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It’s not the policy, it’s the minister who needs toning down first

By Nathaniella Makuseni

Forget toning down the indigenisation policy for a second, rather what needs toning down faster faster (in local parlance) is the minister of that portfolio first.

Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Patrick Zhuwao
Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Patrick Zhuwao

There is no doubt in my mind that Honourable Patrick Zhuwao, our Indigenisation Minister, is sharp and quick-witted, and this may serve him well in many an instance. But what does not serve him at all is his abrasive and confrontational manner which he finds necessary to employ and brandish about left, right and centre.

Deciphering what could be the cause or the need for the abrasiveness beats all logic. Could it perhaps find explanation in some anger over perceived historical “wrongs” done our people?

Could it be overly compensatory behaviour for not having been in the revolutionary wars of Chimurenga 1 and 2 and so wants to participate in his own Chimurenga thereby show he has the sterner stuff prerequisite for making it big in the revolutionary party?

Or could it be the nephew-uncle axis drawn from his kinship with President Robert Mugabe, which he may feel needs both flexing and unleashing? Or just what is it? This boggles the mind.

While understanding Zhuwao is not a prerequisite for Zimbabweans to live, what citizens can expect and ought to be granted by any minister supposed to be serving the people is some reasonable degree of diplomacy, tact, restraint and civility.

This is not a favour to the nation on a minister’s part, by the way, but should be a prerequisite for all serving ministers, related or not related to anyone.

Ministers are not called Honourable Ministers for nothing. I refer particularly to the “Honourable” prefix. There is a reason, comrades, why we title them Honourable and the sooner those in our corridors of power get this simple notion, the better for all of us. God Bless Zimbabwe.

Let’s get one thing crystal clear for the avoidance of any doubt: the ministerial position is not a launchpad for blasts and missiles to perceived opponents, but a platform for not only serving the nation but building the country gainfully as one favourably engages multiple stakeholders for the common good and in good taste.

It is an honour and duty meant to be received, regarded and discharged respectfully. You respect the office, the people you serve and the one at whose pleasure you serve by acting honourably. Never by behaving dishonourably. This should be covered in the ministerial module 101, one hopes there is one, or at least the equivalent of it.

Insulting people at each and every address one makes is a false sense of bravado which really is not necessary. Am not sure whether this is hereditary, by socialisation or whether it is a family trait by birth and somehow extends by marriage that makes it imperative that at each and every address or engagement one makes there is someone real or imagined at the receiving end of some attack veiled or blunt.

The uncle does it; most addresses be it at a funeral, state occasion or you name it, someone or something is at the receiving end of some scathing remark. The aunt, First Lady Grace Mugabe, has been doing it since she arrived on the political scene to be the chairperson of the ZANU-PF women’s league/politburo member/contender for the country’s apex post/PhD holder/ unconquerable amai/whistleblower, you name it.

And we see, Zhuwao exhibiting the same trait of attacking scathingly. (oh, oh, lest we forget. Zhuwao’s own wife, Beauty, has on two known occasions, beaten or slapped some perceived adversary in public. Without any documented sense of restraint whatsoever)

Family trademark? I wonder.

Why must we see enemies everywhere? Must we always attack verbally or otherwise? Is it not at all possible to be in the mode of building bridges wherever possible? Why must there be casualties after your every speech; your every public encounter?

Must someone or someones somewhere somehow always take cover each time you open your mouth? Each time you get a platform? Get to a podium? Is it a case of open mouth closed heart? Have some heart – build bridges, find common ground.

Heal. Please our leaders, heal. Bring healing; seek to heal and not to create rifts, ill will by venomously targeting people always. Goodness knows this country needs healing from any and every quarter – political healing, moral and spiritual healing, financial healing and of course employment and investment healing if ever there is such a thing. (If there isn’t well, allow me to grant myself the poetic license to coin the phrase right here right now).

What kind of leadership hurts always? What kind of leadership scathes all the time? Must there always be injury and the injured?

Too too often Zhuwao lashes out. With no ounce of tact. A few days ago he called fellow Cabinet ministers “ignoramuses” and ominously warned that he would “correct them in public” if they made “ignorant statements” about indigenisation.

The week before that, in reference to Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, Zhuwao said those who wanted to get rid of civil service employees to unbloat the wage bill would themselves be gotten rid of first. He has made it clear he is not very amenable to the west.

At the beginning of the year he attacked prominent ZANU-PF cadre Kerina Mujati for an alleged role in some plot… and the list of vitriolic outpouring goes on and on.

Name calling, insults, lashing out and distasteful public boasts and ruffling of feathers, swimming against the current seem to be Zhuwao’s signature modus operandi.

Is it a way of displaying some invincibility, kind of like what can you do to me, we are royalty? Zimbabwe belongs to us? (no prizes for guessing who “us” is in such a context.)

May the Honourable Minister be reminded that his is a delicate ministry which can make or break a pivotal aspect of economic re-building. His is a shaky portfolio which has since the introduction of the guiding policy – the Indigenisation Act and policy – whirled up controversy and spurred on inconsistencies costly to the country.

It is the window, the bridge, the channel, the gate that can get the much needed foreign direct investment. Hey, the country is illiquid, darn it! And by the way minister, a great deal of FDI decisions depend on goodwill, stability, rationality, diplomacy and tact, never abrasiveness, confrontation, rudeness and insults.

Which reminds me what my grandmother, Gogo Makuseni, always said: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Ease up on the vinegar, Comrade Minister, and take off the gloves. Ain’t no need for that Honourable. Rwendo rwamatanga rwurefu. But then again, you always knew that didn’t you. You are too smart not to.

But you know, with all due respect Honourable, for all your wit though, you have this uncanny inability to discern what is at stake at any given point, and scathingly you gloss over it. That will be your undoing, Honourable. All of your own making.

Nathaniella Makuseni can be reached at [email protected]