via ZimAsset must add a line on ‘how not to be stupid’ September 9, 2014
A colleague told a story last week of how a young visiting foreign student mixed up his passport in between a bungee-jumping excursion across the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and his hotel room in Victoria Falls, the Zimbabwe side.
Upon attempting to explain and cross back into Zimbabwe, the poor student was detained and an urgent radio dispatch made to the relevant and if not the highest national security office in Harare, to the effect that a vigilant and patriotic security team in Vic Falls had arrested a “dangerous foreigner” from one of those not-so-loved countries, the neo-cols, imperialist blah blah, and that this person, now a high-value security threat, was attempting to cross the border without a passport and, as the story goes, to carry out espionage, spying, terrorism or whatever negative thing you can think a foreigner bent on causing mayhem can do.
Efforts by the poor student and his friends to explain that the passport was probably holed in some hotel room fell on deaf ears, with the usual questions being asked including who this person was, what was his mission, who sent him, who were his contacts in Zimbabwe and so on and on.
As fate would have it, the young man was thrown into custody for a good number of days while high-level investigations on his mission were being carried out.
The colleague telling the story, a good actor in his own right, mimicked the kind of questions and the characters that would have interrogated this young tourist, these would be people wearing your usual secret or intelligence service suits, with ties just hanging on there, red eyes and probably a bottle of cheap whisky close by.
The story ends with the father of this young man, one of the leading businesspersons in his country, a billionaire and potential investor, frantically calling embassies and high offices in Zimbabwe to secure the release of his son.
I am told it took very high-ranking Ministry officials to influence the settling of the matter, leading to the release of the young man.
Upon release, the young man boarded the next flight out of Zimbabwe, with horrible stories of being asked “So what was your mission?”, when all he was after was the exhilaration of bungee-jumping, sight-seeing and good memories of our beautiful country.
The memories that the young man left Zimbabwe with are horrible and key being detained for days on allegations that were unfounded and based on a hyper-sensitivity and unnecessary fear.
The young man could easily have become a tourism ambassador for Zimbabwe with good stories of his time in Vic Falls, but what he left with are negative stories of being harassed for an error that should have been resolved in no time, if only the officers handling the matter put the true interests of Zimbabwe ahead of what amount to unfounded security threats.
It is for this reason that the Zanu PF-led government need to include a line in ZimAsset on changing attitudes within the whole civil service and security sector as well as “how not to be stupid” in the service of Zimbabwe and in advancing ZimAsset.
There are many stories that cast the conduct of our national business as stupid and one such involves the City of Harare.
I cannot imagine what the conversation was like between the city mayor Bernard Manyenyeni, town clerk Tendai Mahachi, and public relations manager Leslie Gwindi when they inspected the new commuter bus holding bays near Coventry Road.
“Good job boys,” says Mayor Manyenyeni.
“Thank you sah, thank you we spent six months planning this and hired three civil engineers on the design,” replies Mahachi.
“And the toilets?” asks Manyenyeni.
“Well . . . see this whole bushy area . . . Sah . . . we propose we start from here while we build the toilets,” says the town clerk unsure of the mayor’s response,“Great idea . . . You deserve a salary raise for this,” says the mayor.
“I have lined up a Press conference for you, Your Worship and Dr Mahachi to announce this new innovative transport management system to the world.”
“And lunch . . . ?” asks the mayor.
“That is sorted as well, sah,” Gwindi responds.
The three jump into the waiting vehicles, a Range Rover, Toyota Prado and Isuzu twin cab.
One can go on and on about how tragic and comical the Zimbabwean story has become because of the entrenchment of a careless attitude and in cases outright stupidity by many in positions of authority.
Another classic in 2012 was the gathering at the corner of Samora Machel Avenue and Enterprise Road traffic lights by City of Harare officials including the mayor and government officials.
A huge marquee tent was pitched, police brass band in tow with good music, drum majorettes in colourful regalia and so on.
Curiosity got the better of me and I asked the municipal police officer keeping watch what this great day was for. His response was that the council was “officially opening” the solar traffic lights.
How do we have a whole city council, the mayor, government officials, police brass band, municipal police, gather to “open” solar traffic lights?
Just a street down, the next traffic lights were not working and the whole road was littered with all sorts of rubbish.
In Mabvuku and Tafara, the same council was and still is not providing water.
And yet thousands of dollars were spent on the “official opening” of solar-powered traffic lights.
The stories are endless and maybe Zanu PF may start the process of reversing this by orienting its senior officials on how not to be stupid and how to promote the interests of Zimbabwe which are very different and far from those of Zanu PF.
ZimAsset must be revised to accommodate this.