Chinotimba: defending whose rights and to serve what purpose?

24 Jan

So Joseph Chinotimba is at it again. Hogging the limelight which I’m sure he relishes even in his sleep. From invading and reinvading farms, to winning human rights defenders awards, this time he was caught in action clearing garbage at Mbare Musika and condemning the Harare City Council for not collecting it. Apparently, heaps of praises have been poured on him for this supposedly valiant move. But I beg to differ. Whatever stunts Chinotimba is pulling they are not amusing at all nor do they come across as genuine. Whatever he did in Mbare cleaning up garbage could have been done by me, you or the inept Harare City Council. So in a sense we could all have pulled a Chinotimba!

Let’s face it, Chinotimba makes some pretty comical gaffes and jokes but I will not allow his jokes to hoodwink me. I will make three points here. Chinotimba managed to do whatever he did in Mbare because the system he operates in i.e. ZANU PF allows him to do so. If it had been anyone else, they probably would have been asked to “seek police clearance”, arrested, beaten by the police or possibly have been denied even the “opportunity” to collect the refuse from Mbare or even their own neighborhood. So, there is nothing special about what he did. The whole of Zimbabwe is fully aware of the garbage problems in our cities and there is no need for him to make noise about the same.

Secondly, Chinotimba must not think that he is very clever and can pull woolen hats over peoples’ eyes. Recently he has been caught up in a big mess widely reported in the press about his invasion of another farm. ZANU PF has on numerous occasions spoken about one man one farm policies; an end to politically motivated violence and farm invasions. One would assume that an award winning human rights defender would know better than to commit such vile acts, but he has done exactly the opposite of what typical human rights defenders would do. His act of cleaning up garbage at Mbare Musika stinks of a plot to cleanse his faltering image by playing to the peoples’ gallery. Chinotimba is just trying to appear as if he is concerned about the public and does so wily by attacking the Harare City Council which leads me to my third point, the beleaguered Harare City Council.

Everything must be read in context. The Harare City Council is dominated by the opposition Tsvangirai’s MDC. Of course, it is also clear that the City Council has failed to run the affairs of the City of Harare diligently. I will not defend the beleaguered City Council but I also strongly believe that the ills in the institution largely emanate from the excessive powers accorded to the Minister of Local Government who meddles and interferes in the efficient running of the institution. The Harare City Council continues to battle corruption wherein staff can be allowed to buy snow graders for a country and city that has never experienced snow, the plague of ghost workers, senior employees who continue to be paid whilst absent from duty, staff that is paid exorbitant salaries and so on. These challenges gobble huge sums of money which could be utilized for refuse collection and other critical functions. For Chinotimba to want to argue that the City Council spends most of its fuel chasing kombis in town is unfortunate and misplaced. It is just a diversionary tactic by him. The Harare City Council needs to rid the City Center of the menacing kombis. Of course, just like any reasonable person I disagree with the way the Council carries out this work of trying to rid the city center of kombis by violent means. However, I believe that part of the problem stems from a central government and police which fails to reign in thee kombis and their owners once and for all. The lackadaisical approach to the problem of kombis and public transport by the central government as a policy matter leaves the Harare City Council in a limbo.

The root of the problem with garbage collection is not Harare City Council’s alone. There are bigger forces in ZANU PF that stifle the Harare City Council from doing its job properly. If it is the Council and the Councilors who are corrupt and cannot deliver then they must just be fired. Chinotimba should spare us the nonsense and if he really wants to clean up the garbage he knows where to go. Shake Shake House and Jibril would be a good starting point. There is too much baggage and garbage that needs to be gotten rid from there. Otherwise there would no need for him to go to Mbare Musika or if there was a genuine problem with garbage, you, me or him could have just done the same and taken to the streets to condemn the City Council or just removed the garbage as he did. I would want to be a human rights defender too, I would want to own my own farm too, I would want to clear the garbage at Mbare Musika too. But alas, Chinotimba, please go and clear the rubbish in your party first!

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