MY TURN WITH TICHAONA ZINDOGA
The recent Cabinet reshuffle by President Mugabe elicited a lot of responses, debate and speculation. Some Zimbabweans read factionalism in it. Others saw rise and falls of political fortunes – with losers and winners. A whole sensation was made out of the creation of a new ministry called Cyber Security, Threat Detection and Mitigation to which Cde Patrick Chinamasa was reassigned.
In an age where people are quick to make jokes that are now gaining traction fast, thanks to social media, Cde Chinamasa became the butt of jokes and was called Minister of WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, complete with some memes that provided some comic relief, of course, and we are sure that the ponderous and hardworking minister will soon be showing the world about this ground-breaking assignment.
But people are bound to talk, which is an expected reaction to a weighty development such as a Cabinet reshuffle. So, we are talking about Minister Ignatius Chombo and his new Finance brief. We are talking about the former “spy chief”, new Minister of Justice, Happyton Bonyongwe. We are talking about the new Foreign Affairs Minister Walter Mzembi. There were appointments and disappointments.
There were surprises. The return of former Zanu-PF national political commissar Cde Webster Shamu was one of the biggest surprises as he was appointed Minister of State for Mashonaland West Province, marking a remarkable return from the cold, hostile, political wilderness. This time last year he was languishing in political Siberia.
He was booted out in 2014 for associating with former Vice President Joice Mujuru, who lost her place for plotting to illegally oust President Mugabe and fanning factionalism. They went with a host of other officials. And who can forget that day during the Zanu-PF Congress in Harare when Cde Shamu cut a forlon, confused figure as he attended the event when other rebels, including Mujuru herself, stayed away?
Mujuru has since formed her own National People’s Party and will challenge for the State Presidency in elections next year. Others such as Didymus Mutasa and Rugare Gumbo have found the going very tough, failing to adjust to the reality of opposition politics. In Mutasa’s case, he has also lost his economic direction and now is bankrupt and saddled with debts.
There doesn’t appear to be good prospects for those that fell by the wayside and Temba Mliswa has his stars and exuberance (and perhaps business acumen) to thank as he managed to clinch an independent ticket to Parliament, ironically beating a Zanu-PF candidate in a by-election last year. Cde Shamu could have chosen rebelliousness – and things, by now, could be worse for him. He chose to bear his cross and he bore it with grace. He suffered humiliation.
He was treated as a pariah and ill-treated at party and national events which surely should have wounded his pride and broke his spirit. A few incidents would be illustrative. In August 2015, he was bundled out of a VIP tent at the National Heroes Acre where he was perceived to no longer belong following his fall from grace.
“Former Zanu-PF commissar Webster Shamu and his wife Constance were publicly humiliated after they were kicked out of a tent reserved for ministers, top Government officials and other Zanu-PF bigwigs during Heroes Day commemorations at the National Heroes Acre on Monday.” (NewsDay, August 12, 2015)
The paper explained that the former ICT minister together with his wife had taken seats in the VIP tent before State security agents ordered them off, saying Cde Shamu was no longer a Government minister and therefore did not deserve a place at the high table.
We are told that: “The couple immediately moved across to the next tent usually reserved for diplomats and senior military personnel where they sat dejectedly.”
In another humbling incident at a rally in Norton last year Cde Shamu was left licking his wounds after being barred from a closed door briefing at a rally to support Mliswa’s then rival, Ronnie Chindedza (Financial Gazette, October 20, 2016).
“Shamu and his wife’s attempts to join in the proceedings in the briefing room where the party’s leadership, led by (Vice President Phelekezela) Mphoko, were having a working lunch, hit a snag after they were ordered out. In shame, they walked back to their car where they had their own packed lunch. To add to their mounting woes, youths operating the public address system disconnected the microphone as the former minister was about to chant the party slogan after he had sneaked to the podium,” it was reported.
The former commissar was not broken and he soon won over sympathy for showing contrition. His penance had been public. Last year, in November midway in their five-year banishment, the ruling party decided Cde Shamu, along with others, had served their punishment. Last November, the ruling party’s Secretary for Administration, Ignatius Chombo, announced: “The three (Shamu, Francis Nhema and Flora Buka) are now free to contest any party position as they have repented their wayward ways, shown remorse and were working well with the party.
“There is need to let bygones be bygones. We are building the party in the wake of prevailing challenges.”
It’s less than a year on and Cde Shamu is smiling all the way to the Government offices in Mashonaland West. As a matter of fact, his name had begun being touted as a possible returnee to the political commissar’s position – when it appeared as though current organiser Cde Saviour Kasukuwere was headed out after rounds of votes of no confidence against him. It is one of the truly remarkable come-back stories in recent memory. But it appears Cde Shamu had a game plan, which eluded others who are out sanctioned, despite the fact that they still want to be part of the old, revolutionary organisation.
That is a great enough story to take away from Monday. But the bigger challenge, of course, stares ministers such as and in particular Cde Chombo to deliver and hold the purse of the country wisely at a critical time. Elections are only a few months away and we all know what an economy can do to the stability of the country.