By Sij Ncube
HARARE, July 23 – STRUGGLING state entities fell over each other Thursday to wish President Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, many more years to come when she turned 50, as the Zanu PF patronage system took centre stage as the ruling party celebrated her golden jubilee.
Despite most state companies being listed in critical condition due to the prevailing harsh economic climate, state executives had no qualms in taking up expensive advertising space in the Zanu (PF) mouth-piece The Herald.
They all showered Grace with praises bordering on boot-licking to mark a “golden Jubilee of Amazing Grace” and all adverts were emblazoned with Grace’s varying portraits.
In a typical style in an authoritarian dictatorship, Mugabe’s office set the ball-rolling with Misheck Sibanda, the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, inserting a fawning advert in a 14-paged supplement cobbled up by The Herald Thursday to mark Amai’s 50th birthday.
“Hers is indeed a life wholly given to acts of benevolence and one of outstanding commitment to the welfare of the marginalised, the down-trodden and vulnerable members of the society. Her principled and unflinching stance in defence of the family unit, its values and its sanctity is indeed an immense inspiration to the entirety of the Zimbabwean people and humanity in general,” read part of the advert, inserted by Sibanda.
But her critics have been quick to question “her principled and unflinching stance in defence of the family” pointing out she had a child out of the wedlock with Mugabe while his first wife was on her death-bed.
Not to be outdone was the ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services. “Your journey and life has been an epitome of envy, a model upon which we Zimbabweans have proudly nurtured our being and patriotism. Your desire to bring freedom and economic empowerment for the marginalised black majority is as inspiring.
“An advocate of transparency and good corporate governance, Dr Amai’s philanthropies of unparalleled virtue and her steadfastness in mainstreaming economic empowerment policies for the youth and women resonates well with our ruling party Zanu PF and government’s manifesto – Zim-Asset.”
However, her loyalists, critics point out, have been to have a penchant of extorting money from unsuspecting citizens using her name, adding that a number of Zanu PF youth leaders were presently in the courts over fraud charges.
Be that as it may, all ministries, including their entities, inserted adverts but it is the splashing by struggling state firms such as the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), Net-One, Public Service Medical Aid (PSMA), National Handling Services, Air Zimbabwe, Tel One, CMED, ZESA Holdings, Allied Timbers, ZUPCO, Agribank, Air Zimbabwe and the Mineral Marketing Authority of Zimbabwe that set tongues wagging. In essence nearly all state entities are in the red, including those in the diamond sector. ZUPCO, Net-One and Tel-One, for instance, are saddled with debts and have all been crying load for government bail-outs, yet there have had no problems in forking out to celebrate Grace’s birthday, particularly at a time the firms are under pressure to axe staff owing to a prevailing economic meltdown.
Air Zimbabwe, whose two former top executives are rotting in jail for corruption, last week flew from Johannesburg, South Africa to Victoria Falls with a single passenger, signalling that all is not well in the national carrier. The airline is battling to pay its staff and creditors, citing a crippling liquidity crunch.
As if that is not enough, a recent report by the Auditor General Mildred Chiri has also revealed that most ministries and their entities are ravaged by rampant corruption and poor corporate governance which has left their coffers empty.
ZMDC is one of several state entities which were fingered out by Chiri as lacking good corporate governance with revelations executives gave each other hefty holiday allowances that were not authorised by government despite the entity being in the red.
Mugabe last week had to personally intervene to save PSMA from liquidation after he used his constitution-guaranteed presidential powers.
The equally struggling Zimbabwe National Water Authority, which is failing to provide adequate bulk water to rural local authorities, referred to the First Lady as “Our Saving Grace” in full colour advert, unashamedly proclaiming: “Like water on parched ground, you give life to everything you touch. Your work with the women of Zimbabwe has improved the lives on many.”
This gashing comes hardly 24 hours after parliament was told women now buy second-hand under-wear from flea markets which proliferated in the country amid poverty and penury.
Tabani Moyo, a political analyst said: “It is now given that the ruling party has since become a choir in politics of praise singing. They only need a choir master to locate the centre of power and drag with them the entire state architect in furtherance of narrow politics of patronage.”