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2014: Less showmanship, please

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Humans are the most adaptable of all species – from the Arctic to the Antarctica, you find them. 2013 was far from an annus horribilis, but Zimbabweans – inventive as ever – survived its many hardships though battered.

Echoes by Conway Tutani

As usual, the harmonised elections had their controversies which mirrored a polarised society and less inclination to give and take; a final-victory mentality.

The current uncertainty – seen in the cash crunch and the attendant deflation – could be a direct result of that despite election promises to civil servants that their salary and other issues would be sorted before the year was out. We need a stable tax regime and respect for property rights. This ties into fiscal and monetary responsibility. But what is happening now is dangerously exploitative. There is need for honest, professional evaluation.

The powers-that-be, in their reckless rush to enrich themselves and buy popularity, have often ignored the cardinal rule that it takes money to make money. No one can run away from this economic orthodoxy under the guise of being revolutionary, indigenising or whatever. They are obsessed with “small-minded rules” (one South African editor put it), yet economic growth is not only about policy, but instilling confidence.

It’s not merely about the tangible policy of 51% to 49% as spelt out in the indigenisation rules and regulations. Screaming all manner of threats against non-compliance will boomerang. Intangibles such as tone and temperament matter most. Relationships are often at the heart of everything.

The system also dangles populist benefits and freebies to the masses. But philanthropy is not about what’s in the bank, but what’s in the heart, says Kenyan human rights lawyer Chris Mburu, whose work focuses on discrimination and intolerance that could result in the commission of serious crimes.

Real philanthropy cannot be reduced to political patronage. It’s not about handing out gifts selectively to those who support you and withholding them from those perceived as or openly not backing you; it’s not about denying food relief to real and perceived opposition supporters. It’s not about the pulling of strings by those who have access to national resources such as diamonds.

Instead of talking endlessly about sanctions, the real pressing issue is corruption, which has been worsened by the discovery of diamonds. But the obviousness of it appears to conveniently elude them. Nevertheless, the people are not deluded by this.

They know that that some persons high up have something to hide. They are not fooled by these pretences and subterfuges. So those in power should stop cornering the market of self-pity and go after corruption head-on if they are clean. They should not monopolise victimhood.

In addition to that, an unfettered, fearless, principled and non-partisan anti-corruption commission that cannot be bought at whatever price is what is needed. Across the border in South Africa there is Thuli Madonsela, who is living up to her title of Public Protector by probing all — including the high and mighty such as President Jacob Zuma – for corruption.

She is the complete opposite of ineffectual, pliant and compromised officials who mostly specialise in clearing big politicians. Officials who have been co-opted into the system serve primarily their political masters, not the State as such.

Behind this there has not been decent politics in this country. There has been too much dirty politics; cock-a-snook politics where the victors dispense insults liberally instead of seeking inclusion. While politics, because of intense contestation, can be and is often a hard-nosed game, it doesn’t have to be dirty all the time. A lot of funds have been invested in destroying opponents instead of uplifting the ordinary Zimbabwean.

This kind of sadistic game does not impress the long-suffering people because it does not benefit them at all.

The thuggish, murderous government of the most unsuitably named Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is a case in point. It is given to political and military showmanship while millions of people starve. Its head, the youthful Kim Jong-un, has assumed the title “Supreme Leader”.

We saw the height of this decadent self-indulgence last year as Kim feted retired African American basketball star Gary Rodman when he really brought nothing to the country except to further inflate the Supreme Leader’s ego. Eccentricity and showmanship brought them together.

This a country which often resorts to blackmailing its southern neighbour South Korea, a truly democratic, economically prosperous state, for aid in return for peace. To show his untrammelled power, Kim ordered the execution of his own uncle last month.

It’s not enough to win or be power, but what you do with it. Winning is not the end of it all, but the beginning. While people have been continually reminded otherwise, a Zimbabwe without these leaders is thinkable and, indeed, inevitable.

So, the less of political showmanship and the more of socio-economic delivery as we embark on the long journey of 2014!

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