13 January 2014

Zimbabwe: Learning From the 'Butcher of Beirut'


After falling into a coma in 2006, it was always going to be a miracle if Ariel Sharon made a comeback. While his admirers called him the "Bulldozer" -- both in reference to his physical stature and his pig-headedness -- many others referred to Sharon as "the Butcher of Beirut".

This was in reference to the massacre of upwards of 3 000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut during the 1982 Lebanon War when Sharon was Israel's Defence Minister. There will be few tears for Sharon among the world's oppressed, who recognise him for what he ultimately was: an agent of the subjugation of "lesser" peoples and an advocate of one of the most brutal brands of imperialism the world has seen -- political Zionism. But there was a characteristic of Sharon that anyone who loves his/her country cannot help but admire.

The man wanted to get things done and he wanted them done promptly.

For Sharon, there were no half-measures.

Consider his exchange with one of his commanders when he was still in the military, General Gonen, back in 1973.

Gen Gonen told Sharon that he could not carry out a rescue mission for Israeli soldiers because it was too risky and as such the men in need of rescuing would simply have to die. They would have to be what the US has told us is "collateral damage". Sharon reportedly responded to the officer: "You know, Gonen, if you had any balls, I'd tell you to bite them off and eat them."

Perhaps it is something that should be said to many a minister and law enforcement agent in Zimbabwe today.

The levels of unaccountability prevailing in Zimbabwe today point to the absence of what President Mugabe is wont to call "indoda sibili".

Consider the pervasion and preponderance of corruption in our society today.

There are many indicators that things have not been going as they should at the Chiadzwa diamond fields. And this has been going on for many years now.

It is only now that action is being taken about the growing rot at the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and Marange Resources. It has taken a new Mines Minister to see the creeping putrefaction. But for years the entire Government failed to act.

So yes, it is good that action is being taken now. But how much has the country lost because of our slow reaction times?

Furthermore, should we be happy just because under-performing executives and officials are fired from their jobs and yet no compensation is made and no punitive action is taken?

Surely, in a country that wants things to work, wrong-doers are punished.

In China, for example, failure to perform at a key state enterprise is to all intents and purposes treated as sabotage and the nearest thing to treason short of trying to assassinate the President.

Not so in Zimbabwe.

Here, we are content to allow people to run down crucial economic enterprises and then fire them; often with a golden parachute and the unstated fact that they can retain their ill-gotten gains.

Today, The Herald carries a report on Constituency Development Funds. Some US$5 million could be set aside for MPs to develop their constituencies over the coming year.

At the same time, there is the unfinished business of MPs who allegedly misappropriated these funds during the life of the last Parliament. Naturally, the current crop of MPs should not be punished for the sins of their predecessors. However, would it be too much to ask that we get closure on who looted the last disbursement and how this was done?

These are public funds and the public has a right to know how MPs use this money.

It could be possible that some of the alleged looters of the last CDF stand to benefit again this time around and that certainly is not the way a country should be run.

On the matter of corruption and sub-standard performance by public officials, it is time Zimbabwe started approaching matters like the Butcher of Beirut.

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