By Tinomudaishe Chinyoka
So, some poor Zimbabweans who occupy some very important traditional role got given some very nice sport utility vehicles by their government. And boy did we go mad.
With extravagant gestures and a fair share of frothing at the mouth, we went into a social media frenzy. The money should have been used elsewhere, we pontificated.
Why, some of these chiefs are coming from villages without an ambulance or petrol filling station, couldn’t we have used the cars for that, it was said. This was a sign of why we were taken for a ride, and this thing was always Zanu PF as usual, it was claimed.
Even more, some that would never even touch anything cheZANU-PF with a barge pole suddenly claimed that they had been secretly admiring President ED, had given him the benefit of doubt but now no more. This was not why ‘we’ marched on 18 November, they said, suddenly appropriating the march as if they have the title deeds to it. Even Jonathan Moyo, that ferret of an ingrate, had his bit to say, despite the obvious hypocrisy.
Opposition MPs, never ones to let a good crisis go to waste, led the chorus of condemnation. This was typical of Muga….sorry, Zanu PF, they said. These cars were a monumental waste of taxpayers money, should never have gone to the chiefs at a time when we have no ambulances, no medicines in hospitals, no functional clinics, no teachers, they claimed further. Graphic pictures of children sitting under trees were trotted out, some as old as 10 years but who cares about details when a point can be made against Muga…, sorry, ED?
The money was being wasted, the MPs claimed. Pure and simple. Like a dog on a bone, they chewed on that mantra right through President ED’s announcement that the UN and EU were welcome to observe our coming election. There was nothing to criticise in that, so it merited no attention.
Instead, their attention was on the cars that the chiefs got, the hospitals with no ambulances, the selfies that some chiefs took with tier cars.
Some even celebrated an accident that they trotted around or a grey SUV which they claimed was one of the cars, despite the fact that this one looked decidedly older and of a different model. The joke was, ‘we hope there was an ambulance to take him to a hospital, and a hospital for him to go to’, celebrating misfortune in the name of making a political point.
Nary a single person paused to point to the hypocrisy of it all.
Because let us face facts. Our opposition MPs are not poor. In fact, some of them own vast tracks of land, some have drip drip irrigation at their farms, some own houses in Glen Lorne, Borrowdale etc, and all send their children to private schools. And aside from Jessie Majome, they do pretty much zip for and in their constituencies.
Yet, all of them get cars at the start of their term. Plus sitting allowances, for which they were recently threatening to strike.
Now, I ask you, our dearly beloved MPs. When you took delivery of those cars for each time you were elected, did our rural hospitals have medicines then? Did they have ambulances? Why did you accept the cars, knowing that the clinics in Gwehanga and Zvamavande did not have even nurses, just a gutted building with nothing in it? How many ambulances could we have bought with the money used to buy the Land Rover Discovery for the Leader of the Opposition? Did you protest that extravagance?
When you were threatening to strike for sitting allowances, despite the fact that you already earn $2000 a month, did our clinics have medicines? When you accepted the close to $30,000 each in said sitting allowances, did we have well paid teachers? Are you not the ones that told teachers to accept $300 a month because ‘you eat what you hunt’? How much more could we pay our teachers with the money you use on your cars?
The duplicity of it all is so annoying you want to find someone and spit in their eye. I mean, all MPs know government procurement protocols mean that those cars for chiefs were bought a very long time ago, while Mugabe, yes, that old man, was still in charge. That all that President ED has done is to hand over that which was promised long ago. How many people would say, hand over heart, that telling the chiefs that the cars that they were promised a long time ago were now being diverted to other use would not have caused them a moment’s pause?
And worse, point me to a clause in the constitution that says that President ED has powers to govern by decree or proclamation. So a whole government procurement system should be countermanded by the President? That is the type of kutonga kwaro we want? Is that what we can expect from an MDC government, that their President can just wake up one day and announce that ‘forget the processes and procedures, I have now decided that this thing we bought for this purpose is now going to go for that purpose’? Is that really how we want the country run?
The truth of the matter is that we are too eager to throw criticisms and are very reticent to offer solutions, let alone praise.
The most significant thing that has happened in the last few days is not that President ED honoured a promise made to our traditional leaders and gave them vehicles with which to do their jobs, but that he announced that our elections will be free for anyone to monitor. That is a development that is a clear departure from the past, and is a step towards regaining the credibility of our democratic processes.
The second most significant thing that happened in the last few days is not that chiefs got cars and some of them took pictures of their cars and posted them on social media. Rather, it is that President ED was invited to Davos, and that finally, Zimbabwe will be able to make a case for investment in the country and take the first steps towards rehabilitating our economy.
The third most significant thing that has happened in the last few days is not that some diaspora based social media keyboard warrior posted an audio excoriating President ED for giving cars to chiefs. Rather, it is that President ED engaged with Zimbabweans in the diaspora, answering questions about all subjects, and that his government even intimated an end to bond notes.
But you wouldn’t think it when listening to our discourse. Delusional opposition leaders, some without even a strategy, took to the airwaves to talk about cars for chiefs and how they would not do the same. Well, dah! We only have a finite number of chiefs, they have already been given cars, so it follows that if you win in 2018 you will not have to give them cars, I would have thought that this is obvious? But, when one promises something like that, it makes us think that they in fact have no plan for Zimbabwe.
We are set to have our very first free and fair election. President ED has said repeatedly that there is no need for violence, and that he is confident of winning. One can see why.
When the opposition offers hypocrisy and high-sounding nonsense as policy, they must either think we are all very stupid and will vote for them anyway, or that we do not love Zimbabwe enough to vote for the better candidate. In a contest where one leader offers a clear departure from the past, and others remain arrested in their ‘Mugabe must go’ politics of criticism and criticism for criticism’s sake, one is left with no doubt as to who is the better candidate.
Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a lawyer and a prominent former student leader at the University of Zimbabwe