Hildegarde The Arena
In case we have all forgotten, we are in this deal together — President Emmerson Mnangagwa, you and me — the deal of asserting Zimbabwe’s dignity and glory. The preamble to our Constitution says so: “We the people of Zimbabwe . . .,” meaning that each and every one of us has a role to play, and not just the President.
He is the head of Government, but it is a Government of the people, by the people, with the PEOPLE. Simply put, it means collective responsibility all the way, including the choice of Cabinet, which has been a bone of contention in some quarters.
The desire to ascribe all the ills affecting the nation to President Mnangagwa is vociferous. This is good, especially if he has put in place a team of men and women that will note the people’s concerns and act accordingly.
But the inverse must also be noted. In communication they talk of “noise”, which is defined as “any type of disruption that interferes with the transmission or interpretation of information from the sender to the receiver.”
Looking at both the mainstream and online media platforms, I was tempted to conclude that although this is being done in good faith, the headlines of the past week give an impression that if not checked, it might turn into “noise” in communication, which will not produce the desired results.
Now, let’s turn to President Mnangagwa’s Cabinet and the mixed feelings expressed. The comparison I will give does not in any way equate the President with deity, just like the misinterpretation being made by some, of the book of Job, chapter 41.
My colleagues know some of the biblical examples I gave soon after it was announced, when I said the Lord Jesus had a three-year ministry, but He had to train people to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth, and also do greater works than He did until His second coming.
From the hordes of people that followed Him, Jesus only chose twelve, and in the book of Acts of the Apostles we are told that these twelve were unschooled men. This is more than 2 000 years ago.
Mark’s gospel gives a clearer account: “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” (Mark 3:13-15)
Visionary leadership means calling the unqualified to qualify them to handle difficult tasks. Life is replete with such examples. If the best of the best rub shoulders, we would end up dealing with egos and not personalities who are being told that if the coach is a servant-leader, so are they, irrespective of whether they have been Cabinet ministers before or not.
What this team must do is to swallow their pride and reduce themselves to the equivalent of the United Nations Children’s Fund early childhood development (ECD) programme. Children learn with ease, and they enjoy their work as they move on.
The honeymoon was over soon after the ministers took the oath of office on Monday. The challenges facing the nation are too real and insurmountable for comfort, and President Mnangagwa himself amplified them in his inaugural speech.
The sooner our ministers hit the ground running, the better because time is not on their side. As long as they do it for the people, the latter will be on their side, especially if they choose to go on the ground and work with them rather than always sending Government officials on their behalf.
Those people that feel they have been left out in the process would then rally behind their ministers in different programmes, in order for the vision to transform Zimbabwe to be realised.
For too long, we have had to make do with foreign solutions to deal with local problems when we have local talent and local content. This writer’s first point person is Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Cde July Moyo.
It was refreshing to read what he said regarding the task ahead of him: “The local Government system, if it functions well, services our people, contributes to the Gross Domestic Product of the country and is the Government nearest to the people, all those are functions of a system. If you don’t have good physical planning, good governance and a system of service delivery there is no point talking about housing.
“If you have no water, if you have no sewage system, if you have no roads (then you can’t talk about housing). So all these are delivered through the system I talked about. As the new minister, I am going to start by studying the available system. Once I study the system and understand it, we have to work on how we ought to correct things,” Minister July Moyo told reporters on December 4.
You have a tall order Cde Minister not only in urban areas, but in rural and peri-urban areas. Clean water, a right for every citizen of this country, is now a scarcity.
The moment the minister was sworn in, people thought that their taps would never run dry again, but at the time of writing, a number of suburbs in Harare were dry. The consequences of such challenges are scary because we have lost a number of people to cholera, typhoid and other waterborne diseases in the past decade.
We have also had the perennial challenge of burst sewer pipes, especially in high density suburbs, which to some people have become the backyard of the leafy suburbs of Harare, as they adopt the why bother, when they don’t live there?
That’s reality on the ground. It takes ages for the City Council to respond to emergencies, and the people have resigned themselves to this fate. The drainage systems are in a horrendous state, and as the rainy season is upon us, most families know that their households will be flooded all the time.
What makes the situation worse is that “we the people” are not willing to be our brothers’ keepers. In older suburbs, Harare City Council rent-to-buy houses are now in their owners’ hands. Why they are still paying council a lot of money for old houses is an issue.
But the real problem is that some householders have been erecting pre-cast walls without leaving room for the free flow of rainy water, which results in flooding. People need to be educated so that they understand that a better Zimbabwe is good for us all.
In 2013, I highlighted an issue that I strongly believed was a scam. Huge concrete pipes (see picture) were put in various parts of Mufakose high density suburb more than a decade ago. The general explanation was that council was going to replace the worn-out sewer pipes, but it never happened.
When this writer questioned the anomaly, some of the concrete pipes were removed, and that was not the end of the story. To add insult to injury, new ones were brought in, and they have been lying idle.
The long and short of it is that a lot of money was used to make these concrete pipes and also to transport them, while people are failing to get basic services. Cde Minister, you can also see from the picture that this cannot be a place that represents the capital, just like many around the country. It is a picture that speaks about the extent of urban poverty.
Not only does it need a facelift, but total transformation. The road network in these suburbs are also pathetic, and some houses have not been painted since they were allocated more than four decades ago, but council is still charging monthly rentals.
But as Norton Member of Parliament Mr Temba Mliswa said on our sister radio station, Star FM, President Mnangagwa is the coach, and it is his responsibility to ensure that his team delivers. In sport, we see what happens to non-performing players and/or those that refuse to be team players.