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Hopewell Chin’ono: We should separate state appointments from partisan politics: Jessie Majome should not be hounded

By Hopewell Chin’ono

There is NO doubt that this country is in a total economic and institutional mess that needs immediate attention from capable professionals.

Jessie Majome
Jessie Majome

The President and the Vice President say this on numerous occasions, they have said that we are more than two decades behind in terms of being a country in the age of modernity.

There is also no doubt that ZANU PF presided over this mess for a good 38 years since taking over from the Rhodesians in 1980, that is an incontestable fact.

Equally incontestable is the fact that ZANU PF has a two-thirds majority in the house of parliament, they can literally and legitimately change the laws of this country.

It is also self-evident that they have a five-year mandate to rule this country until our next election in 2023.

Arguing otherwise is a futile exercise that shows a deep lack of seriousness in having your voice heard and making any meaningful contribution towards how this country will be governed.

Yes ZANU PF is in charge, but there are many places and spaces where you can make a difference and contribute meaningfully towards good governance during the next five years.

I decided to share these reflections after I saw some immature and hopeless political bashing of Jessie Majome for having chosen to run as a prospective Prosecutor General for the republic of Zimbabwe.

There is a misplaced idea that good people should only serve their country under an MDC government and that anyone who joins government under the present government is a sell out.

This idea ridicules anyone who takes up a government post under the current administration and irresponsibly equates government to ZANU PF.

That idea is selfish as it is incompatible with the doctrine of service and patriotism, it seeks to surrender all levers of administration to one political party, which in itself is the worst undemocratic path to pursue.

We know that these institutions have been ruined under Robert Mugabe and indeed under ZANU PF, we also know that in order for these institutions to be redeemed and reformed, it will take the appointment of qualified, experienced and professional citizens to manage that reformation process.

Now how do we expect the same unqualified and mediocre managers who were appointed to these institutions on account of nepotism, party affiliation, corruption and all the negative isms you can think of, to turn around these institutions?

I was happy when I saw Jessie Majome’s name on the list of applicants for the Prosecutor General’s job because she is a consummate professional, regardless of her being a former MDC member of parliament.

Some people argue that ZANU PF will not change, but how do you expect it to change our institutional framework when you actively dissuade professionals from taking up government jobs, and consequently surrendering all state institutions to ZANU PF minions?

I actually consider it an act of national insubordination and irresponsibility for any qualified Zimbabwean to refuse to serve their country, which is why I still hope that folks like the international civil servant, Andrew Bvumbe, will be considered for the Central Bank (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe) governorship.

Jessie Majome can potentially get a huge and lucrative job with Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on account of her brilliant track record in parliament, but she is choosing to serve her country, something that anyone not driven by narrow parochial motives should applaud.

Instead of calling her names, we should be applauding her for making that financial sacrifice, it is a sacrifice because these government jobs don’t pay huge salaries more so for a lawyer with a brilliant parliamentary service history as Jessie!

I therefore find it disturbing when people mount pathological dog whistle campaigns against anybody who has chosen to serve in government by calling them ZANU PF stooges. Does ZANU PF own government?

Such mentality does nothing but further entrenches all dictatorial assortments and undesirables that we have been calling out for the past twenty years.

I had the greatest of privileges to be among a group of students who had the most revered living scholar, Noam Chomsky, come to guest lecture us when I was at the Harvard University Journalism institute, the Nieman Foundation.

Chomsky taught us and told us that you must have the basic understanding of how politics works in your country in order for you to be able to navigate around its political forest.

He argued that even under the worst regimes, it is important for good men and women to protect the little institutional space that is available to them, because a state is made up of institutions, and it is those institutions that are used to prop up vile regimes.

Our nation is where it is today because the institutions are weak after being pummeled through 37 years of Robert Mugabe’s rule, some can even legitimately argue that they don’t exist at all anymore.

Now if a new President from the same ruling party decides that it is important to allow professionals to run these institutions after realizing that his success hinges on such reforms, what is wrong with that?

It is time to bring in professional people into government in order for the country to move ahead, why shouldn’t someone like Jessie take up the post of Prosecutor General in order to professionalize and bring integrity to the institution?

What I find ridiculous is that the same problem pointing their arrows at Jessie, would be the first people to run to twitter and Facebook if the post went to someone of Johannes Tomana’s caliber, someone who is politically and professionally compromised.

Institutional building or in our case, reformation and repairing doesn’t happen overnight, it is a long and torturous process which needs professionals at the helm for it to take root and be successfully implemented.

We shouldn’t allow our personal and political prejudices to get in the way of pulling away from many years of nepotistic appointments that have contributed to the rot we find ourselves in to this very day.

There has been a concerted effort by some to paint anyone who is appointed into government as an “it’s our time to eat” individual, this is ridiculous and petty.

The same people delegitimizing compatriots who chose to serve their government were happy to sit on the same table with Robert Mugabe.

The same people would have served had President Mnangagwa opted for a Government of National Unity (GNU) or transitional government in 2017.

It only becomes bad to be working in government when they are not on the table, but it is ok when they are on the table and sharing the management of government with the very ZANUPF government, whose name they invoke to terrorize other citizens?

That is the highest form of hypocrisy and deceitful thinking to say the least, it is driven by political self interest.

If Jessie Majome is offered the job tomorrow, she should take it and ignore those that are today maligning her for having put her name forward for consideration, it will be a great coup for professionalism and gender advancement.

Regardless of how it is couched, Jessie was pushed out of the MDC, why should she sit at home and not find work that she is qualified to do on account that she will be lynched for doing so by her erstwhile colleagues?

I thought that they pushed her out because they thought she wasn’t good enough to represent them in parliament, let her do what she chooses with her life!

It is a bit like a husband who dumps his wife and marries a new woman, but he gets angry when his ex-wife is seen with another man in town.

There is a name for it, SELFISHNESS! We should apply the same standard to others that we want applied to ourselves.

There was a time when it was considered inappropriate to be seen on the same breakfast table with a ZANUPF or MDC politician, that time belongs to the past.

A ZANUPF supporter should be free to take up a civil service post under an MDC government and the converse is true too.

We can’t mourn about the dereliction of our state institutions and at the same time demonize those who want to reform them.

Many have been waiting for change of government for 19 years, should that mean to say that only those who support ZANUPF should have been in the civil service since then?

As the late great journalist Walter Lippmann eloquently said, it is altogether unthinkable that a society like ours should remain forever dependent on untrained and accidental witnesses.

The better course is to send out into public life a generation of professionals who will, by sheer superiority, drive the incompetents out of the business.

Hopewell Chin’ono is an award winning Zimbabwean international Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker. He is a Harvard University Nieman Fellow and a CNN African Journalist of the year.

He is also a Fellow at the University of Oxford’s Africa leadership Institute.
Hopewell has a new documentary film looking at mental illness in Zimbabwe called State of Mind, which was launched to critical acclaim.

State of Mind has been nominated for a top award in Kenya. You can watch the documentary trailer below. Hopewell can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @daddyhope