I did not know whether to be shocked or not, when I read the news report!
As it turns out, apparently there have been calls by some sycophantic ruling ZANU PF supporters – namely, ZBC presenter Godfrey Gweje, and former senior police officer Oliver Mandipaka – for journalist Hopewell Chin’ono to be arrested for ostensibly violating laws defining ‘patriotism’ in Zimbabwe.
To begin with, these most unfortunate statements made by the two betray a troubling ignorance of laws governing the country – since, the proposed Patriotic Bill has not been signed into law – and as such, can seriously not be expected to be used against anyone.
Secondly, why on earth would anyone be arrested, prosecuted and convicted for committing ‘unpatriotic’ deeds, merely for exposing corruption?
Based, on the wild declarations made by Gweje and Mandipaka (who is also a senior ZANU PF official in the Manicaland province) – Chin’ono’s ‘crime’ is supposedly being behind the much anticipated documentary by Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera – in a two-year undercover investigation exposing rampant high-level corruption and looting of national resources in Zimbabwe.
What I am failing to wrap my head around is, ‘What is so unpatriotic about fighting corruption, by not only investigating it, but also exposing the alleged culprits and their nefarious deeds?’
Is the most patriotic thing any citizen of Zimbabwe can do – who genuinely loves his country and fellow compatriots – not be to ensure that any rot that destroys our beloved Motherland, cripples the economy, and in turn, forces the ordinary people into untold poverty, is exposed?
Is this not the greatest form of devotion and dedication to one’s country and its population?
In fact, should there not be national awards to honour such people who go out of their way in protecting Zimbabwe from the scourge of criminals who are destroying our economy through their self-enriching greed?
I find it so unbelievable that, in the expectation of this exposé by Al Jazeera – which most of us, including the likes of Gweje and Mandipaka, have not yet seen – we already have those being on the defensive, and threatening individuals they do not even have proof were directly involved in the documentary’s production.
Should the normal response not have been to actually welcome this exposé, as a huge opportunity to finally help the much touted ‘zero tolerance to corruption’ – of which the Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa administration wants the entire world to believe they are committed towards?
Is this not a grand (and, once-in-a-lifetime) opportunity that the whole nation should embrace – if we are sincere in our loathing of this cancer that has slowly eaten away at the fabric of our nation – considering how most citizens have been so disappointed with numerous incidents of the alleged ‘lack of evidence’, which has prevented successful prosecution of largely high-profile individuals fingered in the plundering of our national resources?
Surely, with the country being prejudiced over US$100 million each and every month through gold smuggling, with reportedly over US$25 billion of diamond revenue never accounted for over the past 15 years, and loads of raw lithium illegally crossing our borders – who, in their right mind, would not welcome such an exposé?
Imagine if there had been hidden cameras capturing every move by a well-known gold smuggler, who got away with her despicable acts, and was allowed to walk scot-free – in spite of being caught red-handed with the yellow metal in her bag at the airport – but, claimed she picked up the wrong package!
One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand how such billions in stolen revenue could have benefited the country, and uplifted the ordinary citizenry’s livelihoods.
Our health care facilities would have been well-stocked with all the necessary medicines and treatments, with functional cancer radiotherapy machines.
Our learning institutions would have sufficient educational material – as text and exercise books, modern information communications technologies (ICTs), and science laboratories – more so, in marginalized rural areas.
We would have new 21st century roads – as opposed to continually repairing and rehabilitating Rhodesia era ones – that have long outlived their usefulness.
Goals for housing for all would have been long achieved – getting rid of the painful tendency of so-called ‘lodging’ or renting – transforming our people from tenets to homeowners.
Both urban and rural areas would, by now, have daily access to potable water in their homes – through the construction of adequate dams, and expansion of delivery systems – doing away with the need for boreholes, which are distances away.
The country would have had already built new state-of-the-art power generation stations – saying ‘goodbye’ to the irritating and severely inconveniencing electricity outages – which threaten to further cripple an already limping economy, by hampering business operations.
Again, so why are there those who are actually angry with this documentary – who are going to the sickening extent of even clutching at straws, by blaming certain persons – without proffering a shred of evidence, for being involved in its production?
In fact, if it turns out that Chin’ono was part of this investigative team – then Mnangagwa should immediately honour him with the ‘Order of Great Zimbabwe Silver’, or something similar – for exhibiting such exceptional patriotism.
We actually need more of such revelations, not less, if this country hopes to get out of the economic mess that it finds itself – at the hands of a self-serving small political clique, with their cronies – who have unashamedly ruined a once prosperous and envied country.
If anything, these baseless threats can only be expected from those who have something to hide!
As mentioned before, most of us – save, for only a handful of selected journalists – do not have the slightest clue of what exactly is contained in this Al Jazeera exposé.
So why the panic?
If there are suspicions that what is contained is a whole lot of hogwash – which is simply fabricated material, intended to tarnish the image of those in power – then, why not patiently wait to see the documentary first, in order to make an informed judgement?
I am quite sure that most Zimbabweans are very capable of identifying a work of fiction – and, will definitely call out Al Jazeera, should we see that this production was fake, and had sinister motives.
However, the panicked and feverish reaction by the ruling elite, and those aligned to them, does not help their case – since, now, everyone with access is eager to watch it, already believing that the regime has something to fear.
What is there to fear, except the truth?
The people of Zimbabwe have endured enough suffering, as a direct consequence of the disgusting and shameful plundering of our national resources by those in power – and, if Al Jazeera (and, even Chin’ono) turns out to be the ‘knight in shining armour’ we have been waiting for – then, so be it.
There is absolutely nothing ‘unpatriotic’ about that!
If the ‘Patriotic Bill’, through the Criminal Law [Codification and Reform] Amendment Bill (for that is what it still is, just a Bill) – seeks to criminalize those fighting and exposing corruption, then all I can say is that, then the government has to build more jails – because, we are all going to be imprisoned, as we will not be ceasing the quest to stop the rot in Zimbabwe.
In a normal country – which is serious with fighting corruption, and all those working against national development – any who are fingered in the documentary should be the ones charged for being ‘unpatriotic’, and even treasonous.
But, then again, this is Zimbabwe!
And, in Zimbabwe, the corrupt are actually rewarded and protected – and, those who expose them, charged for being ‘unpatriotic’!
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org