“The sight of Chinamasa, who wore a wide grin as he prepared to cut the ribbon over bins full of litter in Rusape, will remain etched in the memory and is undisputedly the worst election gimmick of 2018. It is no surprise that he lost the election.”
THE much-trumpeted announcement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that he was cutting short his leave to deal with a crippling strike by junior doctors turned out to be a damp squib.
Mnangagwa clearly made the decision after realising that his deputy and acting president Constantino Chiwenga’s commando style of negotiation had been nothing short of disastrous after the doctors ignored his bluster, including a rant at the health workers in the dead of night guised as a press conference.
Someone needs to remind the former army general that he is now a civilian leader and no longer in the army barracks where he can bellow orders left, right and centre. The hope that Mnangagwa would resolve the impasse soon fizzled out as it has become apparent that he has cut short his annual leave not because he had a solution to end the strike that has affected thousands of patients, but to add to the number of government officials who were clueless on how to end the devastating job action.
Nothing illustrated this more than when the septuagenarian leader desperately turned to his wife Auxilia to plead with the doctors to go back to work. So much for the hype created by his announcement. The strike, which had continued for 40 days, ended yesterday. The only notable task he carried out during his return to action was receiving the credentials of foreign ambassadors. But he might as well have continued on leave. His Rambo-like return to action has really been much ado about nothing.
The Muck Awards
It is the beginning of a New Year and it would be remiss not to look back on the worst of the muck gathered in 2018. There was plenty to choose from.
Most bizarre comment
There has been no shortage of individuals who have suffered from severe bouts of verbal diarrhoea during 2018, especially as it was election season.
Opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa gave it a good shot. From his fib that United States President Donald Trump had promised to give him US$15 billion should he win the election, a claim which was hastily denied by the US government, to angering gender activists by declaring that should Mnangagwa win the election he would betroth his sister to him, the youthful opposition leader made a habit of putting a foot in his mouth.
Chegutu West MP Dexter Nduna was also in with a shout with his preposterous proposal that those who call for sanctions must be put to death before a firing squad.
However, recently promoted Major-General Anselem Sanyatwe takes some beating. Testifying before the commission of inquiry on the shooting of civilians during protests on August 1 2018, which resulted in the death of six people, Sanyatwe claimed that the soldier who was captured on camera opening fire at civilians was actually firing into the air as the gun was at a 45-degree angle. This claim, which sparked national outrage, is easily Muckraker’s pick for the most bizarre comment of 2018.
The year saw several baffling appointments, not least the appointment of the failed rhumba musician and excitable politician Energy Mutodi as Information deputy minister.
True to form, he has flaunted his penchant for seeing shadows everywhere, claiming recently that his boss, the Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, was working with various media houses in a grand plot to have him fired. The appointment of upstart Nqobizitha Mangaliso Ndlovu as Industry minister, a portfolio beset with immense challenges, also raised eyebrows. However, the most outrageous appointment for 2018 is that of Health minister Obadiah Moyo, whose medical credentials are dodgy — to put it mildly.
Investigations by this paper have shown that the former disc jockey is neither a qualified medical doctor nor a fellow of various international elite societies as stated on his curriculum vitae posted on the website of Chitungwiza Central Hospital, where he served as chief executive before being appointed into Cabinet.
Worst campaign gimmick
The general elections held last year exposed us to some desperately impoverished campaign gimmicks. Mnangagwa’s quest to appeal to voters saw him buying food at a take away outlet in Chegutu using US dollars at a time he was exhorting Zimbabweans to use mobile money, exposing shameful levels of hypocrisy.
However, even that is no match for former Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s campaign gimmick. In a bid to woo voters in Makoni constituency where he was contesting on a Zanu PF ticket, he decided to officially commission rubbish bins. The sight of Chinamasa, who wore a wide grin as he prepared to cut the ribbon over bins full of litter in Rusape, will remain etched in the memory and is undisputedly the worst election gimmick of 2018. It is no surprise that he lost the election. Talk of being dumped in the dustbin! (no pun intended).
Preposterous govt decision
Zanu PF is not new to appalling decisions as its track record over the years has shown. The year 2018 also had its moments of puzzling decisions made by government. The decision by Energy minister Joram Gumbo to ban jerry cans in fuel queues comes to mind.
The dumb decision, which was widely excoriated, was thankfully short lived as it was hastily rescinded. It has earned the energy minister the middle name “Jerry Can”. The decision by Local Government minister July Moyo to bar commuter omnibuses from entering the city centre, resulting in thousands of commuters walking long distances to central Harare was another harebrained moment of 2018.
Moyo, with egg on his face, quickly reversed the poorly thought out decision. However, the most preposterous government decision by a country mile is to maintain the fiction that the local currency is at par with the US dollar despite abundant evidence to the contrary which includes shortages of basic commodities, erosion of salaries due to the falling value of the bond note to the US dollar and the continuing shortage of fuel amid growing social unrest.
Despite boldly declaring that the local currency is pari passu with the US dollar, government will not accept payment of import duty in the local unit on certain goods, exposing its duplicity.
Comical fairytale of oozing barrels of oil
Though incompetence characterised most ministries, some have been clearly worse than others. The worst performing ministry is a tight race between the Transport and Health ministries. Transport minister Joram Gumbo has for most of his tenure looked like a rabbit in the headlights, as his ministry has been utterly clueless in finding solutions to the fuel queues that resurfaced last year.
Gumbo has become a figure of ridicule as he has declared that fuel is readily available despite long, winding fuel queues as motorists desperately search for the precious liquid at service stations countrywide.
His utterances bear an uncanny resemblance to those of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, a former Iraqi diplomat and politician. He came to wide prominence around the world during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, during which he was the information minister under president Saddam Hussein, acting as the spokesperson for the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party and Saddam’s regime. He is best known for his grandiose and grossly unrealistic propaganda broadcasts before and during the war, extolling the invincibility of the Iraqi army and the permanence of Saddam’s rule — despite evidence to the contrary.
This earned him the moniker “Comical Ali”. Zimbabwe’s Health Ministry has not only been rocked by the appointment of a minister with questionable credentials but also by a 40-day strike by doctors over poor working conditions and pathetic salaries. The strike put the lives of thousands of patients in danger, as the ministry failed dismally to address the impasse. Therefore, it has been a photo finish in the race to the bottom for the dreadfully performing ministries in 2018.