The year 2005 has certainly been one of the toughest yet in Zimbabwe. As we take stock at year's end we must be ruthlessly honest about our situation. For some the festive season provides an opportunity to escape from the harsh realities and even to indulge in a little fantasy. We take it rather as a time for reflection and clear-sighted realism about how far the nation has progressed on the path towards freedom and democracy, and how much farther we still have to go. On this basis we have to acknowledge the following:
For the vast majority of Zimbabweans the struggle to survive has never been more problematic. Leaving aside the tiny ruling elite who continue to wallow in obscene wealth (stolen from the nation) for most of us each of the last five years of the deepening crisis has presented ever greater difficulties. 2005 was no exception. Spiralling inflation, increasing homelessness and unemployment and the near collapse of the health care and educational sectors have added to the miseries. Millions now live on the verge of starvation. Countless Zimbabweans have already succumbed to the deadly combination of the AIDS pandemic and severe food deprivation. What family, apart from those enjoying the dictator's patronage, is not now struggling to survive
The year 2005 also brought a number of setbacks for the progressive, pro-democracy forces in Zimbabwe. Nor are we referring to the outcome of either the parliamentary elections in March or the senate elections in November, for in both cases the further reduction in MDC representation was entirely predicable, given the fatally flawed electoral process and ZANU PF's expertise in gerrymandering. We refer rather to the outbreak of civil war within the ranks of the MDC, ostensibly over the contested decision whether to participate in the recent senate elections. Tragically the party which at one time mustered the most serious threat in 25 years to ZANU PF tyranny is no more. Two warring factions and a small number of isolated individuals who still stand for principle, remain of a party which once represented the hopes of so many. A party and a cause also for which countless brave men and women have sacrificed so much, including the hundreds who have laid down their lives and many more who suffered torture and abuse. This is a tragedy of immense proportions. Indeed in the light of the huge damage inflicted on the cause of freedom and democracy we find the cavalier attitude of Morgan Tsvangirai truly astounding. In comparison to the fracturing of the anti-ZANU PF opposition the retrogressive amendments to the constitution and further shrinking of the little remaining democratic space pale into insignificance.
Directly linked to these negative factors we have seen hope dip to an all-time low. While the haemorrhage of many of the nation's most able and experienced citizens into the vast Zimbabwean diaspora continues, for those remaining it becomes increasingly difficult not to give way to despair. Feeling defeated and deflated, what cause do we have to celebrate this Christmas? Moreover even were we in the mood for celebrating, which we are not, we would have precious little to celebrate with.
Such is the reality of present-day life in Zimbabwe....