WITH elections around the corner, there are winners and losers every week.
By CONWAY TUTANI
The United States embassy in Harare this week issued the following statement: “Earlier this year, as a result of regular internal oversight, United States Agency for International Development (USAid) became aware of the possible misuse of US assistance funding. When USAid learned of the situation, an investigation was immediately launched and several issues were brought to light. Those issues have been dealt with accordingly. We remain committed to assisting the people of Zimbabwe, and invest millions of dollars each year to support a wide range of programmes to benefit them. Attempts to divert US funds from their intended use is unacceptable under any circumstances.”
In diplomatic parlance, that was a severe rebuke of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) fingered, who are all in the human rights sphere, which, going by the embassy statement, they are turning it into a lucrative business as they line their pockets fraudulently.
No one is saying that NGO corruption is equivalent to State corruption because the power differential alone makes that impossible.
However, when they are found out as no less corrupt than the State institutions they earn their living from targeting, it should not be swept under the carpet or made light of. What I am saying is that these activists have for too long had the privilege of speaking about corruption without having their point of view and conduct challenged solely on the basis that they are in rights organisations, whereas they are as corruptible as any human being and need to be monitored while they are monitoring the State.
In fact, they could be worse corrupt than the State in terms of scale. So pointing out the similarities is not crude comparison, more so pertaining to individuals masquerading as paragons of moral rectitude when they are not.
One cannot overstate the importance of the observance of human rights in advancing greater equality, which entails economic growth, technological progress, wealth creation and social mobility. At the same time, however, it is vital to recognise the damaging effects of criminal conduct. A greater tendency towards unethical and criminal behaviour on the part of NGOs is likely to impede social mobility and equality, exacerbating disparities in society rather than alleviating them, militating against their professed raison d’etre: democracy.
Furthermore, some of these career activists are now nothing more than incentivised or paid informants who fabricate and frame innocent people in pursuit of cash, making them dishonest and unscrupulous persons, proper scoundrels.
They calculate in their minds: Why be honest if dishonesty pays? When it comes to dishonesty, there is no class. It’s a money game, if you ask me. If there is nothing going on in terms of intimidation and violence, they are out of a job. The more the violence, the more their income. So the perpetuation of violence is in their vested interest.
These activists also end up in an incestuous relationship with their funders like compromised external auditors. It’s in their mutual interest to cover up for each other. The relationship becomes excessively close and resistant to outside influence. As a result of this incestuous relationship, funders — including Western embassies — often lack the objectivity that would enable them to discern when these activists are lying.
These activists also profit from the West’s disdain for everything African due to residual racism.
For this and other reasons stated earlier, NGOs are the losers of the week. “What a bunch of losers!” as eNCA’s Justice Malala would say.
The winner of the week is outgoing MDC-T MP Eddie Cross. Writing on his blog, Cross challenged the populist false narrative being peddled in some opposition circles, saying: “We (now) have more freedom than at any time since the Rhodesian government clamped down on the nationalists and detained most of them in 1964. The repressive laws adopted at that time were never dismantled by … (former President Robert) Mugabe who then used them to repress all opposition in his efforts to establish a one-party State.”
We need more of people like Cross, who has proved his strength of character in a high-pressure, volatile and hostile character-building situation. Being of white stock, he refused to compromise with the Rhodesian system of white privilege. He was prepared to be ostracised by the white system. So from this track record, his motives cannot be questioned.
I especially liked it when Cross said there is nothing much to separate the various party manifestos as no one of them stands out as uniquely superior to the others. “However, it’s not the outcome of these elections that concerns me — it’s what will happen after the elections. The party manifestoes give very little indication of what will happen — they are full of promises that can never be met and talk of policies that are either impracticable or unaffordable. Very little of any real substance and you can see that in the national discourse that is taking place — no ideas are really catching the imagination.” Who, in all honesty, can disagree with Cross on this one?
And one could say that Cross has also distanced himself from the misguided Leninist idea of a vanguard party, which, in effect, is based on a very tenuous understanding of Marxism, and which makes party dictatorship possible.
He has instead chosen the route of participatory revolution, so to speak, in which the party does not play the sole determining role, but all Zimbabweans come together to map the way forward. As Pastor Blessing Makwara said at the signing of the peace pledge last week, not one person or party has the answers to the problems besetting Zimbabwe.
Cross’ concluding observation was quite strong and pertinent: “. . . the key element is discovering how to work together and get the best minds and people on the job. Zimbabwe will not overcome its many difficulties and problems unless we learn to work together as a great big team . . . I think it’s going pretty well, certainly better than at any time since 2000. If we can keep it up, show the world a unity and determination to secure change — just as we did together in November 2017 — then we are out the starters gate. A new day may just about be going to dawn.”
Indeed, November 2017, when the nation finally showed Mugabe the exit door, was a milestone event in which people displayed unity of purpose. Any other version of those events is revisionist, convenient and expedient, period. Some people, with the benefit of hindsight and typically with an ulterior motive, are trying to rewrite history differently from as it originally occurred.
All in all, what Cross is saying is that people change, sometimes in ways that are difficult to predict. The person who was the beneficiary of white privilege yesterday — such as Cross himself, David Coltart and the late Roy Bennett, among others — may become an ally tomorrow.
What is important is to support that shift and perhaps accelerate it — not to try to prove that he or she is inherently evil, in the manner of the mean-spirited and opportunistic Jonathan Moyo, who endlessly labelled Cross, Coltart and Bennett as incorrigible and unreformable racists.
Timely and sobering reminder , isn’t it?
lConway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org