THAT President Robert Mugabe has elevated his birthday to a State occasion and got away with it is at the root of everything that is tragically wrong with Zimbabwe: too much power for one person to have.
Source: No one can accuse Chipanga of being a patriot – NewsDay Zimbabwe March 3, 2017
echoes: CONWAY TUTANI
This was patently evident as Mugabe’s 93rd birthday celebrations held at Matobo last Saturday.
Everyone — including senior civil servants such as permanent secretaries — had to be there despite the fact that the event should not have official State status.
No one begrudges Mugabe celebrating his long and hitherto healthy life, but conflating private and State occasions is plainly indefensible in a true democracy.
This is exacerbated by the fact that Mugabe is a maximalist — someone who does things to the maximum or in grand style despite all the mess around him, much of it of his government’s own making. Thus, the celebrations have become divisive.
This is in stark contrast to the minimalist Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who has completely done away with such official and pseudo-official self-congratulatory and self-glorifying extravagance to channel funds to provide services to the poor, where, without overstating the obvious, they are most needed. It’s a no-brainer.
It’s not that the “usual suspects” — the private media and the opposition — are hyper-ventilating about it just because Mugabe, their nemesis — not exactly in the sense of “resident evil”, but that formidable and wily opponent who, time and again, has frustratingly proved difficult to defeat — is involved.
It’s because Mugabe has proved to be his own spoilsport by infusing matters which detract from his birthday. It’s not about stalking or being obsessed with Mugabe.
The celebrations have become so intrusive with civil servants and even mere villagers press-ganged into making “donations”, companies that are failing to pay employees made to fund the function and flight advertisements in the media they can ill-afford in praise of Mugabe, and the monopoly ZBC-TV obliged to broadcast the proceedings from start to finish, shelving all other programmes, making this compulsory viewing.
This offends people’s sense of civility to celebrate with Mugabe by putting aside political differences for that one day and resume rivalry the next day, as happened during his wedding to the then Grace Marufu in 1996 when Zimbabweans across the political divide came. People are not mean-spirited when things are done properly.
But, if not, the sense of occasion is totally lost. If you want to hold a party, foot the bill. Simple as that and, again, a no-brainer.
As if that was not bad enough, the star of the event was none other Zanu PF youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga, who has been handpicked, it’s quite obvious, to lead the onslaught against party rivals seen as a threat to Mugabe’s unyielding and tightening grip on power.
Chipanga’s youthful over-enthusiasm has come in handy in Mugabe’s barely disguised attacks against fellow Zanu PF leaders, showing it’s not just the opposition he has problems with.
Chipanga ordered senior party officials, including the two State Vice-Presidents, to shout slogans to prove their loyalty and they obliged.
As if that was not enough public humiliation, he then told them to get to their feet and dance, and they did so.
Mugabe then duly profusely thanked Chipanga for organising the so-called million-man march last year to demonstrate support for Mugabe against internal rivals.
It’s not that one holds a brief for Chipanga’s targets who, by the way, are complicit in their abuse, but that the system needs to be exposed for what it is for all to see.
The way these people are running away with the party is the same way they have captured the State.
So, as long as they conflate the two, they must not be left to their own devices. They must be stopped. We cannot deal with this situation in a detached manner, but in an involved way.
Like the firebrand former youth leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC), Julius “Juju” Malema, before him, Chipanga’s utterances do not reflect respect and restraint.
The ANC said in no uncertain terms that Malema had become “a dilemma which could no longer be ignored” because he had infused “a new culture of public feuds, insults and personal attacks”.
This also very much applies to Chipanga, who is known for shouting instead of speaking. No one can accuse him of being a gentleman.
An opinion piece titled Bottle-feeding this young baby monster Juju written “By Unknown” in Sowetan, South Africa’s largest daily newspaper, in 2010 read thus: “Indeed, like many young politicians, he (Malema) is still young enough to think he knows everything, when the reality is that he has achieved little of substance in the real world.”
Likewise, the misguided Chipanga has, as if throwing red meat to a dog, been uttering loud, brash and empty promises, instead of proffering actual solutions, saying Mugabe is God-ordained and all that jazz.
It is beyond him even to start to comprehend that it is Zanu PF’s obstructionism and self-created crises that have led to the decay in major urban areas that have been repeatedly won by the main opposition MDC-T since 2000, which is building up to a humanitarian disaster.
Chipanga would rather turn a blind eye to what his benefactors are doing to their own. The kind of loose explanations he is throwing around that the shocking state of Harare and Bulawayo today has everything to do with the respective city councils should be rejected with the contempt it deserves.
In fact, his illegal crusade of allocating stands will make the humanitarian crisis in Harare exponentially worse.
In his wild and unsubstantiated accusations and claims, Chipanga has been rewriting not only history, but also economics, political science and even theology — equating Mugabe to Jesus — to particularly suit the First Family, as it has become his main job to defend them from within and from without.
It’s not that he cares that much about youths, but the princely rewards he gets for propagating the “infallibility and eternal goodness” of the First Family. In a recent article titled The Rise and Fall of Milo Yiannaopoulos: How A Shallow Actor Played The Bad Guy For Money, American analyst Dorian Lynskey wrote about the futility of debating with an unprincipled supporter of President Donald Trump:
“. . . I know I will lose because I care and he (Yiannapoulos) doesn’t care — and that means he has already won.”
Well, Chipanga similarly always wins, but for his master, not the State.
No one can accuse Chipanga — centrally involved as he is in Mugabe’s birthday celebrations, million-man march and all that jazz — of being a patriot.
Conway Nkumbuzo Tutani is a Harare-based columnist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org