In my childhood days, nothing excited me more than sitting by a campfire listening to old folks telling some folklore!
In my young mind the thrill of the intrigue in the stories, and not the subtle teachings and lessons were the first to register, though on reflection, the latter claimed centrality, for life.
I recall the story of the baboon, the hare and the tortoise, regular “Hollywood” celebrities of these folklores.
A story was told of how the hare threw a party to which baboon was invited.
Hare torched a ring of grass around his village and as baboon arrived for the function, hare demanded to see whether baboon’s hands were clean enough for him to dip into the potage and bowls of victuals.
Baboons hands were soot-covered, of course, from the burnt grass!
Hare suggested that baboon rush to the river and wash his hands then hurry back, to which baboon acceded, but each time he arrived back, his hands were sooty again from the burning, as baboon walked on all fours or was what they now call a 4×4!
Baboon “ping-ponged” to and from the river several times and on each return, still had dirty hands and couldn’t partake of the feast until it ended.
Sad, angry and famished, baboon trekked back home.
But in a bid not to be outdone, it was not long before baboon also threw a binge to which, naturally, hare was invited.
Hare must have gone for some grooming and a makeover before making an appearance at baboon’s party, for he was immaculate, having anticipated that baboon might use cleanliness as a tit-for-tat strike! But lo and behold . . . baboon was thinking outside the box!
He complimented hare for his sartorial elegance and cordially invited him to join his family for the eats, up in the 10th-floor apartment of some high-rise tree!
Now we all know that hares are smart in many ways, but they don’t climb trees!
Baboon had a ball and poor hare had to trot back home hungry.
The feud between Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo (pictured) and Harare councillors is becoming very, very interesting with suspensions galore!
Not far back, council instituted a body to investigate land deals involving council.
A report was produced that heavily incriminated Minister Chombo and others, leading to a report to the police.
We all know that no action was taken against Minister Chombo to date, but we know that the councillors had been arrested themselves on some basis for the same report, albeit at the instigation of another person.
That charge appears to have been withdrawn now, for reasons best known by the complainant.
However, we are informed that the same Council Committee, headed by councillor Warship Dumba has just uncovered yet another damning deal concerning council property, in which Chombo is again implicated.
It is said that the paper trails of this particular deal are most eloquent and speak for themselves.
Dumba, as head of the investigating body in council, was due to make the announcement of this second finding and report it to the police when he and other councillors were curiously suspended without the mayor’s knowledge, as later revealed, ostensibly, for allegedly claiming some transport allowance for a conference both Dumba and and another councillor Takura attended in Kariba.
Just how an allowance for a journey partaken can be deemed to have been embezzled we are yet to learn.
The interesting thing though is the mayor is the head of Council and is quite competent to deal with his prerogative as such.
How then does such a dinky, trifling matter, clearly so internal and subject to council’s administrative processes, if in fact there is any merit in it, leap-frog to the minister’s office, requiring ministerial intervention?
Ministerial intervention in travel and subsistence allowances . . . ? Lord have mercy . . . soon the minister will be telling council how much to spend on teas, sugar and toilet paper .
Given that the mayor professes ignorance of this matter and states that he only heard of the suspensions on the grapevine long after the event, and that, at the time that he made this statement, he hadn’t even received his copy of such suspensions from the minister, who then referred this matter to the minister, behind the mayor’s back?
What was the motive and does this not, clearly, point to a conspiracy, which gives credence to undue interference, on the part of the minister, in council affairs? Has the minister planted moles in council?
We heard of many alleged bigger transgressions during the reign of councillors from another party and during Sekesayi Makwavarara’s reign, and that of the various commissions-appointed by the same minister, to run the affairs of council, including illegal commissions, but we never had something so dramatic. Who is fooling who?
If Dumba and Takura did in fact attend the conference in Kariba, for which they had been allocated their respective travel allowance, why is it important how they got there, whether on foot, by car, by bus, by gonyet (heavy-duty truck), on horseback or by rusero (winnowing basket) or reed mat as witches and wizards do?
What business of the minister is it?
Why is the minister seemingly clutching at straws, is he drowning? Is he nervous about something?
Irate Harare residents who believe that, far from, suspending elected councillors on such spurious and vexatious allegations, it is the minister himself who should be suspended to pave the way for investigations into the goings-on, not only with Harare City Council, but with all the local authorities, where he is alleged to be implicated in shady deals.
When a person officially under probe continues to preside over his accusers and starts suspending or firing them for the flimsiest of reasons or none at all, such a situation flies in the face of natural justice.
At best Minister Chombo should recuse himself from presiding over individuals so situated because of, not possible, but real bias and conflict of interest.
These are the obvious tenets of good governance and best practices.
Councillors are elected people and not appointed as the minister himself is.
They should not be suspended willy-nilly, without being heard and/or before due process.
Just as “impossible” as it is to suspend an MP, a councillor should only be suspended for grievous transgressions, on hard, substantive, incontestable, conclusive, compelling evidence, on the recommendation of full council and the mayor, if the will of the electorate is not going to be trashed. If that is not what the law says, then it ought to be, and it should be borne in mind that laws are guidelines, and not a substitute to common sense.
However one may chose to look at it, this whole saga bears the distinguished hallmark of the “baboon and hare” games or the syndrome above.
It suspiciously looks like a pre-emptive strike powered by an inherent determination to forestall something.
And all this is happening under the very Prime Minister’s nose, who, supposedly, presides over and supervises ministers, and not a word from him.
Lack of assertiveness may indicate lack of confidence.
But why accept office if one is going to be as ineffective and as impotent as a eunuch in handling such important matters?
I would rather vend vegetables, go fishing or fly kites!
One thing is certain, the Prime Minister’s colleague, the indefatigable Raila Odinga, would never, never put up with such nonsense!
Time will always tell . . . ! Watch this space!
George Nyanga is a researcher based in South Africa. He writes in his personal capacity.