SPEAKING at a luncheon after the official opening of the second session of the Eighth Parliament on Tuesday, President Robert Mugabe criticised ministers for being lazy and travelling excessively at the expense of delivery.
Candid Comment by Stewart Chabwinja
“I am fed up with too much travelling,” Mugabe was quoted as saying. “Too much travelling, very little attention is being given to practical work.”
Surely, this is irony writ large, but we’ve been here before. If anything Mugabe himself has become the embodiment of “too much travelling” with negligible practical results despite his trips being an added burden on the struggling fiscus. In just two months leading up to mid-June this year he had criss-crossed the world from Singapore to South Africa, Dubai and Bolivia as he clocked up the miles with precious little to show for it, at a time when it is increasingly clear government is reeling from a fiscal crisis.
Mugabe had a golden opportunity to tread a new path following the general elections last year by making progressive appointments reflecting a leaner, younger and pragmatic cabinet that would tackle the country’s economic crisis head on.
But true to form he chose the same failed path he has beaten for more than three decades by preferring to reward loyalty and striking a regional balance. He recycled a hopeless team amongst whose ranks are ministers who have become permanent cabinet fixtures despite abject records of failure.
Prior to the formation of the Government of National Unity in 2009, Mugabe slammed his previous cabinet as his “worst in history”.
“They (only) look at themselves, they are unreliable … The people are suffering …,” he said.
But Mugabe, accused of using a patronage network to extend his stay in power, went on to recycle the same old guard. What’s more, people are now suffering even more as his cabinet remains clueless over how to rescue the sinking economy. His economic blueprint, ZimAsset, is just a wish list, not a practical programme.
And since he has described his appointees lazy and unproductive, just how hard — or well — is Mugabe working himself? It would be interesting to find out, for instance, how many times each week he goes to Munhumutapa Buildings where his offices are. His wailing motorcade is usually only spotted on its way there once a week on Tuesdays when cabinet sits. Where does he, as President, work for the rest of the week?
If the state of the economy is a barometer of how well he is working, which we believe it is, then he too needs to pull up his socks and cut the jaunting as he exhorted his ministers.
To quote the International Crisis Group’s recently released report, Zimbabwe: Waiting for the Future, “The country faces multiple social and economic problems, spawned by endemic governance failures Zimbabwe is an insolvent and failing state…”
Mugabe must take a long hard look at himself in the mirror and do something to arrest this situation remembering that the buck stops with him.