DJ Scott meets siren on air

WHILE everybody else is slimming and tightening their belts, government is evidently not affected. President Mugabe added four ministries to his already bloated cabinet without bothering about its impact on the budget deficit. The new ministe

rs themselves don’t know where their salaries will come from. The new Minister of Public and Interactive Affairs Chen Chimutengwende said they would get their money from the President’s Office.

Unfortunately the reporter didn’t ask him what his job entailed. We are still curious to know what he does during the day. Finance deputy minister David Chapfika was equally clueless about the source of money to pay the salaries of the new ministers and their staff. He said government should be given time. “I think you should give it (government) more time and see where the money is going to come from and then start asking,” he told a Standard reporter last week.

That means printing more money for ministries whose benefit to the nation is very questionable. Why Mugabe chose to create the new ministries in the middle of the financial year remains a mystery to everybody except the beneficiaries. It’s standing logic on its head.

We found it hard to follow Nathaniel Manheru’s convoluted argument about Mugabe staying in power until death. Where does that leave the Shona dictum: ushe madzoro? He was also angry that media said British prime minister Tony Blair had made history by winning a third term in office while Mugabe was criticised as a dictator.

Mugabe has been accused of dictatorship because he uses violence to stay in power. There were no allegations of vote-rigging in the British election. Nobody is challenging Blair’s re-election despite his reduced majority. Yet there is prima facie evidence that something is wrong with the result of the March 31 election in Zimbabwe. Up to now the head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has not given a convincing explanation as to why his figures don’t tally. The best that could be extracted from him by way of an explanation was: “It’s neither here nor there.”
Sounds very profound!

Is Manheru aware that people in rural areas have been wondering just who it was that voted for Zanu PF? They suspect ballot stuffing. Their suspicions are getting more credible. Manheru’s very popular party couldn’t get a single educated person to represent it in the Masvingo mayoral election. It was shocking to hear acting Masvingo Zanu PF chair Isaiah Shumba, ironically the deputy Education minister, saying a grade seven mark was a pass.
In the end we had a strange case of an opposition party having its candidate winning the election unopposed. It appears it is easier to claim support in rural areas where nobody can challenge them.

We were interested to read Tafataona Mahoso’s lengthy diatribe against business leaders this week. He claimed business leaders were creating shortages of basic foodstuffs to protest Zanu PF’s victory in the March election.

He said wholesalers and supermarkets were full of goods just before the election but these disappeared after the announcement of the results.

We wonder what country he has been living in. Most of the goods that are in short supply have always been scarce. Zimbabwe long ago ceased to be self-sufficient in anything except shortages. The situation got worse when government tried to keep the prices of commodities at sub-economic levels through unwarranted interventions.

We hope Mahoso has not forgotten the story of former Information minister Jonathan Moyo going to shop for scarce commodities in South Africa last year. A lot of commodities being sold on the pavements in Harare are imports.

Mahoso was also bitter that business was not working closely with the state in its “Look East” policy. “The first implication of the ‘Look East’ policy is that business leadership follows political leadership …The foreign dominated business community continues to resist this principle,” declared Mahoso imperiously without telling us what successful business the state had run to show that its experiment was workable.

Another point that Mahoso misses is that the Zanu PF government is not known for consulting business. Mugabe prefers to take his political colleagues to Malaysia and China instead of businessmen. Producers and retailers get only orders on price controls.

If President Mugabe is interested in making friends with Chinese and Cuban dictators, that doesn’t make it good business sense. Businesses are interested in expanding their markets, not uprooting everything to go to China.

Not everyone is at war with Tony Blair. And our good Chinese friends have not cut trade links with imperialists in the West either. If anything, the Chinese economy is expanding because of these ties. Zimbabwe is simply a dumping ground.

On Tuesday the Herald had two master pieces on its front page. The first was about 250 dairy cows cruelly starved to death in Beatrice while their owner languished in remand prison facing corruption charges. The second was a beautiful picture of a huge “swimming pool” Sekesai Makwavarara and her team of incompetent fellow commissioners miraculously conjured up at Greencroft shopping centre in Mabelreign.

The first story answers Mashonaland East governor Ray Kaukonde who wanted to know what had become of the dairy farms that used to supply the nation’s milk requirements. Although the incident occurred in 2003, it was never reported because such publicity would have been against the spirit of the ever successful land reform.

Despite the owner of the farm requesting to be given money to buy stock feed, the curator of his estate, David Scott, stoutly refused. Instead, according to the Herald, Scott instructed Dairibord Zimbabwe to collect milk from the farm without paying for it. That the incident was never reported in the media despite the magnitude of the scandal tells us all we need to know about the quality of journalism in the country. Panenyaya!

Enter Makwavarara and Crew from Town House. The swimming pool in Greencroft was the result of a manhole that has been spouting precious water without Ignatious Chombo’s commissioners doing anything. This was not the first time this had happened, we were reminded.

This should be music to the ears of Harare residents who have had their rates and other charges hiked “40-fold” to improve service delivery. It should also be music to thirst residents of Mabvuku-Tafara and other eastern suburbs who were beaten and arrested by riot police last week for demonstrating against chronic water shortages.

We wonder who the saboteurs are this time around.

Meanwhile, the huge Warren Park rubbish dumpsite burst into a huge pall of stinking smoke this week. In the mornings in some sections of Bulawayo road visibility was reduced to 20 metres, with a heavy black cloud lying thick over the whole area from Westlea across Warren Park to Kambuzuma and Mufakose.

We wonder how the kids at Zvinavashe’s upmarket primary school near the dumpsite are coping. We recall being told a few years back that the site had been shut down? Dump Makwavarara and Chombo on the site. And don’t give them water.

Talking about Scott, his namesake DJ Scott pulled off a big one on Tuesday afternoon on his Hard Drive programme. As usual, it was his one-word answer question although nobody appeared to care about the question itself. The original question was: Do you believe in the marriage institution? Callers instead went for the indeterminate second: Do people marry for the right reasons? Muckraker couldn’t tell what “right reasons” are.

Calls were coming fast and thick, mainly from young women.

Then a lady phoned to say women married for “prestige”, to be called Mrs So ‘n So. Most of them now have small houses, the lady said. She said she had one, which completely bowled over young Scott. He asked the woman to talk to him off air, to which they retired for a good five minutes while we listened to some meaningless so-called urban grooves music. By the time the siren released him Scott was so thoroughly smitten he couldn’t tell us what they had discussed. Unfortunately that was also the end of the phone-in programme! What happened behind the scenes Scott?

Can somebody tell Olley Maruma there are no more ministerial posts on offer. President Mugabe announced new ministers soon after the March 31 election and we wonder what post Maruma is vying for with his self-serving piece in the Herald on Tuesday. His generation had experienced the indignities of racial segregation “where they were only allowed to live in the townships”, he whined. They could not go to “white cinemas, restaurants and hotels”, he protested nostalgically.

Younger generations were not grateful that they had been spared these indignities as a result of Independence, he complained. The gulf between their experience today and what “my generation went through” is unbridgeable, he said self-righteously. “That is why they are so easily seduced by meaningless rhetoric about ‘good governance, democracy and human rights’.”

What was Maruma’s point, you might wonder? Well, that we should not bother about these concepts because we have one man, one vote; we have a black government and because we can now share toilets with whites which we couldn’t do in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia.

Now that we have a flourishing “democracy” how many poor Zimbabweans can go into “white cinemas, restaurants and hotels” we wonder?

There are no trophies for defending a dictatorship in the name of the liberation struggle. If anything, those who bore the brunt of the war in the communal lands are worse off. There is nothing romantic about a life of penury and they have no illusions about it. It is only the likes of Maruma who grew up in the comfort of the townships who could worry about whether a toilet was reserved for whites or dream of drinking beer in hotels.

The reality in rural areas is different. People want food now like they never did under UDI. While Maruma may have suffered indignities in hotels and toilets under colonial rule, people in rural areas were engaged in a real dogfight for survival. Instead of using the past to inform the future, there is a danger of people like Maruma turning history into such a huge burden that we can’t see into the future. That is why while other countries around us are talking about Nepad and choosing new leaders with fresh ideas all we can think of is Mbuya Nehanda as if time has not moved since the Pioneer Column.

Inflationary pressures are definitely up after more than a year in which Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono was turned into a cult hero. From 620% in January last year, inflation hit 123% March this year. But now it’s up again, hitting 129% in April. There must be somebody to blame.

Conspiracy theorists were not found wanting in this regard. After Zanu PF won the March 31 election “convincingly”, wrote a Herald Business reporter this week, “when everybody thought the nation was poised for better times, retailers and manufacturers unilaterally hiked the prices of basic commodities, pushing up inflation in the process”.

Nothing is said about rising input costs, the serious mismatch between the local currency and major trading partners and the stifling bottlenecks between production of commodities and demand. This is not helped by the failure to earn foreign currency, whether through Homelink or mineral exports.

The RBZ blamed the rise in inflation on parallel market dealers as if this was a new phenomenon in recent years.

Gono said he was “not new to these challenges. They will be dealt with decisively,” was his stern promise last week. Does anyone believe him anymore?

So long as government spends money hand over fist, Gono is fighting a losing battle. So long as manufacturers have to source scarce foreign currency from the ubiquitous black market, you can be sure government’s voodoo economics of price controls won’t work. They have been tried before. Not even the charitable Chinese can solve this one. Ask Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

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