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Opposition should be wary

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“WHOEVER fights monsters should see to it that in the process, he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you,” says Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (1886).

Nietzsche was a German philosopher (1844–1900), who was influenced by earlier philosophy greats like Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer and Socrates. He, in turn, influenced the thinking of philosophers like Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger and Jean Paul Sartre.

The above quote has unfortunately become a reality in Zimbabwe, where the opposition has for more than two decades been fighting for political power against Zanu PF. In line with the great quote, which I am not certain the opposition leaders have read or are aware of, the opposition has become like Zanu PF in corruption and disdain.

On Tuesday, Cabinet issued a statement that said the opposition-controlled Chitungwiza and Harare municipalities had failed to account for COVID-19 funds extended to the local authorities by Treasury.

“Cabinet noted with concern the failure by Chitungwiza Municipality and Harare City Council to pay nurses and other health personnel, resulting in a reduction in service delivery. The two municipalities have also been unable to account for financial resources availed by Treasury towards the COVID-19 response. Cabinet directed that nursing staff in the two municipalities be placed under the Public Service Commission and be paid through the Salary Service Bureau. Risk allowances for the affected workers will also be paid,” the statement read.

It added that Cabinet had directed Treasury to fully investigate and make the two local authorities account for the COVID-19 funds.

Opposition supporters and sympathisers went into overdrive on social media to defend their party.

They argued that the central government was guilty of the same, being unaccountable in its use of public resources.

Some of them who are read even pulled out the convincing Auditor-General Mildred Chiri reports on State-owned enterprises and Treasury.

In the process, many of the opposition supporters like Nietzsche had warned failed to see that they had become the monster they had been fighting since 1999 — Zanu PF.

It is interesting that in 2009, the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai expelled all the opposition councillors from Chitungwiza for being involved in corrupt activities.

Many of the councillors since then have found it difficult to revive their political careers. However, a decade later, the party has been mum on the issue, wishing the matter will fade away.

Former Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni (2013–2018) was brave enough to put his head above the parapet. He welcomed the central government decision to absorb council nurses, but also gave a background to the matter.

Manyenyeni said: “The news is that the government has decided to take over the payment of salaries for Harare City Council nurses — on the basis that council is ‘failing’ to pay them. The move is very welcome, but the background is politically disguised — the reason for this mess is wholly concealed.”

He said in 2013, the council awarded its employees salaries that were twice or thrice above the market rates across the board and the Local Government minister approved it.

The former mayor then makes a startling revelation that the matter of overpaying bloated municipal staff could not be reviewed since many of the councillors were heavily invested in it.

For his bravery then, Manyenyeni was twice nearly ousted from Town House by his party caucus.

He had further angered the councillors by his public utterances that many of the councillors were not fit for purpose in a city that had a budget closer to five or six big ministries.

The issue of technically incompetent councillors had also been raised by his predecessor Muchadeyi Ashton Masunda (2008-2013).

It is pertinent that I point out that Chiri in her 2018 and 2019 reports laments the lack of competent councillors, particularly with skills such as accounting, engineering and procurement.

The opposition, like Zanu PF, has fallen into the thinking that “even if they put a baboon on the ballot, the electorate would still vote for it.

The late Vice-President Simon Muzenda made the infamous statement and unfortunately over the years it has been proven true by the calibre of MPs and councillors we have in the chambers.

As the thin line between the opposition and Zanu PF gets blurred, the opposition has to be wary and go back to the drawing board to change its strategies.

Government has subtly pulled the proverbial rug from under the opposition’s feet and in the process, started a political campaign that the opposition is incompetent.

The opposition has been lucky, like Che Guevara said when he uttered the famous statement that he wished “the struggle be long so that he can know the real enemies”.

The opposition should now be in a position to know who are the hangers-on after 20 years.

The next two years to 2023 elections are crucial and the opposition should remember Nietzsche’s quote and sleep with its eyes open or it risks becoming Zanu PF-lite in incompetency, corruption and disdain for the electorate.

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