Patronage, ignorance: The twin evils of greed

via Patronage, ignorance: The twin evils of greed – The Standard January 26, 2014  by Desmond Kumbuka

Leafing through an August 2012 edition of the respected Financial Mail magazine, I came across an article in which editor Barney Mthombothi wrote scathingly about the non-performance of South African MPs.

He was brutal in his assessment: “They are the most pampered, over-paid do-nothing nobodies on earth.” I was starkly reminded of our own for-ever whining legislators, many of whom seem to spend their time day-dreaming of a life of luxury at the State’s expense.

Now we read that many of the ex-legislators from the 7th Parliament are faced with destitution. Some, we hear, are having to scrounge around for money from banks against allowances owed to them by Treasury.

The impression created by this sad turn of events is that these were career MPs whose only source of income was their parliamentary positions. Must we assume then that before they were elected to parliament they had no other source of income or that they abandoned their professional pursuits to devote their entire lives to politics. Is that logical?

This is a fundamental weakness of African political systems which turn politicians who happen to find their way into the government structures into dependents or parasites of the State.

In more advanced democracies, those that aspire for political office must have the financial wherewithal to support their campaigns without looking for government bail-outs. The situation our ex-legislators find themselves in is a national disgrace and embarrassment.

It is a poor reflection of the state of our democracy. While many may consider that a system that allows any Jim, Jack or Jill to aspire for political office is truly democratic, mendicant legislators will invariably spend more of their time pondering how to overcome their own poverty before they can start to think of improving the lives of people in their constituents.

Listening to some of the pre-occupations of our legislators, one is left wondering whether their motivation for becoming MPs was the well being of their electors or whether to them, this was a step up to the gravy train. Their endless demands for new vehicles, allowances and all kinds of perks, and their evident lack of concern about whether government can afford to meet these demands, is disconcerting.

This is all because of the opaque patronage culture upon which Zanu PF has crafted its support which, mark my words, will one day prove to be its Achilles’ heel.

A self-confessed Grade Two drop-out has found his way into parliament purely because he is a member of the ruling party. While this could be a perfectly responsible citizen with the best intentions for the country at heart, his lack of academic credentials invariably imposes limitations on his ability to grasp and articulate issues competently.

While the rather loquacious Joseph Chinotimba may deliver amusing anecdotes in his blandishments in parliament and other fora to which legislators are expected to contribute, it remains debatable whether the country can derive much value from his intellectual input, or lack thereof.

The country is currently facing daunting economic challenges, and the legislature is a crucial arm of government in seeking lasting solutions. One wonders whether the likes of Chinotimba have the capacity to brainstorm the complex issues involved in economic revival to be able to competently suggest corrective solutions.

For Zimbabwe, with arguably one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with hundreds of thousands of university graduates working at home and abroad, it is astounding that we end up with a parliament full of illiterate or semi-educated nonentities whose pre-occupation for the duration of their parliamentary tenure, is feathering their own threadbare nests.

Many of them are aware of their limitations and do not fancy their chances for a second term so they make hay while the sun shines.

The situation of our MPs is not unlike that of the hordes of beneficiaries of the Zanu PF patronage who populate the perennially loss-making parastatals. Many of the “managers,” appointed purely on the basis of their support for the ruling party, know that once their performance is put under the miscroscope, their chances of survival are virtually nil, so they use their temporary tenure at the helm of companies they lead to loot whatever they can before they are inevitably booted out for incompetence.

Fortunately for them, the system is so sluggish and impervious that they can last for years before their errant ways are exposed.

A typical example is that of suspended ZBC chief executive officer, Happison Muchechetere, who after nearly eight years getting an inflated salary and allowances, it is suddenly discovered that he is not qualified for the job. One wonders how he got into that position in the first place and why it has taken eight long years for the authorities to wise up to the situation.

The shocking revelations that chief executive officer of PSMAS Cuthbert Dube, was earning as much as US$230 000 as his monthly salary, exposes another worrying dimension to the malfeasance manifesting in our society.

Anyone employed in a public institution to which struggling civil servants, a majority of them earning well below the official Poverty Datum Line (PDL) contribute, claiming such a disproportionate share of public resources ought to be regarded as a criminal against national interest.

Cutting the salaries of the looters at PSMAS is woefully inadequate — they should all be arrested and made to refund the money they plundered.

If Zimbabwe is serious about resolving its economic problems, then it needs to be equally serious about the calibre of people it appoints to manage its affairs.

It is ironic that President Robert Mugabe frequently chides former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai suggesting his limited academic achievements hampered his appreciation of complex government business in the inclusive government, but is quite happy to have the likes of Chinotimba and the Grade Two drop-out to represent his party in parliament. Talk of double-standards!


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    Parliamentarians are part of the problem in not holding a profligate clueless govt to account. Cos most also clueless. Remember when in 2000 that arch fool muzenda blurted that if zanupf nominated a donkey baboon for m.p. People must vote for it…..seems the gullible electorate heeded the old pharts advise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Desmond Kumbuka it is good what you tell us.Is it anything new? No. I do enjoy reading these articles, but young man you need to prophesize with your pen.

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    ZimJim 8 years ago

    “It is ironic that President Robert Mugabe frequently chides former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai suggesting his limited academic achievements hampered his appreciation of complex government business in the inclusive government, but is quite happy to have the likes of Chinotimba and the Grade Two drop-out to represent his party in parliament. Talk of double-standards!”

    It is also ironic that Bob’s education was paid for by none other than Cecil John Rhodes!… Think about that little gem of truth!

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    John Thomas 8 years ago

    The problem Is not the legislators. It is the electorate. They will only elect those who lie to them and promise the undeliverable. This past election, aside from the obvious rigging, a lot of people changed their vote for short term relief on electric and water bills. They willfully sacrificed the future of us all for this! Even a imbecile could see the economic disaster that the land reform exercise would bring, yet a clear majority of Zimbabweans has supported it. The indiginisation program is now set to impoverish the country further and yet it is widely supported. The economic program presented at the election by ZANU is a lie at conception. You do not need to be smart or even well educated to see this. And yet a very large number I’d Zimbabweans have voted ZANU. Joseph Chinotimba won a seat! Surely we deserve what is happening to us.

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    Nyoni 8 years ago

    With all respect to the grade 2 dropout it simply shows Zanu disregard for Zimbabweans . Interestingly the Grade 2 dropout is apparently doing a better job than the one with 8 degrees and others. So given this scenario it takes dedication, commonsense,logic and hönesty to run anything well. Watch this space.

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    Rukweza 8 years ago

    Zimbos deserve suffering fullstop

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    Ndebvu Mukomichi 8 years ago

    My notes:
    Experience is the best teacher – Honourable Chinoz was educated in the trenches of the liberation war. He has degrees in survival and undurance- in war and in peace time. At the end of the day they say Bill Gates is a college dropout!, so Chinoz is in good company! Let him represent his constituents as he knows best.

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    You go to parliament yo talk about hyenas and you call that a contribution to the welfare of all Zimbabweans ? God help us.

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    masvukupete 8 years ago

    The arms of government (presidium-cabinet, parliament and Judiciary) should be the moral compass of the country. These guys should be the ones who oversee the running of the country. The most established democracies knows this through experience. These arms of government should have a goal of making the country a perfect place for its inhabitants to live in. To me that should be their goal. This however is not achievable but it must be the goal. All strategies, policies, laws, and judgments should be such that they aim to try and achieve this goal. They should understand what it is that the highest law in the land (constitution) is trying to achieve. The constitution itself should be crafted so as to try and achieve this Utopia (and it doesn’t matter if crafted by 1 person or by 13million people). The people in parliament should make laws that give the best Utopian position. For instance 1 man 1 vote in our constitution. What is it the constitution is trying to achieve through this law? In Zim the people in charge will interpret this law according to how they feel it affects them rather than what it tries to achieve. Is the law only there for us to be accepted as part of the international community or is there a lot more deeper reason for the law.

    My conclusion is that as long as our parliamentarians (and other arms of the state) cannot interpret the law according to what it is it tries to achieve we shall always have a non progressive nation. This problem is exacerbated by the inactment of laws that are foreign to our needs because we do not know what they mean. e.g. 1 man 1 vote. Do we really know what this law tries to achieve in the broader sense. This comes through in the way we organise and conduct our elections. We are an educated lot but we are not learned.

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    The only degrees ZPF have got are PHD’s in theft, corruption and violence. We will see what God thinks of all this. judgment is knocking on the door. Repent!

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    It is saddening to see illiterate people going to parliament because the clever mature Zimbabweans are not prepared to join this ugly and cruel politics of our country.I am pleased that the new social media of communication is changing people’s involvement in our politics regardless where there are.Any sensitive government should improve itself performance using these constructive criticism raised by its honest law abiding citizens.Our intentions are based on trying to let the authorities know that we are not happy with the high rate of corruption and looting within our country.
    Our government should act swiftly to control some of these naive and misguided people.We have all the required brains to take this land to prosperity,if only our government can allow us to do it without disturbance from these elements who have no clue what the war of liberation was all about.We should now forget the old system of patronage and cheap political partisanship and allow sound economic principles to lead our fragile economy.
    The salaries being paid to these so-called hard to replace CEOs are so high that no organisation can afford,thus why they are all financially empty.