Deny, deflect and divert: Zanu PF’s flawed approach to governings

When the news that the Association of Rural Teachers of Zimbabwe (Artuz) boss, Obert Masaraure had allegedly been kidnapped, brutalised and left for dead first filtered in, the government and by extension Zanu PF’s response was predictable; they would deny everything and if possible, blame the victim and true to form, that is exactly what they did.

Probably, the best response would have been for the police — not the government through Information and Publicity secretary, Ndavaningi Mangwana — to say they are investigating the issue and would seek to speak to Masaraure first to ascertain the details of the case.

Instead, they resorted to a crass knee jerk response that has become the hallmark of Zanu PF governments right from 1980.

Zanu PF’s approach to governing is simple, particularly when confronted with a difficult issue — deny, deflect and divert.

Not much thinking is involved in this; it just kicks in, like it is second nature and they move on like nothing ever happened.

It is not just about politics, but it is about every sphere of life.

For example, when rumours that a fuel price hike was in the offing in January, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) flatly denied that any such thing was going to happen.

However, a few hours later, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced new fuel prices.

Did Zera apologise or explain the contradiction? No, they just went on like nothing ever happened.

The same thing happened in May, where again reports of a fuel price increase surfaced and true to form, Zera once again denied that.

You would expect that they had learnt something from the episode since they were once beaten, but not with this lot.

Neither did they apologise nor explain why there was miscommunication, instead, for them, life went on and I am sure the list of people that still trusts Zera is not a very long one.

The default mode, that is the easy thing out for this government, is to go into denial mode.

It is like they do not even have to apply their minds to it, it just comes naturally.

Denial is a second nature to this government, right from 1980 to date. They never take responsibility; they do not want to be held accountable and they will deny just about everything.

To this day, nobody wants to take responsibility for Gukurahundi. Authorities have gone from denying that it ever happened, to trying to deflect and place the blame on dissidents, thereby evoking the national security question.

Neither President Emmerson Mnangagwa nor his predecessor, Robert Mugabe, have in any way or form sought to address this issue meaningfully and have so far only offered piecemeal solutions, with their tried and tested response being to deny, deflect or divert.

The modus operandi is the same right through to the shootings of August 1 last year and January this year.
For a while, following the killings in August, the government had managed to move the debate away from the deaths to the rather inane issue of who had deployed the army on that day.

Then there was a time when former Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu came up with an Alice in Wonderland narrative, claiming he had seen snipers on buildings and these were responsible for the August 1 2018 killings.

A former army boss, Anselem Sanyatwe then claimed that a soldier who was accused of shooting into the crowd, had, in fact, shot at a 45 degree angle.

They followed the same script in January this year, denying that the security forces had killed anyone and we were instead introduced to a new term – rogue soldiers.

When foreign television crews, who do not have the same fear as local journalists and whose first instinct is not to censor themselves when reporting, started following up on multiple rape allegations and filmed violent acts, the government responded in a manner they best know how to — deny.

All manner of theories and scenarios were postulated by ranking government officials, with all of them having one theme, no one took accountability nor responsibility.

Instead, the government went for another tried and tested method, that is to deligitimise either the accusers or the media houses that carried the stories.

Together with deligitimisation, they used diversion tactics, accusing the media houses of being part of an age old imperialist plot to unseat the government and the people who had either been allegedly assaulted or raped of being opposition activists hellbent on seeing the government’s back.

So, instead of addressing the allegations, the debate moves to either the foreign media’s lack of sincerity or questioning their interest in Zimbabwe.

Again, what was missing from this narrative is a simple apology or a promise to investigate the claims, but all these seem to be beyond the government.

Then there is the sanctions issue. I have promised not to debate it and am not about to, but allow me to touch briefly on it.

That this government is failing economically is not a secret, but instead of trying to fix their faults, they have dusted up Mugabe’s book of excuses and picked up the most convenient one, that is to blame every failure on sanctions.

When Zanu PF made all those election promises last year, they knew the sanctions were a reality, but they still promised affordable healthcare, housing, better education and more jobs.

A simple reading of this would say that Zanu PF knew they were hamstrung by the sanctions, but they would come up with innovative ways and solutions to circumvent the embargo and ensure that they deliver on their campaign promises.

Mnangagwa was even quoted as saying “we have sanctions, but if we are going to cry about sanctions throughout, then we will not grow”, showing that the government was confident it would thrive in spite of the sanctions.

Therefore, to turn around and blame sanctions today for economic failures is disingenuous; it is dishonest and is an admission of failure.. What Zimbabwe needs is an honest government that is able to accept its flaws, take responsibility for its shortcomings and is accountable to its citizens because without this, we are wasting our time and going nowhere.

 Nqaba Matshazi is AMH head of digital. He writes this in his personal capacity. Feedback nmatshazi@alphamedia.co.zw Twitter: @nqabamatshazi