By Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo
In 1994, I was doing my primary education at Nyazura Primary school, a boarding primary school in Manicaland Province. It was the norm back then that you would buy an envelope and get a postage stamp at the school tuckshop. We used to write letters to our parents and guardians. My grandmother was an avid English teacher at a nearby school. One day I wrote a letter thanking her for the sacrifice she had done to make my life better at the school.
Little did I know that when she received the letter, she would start correcting and marking it out of 10. During the holiday, she handed over the letter back to me with a grade on it. I had scored extremely low marks. It was a strange experience that burnt me with a mixture of shocked disbelief as I battled to rationalize how a thank-you letter became an English composition. My loving and caring grandmother noticed poorly constructed sentences and grammatical errors in my thanksgiving epistle.
I looked at her thinking she would notice my facial expression which read, “Gogo, I sacrificed to buy a stamp and an envelope to write you a letter but you are seeing errors in my letter instead of appreciating my effort”.
She asked me to make corrections. I thanked my grandmother later.
The then Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa heaped praises on Mugabe and his wife Grace, calling the wife an iron lady just few days before Mugabe’s ouster. He went on to describe the veteran leader as a humble and servant leader.
The same Chinamasa was at the Zimbabwe grounds in Highfields for an anti-Mugabe rally and surprisingly took to the podium to attack Mugabe describing him as the nastiest leader and unwanted bugbear. Chinamasa somersault was legendary and a full demonstration of deceit of unimaginable egregiousness. He unashamedly began to sing for his supper and his bootlicking ability will take eternity to surpass. Mnangagwa had suddenly become a Messiah and Mugabe an incorrigible devil.
Mr. President, you need to be careful with such kind of people who lie and fawn at politicians when they don’t mean it. In Shona we say ‘’Vakafanana nehoto dzinoenda kunoenda mhepo’. They stand with you when their feeding trough is safe and desert you when you are in trouble and switch to the new camp. They are selfish.
See no evil speak no evil characters like Tafadzwa Mugwadi and Nick Mangwana will never build your presidency but will irreparably damage your reputation. They need to tell you the truth. The critic voice plays a key role in building you and acts as an eye opener as well as helping you to make corrections. Mr. President, criticism will give you a new perspective thereby giving you the opportunity for improvement. You need to see things in a different light.
I vividly remember Kudzai Chipanga’s interesting press conference few days before the military coup in November 2017. He said they were ready to die for Mugabe and they were not going to fold hands to allow a creature of the constitution to subvert the very constitution which establishes it. Was Chipanga indeed prepared to die for Mugabe? Why did they fold their hands when the military coup took place? Why were they caught-napping when they appeared to be well prepared during the press conference?
Chipanga was nowhere to be seen only to resurface in the dead of the night on ZBCTV apologizing copiously to Chiwenga and the military hierarchy for his ill-advised attack on them.
In 2013, I met the former Harare Mayor Ben Manyenyeni at a local function and we became friends. He would invite me to various functions. He was very frank and each time we met he would offer me some advice including how to dress well for functions. I used to mismatch my dressing but Manyeneyeni would candidly tell me to dress like a professional and encouraged me to be early for the meetings.
When I started writing academic articles I used to send him to proofread and he would return my work with many corrections and interesting comments. His criticism helped me to consider certain things that I used to overlook and it greatly improved me. I remember the other day when he invited me to join him at a golf course in Borrowdale. He asked me why I came late and the rationale behind the ‘anti-golf’ attire I was putting on. I leant a lot from Manyenyeni and today I understand the significance of criticism.
Mr. President, you need a Ben Manyenyeni around you to improve in many aspects.
In 2012, the then Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo shocked the entire country when he crawled in front of Mugabe during a Zanu PF function in Mash West. The sight of a whole cabinet minister kneeling before the president was described as a “culture shock”. The kneeling gesture became rampant during the rise of Grace Mugabe where prominent personalities and ministers in Mugabe’s cabinet embarked on a “kneeling spree” to show obedience to Mugabe and his wife. They never told Mugabe to fix the economy and the truth about his grievous leadership. Webster Shamu also stunned the people when he likened Mugabe to Cremora and descried the late dictator as a liberator of unparalleled proportions.
Mr. President, your supporters are not telling you the truth. They don’t love you. Remember the events of November 2017 where Mugabe appeared to have no sympathizers in the country. Where were those mammoth Mugabe crowds and the Chinamasas? The truth is you are surrounded by hypocrites.
Few weeks ago, we witnessed award winning Journalist and filmmaker Hopewell Chin’ono being detained at Chikurubi Maximum prison after he exposed stinking corruption involving the ‘BIG MEN’, the untouchables, and he spent weeks in the remand prison for fighting corruption. If I were you Mr. President Mnangagwa, I would put more resources towards investigative journalism to show sincerity in fighting corruption.
Mr. President, we need more Hopewell Chin’onos if we are serious about fighting corruption.
In neighboring South Africa, a Government Minister was suspended for partying during lockdown after her photo was shared on social media but in Zimbabwe Ministers who abuse funds for Covid-19 are promoted.
Recently, I saw Nick Mangwana, the Permanent Secretary of Information and Publicity making revelations that between 2017 and 2020, you have created at least 200 000 jobs. Which sector? You need to be careful with some of the people you have deployed in key Government positions. These are the very same people who will celebrate your downfall. You need to get rid of these Chinamasas in your party that easily switch from one camp to another within a week.
Mr. President you need someone Criticism is important and it helps you to improve your leadership. Don’t be misled by apologists and praise singers like the Mugwadis and Mangwanas of this world, you need to know the truth. Government critics are not regime change agents but they build and strengthen our institutions. You definitely need someone like my grandmother and get rid of the Chinamasas around you.
Tinashe Eric Muzamhindo is the Head of Zimbabwe Institute of Strategic Thinking – ZIST, and he can be contacted at email@example.com