Editor’s Memo


PRESIDENT Mugabe called the previous cabinet a “war cabinet” to emphasise his propaganda fight with British premier Tony Blair. And there was some fighting to do. Informatio

n minister Jonathan Moyo spearheaded that fight with zeal, attacking everybody from Blair and the MDC to his seniors in Zanu PF.

The current cabinet has been dubbed a “development cabinet”. What is doubtful is whether it will be anything more than a burden on the fiscus.

First of all, people are worried by the size of the cabinet. Too big for nothing is the verdict. There is certainly nothing new about it to inspire confidence. All the ministers, their deputies, and provincial governors will require salaries, vehicles, bodyguards, accommodation, etc.

This must have come as a shock to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor Gideon Gono. Somehow he had begun to believe that he was working hand in hand with politicians in his fight against inflation and government spending. When he heard the president talking of a development cabinet, he must have felt that there would be more resources directed at economic growth and at promoting more exports to earn foreign currency.

That was not to be. It’s consumption galore. Zimbabweans can brace themselves for more taxation. While the rest of the country is tightening belts because of swingeing poverty, government is busy dishing out national resources to its own plutocratic class. It was a happy Silver Jubilee for those invited to join the Zanu PF gravy train.

Zimbabweans committed to the welfare of this country must wonder at these policy incongruities. Nowhere has it ever been demonstrated that a bigger cabinet means better development. We are seeing a government that has grown not only too confident from the recent parliamentary majority, but one that has become both arrogant and heartless towards its citizens. What does it tell us about the president’s seriousness on the economic front that he can appoint a bloated cabinet to feed from a shrinking base of overtaxed workers in a year of crushing drought?

While unemployment is estimated at close to 75% and urban poverty is on the increase, Mugabe has no qualms about providing ministerial shelter for party colleagues who were rejected by voters. Emmerson Mnangagwa, Amos Midzi, and Sikanyaniso Ndlovu are all electoral rejects. Patrick Chinamasa, Paul Mangwana and Sithembiso Nyoni have no popular mandate.

It is hard to avoid the creeping suspicion that urbanites, who are the majority of taxpayers, are being punished for voting wrongly. Unfortunately the punishment is being visited on those who voted correctly too!

As for the development part of it, we wait to be surprised.

Meanwhile, the Silver Jubilee celebrations have come and gone. The question is what next? Most of those who provided the entertainment at the celebrations have gone back to their rural poverty or resumed their daily toil in the townships. There is no sign that their lives are any better.

While Mugabe was long and loud on his government’s past achievements,

he sounded unconvincing about future programmes. Conspicuous by their absence from the cabinet are the so-called technocrats bringing new ideas into the government, no doubt partly as a result of the fallout from Tsholotsho. There is evident antipathy against mafikizolos seeking to upset the apple cart.

Just as an aside, despite efforts to make the Silver Jubilee a huge national event, how come there were only five heads of state who found time to attend? The event was announced 100 days in advance and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings made a point of reminding us everyday of this great event. If not our Chinese and North Korean friends from the east, at least we expected more Sadc presidents.

Despite spirited propaganda about the March 31 election results, leaders in the region appear not to have bought into the propaganda that the poll was free and fair or that lack of violence on polling day was sufficient proof that Zimbabwe was now a full-fledged democracy. Most of them opted to stay away than be used to endorse a result that is dubious. Painfully absent was South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki of course. He is still examining evidence that there were disconcerting discrepancies in the voter figures broadcast by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.

Also absent were MDC leaders. Apparently some people are trying to wish the party out of existence, forgetting that most of the people they see on the streets in all urban areas voted for the opposition party. Each time we see these futile attempts to kill the MDC in the state media we are reminded of a recent picture of President Mugabe embracing Afonso Dhlakama as “our brother” and the human and financial resources Zimbabwe spent over a 10-year period trying to kill Dhlakama and his Renamo.

Short of hypocrisy and selfishness, one can’t explain why such a gesture with the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai is considered an anathema in Zimbabwe. And we expect outsiders to take us seriously!