via Where is the President? | The Zimbabwean 14.01.14 by Jera
President Mugabe is on his annual leave and his absence has sparked speculation. Some claim he is unwell and the less reverent maintain that he has joined his ancestors. State media has since released a photograph, dismissed by analysts as a file photo, allegedly proving Mugabe’s return home from the Far East.
State radio also announced that preparations for Mugabe’s birthday bash are progressing smoothly, a sign that the President is still in the land of the living. Mugabe himself has not made any sort of public address since December. It would be irresponsible to add to these speculations. However, what is certain is that there would be very loud hooting of cars, and unrestrained dancing, on the streets of Zimbabwe.
Kettle and the pot
The war between the kettle and the pot – Munyaradzi Kereke, the MP for Bikita west and Gideon Gono – has become so loud that it is hard to ignore. Kereke alleges that Gono misappropriated millions of dollars at the central bank and the army and police benefited from the corrupt deals. Kereke, responding to Gono’s jibe about his sanity, says while working as advisor to the former governor, he professionally handheld Gideon Gono throughout his tenure and states that it is a miracle that the country’s economy survived Gono’s stewardship.
To prove his sanity, Kereke openly claims that he assisted Gono with 99% of his submissions for his PhD, which on some level is an admission of being an accessory to academic fraud on Kereke’s part. Kereke, a man whose name curiously means ‘Church’ but is no way Church-like, is trailed by the persistent stench of yet-to-be-proved allegations of rape on a minor. Neither man is a saint. What is so far clear in the ongoing feud is that 47million out of the 50million shares in National Discount House, purchased by the RBZ, are unaccounted for.
There are also allegations of the RBZ’s involvement in the foreign currency black market, which Gono at the time blamed on cash barons who he labelled ‘economic saboteurs.’ What was strange during the hyperinflation era was that a select clique of black market dealers always had the newly minted bank notes, even before they had been released into circulation. It is noble that Kereke has done the churchly thing and opened the lid on these dastardly deeds. But what everybody might want to know is why it took Kereke all of seven years to make these revelations.
If Gono devised schemes to loot money – and we know from Kereke that Gono needed to be handheld – then it is a fair assumption that Kereke was never too far from the scene of the crime, holding, as he has testified, the sticky fingers of his boss’ hand. The Gono-Kereke grudge has so far claimed the job of suspended Herald editor, Caesar Zvayi, who was sent home by media minister Jonathan Moyo after the paper ran a story that was deemed to be a personal attack on Gono, who has senatorial aspirations.
When all of this political noise is placed in a distillation flask and heated over a Bunsen burner, what will remain is a residue of Zanu (PF) corruption. Lest we forget, Robert Mugabe dismissed Kombo Moyana, accusing him of adhering to ‘bookish economics’ before replacing him with the partisan Gono who was more willing to introduce unorthodox monetary policies, such as printing money and overtly funding Mugabe’s political campaigns – remember, remember those plasma TVs, ploughs, pickup trucks and tractors that were dished out to Mugabe’s supporters, circa 2007. Gono carried out all his black market currency deals for and on behalf of The Boss. If Gono later developed a taste for dirty money and pocketed much of it for himself, The Boss is culpable, as it is he who instructed him, implicitly, to go out and find forex by hook or by crook.
A South African woman, Ncombo Theodorah Thobeka has been jailed for 15 years after attempting to saunter past customs at Harare International Airport with two kilos of cocaine. These are strange times we live in when ivory smugglers – people responsible for the decimation of the continent’s last rhinos – receive a mere verbal scolding while drug mules receive harsh penalties. With Africa’s rhino population down to 18,000, from 65,000 in the 1970s, we have reached a point where ivory smuggling is as serious an offence as drug trafficking. If Thobeka’s name was Lee, she might have got off with a smaller penalty. Even in South Africa, social double standards are evident, with black migrant workers subjected to xenophobic attacks while non-Africans are left un-harassed.
School system reform
Government has introduced examinations for grade two pupils. Education minister, Lazarus Dokora, says the need for assessment has arisen from poor performances at later stages of school. Dokora has come up with impressive words like ‘diagnosis’ and ‘performance lag.’ But the truth is that Zimbabwe’s education system does not need Josaya Hungwe’s ‘psychomotor’ or Lazarus Dokora ‘performance diagnosis.’ Poor performance by pupils is due primarily to poor remuneration of teachers, malnutrition among students, due to the high cost of living and increasing shortages of electricity. (Scientific fact: humans do not see very well in the dark).
As things stand, the government does not have the resources to pay decent salaries to existing civil servants. Examiners for grade seven and O level have gone unpaid in the past. Assessing grade two’s will require state funding – money that the country does not have. If the additional government employees recruited for the Early Childhood Development program enter the civil service to work under the existing conditions, then they too will produce the same second-rate results – new wine in old skins. Zanu (PF) has run out of ideas. No amount of labels – ministerial blabber, such as ‘psychomotor’ or ‘performance lag’ – will remove the actual problems bedevilling the education system or the country in general.
Numbers don’t lie
New World Wealth – an international information and consultancy firm – has released a report revealing the living standards of African countries. South Africa, whose late first president, Nelson Mandela, has been recently labelled a black empowerment ‘sell-out’ by envious pro-Mugabe commentators, has a wealth per capita of $11,310, up from $2,400 in 2000. Because Mandela chose reconciliation over land grabs, South Africa is the only nation in Africa to record economic growth immediately upon attaining independence.
In contrast, Zimbabwe’s wealth per person in 2000 was higher than that of new economic powerhouse Nigeria, but now stands at a paltry $570. Zimbabwe’s wealth per capita is lower than that of Botswana ($6,580) and Namibia ($10,500) – countries whose economies had until recently been regarded as inferior. According to World Bank statistics, Zimbabwe’s GDP per person fell from its highest of $732 in 1974, down to $344 in 2008.
Men lie, women lie – but numbers don’t. While Mugabe and his followers believe the country has benefited from farm seizures and nationalisation of mines, living standards have in fact dropped. We should hand out construction helmets to tourists arriving at Harare International Airport. ‘Welcome to Zimbabwe. Beware of falling standards.’ - Till next week, my pen is capped. Jerà