Letters from TZ

A president donating to his country

Last week, it was widely reported that good, old Sir Bob, he of the Zimbabwean presidency, had provided $20 million – yes, million – some of which could be his own money, for use by his government, to serve his people. Reporting for The Independent in Harare, Brian Chitemba covered the president’s gift to the Zimbabwean people in an article he named, ‘Vote buying: Zanu-PF’s age old survival strategy’.

“As the next elections loom, Mugabe last week unveiled a US$20 million farming package for the 2012-13 summer cropping season in which Zanu PF supporters are expected to receive seed maize, bags of ammonium nitrate fertiliser and seed cotton, while Matabeleland farmers will get dipping chemicals and livestock supplements,” Chitemba wrote. “Mugabe’s critics were quick to question the source of the money given that Zanu PF and the government are supposedly bankrupt,” he added.

Yawn, right? Another day, another blow to the African electoral process? Maybe. But whatever the case, Sir Bob sure knows how to make fraud fun. $20 million is nothing to scoff at. But where did the money come from? Some say that the octogenarian shopped around a presidential ‘begging bowl’ to collect ‘mchango’ from his wealthy friends, and also asked for money from donors that are friendly to Zimbabwe, e.g. China. How true that is, I don’t know.

Others are not so forgiving. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai went on a predictable rampage, questioning the president’s motives and the shadowy sources of his 20 million dollar bounty. According to the Zimbabwe Mail, the Prime Minister was scathing in his skepticism. “Mugabe put $20 million on inputs. First of all, where did he get that money? Secondly, I have never heard of a President who becomes a donor in his country,” Tsvangirai said, reportedly.

As I say, if anyone can give corruption a happy face, it has to be the grand old man of Zimbabwean politics. When it comes to winning elections on a platform constructed purely from cash, Mugabe clearly brings his ‘A’ game. Obviously, Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) are not happy, probably because they can’t get their hands on the loot. To that effect, he was extremely vocal about his displeasure.

“Stop playing with people’s minds, this is diamond money. We are having problems in Cabinet where the minister for mines says we sold diamonds worth billions of dollars, but where is the money going? This country is so wealthy, if only we had transparency,” Tsvangirai raged. “It’s now an election and I want to tell you that when the inputs come, take them, because it’s diamond money that is being used,” Tsvangirai is reported to have told party supporters during a memorial service for victims of politically-motivated violence. MDC-T has been part of the ruling coalition since 2009.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, State owned media were praising the gallant efforts of their president. “Thousands of peri-urban farmers from Hatcliffe, Harare, received farming inputs from the Presidential Well-Wishers’ Inputs Scheme launched in the area recently. The scheme is meant to benefit vulnerable people like orphans, widows and child-headed families,” read a report in The Herald. I guess for Zanu-PF and its tried and tested campaign methods, it is business as usual.

Tanzanian towel saves the day for Gor Mahia

When you’re discussing football in Kenya, sometimes the goings on off the pitch are just as intriguing as the matches themselves. There has always been talk of teams using more than just their God-given skills and talents to win. Ever since the heyday of rival sides AFC Leopards and Gor Mahia, allegations of witchcraft and sorcery have been rife.

So it was no surprise when at a recent Confederations Cup of Africa qualifier in Nairobi, Gor Mahia was accused of using witchy tricks to keep opposing side Sofa Paka from scoring. It was alleged that Tanzanian national and Gor Mahia goalkeeper Ivo Mapunda, was magically keeping the ball away from the Gor goal with a towel that was hanging on the net. At one point during the match, when a Sofa Paka player took the towel and threw it on the ground, Mapunda angrily demanded its return. And that’s when it all became a bit suspicious. Was the towel the goalie’s secret weapon?

Sofa Paka went on to lose the qualifier in a penalty shoot out that saw their best players missing clear chances on goal. The next day, as fans continued to speculate on the mysterious towel and its damning effect on the Sofa Paka side, Mapunda went on record to clear the air. “I played with their (Sofapaka players) minds. It reached a point where they were not playing against me, they were playing against the towel.” I guess that proves that football is not just about the fancy footwork. But as I say, it never has been.