Emmerson Mnangagwa and Robert Mugabe: Lords of the troublesome tokoloshes
By Tafi Mhaka
Of all the things I loved about my job in Harare after the turn of the century, the people I worked with made every second at work worth it. I enjoyed the communality of fresh fellowships and ever-fresh novelty of cultural diversity.
I enjoyed the togetherness that our work environment induced and appreciated the inspirational energy life in Harare emitted: a spirit of hope and unity of purpose in business enveloped the hustle and bustle of commercial enterprise.
I remember the driver who studied after hours and eventually landed an excellent job at Trust Bank. I remember the humble dreams the times created once. I remember how I got a contract line from Econet not long after it had opened its doors for business.
I had one huge Ericsson phone and an unsophisticated Nokia 3310 back then. Work enabled productive lives and calm progress. Zimbabwe had ambled along the difficult road to enhanced industrialisation thanks to men and women who had expert business skills and industrial foresight.
It was sad to witness how commercial companies crumbled under the weight of political considerations and disagreements and that horrendous truth remains an unpleasant impression that power hungry individuals will not see and feel all the time.
So I could not care less about contentious recollections of whether Chris Mutsvangwa and General Constantine Chiwenga arrived at Chimoio Zhunda Camp in Mozambique before President Robert Mugabe. I could not care less about who served President Mugabe tea and bread and offered him a pair of shoes four decades ago.
I am not ill-informed and unappreciative about historical sacrifices but I simply live in the moment and relish ever-rich tomorrows. So reputations built in 1977 will not create millions of decent jobs for common people and entice considerable direct foreign investment in 2017. That is the sad and debilitating truthfulness that Victor Matemadanda and Energy Mutodi could care less about.
So while the usual suspects shower themselves in nationalist acclamation whenever an occasion arises none acknowledges appropriate responsibility for the economic and social failure Zimbabwe has become, and grand and illusory political machinations are often held responsible for the economic mayhem the nation is reeling under.
From Edgar Tekere to Morgan Tsvangirai to Dr Simba Makoni and right through to Pastor Evan Mawarire – innocent inclinations toward alternative political views, fresh ideals and all-inclusive aspirations to institute a cohesive spirit of equivalent and prosperous economic privilege and commercial enterprise and foster transparency and accountability and zero tolerance for corruption in civil management structures, has long been met with deathlike suspicion and dubious court actions and lethal violence.
Yet no authority has accurately ascertained when and how the hideous seed of corruption and economic and social deficit found fertile life in the wrongful and harmful confluence of national and Zanu-PF structures. No one accepts the extensive failure to bring about sufficient economic wellbeing for all and defend national resources and demand legalistic accountability for financial abuses: emboldened political actors and fly-by-night characters looted social facilities like the War Vets Compensation Fund with zealous happiness and scant remorse and zero fear of possible prosecution.
True to imperious and historical form, wherever corruption has materialised and state resources have been stolen or misused, no senior accounting officer has ever been found wanting, save for Kumbirai Kangai, after his GMB financial shenanigans landed him in jail. While the big man himself has never borne accountability for the economic and social inefficiency and inequality he has orchestrated since he assumed power and neither have his cabinet ministers and politburo colleagues.
So an obnoxious little tokoloshe could well have been responsible for the sharp fall in the Zimbabwe dollar in 1997; while a mischievous, ugly, dwarf-like creature could have been behind the high inflation environment and cash shortages that prevailed after the constitutional referendum in 2000; and a small and pale-faced and bloodthirsty goblin from a mythological land possibly confirmed our doomed participation in the 1998 DR Congo war.
Zimbabwe participated in the central African war for nothing and left the blood-spattered battlefields of the Congo with nothing but fallen soldiers and an enormous fiscal conundrum that helped crush our economy.
Similarly, the five year-long war failed the DR Congo: the nation remains riven with serious armed conflict and stillborn electoral deficiencies and autocratic tendencies. Unsurprisingly, both the DR Congo and Zimbabwe have become poor and directionless nations with nothing to show for all their rich natural resources and mineral deposits.
Our public representatives have become skilled in cold indifference and colourful sophistry and economic recklessness is so commonplace no single minister has been held responsible for the Harare City Council Refuse Tender Scandal, the Housing Loan Scandal, the Noczim Scandal, the DRC timber and diamond scandals, the Ministry of Water and Rural Development Chinese tender scandal, the VIP Land Grab Scandal, the Harare Airport Scandal and the Airport Road Scandal.
Not one eminent official has resigned over their non-performance voluntarily. No one cares enough to demonstrate solid moral leadership and notable selflessness.
But when the stench of social and economic degeneration becomes too appalling to stomach and highly repulsive realities of child exploitation and immoral conduct consume national pride, people hurl abuse at dark and invisible forces and dance around the conspicuous debacle at hand much like green and gold leprechauns in a Disney fantasy film.
When 70% of the nation lives in absolute impoverishment and substantial change is not nigh, something significant will give in on a social level. Defenceless and vulnerable and food-starved children will, through the cruel order of human nature, suffer the most harm in this harsh environment. And although the need for change is as clear as the September skies that enhance life in Bulawayo, consensus on who caused the financial meltdown and how the situation can be fixed, where Zanu-PF is concerned, requires a cinematic suspension of belief in common sense.
If it is not the limited financial sanctions on specific individuals that have been responsible for our immeasurable afflictions, then talking rabbits and pink fairies and bearded goblins enabled the heinous conditions that made the Zimbabwe dollar vanish into thin air on a dark and cold summer night in Samora Machel Avenue a number of years ago.
No other credible explanation about the disappearance of the Zimbabwe dollar has been forthcoming: the official line claims corruption and incredible incompetence have had inconsequential outcomes on economic and social disintegration. But divisions between the so-called G-40 and Lacoste factions in Zanu-PF, have illuminated bright fault lines in the former liberation movement.
Matemadanda and Mutodi, who have denounced Mugabe and rubbished his economic and social achievements and land redistribution legacy, have however, exonerated their would-be benefactor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, from sharing joint liability for the destruction of the economy and social fabric of the nation. How can that be feasible?
Unless Mugabe has a shadow cabinet and parallel politburo structure filled with supernatural cronies that help him make and implement crucial economic decisions: he has not annihilated the economy alone. So this expedient and self-serving desire to cast Mugabe as a lone crusader and break clean from difficult decisions should be condemned and interpreted as an election ploy from the Lacoste camp.
An exceedingly long and thoroughly undistinguished 37-year career in the highest levels of governance for Mnangagwa cannot be dressed in fresh and fanciful dogma and biblical renaissance without immediate and proper and critical appraisal of his time in power. Mnangagwa should come clean on his role in the Matabeleland massacres and explain in full detail what happened then. He could surprise us all with an apology and long due resignation from all political activities: but do not hold your breath for long.
Mnangagwa eagerly embraced the Economic Adjustment Programme (ESAP) and numerous failed economic initiatives and backed mind boggling and coordinated estrangements from IMF and World Bank economic lifelines.
Mnangagwa did not stand by Dr Makoni, when the then-finance minister called for market-driven economic reforms and devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar in 2002. Mnangagwa also backed the war against poor people, Operation Murambatsvina, in 2005. With the abovementioned economic and political and social quagmires in mind: what more can Mnangagwa offer the nation?
While his vocal support base has distributed his CV on WhatsApp and Facebook and made the case for his presidency clear, the only credible economic and social and humanitarian record that counts in this day and age, is the dreadful state of the economy.
Even if Mnangagwa claims he did not have the final say in national matters, his documented actions and salient inactions and complicit silence empowered Mugabe.
A Mnangagwa presidency will conceivably promote more of the same economic and social discrepancies the Vice-President has helped Mugabe craft and further sustain the unpalatable policy of diminished and non-existent responsibility and kleptomaniac corruption more than before.
Placing wholesale belief in men and women that have failed in the past and lack humanitarian and economic acumen could be an exercise in futility. When Taiwan declared independence from China, the Asian nation, which has a population of 23.5 million people, along with fellow Asian Tigers, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong, set upon the path to economic development that has been termed the Taiwan Economic Miracle. Currently, the island nation state has an annual GDP of roughly $1.1 trillion.
Taiwan, which spawned corporate wonders like Acer, Aeon, Asus, and Gigabyte Technology, through a rapid industrialisation programme, has become a world-leading technology and manufacturing hub. Zimbabwe, in comparison, has, rather reluctantly, produced Econet Wireless and Kwese TV since 1980. What then, will it require, to make Zimbabwe an African Tiger?
Although ministers customarily encourage fresh entrepreneurship, when businesspersons start multinational businesses and create fresh jobs, the state attempts to belittle them and trample on their economic industriousness.
Mnangagwa did not back Econet Wireless nineteen years ago, when Strive Masiyiwa could not acquire a licence to run a cellular network; and he did not back Kwese TV last week, when Masiyiwa could not establish another groundbreaking business in Zimbabwe without resorting to legal action once again. Goblins or no goblins, Mnangagwa is not fit for the highest office in the land.