THE meeting between the government and civil servants to discuss the payment of outstanding 2016 bonuses has once again exposed authorities’ desperate lack of ideas and bankruptcy.
Hopelessly broke and clueless, the government has proffered “options” as to how the 13th cheque row can be settled.
One of the so-called options is the distribution of serviced stands in lieu of bonus in cash. Under this plan, the government pays 50% of the bonus in the form of land and the other half comes in the form of staggered cash payments.
The other and by far the most ridiculous option is the payment of bonuses in the form of a dividend where, instead of paying the workers directly, the cash will be invested in money-market instruments which will presumably yield a return down the line. This outlandish option was described by the Apex Council representing civil servants as “laughable”.
Is anyone surprised that the civil servants flatly rejected these preposterous offers? It is mindboggling that government would want to pay bonuses in the form of land. Who does not know that serviced stands cost far more than what the civil servants are owed? And who in the middle of such a liquidity crisis wants a stand instead of cash?
If you give civil servants their money, they will decide on their own what they want to buy; be it stands or beer!
It’s their money after all. As for the huge money-making project, whose exact details have not been made available, civil servants dismissed it for the nonsense that it clearly is.
Government has a rich history of bungling projects and ruining institutions such as Ziscosteel and the Cold Storage Company which have been reduced to empty shells due to mismanagement, gross incompetence and corruption.
This makes it understandable why the civil servants found it ludicrous that government officials would even mention the words “project” and “profitable” in the same sentence — given their appalling record of failure.
This is yet another damning indictment on President Robert Mugabe who reversed Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s decision to suspend or freeze bonuses in the face of depleted coffers. Mugabe’s populist intervention that bonuses — even if the money is not there — must be paid was a pathetic case of self-defeating grandstanding.
That teachers have given notice to go on strike over the issue shows Mugabe is now well and truly hoisted by his own petard.
At a time when the poor are struggling to make ends meet with many forced into street vending to keep body and soul together as a result of economic disaster, Mugabe’s desperately broke regime has imposed a 15% value-added tax on all meat and cereals. You don’t need to be an economist to realise that this is likely to trigger a sharp increase in the price of most basic foodstuffs. That’s what protectionism without production does.
The unbelievably cruel tax, which became effective this week, was introduced by Chinamasa and affects all meat products — including offals and fish — rice, maheu and margarine.
The government, after spending US$70 million in the last two years on Mugabe’s globetrotting spree, is now looking to milk poverty-stricken taxpayers to finance such escapades, among other scandalous expenses. This is nothing short of disgraceful. It is one thing to be incompetent and corrupt, but quite another to be so insensitive.
The arrest of MDC-T councillor Themba Nyoni over allegations that he undermined Mugabe by saying that he was now too old to rule is yet another example of the embarrassing levels of paranoia and bootlicking entrenched in the state.
He made the alleged remarks to National Heritage minister Abednico Ncube who subsequently caused his arrest.
The minister who, bizarrely, was tasked by cabinet with helping police hunt down witchdoctors, understandably wants to show his appreciation to Mugabe after a ministry was created to accommodate him, but surely getting people arrested for saying the obvious is evil. That Mugabe is now very old — he will be 93 in 18 days’ time — is now just like saying tomorrow is Saturday. So is Ncube suggesting that people must now be arrested for saying the sun will rise tomorrow?
Even if Ncube wants to please Mugabe and act as his gatekeeper, does he have to act like a dangerous buffoon by getting angry over such a self-evident truth?
Dancing on graves
Zanu PF has changed the venue of Mugabe’s 93rd birthday bash, an opportunity for party members to sing wretched praises for their failed leader — which will come at a time when the country’s masses are starving and the majority reeling from grinding poverty.
The party jamboree, always celebrated with razzmatazz in a sea of poverty, was initially scheduled for Hazel Site in the picturesque Matobo National Park. The problem with this, of course, is that the place is a few kilometres from Bhalagwe, the local version of Auschwitz concentration camp, a network of extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II.
In Gukurahundi’s case, up to 20 000 people were killed in the massacre. The victims and their relatives are still crying out for justice, healing and compensation. Mugabe has never apologised for what he has gaily described as “a moment of madness”.
How on God’s green earth does Mugabe want to hold a birthday bash — characterised by wining, dining and merry-making, on top of the graves of the innocent victims of his genocide?
Unsurprisingly, there was national outrage over this brazen show of insensitivity and barbarism. Such scary levels of barbarity have become Zanu PF’s stock-in-trade. Not long ago, the regime threw an US$800 000 birthday gala for the Dear Leader in Masvingo in the midst of a drought and starvation. This time round, they have settled for the Rhodes Estate Preparatory School “because they no longer had time to prepare” the initial venue. What a threadbare excuse! Rhodes Estate Preparatory School is an all-boys’ private boarding school in Matopos, 40km south of Bulawayo near the Matobo National Park.
So what difference does this make? In fact, this makes it worse.
It is clearly lost on Mugabe and his dwindling band of supporters — who always posture as anti-imperialist — that holding their party at Rhodes Estate Preparatory School carries a dramatic irony.
History is written on the walls of many caves of the Matopos, but it is the grave of the famous Ndebele King Mzilikazi buried in the hills a short distance from the park and Rhodesian founder Cecil John Rhodes interred around there on the “View of the World” site that many tourists travel there to see.
Rhodes, buried next to the Ndebele king as a symbol of conquest, however, had a sneaking admiration of the “noble savage” — as he described Mzilikazi — hence, like George Watts, he once wrote:
“He (Mzilikazi) had desired to be buried seated upright on the summits of his kingdom, so that even in death he might look at the limitless expanse below him … what a poet that man was!”
From the top of the sacred hills the scenery stands out so vividly that it adds to the tapestry of mysticism and folklore to a land of kings and rulers, black and white.
That, coupled with bygone Ndebele myths and fables, makes the hills historically important.
Besides, Matobo Hills are a consecrated place for the local community, which still uses them as their shrine and sacred site closely linked to social and economic activities for traditional and religious ceremonies.
So that’s why locals are saying holding the party in such a sacred place is simply as bad as partying on a graveyard, which Mugabe and his barbaric supporters want to do without shame.