Corruption cases are not the business of newspapers, Vice-President Joice Mujuru tells us.
The The way the cases were being exposed raised eyebrows, she told a Mashonaland West provincial women’s conference in Chinhoyi last weekend.
This must be one of the most shocking statements of recent weeks as the national press — independent as well as state-owned — work to expose the malfeasance taking place on a gargantuan scale across the land.
Forced to resign
On the very day that the Herald published Mujuru’s maladroit statement, it was announced that Zupco CEO Brian Chawasirira had been forced to resign. They agreed to part ways, a statement said regarding his departure.
The company had earlier paid him US$50 000. He also received a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado that had been bought by the company for US$148 000 two years ago as part of an exit package.
Chawasarira was accused of failing to manage the company, the Herald disclosed, resulting in it owing Redan Petroleum US$1,1 million for fuel, among other debts.
The fact that lawyers were involved in the negotiations for an exit package doesn’t make it any more palatable.
The Zupco dimension joins a growing list of state-owned companies which have parted company with their bosses and boards. Over the past month, the media across the country has exposed graft in parastatals, state enterprises and quasi-government institutions leading to an outcry over the amounts company heads were paying themselves at a time when the economy was in dire straits.
These have mostly been companies associated with or are run by Zanu PF sympathisers.
Mujuru was reported as castigating the exposure of corrupt activities in parastatals and related companies in the media saying they might be the work of “detractors bent on destroying the government and stalling its programmes”.
Don’t laugh now
Don’t laugh now, laugh later.
The public at large is likely to regard Mujuru’s statement as ill-judged and poorly timed coming as it does as the government is trying to wed public opinion to the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, government’s latest economic recovery programme.
The remarks will also be seen as naïve and potentially damaging when there is a growing consensus on the watchdog role of the press following the inauguration of the new constitution.
Most likely this episode is part of the infighting in Zanu PF where the Mujuru faction feels it has been placed at a disadvantage by the depredations and purges taking place in state enterprises.
Mirror of society
As MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora noted, it was disingenuous for Mujuru to try and gag the media. She should instead provide the evidence that the reports on corruption were calculated to tarnish Zanu PF.
Mujuru should be reminded that the media does not create reports on what is happening around us. It is a mirror of society, Mwonzora said. Need we say more?
Attend Hifa, ma’am
Hifa — the Harare International Festival of the Arts — has come under fire from Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture, Tabeth Kanengoni-Malinga, who alleges that the event appears to benefit local artistes only for its short duration and does not reap long-term benefits for “up-and-coming indigenes”, according to the Sunday Mail.
She went further, we are told, to castigate Hifa for what she believes is a disservice to local craftsmen and artistes who expect the festival to offer more business opportunities.
So here we have a minister who wants to prescribe the duration of the event and much of its content.
“The bottomline about Hifa is that it is not an indigenous product and it does not serve the interests of the indigenous people of Zimbabwe,” the deputy minister claimed.
Does she actually go to Hifa or she prepared some jargon-littered piece from her desk?
She can’t have spoken to the dozens of artistes and craftsmen who marketed their wares at the last event or enjoyed the hospitality tents. It was an amazingly popular showcase of the arts both with international performers and “indigenes”.
Parasitic Zanu PF
The most notable thing about Zanu PF is that it is entirely parasitic. It makes no contribution itself to any such event, but pounces on unsuspecting newcomer so it can claim the event as its own and then counts the cash.
“There should be a deliberate inclusion of the grassroots,” the deputy minister prescribed. “There should be a measurable contribution of the livelihoods of the artistes, an injection into the economy, a legacy in the host city and a contribution to social cohesion.”
As the deputy minister’s party has made none of the above possible, she should avoid attempting to reap where she did not sow.
Hifa head of communications Tafadzwa Simba argues that Hifa is very much an indigenous product mainly in favour of locals.
“Hifa derives its identity from the place where it originated (Harare) and has always been held, he said, which is the capital city of Zimbabwe. Of the total of 1 110 artistes who featured last year 811 were Zimbabweans.
“Many Zimbabwean artistes have benefited greatly from projects in which they have participated at Hifa.”
He gave the example of the late Chiwoniso Maraire who collaborated with Dutch group Moke which led to her performing in the Netherlands. The 2013 edition of Hifa managed to employ 1 200 workers, Simba said.
Crisis in economy
So as another week rolls by, the ruling party no longer has its tail up. The future no longer looks quite so bright. It took several months for Zanu PF to celebrate its election victory with daily attacks in the state media on a crushed opposition, only to face a crisis in the economy of a potentially more fatal dimension.
The cheering has had to stop. All parties — and indeed most newspapers — are agreed that the country cannot stand any more scandals.
Meanwhile, George Charamba has been hawking his conscience around the radio stations asking listeners what he should do with it.
“We slept on the job. That’s the bottomline,” he bewailed in his mea culpa comments.
“Zimbabweans are angry and had every reason to be angry,” he declared.
“That money which was supposed to have them entertained was being used to sponsor large lives.
“Those involved, including myself, should be made to pay. I should relinquish my position if I am not moved by my conscience. I should be moved by a higher authority.”
The prospect of that happening is somewhere between zero and nowhere.
So what’s next, Cde Charamba?
What goes around …
On a different note, MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai will no doubt be following events in Harare’s corridors of power with a quiet satisfaction. It is called schadenfreude. Or in English, what goes around, comes around.