After a whirlwind of activity, Zimbabwe finds itself in the news again following a military coup on the night of Tuesday, 14 November.
Suddenly global news agencies are providing wall to wall coverage of the events in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city.
Regional bodies the Southern African Development Community and the African Union have now been jerked into action, which is a change from their usual attitude of shrugging shoulders and saying that “the Zimbabwean problem is for Zimbabweans.”
Interest in Zimbabwe has been rekindled by internal ructions of the ruling Zanu-PF party, which have triggered the army’s reaction to thwart First Lady Grace Mugabe ascending to the throne as they felt that she was sweeping them away.
Let us be clear here, it is not out of the benevolence of the army that we find ourselves at the cusp of possible salvation, but out of fear by the army of the unknown of having Grace in power.
The simple reason being the fact that Grace has displayed a loathing for the army and war veterans.
Forget the semantics for a while, the elements characteristic of a coup are all there and although the army insists it’s not a coup, we find ourselves in unchartered waters where we have a commander-in-chief (Robert Mugabe) facing a rebellion from his commanders.
As I write this article, he is under house arrest but the army insists he is in charge!
I, together with the people I generally interact with, am relieved, if not elated, that we may be seeing the end of a Robert Mugabe presidency.
As a young person, I was born during the rulership of Mugabe and have not known any other leader.
Very few people I’ve talked to are condemning what the army has done, instead they are hailing this seismic event as a glimmer of hope and a possible outlet to a better future.
Most of my peers, associates and friends have expressed palpable excitement over the possible departure from the stage of our 93-year-old ruler.
Not only because he ‘beats the record’ as the world’s oldest ruler, but also because the nation finds itself retrogressing.
There’s an economic, political and social dislocation caused mainly by greedy and selfish leaders who have become unashamed lootocrats.
Which brings me to the subject of one of the most serious issues facing Zimbabwe – from top down to bottom – corruption.
Corruption is rampant in both the public and private sector, especially regarding bribery in the public sector.
For example, runners or middlemen, have emerged over the years and are making money out of arranging bribes or ‘fixes’ between ordinary people and government officials.
Do you want to import a car? Get a runner to find the right official to negotiate smoothening of the paper work.
Do you want to get a national identity card? Speak to a runner to arrange that too – even to photocopy application documents in a well-known government department, a runner will know the right official to speak to on your behalf.
What is frustrating is that people should have direct access to these services without paying bribes or asking a middleman to arrange a bribe, but the situation is so bad, they don’t have it.
This is just a glimpse into how life in Zimbabwe is, not to mention that the economy is in melt-down and an estimated 90% of the population are not employed.
Industries have shut down and there’s currently a debilitating cash crisis forcing many people to sleep in bank queues just to withdraw a paltry amount of money.
The government has made some efforts to address the corruption situation, including arresting a few top officials, but I believe there’s a lot more they have left out.
The events this week lead me to pose a question – if Mugabe does indeed get out of the ruling spot will it bode a new dawn, a fresh beginning, for Zimbabwe, or will it be more doom?
This is my take: Zimbabwe’s cause of corruption is rooted in the deterioration of its economy, which in turn was caused by the political crisis, brought about by Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party.
So the root of Zimbabwe’s crisis is the political situation.
Mugabe has rolled out some disastrous policies, which have ruined the economy and that in turn has led to a serious deterioration of living standards.
Desperate for survival, people have resorted to corrupt ways to survive or get by.
I believe that a change in the political situation – new leadership, for example, would lead to an improvement in the economy and that in turn will address the corruption factor.
I’m not suggesting that corruption will disappear immediately, but that Zimbabwe has a better chance of tackling corruption under new leadership than under Mugabe.
If Mugabe and his policies go, then it will be a new dawn for the country.
However, if he stays it will only spell more doom for Zimbabweans who have suffered long enough.
Masimba Kuchera is a Harare-based analyst.
PHOTO – Josh Friedman