HARARE – “There’s no doubt that this has been a particularly difficult year, and I am relieved that this annus horribilis (year of horrors) is coming to an end.”
This was Kofi Annan in 2004, then a UN secretary-general describing what he saw as a horrifying year.
His remarks were widely interpreted as alluding to persistent allegations of corruption in the UN’s Iraq Oil-for-Food Programme and came just days before the deadliest event of that year, the Indian Ocean tsunami on December 26.
Yet, this could easily have been Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe talking of an annus horribilis regarding 2012, which could be his last year in power.
From watching his dream for a March 2013 election go up in smoke to dealing with a fractious party to his motorcade, 2012 was hardly a year Mugabe would look back at with nostalgia.
Despite consistently threatening to dissolve Parliament and the shaky coalition government, Mugabe, turning 89 in seven weeks, was forced into bay by Sadc and the African Union — leaving him looking powerless to locals who watched his vitriolic demands for a March election.
His party, wagering on Mugabe’s tough talk, even ordered him to call elections if the constitution-making process was not complete by last year’s Christmas.
The answer: Mugabe took a month-long holiday ensuring such a wish was dead and buried, forcing his Zanu PF party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo to admit: “We have to be cognisant of the prevailing situation. We cannot push every wish through.”
Mugabe watched as Christmas came and flew by despite having been mandated by his party to call for elections by December 25 if there was no agreement on the draft constitution.
To further illustrate that the Zanu PF supremo has all but resigned, Mugabe took his usual month long sabbatical late December leaving everything in limbo.
Within the same week as hawks in Mugabe’s party demanded elections through a resolution, regional power broker Sadc, threw cold water by insisting on a strict adherence to the power sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA) roadmap to free and fair elections.
Mugabe came from the Gweru conference with tail between his legs and ate humble pie.
In the meantime, his party was imploding as factionalism related to the long standing succession war heightened.
Mugabe shocked all and sundry by naming faction leaders and admitting the scourge was tearing his former liberation movement apart.
It would have been akin to watching as one’s children fight over their estate before their death.
At his age he fails to realise that some of his most trusted lieutenants are looking beyond him.
Emmerson Mnangagwa previously seen as Mugabe’s blue-eyed boy before the 2005 Dinyane debacle is reportedly one of the faction leaders.
The fact that Mugabe mentioned Mnangagwa and deputy president Joice Mujuru as reportedly leading the warring factions is enough an indicator that he is having sleepless nights and hardly has a foothold on the levers of power as before.
But Mugabe showed he still had a bit of his political midas touch, when in a sweeping move, he ordered the dissolution of a party mechanism known as the district coordinating committees as it became apparent that they were being used to prop faction leaders ahead of him.
He also spoke of how his ministers have become so corrupt that his ally, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, warned that the scourge was scaring investors.
Transparency International also named Zimbabwe among the most corrupt countries in the world and sits in the same league as Equatorial Guinea and Somalia.
On the economic front Finance minister Tendai Biti was forced to revise the budget from $4 billion to just over $3 billion as the 600 million expected from diamond sales failed to pitch up. Inflation was revised upwards to five percent from a projected 4,5 percent.
Despite the “successful” land reform programme, over 1,6 million people or one in every five, are in dire need of food assistance, according to the World Food Programme (WFP) while 80 percent of those in need of work have been turned into loafers.
The majority of people are still living in utter poverty with critics arguing that 90 percent of Zimbabweans are living below the poverty datum line of slightly over $500 a month.
Service delivery has all but collapsed. Raw sewerage is overflowing water supply sources and the threat of tropical diseases continues to pose a threat to public health safety.
Mugabe’s much vaunted indigenisation policy has not only proved to be an albatross on the economy, but has turned Zanu PF stalwarts against each other as they fight over lucrative businesses.
This was epitomised by the Save Conservancy saga that threatened to boil over.
Tourism Minister, Walter Mzembi and his Natural Resources counterpart have been at each other’s throat prompting Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to intervene and the rift is yet to heal.
As if his political problems were not bad enough for a man in the twilight of his career, the 88-year-old seemed to have a disastrous effect on the highways.
In June this year, two separate road accidents on the same day involving Mugabe’s motorcade claimed the lives of two people.
A vagrant died on the spot after being hit by Mugabe’s bike.
The drama for Mugabe did not end there.
Near Kutama Mission a few hours later, a land cruiser in his motorcade burst a tyre, injuring eight members of the presidential guard. One of them, Jeoffrey Mukotekwa, later died of his injuries.
Two weeks later, Mugabe’s motorcade claimed the life of one person and injured 15 others when he hit a commuter omnibus once again in Zvimba, while a fourth accident resulted in another outrider perishing in a ball of fire after crashing into a lorry in Borrowdale.