Some people have to sharpen their lying skills, failing which they have to stop lying altogether.
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
Last week, I had an encounter with one such less than skilful liar — a former opposition MDC MP — after he had posted on social media that a particular road in Chitungwiza was only being surfaced in time for the visit of President Emmerson Mnangagwa to assess the cholera situation, as, according to him, roads in cholera-hit Budiriro and Glen View in Harare had also been similarly tarred just ahead of the President’s visit there. I then pointed out to him that road repair was being done on a countrywide scale and this had been going on for months, giving him examples of areas without cholera where this was being done; and, second, that road repair in Budiriro and Glen View had commenced months before the cholera outbreak.
But the former honourable MP would have none of that inconvenient factualness which I had brought in because conceding to that would have totally destroyed the basis of his manifestly false allegations to suit his political narrative. So, aided and abetted by an equally rabid supporter — a journalist for that matter, who should have simply taken the time to verify and establish that road resurfacing was indeed underway across Zimbabwe — he resorted to the default mode of cornered people: labelling me as having been bought by the Zanu PF government.
Well, just a day later, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa claimed that his party — not the government — was the one behind road repair in Harare. I then asked the former legislator that if indeed what Chamisa had said was true, could the party have conceivably tarred the roads to boost Mnangagwa, their political rival? Did that make political sense? What possibly was the self-defeating or perverted logic behind that? If not, would the former legislator then concede that Chamisa was, after all, lying about it? Suffice to say that the ex-MP did not give a coherent explanation. As one can see, there is some political growing up to do.
Harare mayor Herbert Gomba, with the belated wisdom of hindsight, is also propagating the highly misleading line that the MDC is behind what is clearly a nationally co-ordinated project. Did the MDC finally wake up only last week to the realisation that they were actually the funders of the project? Well, research has shown that people are slower to respond when they are lying than when they are telling the truth. That the councillors seem to have suddenly woken up to the fact that they are the funders of the project points to that sort of lying reaction.
People can also lie by semantics through twisting the practical meaning of words. The billboards by the sides of some Harare roads being repaired speak for themselves. On the billboards, it’s clearly listed that City of Harare, on the one hand, is the client, and the Government of Zimbabwe and Zinara, on the other, are the funders, but Gomba would have us believe that those billboards don’t mean what they say so as to put his own spin and claim all the credit.
But all this talk could be largely based on ignorance and misconceptions about how things work. About a fortnight ago — before anyone knew there would be a cholera outbreak — Chamisa had said this: “From this (July 30) election, we control over 26 urban councils out of 32 (81%) and we must be proud of that. We won 536 council seats. We control all the metropolitan cities and towns, including Harare and Bulawayo. Our support bases are the majority of active people and taxpayers who contribute about 80% of the taxes collected in the country.”
At face value, this sounds impressive, but that’s not how things work. Had people taken note of political analyst Eldred Masunungure’s educated and informed comments as regards Chamisa’s claims, there wouldn’t be this raging confusion about who does what and at what stage. Masunungure, begging to differ with Chamisa, said: “You need to know that Zimbabwe is a unitary State and those who control central government call the shots. So it may well be true that they (MDC) control local government authorities which contribute a large chunk to the national fiscus, but that goes to the Treasury, and the Treasury is controlled by central government, which, in turn, is controlled by Zanu PF.” That’s why Jonathan Moyo used to say: “Harare is not Zimbabwe, and Zimbabwe is not Harare.”
That is why there is what is called the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
From Masunungure’s remarks, one can deduce that lying occurs when there are two contradictory statements, one of which is untrue and uttered, while the other is true but remains unsaid. We need to discern truthful words from prepared hogwash. We need to beware of the default human mode of lying on a daily basis to exploit others.
No city can go it alone and succeed. In the 2016 presidential election, California, the biggest state in the United States in terms of both population and economy, voted against Donald Trump, but submits to his federal authority. So, there is nothing unique or special about Harare as some are making it out to be. Indeed, urban areas tend to have more economic activity and higher wages than rural areas, but the component economies of the 10 provinces that make up the whole are as important because Zimbabwe, like any other country, has a complex economy.
And things will never be the same again because Harare has lost and is losing some of its economic muscle to outlying areas like Mt Hampden, where Parliament is to relocate along with associated services. So, there will be a population shift and, together with that, a jobs shift. Some of the employment losses could be due to productivity gains in other areas. At the moment, it is possible that Victoria Falls is earning the country more foreign currency than Harare and Bulawayo. There is need to combine six measures of labour-market and general economic health for all the provinces. They are the unemployment rate, job growth, per-capita GDP, GDP growth, average weekly wages, and wage growth.
By putting all those on a common scale and combining them, we came up with an overall score for each province’s economy. And the results could reveal that Harare has lost its economic clout due, for instance, to that a rural village tobacco farmer is now earning more than the average urban worker.
What we need are serious, long-term, local solutions. We need people to stop arguing and get down to realistic goals. We need a revenue source that is innovative and reliable.
We need political parties that are not actively trying to undermine the turnaround of the economy. Unfortunately, though, what we have is too much corruption, too many bribes, too many vultures trying to pick at the bones at both central government and council level — like those council officials who tried to fleece the cholera fund. That needs to stop.
Anyway, whether people bring themselves to admit it or choose to be still in denial, the road repairs going on countrywide is another big indicator that Zimbabwe is, indeed, open for business, as the government has been saying. Anyone claiming credit for anything positive going on, has hitched a ride on that mantra whether intentionally or accidentally
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org