HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsA real awakening or another false start?

A real awakening or another false start?


The last time I was at Kaguvi Building (it must have been in 1999) to submit my income tax returns form, the lifts there would hurtle up and down with a whizzing sound at an unbelievably frightening speed only comparable to a noisy plane take-off or my first rollercoaster ride as a kid at the Salisbury Agricultural Show.

It was no fun. One had the distinct feeling that the lift would suddenly fall or crash down again like it was too heavy and too fast for that speed. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an engineer, but to my untrained eye, those lifts would not last.

Now those lifts have come to a standstill literally.
This week, NewsDay reported Women Affairs minister Olivia Muchena saying dejectedly: Lifts are not working and ministers have to climb the stairs to their offices.

One can understand her despair because most of the government ministers are middle-aged and above, so walking up, say, 13 floors is no joke as this could induce a heart attack considering that many of them lead sedentary lives.

The same applies to the thousands of civil servants who work at the complex. Some could be simply staying away from work to avoid this daily ordeal. Its not something to look forward to first thing in the morning.

How long does it take for one to recover after walking up 13 or more floors? I am sure even a relatively fit person would find that strenuous. Is that why nothing much is getting done there?

The non-functioning of the lifts has led to an even more dire situation: Dirt has piled up in the complex. Unoccupied offices have been turned into dumping sites. As if that is not bad enough, water supplies are also said to be erratic.

Government ministers whose offices are located within Kaguvi and Mukwati complex were reported as expressing fears that they could be exposed to a typhoid due to the prevailing unhygienic conditions, with Muchena describing the conditions at the complex as a ticking time bomb. That was a rude awakening to the reality wrought largely by their own hand.

Said Muchena: There is so much dirt at Mukwati Building and that we are not being infected with these diseases is by the grace of God.

Now if a minister, a Zanu PF one at that, can say that in a resigned tone, what hope for the nation? Who on earth can drive the countrys policy and economic engine if ministers themselves feel powerless? We cannot and should not accept this as a nation.

If they cannot take up the responsibility, then that responsibility should be taken away from them. If a minister feels impotent, what about the average civil servant and citizen?

It must be pointed out that the dilapidation did not happen overnight. When I was last at Kaguvi in 1999, there were visible signs of neglect. Simple items such as door handles were not being replaced; you would find a broken chair being used as a wedge to keep the door from slamming. The deterioration becomes inexorable and irreversible.

But, it must be asked, did it all have to come to a standstill? Didnt anyone see it coming? Have administrative structures totally collapsed? Are there no reporting structures? Have we become a nation of passing the buck? Would we be asking too much of them to do mere housekeeping?

What are the implications for staff motivation? With such chaos, do they still have asset registers and do they still conduct annual physical checks of these? If not, how many items have disappeared from these offices over the past four years in particular when morale hit rock-bottom?

Is there still any recordkeeping? Is there a human resources inventory? Is it any wonder that there are reportedly 70 000 ghost workers on the government payroll and that corruption is spreading?

Is this festering rot at government buildings reflective of a bigger national malaise?

Like the lifts at Mukwati, between 2000 and 2008, everything in Zimbabwe was moving at a frenzied, frenetic pace, culminating in Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono making a millionaire of each and every one of us.

Things were done fundamentally the wrong way. Suicidal policies like farm invasions were glorified. Gono attuned his monetary measures which became increasingly fiscal as to sideline then Finance minister Herbert Murerwa to feed this, as he ran the money printing presses 24/7.

He moved too fast without much thought for the implications. Inevitably, the bubble burst. Now things are moving languidly or not at all like the lifts at Kaguvi.

But there could yet be hope for Zimbabwe. It appears some within the ruling class have decided to take these issues by the cuff. Slamming the invasion of a game park, destruction of monuments and plunder of resources for future generations, Mashonaland Central governor Martin Dinha this week said:

Our heritage is falling apart due to illegal farm invasions and illegal gold mining activities. Again this week Tourism minister Walter Mzembi ordered an immediate end to invasion of tourism assets such as hotels, holiday homes and conservancies, labelling them acts of banditry and sabotage. Continued Mzembi: Nobody is above the law. If there are any politicians behind (the invasions), I urge the public to expose them.

It is a quantum leap that both ministers used the word invasion because thats what it is. Thats awakening to reality.

Yes, we need ministers who are sharp, decisive and determined like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerias crusading Finance minister who has helped stabilise that countrys finances and pushed through anti-graft reforms in a country regarded as one of the worlds most corrupt.

President Goodluck Jonathan asked her to leave her job as World Bank managing director to serve her country and she answered the call.

Similarly, Zimbabwe has qualified and able people with the commitment and zeal to lift their country, but they have been thwarted and overlooked in preference of hard-liners such as those picked for the so-called War Cabinet who made a bad situation worse, resulting in the economic meltdown of 2008. We dont need stooges for ministers.

But without political support from the top, this awakening to reality could become another false start in Zimbabwes recent painful history where those in charge have behaved like a spiteful stepmother holding the nation to ransom in their throttlehold on power.


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