HomeColumnistsA nutty professor, classic traits of a banana republic

A nutty professor, classic traits of a banana republic

COVID-19 has further exposed the breathtaking levels of incompetence in the Zimbabwean government. This week, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa unveiled a massive R500 billion (US$26,2 billion) Covid-19 relief package. In comparison, the clueless chaps in Harare have announced price controls on basic goods.

Twitter: @MuckrakerZim

This disastrous “solution” was tried countless times by Zanu PF under the disastrous leadership of Robert Mugabe. The move spawned widespread shortages of goods and the proliferation of the parallel market. Repeating this blunder during the Covid-19 crisis will be catastrophic.

We know that President Emmerson Mnangagwa is an unpolished version of Mugabe, of course, but he should be warned: no junta under the sun can defy the laws of economics. It is called insanity. Whereas South Africa is working to alleviate the difficulties faced by its citizens in the face of Covid-19, Mnangagwa and his bumbling cabinet are working towards worsening an already dire economy.

Expecting the government to convincingly fight Covid-19 is to indulge in wishful thinking. Remember, this is the same government whose Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri believes that the coronavirus is a punishment from God to Westerners. How does a country fight Covid-19 under such a hopelessly inept leadership?

Nutty mathematics

The Nutty Professor, aka Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, is at it again. Ncube claimed he had used a “sophisticated algorithm” to choose beneficiaries of the ZW$180-per-household Covid-19 pocket money. This is a departure from his earlier commitment to disperse the funds through the department of social welfare.
Ncube is no stranger to irrational behaviour. Who can forget his bizarre decision to suspend the publication of year-on-year inflation statistics for the whole year after he had initially declared that inflation would be reduced to double-digit levels by the end of that year?

He has also earned notoriety for claiming that the government has registered a fiscal surplus. Where is his much-lauded surplus at this hour of need? He is claiming to be paying poverty-stricken Zimbabweans ZW$180, yet ZimStat yesterday said one person needs ZW$473 per month, just for food. How on earth does Ncube expect an entire household to survive on ZW$180 for 35 days during this lockdown?

Ncube’s laughable claim that he used a complex algorithm to determine beneficiaries raises a stink. It points to chicanery in the corridors of New Government Building where so-called sophisticated mathematical concepts are used to obfuscate the controversial spending of public funds. This has raised doubts as to whether there is even a list of beneficiaries in the first place. Perhaps this is just a public relations exercise to create the impression that the government is doing something about people’s suffering.

There are justified suspicions that if there is indeed any money being distributed, it is being done on party lines with the list dominated by Zanu PF hoodlums and supporters. Algorithms my foot!

It is this kind of buffoonery that compels Western countries to stop sending aid through government channels. There was a huge expectation when Ncube was appointed by Mnangagwa, given his impressive credentials, but he has flattered to deceive.

Just like his boss, his performance has been a damp squib amid embarrassing levels of delusion and incompetence. Ncube’s appointment has indeed been much ado about nothing.

Egg on face

Despite so many lessons from the past, the excitable Zimbabwe Republic Police made utter fools of themselves after they lost a court case in which they were arguing that journalists were not exempt from the ongoing coronavirus lockdown and needed to stay at home — with the exception of reporters from ZBC and the internet.

The ZRP also set itself up against the very government whose policies and laws they should enforce after a number of journalists, including even those from the state-controlled media, were arrested for using expired 2019 press cards.

This was despite the fact that the ever-bungling administration had made it clear that the lifespan of those cards had been prolonged. As a result, the Media Institute of Southern Africa took the case to the High Court, which duly ruled that members of the Fourth Estate, as the media professionals are fondly called, are free to use their “expired” press cards unrestricted.

From the very first day, Muckraker could not understand why the police thought journalists were not providers of essential services except for those working for ZBC and those working on the internet. We live in an era where the majority of people in the world use the internet to do their work and this includes every journalist alive.

Something should surely be wrong in the police force, but, as they say in our line of work, a clueless government gets the police force it richly deserves.

Moment in the sun

Ministry of Information permanent secretary Nick Mangwana must have enjoyed himself so much as he enjoyed a rare moment in the sun as he called potshots at some 65 Zimbabweans who returned to the country from the United Kingdom as they fled the coronavirus scourge where it is killing hundreds daily.

He must have drawn extra pleasure from the fact that some of them might have been his erstwhile nursing colleagues and there he was staring down at them from his lofty perch, tweeting:

“We received 65 Zimbabweans from the UK. Available place of quarantine is Belvedere Teachers’ College. They are refusing accommodation demanding hotels. Gvt can’t afford. Why come from a Covid19 hotspot during lockdown and demand posh facilities at stretched public cost?”

From the moment that this tweet went out, the social media went abuzz as angry Zimbabweans took turns to savagely attack the UK returnees, providing rare support to a man for whom the harshest criticism is usually reserved.

Mangwana later tweeted that the returnees had agreed to spend one night at the college, after which they would be transferred to the University of Zimbabwe for the rest of the duration of the quarantine. One fellow decided to represent the rest and sent out a letter claiming they had not demanded hotel accommodation, but refused to put up at a place without running water, sheets and blankets.

Zimbabweans duly took the opportunity to remind these dear brothers and sisters that when they went out to the UK, they were running away from such circumstances and should therefore not expect things to have miraculously changed with the interval of time.

It was as clear as daylight that from that time, government had no intention whatsoever to relocate these disappointed citizens and this gut feeling was duly confirmed when Social Welfare minister Paul Mavhima subsequently visited the facility and appeared on television declaring there was running water and everything else a human being requires, which meant they were not going anywhere.

Muckraker can only wish these comrades good luck during their stay and hope that they will be accepted where they came from at the end of the contagion. If that is not the case, we pity them, for then will need massive shock absorbers if they are to endure the gruelling daily struggles for survival that punctuate life in this jungle called Zimbabwe.

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