I may not be the only one who noticed a rather queer reaction by our political leadership, mainly from Zanu PF and senior government officials, when President Robert Mugabe lambasted and called for action on former Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chair Godwills Masimirembwa over his alleged corrupt dealings. Those attending the luncheon burst into a huge uproar at the angry banging of the podium by the President.
By Rashweat Mukundu
Normally when someone has been or is being roasted as what was happening to Masimirembwa, then the normal reaction is silence and a sorrowful self-introspective moment, face buried in one’s hands or chin supported by one hand.
The burst of applause was rather a strange reaction to an angry burst by such an old man as Mugabe. An outburst of anger as what the President did, be it in a family or community set-up, is not surely met by applause, but dead silence.
I could not understand why the crowd attending the function was happy about it or what made then clap their hands.
If one looks deeper into Zanu PF and the crowd that was at the function, then it is correct to say there was neither self-introspection nor contrition at such tough talking directed at one of them. In other words, Mugabe was speaking to the wrong crowd, which is only concerned about satisfying him, like the captive North Korean society, the natural reaction was to applaud the leader and not reflect on his words.
If at all Mugabe’s abhorrence of corruption meant anything to this crowd, it should have resulted in dead silence. If the President is serious in dealing with corruption, then he should fire them all.
That is, all who instead of contrition went into a hysterical applause, this is all that mattered, that the President feels he is appreciated and revered while his words, so forcefully expressed, are not taken seriously.
This is a crowd that learnt nothing from the Masimirembwa tirade and whose only hope is that they don’t find themselves at the receiving end of such a public rebuke. From my end, I can only sympathise with Masimirembwa, not so much that he is innocent or guilty, but that he is a victim of a system that oriented him into this game.
He probably is on the firing line because he may have cut out the Godfathers. He may have decided to play out his masters, and forgot his place in the pecking order of the family, that is the big boys eat first or have to “test” all pots being passed around.
If Mugabe is serious about dealing with corruption, then he must ask many of his juniors, many filthy rich, where and how they made their money.
Some are known as the Godfathers or Chiefs of gold panners, some are abusing diamonds from Marange, and some have simply stolen government property. A good starting point is how government property was looted by outgoing ministers in 2008 before the consummation of the Unity Government. The Comptroller and Auditor-General has those reports on who stole cars, furniture, laptops among many other things, nothing happened to them, some are back in government and were part of the crowd that gave the huge applause to a matter that necessitated silence.
The blitz by the State-owned media on this matter is simply to put wool over our eyes, to create a false sense of urgency on the corruption question, yet nothing is going to come out of it.
The State media’s coverage of this matter has not gone beyond talking about and asking what we already know. That is there is entrenched corruption in State institutions and that citizens are under strain from these practices. What we did not get from the State media is how these issues would be resolved, how will, as an example, the police tighten their operations to minimise corruption, can there be stricter and efficient processes to national ID and passport applications?
In the final analysis, Masimirembwa will have his day in court and the allegations either proved or disproved and the man will either pay for his alleged crimes or be set free.
Subsequent follow-up stories on this matter seem, however, to imply that there is no clean party in all this. That the victims might as well indeed have cases to answer on their dealings in Zimbabwe. What all this tells us, hence our scepticism, is that Mugabe has a daunting task in dealing with corruption.
The whole system is corrupt and it may appear tokenism to simply target Masimirembwa leaving out the big sharks.
The media has for a long time reported on how prime land belonging to cities was looted by those close to the President, the same media has also reported how Grain Marketing Board farming inputs meant for poor farmers were looted by farmers, how some ministers now own half the buildings in major urban centres.
If the President is serious, he may as well start there. The President is not being asked to go on a witchhunt, but to investigate suspicion where crimes may have been committed.
Is there a code guiding the behaviour of his ministers in relation to their economic activities?
Is there is a process to do lifestyle audits, where his senior officials can prove to society that their wealth was legally acquired?
It is common knowledge that government assets are abused, prison and police trucks are known to ferry farm inputs for the senior officers. Government vehicles are used mainly for personal and not official business. In the absence of concrete actions by the President, then he can as well bang as many tables and podiums to no end.
Those surrounding him will clap hands, yet no introspection takes place, no change of attitudes will take place and corruption will remain a scourge as it is and the majority of citizens will continue to suffer. The reason why many desire to be senior government officials, MPs and ministers is not to serve, but to loot. And when they meet the President, they clap and ululate.