Robert Mugabe refusing to relinquish power
Bleak Christmas for Zimbabweans
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The year 2008 has been the worst for majority Zimbabweans. With an economy that has degenerated to unprecedented levels in world history, acute poverty affecting ordinary people, a political crisis that has claimed many lives and 84-year-old geriatric Robert Mugabe refusing to relinquish power, ruling the country with an iron fist since 1980 and a political power sharing deal among feuding parties failing to come to fruition since the signing of the agreement in September, there is no Christmas to celebrate in this Southern African country, except maybe for a few carols for impoverished Christians at church.
2008 will be remembered by many Zimbabweans as the year that schools never opened, major hospitals closed, industry operated at below capacity level with teachers, nurses, doctors, artisans and a horde of other professionals either downing tools against pathetic wages or working conditions or migrating to neighbouring countries seeking better fortunes. Many will keep in mind the year as one where pupils wrote final exams after effectively learning for only about 23 days the whole year, exposing education standards once considered one of the best in Africa into disrepute; where drugs and health personnel were non-existent in health institutions, stripping the right to health to one of those unreachable luxuries and where access to basic food was indeed a nightmare.
Which Zimbabwean would not remember 2008 and its bloody elections? There were harmonized presidential and parliamentary elections in March. For the first time in the political history of the country, an opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wrestled majority seats in the house of assembly from a revolutionary party, Zanu PF. Again for the first time, an opposition political opponent Morgan Tsvangirai of MDC trounced Mugabe in a presidential race in March but failed to garner the majority 51 percent to be declared winner. Who will not remember the bloody retribution that befell opposition political supporters and other unfortunate Zimbabweans for this humiliation to Mugabe’s party? The one man June presidential run-off election that Tsvangirai pulled out citing violence to his supporters, which Mugabe unilaterally declared himself winner and the bloodshed prior, during and after that plebiscite. Many lives were lost.
The year temporarily brought big hopes to Zimbabweans in September, when rival politicians announced to the nation that they were putting their differences aside and forming a government of national unity. For the first time in a decade, Mugabe shook hands with Tsvangirai. There was jubilation across the political divide. People envisaged a new Zimbabwe of political tolerance, of peace and prosperity. The expectations were however quickly dashed. The political leaders started bickering over equitable power sharing bringing the country into further mess. Up to date there is no government of national unity. There are threats from either side of pulling out of the political settlement, accusations and counter-accusations of negotiating in bad faith while the country continues to bleed, with the ordinary person suffering heavily.
As if the entire curse befalling this country outlined above is not enough, a water borne cholera epidemic, a result of disintegrating urban sanitation facilities broke out in August worsening in the month of Christmas, December. To date more than 1,000 lives have been lost. Lives continue to be lost as this is being written.
Now as the rest of the world reverberate with sound of Christmas carols celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, exchanging gifts and other generosities, for the majority of ordinary Zimbabweans, it will be the time of nursing wounds brought by the loss of loved ones. The loss caused by political violence, poverty, disease and other natural causes. Christmas is a special time where families unite in celebration. But for many here and most unfortunately innocent children, it will be a solitary period of mourning the loss of human dignity.
Again an unexpected Christmas present came Sunday from a world super power, the United States. The US announced withdrawing its support to the government of national unity in Zimbabwe, citing Mugabe as an obstacle.
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer told journalists in Pretoria South Africa that, “we feel that Robert Mugabe has reneged on that deal.”
“The power sharing agreement…needs to be implemented with someone other than Robert Mugabe as president.”
But the defiant Mugabe told his supporters at the party’s annual conference Friday that,” We have told them (Americans) as we told the Europeans that the only persons with power to remove Robert Gabriel Mugabe are the people of Zimbabwe.”
As the ageing Mugabe continues unabated with his arrogant rhetoric, for the ordinary citizen 2008 will be the worst festive season as they continue with their daily struggles of survival in the face of hunger, disease, stress and an uncertain future.