Editor’s Memo

All recycled

SCRAP paper and plastic show their indispensability in recycling factories where they are converted to tissue paper or paper cups and plastic containers or shells of electrical applia

nces.


Honest manufacturers using recycled materials on new products however stick the label “recycled” on the product to demonstrate that it is not made of virgin material — that it is of an inferior quality.


Recycling has become an internationally acceptable industrial process and in Zimbabwe aluminium cans, empty plastic bottles and papers are salvaged from dumpsites for resale. This is a noble way of earning money and at the same time preserving the environment.


But not all material from the scrapyard can be recycled. Aluminium can be recycled forever while plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely and is generally not recycled into food containers in case of garbage contamination.


The same is true of politics. It is almost certain that a similar trend would be welcome within the political cycle if it would result in revitalising old school politicians into sprightly legislators with a good grasp of issues.


Africa has very few examples of such successful recycling processes. But there is a large number of opportunists — individuals recovered from the political scarpyard who are not usually easy to remould into “new” candidates with novel ideas of contributing meaningfully to national discourse.


Victoria Chitepo, a septuagenarian, is in the recycling mill ready to be advertised as a new product to the electorate in March. She wants to be a legislator, 13 years after she retired from government.


In June 1992 Victoria Chitepo retired from her key post as Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications. She was the first minister to retire and state media was quick to praise her decision to leave cabinet, describing the move as “noble”. We all thought it was noble because she had reached retirement age of 65 anyway.


I recall a story authoured by then Herald editor-in-chief, Tommy Sithole, in which Chitepo promised to go back to her old profession as an educationist. I guess she has also retired as an educator.


She had been a cabinet minister since the Zanu PF administration took office in 1980 when she was appointed deputy Education minister and deputy Information minister the following year. She also headed the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism between 1982 and 1990.


Indeed, that was a noble gesture but what was not pointed out were a number of coincidences that seem to imply that she had no choice, and was perhaps forced to retire or face the embarrassment of being a minister without a ministry, which did not seem to bother a number of her colleagues who were heading departments.


I remember at the time, Didymus Mutasa, who was then Political Affairs minister, arguing that ministers could not resign to reduce the size of the cabinet because that would be an embarrassment to President Mugabe who appointed them in the first place.


Enough about history. Chitepo, besides her noble intention to resign 13 years ago, still feels that she can contribute meaningfully to Zimbabwean politics. At a prime age of 78 she will stand in Glen Norah on the Zanu PF ticket.


She will easily be the oldest candidate contesting the election this year but I doubt if this wealth of experience will prove attractive to the people of Glen Norah and Glen View. Perhaps she can tell the electorate that as Environment minister she exterminated poachers who were decimating the rhino population in the Zambezi valley. Do you remember her slogan — “Life to the Rhino, Death to the Poacher”?


But the electorate in those constituencies have long forgotten about that. The majority of voters are too young to know about granny’s refrain.


The reason she is standing is that the party leaders believe that she is a better candidate than the eccentric war veteran Joseph Chinotimba who last year poured millions of dollars into the constituency and even cleaned public toilets in order to attract votes.


The other reason is that the constituency was reserved for women and she was the best the party could find in the area, hence she was unopposed in the primary elections.


There was also room for Sabina Mugabe, another old school politician, in Zvimba South where she stood unopposed in the primary elections.


It is no coincidence that the two golden oldies were unopposed in the primaries. The fact of the matter is that no one was allowed to stand against them. They were imposed on the electorate in pursuit of satisfying the women’s quota. Control, control, control!


This quest to have more women is parliament will be rendered ineffectual as long as the electorate is not allowed to select a woman candidate of their choice. Chitepo’s real popularity will be put to the test in the general election.


I can’t wait to see her campaign posters. Whoever is designing them should not forget to place the “recycled” sticker at the bottom.

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