By Oscar Nkala
Last updated: 11/03/2006 08:00:00
THE past two weeks in Zimbabwe will probably go down in history as the most nightmarish for the increasingly skeletal population of a sinking country.
But as people elsewhere struggled to rise above the confusion brought about by the new Gono-dollars, the city of Bulawayo marked a milestone in its struggle for water security.
Apart from the generally acknowledged fact that the water donors conference was a flop, it marked a new chapter in the general pursuit of the century old Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project (MZWP).
The water donors conference was also significant in highlighting that it has finally dawned on the city fathers and everyone that years of Zanu PF lies, deceit and cheap politicking over the regional thirst can never transform the haunted pipedream into a gush of fresh water.
It was a refusal to accept that the people of the region have to go begging to Harare everytime for water that is in fact supposed to be a freely accessible community resource in Binga, Hwange, Victoria Falls and all the villages along the river basin.
While all the other delegates were deliberating on the harsh reality of the water crisis and its economic impact on Bulawayo's shrunken reputation as an industrial hub, a day-dreamer sat among them, replaying the many hallucinations and nightmares he has experienced in many years of being Zanu PF's speaker box of deception on the crucial regional water security agenda.
Dumiso Dabengwa evidently spent too much time messing up the various ministerial portfolios doled out to him on the government's usual trial and error allocation of duties, in which it is not strange to find a former Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) director of operations appointed minister of Housing, Health and Community Services.
I cannot dispute assertions that lying is contagious or that it has become a rather strange syndrome of self-sustenace in the ruling party. Many followers of the MZWP would not have been surprised, therefore, to hear Dabengwa and Zanu PF's compliant media suggest that an ideologically and financially bankrupt government that has so glaringly failed to deliver staple food to ordinary Zimbabweans would complete the Gwayi-Shangani Dam in 2008.
The worst surprise is that the bare Gwayi-Shangani confluence is already called a dam when it has not even become the water body the dreamers want us to believe it will be. It does not exist, and possibly may not, except in the minds of such terrible day-dreamers. Calling an unimplemented dam a dam could be a ploy to create a feeling that something is really being done when the plan has long gathered dust in the offices of civil servants paid for squatting on the project like the legendary Russian bear. Self respecting leaders would not dare strip themselves as naked as DD did in choosing to be the communal purveyor of lies for the convenience of Zanu PF.
Before replaying the old and tired piece of propaganda about work on MZWP resuming soon, DD should have asked himself why the conference, which was not a government or MZWP initiative, had been held in the first place. This way, it would have taken just one straight thinker to bring DD back from wandering in shady hallucinations to a realisation that the hosting of the conference could only be explained in terms the failure of the government, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and MZWP to live up to their age-old promises.
We were told, until we stopped believing tales involving the Chinese and Malaysian mafias, that Zambezi water will transform the sorry state of aridity in Matabeleland into a self-sufficient a green belt in which chronic malnutrition would be displaced with healthy children tired of carrying full tummies all the time. I will not dwell on public funds that were spent by some MZWP office-bearers on trips to illict love nests in Germany and Canada, which sadly never had anything to with the water stress in Bulawayo.
Dabengwa speaks as if Bulawayo's water problems began yesterday and are about to end now that he and a few nameless, faceless undertakers have just explained to Gideon Gono why water security is crucial to the region. Again, I cannot see why the discredited MZWT chairman, who is possibly the "chairman and the members", would approach Gono, a mere Reserve Bank governor and not the Minister of Water or Rural Development to plead for Zambezi water. Maybe the dynamics of power in Zanu PF have changed while Zimbabweans were busy struggling to reconnect their senses after
government sponsored confusion bred by the Gonodollars, but the last time I checked, protocol had not yet designated the RBZ as the right place to take pleas for the funding for national programmes. Pleading with individuals was never a way of implementing projects even in the most rotten of regimes.
If issues are important, they need to be budgeted for on the national fiscus but since the MZWP was not budgeted for in the running financial year, we are left with very limited choices to speculate on. The best of these is to believe that Dabengwa's conviction that Gono is a newly found disciple of the programme because he knows something all of us don't. As a long-serving former 'trial and error' cabinet minister, where he probably failed dismally since he has been rated unfit for any of the post-2000 'war cabinets', DD knows better than just that the MZWP has never been part of any national budget and therefore of no consequence in national priorities.
Urgent programmes like the Pungwe-Mutare pipeline, of which no one had ever dreamt before independence, have come and gone. The Tokwe-Mukosi dam in the south-east was started, swept away by floods and rebudgeted for again although progress remains fast enough to keep pace with a terminally ill tortoise. The non-allocation of money for the MZWP is a historical injustice, repeated and still being perpetrated by the political order in the country. All sorts of schemers and political dreamers emerge every election year, and talk passionately about water security to buy votes, which demonstrates that this has beome a handy object of political manipualtion of the region's population.
However, it becomes so much of a natonal taboo in between the councils and the parliaments that anyone who mentions it is seen as a purveyor of tribalism, a divisionist, a secessionist opposed to the supposed harmony which even kids at Gaborone's Mogoditshane Village 7 kindergarten know has never existed in Zimbabwe.
"The non-allocation of money for the MZWP is a historical injustice, repeated and still being perpetrated by the political order in the country"
Gono may harbour many ambitions, including that of being president, but he is not even the minister of finance as yet. Fresh double talk and a multiplicity of strange, hawkish bed-fellows pairing up as stakeholders around MZWP also leaves us wondering if Gono has not joined the struggle for both ownership of, or taking the credit for implementing this project. Sugestions that he may be positiong himself for a shot at the presidency are probably weird, but power corupts, and this highly contagious disease is believed to affect high levels of the Zimbabwean government. We are also left wondering if he is not one of the Marco Polos, perennial seekers of personal silk routes, with farms straddling the planned pipeline.
The MZWP is much older than Gono's tenure as RBZ governor, so DD's suggestion that he has been rolled into the ugly bungle smacks of a conspiracy of sorts. It is as if Gono has assured DD not to worry about the inclusion of the MZWP on national budgets and trust that all is well because he will send a personal cheque. DD should stop telling such old and ageing lies. He should start telling the MZWT shareholders why the pipeline project has not taken off since 1992 when things were at a ready-go stage. Water activists are still waiting for him to submit the MZWT ledger files as demanded by the High Court in Bulawayo three years ago. Contempt of court is still an offence in Zimbabwe and it defeated the intended scrutiny of the project finances even before it began. This also suggests that the records could be the graveyard where financial impropriety secrets more scary than Gukurahundi are buried under the chairman's signature.
Like other water activists, I would also prefer a prosecution if it turns out that a secretary and her married boss did spend time holed up in love nests in Canada and Germany on MZWT expenses. From Dabengwa's incoherent eulogy, the Gwayi-Shangani dream will be a reality in 2008 simply because Gono says so. Instead of trying to create buffs and signposts of confusion, DD should be reminded that he owes the people not just an explantion about why the water project has become so haunted by political grand-standing, misleading public postures and suddenly become a subject of behind the doors meetings between himself and Gono.
While he arranges a clean-up of the lies that have come to be associated with the project, it would be a good attempt at self-redemption for DD to answer to publicised and very believable
accusations that apart from denying them water, he has also denied the Matabeleland people a chance at economic empowerment by coverting to personal use and laying to waste the timber equipment that Joshua Nkomo bought them with the best of intentions.
The revealtions around the timber equipment theft, abuse and ravaging also leave us wondering if DD is not one of those looking at making more selfish benefits from the MZWP. His timber concessions lie conveniently in the path of the proposed pipeline, with many well-off Zanu PF beneficiaries staking their claims as orderly as they can from Sawmills through the wildlife heartland of Gwayi where government leaders fighting other land invaders over lodges provide a clue of just who should have properties close to the pipeline long before it comes, if it ever will.
If DD was not the liar he has forced all of us to reluctantly accept he is, the whole programme, not just the Gwayi-Shangani would have been completed in 1998, at which time the project was still considered feasible since the country had currency as opposed to the funny money being dragged through the streets of Bulawayo in sleeping bags and tattered grain sacks. More lies than truths have been told about MZWP.
Even Robert Mugabe's repeated proclaimations that "Matabeleland will never die" sound even hollower the more he repeats them, moreso since the region buried ZanuPF and its evils in 2000. DD should be ashamed of himself for betraying and sacrificing his own people on the selfish altar of Zanu PF expediency. If the decades long denial of water to Matabeleland is not a continuation of Gukurahundi as many people in the region can be forgiven to believe, then DD would better give it a name since he is the ruling party's divisional gatekeeper in its grand plan of marginalisation. If the government will ever get serious with MZWT, it will not be because it has the welfare of Bulawayo and Matabeleland at heart. It will only be serving the needs of its henchmen and hangers on that have already taken strategic farms along key water control points on the planned pipeline. It is not a secret that during the chaos of the resettlement exercise, senior Zanu PF officials scrambled for and fought many turf wars over properties along the path of the planned pipeline.
The ongoing land war between John Nkomo and a certain settler in Gwayi is just as good an example of the water war as the fight between Ibbo Mandaza and Obert Mpofu's war veterans in the Bubi-Umguza area. Judging by the number of farms and large-scale personal agricultural projects on the chefs' farms, the biggest thing Bulawayo can ever receive would be a tiny drop of water, if this pipedream ever materialized.
In simple terms, water from the Zambezi will be diverted, yes in the name of Bulawayo and glamorous recitals will be made of possible benefits for the poor man and the local State-owned rags have already done an extensive propaganda job on that. But the reality is not lost to the supposed beneficiaries for they know that the water will not be used to the salvation of the city or the poor people in the hinterlands. The beneficiaries already know themselves, they are lined up and they include many aliens who
should have never gotten land in the region if Zanu PF was not cracking a routine joke when it said that people could only find land in their home districts.
Assuming DD was serious, and not lying as he knows he did, he would also reveal the true nature of the beneficiaries, who can only be such 'right people' as himself. By the 'right people' I mean all yester-year arrivals and party-related cannibals who have so well positioned themselves on the pipeline path and eagerly await to trade briskly on the commodity from the first flow. The so-called green belt of agriculture along the pipeline will possibly come, but it will also not belong to or work for benefit of the local communities.
The only way they can be allowed to trepass into the belt would be if they offer the slave labour that will be required by the new black-capitalist class. Never mind that this class is already looting their timber forests and laying their soils bare. These alien capitalists will also sell them rotten and 'market-unfit' vegetables. Because of the high concentration of Mafia-schooled capitalists along the pipeline path, I also foresee a pipeline of the most expensive water in the world because it will be viewed as private property in private farms. The people of Matabeland have heard more than their fair share of lies, they would feel better if politicians and waht is supposed to be their developmental appendages stopped this severe rationing of the truth. Dabengwa has no capacity to mobilize more funds beyond what he has already looted from the MZWT coffers.
Plenty of things are still going wrong at MZWP and we naturally expect DD to explain. People should refuse to believe in liar DD until Zambezi reaches Bulawayo. We should also not lose sight of the fact that Gono's donation of "understanding" and promises to see MZWP through does not in any way account for the money that has disappeared from the project account. People who continue to mislead the shareholders and beneficiaries at the behest of an unpopular party and discriminatory governing regime should remember that even the so-called gullible people do have long memories, especially for abuses and gross injustice. DD can still salvage some measure of respect for himself by standing up for the people and the truth, not standing against the
people as a government vessel of distorting the truth!