By Sibanengi Ncube
The Herald of 13 July 2017 carried a story titled ‘Didymus Mutasa hoist by own petard’, written by one Nicole Hondo. Meant to spite Didymus Mutasa, the story is not only quite revealing, but makes very sad reading. In a bid to refute Mutasa’s story that his documented post-government poverty is due to the fact that he did not steal during his time in cabinet, the Herald, through Hondo has inadvertently exposed not only President Mugabe, but also the dark side of the Land Reform Programme, giving arsenal to those who for various reasons are rabidly opposed to it.
If, as the article alleges, Mutasa managed to corruptly acquire 15 A2 farms, the question is how about other ministers and big chefs in the powerful military and bureaucracy? Does this not confirm the charge that distribution of land under the Fast Track Land Reform Programme was mired in patronage, nepotism and cronyism?
Those who have been following this issue know that it has generated a fierce debate in academia. In what has been termed the Mamdani debate, opinion is sharply divided overZimbabwe’s land reform programme. Those who trash the programme have it easy after this admission by the Herald throughHondo.
Secondly, and perhaps more disturbing, while stating that ‘Mutasa stole much more in the form of land and properties’, the article blames him for failing to ‘make hay while the sun still shone on him.’ Now this is quite problematic; what message is the article conveying to sitting cabinet ministers? To make hay while the sun still shines on them?
Linking Mutasa’s theft and his failure to make hay while the sun still shone is an open invitation to sitting cabinet ministers and other government officials to make the best out of their offices, which sadly mean to loot as much as they can while they are still in office. This becomes more pertinent when one considers that all indications are that the sun may not continue to shine forever. Dark political clouds are hovering in the sky for quite a number of cabinet ministers. Needless to say even the President himself is at the sunset of his life. Does this not explain the numerous cases of high corruption and rampant looting that have dominated national discourse?
Thirdly, and particularly damaging to the President who wields the power to appoint and disappoint cabinet ministers, if indeed Didymus Mutasa stole 15 commercial farms and gave them to his girlfriends and relatives, why did he still continue in cabinet, running presidential affairs for that matter? And the related question is, so the people’s land did not warrant Mutasa’s expulsion?
Mutasa only got axed when it was thought he was threatening the President’s power, which leads to the chilling conclusion that what matters in Zimbabwe is not the people’s interests, but rather the personal interests of the President. The President did not have any qualms with keeping a ‘thief’ close to him for as long as he did not threaten his power. I may ask, how many thieves is he keeping close to him now, only because he does not view them as threatening his hold on power?
Related to the above, the article explicitly refers to Mutasa’s appalling ‘track record as a Government minister’ which Hondo says ‘leaves a lot to be desired.’ If this is true, which I think it is, does it not reinforce the charge that President Mugabe has been recycling dead wood in cabinet over the years? How many more ministers have appalling track records, but because they have not challenged the President’s power continue to occupy their offices? Should we wait until they are expelled for one reason or the other before we can be told about their track records? These questions become more pertinent as the country heads for crucial elections next year.
The people of Zimbabwe, through electing Members of Parliament of their choice, wield the power to retire some of the dead wood that has been dominating our body politic since 1980. More importantly, the people’s vote can even remove the President who has been keeping the dead wood in his cabinet over the years. But as we seek to do that we need to be very clear in our minds as to what we really want.
Change for the sake of change in my opinion may not help heal the nation and usher a new dispensation in which the people’s interests take centre stage. There are many prophets who have thrown their names in the hat, but as the bible cautions, ‘ngatinzvereyimweya’ to ascertain if it is indeed from God!
About the Author: Sibanengi Ncube is a co-founding trustee of the Parliamentary Monitoring Trust of Zimbabwe (PMTZ), and is currently a PhD Fellow with the University of the Free State’s International Studies Group, Bloemfontein, South Africa. These are his personal opinions, which do not reflect the views of the institutions he is connected with.