The enduring portrait of the ceremony organised by mining giant Mimosa at the weekend to hand over a school to government in Zvishavane was the picture of Higher and Tertiary Education minister Stan Mudenge struggling to follow proceedings from the VIP tent.
We reported on Monday that Mudenge remained behind, apparently asleep, in the tent when other dignitaries had moved on to take part in other events which formed the handover ceremony.
His apparent discomfort at the public event raises a number of fundamental questions about governance in this country and the politics of power in the rank and file of Zanu PF, where the minister is a senior member.
It is well-known that Mudenge has not been feeling well and that he was hospitalised not so long ago. Illness is a natural process that afflicts almost everyone, young and old.
When ill-health begins to take a toll on one’s ability to deliver at the workplace, sometimes it makes sense for the infirm individual to leave office.
This is done to ensure that the ill worker can go through the recovery process without the rigours of duty.
It is also a way of ensuring that productivity is not compromised.
These basic HR tenets appear to be alien to our government, which has a history of keeping sick public officers at work to the extent of expecting them to perform rigorous undertakings in public.
The private sector is also guilty of this practice. This is a bad practice.
The story of Mudenge is a poignant dramatisation of this poor practice.
Here is a government willing to advertise the state of health of a minister who nodded off during proceedings and was seen being helped to his car.
This, happening in a public place, is embarrassing to say the least. It does not do any good to Mudenge as an individual.
In a normal society, the incident at the weekend would be viewed as an intrusion on the minister’s privacy and an assault of his inner soul.
A system of government that cares about its leaders and the general image of state institutions would have asked the minister to take a rest.
The minister would have to oblige to allow continuity.
But here, government is not embarrassed to be portrayed as an unwell institution struggling with basics like standing up or remaining attentive in public.
This notion has its roots in Women’s League boss Oppah Muchinguri’s discredited adage in 2007:
“The late Vice-President Joshua Nkomo died in office and the late Vice-President Simon Muzenda died in office; President Mugabe must also be allowed to die in office.”
That is the notion guiding the party at the moment. It is not helpful at all to individuals concerned and to the image of this government.
There are many in the top echelons of government and Zanu PF who are struggling to deliver because of old age or infirmity.
They have remained in government because they feel that loyalty to the incumbent is a ticket to eternity.
They are wrong. Mudenge should take rest.
He deserves it.