By Denford Magora
THERE hasn’t been this much buzz in our political environment since the elections of 1980. The reason for the current buzz, of course, is Simba M
akoni. The mere prospect of this man running for president seems to have galvanised the nation.
Even our fossilised government, which can not move to sort out electricity, water, food and common shortages now stirs from its Jurassic sleep to throw brickbats at him, courtesy of Nathaniel Manheru. They are afraid. They are very afraid.
To start with, for the first time in ages, one is hearing people who would not normally vote, declaring that they now have a reason to go and register.
The “intellectual set”, as they are often called, are aware that Makoni is a brilliant man who knows what is wrong with the country and how to fix it. Those who have engaged the man in the last couple of years can also testify to the fact that he has a clear idea of the causes, effects and remedies for our ills.
We are sure that Makoni will not, like the leadership that holds power now, simply blame sanctions and fold his arms, asking his opponents to get the sanctions lifted so that he is able to deliver a better Zimbabwe. He does not appear to be that sort of navel-gazer.
Even if he acknowledges that the refusal to grant balance of payments support and the banning of the country from Bretton Woods are forms of sanctions, even if he agrees that the Zimbabwe Democracy and Recovery Act in the USA is a form of economic sabotage against Zimbabwe, he is intelligent enough, resourceful enough and committed enough to bring better strategies anchored in the eternal laws of economics to ensure a swift and sustained turnaround.
Some amongst the intellectual set, however, appear to be fearful that, although he is all of these things, Makoni may not have a way to reach the masses. In other words, there is a belief among the intellectual set that Makoni is intelligent but he may not have broad enough support within the population to guarantee election to the presidency. Call it the Mbeki syndrome. This is a bit condescending really. The people know this man as a former finance minister. They know him as a former leader of Sadc. The know him to be straight-talking.
They have heard him express his own frustration at the current leadership’s belief that citing sanctions is enough to release them from their obligation to deliver a better economy and a better society for the people who trust them to do so, the people who voted for them.
Because Makoni has a track record, because when he ran the economy things worked, because he knows the meaning of the word responsibility, because we can be sure that he has not only read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations but also understands it, the masses appear set to sweep him into office if he runs.
For, if the reactions one hears from cross sections of society these days are anything to go by, Mugabe is a baby with sweets and Makoni need not exert himself to take the sweets away. He is, in fact, sure to garner enough votes to brush aside not only Mugabe but Morgan Tsvangirai as well.
The problem at the moment is the man’s silence. Is he hedging his bets? No one also knows whether he has set his mind on taking the presidency, which appears to be his for the asking. Has he decided to run or are there just people urging him to do so and he has neither accepted nor rejected the offer?
There is also now the argument that time is of the essence. That is nonsense. The widespread affirmation of his suitability since his name filtered out means that he could even start campaigning in mid-February and still win. Still, to win overwhelmingly as would suit a candidate as popular as he is would require a bit of exertion. Hence Makoni should announce sooner rather than later if he is genuinely interested and is not toying with the people of Zimbabwe.
He should also be aware that his silence since the story leaked out has simply confirmed his plans to the people.
To let them down now, when so much time in which he could have disowned the story has passed, would risk alienating people form his candidacy forever.
For, indeed, one of the traits the masses are looking for in their future leader is decisiveness. If he appears indecisive now, they may well turn around and declare that “haasi kuziva zvaari kuda” — he does not know what he wants. This is perhaps the greatest danger Makoni faces now.
This was the undoing of Tsvangirai who could have captured State House by default. That is to say, not through the attractiveness of his policies but simply because his name was not Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai’s indecisive behaviour (will he or won’t he take part in elections etc), compounded by his obvious tendency to behave like an “African strongmen” meant that he could no longer excite any passion except amongst his die-hard supporters and those who follow the crowd and are too lazy to think for themselves. Fortunately there are not many of this species in our educated country. Which is good for Makoni.
The screams and shouts currently coming from government spokesmen and their runners do not count for anything.
It is sad for democracy but the truth is that the people in government today no longer have any influence with the masses. No matter how many column inches are wasted on an issue in the government press, they cannot influence people to change their minds.
Whenever government opens its mouth, people expect to be lied to. We all stood in the queues at the bank and I am sure every one of us experienced the distrust directed towards government.
As our so-called governor lied through his teeth about queuing for cash being “a thing of the past in the next few days”, as he falsely announced the demonitisation of the $200 000 bearer cheque, as he, for the millionth time blamed shadows for his bank’s failures, people closed their ears to all official word and simply said “we will see for ourselves”.
Ask yourself this: Since 1997, which government or official projection has ever proved correct. Harvests, GDP growth, foreign currency inflows, shortages and indeed the economy as a whole has been subject to the economics of throwing bones by this government. Not one of these has come to pass. Street kids and new born babies, would also tell you now that they know for a fact that there will be no “Mother of All Agricultural Seasons” this year. And they can even tell you why.
They know that inflation is not going to come down despite what the ridiculous minister of Financial Prophecy says. They know that the government does not know how to use the massive gold, diamond and platinum resources we have to earn foreign currency. To make matters even better for Makoni, the majority of our people now also take the view that anything praised by the government can not be good and anything badmouthed by them and their agents has to be excellent.
So, put next to Simba Makoni, no one currently in power or wanting the power compares even remotely. People look at Simba and see someone they can trust. They look at him and see someone who is living with them and knows their troubles, not someone who appears to visit occasionally from Uranus and expresses fatuitous opinions far removed from their reality.
Simba Makoni, the nation has opened its arms for an embrace. Are you going to embrace them, slap them in the face or turn away with tears in your eyes?