HARARE – President Mugabe was treated to yet another birthday “celebration” by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the body that purports to represent government workers.
This coming after the $1million shindig at Rhudhaka Stadium not so long ago.
It is, however, improbable that this second round of sycophancy would have had the blessing of the ordinary civil servant.
Still unsure he or she will get the promised salary increment, the lowly government worker would surely not approve of this unnecessary indulgence.
These are, of course, gestures of the CSC elite; the beneficiaries of patronage seeking to curry favour with Mugabe.
As for Mugabe, ego seems to stand in the way of reason.
It is some of these superfluous occasions that he should turn down.
It may not be so much the amount that is saved but the expressive effect of such an act; that he cannot sanction even the most minimal wastage at a time citizens, not least civil servants, are suffering.
Nonetheless, Mugabe— apart from his pointless ramblings — takes these opportunities to broach serious subjects too: corruption, for example.
In recent months, citizens were astounded at how some executives at government institutions and councils have been quietly pocketing extravagant salaries and perks.
It is indeed difficult to make a case for corruption against an executive for a salary he or she was legally and contractually awarded.
So “corrupt” here may be invoked not in the legal but moral sense unless a case can be proved of underhand dealings between approver of such salaries and the beneficiary.
While the boards are culpable, Mugabe’s ministers cannot escape the fact that they presided over these unconscionable excesses.
But Mugabe is rather protective of or lax about his ministers; even if he says he is aware some of them are corrupt.
In December 2012, he revealed that former South African president Thabo Mbeki told him senior Zanu PF ministers had demanded a $10 million bribe to facilitate a $1 billion investment by African National Congress (ANC)-linked investors.
“…they have been told: ‘If you want to do this business, you bring US$5 million and from that US$5 million we take US$1 million to the minister to give to the president’,” Mugabe said.
What happened? Nothing.
And Mugabe’s excuse?
“If I get information stating that so and so minister is doing this, he goes,” he said. “Unfortunately, sometimes complainants do not want to identify the ministers, fearing persecution but that is happening in the ministries.”
That was the end of the matter.
It all sounded rather lame, however, for Mugabe to claim the aggrieved potential ANC investors would decline to expose the culprits.
On the other hand, it illustrates lack of resolve; corruption requires determined investigation.
Mugabe probably reappointed the corrupt ministers back into his Cabinet last year.
Last year, he was to thump the table in a show of “anger” against corruption, naming Godwills Masimirembwa, former chairman of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation as having demanded a bribe.
It later turned out he had been fed with wrong information. He absolved him.
But, it would be naïve of Mugabe to assume that the exoneration of Masimirembwa means the diamond industry has been corruption-free.
For how else can we rationalise the measly sums trickling to the Treasury from the supposedly lucrative diamond mining?
At the CSC-hosted birthday party last week, Mugabe made yet another revelation.
One of his ministers, he said, demanded a $70 000 bribe from a foreign businessman.
If this is not another Masimirembwa, citizens expect action. For what is the point of telling the nation about corrupt ministers time and again when he does not act against them?
Mugabe thumps tables; repeats the word “corruption” multiple times in apparent emphatic disgust.
But it seems he is so big on words and so small on action, especially when it comes to his ministers.
Zimbabweans must be sick to the back teeth about a president who publicly pronounces disdain towards corruption and yet does nothing about it.
At the very least, citizens expect an investigation on the minister, and at most, retributive action if found guilty.
Without any follow-up action, Mugabe’s rants only amount to synthetic rage.