The Standard


10 The Standard September 14 to 20 2014

Comment & Analysis


Leaders need wisdom

more than degrees

Tsvangirai, Pistorius: The

media’s ‘poster boys’

ZIMBABWEAN politicians now rank among the most

educated officials in Africa but their record in government

is appalling to say the least.

While their academic credentials may be impeccable, their

performance leaves one with an impression they lack common

sense and basic problem-solving skills needed to rescue

the country from an economic crisis.

Flashback to 2007. When a Cabinet full of people with doctorate

degrees was confronted with a fuel crisis, President Robert

Mugabe, who boasts of seven degrees, and his ministers with

Ph.Ds turned to Rotina Mavhunga, a Grade 11 drop out.

The self-styled spirit medium misled them into believing

that diesel could flow out of the rocks of Maningwa Mountain

near Chinhoyi.

Rotina’s aides simply bought the diesel from haulage

trucks passing near the mountain, put it into plastic containers

which she hid up some rocks and siphoned the fuel using

a pipe, making it flow over the rocks — and bingo, she had the

barefoot Cabinet ministers clapping their hands with glee!

They all swallowed the trickery hook, line and sinker and

Rotina was showered with expensive gifts.

After this embarrassing debacle, the same group of ministers

believed that by planting jatropha, Zimbabwe could also

banish her fuel problems for good. As a result, US$5 million

was wasted in constructing a bio-diesel plant that is now rotting

in Mt Hampden.

There are too many examples that show how our Ph.D holding

ministers can become clueless when confronted with national


In many cases, their conduct leaves one doubting if they

genuinely acquired their degrees, or if some fawning universities

just gave them titles for self-gratification.

It is against this background that Zimbabweans woke up

on Saturday to see pictures of Vice-President Joice Mujuru

and First Lady Grace Mugabe in full academic dress, having

graduated with doctorate degrees at the University of Zimbabwe.

Lazarus Dokora, the minister of Primary and Secondary

education also graduated with a doctorate. Ironically, Dokora

stands accused of harming Zimbabwe’s education system

through a raft of unpopular policies. Grace has ruffled

many feathers in her bid to be elevated to the Zanu PF politburo.

These officials might have sweated to get their doctorates,

but they need to do more to convince the nation that the degrees

will enhance their ability to positively contribute to

the social, political and economic sectors of the Zimbabwean


There is one thread so strongly

similar about Morgan Tsvangirai

and Oscar Pistorius

which I thought I should share with

other readers. In their respective

countries, these two were underdogs

who triumphed over adversity

with varying degrees of success.

People tend to love underdogs.

Tsvangirai offers the story of

an uneducated man who rose

from being a mere mine worker

to lead a labour union, eventually

persuading university academics,

student leaders and civil society

leaders to form the first ever

credible post-independence opposition

party to challenge Robert

Mugabe’s grip on power.

Fifteen years down the line, Tsvangirai’s

endurance still makes

headline news having bagged the

Prime Ministerial post at one

time — right under the nose and

tutelage of his erstwhile political

foe Mugabe.

Pistorious comes across as a

double amputee who awed the

world with his speed using prosthetic

legs. We are told Pistorious

grew up as an amputee, who

through his late mother’s encouragement

and sheer hardwork, has

scaled the zenith of his adopted

sport to the pinnacle.

What makes these two guys interesting

to me is where they

stand today vis-à-vis their past

relationship with the media in

their respective countries and

even beyond their borders. They

have even charmed the likes of

BBC and CNN in the past. During

their rise to fame, the media

understandably fell for these underdogs

who had to endure strong

and often humiliating challenges.

Their backgrounds presented

a narrative of breathtaking

courage. Such characters obliviously

attract media attention not

by their own volition, but the circumstances

under which their energies

and willpower are tested.

Pistorious transformed man’s

understanding and perception towards

the “able-bodied”. The media

could not be blind to this.

How could Tsvangirai succeed

where struggle stalwarts like

Edgar Tekere and Joshua Nkomo

failed? Where even such consummate

lawyers like former Supreme

Court Judge Chief Justice

Enock Dumbutshena, had failed

with his Forum Party.

How could Pistorious win legal

battles to run and represent

Oscar Pistorius . . . he disappointed a

lot of people who viewed him as a role

model for the disabled.

MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai . . . he

has offered hope and disillusionment in

equal measure.

his country with prosthetic legs

at the Olympics, of all places and

even come back home with a gold

medal! Such facts surpass human

thinking and attract positive coverage

from the media. Even some

of their glaring goofs are left unscrutinised

for fear of embellishing

these adorable characters.

Both Tsvangirai and Pistorious

have had their human failings

exposed in the past. Tsvangirai’s

electoral loss has always been attributed

to Zanu PF chicanery.

The 2005 MDC split was attributed

to a “power-hungry” Welshman

Ncube who could not stomach being

led by an indecisive leader. Today,

the media face another challenge

of Tsvangirai exposing his

dictatorial tendencies given the

way Elton Mangoma’s renewal

call was handled by Tsvangirai,

with the subsequent expulsion of

other perceived anti-Tsvangirai


The media finds itself in a dilemma.

How do they repackage

such a battered image of one who

offered so much hope against tyranny,

corruption, nepotism and

incompetence? How do we discard

such a horse in politics?

Equally, in South Africa and

elsewhere, the media finds it hard

to take that Pistorius has committed

such a dastardly act of killing

his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Both men seem to have fallen victim

to the underdog sense of moral

exception: they are right while

everybody else is wrong.

In some quarters, as the public

dramas have played out, both men

have forfeited their victim status.

In Zimbabwe, the public media will

have a field day over the Biti-Tsvangirai

battle. The private media and

most anti-Mugabeists in Zimbabwe

would be at pains to label the “daring”

Tsvangirai the catalyst to the

breaking up of a once formidable

1999 MDC. Public opinion about Tsvangirai

is divided.

There are many reasons why

some media houses remain loyal

to Tsvangirai ranging from atavistic

adherence to the anti-Mugabe

stance, to the fact that most Zimbabweans’

lives had improved

during the GNU era. Like I said,

there had not been, until now, a

credible black-led opposition in

Zimbabwe. A Tsvangirai-led MDC

has also sold newspapers. Few are

willing to bite the hand that feeds

them. For the many young teenage

girls in South Africa and other

disabled young people Pistorius

was the ultimate loverboy,

warrior and hero. These two men

have not only left the media in a

quagmire, but also thousands and

millions of sympathisers just cannot

understand why. The jury is

still out.

Odrix Mhiji, Chitungwiza

Help households to manage litter

DiDyMus Mutasa (with Jersey) claps hands in Maningwa hills where Rotina Mavhunga

played her tricks.

There are a lot of anti-littering

signs along roads. What has

given rise to these are the irreponsible

litter-bugs among us.

It is a fact that Harare City Council

cannot cope with the mountains

of litter that residents generate

on a daily basis. They have

always argued that they do not

have enough vehicles, manpower

and sometimes fuel to remove garbage

either from the city centre or

residential areas.

Dumping waste recklessly, just

like ignoring a veld fire, attracts

a fine, if not a jail erm. We need

the Environmental Management

Agency to educate people on ways

to manage litter. Litter should be

separated at household level with

plastics being sent for recycling.

It would help to have small composts

at each household where biodegradable

matter would be deposited

and later used in the garden.

I am angry with people who actually

drive in the night to go and

dump their domestic waste at

open spaces or on the shoulders

of the roads. They leave an assortment

of litter that includes used

diapers. Stray dogs rip them apart

and what we have is something

that one cannot look at twice. We

are an educated lot, but we lack

wisdom. Each one of us must be

an anti-litter police of sorts for a

cleaner environment.




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