AS the pre-election mass hysteria sweeps the nation, there are still some people with their feet firmly on the ground, who are refusing to be caught up in this dizzying atmosphere, where some people are getting extremely excited as if they have just seen a rock star, a crush, a celebrity that makes them speechless or incompetent of acting normal.
By CONWAY TUTANI
First among those Zimbabweans calling for sobriety against exaggerations and distortions is chartered accountant Daniel Ngwira. Indeed, diamonds were looted and the buck stops with the Zanu PF government and this is legitimate ammunition for the opposition in their political campaigns, but this does not justify lying about the
Said Ngwira: “Contextually, what is $15 billion worth? It is three times the size of the country’s bank deposits. In the diamond sector, it means the entire global output. This amount is worth roughly the world diamond output of around 130 million carats.” (Zimbabwe Independent, April 13 to 19, 2018).
And we have seen that some of those in the opposition who shout the loudest about democratic rights themselves disregard the basic principles of democracy — the right to criticise, the right to hold unpopular beliefs, the right to independent thought.
When it is pointed out to them that this is the best time for opposition parties to walk the talk by voluntarily publicising their audited financial statements, salary schedules and tax returns — as has become customary in the United States before elections — to show they are not corrupt themselves and so have nothing to hide, they shout back that Zimbabwe is not America.
Fine, Zanu PF can shoot back that there is no need for electoral reforms because Zimbabwe is not America, pulling the rug from under the feet of the opposition.
In the same vein, we have those describing President Emmerson Mnangagwa as a “Gukaruhundist”. Fine again, but by the same token, MDC Alliance principal Agrippa Mutambara is no less a Gukurahundist because he was not only a serving military officer at the time of the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and Midlands between 1982 and 1987, but also allegedly raped human rights activist Judith Todd, who was most vocal in exposing the mass killings.
If you take into consideration whose political stock or fortunes could be affected by the “untimely” truth, then you would have compromised your role as a journalist. If you have to apportion blame, the least you can do is do that fairly.
Then we have Mike Hitschmann, a white Zimbabwean who was persecuted and imprisoned by the Mugabe regime in 2006, posting this on Facebook this week: “May I ask where all these people with ‘grievances’ are expecting the money to come from? I find it interesting that we languished under 37 years of Mugabe’s tyranny while he totally (destroyed) the country, then when finally he is removed, we expect the money to come. From where? Some people have told me ‘But ED (Mnangagwa) promised this and promised that in 100 days — so, of course, I must now have what is my due . . .’ My answer is: No matter who the President or the ruling party that is going to run this country, Zimbabweans must be aware that there are going to be a lot of problems and hardships ahead before anything improves — you cannot just flick a switch and things will get back to normal. We may eventually succeed in attracting more foreign investment (I am not including the so-called deals with the Chinese) and generate more economic growth and employment, but at the same time, we are going to be retrenching a lot of people from the civil service and obviously they, too, will need jobs — I think that these strikes, particularly in key sectors such as health, should not be permitted.”
This will surely anger many people with dug-in positions, but, at least, it will also jolt them out of their comfort zones. If you can’t stomach what Hitschmann has said, just view him as playing the devil’s advocate — a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments. And you don’t have to agree with Hitschmann 100% or even 10%, but there are gems of truth in what he has raised.
Then we have departing Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni, from the main opposition MDC-T, who has challenged residents to use the upcoming elections to vote for educated councillors with the ability to comprehend various issues affecting the capital city, saying the calibre of current city fathers is below par.
“Those seeking mandates from residents must demonstrate their understanding or capacity to understand key issues in council. I had the privilege of sharing insights with prospective councillors across the political divide (last week). I was not encouraged,” Manyenyeni, one of the brightest and sanest minds in Zimbabwe, said.
“They must convince us that they have what it takes to take Harare out of its mess. It is not about just the capacity to secure electoral votes. Being elected does not in itself give one the competence to function effectively as a councillor. Competence comes from a combination of education, training, experience and exposure.”
Of course, the assumption being that most people are rational and don’t fall into the category of a person who goes by the pseudonym “G40”, who reacted to Manyeneyeni’s strong advice thus: “Ini kudzidza (Whether I am educated) or not, as long pakanzi MDC Neroooooo, ini vote yangu pfeeee (as Chamisa’s MDC is on the ballot, I will put my ‘X’ there). Ibasa reMDC (It’s the MDC’s job) to vet academic qualifications.”
It is a fact that Harare councillors, the majority of them MDC-T, have been an unmitigated disaster. As a result, many people could now be confused over how to make their choices. But A C Gula-Ndebele — another Zimbabwean with his feet firmly on the ground — shows there is a way out of that dilemma.
Wrote Gula-Ndebele: “One candidate or party may have two things you like and others you don’t. At times, a party may have a good candidate at presidential level only and bad ones everywhere else. This means you may be torn between choices or make blended choices. For example, in harmonised elections, you can choose a councillor from one party, an MP from another and the President from none of the first two choices if you work based on ideas, competence, track record, character etc . . . The right candidate may just need your help to be the popular candidate.” (The Standard, April 1 to 7 2018)
There you are, Zimbabweans: The trick is not to put all your eggs in one basket; it’s about spreading the risk. You cannot afford to give anyone too much power after the disasters at central government and local government levels. Ignoring the facts does not change the facts.
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: email@example.com