I remember waking up one day on a Saturday around 11AM. My headache woke me. I crawled out of bed, glanced at the club stamp on my left arm and silently apologized to white Jesus for drinking so much the night before. Half asleep still, I went to find something to eat in order to send my horrible bhabharasi back to Lucifer.
I went through the fridge. Nothing. Then I came across an ice cream container – the good, Kefalos kind. I vowed that after my KFC run, I’d come back and treat myself to some. When I returned and opened the container, I found a heap of frozen meat. Nyama yembudzi to be precise, which I hate. I stood there for a few seconds, utterly disappointed. The container looked brand new and the label hadn’t started disappearing from all the washing. I had seen this same container a week ago, and it was full of ice cream.
I suppose one could use this incident as an indicator of what my life here often feels like; expectation, followed by disappointment. Now, the fact that I could even ‘do a KFC run’ in the first place says that I am privileged. I recognise this privilege, but it does not mask the deep dissatisfaction that comes from being young, driven, female and living in a state that is seemingly self-destructing. I live in a country that largely frustrates me, and that gives out false hope narratives (nyama yembudzi) wrapped in optimism and flowery language (the Kefalos ice cream container).
I also live in a country of great contradictions. A country that hopes in the face of despair, that trusts in the face of uncertainty, and that largely remains silent about the everyday injustices and violences that erode our joy. Yet, we wait. We are expectant. We wait endlessly for God(ot) or some kind of leader or higher being that will fix all our problems. We allow the narrative of “So far so good” to wash away our doubts and keep us going. We let this narrative control our past, our present and our future. The rough edges of our crisis are smoothed over by the sweet narrative of constant victory in the face of colonialism, constant gratitude to our liberators and incessant praises to white Jesus.
Recently, Afrobarometer released a report that everyone is having a say about. According to the report, 63% of participants trust President Robert Mugabe – 70% in rural areas and 45% in urban areas. A whole 54% trust the ruling party. Only 34% trusts the opposition parties, showing just how well they’ve done in letting citizens down. What is puzzling however, is that 63% of the participants do not trust the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that is responsible for conducting national elections. Strange that we trust a leader we elected but not the institution that facilitates that election. Surely that would mean that we don’t trust the outcome of an election because of our mistrust of ZEC? Hameno.
50% of the participants trust the police, and 64% trust the army. 67% of the former however, were urban dwellers and did not trust the police, most likely because of their generally poor services and insatiable desire for bribes from motorists.
What shocked me most however, was that leading in trustworthiness at 75% were church leaders. (I really shouldn’t be surprised. I have plenty of relatives that would give their left arm as an offering if persuaded) The church, especially the rise of the Pentecostal miracle hubs, has attracted the support of tens of thousands of Zimbabweans. I mean, would you rather trust a man who says he’ll grow your economy and empower you at some point in the future, or a man who makes money magically appear in your pocket? Tough choice.
Now, to understand the condition our country is in, let me add some more stats. The FinScope 2014 report showed that 66% of participants did not have piped water in their households. 67% use firewood as main energy source for cooking. 36% had gone a day without a meal because they could not afford one. Another 36% had not been able to send their children to school that term. 40% are excluded from financial institutions because they cannot afford bank charges, while 45% of the people that do have some savings, spend them on living expenses only.
Like I said – contradictions. On the one hand, the huge amount of people without access to basic services like water supply, electricity and sanitation services should tell us that support for the ruling party should have diminished. The stagnation in our economic growth is worrying. Our growing government expenditures on the back of no production and very little FDI is a recipe for disaster. Our informal economy is creating wonderfully talented and driven entrepreneurs and alternative job opportunities, but is also hurting formal business, the environment, and the tax base.
But we have expectations even in the midst of despair. We seem to always be waiting for something or someone to change things. For a miracle from Papa Angel to fix the mess we’re in and usher in a season of blessings and favour for all. We wait on white Jesus to see and hear us, and remember that we’re just as ‘chosen’ as the Jews, and to rid us of our problems. We hope that the ruling party will stop its bickering, look down on us and keep fighting for the empowerment it fought for 35 years ago.
We wait, we hope. Endlessly, for better days.