21 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Sad Songs and the Long Wait for Better Days

In the early 1990s Zimbabwe boasted several star musicians who distinguished themselves with their originality and lyrical prowess, belting out hit after hit inspired by topical issues. While many of them have since tragically passed on, many of their messages still resonate strongly with the nation's current socio- economic scenario.

Among the hit-makers who captured the imagination of a population then bearing the brunt of the country's ill-fated dalliance with the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme was one Edwin Hama.

His maudlin lyrics accompanying simple but catchy tunes would have you instinctively nodding and singing along, as Hama tackled bread-and-butter issues.

One of his chart-toppers was Waiting for a New Day which poignantly talked about someone who had hit hard times and was patiently waiting for the day his fortunes would change, "wishing and praying for better days to come".

Hama died in 2007 aged 40, a broken and reportedly penniless singer who suddenly vanished from the limelight, never to realise his "better day". But his song, Waiting for a New Day, maybe more than any of his tunes, echoes Zimbabweans' current predicament as 2012 inexorably draws to a close.

For most, and despite a pinch of scepticism, the formation of the inclusive government in 2009 represented the onset of a journey towards a new day, the first tentative steps towards a new life promising better conditions.

Zimbabweans dreamt of jobs, better wages, improved service delivery from the city councils including a consistent supply of clean water and constant electricity supplies, as the unity government would focus on improving Zimbabweans' lives while ceasing the trading of hostilities.

How wrong they were!

The long wait for better days, dating as far back as 1998, continues. Zimbabweans, whose reserves of patience, hope and resilience are legendary, await the long-promised economic upturn that would spawn the transformation of their lives they so much crave and deserve. It is this economic upturn that symbolises that "new day" that would bring jobs, desired service delivery and all attendant benefits they long for.

But for now, it remains a mirage. Most Zimbabweans will bid 2012 a less-than- fond farewell, for it represents another in a growing list of years for which they have precious little to show. Many have now accumulated so much in their "In Tray" due to the country's prolonged socio-economic morass that they have resigned themselves to life passing them by.

As 2013 beckons, people are apprehensively wondering what it has in store. For the superstitious, 13 is an unlucky number.

Coincidentally, it is expected to be an election year, with the referendum on a new constitution and crucial elections supposedly to terminate the unity government.

Given their experiences in previous elections in which intimidation, violence and even murder were an integral part of the electoral process, there is reason to fear, but Zimbabweans will once again draw on their inexhaustible reserves of hope.

Incidentally, Hama's last album was titled Suffer Continue. Zimbabweans can only hope -- as they enter 2013 -- that it is not also prophetic.

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