Mushohwe’s degree has not helped him

THERE has been much commentary on the news networks of Kenya’s fall from grace. Here was a prosperous and stable African country which in the space of a few days has descended into vi

olence and chaos.

The ostensible reason is that President Mwai Kibaki “stole” the presidential poll. With over 40 ethnic groups jockeying for position, political rivalry quickly became tribal war.

Much of the blame has been apportioned to Kibaki himself who was a tad fast off the mark in having himself sworn in when the outcome was still in doubt.

The Telegraph’s David Blair, who used to report from Harare, commented that “with blinkered and selfish obduracy, many African leaders will not relinquish power for any price. Kibaki has now joined the Robert Mugabe Club — namely the dismal circle of African leaders who are utterly convinced of their own indispensability.”

Indeed, but there is another point largely unexamined here. The outfit that got Kenya — and Kibaki — into this mess was the country’s electoral commission. Some of its own members have slammed its failure to do a good job and, in particular, its perceived pro-Kibaki partisanship.

The Kenya lesson for us all is that all parties have to agree before the election on the integrity of those conducting it. Then there can be nocomplaint when the government wins.

We don’t seem to have learnt that. Look through the list of the current ZEC officials and you will see the imprint of the state at all levels.

By the way, what happened to Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba who, we were told in 2002 had taken leave of absence from the army during the election but turned up in uniform for subsequent events?

Blair concluded his piece on Kenya with an interesting observation. The rise of an urban and articulate middle class, he said, was “slowly reducing the grip of tribalism on politics”.

“Whether the president is any good at his job might actually matter in future elections.”

Unless of course the middle class is driven out by failed policies.

Do you recall not so long ago that any reference to South Africa on ZBC had to be preceded by the word “apartheid”? Now this formulaic dogma is applied to sanctions so no state-media hack can write about sanctions without first using the word “illegal” — even when there is nothing remotely illegal about them!

All this does is illustrate a paucity of descriptive powers by the state’s apologists while at the same time underlining the extent of official prescription that so evidently takes place on a daily basis. We suspect that where columnists forget to follow the “correct” procedure, the word “illegal” is popped into the copy for them!

We now have a newcomer in the list of mandatory marvels. The word “incessant” now appears in any reference to the rains currently battering the country.

They do indeed seem “incessant”. But our worry is that “incessant” will soon become an excuse for failure.

It must be obvious to everybody by now that the mother of all agricultural seasons will fail to deliver the much-touted bounty. And that’s because there has been insufficient investment in inputs, particularly fertiliser.

So the “incessant” rains could soon become the official excuse for poor planning. Let’s wait and see.

Zimbabweans should vote overwhelmingly for President Mugabe in the March poll to “protect their sovereignty from Western imperialists”, Emmerson Mnangagwa is quoted in the Sunday News as saying.

He was addressing supporters in Lower Gweru. He said Zimbabwe was safe under Mugabe’s leadership.

Does that mean safe from inflation and economic ruin?

Mnangagwa doesn’t suggest his leader has a solution to the country’s deepening woes. He doesn’t pretend Mugabe has any policies that might rescue the nation from its plight. Instead he says Mugabe will protect us from “Western imperialists”.

That was the best he could do. What reward can he expect for this pathetic bootlicking we wonder? And how much respect will he garner praising a leader who has unleashed an economic holocaust?

The worst aspect of all this is that Mnangagwa knows better. He is not stupid like some of his colleagues. As a businessman he knows that investment from “Western imperialists” is vital for recovery. But he can’t say so. Nor can he point to a better future.

“Whites should not interfere in our country,” he says. We wonder if that includes all those shady white businessmen his party used to cultivate!

Now all they can talk about is “Western imperialists”.

Is this what Zanu PF has been reduced to? Vacant leaders and vacant minds?

Zesa CEO Engineer Ben Rafemoyo has a number of explanations for the parastatal’s steady collapse as a power provider.

Most of the distribution infrastructure should have been overhauled in the mid-1990s, he told Business Herald. But this was not possible because of lack of funding.

More specifically, Zimbabwe in 1990 “fell out” with the IMF and World Bank which had promised funding. (We thought it was more like 1998.)

Then there were the water-logged cables, power lines damaged by falling trees and vandalism.

He wasn’t asked what steps he had taken to step up security at sub-stations. Then there is the fuel problem which he wasn’t asked about. Zesa crews can no longer respond to distress calls because they have no fuel.

But Engineer Rafemoyo did have some good news. “We are no longer load-shedding consumers for more than 12 hours,” he volunteered. Let’s remember that.

But let’s not entertain the story about distribution infrastructure exceeding its lifespan. Many countries with equally ancient systems keep them running by constant maintenance. Can the same be said of Zesa?

All too often parastatal managers complain about the age of their equipment saying everything needs to be replaced. Have they tried looking after what they’ve got?

Transport minister Chris Mushohwe had an interesting explanation for why British Airways pulled out of Zimbabwe last year.

“I personally think that while it may be true that they were not having the best facilities (in Harare), I strongly suspect that the British government had a hand in the pulling out . . .” he said.

Just because the Zimbabwe government, and in particular Mushohwe’s ministry, interferes in the affairs of Air Zimbabwe, doesn’t mean other governments do the same thing.

Most successful airlines around the world today are able to succeed precisely because they make strategic decisions for themselves.

Air Zimbabwe on the other hand has been forced into a number of unprofitable routes, particularly in the Far East, for political reasons. Now, we learn from Mushohwe, “plans are underway” to fly to Brussels, Moscow and Tehran.

How many Belgians are there wanting to visit Zimbabwe? And how many Zimbabweans want to go to Moscow and Tehran? Market surveys are underway, we are told. You can be sure they don’t extend beyond Mushohwe’s desk.

On why Zambian Airways pulled out, Mushohwe was reported as saying the airline was “small and insignificant”.

Let’s remind ourselves that Air Zimbabwe had 18 planes at Independence in 1980. Now it has six! That UZ Masters degree is evidently not helping the minister with his maths.

Muckraker would like to thank the Swiss ambassador for his Christmas greetings card. It was posted in Harare on December 7, according to the Zimpost stamp, and reached the offices of the Independent on January 9. Is this a record?

Zimpost was among those state agencies advertising their slavish loyalty to the regime on Unity Day last month. “Reaching everyone everywhere” was their slogan. That should have read “Reaching everyone everywhere – eventually”.

There has been a good response to Muckraker’s “Mother of all potholes” contest with a number of nominations for the one on Prince Edward St opposite Alex Sports Club. A steady flow of water from this crater was staunched on New Year’s Day. But the hole was not filled in. Instead a sign has been placed there saying “On Duty”.

We are not sure who is “On Duty”. But it is certainly not the City of Harare or Zinwa.

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