MY TURN WITH TICHAONA ZINDOGA
The high political drama of the past few weeks which climaxed with the resignation of former President Mugabe and his replacement with his former No. 2, Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, is now behind us. Zimbabweans are looking forward with hope and looking at all indications for a better future under a new leader.
The nation can hope again. This is why people are eagerly waiting for the announcement of a new Cabinet following the dissolution of the old one that served President Mnangagwa’s predecessor.
Meanwhile, there has been some rather animated talk about another inclusive Government or some such creature such as the National Transitional Authority, which is preferred by the likes of Tendai Biti, Ibbo Mandaza and others. After President Mnangagwa indicated that elections will be held when they are due, it is difficult to see how another GNU can be formed without delaying elections due in 2018.
Besides, the process of constituting this entails negotiations and all the bickering that comes with it, whereupon some jockeying for the next election starts. It is clear that while many ordinary people believe that an inclusive arrangement may usher in progress and national unity, many politicians inclined to that idea are simply self-serving and want to jump on to what they perceive to be some gravy train.
These politics of inclusivity are not far removed from the “politics of eating” that are our uniquely African brand. From where some of us stand, an inclusive Government at this point will be untimely, unwieldly and undesirable. Zanu-PF won the last elections and President Mnangagwa is currently the party’s top deployee to Government.
He can execute the mandate on his own but the imperative is that he makes a break with the past and gives the country a team that is lean, clean, craft-competent and forward looking. A particular weakness of the previous administration was of “recycling deadwood” whereby same old faces – some of them veritably incompetent and corrupt, sometimes fantastically so – were shifted from one ministry to the other, and never outside where they belonged.
Zimbabweans hope for a new way of doing things. In terms of talent, the President needs to cast his net wide enough to give the nation bureaucrats that can give the country the much needed fresh impetus. There are more than enough Zimbabweans that are educated, experienced, patriotic and dedicated to do duty.
This includes Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. If President Mnangagwa draws on this vast talent, Zimbabwe will move positively. A key ingredient to his success is the goodwill that is apparently coming from all over, including the West.
There is no doubt that without the harmful interference of the West, anchored on the removal of odious sanctions that were meant to precipitate the downfall of Zimbabwe’s former leader, the country can experience growth once again.
It should never be lost to us that Western sanctions derailed Zimbabwe’s access to offshore lines of credit and budgetary support; crippled key State-linked entities in sectors such as mining and agriculture; prevented the country from trading with certain countries and commodities – and so on.
Without these sanctions, and the hope is that they will be removed soon, Zimbabwe will be free again.
The country can only rise.
That is the hope.
It is hope that had long been snuffed out in some people.
As things return to normal after the bruising and gripping political battles of the past couple of weeks, not many Zimbabweans are welcoming the return of the Zimbabwe Republic Police to their “constitutional duties” following the suspension of the same during Operation Restore Legacy. Yes, that operation that targeted criminals!
If truth be told – and the police should know by now – Zimbabweans were at their happiest in the last two or so weeks when we did not have extortionate and corrupt police officers on the roads and other places.
And Commissioner-General of Police Augustine Chihuri must have heard the message loud and clear at the inauguration of the new President last week. He was booed as he came in view at the giant stadium.
Unless he had just arrived from Mars, he must have understood why. Zimbabweans are tired of the corruption that is the face of our police – overshadowing some otherwise good work they do. And what is even more striking is that within the institution of police itself, the more junior officers are in many ways unhappy with the status quo.
Reports abound of a predatory culture by a leadership that has impoverished junior officers by making incessant demands for money that up to a month can amount to $50 (for people earning an average of $300), going into dubious schemes and initiatives such as Kuyedza Women’s Club, which the junior officers complain never benefit them.
In between there are raffle draws, contributions for funfairs and monies demanded at station level, leaving an already underpaid worker reeling. There are reports of station commanders setting targets for traffic police teams to bring money each day through extorting the public. The ZRP has not been very keen on stopping the idea of spot fines, which have long been deemed illegal.
The spot fines are a cash cow.
With it goes the corruption – and what would you expect of members acting alone and in concert with others?
They also dip their hands into the cookie jar, hence the traffic section of police is the dream deployment for police officers, some of whom have gone on to live fabulously well and bought properties and businesses, including in transport.
We have all heard about the hot air of lifestyle audits, which have never been carried out. They would give us some interesting insights, especially for the more senior members. The Government of President Mnangagwa will have to address this urgent matter.
One key thing will be making sure that the police get money for its operations from the fiscus. This will mean that the institution does not have to work so exceptionally hard, as they do, raising money from the long-suffering public. That is a structural issue and it must be addressed if Zimbabweans are to retain confidence in such an important institution of State.
Reform and reconstitution, even, is long overdue. And that is what people were publicly saying when they booed the Commissioner-General of Police. They were so loud and clear.