Some scribes as useful as snow in Alaska

CONGRATULATIONS to the Financial Gazette for exposing what it calls pervasive corruption at the Ministry of Higher Education and Technology.

An internal audit, published by the paper, reveals billions of dol

lars in taxpayers’ funds were misappropriated through rampant abuse of vehicles and fuel allocations.

Ministry officials without going to tender procured vehicles worth more than $3,3 billion from local car dealers. With such intentional over-riding of procurement regulations by top management, the audit said, kickbacks could not be ruled out.

“This is fraud and corruption,” it said.

The permanent secretary in the ministry, Washington Mbizvo, had eight vehicles allocated to him which included a Pajero, Mazda Eagle, Defender, and Peugeot 607, while the minister, Stan Mudenge, had three vehicles allocated to him, a Prado, Mazda 2500, and Mazda Eagle.

“The allocation and distribution of vehicles can only be described as corrupt,” the audit said. “It is not fair, not reasonable, and not honest.”

It recommended the immediate recovery from Mbizvo of vehicles that are being used by non-civil servants such as Mrs M Mbizvo.

Ministry officials were unable to account for 32 vehicles belonging to the ministry.

Some were reported to be parked at the homes of senior ministry officials while others could have been taken to their farms, the report said.

There are 28 other vehicles not accounted for in the ministry register.

“Ministry vehicles not located at the ministry are feared to have been stolen, stripped or misused, not only by greedy and dishonest civil servants, but also by non-civil servants who have no right to use government vehicles at all,” the audit said.

Corruption is so rife in our society that this shocking report warranted only Page 4 treatment. But it is emblematic of how Zanu PF fat cats live off the carcass of the country they have destroyed. Stan Mudenge during his reign as Foreign minister was full of bombast and hot air over a largely imagined conspiracy by the West to undermine Zimbabwe. Now he heads a ministry that is rotten to the core and which has been accused of finding scholarships in the US and UK for progeny of the nomenklatura. It must be evident to all, including blind journalists, judges and policemen, where the sickness lies in our country.

The permanent secretary in the ministry, who is also the accounting officer, meanwhile needs eight vehicles to get around. His wife needs one as well. All this at a time when the country is desperate for funds to import maize and fuel.

Nothing could be more emblematic of Zanu PF’s parasitic rule than this disclosure. And nothing says more about our headlong descent into Haitian captivity than the fact that nobody will think any of this as unusual.

Meanwhile, the US government will soon introduce measures to refuse student visas to the offspring of chefs. It is a shame that the sins of the fathers are being visited upon their children. But reflect upon this reality: Pride Chigwedere is an outstanding product of Harvard University. His work in the field of HIV/Aids prevention is widely recognised. But he is the son of a minister who is busy battering away at the foundations of Zimbabwean education; a minister who is driving out qualified teachers, making the work of private schools impossible, and ensuring that the standard of education generally is reduced to the lowest common denominator.

In a word he is a disaster. Yet his son benefits from an American education. Indeed many Zanu PF chefs in the forefront of the Third Chimurenga have taken steps to ensure their kids do not endure the third-rate education their populist policies have spawned. Is it not time their children were brought home to live in the paradise their parents have built for us?

There has been much comment in the op/ed columns on the internecine fighting going on in the MDC. This is understandable. But it has enabled a number of hostile commentators to say, “told you so” — as if they had an answer to our national problems! While they are free to call Morgan Tsvangirai all sorts of names, these sniping cowards are not allowed to say a single word about the author of the country’s headlong descent into penury. So nobody takes them seriously.

Caesar Zvayi, Munyaradzi Huni etc should understand that if they want their views on Tsvangirai taken seriously, we need to hear them expose the figure at the core of the nation’s rot with the same energy. But needless to say these brave commentators can’t say a single word about Robert Mugabe’s trail of destruction!

“Tsvangirai a dictator,” declares the Herald without any sense of irony. It’s pathetic. Journalists who can only attack the opposition are as useful as snow in Alaska. How will they be remembered when their careers are weighed in the balance?

Perhaps the most thoughtful comments to date are those from liberation-war commander Wilf Mhanda who was quoted as follows in the Sunday Argus last weekend:

“The MDC leadership totally underestimated Mugabe. They believed the struggle for democracy would be hard, but they never understood he was prepared to destroy everything — them, the economy, institutions, infrastructure, the whole country and everything in it to survive. The MDC thought they could win by being right, by appealing to the majority, and they got that support, but that was never enough. Mugabe controls the security forces, the courts, the media, the intelligence services, the assets and he has perfected the system of patronage manipulating each and every person in positions of power.

“Mugabe was impossible to defeat in elections because he controls every aspect of them too. The task was too big for the decent MDC and the party neglected making inroads in the lower ranks of the army who are just as poor as everyone else.”

Doesn’t that say it all? Nobody thought Mugabe was prepared to destroy everything to win this struggle. And that is precisely what has happened. The economy has been dealt a death blow and agriculture sabotaged. The forces of law and order have been suborned and the media infiltrated, gagged or shut down.

But have those eager contestants around him thought for one minute about how they are going to rebuild this country from the ashes of his pernicious rule? Does the elevated lady have a clue? Do any of them? Or do they think there is still milk left in this cow for them to take?

Meanwhile, the rollcall of Zanu PF’s chivalry on the current field of battle reads like a joke book. Bright Matonga, Tafataona Mahoso, Aeneas Chigwedere (and his mudzimu), Joseph Chinotimba, Sekesai Makwavarara, Vivian Mwashita, and Joseph Made. These are the nation’s hope for the future!

The Department of Immigration says it is “worried” about foreigners who enter the country under the guise of asylum seekers but later disappear to unknown destinations.

Chief Immigration Officer Elasto Mugwadi was quoted in the Herald as saying: “We are worried about this trend and feel Zimbabwe is being used as a transit point for irregular migration into other countries.”
When did he wake up to this fact? Last weekend?

Nigerians were engaging in marriages of convenience, he revealed, and there was a “general flooding” into the country of foreigners “who were not employed in the formal system but led luxurious lives”.

Surely not?

Mugwadi said that over the past two months the country had accepted up to 300 foreigners who claimed they were from Somalia or Ethiopia. They were placed in various holding camps for refugees.

“When we made a check on them, they were nowhere to be found,” he said.

He seemed genuinely surprised!

Mugwadi said his department had also “discovered” that an increasing number of Zimbabweans were entering other countries “in droves” without proper documentation.

“The challenge,” he said, “is that the government loses the professionals it trained with the country’s resources to the benefit of those who never sacrificed anything.”

It seems to have never occurred to Mugwadi that creating a law-based and conducive environment for investment and growth was one way to discourage outward migration.

This of course is in contrast to bundling inconvenient journalists onto planes in violation of court orders and expelling them to South Africa. They then write stories revealing the true state of affairs in repressive and lawless Zimbabwe, thus discouraging investment, tourism and employment. This in turn leads to further outward migration.

But we doubt whether Mugwadi has “discovered” that connection yet!

The immigration boss said his department was working closely with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) which, we are told by the Herald, is governed by the principle that humane and orderly migration benefit both migrants and society. One of its officials, Nicola Simmons, was quoted extensively in the Herald’s story on illegal migration.

She should be asked how being kidnapped, having a hood placed over your head, and being held all day prior to your illegal deportation at an unknown place fits in with the IOM’s mission.

Should Ms Simmons be in bed with these people?

Readers of this column have been amused by the thought that our new national currency, to be introduced next year, according to Gideon Gono, should be called the Bob. This is in preference to the Giddy, which is how we all feel!

Needless to say, the new unit will be introduced without any improvement in macro-economic fundamentals or decline in inflation. Those proposing lopping off a few zeroes, as Brazil and Argentina did, and indeed as France did with the New Franc in 1960, fail to appreciate that without a package of measures properly implemented the new currency will be still-born. We know from experience that Gideon has no prospect of getting the looters and spenders to change their ways.

That is why we feel the Bob would be more appropriate. Many Zimbabweans still recall 10 bob being half a pound. When the dollar was introduced in 1970 its value was set at 10 bob in the old currency. In other words there were two dollars to the old pound. The one-dollar note and the 10-bob note remained interchangeable for a long time as was the five pound and 10 dollar notes.

In 1981 62 Zim cents would buy one US dollar. $2,28 would buy 1 kg of cheese. Twenty-five cents would buy a loaf of bread. Fillet steak was $2,80 a kg. A 750ml bottle of paraffin cost 41 cents. A leg of lamb was expensive at $3 a kg. A 15kg pocket of potatoes cost $3,70.

A pair of shorts for your kid starting school was $2,40. A girl’s dress was $7,70. A pair of shoes $10.

So you can see what the architects of our economic policy have “achieved” over a 25-year period. That is why they need to be remembered. A picture of Zimbabwe in ruins on the one side, and the president waving his fists in the air on the reverse would be appropriate. The logo “It’s all Blair’s fault” comes to mind.

The Bob. The successor to a currency that was worth 40 cents more than the American dollar in 1981. You will need more than one hundred thousand of them today to buy the same US dollar.

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