IN some countries, silly seasons come and go, but in Zimbabwe, silliness is not seasonal.
It is a perennial feature, going on for decades, to the point of unmasking all pretenses of wisdom and revealing deep levels of idiocy.
For years, various observers, me included, have written about the strong potential that Zimbabwe has. I have even surmised that Zimbabwe has the potential to be a Malaysia or a Singapore.
Years ago, I submitted a projection in which I included Zimbabwe among what I termed the six African Tigers. But then sadly, potential is just that — potential and nothing more! I was prompted into making this submission by the silliness that invaded Zimbabwe over the last few months.
In the face of the serious problems the country faces, you would imagine that the leaders would man up and fix the serious problems on their laps, but alas, a good quarter of an entire year is wasted on child’s play, put into swing by a buccaneering First Lady Grace Mugabe and her band of merry men.
I will look at this issue in another contribution. In this opinion, I wish to specifically look at what to learn from a character that for years was a purveyor of silliness, but in an amusing twist of fate became a victim of it.
This character is Didymus Mutasa. This opinion was prompted by his reaction of shock and awe to his diminished circumstances.
That’s the way it is
The first African music album I ever owned was a Lucky Dube release entitled The Way It Is. It was a birthday gift from friend, a Mr Dhlamini, who had come to study at the Tōkyō Kōgyō Daigaku (Tokyo Institute of Technology). Even though cassettes were already getting out of vogue in Japan, I used to play that song either in my car, or on the Nakamichi cassette player I got from my uncle.
My favourite song on that album was the title song called The Way It Is. It had the following lyrics:
“Now that you got what you wanted, You don’t even know my name, Remember, Be good to the people on your way up the ladder because you’ll need them on your way down”
Most politicians fall on the extreme ends of this message. They forget their people on their way up. Others take the message literally and engage in cronyism. The wise remember that good politics is serving the people, not just your political cronies, but advancing an entire nation.
Mutasa falls in the first category — a typical political moron who saw himself as a giant, and rode roughshod over the people he led, in many cases engaging in mafia-type conduct which caused extreme hardship on the people.
What everyone has been complaining about
In a widely reported story, Mutasa, who was engaging in some form of medical tourism in India, is reported to have fallen sick from stress arising from political dynamics associated with his diminished circumstances in his political party and the potential fall from his political pedestal.
Prior to this, it had been reported that Mutasa had again fallen sick and again sought medical help in India after taking oriental sexual enhancement drugs that affected his health in a bid to please younger concubines.
Speaking from India, Mutasa had this to say: “We refuse to be chucked out of Zanu PF . . . We appeal to Sadc to adopt our position. We fought for ‘one-man, one-vote’ majority rule, which is not provided for in the current Zanu PF constitution adopted at the 6th congress.
It gives all votes to the President alone and violates the supreme law of the country. It is therefore null and void, all that transpired at the 6th congress. We appeal to Zimbabweans to remain peaceful as we strive for the democracy that we fought for.”
Clearly the irony is lost on Mutasa.
It is easy to confuse these words as coming from an opposition leader such as MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai or Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn’s Simba Makoni. For the last decade, this is what many Zimbabweans have been clamouring for — a transition towards a democratic state which creates fair conditions for everyone and creates a basis for prosperity. Now that Mutasa is suddenly on the other side of the power divide, he now sees sense in striving for democracy?
Mutasa’s medical pilgrimage to India, just like Mugabe’s frequent trips to Asia for treatment is an extreme embarrassment to Zimbabwe’s national pride. It is a major dent on the standing of all Africans, and the usual claims by many Zimbabweans about high levels of education.
The form of medical tourism that Mutasa and Mugabe engage in, because they can do so at the expense of Zimbabweans, is an indication that both men are shameless dwarfs in giant robes. The fact that they fly out for a minimum of 10 hours to see a doctor in a foreign land is a great indicator of leadership poverty on their part.
For, why would it be so complicated to just fix the clinics and hospitals in Zimbabwe, and make them so good that other Africans will want to fly to Zimbabwe for treatment? That will be a major economic export for Zimbabwe. If Cuba managed to develop its medical institutions to the point of exporting doctors to many developing countries, why is it that the government of Zimbabwe that Mutasa was a part of is unable to do so?
Men of oversized egos, but very little substance
Just like Mugabe, who would love to strut the world stage as a great philosopher, and champion of African renaissance while he drinks borehole water when he slips back into Zimbabwe while the rest of the citizenry are drinking water laced with sewage, or do not have access to it at all, Mutasa has an overinflated ego and a grandiose image of himself.
Barely a few months ago, when he wore the shoes of top spymaster for the man that recently fired him, he intimidated Zimbabweans in a widely reported case when he threatened critics of the ageing Zimbabwean leader, telling them that they would be subjected to similar treatment meted out to a Catholic priest and strong Mugabe critic Pious Ncube who was secretly filmed in a sting operation in bed with a lover.
“Be careful not to denigrate our President, we will visit your bedrooms and expose what you will be doing. We have our means of seeing things these days; we just see things through our system. So no-one can hide from us in this country,” he gushed arrogantly, to a citizenry that is not just impoverished, but lives in constant fear of brutalisation and overreach by a government whose legitimacy has been questioned by a large number of its citizens.
A poor country must direct its resources into productive areas and uplift the lives of its citizens. Instead of focusing on that, in its 2014 National Budget, the Office of the President and Cabinet, led by Mugabe and Mutasa was allocated a whopping $206 million.
That was 29 times the size of the Industry and Commerce ministry. To imagine that after getting a lion’s share of Zimbabwe’s cash resources, the man in charge of that budget deems it necessary to use those resources to spy in people’s personal spaces is very disturbing. Needless to mention that Mutasa now suffers the same fate he wished for other Zimbabweans.
A dangerous mix of corrupt tendencies, extreme cruelty and abuse of power characterised Mutasa’s time when he was once a powerful government minister. He also got excitable each time Mugabe stroked his overinflated ego by referring to him as his confidante. My first serious encounter with the name Didymus Mutasa was when I was doing research on the renewable fuels in Africa a few years ago. At that time, two things had happened in Zimbabwe one after the other.
Bio-diesel and the diesel mystique
The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, headed by Gideon Gono, through a mix of idiocy and an intention to fleece the national purse, partnered with a South Korean company to construct a bio-diesel plant west of Harare, which is now a white elephant and a poster child of Gono’s wasteful spending and habitual throwing of good money after bad.
As a researcher, I found the failed project sad, as I have found many other projects embarked on in Africa, because a whole nation, including the President, dragged themselves into a poorly planned farce.
The project was idiotic because when you go into bio-fuels, you have to do widespread consultation and planning to ensure that all aspects of the desired outcome are thought through. Technically, this is called systems thinking. So, for example, you have to answer questions like, what input goes through this plant we are building for millions of dollars? Gono claimed that Zimbabwe would grow a plant called “Jatropha” to produce bio-diesel.
Needless to mention that the South Koreans walked away with a cool $12 million, and even used some of the proceeds to set up a fake hair manufacturing company in Harare’s Graniteside area which makes the Bella brand of hair extensions for women through a firm called Blue Track Investments.
During the time that the bio-diesel plant was being constructed, an episode that made Zimbabwe a global laughing stock was when the entire Cabinet was sold a dummy by an semi-illiterate witchdoctor, who claimed that pure diesel was oozing from some rocks in mountains in Chinhoyi, 115km north west of Harare. The lady, Rotina Mavhunga, was so persuasive that she convinced many Cabinet ministers including Mugabe with her contrived story. Pictures are abound on the Internet of Mavhunga , also known as Nomatter Tagarira, spraying diesel on bare feet Cabinet ministers and members of Mugabe’s “intelligence” team.
To thank Mavhunga for her star-gazing powers that were to help the nation solve a national fuel hardship, the witchdoctor was given a farm, wild animals and cash payouts.
But then it is general knowledge that diesel does not exist in pure form. It is common cause that diesel is a by-product of crude oil distillation or refining process, which is why many oil companies build refineries. Mugabe, who is not known for being a curious man, was so excited as to set up several Cabinet taskforces to explore the issue. While officially commissioning the South Korean built bio-diesel plant mentioned above, Mugabe had this to say about the witchdoctor: “We are not going to be too hard on her. We just want the truth and to know who put her up to such things . . . Word had gone round all over that for real, it was happening and we had experts who came to us as government and asked why we were not taking an interest. There is diesel . . . Where does it come from? Mountain? We said aah, let’s send some people. Three ministers and their teams then went. Haa, they didn’t come back with a clear assessment.
‘Aah, we only saw the pipe out of which oozed petrol’. Others came back and said they had not seen enough to make up their minds. In the end they said there was diesel. ‘Aah, the diesel comes from a rock! When you had seen that, why did you not pull out the pipe to see if there was diesel where it came from? Then they said the diesel is all over, it is there for sure . . . How does she behave when she is possessed by the spirits? ‘She said aah, it’s a minor revelation, but there is more to come’. Some said she was beautiful. We said oh dear, this is no longer about diesel . ..”
It later emerged that while the witchdoctor did deceive the entire Zimbabwean leadership, her key handler was Mutasa who had his own political designs as a kingmaker. If Zimbabwe was a normal country, Mutasa, Mugabe and several other Cabinet ministers and heads of security departments must have resigned in shame. In Japan, we would expect them to bow deeply, apologise and pack their personal effects and leave office immediately!
Green Fuels Ethanol
My research on renewable energies naturally touched on Green Fuels, a business controlled by a controversial businessman Muller Conrad “Billy” Rautenbach.
I first encountered a strong link between Billy and Mutasa while talking to a Zimbabwean lawyer who represented a white farmer whose farm had been set for takeover by the government through minister Mutasa, who was in charge of Zimbabwe’s land allocations.
The farmer, who was somewhat close to Billy had seen his court case go round in circles. Billy, his acquaintance, took him directly to Mutasa’s office. Mutasa sat casually in his office, flaunted his power, and made it clear he was in charge, the lawyer said. Never take your case up with these opposition lawyers, he warned the farmer, before issuing him with an “offer letter” for the same farm that he was being disposed of. Billy had directly intervened on account of his strong connections to Mutasa.
Most Zimbabwean motorists who own gasoline (petrol) cars feel hard done by the introduction of ethanol blending. This is because most vehicles in Zimbabwe are used cars imported from Japan. In 2007, Japan stopped the domestic use of diesel passenger vehicles on account of emissions.
That means any passenger vehicle exported from Japan is likely to use gasoline. The proviso to this is almost all these vehicles use unleaded gasoline, and hardly take blended petrol. If they do, the engines will eventually stall.
Unlike the introduction of ethanol blending by Rhodesians, its recent introduction by the present government is warped because it did not take into account systems thinking. The Rhodesians on the other hand had actually thought the whole thing through, which is why it had partnered with car manufacturers to ensure the cars available on the market were tuned locally to take up ethanol.
It is for this reason that Zimbabwe at independence had a thriving motor industry and assembled car brands such as Peugeot, Land Rover, Toyota, Leyland and Matsuda/Mazda among others.
Many Zimbabweans will not understand the influence Mutasa had in pushing for mandatory blending of gasoline on account of his corrupt relationship and power games with Billy. Mutasa’s protégé in his home province is one Basil Nyabadza, who chairs the board of the government owned ARDA.
The latter entered into a lop-sided partnership with Billy’s Company in which it provided land for the venture. This partnership was resisted by the then ARDA general manager Erickson Mvududu, who was promptly fired at Mutasa’s instance. Because of Zimbabwe’s record in corrupt implementation of projects and lack of systems thinking, the Green Fuels ventureis dogged by controversy relating to monopoly pricing, undue influence, disputes with local communities and Save River water pollution.
Recently, Zanu PF Hurungwe West MP Temba Mliswa revealed the corrupt relationship between Rautenbach and his uncle Mutasa, which is being funded by Zimbabweans through mandatory blending. Through a Press conference, Mliswa demanded his pound of flesh, telling Zimbabweans how he had, mafia-style, introduced Billy to his uncle, and how he wanted his “10% facilitation fees” from the Green Fuels deal, which would effectively mean Zimbabweans would have to fund his 10% payout indirectly through mandatory blending.
Mliswa claimed that Billy bribed Nyabadza by buying him a house in the eastern city of Mutare, and also gave “brown envelopes” to several politicians.
The MDC-T side of government between 2009-13 resisted mandatory blending on account of the fact that it was immoral to legislate a monopoly for the benefit of a private investor. The first thing that former Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire did at the instigation of Mutasa and ex-VP Joice Mujuru after “winning” the 2013 elections was to force blended fuel upon Zimbabweans, even when car manufacturers advised that their engines could not handle it.
The Ghost of Christpowers Maisiri
In his home province, Mutasa viewed himself not as a democrat, but a godfather, who had unchecked powers and could use them, not for the benefit of the people, but for his own whims and caprices. He was a cruel man. To underscore that, several years ago he assigned ‘intelligence’ officers led by one Innocent Chibaya and Mutasa’s campaign manager — Albert Nyakuedzwa to attack war veteran James Kaunye who had announced his intention to challenge Mutasa in a parliamentary election.
When this case was brought before the courts, fearing Mutasa, the presiding magistrate refused to hear the case and a retired magistrate had to be brought in to try Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa who had been charged with contempt of court arising from the case. During the proceedings, prosecutor Levison Chikafu had this to say in open court; “Mutasa has tampered with the justice system . . . What he did was unlawful. The fact that he has not been brought to trial does not mean that he is not coming. Mutasa is a powerful person . . . his wings must be clipped to the greatest extent.”
Chikafu died a few years later; after contesting Mutasa in a parliamentary election in his home province. It’s interesting that it took several years for Chikafu’s desire to be realised — that is getting Mutasa’s wings clipped.
For years, Mutasa who now wants to repackage himself as a democrat, unleashed violence on his people in his home province. In January 2013, Mutasa planned to run for election in the Headlands district of his home province, ostensibly to remain a godfather in the province. Mutasa saw a stumbling block to his designs in the form of one MDC district deputy organising secretary and also aspiring Member of Parliament Shepherd Maisiri.
Maisiri’s political ambitions were an irritation to Mutasa’s comfort, causing him to go into default mode — violence! Mutasa’s foot soldiers set afire Maisiri’s home, burning to death his son Christpowers Maisiri. The poor boy was cooked alive. The partisan Zimbabwean police passed a verdict of no foul play, but the locals knew the truth that Mutasa was culpable.
This was not the first time that Maisiri was attacked at Mutasa’s instructions. In June 2008, State agents under his instruction hounded Maisiri all the way to Mozambique where he went into hiding for a while. In his absence, one of Mutasa’s marauding thugs raped Maisiri’s wife on 23 June 2008 to punish her for “hiding her husband”.
The thug, one Lovemore Manenji, a bishop of a local church was convicted and sentenced a year later to 32 years in prison for five counts of rape by magistrate, Hosea Mujaya. Manenji revealed that he was a “base commander” during the orgy of violence and that he used the name “Untouchable”.
But as we now know, just like in Mutasa’s present case, these issues always catch-up sooner or later.
In passing judgment, the magistrate chastised the criminal as follows:
“You remind one of the animalist behaviour, which is most common among four-legged animals; the stronger male chases away the male and takes the females . . . You behaved like a perfect bully. You were aware that the complainants were married women. They could not protect themselves against you. Their husbands fled from their homes, fleeing from you.”
Mutasa’s violent nature has of course had some dry humour to it. In 2009, after one Roy Bennett floored Chinamasa in Parliament for racial insults, Mutasa had this to say after the brawl; “On the camera, it appears as though I was beaten, but in fact I fell down trying to avoid the blow. I gave him a severe kick on his chest.”
The mouth – gate of all misfortune
There are four Japanese proverbs that are full of oriental wisdom for people like Mutasa. The first one is, kuchi wa wazawai no kado, which translated to English would mean “the mouth is the gate of all misfortune”.
The second one is, Fuji seppô suru hôshi wa, hirataké ni umaru which means “the priest who preaches foul doctrine shall be reborn as a fungus”. The third one is Jigoku Gokuraku wa kokoro ni ari which means “hell and heaven are in the hearts of men”. The fourth one is akuji mi ni tomaru which means “all the evil you do clings to your body”.
In 2002, Mutasa was asked how he felt about three serious problems confronting Zimbabwe, which related to hunger that was projected to affect a large population of the country, the effect of HIV and Aids, and the mass exodus of Zimbabweans to other countries. Foul mouthed Mutasa gained notoriety by responding as follows; “We would be better off with only 6 million people, with our own [ruling party] people who supported the liberation struggle. We don’t want all these extra people.”
Former British minister Clare Short, disliked by Mugabe and his party responded to Mutasa’s comments as follows: “To welcome the death of nearly half the people in a country is unforgivable. No one should forgive him.”
Mutasa’s mouth was and is the gate of all his misfortune. Hell and heaven are in the hearts of men, but when Mutasa had access to power, he chose to give hell and not heaven to his fellow countrymen.
In spite of years of despicable oppression and ill-treatment under white colonial rule, I can’t help, but observe that when given the chance, Africans in general cannot treat themselves and their kind any better than they were treated by colonialists. It’s a sad observation. As Bhuddists, we believe in Karma. Christians also say do unto others what you want them to do unto you.
Mutasa’s record shows that in his worldview, political pluralism is anathema and must not be tolerated. In a 2008 cable to the United States State Department, former US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee quoted one Manatsa Mutasa as saying that among other people, Didymus Mutasa was leading the violence against opposition supporters in his home province because; “Didymus Mutasa needed to redeem himself for having failed to prevent Zanu PF’s election defeat last month. Manatsa Mutasa anticipated that the ruling party would orchestrate fire bombings of Zanu PF offices and blame the MDC . ..”
Several people in his home province were killed through violence at Mutasa’s instruction for their political beliefs. Many of them would be shocked in their graves that the man responsible for their entry into the other side of life is now a sudden convert and preacher of democracy.
No matter how much Mutasa now suddenly views himself as a democrat and a bulwark of human rights and the rule of law, it’s hard for him to wash away his sins. Akuji mi ni tomaru. His present actions are simply the rants of a nationalist charlatan who has suddenly discovered that he is deprived of power and privilege. He is no longer in the gravy train — is far from the feeding trough, and he didn’t see it coming. Again, I will cite Martin Niemöller, the German pastor who wrote . . . First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.
Except that Mutasa was not a silent observer. He was a corrupt, violent, cruel, foul-mouthed, and undisciplined participant. Karma!