believer will stop and take stock as part of that human appeal that we avoid unnecessary pain and make better our lives in the New Year. The guy who steals and mugs God-fearing mortals looks back and thanks his gods that he escaped gaol and prays that the new year brings with it that Houdinisque streak. Thus it is for many Zimbabweans who stayed in the country – to face the music so to speak – while the fortunate left to seek better lives elsewhere. Some have opined in the past that there is no benefit in mopping about circumstances you cannot change, and as we look back in the year past, Zimbabweans seem to have embraced the very opposite of that counsel. It has indeed become depressing listening to everyone complain about this and that and you tend to wonder how many genuinely sane people walk our streets.

That it is a year that began with a lot promise is a sure thing. It began as the country celebrated in February the first anniversary of a unity government rightly seen by many as the beginning of long delayed economic reconstruction. Full shop shelves became for many the most visible pointer that the country was on the road to recovery as goods that only a few months had been found on the street at exorbitant prices could now be purchased in formal shops. If only the people had the money to buy these goods. Teachers and other government employees continued pressing for salary increases, and one only has to imagine the fate of the unemployed and other vulnerable groups amidst such complaints about poor salaries by certified professionals.

The people have been told that economic reconstruction, job creation, medicines in hospitals, textbooks in schools will not happen overnight – the new birth pangs of the government of national unity. But the impatience of the people here who are demanding a better life is understood within the context that they know where the country is coming from. They know the Zimbabwe inherited in 1980 at independence when men toiling as unskilled workers in different sectors of the then thriving economy could afford to buy their own houses; they know the Zimbabwe where they could send children to school, where teachers saw the profession as indeed a vocation: that is where the bitterness of many here resides, and as we journey into a new year, those expectations linger.

Zimbabweans look back at the year behind them and expect the coming year to bring good tidings, that is the Zimbabwe they want because they know all that misery that happened in the past year -and indeed past years – has largely been authored by man. Many have asked what happened to the men and women of goodwill who promised them health, education and housing for all in 1980? Could the coming year be the year when this and other promises and expectations come true? But then that reads like a naive question. What lies ahead are scheduled national elections which could mean the people’s expectations are further postponed as it is well documented here that elections have always brought with them unnecessary violence. So how do you provide for the people when your primary concern is gaining political power? In our politics that is in itself a contradiction of sorts. You just cannot have it both ways. Elections demand huge resources and political parties will spend arms and legs, while government itself will budget hundreds of millions of American dollars into the exercise. Meanwhile, sad stories can be heard in the cities about families going to bed without any meal, yet but one still hears the occasional comment that “things” are better now because you can virtually get anything you want at the shops but with the caveat – “if you have the money.” So what Zimbabweans expect in the next year? Not much really, perhaps more of the same. But with the expected elections, we can doubly expect to be back in the international news headlines with yet another run of pre-election violence and therefore disputed poll.

Vanity, all vanity!

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