Opinion: Let’s stop the laughter

Stir the pot: Paidamoyo Muzulu

ZIMBABWE has become a butt of jokes. In Africa and across the world, Zimbabwe has become an example of how not to do things. And probably it is high time that we stop the laughter.

Former South African President Thabo Mbeki said the same thing in his speech at the second southern Africa international dialogue on smart partnership for the generation of wealth, Swakopmund, Namibia on July 27, 1998.

“I think we can stop the laughter and the only way we can stop that laughter is to be rebels again, to be rebels in the way that many of us who sit under this tent were taught to be rebels,”
Mbeki said. Among the rebels Mbeki mentioned were Abdul Gamal Nasser, Ben Belta, Habib Bourgiba, Mohamad V of Morroco, Nkwame Nkrumah, Modibo Keita, Patrice Lumumba, Kenneth Kaunda, Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Eduardo Mondlane, Agostinho Neto, Sam Nujoma, Seretse Khama, Ketumile Masire, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.

This piece was provoked by Zanu PF politburo member and former adviser to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Christopher Mutsvangwa’s infantile storming out of the Big Debate sponsored by Alpha Media Holdings on Tuesday after feeling the heat from the paying audience.

Mutsvangwa, who usually does not hold back when on the attack, played the credentialism card at the debate telling all who cared to listen: “If some people had to sacrifice their only one life so that we get democracy, who are you to sit here and say democracy does not work? The least you can do is be courteous to those who fought for democracy so that you can sit here and debate freely.”

Mutsvangwa added: “I have been at the forefront of ousting two tyrants in this country and you must at least give us credit. What happened in November 2017 was not a coup, but it was a restoration of order.”

I laughed hard after hearing this. I laughed not because it was funny, but I noticed a man who did not want to be scrutinised because he fought for Zimbabwe’s independence and was at the forefront of orchestrating the coup that ousted the late former President Robert Mugabe. I laughed because I tried to reconcile his democracy and running away when put under the spotlight.

Those in the know would remember Mutsvangwa storming out at a Sapes public discussion despite Ibbo Mandaza’s impassioned plea for him to stay and argue his case. What makes it a sad joke is Mutsvangwa is not only an intellectual but also a former diplomat and one wonders what he did behind closed doors when negotiations got heated.

Mutsvangwa has not been alone in his guffaws. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has a string to his name. Soon after inauguration he appointed seven Cabinet ministers who were not parliamentarians, despite the law being clear that he could only appoint five. What surprised many is how Mnangagwa, a lawyer by training and Justice minister after 2013 and, therefore, conversant with the dictates of the Constitution, could make such elementary blunders.

Mnangagwa also made an elementary arithmetic error at a cattle project launch, where he said 10 plus four was equal to 40.

The error may have been a slip of the tongue, but it gave birth to many jokes after the disputed 2018 presidential election results. Many concluded the meticulous verification by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission did not generally reflect any better competence than that of Mnangagwa on adding numbers.

Interestingly, even an economics don Mthuli Ncube has done no better at Treasury in adding up the numbers. We had the Chinese deputy ambassador Zhao Baogang make the best of such errors when he told an audience: “We gave them five chickens but they only say they received two”. Uncle Sam also joined in, querying the numbers about the United States’ assistance to Zimbabwe.

In all this, the world is seeing Mnangagwa’s weakness and beginning to call him out.
Resultantly, this is making Zimbabwe a big joke on the international scene. It goes without saying that some Zimbabweans have been crafty in creating social media jokes when they superimposed Mnangagwa’s head to a model’s body at the Miss Universe finals with a sash written: Misrule.

Mnangagwa can save us from being the butt of jokes if he starts to take his job seriously. He should do this by implementing economic and political reforms, owning up to his mistakes, stop flying a luxury jet while his government pleads penury and above all stop making jokes out of the citizens’ misery.

The government has to stop abductions, police brutality and cushion the poor from rapacious capitalism, which can lead to political unrests if it remains untamed.

Like Mbeki in his speech, I dare conclude: “I say (this) because of these people taught our generation to rebel.

They said to all of us, as we grew up, that we must not accept injustice and we must not accept the demeaning of our continent. As I stand here today and speak the way I am going to speak, hopefully I will say what I will say because of loyalty to the message they communicated.”

Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist and writes here in his personal capacity. He can be contacted on muzulu.p@gmail.com

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