WITH less than a week before the curtain comes down on 2019, it is time to look back and reflect on the events which characterised the year with a view to draw important lessons for the coming years.

The year 2019 has not been good for Zimbabweans as the country suffered from unforeseen but severe exogenous shocks arising from Cyclone Idai and the El Nino-induced drought, which constrained agricultural activities and electricity generation, bringing about general underperformance of the economy and suffering for the ordinary people.

No doubt, the worst thing to happen in 2019 was Cyclone Idai, which hit Zimbabwe on March 15, killing more than 300 people, with an estimated same figure still to be accounted for. The violent storm and subsequent flooding and landslides destroyed crops, livestock, homes, schools and other infrastructure with Chimanimani and Chipinge districts bearing the brunt.

We salute the local and international response to the Cyclone Idai disaster during which relief food, water, clothing and shelter were quickly mobilised and delivered to the needy communities. Special tribute go to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces for moving in first against all odds to rescue marooned pupils at Charles Lwanga School and many others in Chimanimani, who had been cut off from the rest of the world.

In the same vein, hats off to President Mnangagwa for cutting short his trip to the United Arab Emirates to return home and make sure he was involved directly with the national response by way of relief to victims of Cyclone Idai.

We are also duty bound to express profound gratitude to the South African National Defence Forces, which chipped in with men and equipment to build two Bailey bridges along Rusitu and Nyahode rivers in Chimanimani to replace bridges destroyed by Cyclone Idai.

It is a fact that increased climate change-induced hazards will worsen vulnerability of citizens, which calls for improvement in key policies to frame more proactive disaster risk management. Better settlement systems regulation, stronger social protection systems and enhanced disaster risk management funding are critical for the country’s ability to effectively deal with future disasters.

The year 2019 also saw Zimbabweans enduring painful austerity measures adopted by the Government since late 2018 to lay a solid foundation for future economic growth. The situation was compounded by price escalation of basic goods, transport fares, fuel and loss of consumer buying power due to rising inflation. Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has, however, indicated that the painful austerity era is now over and the country should brace for positive growth and productivity in 2020.

Another low side for the year has been the implementation of load-shedding by Zesa Holdings, which saw consumers enduring more hours without electricity. A severe drought the country suffered during the 2018/2019 rainfall season has seen reduced output at the country’s largest hydro- power plant in Kariba and at the ageing coal-fired generators in Hwange.

Power imports have also been reduced owing to capacity problems in neighbouring South Africa and Mozambique. The impact has been quite severe for domestic and industrial consumers who are experiencing power cuts of up to 18 hours a day. The solution for the country should be to focus on other alternative power sources such as solar.

One of the positive highlights of the year was the launch this December of the Sakubva Urban Renewal Project by President Mnangagwa. This is the regeneration and redevelopment of Sakubva, the oldest township in Mutare. Slums and dilapidated areas will be cleared out to make way for modern housing, market stalls and business structures in line with the country’s Vision 2030 agenda of turning Zimbabwe into a middle-income country.

Another welcome development in 2019 has been the move by Government to avail buses for urban mass transportation through the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO). Hard pressed commuters have found the fares quite affordable when compared to the private commuter bus operators.

While the negatives have outweighed the positives, there are encouraging sentiments that should the country receive better rains in the 2019/2020 season, agricultural output will increase and power outages will be reduced.

Source: African News Agency