columnBy The Muckraker
'Monday declared holiday as travellers flood Beitbridge," the Herald stated last Friday.
This followed a pronouncement from President Mugabe declaring Monday, December 24 a public holiday.
"Workers no longer have to worry about returning to work before going back on holiday for Christmas Day and Boxing Day," the Herald helpfully added.
This was clearly a populist move. If the government was really so concerned about the welfare of workers, why did it take a whole year to express that concern? It seems logical that Monday, December 24 should be a holiday given the need of many people to travel to their rural homes and then back to urban centres. But why wait all that time before making the announcement and causing havoc in the banking and commercial sectors? People couldn't access their bank accounts on Monday except via ATMs and many stores and food outlets were closed.
This is no way to run a country. Business people need to plan ahead and help their employees do the same. Only in Zimbabwe does the government wait all year and then suddenly decide an extra holiday would be a useful gift to a hard-pressed population. This was just one of several yuletide inducements.
On the hoof decision
We had the same fiasco in education where the authorities appeared unable to make up their minds as to which day the new term would start. Education minister David Coltart was sure of his dates. But the authors of the Government Gazette weren't. They had pupils starting lessons a week later!
Was there no liaison between the arms of government? Couldn't somebody pick up a phone and decide on the date?
As for travellers "flooding" Beitbridge, they have been flooding Beitbridge for 30 years but nothing has been done to ease the congestion. Beitbridge is a case study in incompetence and confusion.
An assortment of government departments and agencies headed by Zimra compete to see who can cause the most inconvenience to travellers. Nothing appears to be done to assist the hard-pressed travellers.
And then, with many people having waited up to two days in the torrid conditions of the lowveld, Zimra pounces on unsuspecting travellers as they approach Masvingo. Double jeopardy!
If it's any consolation, visitors to Zambia are fleeced of US$300 when crossing at Chirundu. If governments in the region insist upon inconveniencing visitors and returning residents they will get the reputations they deserve.
And Karikoga Kaseke will have to continue insulting our intelligence with claims of poor "perceptions" about Zimbabwe as if this is an invention of the Western press.
All talk scant action
Government is "concerned" with the increased number of deaths compared to 2011, Transport minister Nicholas Goche declared this week, as if they had just realised it. It seems government never gets tired of singing from the same hymn sheet at just about this time every year.
Goche's "solution" to the carnage on our roads lay in the deployment of more vehicle inspectors.
"In this respect, I want to point out that we have since increased the presence of traffic safety council personnel to remind the public on the dos and don'ts of driving," Goche said.
Police Assistant Commissioner Kenny Mthombeni chipped in saying they would continue to heavily deploy officers on the roads until "sanity prevailed". Clearly we are in for a long wait!
Goche attributed most road accidents during the festive season to un-roadworthy vehicles, reckless driving and fatigue. Curiously the appalling state of the roads seems to have escaped his notice while he was busy apportioning blame to motorists alone.
It is no wonder accidents are increasing given the snail's pace with which the roads are being repaired.
Road repair crews along the Harare-Masvingo road abandoned their workstations during the holidays, the most inopportune time, forcing motorists to take detours along hazardous side roads.
Considering the revenue Zinara is accruing at tollgates, the horrendous state of our highways is totally unacceptable.
We demand less "concern" and more action Cde Goche!
Zanu PF concedes
It seems Zanu PF is now resigned to the fact that the European Union (EU) sanctions imposed on President Mugabe and his coterie over human rights abuses are not going anywhere.
The "illegal" sanctions would not be removed as long as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was not in power, squeaked Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa.
"The sanctions were imposed to install the MDC and Tsvangirai into power. I know the sanctions are going to be extended until after elections (this year). We are not going to have elections before February and this means the sanctions are going to remain in place until 2014," Mutasa said.
This is despite spirited attempts by Zanu PF to arm-twist the EU into revoking the embargo. Remember the National Anti-Sanctions Petition Campaign which was formed after "ordinary people expressed outrage at the continued imposition of the sanctions", at least according to the Herald.
Sanctions brick wall
Despite the campaign gathering "over two million signatures", it hit a brick wall with the EU saying the issue was "simply not up for discussion".
When persuasion failed, Zanu PF tried to sue the bloc with Attorney-General Johannes Tomana promising to "throw these illegal sanctions right into the face of the EU".
Tomana's claims ultimately boomeranged on him as he was forced to wait to be summoned by the EU on the issue conceding that "there have not been any developments on the case since we filed the lawsuit".
Mutasa this week acknowledged the anti-sanctions drive is a lost cause: "It is naïve to think that the sanctions will be removed this February. The EU might, just as a face saver, remove the sanctions after February 2014, not because the MDC-T will have won -- of course Zanu PF will win -- but will be ashamed to continue having them in place."
It is quite clear who should be ashamed here!
Ncube offside ... again
As far as daft comments go, Welshman Ncube took the cake last month with his declaration his party is ready to participate in elections even without a new constitution.
While the Sadc-appointed facilitators were urging the inclusive government to ensure Zimbabwe becomes "a normal society again", Ncube said his party was ready for polls even if they were to be called this month.
"So our position is that if it is not possible to have a democratic constitution, then let's have elections without a new constitution. We can always fight for one after that exercise," said Ncube.
Not for the first time, Ncube has lost the plot.
The fact that the current constitution makes the playing field uneven in favour of Zanu PF is but one of the reasons we need a new one.
Finally we have notification in the Herald that the government will no longer tolerate Bippa violations.
For 10 years President Mugabe's supporters have been waxing defiant on this issue saying there will be no going back.
Now we are told there must be no further seizures. So what occasioned this turnabout?
Zimbabwe is due to resume negotiations with the EU in Brussels soon.
Top of the agenda will be the Bippa properties which have been arbitrarily taken.
The EU has said it will not proceed without resolution of this matter. Property rights are fundamental to the reform process.
So let's not hear any more of this "no going back" claptrap from Zanu PF.
Reform is coming whether it likes it or not.