WHEN Morgan Tsvangirai became Prime Minister in 2009, he promised to end the violence, corruption, sleaze and thievery that characterised our political system over the years. He also pledged to restore honour and decency to our Parliament.
Three years have gone by since he took the oath and still nothing has changed.
Let’s examine the question of violence. In his capacity as Prime Minister, Tsvangirai has had a great opportunity to show his disgust for violence by preaching peace like President Robert Mugabe did so splendidly at this year’s Independence Day celebrations. Only by constantly denouncing violent behaviour will the battle be won. Yet Tsvangirai has been noticeable only by his silence. This is cause for great concern.
Instead of things getting better, violence has actually been on the rise especially, and quite ironically, within the MDC-T. Not so long ago, an intense civil war broke out at an MDC-T party conference in Bulawayo in which tens of people were hurt. Dozens more were made to flee the scene to avoid possible harm to their persons.
To his enormous credit, the Prime Minister promised to carry out an investigation and bring those responsible to account. Yet, on reflection, our conclusion must be that Tsvangirai deceived the nation, for nothing seems to have been done about that shocking incident. Nor is that all. Party stalwarts have continued to fight amongst themselves; senior MDC-T officials have been held in commando by their very own; violence against other parties has been disguised as self-defence. We are talking about a pattern of behaviour here.
Right now there is talk that, once Tsvangirai’s party assumes singular control of government, those who have been sympathetic to Zanu PF over the years will be ‘dealt’ with. This kind of sadistic behaviour is shameful especially from a party that parades itself as non-violent. Certainly, it has destroyed any idea of the MDC-T being a righteous party and may well have permanently damaged the bond that existed between the party and its supporters.
The second failure concerns corruption. Just a few years ago, Zimbabwean public life was renowned for its high standards of moral decency, honesty and public service. Our politicians joined public service because of the honour that came with being a civil servant, not for what they could get out if it. To put it at its most simple, they did not see politics as a stepping stone to wealth.
Yet, and I say this with a heavy heart, that is no longer the case. It is true that several Zanu PF officials had already tainted this wonderful record way before the MDC-T joined government. But the brutal truth is that, since 2009, Zimbabwean public life has been going through a frightening deterioration.
Dozens of MDC-T officials in government have been exposed as thieves, frauds and conmen. Take the case of Innocent Chiroto, the Harare Deputy Mayor, who is alleged to have built a classy 27-roomed house and compare that to his paltry salary and you will come to no other conclusion except that he is living beyond his means. If any of the charges against him turns out to be true, this will easily qualify as corruption of the most alarming order.
Where Chiroto has led, others have followed. Everywhere you look now, be it in Chitungwiza, Karoi, Mutare, Gweru or Victoria Falls, there is clear and abundant proof of gross mismanagement and corruption – a general desire to use public resources for private purposes. When a commercial stand gets sold for as little as $2 in Karoi, for instance, you begin to appreciate just how deep and cruel MDC-T corruption has become.
It gets worse. Funds meant for constituency development have been pocketed and used for private reasons. Of course Zanu PF is not without blame here and the most disgraceful example in this regard is Franco Ndambakuwa, Zanu PF MP for Magunje, who is said to have defrauded his constituency of $49,304 from a constituency development fund of $50,000. Yet in terms of numbers, the MDC-T tops the list. It tells a story.
Regrettably, this sad state of affairs seems to have spilled over to our Parliament and some of today’s biggest cheats are on the MDC-T benches. With the exception of very few, most of the MDC-T MPs have shown themselves to be a collection of conniving crooks who are in public service not to serve but for what they can get.
Between them, they have spearheaded very few progressive policies, yet they have been at the forefront of demanding sweet cars from the treasury. Unhappily, despite the fact that these shameful demands required tens of millions of dollars to fulfil, they were only last year gladly endorsed by Tendai Biti, the MDC-T Secretary General who serves as finance Minister in the coalition government.
Our wretched MPs have also demanded huge salaries of up to $3,000 per month over and above the $75 so-called ‘per diem’ which they get just for turning up for work and despite the fact that their salaries are already substantially higher than those of other civil servants in the country.
Most recently, they have demanded that they be given up-market stands because, according to them, ‘most of them remained poor despite serving the country’. It’s easy to see what’s going on here. Our MPs, some of whom are Zanu PF but most of whom are MDC-T, believe public service should translate to personal fortune. This is dishonourable behaviour. Zimbabwe deserves a new crop of decent men and women who will put duty ahead of greed. It’s not too much to ask, it’s the least those in positions of leadership can do for this country.
Tsvangirai himself may not have been implicated in any of this but by in failing to act in a decisive manner, he too risks being regarded with disgust by voters at the next election.
His dilemma is that it may well be too late to do anything about the reprehensible conduct of some of his officials. He had several chances and ample time to make things right and a perfect opportunity to reform the way our government works. Unfortunately he seems to have spurned that chance.