THE humiliating chasing away of 10 cabinet ministers from the ruling Zanu PF government by angry Chingwizi camp residents in Nuanetsi, bitter over their treatment since being evacuated from flooded areas around Tokwe Mukosi Dam in Masvingo, signals a growing lack of patience with authorities and frustration over unfulfilled promises to suffering victims of the disaster.
Defying an intimidating police presence and Zanu PF bigwigs, close to 3 000 flood victims refused to chant the party’s slogans and to listen to ministers who had visited them deliver yet more promises.
The villagers have been complaining that since February when they were moved to Chingwizi in Mwenezi they had received endless unfulfilled promises from government on alleviating their dire crisis.
The ministers, among them Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo, Information minister Jonathan Moyo, Agriculture minister Joseph Made, Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora, Energy minister Dzikamai Mavhaire, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, and Environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere, had visited the camp to convince the villagers to move to one-hectare plots allocated to them.
However, the flood victims refused to budge, demanding promised compensation from government first as well as four hectares of land for each family.
The villagers told the ministers they had had enough of their changing of goalposts and no longer wanted them to continue lying to them, and booed the party heavyweights when they tried to address them.
The ministers had no choice but to leave “with their tails tucked between their legs”, reports said.
Their actions seem to have woken up government out of its slumber and galvanised it into action, if discussions in the politburo are anything to go by.
The politburo discussed the plight of flood victims, and directed Chinamasa to source funds to compensate affected families.
“There is quite (some) resistance from the people affected in terms of going to areas they have been allocated, only 357 so far have accepted going to those areas out of about 2 640,” said Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo.
“The decision of the politburo was that minister Chinamasa should find the money to compensate those people so that they are moved as quickly as people from that area.”
What happened to the government ministers is a result of the ruling party taking people for granted for too long, analysts said, pointing out there would be a growing chorus not of praise singing, but for government to walk its talk.
Among the recent major promises dished out by the ruling party was last year’s election pledge to create 2,2 million jobs in the next five years under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.
However, the reality is that thousands continue to lose jobs as more companies scale down or close shop altogether in the face of a hostile operating environment characterised by a debilitating liquidity crunch.
Despite numerous promises, government has also failed to improve the provision of basic services like clean water, refuse collection and electricity supply.
Many urban areas are going without electricity for long hours while the rural electrification programme has ground to a halt.
President Robert Mugabe has set up a cabinet commission to tackle the water problem, but there is scepticism over its ability to deliver as numerous other commissions have failed to achieve their missions.
In January this year close to a million orphans and disadvantaged children who depend on state assistance under the Basic Education Assistance Model almost failed to access education as government failed to avail funds.
The jury is still out on government’s promises to deal with widespread corruption given that the Anti-Corruption Commission was an abject failure as it was not funded to carry out its operations. Despite sensational revelations of graft at state entities and local government, no high-profile arrests have been made.
Senior Africa Researcher at Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, said the grim situation at Chingwizi transit camp has unmasked government’s gross insensitivity and lack of care to address the plight of thousands of people who lost their livelihoods in the floods.
Mavhinga said: “The displaced at Chingwizi are a shining example of courage and determination in the face of oppression at the hands of a callous government. They managed to say directly to Zanu PF ministers that their government is full of empty promises and people simply do not eat promises.
“A take-away lesson from the action of Chingwizi villagers is that the only way to ensure protection of our fundamental rights is through taking a stand and demanding action.”
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute Director Pedzisai Ruhanya said the Chingwizi villagers’ defiance shows their situation is one that should not be taken for granted as they were not demanding any favours but their basic human rights.
“It does not require political grandstanding but real efforts to compensate these people and improve their conditions of life including the welfare of their children who require basics such as education, water and health. It should also be understood that these rights are enshrined in the new constitution,” said Ruhanya.
“The confrontation and determination is a result of months of lies and neglect as well as broken promises by these ministers who now want to perform a publicity stunt rather than make genuine efforts to help the distressed families. The confrontation tells us citizens no longer fear politicians but are demanding that they be accountable.”
Ruhanya said jobs, well-equipped health facilities, fighting corruption and delivering basic services were promises that would not materialise “unless and until the politics of Zimbabwe are liberalised and democratised”.
“The economic regeneration of Zimbabwe is tied and linked to the political democratisation and regeneration. This misguided view that there can be liberal marketisation of the economy without concomitant democratisation is a fallacy. It is a hoax and this (Zanu PF) regime should get this simple fact right,” said Ruhanya.
Social commentator Maxwell Saungweme said it was morally wrong for government to seek politically mileage by addressing the Tokwe Mukosi villagers whom it has largely ignored since disaster struck.
“It’s encouraging to learn that people are standing up against this government that has failed to deliver basic services. Gone are the days when disadvantaged communities could be used by politicians; this is a timely eye opener and more communities should follow suit,” he said.