22 March 2019

Zimbabwe: Of Cyclone Idai and a Benevolent Ruler

opinion

"We receive our fuel through the pipeline and it has not been disturbed by the rains. We will not be affected by anything at all."

AT the first sign of crisis, the country's leader did what any self-respecting leader would do: he left the country so he could cut short his trip to return home to manage the crisis.

As Cyclone Idai hit Manicaland, our president was feet-up in his luxury plane, dreaming of all the imaginary mega deals he was about to sign in the United Arab Emirates. As soon as he arrived there, he cut short his trip.

ED returns to be with his people, the Herald announced to a grateful nation, as the leader descended from his luxury jet. That triumphant headline would not have been possible had he stayed in the country to start with. He needed to first leave the country to show that he cares.

The last time he cut short his trip, back in January, he promised to end the violence on civilians and threatened that "heads would roll" in the army for all those abuses the world saw. No heads rolled unless, of course, one is to see diplomatic postings as such.

It is therefore not surprising that, across the country, many Zimbabweans are wondering what difference it would have made if their leader had stayed at home and not left for the Gulf. After all, it is not like people can tell whether they have a government in charge or not.

When there is a cholera crisis, private companies step in. When there are water shortages, people buy their own water. When there is no electricity, we buy generators and candles. When there is no public transport, we cram into mshikashikas. When we get sick, we no longer bother going to public hospitals, but we consult prophets and buy their anointing oil for healing.

When people go hungry, our government has to rely on the same "evil" non-governmental organisations that are trying to foment illegal regime change in this country.

It is, in fact, a big surprise to many when they turn on ZBC or read the Herald and we see people purporting to be from the government. Since when did we have one?

Lukewarm response

Many people are complaining that the government was too slow in responding to the cyclone disaster. Well, by now everyone should know the best way to get the security forces and the government to respond to anything: just tell them there is an opposition demonstration.

It takes our owners minutes to respond to protests, and days to respond to disasters. Someone should have told them that MDC people were demonstrating in Chimanimani. Only then would our leaders have been moved to evacuate people from the area and save their lives.

Of course, this is a government that does not understand what is urgent and what is not. Having cut short his trip, purportedly to come home and manage the crisis, Mnangagwa's first task was to swear-in Oliver Chidawu as the new Provincial Minister for Harare.

Obviously, this was the most pressing issue on the nation's agenda. The nation must have been on a standstill, waiting for Chidawu's glorious inauguration.

Presidential travel

Talking of presidential travel, it was astonishing to see the Dear Leader travelling from Harare to Bulawayo by chartered jet. The US$12 500-per-hour luxury plane had to fly all the way from Dubai, just to transport the first citizen. About US$200 000 would have been spent on that trip. Talk of austerity!

Why does he have to charter ultra-luxurious aircraft? What message is he sending to a lowly civil servant who has to make do with a $50 (RTGS) salary increment in a country where inflation has run riot?

And why on earth doesn't he just use the same air force planes he criss-crosses the country in? Bulawayo is just 366km from Harare, as the crow flies -- a short hop which does not justify the use of a long-haul jet.

Fuel news

This week, Joram Gumbo, the minister in charge of bringing us fuel, assured the nation that the cyclone would not affect fuel supplies.

"We receive our fuel through the pipeline and it has not been disturbed by the rains. We will not be affected by anything at all," Gumbo was quoted as saying.

He had more good news for the masses. There had been damage to a control room of the Beira pipeline, but "we have enough stocks in the country".

It must have come as a shock to many Zimbabweans to hear that their fuel supplies were not already disrupted, or that "we have enough stocks".

We can rest assured that, despite these assurances, the cyclone will be blamed for everything from fuel shortages to the price of bread until the year 2023. At least, for now, sanctions will take a break as the favourite excuse for our rulers' incompetence.

Luxury sofas

As the President arrived in Manicaland to assess the situation and provide his usual firm and peerless leadership, Muckraker was delighted to see luxury sofas being offloaded from a helicopter for him to sit on.

These are the sort of things our people like to see. We can't have a whole leader being forced to sit on a chair, just because he is in a crisis zone and needs to be seen to be feeling the pain of victims. How then would we tell that he is the president if he doesn't sit on big sofas, smack in the middle of a rainy bush? Do people want him to hurt his back? Do people know what a long flight it is from Abu Dhabi? It takes a toll on one's back, despite the heated seats on the cushy plane.

Hungry victims were even told to stop being hungry for a few hours just so that the leader could arrive and feed them himself. We were told that the country needed a benevolent dictator, and we are happy our ruler is fitting that role so nicely.

The irresistible lure of photo opportunities

You can always trust our politicians never to waste an opportunity to be as vile as they can. Cyclone Idai this week became the latest political football.

As victims waited for his calm, assuring words, they in fact heard the president declare: "In any family, there are those that are unreasonable, and those that are reasonable. That's why you see the reasonable ones ruling."

Having said that, he then told people to ignore those trying "to take advantage of the situation for political mileage". At which point, many of those listening to him must have been tempted to take his advice and ignore him.

Of course, Mnangagwa was not alone.

Earlier, we had seen Nelson Chamisa riding scotch carts in Manicaland, and shovelling debris from the roads, a task he took to in his pointy shoes and crocodile print shirt, as any politician does.

One needs to look good on photos. We then saw The People's President ordering his minions to take pictures as he posed on river banks. One would be surprised if a politician passed up an opportunity to be a politician.

We then saw his spokesman, Nkululeko Sibanda, whose life dream is to one day be a state propagandist, seemingly hoping that the death toll would be as high as possible so he could complain about it.

We even heard Tendai Biti frothing at the mouth for ministers to resign for not foreseeing the cyclone. Muckraker has no record of MPs raising this in parliament last week. The only thing we recall is how MPs suddenly wake up at the mention of cars and allowances.

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