HomeCommentComment: Invite To Orgy Of Debauchery

Comment: Invite To Orgy Of Debauchery

IN the euphoria surrounding the signing of the power-sharing agreement between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations this week, it is easy to forget that prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai had promised a leaner and more efficient cabinet of 15 ministers.

 

At the launch of his party’s manifesto in March, Tsvangirai promised he would trim the size of cabinet from the current 52 under President Robert Mugabe to just 15, if voted into power. What has happened since March is a matter of public record, the result of which has seen Tsvangirai being part of a monolithic political edifice of 31 ministers, 15 deputies and 10 governors drawn from a parliament of over 300 MPs.

This is a line up that also includes an executive arm of government featuring six leaders, a president and two deputy presidents and a prime minister and two vices.

At the signing ceremony on Monday Tsvangirai said negotiators had made painful compromises in coming up with the agreement. We want to believe that for his party, one of the painful compromises was agreeing to add another layer of artery-clogging lard on top of an executive that we feel was already too big with two vice-presidents whose contribution to policy we have always doubted.

The opposition will argue easily that the country has to accept these power permutations because ordinary people went through a near death experience because of violence and a sham of an election. They will also argue that the nation should accept this hybrid form of government because it protects lives. But that does not stop us from asking how and why the opposition, so vocal in its condemnation of the previous government’s large cabinet, has become part of another fat structure whose agility and flexibility is not in accordance with the task to hand. We should prepare ourselves to pay through our noses once more to support this juggernaut. Zimbabwe cannot afford this. This is a not-so-good a start.

More often than not in excessively large government structures which are a result of political compromise, there is an indiscriminate division of portfolios for the purpose of accommodation and appeasement — in most instances without matching qualifications to job requirements. In the discussion about who should get what, a lot turns on the “deservingness” of the candidates and not whether the new portfolios being created are necessary.

The Zanu PF style of appointments has sometimes been instructed by simplistic notions like how unfair to deny X who spent the most time in prison while the leaders were exiled; how about Y who sang loudest and danced like a demon during presidential campaigns? How about Z who won the only urban constituency for the party?

This is the politics of reward. The spoils are distributed to supporters displaying the greatest loyalty. Next, it is the politics of appeasement — nobody important can be left out who would promptly switch loyalties to the other side.

And finally, it is the politics of pacification — all those who might create problems in their home districts would be safer eating and drinking in the capital. Add up all those who can assert a claim on the state and it turns into a very large number. As a result it has been a case of employing three butchers to the job of one baker. The opposition is trying to put out fire with petrol.

It is easy to calculate the extra cost of a large cabinet by ministers’ personal emoluments but it is far more serious than that. Each of these new ministers comes with institutional costs that run into the millions.

The new cabinet should be watched very closely to immediately identify those who sleep on the job and political merchants whose names have been mentioned in shady deals.

There is a danger of the MDC joining the “experienced” Zanu PF government in an orgy of debauchery at the expense of the nation. On Monday Tsvangirai set out the priorities of new government as food on the table and reviving the education and health sectors. To achieve this, his party should demonstrate that it is prepared to go beyond painful political compromise.

It should make painful sacrifices as well like rejecting profligacy which has been the legacy of Zanu PF; importing Mercs, Jeep Cherokees and Range Rovers for ministers when hospitals do not have drugs. We wait to see the length of the PM’s motorcade if he is going to have one, plus the length of the latest gravy train given also the number of members of the house of assembly and the senate.

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