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Chinyoka on Tuesday: The abdication of responsibility (Al Jazeera Expose)

Those long in the tooth will recall the song by Shaggy called “It wasn’t me”. In the song, a man is telling his friend that his girlfriend caught him redhanded with the girl from next door. The girlfriend saw everything, the different places and ways where the deed was done, and stayed until the end. To top it all, she even got them on camera.

The friend offers sage advice: deny deny deny. To every situation she saw, the friend advices the boyfriend to say only one line: It wasn’t me:

Let’s review the situation that you caught up in a

To be a true player you have to know how to play

If she stay a night, convince her stay a day

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Never admit to a word when she say 

And if she claim, ah, you tell her, “Baby, no way”

But she caught me on the counter (It wasn’t me)

Saw me bangin’ on the sofa (It wasn’t me)

I even had her in the shower (It wasn’t me)

She even caught me on camera (It wasn’t me)

She saw the marks on my shoulder (It wasn’t me)

Heard the words that I told her (It wasn’t me)

Heard the scream get louder (It wasn’t me)

She stayed until it was over

A lawyer that I respect a great deal once said to me after I finally graduated despite the valiant efforts of the UZ Student Disciplinary Committee to achieve a different outcome: munin’ina, there is only one thing that you will need to know throughout your career, be faithful to only two things, the law and the facts. Sage advice…., wait a minute – I have just realised that it is possible that the UZ SRC still owes him fees for representing me then. Life.

Sad that while the lawyer lives in Harare and is available to advise a lot of our fellow countrymen, particularly those in positions that matter, it is from Shaggy that most appear to have taken their lessons.

Everyone and anyone that pays even the scantiest regard to the news in and on Zimbabwe will know that over the last four weeks or so, one story has dominated our attention more that any other: the Al Jazeera documentary on the Gold Mafia. Corruption, sleaze, greed, lies and the rape of an entire nation and its people are on display. We even found out we had a No.2 who is different from the brave one that has spent a lifetime sacrificing for the country!

Crucially, unlike most news stories where you get the opinion of the journalist standing in between your eyes and the facts, in this documentary the thieves and their hangers on speak on camera with their own mouths. When the English invented the phrase  “singing like a canary” that was only because they hadn’t learned just how much Zimbabweans can sing! My God we can soliloquise lyrically!

A man trusted with high plenipotentiary office, who knows just how high his office is, claims that he is the Vice President, and that he has the power to bind the Government of Zimbabwe in contracts. Used to think that only cabinet could do that, but we found out that a Profit armed with an unpaid position (discounting his usual 1% of course) has more pull than that whole assemblage of the competent, the also runs, the incompetent and the downright useless. 

A man once accused of facilitating the illegal export of ivory at the airport some 14 years ago is not only still in the job, but now heads the very department that is responsible for checking what gets exported – you cannot make this up if you tried! He confesses that he now runs the entire department: even the CCTV system at the airport was not installed for security. No Sir! It is there so that he can see his customers all the way from the airport parking lot, for his customary 5% if you want to move a few million cash out of the country. Higher amounts will require special remuneration arrangements for him of course. That no taking out US$2,000.00 cash thing? That only applies to you and I.

Point is, it is all there. From their mouths. On tape, confessing.

And, for two weeks, not a single law enforcement agency in the country moved a finger! Zero.

State newspapers did not even report on the issue until after a statement by the Ministry of Information that the documentary had come to the attention of government. By then, we had imbibed two episodes. After being silent for two weeks, their first report is about government taking action over something that has been rambling along and that they pretended was not happening? I wonder what their readers thought.

Those that ought to have led the pointing out of the obvious, speaking for the state, started tripping each other with excuses. We are under sanctions, we must find ways to sell out gold. Like, seriously?! Suitcases of gold being exchanged in airport lounges is how we are bursting sanctions? Vanhu, ityai Mwari.

There is a part in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis’s character asks, after being told of the asteroid hurtling to earth and the simple plan to try and stop it, what the top brains have come up with as a solution. He wonders at their efforts, and asks: is this the best you can come up with? To him, coming up with good ideas was kinda their point? One is forced to ask that here, because those that must think were just dazed. Still are, it seems.

To the obvious criminality, they offered denials: this is not crime but sanctions bursting. To the clear loss of tax revenue, they offered denials. To the name dropping, denials. To the claims that money laundering was taking place, denials. To the criminal abuse of office by the envoy: denials.

On social media, most of those that are known to work for or support government were the same. Straining credulity, looking for justifications for what everyone could see. “It is not your gold”, is the phrase they finally settled on. By this convoluted logic, because makorokoza mine the gold, and sell it to whoever they please, because those taking it to Dubai have paid for it, no-one should complain because, after all, you are not a korokoza.

Of all the nincompoop-y things people can tell each other, this takes the biscuit.

Of course it is our gold, silly! To say otherwise is no different from saying we mustn’t take ownership of the COSAFA Cup when we win it because it belongs to the Warriors. That we cannot say that we won the gold medal in hockey at the 1980 Olympics because we did not go there. It takes a special kind of witchcraft to come up with nonsense like that and actually think it makes sense. Come on! 

The truth of the matter is that a lot of people have done some very bad things. This much is obvious. Bad in a criminal sense, not just in a patronising manner like the Profit and his claim about “decoys”: like, seriously? Are we that gullible?

What is also obvious is that we have a lot of people shirking responsibility in a way that reflects badly on the nation. The police did nothing in the face of obvious crimes being confessed to. The prosecutor general, who has the power to oder an investigation when it comes to his attention that a crime has been committed, did nothing. ZACC it seems did nothing.

We hear that Macmillan has fled the country, clearly some people let him leave. We hear that the RBZ is freezing bank accounts, despite the obvious stupidity in that action given that the culprits are not likely to have brought their money into our nostro system: in fact the whole premise of their criminal enterprise involves them taking money OUT of Zimbabwe not in, no? Freezing assets seems to be just the bare minimum we do while waiting for instructions from somewhere.

The opposition, true to form, blames one person of course: the President. This rankles with me. It gives too many people an alibi. If the President was interested in doing the jobs of the police, of ZACC, of airport security personnel, of the PG, of his special envoys, why would he bother to actually look for people that are qualified to do them? Wouldn’t it be much better to just get typists and stenographers, each armed with a good dictaphone and proof reading skills and a passable phone waiting for his call?

When a lot of people abdicate from their jobs, we are left with a morass of confusion and childish excuses for obvious things. The Al Jazeera documentary shows part of the rot in our society. Swift action by those responsible for law enforcement, as opposed to waiting for cues from cabinet, would have served the country well.

Had people been faithful to the facts and the law, action could have been taken swiftly and quickly. Arrests would have been made, unexplained wealth orders issued. And, since we know how well they sing, confessions would have likely started flowing long before, as has now obviously happened, the culprits have had a chance to compare notes and concoct a consistent story.

And it would have saved us from some of the silly excuses and justifications that those who rely on the Profit’s prayers are offering. Not my gold? Of course it is!

Tinomudaishe Chinyoka is a Harare based Advocate