Race To The Bottom: The 2016 Cabinet Score Card

Race To The Bottom: The 2016 Cabinet Score Card

HARARE, December 21 (The Source) – In 2016, there were many moments when we thought we had reached rock bottom. Things could not possibly get any worse, we would tell ourselves.

And right then, a minister would step forward, pick and shovel in hand, proud and ready to dig us to new depths and prove us all wrong.

It has been a strange year for the economy. From small birds called quails one moment, to bond notes the next, the economy hopped from one outrage to the next.

Watching our government ministers at work this year, we are convinced that there was a secret contest among them to determine who could ruin the economy the most. How else can one explain the seemingly deliberate determination with which they went about hacking away at the economy all year?

We imagine, somewhere in some Government office, ministers would gather around a few bottles of fine whisky, proudly trading tales of how bad they are at their jobs.

“What did we do today to dash the people’s hopes?” they must have asked each other. I crafted a bad law, one would say. I gave a contract to a completely inept company, another would say, to cheers from peers.

These were men and women on assignment to be as bad as they could. So, who are we to deny them recognition? Here, we rate some of our ministers on performance in their morbid race to the bottom. The rating is A to D, with A being given to the ones who excelled in their efforts to ruin the economy
The list is not exhaustive, as the selection pool of inept ministers is far too wide to award everyone.

Samuel Undenge, Energy Minister
Rating: A

The nation looked to him to solve the power crisis. Undenge allowed the job of installing power plants to go to a network of bankrupt contractors, partnered by a middleman accused of drug running, and represented locally by a man whose record in business is made up entirely of Instagram posts. Genius move.

Undenge gave Wicknell Chivayo a $5 million advance. Quizzed about it, he essentially said; sorry, that was wrong, but this hurt nobody. He then forced the power utility to buy expensive electricity from a diesel power plant connected to the First family. Then, just for good measure, he gave a PR contract to a company owned by a Zanu PF MP. When he told the story to his Cabinet colleagues, they must have envied his ineptitude.

Ignatius Chombo, Home Affairs Minister
Rating: A

After 15 years of ruin at Local Government, Chombo was given a chance to go ruin another Ministry. He has excelled. The year saw police cement its position as the most despised public institution, bullying and robbing road users and brutalising protesters. We became the “police state” that nobody wants to visit or invest in, just the way Zanu PF likes it.

A Transparency International report said the police, Chombo’s current department, was the most corrupt institution, followed by local government, Chombo’s former department. How many can boast of such a proud, long record of proven ruin? His boss would have been proud and, for that, Chombo also gets top marks.

Chris Mushohwe, Information Minister
Rating: B

The last big news from Mushohwe this year? A lengthy statement warning witch hunters, Tsikamutandas.

It was a pattern. He spent all of 2016, releasing one cringe worthy statement after another.
There was the one on Ian Khama, accusing him of breaking “African taboos and etiquette” for stating that Mugabe needed a rest.

Then the one on US ambassador Harry Thomas Jr’s criticism of police brutality: “He has a short nose like ours and one would think that he thinks like an African,” wrote Mushohwe. Thomas should focus on the police brutality in America.

Then the one on Julius Malema, after the EFF leader called on Mugabe to retire. Malema was “a young and impressionable politician, who has turned himself into a veritable blunt weapon for bludgeoning liberation movements on behalf of imperialism.”

Not to forget the time Mushohwe denied Mugabe had trouble walking. “Did you carry him?” he shouted.

His finest moment was the time when NewsDay suggested Mugabe dozed off during a meeting in Japan. Mushohwe replied: “One could see President Mugabe nodding his head in response to the message being delivered by the Japanese Prime Minister.”

For making sure Zimbabwe is seen as the caricature banana republic – because all such republics have comical spokesmen – Mushowe gets top rating.

Patrick Zhuwao, Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment
Rating: B

Zhuwao must be among those that got the loudest cheers from his fellow ministers. His gallant contribution to our crisis was emphatic.

He gave businesses a March 31 ultimatum; give up majority shareholding or shut down and leave. When the deadline arrived, he backed off. But the damage had been done.

He then accused RBZ governor John Mangudya and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa of protecting foreign investors. A serious accusation, given that attracting and protecting investment is a major crime in the Zimbabwe government.

Locally, you will not find many that take Zhuwao seriously. But some investors did, and headed for the exits, helping accelerate the liquidity crisis.

Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Finance
Rating: C

Grading Chinamasa is tough, just as his job was in 2016. He just can’t win, whatever he does.

His effort to reengage with international capital was resisted by an unlikely alliance of interests; opposition activists and Zanu PF hardliners.

When he tried to cut the wage bill, he was shot down in public. Mushohwe was sent to release a statement denying government had approved Chinamasa’s measures, which would have saved the taxpayer $232 million per month.

His often frank assessments of the state of the economy must have isolated him from his colleagues, who prefer self-delusion. Perhaps this is why, at the Zanu PF conference, he made a comical attempt to join the gang by claiming that “the economy is on the right track”.

For at least being honest, most of the time, even when he clearly was out of ideas and up against everyone, he ranks lowly on the ruin-the-economy rankings.

The rest
Overall Mark: A

There are many others we could individually rank on the incompetence rankings, but the competition was far too stiff. We don’t want to be handling complaints from ministers that we left their ineptitude unrecognized.

There was Labour Minister, Prisca Mupfumira, whose only task became that of announcing pay dates, even as the civil service cried for an audit.

There was also Obert Mpofu, a long time strong contender in the ineptitude stakes, who is the Minister in charge of bringing in investment. He clearly brought in none, which, by our government’s measure, means he is doing a great job.

His National Diaspora Policy is surely only meant to taunt Zimbabweans abroad, or meant to grab a few foreign trip per diems.

There is Jonathan Moyo, whose great STEM initiative would have fooled us, until he was possessed by the spirit of Robin Hood. There is also Industry Minister Mike Bimha, whose rushed import ban sparked riots.

Not to forget Kembo Mohadi, the State Security Minister. He appeared bored at Chombo’s finger wagging press conferences on protests, disappeared for a while, only to reappear at a Malawian prophet’s church, receiving a magic cloth.

And Saviour Kasukuwere, whose idea of work, both in his party and in government, is firing and suspending people.

All said and done, only Josaya Hungwe is blameless. The Minister of Liaising on Psychomotor Activities in Education Vocational Training did no wrong. Because he did nothing to start with.

As for the rest, we wait with great anticipation to see how harder they work in the coming year to outdo themselves. Elections will be on the horizon in 2017, and we know how elections are always an incentive for politicians to be at their worst behaviour.

The competition will be stiff.