MPs scrimmage for US$40 000 loan shows how we all are dependent on the dictator’s benevolence

President Emmerson Mnangagwa


“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.” Wrote the great Scottish Economist, Adam Smith, in his book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

In these two sentences, Adam Smith spelt out the essence of a health and functioning economy. When Zimbabwe gained her independence in 1980 the incoming Zanu PF government led by Robert Mugabe inherited a healthy, robust and functioning economy; the Biblical seven fat cows and seven fat ears of corn.

“When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, 2 when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. 3 After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. 4 And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.” Genesis 41 verse 1 – 4.

Let’s just say in Zimbabwe, the seven ugly and gaunt cows emerged on 18 April 1980 and the started the business of devouring the seven sleek, fat cows.

Whilst Ian Smith had governed with an eye on the key Adam Smith key essentials of sound economics; Mugabe had his eyes on spending the nation into mass economic prosperity, “gutsa ruzhinji” as Mugabe called it. At least, that was what he said in public.

Mugabe’s number one priority was to create an all power and very prosperous ruling elite with himself as the lord of the manor sitting at the apex of the pyramid pulling all the strings. He hatched his plan and put it into practise as soon as he got into office.

In an interview with Trevor Ncube, “Conversation with Trevor Simba Makoni”, Dr Simba Makoni, revealed how then Prime Minister Robert Mugabe surprised his ministers with new Mercedes Benz limos just a few months after getting into office. The limos were to replace the Peugeot 406 Smith had issued to ministers. The limos had not been budgeted for and did not even have cabinet approval. This was the start of the political patronage system in which the beneficiaries paid back with blind loyalty to Mugabe!

Mugabe was a control freak, he had a say in the appointment of ministers, Police and Army generals, senior civil servants, heads of parastatals, etc. And all these chefs were appointed for their loyalty to Mugabe and not merit. Dr Makoni told Trevor how the culture of no expense spared in spoiling the chefs quickly spread.

It was “normal”, Dr Makoni explained, for ZESA, NRZ or some such parastatal to pay the CEO, senior managers, and the coterie of other political appointees hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay, cars, mansions and other allowances even when the company was failing to deliver core service, pay its bills including the meagre wages of the low-grade workers.

The political patronage system had everyone eating out of Mugabe’s hand like helpless puppies the man enjoy absolute power. All those around him were so fearful of him they did not dare question him even when he was utterly wrong, notably during the Gukurahundi years when murdered over 20 000 PF Zapu supporters in the quest to create a de facto one-party dictatorship.

On the economic front, the patronage system resulted in gross mismanagement and rampant corruption as it valued loyalty to Mugabe over merit. And it was these two cancers, the ugly and gaunt cows, that have destroyed Zimbabwe’s economy.

“Mose murivakadzi vaMugabe!” (You are all Mugabe’s helpless concubines!) retorted Margaret Dongo to her fellow Zanu PF MPs, Ministers and the rest of the Zanu PF leaders in sheer frustration at how they all grovelled to Mugabe. A statement of fact which recalled, no doubt, always brought a grin of pride and satisfaction to the tyrant.

Zimbabwe had many opportunities to dismantle the Zanu PF dictatorship with the best coming during the 2008 to 2013 GNU. SADC leaders had managed to force Mugabe to accept the need to implement democratic reforms to restore the individual freedoms and rights including the right to free and fair elections and even the right to life, denied by the dictatorship. Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC friends were tasked to implement the reforms. They failed to implement even one token reform in five years!

Mugabe, who had remained state President in the GNU, bribe the MDC leaders with generous salaries and allowances, Mercedes Benz limos for ministers, a US$4 million mansion for Tsvangirai, etc. The MDC leaders kick reforms into the tall grass and were licking Mugabe’s hands like ever so grateful puppies, just as readily as their Zanu PF counterparts had done.

“Mazivanhu eMDC adzidza kudya anyerere!” (MDC leaders have learned to enjoy the gravy train good-life, they will never rock the boat!) boasted Zanu PF cronies during the GNU when asked why MDC was not implementing reforms. economy.

Zanu PF emerged out of the 2008 to 2013 GNU with all its dictatorial powers untouched. SADC leaders reverted to turning a blind eye to Zanu PF rigging the elections and grant the regime legitimacy in disgust at the MDC’s failure to implement even one reform.

Just to be absolutely certain the opposition participated in the elections regardless how flawed and illegal, Zanu PF has allowed the opposition to win a few gravy train seats. A small price to pay for legitimacy!

The MDC leaders missed their chance to implement the reforms and have given up on the quest for free elections and good governance. They have paid lip service to demanding reforms, to please their naïve and gullible supporters when in reality they were content with the few gravy train seats Zanu PF offered as bait. Mugabe would have remained life-President if it was not for his wife who pressured him to remove Emmerson Mnangagwa and his Lacoste friends so that she and her G40 faction could take over. On 15 November 2017, after 37 years of absolute power, Mugabe was forced to resign after military coup staged by Lacoste faction.

Mugabe was very bitter that he was forced to give up power, he had become addicted. He died of a broken heart, I guess, 6 September 2019, barely two after the coup.

When Mnangagwa took over from Mugabe he was cocksure he would revive the country’s comatose economy. His “Zimbabwe is open for business!” mantra was a lead balloon that never took off because he failed to keep two key promises – to end corruption and to hold free elections.

For Mnangagwa or anyone for that matter, to end corruption and to hold free elections, he had to dismantle the Zanu PF patronage system. It was this that had kept Mugabe in power and removed him when he threatened many of the beneficiaries of the system with early retirement or worse.

By the same token it was the patronage system that had saved Mnangagwa from the life as a fugitive, he was on the run following his dismissal from his VP post on 5 November 2017, to make him state President. The same people who made him President would have him removed from office is he dared displease them by dismantling the patronage system.

And so, Emmerson Mnangagwa inherit the corrupt and tyrannical Zanu PF dictatorship with the economy in total meltdown after decades of gross mismanagement and rampant corruption. The seven fat cows inherited in 1980 have been devoured years ago. The national economy has collapsed and so too have basic services such as health and education. 50 % of the people now live in abject poverty.

Mnangagwa, just like Mugabe before, has all but thrown the ordinary citizens overboard as he is forced to cream-off the nation’s fast shrinking wealth to keep the patronage system going. The nation has been reverted by the revelation that he had approved a US$40 000 house or car loan for MPs. He was forced to extend the scheme to MPs after they found out he had approved US$ 500 000 and £50 000 loans to Ministers and deputy Ministers respectively. And now it is the ordinary citizens’ turn to complain at the extravagant waste when nation is failing to supply something as basic as clean water!

There is a Zimbabwe Daily cartoon of Mnangagwa with a US$40 000 bag of money at the end of a fishing line. There is do or die scrimmage of “opposition MPs” fight each other to grab the bag. Mnangagwa is sitting there with a smog grin on his face.

A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS! With the upcoming 2023 elections everyone would want to be on the gravy train and so the fight for elected position will be just as fierce in the opposition as in Zanu PF itself.

To entice the ordinary citizens to vote for the ruling party the bag of money is replaced with bag of food aid and or agricultural inputs. And just to be certain of electoral victory the party wields a large stick to punish those who dare to refuse to vote for the party.

Zimbabwe is an autocracy, not a democracy, and instead of being governed by sound economic policies and rule of laws we live by whims of a dictator.

In the next few weeks Zanu PF, CCC and the rest will be producing the 2023 Election Manifesto with the usual fanfare. An utter waste of time! What is the point of producing detailed economic policies when the elections are being rigged and those doing the rigging are not influenced by the manifesto!

“It is from the benevolence of the dictator that we are forced to expect our dinner but are starving because of the inherent criminal waste of human and material resources and the insatiable greed of the tyrant and ruling elite. It is utterly pointless addressing ourselves to their humanity or our suffering because all they care about is retaining absolute power at all costs. And the more dependent we are on the dictator the greater his power over us.” To paraphrase Adam Smith.

Zimbabwe is in a serious economic and political mess. The present situation in which half the population is living in abject poverty denied of basic services such as health care and quality education is socially and politically unsustainable. We cannot stop Zanu PF going ahead with these flawed 2023 elections but can see to it that the regime does not get political legitimacy by making sure the process is condemned.

If Zanu PF is denied legitimacy the country will be forced to go into a new GNU arrangement as happened in 2008. This time, we must ensure the reforms are implemented and the Zanu PF dictatorship is finally, finally, dismantled.

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