The presentation of the National Budget at Parliament House last Thursday afternoon had many highlights, contrasts and contradictions.
From the Editor’s Desk with Nevanji Madanhire
One of the enduring images will be that of war veterans’ leader Joseph Chinotimba rubbing shoulders, literally, with former Finance minister Chris Kuruneri!
Parliament House has become too small a venue for the hundreds of House of Assembly representatives, let alone when they have to be combined with members of the Senate, as happened on Thursday. Members were packed like sardines, their shoulders literally in a contest to create space for their owners.
The contrast: the worldly Kuruneri, who boasts a sound education, dual citizenship and property on the Sea Front in Cape Town, reduced to fighting for space with former security guard Chinotimba, of unknown educational background, unheralded liberation war credentials and whose only claim to property is a farm he acquired at the height of the land reform programme during which he declared himself the Commander of Farm Invasions and a house built on a wetland in Marbelreign.
That is how revolutions work; one has to fight for space at the top table.
There has been huge debate in the media and in pubs and buses about Chinotimba, the import of which is what he brings to the august House. Is he the Scarlet Pimpernel or just a WYSIWYG? Some say Chinos, as he is popularly known, is much like Sir Percy, in Baroness Emma Orczy’s play and adventure novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel. In the play, Sir Percy presents himself in everyday life as a dim-witted, foppish playboy while in fact he is a master of disguise, an imaginative planner, a formidable swordsman and a quick-thinking escape artist.
Contrast the two’s maiden speeches. Chinotimba talked about corruption which he strangely said originated in Parliament because parliamentarians unnecessarily laughed at each other during debate.
“I applaud President Mugabe for his calls against corruption. However, the biggest question is where is corruption found? It starts here and it is here (in Parliament). For example, if Zanu PF MPs laugh at MDC MPs and MDC MPs laugh at Zanu PF MPs, that is corruption!” he said, to delirious laughter.
He talked about bad roads in his Buhera South constituency. “I am surprised when I travel and see some roads being re-tarred, when roads in my constituency remain gravel or have collapsed altogether. Sometimes, I wonder what type of a country Buhera is in Zimbabwe,” he said to deafening laughter.
He also talked about hunger. “Before I came here to speak, I received a call from home that hyenas are now a menace.” This was received with laughter by fellow parliamentarians, which irritated him immensely. “You laugh because the hyenas have not terrorised people in your constituency! That is why I said corruption starts here.”
But, what was Chinotimba’s suggested solution to all the woes inflicting his constituency? He talked about agriculture and called on government to provide the responsible ministry with money to buy food “without any debate” to feed hungry villagers in the countryside, particularly in his constituency.
In his own maiden speech, Kuruneri had broached the same subject.
He called for the need to move ahead with the Zambezi Water Project and the Kariba Gorge Project to enhance irrigation so as to ensure food security in the face of imports that are draining national resources.
“If we look at the water that we are losing to the Indian Ocean via the Zambezi River, it is 800 cubic meters of water per minute, 24 four hours per day and 365 days in the year,” he said.
“This is sufficient water, if properly harnessed, to irrigate one million hectares of land . . . If we take 200 000 hectares from my one million model, and we put maize in winter and summer, we will get a yield of 2,4 million tonnes of maize and our national consumption is two million.”
He said the water projects were achievable if people put their minds to them seriously.
For one, Chinotimba, the solution is for government to dish out money to the people, without saying where the money will come from; for the other, Kuruneri, the solution lies in innovation and the employment of existing natural resources.
It’s going to be a good parliament, isn’t it? Interestingly enough, Finance and Economic Development minister Patrick Chinamasa’s budget statement was more Chinosque than Kurunarian, if I may use my poetic license to coin words! He says the economy is going to grow by 6,4% backed by agriculture and mining.
He says agriculture is going to grow by 9% largely driven by maize production. He doesn’t say how he expects agriculture to grow by such a huge percentage, when there has not been any financial injection into it and banks are still reluctant to pour money into it even when the minister claims that “there are structural changes that have taken place in the economy through financial support to a new clientele of farmers and indigenous enterprises.”
We know what is happening on our farms; very little activity because the farmers simply don’t have the money to engage in any meaningful activity. Most farmers have moved from maize to tobacco because the marketing of maize and the prices offered are abysmal compared to the more organised farming and selling of tobacco. Chinamasa doesn’t say how he is going to entice farmers back into food production!
Mining too, just can’t grow in the coming year without funding, and we know the problems facing that factor; policy inconsistency, lack of credibility, uncertainty and lack of transparency.
The budget statement suggests simplistic (chinosque) solutions to complex problems rather than well-considered strategies that show innovation and creativity. Decrimimalising artisanal mining will not change the face of gold mining, not in the immediate future.
But the mood of the whole charade was defined by Vice-President Joice Mujuru. On the arrival of President Robert Mugabe, she burst into song and dance. I couldn’t get the tune; it must have been something like Zimbabwe ndeye ropa baba or Zanu chiororo, signaling the beginning of the Fourth Chimurenga. The aspiring president is still stuck in the Shuvai Mahofa era of singing and dancing in Parliament.
Yes, we are aware, there were songs that won the liberation struggle, but this new economic chimurenga, madam, is not about song and dance!
How many WYSIWYGs have we got? What you see is what you get!
A special Merry Christmas everyone, from the Ed.