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This year has been pretty hectic for my learned friend and former Cabinet colleague Zimbabwe Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa. Patrick is a consummate politician, who in spite of the negative public image he has in many circles, mostly justly earned for having been at the forefront of the legal and media justification for ZANU PF’s land grab policies and the attendant attacks on the judiciary, is honest, possesses a beautiful work ethic, loves his country and one of very few ZANU PF Ministers I know for a fact as being uncorrupted. To this day he remains largely very poor by ZANU PF standards because he has tried to practice honest politics.
I should know as I spent long hours often until very very late into the night working on the Constitution at our offices and homes, long before anyone even knew that there were efforts to find common ground on a new national constitution from as long ago as the year 2000. We disagreed on a great many things but one was always certain that there was never a fake Patrick. What you saw and heard was what you got. Direct, honest and without pretenses. Even on the days I would mock him on the Dinyane, Tsholotsho debacle after he “prostrated” himself before Mugabe to save his political life, he would always throw at me the cliché that: all history is the history of victors.
I know that, unlike many of his ZANU PF Cabinet colleagues, he knows what needs to be done to begin the process of resolving the economic quagmire we are in. I know that even on the land question he is aware what needs to be done to put the value of land back on the country’s balance sheet. I know that he also knows that very few, if any, of the things which need to be done can be done under the current leadership of his party. No doubt his current predicament is a predicament of conscience. I hazard to say for the first time in many years, he is standing eyeball to eyeball with the political dragon that his party ZANU PF is. The dragon of incompetence, arrogance, policy confusion and political treachery.
This may not be true, but those in the know say in African hunting tradition, if a man was courageous enough to stare a predator – like a lion or leopard – in the eye, the vicious animal would retreat. But folklore also has examples of ‘fatal attractions’.
Japanese folklore has it that a Samurai warrior on the brink of capture; or one who had done something dishonorable – was obliged to take his life by an act of seppuku or hara-kiri. This was part of the ‘soldier’s’ bushido code of honor, self-disembowelment or falling onto one’s sword as a sign of remorse. It was “… part of a more elaborate ritual and performed in front of spectators, consists of plunging a short blade, traditionally a tantō into the abdomen and drawing the blade from left to right, slicing the abdomen open.” I assume it was also Jewish tradition because in the book of Samuel, we read that “Then said Saul unto his armor bearer, draw thy sword, and thrust me through therewith; lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and abuse me. But his armor bearer would not; for he was so afraid. Therefore, Saul took a sword, and fell upon it.”
In modern medical science, we know that the practice of euthanatos – commonly referred to as euthanasia – has strong elements of harakiri, but relates to involuntary or voluntary termination of another’s or one’s life on account of one’s irrevocable state of illness. In Zimbabwe’s highly conservative and judgmental society, ‘mercy killing’ has been outlawed. My humble submission is that more often than not we have seen men and women in President Robert Mugabe’s government humiliated to the point where harakiri or voluntary euthanasia becomes the only honorable option. This is where my friend Patrick, the current such Finance Minister finds himself.
He should have known better. Based on our experience with former reserve bank governor Gideon Gono, running income and expenditure accounts under the guise of ZANU PF leads only to one mode – self-destruct. President Mugabe operates his government on the basis of predatory patronage. Of all the eleven finance ministers I can recall since independence, Bernard Chidzero, Ariston Chambati, Simba Makoni and Christopher Kuruneri appeared to be allowed to exercise a bit of ‘fiscal independence’. The others – Enos Nkala, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Herbert Murerwa and Samuel Mumbengegwi could only have survived by prostrate allegiance to the Emperor. We know what happened to Christopher Kuruneri and Simba Makoni when they attempted to be REAL finance ministers.
On no less than three times in the last six months, Patrick has been humiliated by either Mugabe or some of the nonagenarian’s lap dogs. Earlier this year, Patrick Zhuwao, in his capacity as Minister for Indigenisation, publicly lambasted Chinamasa for ‘misleading’ the nation on the compliance of international banks in Zimbabwe to the country’s indigenisation law. Thereafter, all pronouncements that Chinamasa has made on fiscal prudence have been reversed by President Mugabe. As the man who is running national coffers, Chinamasa has a microscopic view of the country’s fiscal health. Also as proved by his trips to London, Paris and Washington, his desire is to re-engage the Bretton Woods Institutions as a way to mitigate Zimbabwe’s precarious foreign debt situation and begin the long process of restoring the country’s credit rating to some positive side.
There are examples of ministers in this region who have survived the rigours of populist government demagoguery. Trevor Manuel, one the longest serving finance ministers, a World Economic Forum “Global Leader for Tomorrow” nominee in 1994 and boasting numerous awards was courageous enough to step down when he felt he had overstayed his welcome. I know that since becoming the AG several years back, Patrick has had very little life outside ZANU PF, but like myself, he is both a farmer and an experienced lawyer. It might be that his entrepreneurial potency has by now been blunted by years of uncapped ZANU PF benevolence, yet the mark of a strong man is not how many times he falls, but how often he picks himself up.
Resignation in the face of humiliation is honourable. In 1996 when the late Minister for Education Edmund Garwe was humiliated by his daughter who had been found in possession of examination papers, he did the honourable thing and resigned. In 2001, Dr Nkosana Moyo inventedresignation while in flight when he quit as Minister of Industry and International Trade because he “was frustrated by lawlessness and attacks on farms and businesses by ZANU PF activists.” His conscience did not allow him to be part of plunder and thuggery. Surprisingly, as the ZANU PF reign of terror ambles towards its end, we are seeing more of its ministers clawing each other to get to the foot of the emperor’s throne. It is impossible to comprehend how serious men and women who value their professional lives can tear each other for space at the head of the Titanic table.
My wish is that Patrick need not wait for another tranche of humiliation in order to make up his mind. I have not spoken to him over his latest misfortunes but I am certain he is profoundly disappointed he is not being allowed to do his job. Not long ago, Goodwills Masimirembwa was roasted by Mr Mugabe in the media for allegedly accepting bribes from Ghanaian diamond mine investors. Just last week ago, the media overheated with a story that Local Government Minister, Savior Kasukuwere, whose political life appears to be hanging by a thread, was ‘sjamboked’ in public by Mugabe for land deals with PHD founder Walter Magaya. It would seem, as we draw nearer the 2018 election, President Mugabe’s paranoia of losing power will push him to the extreme end of ministerial humiliation.
While, assisted suicide as a panacea for clinical pain is outlawed in Zimbabwe, if Patrick wants to prove that he is a man with a conscience and some principle, harakiri seems the best option on offer for him right now. How can he continue as Minister when he is being forced to do things he has no belief in? It surely must be time for him to be a Samurai warrior. By Professor Welshman Ncube, MDC President