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Editor’s Memo

Cheap ruse

MADAM Anna Tibaijuka left the country last week and government has upped the tempo in demolishing so-called illegal properties. Rural buses which had been commandeered to service urban

routes to mask the transport crisis have suddenly reverted to their old routes and transport blues are back.

It was not a coincidence that on the eve of the arrival of the United Nations diplomat the government suddenly transformed Operation Murambatsvina into Operation Garikai to create the illusion of a major reconstruction programme.

Now neat small greenhouses protecting tomato plants from frost and other elements are being pulled down. We are not sure what operation this comes under as greenhouses are entirely legal. And were we not told that Murambatsvina was over?

But we should not be surprised by this manoeuvring by government. It is very good at creating a crisis and then trying to convince the whole world that the disaster is justified and is aimed at developing the country.

I do not want to conclude that Tibaijuka fell for this cheap ruse given what has been going on in this country in recent years. The jury is still out until she issues her report later this month.

Government worked feverishly to show Tibaijuka what it was doing under Operation Garikai and not its sibling Operation Murambatsvina. But her statements during the tour clearly show that the apparition of Murambatsvina loomed so large that she could not avoid taking potshots at government, albeit in polite diplomatic-speak.

I liked her comments when she toured the Midlands capital Gweru. She said: “The issue is not a clean city. Cleaning of cities cannot be an event, it has to be a process.”

This was a significant lecture to our government which has difficulty understanding that any reform takes more than a single act of madness. Murambatsvina or Garikai in their current form do not constitute reform. They are events influenced by a sudden rush of blood to the head. That is not sustainable lest the head bursts. Murambatsvina is an orgy of destruction, a testosterone-driven event meant to leave no doubt about its intention – more destruction.

Garikai is not an elaborate or well-planned process. It is a hasty plan designed to convince the world that after 25 years of doing nothing, government is serious about provision of housing. That is why an unbudgeted $3 trillion – more than 10% of Herbert Murerwa’s national budget – has been committed to the project.

Houses are being built at Whitecliff where there are no water or sewer lines. By the way, does the city have the capacity to provide water to these areas considering its own admission that its infrastructure is already stretched to the limit?

Whatever happened to the promise by Water Resources minister Munacho Mutezo in April that “within the next one or two weeks” government would announce how the Kunzvi dam project would be financed?

Then there was an announcement that tarred roads were no longer necessary in new housing projects. Shortcuts like this are not new.

Remember that other event – the fast-track land reform exercise? It was declared officially over in 2003. But can we say that land seizures are over in Zimbabwe? Are our rulers so inane they cannot distinguish between a process and an event?

The land reform programme was an event. It was a phenomenon characterised by violence, deaths, dispossession, theft, arson, looting and poor planning. The declaration that the land reform was complete and had been successfully concluded meant that the show was over. What is becoming an elaborate and painful process is cleaning up the mess; like the aftermath of a youth party in your back garden. The regeneration of the trampled lawn and that flattened ornamental shrub is a process and not an event. That is how elementary it is.

There are more examples of this. On the eve of the election, the airwaves were opened to the opposition. The police surprisingly exercised restraint when dealing with crowds. This was democracy at work, our rulers told us. This showed us that “Zimbabwe was now a mature democracy”, the state media blared imperiously. What impertinence. By allowing the face of Morgan Tsvangirai on television, Zimbabwe became a mature democracy overnight. My foot!

This is how our political leaders conceive development, be it social, political or economic. It has to be a big splash, someone flicking on a switch and all our problems are over. This does not work.

The big splashes on Gideon Gono’s monetary policies or the budget statements or the launch of economic programmes (which incidentally never work) are mere events devoid of process – or maturity. Event management is not the same as managing a process.

Gukurahundi, farm invasions, Posa, Aippa and now Murambatsvina. Do we ever learn how to do something properly without threats, violence or destruction?

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