One thing leads to another; the private becomes the public.
Revelation or exposure comes from an unlikely event, whether incidental, coincidental or accidental.
An element of recklessness creeps in when people get things easily or get away with it too often, that’s how criminals finally get caught.
The unintended result of Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s messy divorce case has been to lay bare for all to see, and question, his vast wealth, both in movable and immovable assets.
It’s common knowledge among ordinary Zimbabweans that many ministers hold vast wealth and some of them hide it under other people’s names, especially relatives.
The long inventory of Chombo’s properties left many gape-mouthed.
His wife itemised them as only one who had lived with him so close and for so long would; she could not have made up the list.
Acquisitiveness can become obsessive; the more they get, the more they want.
It is like drinking salt water: the greater the amount swallowed, the greater the thirst.
Chombo’s lawyer hinted at political motives being behind the listing of the property in The Herald.
He could well be correct because there is too much intrigue and dirty play in the Zanu PF manual of politics.
So while the divorce case, however messy, between Chombo and his wife is essentially a private matter, the incidental disclosure of his vast wealth has not gone unnoticed.
But it can be ascertained when he bought the properties, whether before or after he got into office, through the Deeds Office and other records.
Chombo, like any other citizens, if free to divorce and remarry as long as the legal grounds are there.
But what’s for discussion here are the issues which have exploded from the court into the public domain, the unintended consequences.
People open windows of the past and see that this minister has been thwarting local authorities in opposition hands and begin to wonder whether there is a link between this and his vast holdings in municipal land, made up of houses and stands, almost countrywide.
Did he use his powerful ministerial post to acquire them?
Why is he thwarting the City of Harare’s human resources audit to flash out ghost workers?
State posts should not be made private power bases of a few individuals.
We must not only condemn corruption, but eliminate conditions which facilitate it.
There are more questions than answers.
There is now a sharp distinction between the ruling class and ordinary Zimbabweans.
This gulf between them and the people has not only been deepened but idealised as can be seen in the coming-together of the business and political elite to splash largesse of $300 000 on Zimbabwean Big Brother Africa housemate Munya Chidzonga whereas that money could have been spread for a worthy cause like a revolving fund for unemployed youths.
Human and social welfare is the whole purpose of development; it should underpin human development. Development should improve the general human condition, not enrich the powerful few and those already into celebrity.
Linked or arising from that is what American political scientist Thomas E. Mann has termed “revolutionary conservatism”.
In the Soviet Union during the Stalinist era from the 1920s to the 1950s, there was a group of cruel, selfish , unprincipled men, ready to destroy anything that blocked their way. Some used crude physical methods, a heavy-handedness that Joseph Stalin preferred for the top leadership.
According to Russian philosopher Roy Medvedev: “Others were criminals of a new type, who did their bloody deeds at a desk, jailing, torturing, and shooting by pen and telephone.”
Stalin also co-opted another type of enforcers.
These were dedicated revolutionaries, who were not driven by personal advantage, but were nevertheless incapable of carrying the revolution forward when a new stage required new methods.
Many of these leaders who shone during the period of the civil war were not effective at building a new society.
Used to resolving most conflicts by force of arms, they were incapable of grasping complex socio-economic issues and crafting and implementing policies needed to address such issues which had to be the new way of tackling the issues.
Instead of learning the ropes, they even began to boast of their lack of education. “We never finished gimnazi (secondary school), but we are governing gubernii (provinces),” a well, known revolutionary bragged, and his audience applauded.
These are like Joseph Chinotimba in contemporary Zimbabwe who thinks he can just walk into the post of Education minister because “he died for this country”.
Even at Copac meetings they had to bus in uneducated rural people to impose their views failing which they would implement Plan B to disrupt proceedings.
We must not celebrate ignorance in this day and age when only a few years ago we used to boast justifiably that we had the highest literacy rate in the region and second highest on the continent.
In the Soviet Union, when such people ran into difficulties, they simply turned into executors of orders from above, valuing blind discipline most of all, the closed mind, the refusal to think independently.
They lacked sufficient political knowledge and insight to analyse the tragic events of the Stalinist period.
These are the same type of people who slaughtered and barbecued or braaied Zimbabwe’s dairy cattle during the so-called fast-track land reform programme, resulting in the country turning from a net exporter of milk to the current situation of being a net importer.
There is nothing revolutionary in burning poor people’s huts and fields, and leaving them homeless with babies and the old and infirm at the mercy of hunger, cold and rain.
They mask their grabbing of power and wealth in ultra-revolutionary language, saying they are fighting real enemies and getting rid of counter-revolutionaries and traitors.
There is nothing revolutionary about stealing, looting and killing. There should not be justification, but condemnation of such conduct. It’s counter-revolutionary.
Let’s not brainwash people into blind obedience and heartlessness towards fellow citizens no matter their colour or political affiliation.
Wrote Medvedev: “It was not only degenerates and careerists who supported the oppressive system.
There were also those sincere believers, genuinely convinced that everything they did was necessary for the revolution.
They . . . believed in the necessity of repression.”Like the so-called War Cabinet of hardliners who brought Zimbabwe to the brink of collapse in 2009 after replacing “politically incorrect” technocrats like Nkosana Moyo and Simba Makoni.
Sport was not spared this “revolutionary madness” as popular soccer commentator Charles Mabika was promptly fired for merely using universal sport metaphors in expertly describing how Nigeria had run rings around a pathetic Zimbabwe at home in an African Cup of Nations soccer qualifier in 2004.
“We have positioned ourselves as the leader in Zimbabwean sport and this essentially demands unswerving loyalty to the national team, whether it is winning or losing,” said ZTV head of sport Josephine Zulu.
Knowing how the system works, this was not her decision and these were not her words. It could only have come from the Information minister of that time.
Here I partially quote Mann who remarked that the Devil is already present “where intellectual arrogance is wedded to an antiquated and restricted frame of mind”.
Let’s investigate both the objective and subjective circumstances in any given situation, not merely take sides like some of the so-called experts who, against all academic rules of intellectual integrity, start from an entrenched position.
“Although a revolution represents the victory of new ideas over old dogmas, in time a revolution becomes overgrown with its own dogmas,” wrote Medvedev.
Do we want to reach that stage or, as many are increasingly saying, we have already done so?
Many of the monumental errors seen today are due to an incapacity to change; in other words, to dogmatism.
The ruling class cannot carry the country forward when a new stage requires new methods.
That is classic “revolutionary conservatism”. They have negated human freedom by making politics and ideology absolute.
There is need to break out of this revolutionary conservatism if Zimbabwe is to take its place among progressive states.
There should be closure after the liberation war without any revisionism.
It is a hopeful sign that some in official circles are beginning to take the first tentative steps to correct the situation to break out of the mould of merely taking sides.
It’s a move in the right direction.
People are getting emboldened to raise pressing, pertinent issues, not ascribing all the negatives to external factors and making empty, jingoistic appeals to patriotism.
Like the Youth Empowerment Task Force which last week wrote to Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere:
“We have noted with concern that a number of, in fact, all the indigenisation arrangements concluded since the promulgation of the regulations seem to be benefiting a few people . . . Honourable Minister, if this direction continues, if Zimbabweans continue to hear that all the foreign-owned companies, whether big or small, are snapped up by black capitalists, this programme will lose credibility.”
It’s imperative to break out of this revolutionary conservatism, which is domestic imperialism by another name. It’s not surprising then that the Soviet Union, despite being a superpower, finally and inevitably collapsed in 1989, not through conquest, but implosion. There is no Stalin legacy to write about.
A questioning society is a healthy society, let’s set guidelines for the next generations.
It’s time to write a new chapter for Zimbabwe.