The situation at Chingwizi camp where victims of the Tokwe-Mukosi flooding were relocated has been deteriorating for a number of weeks with the restless victims chasing off Cabinet ministers and confronting the police and senior government officials.
Over the weekend we hear the villagers went on the rampage in the process burning police vehicles.
The police hit back with the support of the army burning tents and arresting hundreds of villagers.
It is easy for us to look at events at Chingwizi from the narrow lenses and the government will be quick to point out at the villagers and the violence as the reason why the police and army have been sent to quell the disturbances.
On the contrary the government is admitting failure by sending in the army and the police as well as burning down tents when thousands have nowhere to sleep in this cold weather.
We hear children, the old, and the sick were rounded-off to police stations under arrest for beating up and burning police vehicles.
That is not acceptable, but the blame still lies with the government in its glaring failure to a deal with the humanitarian disaster the very moment it hit and failure to also initiate a consultative process out of which a plan for the future is agreed with the victims.
A defining mentality in the government way of dealing with citizens is that you take it or leave it.
We know Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo was on national television appealing for $20 million to deal with the immediate aftermath of the disaster.
Thereafter we have not seen much of government leadership on this matter apart from efforts to quieten the restless “residents” of Chingwizi through meaningless and token visits by ministerial delegations.
The same ministerial delegations even attempted to chant Zanu PF slogans to a people desperate for food, water, and decent accommodation.
I am sure, I am not the only one who is surprised by President Robert Mugabe’s choice of resident ministers especially in the case of Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, who is clearly lacking in terms of ideas and leadership.
I have listened to Bhasikiti on a few occasions and I am confounded by his inability to present a coherent sentence and analysis on whatever subject he would be talking about.
What criteria did Mugabe use to appoint him a resident minister?
His failure on Chingwizi is classic and it’s a failure that takes us back to Munhumutapa Building as far as leadership is concerned.
Mugabe always talks of having the interests of people at heart. Since the Chingwizi crisis he has been all over the world and all over Zimbabwe visiting ex-Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono’s farm among other areas.
Why has the Head of State not visited the holding camp to show sympathy and solidarity with the victims of the floods?
Why has the President not shown leadership by demanding a clear-cut plan on this matter?
The whole idea of moving the victims to one-hectare plots and not looking into economic sustainability in the long term smacks of short-term, haphazard and half-hearted responses at a time when Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa is borrowing funds to purchase Mercedes Benzes for ministers.
What has happened to the conscience of Zanu PF, we may ask?
Why must fellow citizens, no matter how poor, be treated unfairly by a party that is in power courtesy of the same people, the poor villagers of Chingwizi among many others.
The government would rather push the matter into the political arena, a familiar territory for Zanu PF, as it means you simply send in the army and police to beat up and arrest, rather a humanitarian issue and a citizen rights issue in which the government has an obligation to assist its citizens and demonstrate leadership.
The leadership failure is also exposed by the government’s penchant for violence and a showdown with unarmed, un-housed, unhealthy, sick, desperate and unfed villagers.
The leadership failure started long back with the whole idea of the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam, its meaning and place in the developmental agenda of that part of Zimbabwe.
Was the government caught by surprise that the villages were flooded or this is a matter that should have been foreseen long back and adequate measures taken to mitigate the disaster we now see?
We also question whether the one hectare Nuanetsi Ranch plots are what this government can do when many millions of hectares of land appropriated under the fast-track land reform programme are lying fallow.
Are the Chingwizi people less Zimbabwean and less human than the ministers and other fat cats holding onto land for weekend braai and rabbit hunting?
The government is abrogating its responsibilities through the use of violence and this, as we know, has always been Zanu PF’s response when cornered and questioned for its failure.
The government has been provoking the villagers for a long time to get to this point so that they can wash off their hands and simply cart away the villagers to prisons as is happening now.
This is shameful and evil and a clear indicator that this country is in trouble beyond what the eye can see.
If the government had even tried to develop a proper response plan that takes the economic interests of the flood victims into account then we would not be in this scenario.
What we are witnessing now is a test case of how we will be abandoned to our own devices should a major natural disaster beyond Chingwizi hit us.
The Zanu PF government is showing that it rarely plans for anything other than speeches and equipping the police and army. The tents that the police and army are burning were most likely donated by well-wishers.
In essence, what the government has contributed to Chingwizi is disorganisation, despondency and violence.