2019: The good, the bad & the ugly

Society Reporters

SPECTACULAR firework displays, parties and all-night prayer vigils were some of the major highlights of the night of December 31, 2019.

Zimbabweans from all walks of life joined their counterparts from across the globe as they eagerly awaited the dawn of yet another year.

A week into 2020, we now take a closer look at some of the major highlights of the past year.

Cyclone Idai


Starting on a sad note, the devastating effects of the tropical Cyclone Idai, one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to have affected Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, are still being felt up to this day.

The storm caused catastrophic damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi, leaving more than 1 300 people dead and many more missing.

In Zimbabwe, this cyclone, the deadliest ever recorded in the south-west Indian Ocean basin, resulted in the death of more than 340 people, with others still unaccounted for.

Bridges, roads, houses and sources of livelihoods were among the many things that were swept away by the tropical cyclone that mostly affected Chimanimani and Chipinge.

On a positive note, the sterling efforts by Government, non-governmental organisations and individuals have eased the suffering of the affected communities to a greater extent.

The international community descended on the affected areas with aid, much to the relief of those that had been affected by the tragedy.

Tuku’s casket

Fare thee well

On January 23, 2019, the nation was plunged into mourning following the death of music superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi, who succumbed to diabetes at the age of 66.


Mtukudzi was declared a national hero.

As the year wore on, on September 6 the country also woke up to the news that former president Cde Robert Mugabe had died.

The former president died in Singapore at the age of 95.

Sekuru Ndunge, a popular traditional healer, also breathed his last in 2019. Thousands of people made a beeline for his Chipinge hilltop residence as they bade farewell to the doyen of local traditional healing.

Mine accidents and machete gangs

Illegal gold miners, commonly known as Makorokoza, caused havoc in most parts of the country in 2019.

Infamous for their penchant for shedding blood, the recent murder of a police officer by a gang of illegal miners is clear evidence of how cunning and daring the illegal miners can be.

The death of 23 miners at Cricket and Silvermoon mines in Kadoma also made sad reading.

Harrowing tales of how eight miners clung to dear life after being trapped in one of the mining shafts for four days made front page headlines for local news outlets.

More than 50 miners were trapped underground when a dam wall collapsed and flooded the mining shafts, resulting in the death of the 23 miners.


Doctors’ strike, record

 breaking operation

Last year, local surgeons conducted a world-record operation and successfully removed a 12,3kg 11-year-old kidney cyst from a patient.

The cyst was the largest to be removed in the world, breaking a record which was previously held by Asian powerhouse, Japan, where a similar one weighing 11,5kg was removed.

However, a dark cloud hung the country when medical doctors stopped reporting for work on September 3, claiming that they were incapacitated.

The four-month strike paralysed the public health system.

After protracted talks with Government, doctors’ unions have claimed that they are now back at work.

However, as of the last week of 2019, investigations carried out by The Sunday Mail revealed that patients seeking a number of services in public hospitals were still being turned away.

In the midst of this chaos that also saw municipal nurses downing their tools, a Harare midwife became an instant heroine after assisting an estimated 100 pregnant women to deliver in just eight days.

Mbare’s Ms Esther Zinyoro offered her services for free.

Church splits, National Day of Prayer

In 2019, churches took a leading role in efforts to promote peace and political dialogue.

Churches were also on the forefront in calling for the removal of the sanctions imposed by the West on Zimbabwe.

On the other hand, the National Day of Prayer, which was held at State House, was a first of its kind, with more than 300 churches involved.

The inter-denominational prayer group Daughters of Virtue, which is led by Prophetess Memory Matimbire, also conducted a prayer session and called on women to intercede for unity, peace and development.

Churches also took an active role in national dialogue, particularly the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad).

But leadership wrangles and church splits also dominated the news, with the longstanding dispute pitting two factions of the Apostolic Faith Mission being the most topical.

The leadership wrangles involving two factions of the Mughodhi Apostolic Church also reared their ugly head towards the end of the year.

After the death of the sect’s founder and leader, Tadewu Mugodhi, one of the elders in the church, Tony Sigauke, wrestled for the church’s leadership with the late Tadewu’s son Washington.

Affordable transport for all

The re-introduction of the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) brought smiles to the faces of the commuting public.

Due to the affordable fares, the service came as a relief to Zimbabweans who were and are still battling price hikes and inadequate fuel and electricity supplies.

The thrills and flops

On the entertainment scene, the Mafikizolo show proved to be a monumental flop. A disappointing crowd, poor planning and a substandard sound system contributed to the failure of the show.

In addition to that, with the show pegged at US$20 for the cheapest ticket, many people could not afford to pay their way into the gig.

Sadly, the Harare International Festival of the Arts, at one time an important event on the entertainment calendar, died a natural death last year.

But it was not all gloom on the entertainment scene.

The Pemmican Awards, which reward outstanding gospel artistes and had been shelved since 2016, were successfully held in 2019.

Winky D also successfully launched a new album, “Njema”, on the last day of the year.

 Marvelous Nakamba, The Gems

On the sporting front, a number of positives were recorded during the course of the year.

Local football fans were excited when Marvelous Nakamba, a national team player, joined Aston Villa, an English Premier League side.

It had been a while since a local player had joined the highly competitive EPL.

On the other hand, the Zimbabwe netball team, the Gems, performed above expectations during the Netball World Cup in Liverpool, England. In a competition in which they were making their maiden appearance, the Gems were placed eighth at the conclusion of the tournament.

International celebrity visits

The year 2019 concluded with endorsements on Zimbabwe’s tourist attractions.

Visits by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin and Hollywood actors Catherine Zeta Jones and husband Michael Douglas validated that the country is still a premier tourist destination.