11 January 2013

Zimbabwe: PM Tsvangirai - So Much to Do, Little Time


It is in the cycle of nature itself that a new year brings hope eternal even if reason dictates otherwise.

So it is with all diaspora Zimbabweans. Each time one of us returns from the homeland, we gather around, listening and hoping that the degradation of the country has been arrested and that there is a fork in the road to prosperity. Having placed our hopes in ZANU-PF, and having been driven into penury and exile, most of us hope that a new dispensation comes soon. After 33 years, we can rule out any changes in the ruling party. Re-election would be a confirmation that their ways are good.

We hope then that if the MDC-T and Brother Morgan Tsvangirai is given a chance, his government does not need to recreate the wheel. A simple, honest and efficient government will do wonders. The key to the present degradation seems to have been ZANU-PF's habit of extra-judicial settlements to problems. I am not speaking of the land settlement.

Please readers, be aware of a new word used by journalists in the United States about activities that lead to loss of property and missing of funds. Since many of these offenders are never arrested for theft, we now refer to their activities as degrading the institutions they are entrusted to lead. The case of Salisbury United Bus Company before Independence in 1980 will illustrate to our readers the level of advancement achieved by that company before the brothers began to degrade the company. The company and the country becomes (mamvemve) and worn out; procedures are ignored, and what we used to take for granted, the rule of law, no longer applies.

A similar attitude prevails in Uganda. Authorities in Uganda do not steal from government. They loot, an activity which is legal because it is performed by the very people entrusted with the health of the institution. They are authorised to make those decisions, which lead to the degradation of the country.

Zimbabwe is the richest country in the world, and even the streets are awash with money. The resources of the country are not exploited in a manner intended to degrade those resources. A small rationalisation of the exploitation of minerals would go a long way to fill the coffers of the country. The Minister of Finance has to beg the exploiters to pay taxes, and the exploiters, with cheek in tongue dare him to take their sovereignty away. Things are upside down; the center does not hold any more, things fall apart.

We are talking about an attitude. The ruling party cannot change its modus operandi which has worked so well for 33 years.

When I travelled by a super coach to Bulawayo from Harare, we were stopped 14 times. The super bus drivers are shaken by the highway patrols for snacks and bottles of drinks. They get away lightly, as they know how to keep some spare fried chicken snacks within easy reach for the highway authorities.

But chicken bus drivers and kombi drivers do not get away that easily. The highway patrolmen have become shameless. Two years ago, they used to hide behind the bus while a US$20 bill was passed into their hands. One year made a huge difference. They demanded loudly: "Tinoda mari yedu."

In one case, a passenger donated a US$20 bill, fearing delays. The donation was taken rather roughly, without thanks. The country has been ill-used and one who saw it a few years ago will shed tears for what it has become (mamvemve). The once green lawn around the community library in Hatfield has been allowed to overgrow. The library itself has been closed. Citizens wonder around the community centre at their own risk, water overflows from what was once a garden hose. The fence has been stolen in parts. The lights no longer work, and I fear rapists lurk in the shadows and woods in broad daylight.

The culture of the Kombi drivers and touts has coarsened. A sister, judging by the labels on her luggage, had alighted from British Airways and was waiting for a bus ride to Masvingo at Mbare. When she refused to part with her luggage, the bus touts, like vultures, gathered to observe the slit in her skirt, saying horrible words with every intention of humiliating her. I paid one of the touts (unseen by his mates) to save her from the ordeal.

I assume that 90 percent of Zimbabwe's police are in the traffic section. No one is left in the streets. The touts represent a generation of barbarians who are allowed to go berserk, fighting and cursing at will.

In a country where procedures are not observed, it is difficult to make long-term development plans. A new government can easily break the cycle. Nelson Mandela had a rule in South Africa that if one is arrested by the police, there will be no help from the president's office. Alan Boesak, his longtime friend, went to jail for degrading a Sweedish charity.

In Zimbabwe, a new government can start by doubling police salaries overnight, and giving them three months of workshops to recalibrate themselves. Mexico is undergoing a similar revolution even as we speak. Once the police are no longer part of this degradation, and some stalwarts sleep in jail, everybody will fall in line in no time at all.

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