HomeOpinion & AnalysisED administration: Comedy of errors

ED administration: Comedy of errors

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GENESIS 3 v 9-11 (NIV), “But the Lord God called the man, where are you? He answered: I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Paidamoyo Muzulu

This is the first time in the Bible when there was miscommunication between God and man.

Man (Adam) may have deliberately misheard and answered in a defensive manner — giving a reason before he was asked to give one.

Probably the conversation would have taken a different direction if Adam had answered directly the question he was asked.

For argument sake, he may have answered: “I’m under the big tree close to the west end of the stream.”

I guess God would have asked a follow-up question.

Let us look at it from another angle, could it be possible Adam misheard the question? Probably, but he could have asked God to repeat himself — May you come again Lord.

However, it is very probable that Adam heard the question correctly and chose to pre-empt God from asking further questions. This is a plausible explanation.

All this long-forgotten Sunday school teaching was brought back by two events this week from the Emmerson Mnangagwa-led administration (I try really hard not to call it a regime because of the connotations the word carries).

This week had unprecedented two clarifications from government on policy positions.

Government officials claimed they were quoted out of context or some sections of their audience deliberately misinterpreted texts from the administration.

In the first instance, the Mnangagwa administration was accused of slyly reintroducing the much-maligned Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act’s clause that says 51% of a designated entity should be owned by an indigenous person or persons.

The matter arose out of the gazetted section 36 of the Finance (No 2) Act of 2020 that read: “The minister responsible for the Indigenisation Act, may, in consultation with the ministers responsible for Mines and Finance prescribe a mineral, the extraction of which would be subject to 51% shareholding by a designated entity.”

Veritas, a legal and parliamentary monitoring think-tank, correctly analysed the text and concluded the administration had, through the backdoor, reintroduced the 51% local ownership clause in the indigenisation law.

Exposed and with nowhere to hide, the administration conceded that it had backtracked on the scrapping of the 51% indigenisation clause in the mining sector.

In a joint statement, the ministers responsible said: “It has come to government notice that the amendment to the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act contained in the Finance (No 2) Act of 2020 (section 36) may have caused some misconception to some investors and other stakeholders in the mining sector …

“To enhance certainty in relation to investments in the mining sector, and consistent with government policy, this section will be deleted.”

Before the dust had settled, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube put his foot in his mouth for the second time in a week.

While speaking to Zimbabwe Television Network, a Zimpapers-owned television station, he was quoted by private investigative online publication, NewsHawks, as saying Zimbabweans would have to directly pay for the COVID-19 vaccination jab at the point of service.

@NewsHawksLive tweeted: “Finance minister Mthuli Ncube has told the State-controlled media that Zimbabweans will be required to pay for COVID-19 vaccination. ‘Look, private citizens obviously would have to pay for the vaccines.’ The payment is meant to enable the government to ‘recoup’ costs of procurement.”

Stung by public backlash on social media, Ncube had to do another hasty retreat.

He issued a statement on Thursday saying he had been quoted out of context and the vaccination would be given for free.

“It has come to my attention that my comments about the payment for the COVID-19 vaccine, have been taken out of context. I would like to make it clear that, the vaccines that the government is procuring with the support of the international partners and friends, will be made available for free, to the citizens of Zimbabwe,” Ncube clarified.

In his clarification, Ncube raised new questions. He excluded a significant number of people in the country.

All people who are not citizens, but legally in Zimbabwe like documented immigrants, are left out. Is this the group that he meant should pay?

In his address to commemorate World Cancer Day on Thursday, Vice-President and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga tried to come to Ncube’s rescue, saying: “My fellow Zimbabweans, let me also reiterate that the government of Zimbabwe will roll out COVID-19 vaccines for free to all our citizens who may wish to be vaccinated. The policy is inspired by humane morals that: Life should not be bought.”

The guffaws by the ministers are not isolated. They reinforce that the administration has poor communicators.

Since the advent of COVID-19 pandemic, the administration has on numerous occasions failed to explain itself.

It failed to explain the lockdown stages. It failed to communicate how the $18 billion economic stimulus package was to work or the $600 million cash transfer scheme for the vulnerable groups.

It has further struggled to explain if it has ordered any COVID-19 vaccines and at what costs or who are the first beneficiaries.

This is an administration that has no clue, clumsy in communicating and puts no effort to learn from its mistakes.

It makes basic communication mistakes again and again — actually it has become a norm that after a Press conference another will be hastily arranged to issue a clarification.

This comedy of errors costs lives — real lives. The administration has to speak with clarity and implement its programmes transparently. Now more than ever the country needs a COVID-19 lockdown exit strategy.

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