Zim limps back to normalcy
Despite the myriad of challenges still facing the Zimbabwean economy after a decade of economic free fall, the situation on the ground points to a country that is crawling back to normalcy, and one cannot help but notice the conspicuous changes currently engulfing this country of contradictions.
However, despite the various positive changes taking place in the country, one cannot also ignore the many challenges that still remain. Our reporter, Nyasha Francis Nyaungwa, was recently in Zimbabwe, and what follows is an account of what he witnessed.
Going to Zimbabwe for my December holiday, I didn’t know what exactly to expect, you know the country is full of surprises. They say anything goes in Zimbabwe but following my three-week holiday in this once prosperous nation – which for years had been tinkering on the brink of economic collapse as a result of a concoction of bad economic policies, bad governance and sanctions imposed on the country by the West – I can safely say that Zimbabwe is now almost back to its former glory.
As soon as I entered Zimbabwe, what struck me the most was the lack of harassment from the police manning the roadblocks. Although there are still way too many roadblocks for a supposedly peaceful country, I was surprised by the friendly police officers manning these roadblocks. Historically, and more so at the height of that country’s economic meltdown, police at roadblocks would literally jump in the air out of excitement whenever they saw a foreign registered vehicle for they would have found someone who could and must grease their palms.
You see, the thinking is or was that, anyone driving a foreign registered vehicle must be loaded with cash and you were expected to be patriotic and contribute to the upkeep of the poorly remunerated officers who had stayed behind to defend the motherland against imaginary imperialist forces.
I must say that this time around, I didn’t experience anything of that sort. All I saw was a bunch of officers happy to do their work, welcoming me to the country or wishing me a safe journey back to Namibia.
If that was something of a shocker, a big shock was awaiting me in the capital city Harare, inappropriately described as the ‘sunshine city’. Harare is now too small for an ever-increasing driving population. Driving in the town, if you are not so lucky, you can easily take more than an hour moving from one area of the city to the other. Harare has now become a traffic jungle, and besides proclaiming virtually all the roads as one way streets, authorities don’t seem to have a clue on how to solve this problem of traffic congestion.
Where the supposedly underpaid workers are getting the money to buy cars was sort of a mystery to me. The average civil servant earns around US$250 a month. Now even if one was to save their entire annual salary, that would still not be enough to buy the many cars that you find on Zimbabwean roads. So you can understand why I was surprised to see so many cars in a place where people are supposed to be struggling.
New suburbs are sprouting everywhere, and in towns, some companies have also started refurbishing the dilapidated buildings that had become an eyesore over the years because of neglect. The refurbishments are starting to give the major towns like Harare a new lease of life. I am sure with time, Harare will regain its status as the Sunshine city.
Doing your shopping is no longer as frustrating as it was some three years ago. You can now find everything that you need from the basics to luxuries. Its almost like we are back to the good days of yore.
Though happy with my stay in Zimbabwe, one cannot help but curse because of the intermittent power and water outages and the flowing sewer that is everywhere. Electricity blackouts happen with such regularity in Zim, that every time authorities switch the electricity back on, you will hear people in the locations celebrating as if the country had won the soccer World Cup. How can normal people celebrate the coming back of electricity? This is how strange Zimbabwe still is and no matter how hard people tried to convince me that it was normal to celebrate the coming back of electricity, I just couldn’t see myself joining the celebrations. It sounded ridiculous to me.
Last year, there was a lot of hulabaloo over the state of Windhoek’s roads after the record rainfall that was experienced. In Zimbabwe, most of the roads there are in a state of disrepair and pot holes are a way of life. You feel for your car driving in Zim but the people there are accustomed to it, they hardly complain about the state of the roads.
Finally, one cannot help but notice the dark cloud hanging over Zimbabwe because of the elections which Robert Mugabe, the President, Head of State and Government, Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and Chancellor of all state universities, is pushing for this year. A lot of people are apprehensive about the elections because of the violence experienced in the 2008 elections which resulted in the current coalition government and this has sort of dampened the spirits a little bit, otherwise Zimbabwe is truly back on track to a full economic recovery.