Conway Tutani Echoes: Why fertilise corruption?

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More tales arising from the harmonised elections held in July emerged this week with the opening of Parliament.

Echoes by Conway Tutani.

President Robert Mugabe has still not stomached his defeat in urban areas, particularly Harare and Bulawayo, despite expecting MDC-T to do so over his outright win nationally. He described urban voters as discerning, but treacherous. It’s still a sore point with him.

Mugabe revealed, to the amusement of his audience, that flamboyant businessman Phillip Chiyangwa has been so shocked by his loss in Chinhoyi that he immediately went to bed – and was so traumatised that he forgot to take off his shoes! Pointing out that money didn’t always win elections, Mugabe said, somewhat tongue in cheek, that he would sit down with Chiyangwa to give a few, but valid political tips. Indeed, Chiyangwa has been sort of a serial show-off and this rubs people the wrong way. Had he been a more modest character, his loss wouldn’t have made such big news.

Now, the talkative and boastful Chiyangwa has gone uncharacteristically, but understandably quiet, like he is undergoing total transformation. The last thing you need when you are licking wounds is media spotlight. That frank advice and chastisement from Mugabe was in order.

Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC) chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa also failed to buy himself political office with money. For three solid years or so before the election, he presented himself as the sole Godfather-like provider of Mabvuku-Tafara constituency, paying school fees and funeral expenses for whoever and whenever, but was still routed in the polls by his MDC-T rival James Maridadi, who spent nowhere near him.

This week, Mugabe angrily disclosed that Masimirembwa was deeply enmeshed in corrupt activities, demanding bribes running into millions of dollars from a Ghanaian investor. Mugabe said Masimirembwa was exposed in the presence of Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri. If this was before the High Court granted search warrants, why then did Chihuri bar Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission officers from searching ZMDC offices? If this was after, why haven’t the offices been searched up to now? Just a thought, Commissioner-General.

Masimirembwa’s fate is sealed. When Mugabe uses such angry terms in public, it’s all over. Any protection Masimirembwa had before is gone — completely. That’s the strong-man politics of Zimbabwe — you must avoid being on the wrong side of Mugabe.

As a convicted criminal, Masimirembwa shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the ZMDC chairperson’s post in the first place, his non-illustrious career as a lawyer having been disgracefully ended by disbarment from practice for stealing trust funds. If a person misappropriates money held in trust for clients, how can they be entrusted with the much higher responsibility of national resources like diamonds? That record alone should have completely disqualified Masimirembwa from holding the post. It was always a most risky appointment. So, it can be said that those who appointed him in the first place knew what they were letting themselves in for.

Indeed, the system is to blame for having allowed Masimirembwa not only back, but higher in the mainstream. This was not an aberration or momentary lapse on the part of the system, but common practice. This is an individual who was unsuitable for the post from the word go, but was still chosen ahead of deserving persons with clean records, merely for shouting himself hoarse on behalf of the political establishment. Knowing how the system works, he wormed himself back by writing pro-government articles in newspapers. People who snuggle up reap all the benefits at the expense of sincere people.

How can you reward dishonesty? This fertilises corruption, not growth. It’s contemptuous and an insult to taxpayers. Only sport and a handful of charities have benefited from diamonds so far in what can be seen as tokenism to give the impression that something is being done when nothing substantial is happening. Nothing significant has come to the general population.

So Mugabe mustn’t be surprised that discerning urban voters find this recycling of disgraced persons unpalatable. If you are going to dust off characters like Masimirembwa off the shelf, you might as well kiss the urban vote goodbye. They demand rights and respect, not gifts and being regarded as having tradable loyalties. They know their value as human beings. They know they have the right to say no. That is why Chiyangwa and Masimirembwa still didn’t make it despite throwing money — some of it possibly from dubious sources — life confetti.

That said, in the dog-eat-dog of politics, maybe some people, even higher up, could have exposed Masimirembwa to deflect fire from themselves. But will he go down alone?

Masimirembwa could be small fry in a pond of big fish. Mugabe needs to scrutinise the now endemic corruption with a magnifying glass like a jeweller looking for flaws in a diamond. If he follows the money trail, he could discover that the so-called bank loans extended to some ministers are anything but that, but a disguise for money-laundering. They totally deny being involved in corruption — which is expected — but something doesn’t add up. Going by their acquisitiveness and lifestyles, some of these high-up individuals can’t be trusted to create a fairer society. There is a separation of concerns: theirs are more important.

Mugabe needs to be relentless and morally courageous to go for the big fish because Masimirembwa — despicable as he is — can’t be the only one. The dragnet must swoop on all — not this apparent cherry-picking.

Otherwise by the time the much-talked-about sovereign wealth fund is established, there won’t be any wealth left to go around.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Masimirembwa could be the proverbial whipping boy, the real thieves are lurking in the shadows..We hope he will do the right thing this once and like he promised let the public know who these dudes in the shadows are. If he can not do this, he should take his pubishment quietly like a man. You see this business of ignoring people’s history and pretending their are rehabilitated has brought us where we are. In another court look at how your colleagues fall over Madhuku another known pilferer of trustee funds..have these people no shame?

  2. A lot of good can come out of this, I have no doubt that the President has the courage to go all the way with this crusade against corruption and I can see the wisdom sacrificing the the small fish first. It is a matter of time before the bigger fish are thrown in the mix as Misimirembwa’s trial goes full steam ahead. This will be the point when the President will need the courage to take some hits and make tough calls that will see the mighty fall and the big trees felled, causing unprecedented change in the structure of ZANU PF leadership for the benefit of us the mere mortals. Thereafter, he will come out the other side an even greater hero than before. Having said this, there is always hope for all men to reform and there are times when it is unfair to judge a man by past crimes. For Misimirembwa though, I guess he is proving to be an unrepentant scumbag, I hope he will do the honorable thing for once and expose exactly how deep the corruption rabbit hole goes.

  3. @Scotv- I wish I shared your enthusiasm but find history seems to suggest that most of the really dark wolves will remain in the shadows..You do remember Mbeki going out of his way to advise the president of the 10% that SA businessmen were being asked to fork out..then remember the one man one farm? The Chombo divorce and all the properties going into millions and so on. I hope you will forgive me but I will believe the president is serious when I see the heads roll.

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