THERE is a feeling that something is in the air, something new and exciting is happening – and it’s not being overly optimistic. There is palpable movement. People are now beginning to find each other despite and in spite of political differences.
Source: Mr President, beware of the rising tide – NewsDay Zimbabwe February 3, 2017
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
That phenomenon is not peculiar to Zimbabwe. In the United States, the abrasive Donald Trump has managed that feat of uniting people against him who are disgusted by his racist, sexist and anti-Islam stance that does not define who they are, not to mention the fallout across the globe.
In a rare show of unity, MPs across the political divide this week demanded an audience with President Robert Mugabe, saying he was being misled by his divided Cabinet over the true – read “dire and decaying” – state of the nation. And, in what could be a first, the legislators came to the rescue of each other with Zanu PF MP, Joseph Chinotimba, appealing to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, to extend MDC-T MP, James Maridadi’s allotted debate time after it had run out.
Some people could be asking: Are Zanu PF MPs finally shedding their cowardice? Well, it’s most difficult to be your own person in a highly regimented and tightly-controlled cult-like organisation with all the rituals of shouting politically correct slogans. For instance, if you omit the appellation or title “Dr Amai” in addressing First Lady Grace Mugabe, you will find yourself ostracised. It’s political suicide.
However, it’s only fair to point out that those in Zanu PF have not been cowardly to a man or woman. Bold voices have erupted from within Zanu PF since independence with the likes of Margaret Dongo and the late Edgar Tekere in the 1990s.
Maridadi: “We respectfully want the President to come to Parliament to meet with MPs without the Executive … If we speak to the President, I tell you, half of his Cabinet will not have jobs because they are corrupt …” That the Cabinet reeks of corruption is an indisputable fact.
Zanu PF MP, Paradzai Chakona, concurred with Maridadi, saying most of the bidders awarded the bulk of government tenders were local companies, but were getting away with misrepresentation of revenue and paying less value-added tax. “When the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority follows up, the individuals would be shielded by government ministers or senior government officials,” Chakona said.
Is there a more scandalous indictment than this of indigenous firms that conveniently raise the sanctions card when they are, for all intents and purposes, the actual economic saboteurs? There is no need to commission a study on the effects of sanctions like Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo has done, but to set up a commission of inquiry to investigate Cabinet ministers like Moyo himself, who has been implicated in misappropriation of over
$400 000 from the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef).
Moyo, with his dirty hands – as shown by his self-incriminating admission that he dipped into Zimdef coffers Robin Hood-style to purchase bicycles for his “impoverished” constituents – should be the last person to spearhead such a study and entrusted with government funds for that or any purpose.
However, we should not criticise for the sake of criticising, but give credit where it is due. During the debate, MDC MP, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, presented flowers to Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa for doing his best under the circumstances. Many fair-minded people will agree with that. It is such magnanimous gestures that break logjams, build bridges and define us as Zimbabweans first, then Zanu PF, MDC-T, MDC etc second – possibly a distant second. Honest admission is not a sign of weakness or selling out, but shows courage and strength.
Chinotimba pointed out another lie from the Executive: “Civil servants are earning between $300 and $500, but government ministers are offering residential stands (in lieu of unpaid bonuses) – where do the stands come from for the entire civil service? It is only fair to say there is no money.” Yes, there has been one lie too many.
But only a day later, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo had the audacity to repeat a lie of a similar nature in Parliament, saying: “The two million jobs (promised by Zanu PF in its election manifesto in 2013) are on course in mining, agriculture, higher education and other sectors”, when it’s plain to see on the ground that no such thing is happening.
Who does not know that instead of employment creation, there has not only been massive net job loss since 2013, but, for the first time in Zimbabwe’s history, government is now failing to pay civil servants on time? Chombo, if you need to be reminded at all, it’s highly and grossly provocative for you to repeat such lies in the supposedly august House.
Zanu PF MPs are beginning to realise that they have more and more in common with their opposition counterparts and increasingly less and less with Cabinet ministers and the top hierarchy in the party, who have become a ruling class on their own with all the parasitic tendencies associated with that.
Nothing illustrates more this widening gap between the rich and powerful, on the one hand, and the poor and exploited, on the other, than when someone spends $1,4 million on a diamond ring. They are doing the conceivably worst of everything – like stealing from Zimdef. In fact, the regime has become a criminal syndicate driven by racketeers with tentacles reaching to all economic sectors.
The best thing to come out of this is that Zimbabweans – war veterans and Zanu PF MPs included – are beginning to discard “groupthink”. Groupthink is that “practice of reasoning or decision-making by a group, especially characterised by uncritical acceptance or conformity to prevailing points of view” of the group to which they belong, like those swearing “Mugabe for life”. This leads them to swallow the unreasonable and unfounded promises – like creating over two million jobs in an anaemic economy; and explanations (lies and excuses really) that their plight is due to “evil sanctions” whereas State-sponsored corruption is to blame.
In groupthink, the group can be manipulated “to think in a certain way by controllers within the group who steer the group towards certain conclusions when the group knows very little or nothing about the problem at hand”.
Inevitably, the end result is poor with disastrous consequences. For instance, war vets were manipulated by the government into indiscriminately invading productive white-owned farms.
Now, 17 years down the line, that same government has awarded the war vets the licence to order from Zambia maize grown by the very same whites they forcibly and at times murderously ejected from farms here. So, was it worth the wanton destruction and all the blood spilled if you have to be fed by those evicted whites at a much greater cost?
Not to mention that taxpayers now have to pay billions in compensation to those white farmers. Most of the neglect and destruction we see today – including potholed roads, collapsed hospitals, closed factories etc – can be traced to that dark period. War vets made a bad situation, if it ever was, worse after being used to do the dirty work for politicians who exploited their ignorance not to see the economic consequences of this.
Predictably, Mugabe won’t raise a finger, but he faces the real danger of being swept away by the rising tide.
Need more be said?
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org