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Sad Zimbabwe not short of clowns

By Chido Makunike

IT is unfortunate that a lot of our public figures are often dull, humourless characters who take themselves terribly seriously. They often seem to think the sun revolves around them; they

use the flimsiest excuse to get their picture on TV or in the paper and they are extremely prickly about the mildest criticism.

Yet along with whatever “prestige” that comes with being a public figure, the influence and any other benefits, there should certainly come scrutiny as a form of public checks and balance.

The media at the end of the calendar year usually conducts this kind of exercise, but I have decided to do a mid-year one to recognise the many colourful public figures who give us comic relief from the deprivations we suffer under the regime of President Robert Mugabe.

I am giving Mugabe’s propagandist Jonathan Moyo the prestigious “Professor Lowani Ndlovu Award” for double-speak, hypocrisy and shrill bitterness. This is quite appropriate as Moyo and “Lowani Ndlovu” express themselves almost identically, displaying astonishing levels of generalised anger and bitterness whose causes would keep a psychiatrist busy for months.

Ndlovu weekly titillates the whole country with enraged rantings about all manner of issues, with a liberal sprinkling of hate-filled insults against an amazing array of enemies. Some say this has now gone so far over the top that the master flip-flop artist’s contradictions are fast catching up with him, and that the many people in Harare and beyond who he has given cause to want him tripped up could soon have their wish.

A gentle hint that I would ask Lowani to please pass on to his identical twin, Moyo: limit the enraged insults to distant opponents and try to avoid hurling them at top ruling party officials who might determine your fate, despite your ill-disguised contempt for them. Try to lighten up and not be so uptight all the time.

Acting Harare mayor and Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s main flunky at the Harare City Council, Sekesai Makwavarara, is a politician whose skills are often under-estimated. Oh sure, the city is filthier than ever under her worship, council officials do not even try to hide the fact that our water problems are long-term and the quality of life continues to deteriorate under her tenure, facilitated purely by her dancing to Chombo’s tune.

But the brilliant politician has two spanking new vehicles at her disposal, a suitably fashionable Mercedes and a Toyota twin-cab truck, “for trips out of Harare”! The city rents a swanky house for her in a prestigious suburb far away from the working-class Mabvuku ward she says she “represents”.

The Harare City Council may struggle to pay its monthly wage bill and services continue going downhill, but when you consider that for the average Zimbabwean politician their “profession” is for its perks and privileges above all else, surely her worship the mayor is one of Zimbabwe’s most brazen and successful politicians. But her funky dark glasses and loud, psychedelic fashion sense have unfortunately failed to catch on in the capital city.

Patrick Chinamasa has been a disappointment as a cabinet minister from the day he was appointed. Eager to please his boss to the point of losing his dignity, he likes to talk tough, at least until MDC MP Roy Bennett floored him in parliament recently.

No matter what sanctions are applied against Bennett, Chinamasa will never live down the humiliation, no matter how the incident is explained. And despite an orchestrated cacophony of outrage in some sections of the media for a few days after it, I thought it was telling that there was so little genuine public sympathy for Chinamasa.

Speaker of parliament and long-term Zanu PF tough guy Emmerson Mnangagwa deserves special recognition for his survival skills in these turbulent, perilous times when many party officials are being sacrificed for one reason or another.

While some who consider themselves to be in trouble are out parcelling out computers and blankets to impress the public, or writing bitter diatribes against their political enemies in order to save their hides against Mugabe’s wrath, Mnangagwa has remained calm and collected, at least publicly.

It is amazing how the vultures that keep circling never have the courage to actually come within striking distance. Despite all the smoke and the innuendoes around the person of Mnangagwa, all the indications are that no one has the guts to go anywhere near him. Hmm, what is Mnangagwa’s secret for survival? For now at least, I’m not telling!

Mugabe’s anti-corruption effort seems to have come to a screeching halt, rather predictably! Even when it was first announced with much fanfare, I wondered how it could be sustained with so many crooked officials at the highest levels of the government and the ruling party.

I wish to congratulate the president for the brilliant tactic of temporarily diverting public attention from his many failures with the short-lived anti-corruption gimmick. It was also smart to call it off before it brought down everyone in the top ranks of his government.

Cabinet ministers, Zanu PF officials, ruling party-aligned businessmen and high-ranking armed forces officials briefly panicked before the realisation set in that there was nothing to worry about since virtually the whole ruling structure was guilty of one type of high corruption or another.

Kudos to Mugabe for the joke of the year!

While Zimbabwean politics is easy to follow and interpret because it boils down to one bunch of kids beating up another bunch of kids with any weapons at their disposal to hang on to their privileges, Zimbabwean soccer for me is a bewildering, complex area of study. Like in politics, grown-up men are eager to display how petty and childish they are but unlike in politics, the “benefits”, material, social or otherwise, seem a lot fewer.

I have completely given up trying to figure out who the good guys, if any, are in the Zimbabwe Football Association and what exactly the officials are always fighting about.

I suppose since the demise of the beauty contest we need some other form of mindless entertainment to occupy ourselves with, and why not the childish antics of the country’s top football officials?

Zimbabwe may be a sad picture of self-inflicted decline, but we have our fair share of clowns to make us laugh at the ridiculousness of some of our most pompous personalities.

* Chido Makunike is a regular Zimbabwe Independent columnist.

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