Then and now, the same questions


Oh dear. Where is all this leading to? Who is running the country? Who is going to stop the tailspin we’re in?

I, for one, couldn’t believe my ears the other day (17 years ago, that was)  when Mr Mugabe said Zimbabwe is going to start “socio-economic” reconstruction in Kabila’s Congo. The people there need to be fed, clothed and receive education, medical care and social services, he declared.


At that very moment,the length and breadth of Harare was in chaos as protests against food and fuel prices took hold. Acrid smoke from burning vehicles  rose into the skies behind makeshift barricades of rocks, drums and garbage.

Kabila sped through embattled Harare in a heavily guarded motorcade to meet his protector and discuss, as he put it, “not only war issues, but how to ameliorate the standards of living of my people.”

How insensitive can politicians get? Or is it that they have lost their marbles altogether.

Not long ago, down in Quito, Ecuador, President Abdala Bucaram was impeached and removed from power because of his “mental incapacity” to rule over his people.

Bucaram, nicknamed “El Loco” or the crazy one in Spanish, played in a pop band and spent too much time singing in karioki bars when he should have been running his country.That seems a relatively harmless failing. He didn’t dispatch 6,000 troops to a faraway land  and promise aid to its population when his own people were rioting because they could no longer afford food for their families and bus fares to work.

FROM ANDREW SAXON, HORIZON MAGAZINE,  a few weeks later, MARCH 1999. Nothing has changed except it’s got progressively worse everywhere. And in the city, dogs must be vaccinated against rabies now, once a problem only in distant areas.

My friend is driving along the road when she sees a pair of eyes poking out of a pothole a little way ahead. Poor creature has got stuck in there and King Solomon (then mayor Solomon Tawengwa) says he  is worn out by  all his trials and  tribulations and it’s either been too wet or the city hasn’t got enough money to fix things

My friend stops to help the animal. Is it a dog? Is it a little, furry beastie that may have fled the squatters living in the long grass who chased it for their cooking pot?  Is it a rabbit? No, good gracious, it is a giraffe!

If I am not careful I will be accused of distorting the facts. ‘Pasi ne gutter press.’ But quite frankly, nothing would surprise me in our once-fair city anymore. One fellow I know says we haven’t had as much rain since 1918, when horse-drawn carts got bogged down and broke their axles in potholes the size of bathtubs.

As we approach the end of the millenium, however, one would have thought we could have coped better with adversity. Harare’s sewers are blocked and bursting and we’ve had cholera reported as close a Mount Pleasant – a bacteria-infested spit away from the hideous, extravagant mayoral mansion being built in Gunhill – and spilled garbage festers everywhere.

Our currency is in crisis, plummeting by the day. But Leonard Tsumba and the wise men at the Reserve Bank say everything is going to be alright in the end. The banks have agreed to peg the Zim dollar against the U.S. dollar by a process called “moral suasion,” an old Bank of England phrase for a gentleman’s agreement rather than legislation.

How sensible of Mr Tsumba to reach consensus with the banks, but everyone knows gentlemen in banks are few and far between.

We are told by the state media  that our hard currency reserves and our “import cover” are getting perilously low. Let’s hope Mr Tsumba can pull a rabbit – no, that giraffe is what we need – out of his hat.


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