It is the beginning of 2017 and already there are signs that it will be tougher than last year. I found 2016 spirit crushing. It was a difficult year for common Zimbabweans. Those who draw from the deep well of patronage had a good year. It is a year we discovered the first lady Grace Mugabe had paid for a US$1.3 million diamond ring.
In 2016 president Robert Mugabe told us something like US$15 billion from the country’s diamond fields had gone missing. There was no suggestion that the government was bothered enough to try to trace the money or recover it.
By the end of the year thousands of people had lost jobs and the government’s much talked about Chinese mega investment deals were still just talk.
I wish I could say things are looking up but I can’t. Food vendors conducting business on the capital’s pavements have been given 48 hours to disappear in the wake of a typhoid outbreak. Most people survive through vending. Factories have closed down and more are expected to shut down this year. There are no public toilets or clean water for washing hands on the street pavements. Mangoes are in season and some people buy and start munching them without washing the mangoes. Its Summer and with it comes rain and the heat that invites flies.
Garbage has not been collected in most residential areas as well as some parts of the city. So yes typhoid and cholera may just wreak havoc on the already struggling masses. Life is so hard that some people who had dogs have set them loose on the streets because they can no longer afford to feed themselves let alone dogs. There are also feral cats roaming around. I watch the birds chirping happily and eating grapes in the garden and I think; “You guys don’t know how lucky you are.”
While everyone else who has no patronage DNA struggles the first family is in the far east in the lap of luxury. Do we the common people ever cross their minds? I doubt they have any idea what Zimbabweans have been reduced to. They have good health services on tap from Singapore while we have to make do with a health system that has crumbled. Everyday that I wake up with working hips and knees I am deeply grateful. I would never be able to afford knee or hip surgery and I don’t have enough Bond Notes to buy US$ to make the health trip to Singapore.
When people living abroad ask how I am I always say I am okay even when I am not because it is simpler and does not require an explanation. When they ask me how things are in Zimbabwe I say things are fine because I am so tired of even trying to describe the latest episode in the Zimbabwean reality show. This is home but sometimes it gets me down. The 1980s feel good mood is gone and we lurch from one political disaster to another with no end in sight. When I heard that the Zika virus had reached Angola I sent a fervent prayer to God that Zimbabwe be spared because the people in charge are realistically speaking only in charge of sucking the country dry, our welfare is the last thing on their minds. Sometimes there is a glimmer of hope then it’s quickly squashed. I used to say we shall overcome but now that just rings hollow.