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Mutodi: Mnangagwa’s other bad crony

corruptionwatch”:WITH TAWANDA MAJONI

It’s never a clever idea to put a crow among the fowls and keep it there. That will give you a bad name and troubled nights.

A crow in the fowl drains the food but doesn’t deliver eggs to the poulterer who, anyway, can’t eat it. It’s an irritation to the fowls, which will constantly wonder how too loudly they have quacked in the night to deserve such company.

Energy Mutodi is to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zimbabweans what the crow is in the fowl run. All the time, you have to rap your head several times to believe he is, in fact, the Information deputy minister. He is not ministerial stuff at all, and could have been more useful entertaining miserable downtown pub patrons as a rhumba clown.

But that aside. On a scale of one to 10, you will feel like the sodden fowl, listening to him talk and seeing what he does as a purported deputy minister. And you wonder whether you sang and danced too much during the November 2017 coup to deserve Energy in government.

Mnangagwa has this incredible knack to choose cronies who are useless and also detrimental to him. Well, that wasn’t going to be our problem if he was going to keep them away from the people and busy feeding fish at his Kwekwe farm. But he has this detestable habit to choose his friends from people that are equally detestable, useless and a pain up the wrong place for the citizens.

You will remember Queen Bee. And, once you do that, you will remember Sakunda and Kuda Tagwirei. For numerous years now, we have been getting all sorts of unflattering reports about Tagwirei and Sakunda, his company. From getting a tender to set up the mega-million Dema diesel power plant without going to tender, to siphoning millions from command agriculture through dealing in rich millions on the forex black market.

Tagwirei is Mnangagwa’s bosom buddy, politically and financially. He is also a presidential adviser. But people complain loudly that the only advice Tagwirei can give to the president is bad advice, because the Sakunda boss is a bad chap. In the court of public opinion, Tagwirei is a serving convict with a lengthy criminal record. And the court of public opinion suffers no illusion that Tagwirei will any time soon appear in those other built-up courts. He is the president’s bosom buddy and he will offer to build more prisons just so that he won’t go to jail.

Then there is this other buddy the president picked, seemingly just so as to spite and irritate people. That’s Energy. The chap was active and talkative before the coup. He supported the then Vice-President’s Lacoste camp. As Lacoste was heating it up with G40 towards the coup, Energy was used to subtly send out the message that Mnangagwa was the ultimate boss. He held up a mug saying so during some all-night carousing by the Lacosters.

So, when the coup got done and there was a fake election in 2018, Energy was made the Information deputy minister. That was blowing it over the top, of course. That was the same Energy who had run a sham housing scheme that left teachers and hundreds of other civil servants damp wet with tears. They said he scammed them of their money and never delivered the residential stands that he had promised them.

And that was the same Energy who had spent sweaty nights in squeaky pubs pretending to be a rhumba singer and dancer. The most, therefore, that Mnangagwa must have done for Energy was to find some money and buy him a pair of dancing shoes, and then find him a sober promoter. Not to put him in government and assume that things were going to work out.

There is plenty of proof showing that Energy was, and remains, a bad political choice. Mutodi is getting paid and enjoying all the nice things that go with his position for being a loudmouth and nothing else. He is a member of parliament, but if you are able to find a Hansard that mentions his name, it’s only because he would have been ejected from the house for wearing party regalia fawningly celebrating the president, his godfather.

He thinks government business is done only through Twitter, needless to say that, for him, “business” means being foul-mouthed against his boss in the ministry, Monica Mutsvangwa, the Information secretary, Nick Mangwana, foreign heads of state and fellow cabinet ministers. Like recently, he threw brickbats at John Magufuli, the Tanzanian president for his perceived lazy attitude to Covid-19. Then, when Budhi Busi, the Foreign Affairs minister, tried some crisis management by distancing government from Energy’s dry tweet on Magufuli, the deputy minister found new energy to shout at SB Moyo. Then he cooked up a theory about Mutsvangwa, her husband and Bhudhi Busi wanting to use wartime tactics to do nasty things on him.

People were prepared to wave Energy away because he is a bland joke, anyway. But the elephant in the room is Mnangagwa’s consistent failure to take the deputy upstairs for a spank, at least. There was a time when people were whispering that Energy was getting protection from Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga. The theory — not without sense—was that Chiwenga was running a separate faction gunning to uproot Mnangagwa and take over, and Chiwenga was a feared rival before who Mnangagwa was helpless.

But that was a misinformed theory, it appears. Energy remains Mnangagwa’s boy. The president’s response has been consistent. Silence. That’s because he still wants Energy in there. He doesn’t mind the deputy minister unnecessarily dissing his boss, Monica, other senior government officials and ZBC, for a measure. He is using Energy as some kind of a fake bull. The one that roars around the kraal and disrupts quite a number of important things, but has no mating rights, so to speak.

His failure to act against the deputy minister is designed to keep ambitious people in government under check. You will notice one common thread here. Monica and Nick can’t complete a sentence without saying, “as the President said”. Bhudhi Busi will have a bad day in the office if he won’t attribute everything he says to “the President”. And, on the other pole, Energy is doing the same thing. That means they are all converging on the president.

The late Robert Mugabe used that tactic very well. He pitted his own people against each other and, as they scratched and squalled, he kept ruling them, and us. But as Energy is a poor rhumba imitator, so is Mnangagwa a poor Mugabe imitator. There is no evidence to show that using Energy as a counter piece against his other subordinates will bring him any value. Energy, contrary to his name, is a flat politician with between little and no clout.

He can’t change any game. All he can do is to bring unpleasant, unnecessary and worthless disruptions to government business and Zimbabwe’s foreign relations. Inter alia. And it’s particularly irritating that he is doing this as he drives government vehicles, occupies public office space that can be put to better use by someone more able, draws a salary that can be saved for worthy things and, above all, is busy wasting everyone’s time, his godfather included. All because the president has an odd tendency for bad choices.

l Tawanda Majoni is the Information for Development Trust (IDT) national coordinator and can be contacted on tmajoni@idt.org.zw.

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