Parirenyatwa should know better, doctors can’t be locked up here

SO Dr David Parirenyatwa, having one of those delusional moments that all ministers appear to suffer from, thinks he can hold doctors prisoner in Zimbabwe.


Sadc protocol states that no member state can disadvantage another by “stealing” its health workers. South Africa and Botswana are accused of using their “economic superiority” to “lure” our medical staff away. They will now have to seek permission before “stealing” them.

Can you believe the simplistic thinking behind this? Instead of creating the conditions that reward medical staff and encourage them to work in this country, they will now be held captive and told they cannot work elsewhere in the region. This will simply channel the flow to the UK and elsewhere outside Sadc where their professionalism is rewarded.

Sadc states have no business agreeing to measures that abridge the constitutional right of Zimbabwean health personnel to freedom of movement. And the step, like all the other misguided measures aimed at controlling the symptoms of misrule, will simply not succeed in keeping doctors and nurses locked up here. This is another attempt by the government to emulate King Canute in commanding the waves to recede. Dr Parirenyatwa should know better. How long ago was it that Zimbabwe was attracting the best staff the continent had to offer? There were no complaints then.

Then, in the same edition of Monday’s Herald, we learn that “deregulation of the oil sector pays off”. But at the same time, the Minister of Education is busy regulating fees in the private-schools sector.

Is there any policy coherence here?

Further evidence of ministerial delusionalism comes from Joseph Made who claims that the national beef herd has declined significantly over the past four years due to successive droughts and foot-and-mouth disease.

In other words, it has nothing to do with farm invasions and the wholesale slaughter of cattle that followed?

Improved harvests in the 2005/6 farming season would boost confidence in the beef and dairy sectors, Made claimed.

Will the owners of Zengea Farm which houses the Red Dane Dairy, occupied by a Zanu PF MP recently, agree that confidence has been boosted? The MP’s invading gangsters have taken over the butchery and occupied the butchery manager’s house. Didymus Mutasa signed the offer letter, we gather.

Again, what is the policy here? What climate of predictability has been established by this attack upon a productive business that served the national interest? The National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP) depends upon investment for its success. Who in their right mind would invest in dairy production after this episode?

The Sunday Mail carried what must represent the most delusional lead story to date on how inflation was “set to tumble”.

You could hear the laughter across the land. None of the “experts” cited in the heading actually said any such thing. That’s because there isn’t a single credible economist who would put his name to such a claim. And it is all based on NEDPP being a panacea plus “a good summer harvest”.

Inflation-drivers such as power and fuel shortages and the scarcity of forex are all being addressed, we are told.

“NEDPP has been designed to respond to these challenges and already there are signs that a turnaround is in prospect,” the Sunday Mail, in best Pollyanna mode, assured its readers.

The story was supported by an editorial which sought to “explode the whole myth about inflation figures”. Don’t panic, we are told. It was expected that the figures would keep shooting up until Zimbabwe began to reap the fruit of efforts that are being made to stimulate the economy.

“The figures are a reflection of the fact that Zimbabwe is under siege,” the Sunday Mail said. “Once productivity reaches the required levels things will start to change.”

Claims that Zimbabwe’s levels of inflation were catastrophic for a country that was not at war were “a big lie”, the Mail said. “Zimbabwe is at war!”

“It is in the middle of an economic war. Zimbabwe is under sanctions.”

Indeed, the country is under siege — by its rulers. The most damaging sanctions are not those preventing this government from borrowing from the IMF. Why should it anyway be dependent upon an organisation the president has described as an enemy? No, the most damaging sanctions are those imposed by a regime that has sabotaged commercial agriculture, printed money to buy its way out of an inflationary fix, alienated investors by seizing property protected by bilateral agreements, threatened to seize mines and other businesses, manipulated elections, and preached a gospel of intolerance and hate towards civil society and the opposition.

The state media, that has played a prominent role in trying to justify this misrule, now pretends that all our problems, including four-digit inflation, stem from the fact that Britain and the US have cut lines of credit.

In other words, newspapers that should be telling the truth about the state of the economy, are lying to their readers not only about the cause of the problem but also its likely outcome.

“It is amazing how much capacity we have to generate electricity internally which is not being fully exploited, and once authorities get on top of the situation inflation will take a knock,” the Mail said.

Since when have the authorities ever got on top of the situation? And when was this extra capacity first noticed?

It won’t be long before a smile returns to the faces of Zimbabweans, the paper’s editorial concluded.

This is sunshine journalism run riot. The Sunday Mail should stop behaving like Mark Twain’s character, the little girl who saw everything through rose-tinted spectacles. Newspapers shouldn’t be in the business of deception. There is no recovery around the corner because those currently mismanaging the economy couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag, let alone around any corner. Ask Herbert Murerwa. We have no doubt he would provide an honest answer on the prospects for recovery if approached for comment.

But how much disclosure can we expect from a newspaper that repeatedly quotes Swedish ambassador Sten Rylander as saying Western sanctions were hurting ordinary people when he has publicly denied saying any such thing? He did say however that the distortion of his remarks in the state press made bridge-building very difficult.

And how long can we go on calling the various crises we are experiencing “challenges”? We can understand ministers, in the business of dissembling, describing the collapse of the rule of law, economic decline and 1 000% inflation as “challenges”. But even businessmen who don’t want to cause offence in official circles now refer to the “challenges” the country faces. Should they not be calling a spade a spade? These challenges are, after all, entirely man-made.

Our prize for this week goes to Fungai Mutseyekwa, vice-president of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe, who was quoted as saying the theme of this year’s HAZ Indaba was informed by “the challenging economic challenges” facing our country.

“Rather than continue in a state of what someone called ‘analysis paralysis’,” he said, “we felt that congress this year should be used as an opportunity to discuss solutions.”

Admittedly, the challenges repetition could have been the work of a sloppy sub-editor. But what HAZ appears not to recognise is that the only solution to our problems is to get the boulder out of the road. Only when the obstacle is removed can organisations like HAZ get down to exploring their theme of “Great ideas for hospitality revival”. Until then — as in agriculture, mining and manufacturing — there will be no revival, and the sooner people understand this the better.

It appears the lie about land reform being a tool of empowerment is beginning to unravel. The Herald reports that over 423 880 children of school going age are engaged as labourers on the farms.

The Central Statistical Office attributed this to “general poverty and economic hardships”. The children out of school represent almost 16% of the child population in the country.

The CSO said most of the children working as labourers should have been at school but their parents can’t afford the fees and other costs.

Topping the list of delinquent provinces is Mashonaland Central with 21% of children who never attend school, followed by Manicaland at 18%.

In a way all this proves one thing that we have been saying: that all the claimed gains of Independence about free education and free health are being systematically reversed by an incompetent regime that can never get its priorities right. If people had been empowered through land reform they should find it easy to send their children to school. Instead we have more dropouts now than at any other time recorded. Add to this lost generation, the victims of on-farm displacements and those made homeless by Operation Murambatsvina and you have a disaster in the making.

In another country such shocking revelations would force the minister to resign. In Zimbabwe nothing is too shameful to countenance.

Muckraker was struck by a number of statements made by officials in the wake of Benjamin Paradza’s reported application for refugee status in New Zealand.

First we had George Charamba making silly remarks about New Zealand being one of Britain’s overseas territories.

“It’s a known fact,” he claimed, that it was “part of the British establishment”.

Known only to him, it would seem. New Zealand has been an independent sovereign state since 1907. It formulates its own immigration policy and Britain has no say in it. Wouldn’t it be better for government spokesmen to simply describe New Zealand’s action as “unfortunate” rather than advertise their ignorance at the same time?

Then we had police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena saying Paradza should return to face “the wrath of the law”.

He needs reminding that the law should be impartial, not “wrathful”. It is precisely because the public see the Zimbabwe law-enforcement system as “wrathful” on behalf of a vengeful state that so many people become refugees when they would in a fair process have no case to answer.

The Herald report referred to Paradza’s claims that he would be punished for making a series of judgements “in defiance of government’s wishes”. The Herald helpfully inserted the following: “However, many judgements have been passed against the Zimbabwean government by judges in both the High Court and the Supreme Court and nothing sinister has happened to them afterwards.”

Would former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay share this view? And what about Justice Fergus Blackie? Judges have been hounded off the bench by this regime and that is a fact the international community will take into account when granting asylum or formulating its response to Zimbabwe’s pleas for bridge-building.

The Sunday Mirror carried an interesting comment on Zanu PF’s slogan about land being the economy and vice versa. Apparently those who took over Zimbabwe’s commercial farms have not converted them into a viable economic resource.

The paper said those who took over the land “were selling the country down the river”. They lacked commitment, willpower and drive, the paper said.

In a rare moment of truth-telling, the Mirror pointed out: “They took over the farms when the previous farmers had already sown, and they reaped lucratively. But when it came to sowing on their own, the riches they had envied and envisioned would be theirs until thy kingdom come could not materialise without hard work.”

In fact the party is not over yet. There are reports that orange estates are being plundered in the Mazowe area while Triangle and Hippo Valley Estates which supply sugar are being reduced to tiny plots that can’t meet national requirements, let alone exports.

It’s time to call a spade by its name — it’s only a matter of time before most of these greedy looters desert those farms that they have laid waste.

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