On my way to church this Sunday I saw some interesting headlines from the papers of the day. One such headline was by the state newspaper, the Sunday Mail, which read: No under 18: President.
This headline was interesting to me because a few days prior to that, a court judge had made a very controversial ruling with regards to the country’s age of consent to a sexual relationship. According to the contentious ruling, it means courts in Zimbabwe now unofficially recognise the age of consent for girls to be 12 years old. Zimbabwe’s official age of consent is 16. This ruling was however greeted with a national outcry, with most people saying a 12-year-old girl is just too young to give her consent to sexual intercourse. As is the norm these days, people took to social media questioning the judge’s decision. Lawmakers and human rights activists also reacted angrily to the judgment and demanded legislative reforms to enhance legal protection for children under the age of 16.
The situation got even worse when the country’s prosecutor general was reported to have supported the judge on the matter. The state newspaper The Herald had a sensational headline: ‘Tomana pulls a sex shocker’ in reference to the prosecutor general Johannes Tomana’s comments on the matter. Tomana was quoted to have said girls as young as 12 must be listened to by the courts if they wish to start families with older men, because they are capable of giving consent to sex.
It is against this background that the headline ‘No under 18: President’ caught my eye. After church I therefore looked for the paper. Unfortunately it was sold out by that time. I looked for the other weekend paper The Standard and hoped to read the president’s comments on the contentious matter. Indeed, The Standard had the story on the president’s comments but it was relegated to the background the moment I saw the picture the newspaper carried on its front page. That picture was of grave concern to me because it also told its own story, a story that I believe should be of much greater concern not only to the girl child, but to every Zimbabwean.
The front page picture was that of President Robert Mugabe taking a nap at the Child Parliament proceedings. I am not sure at what point the president fell asleep, but the picture tells me that he did so before the end of the proceedings.It brought a thousand questions to my mind. How often does my president sleep during important meetings? How much of what is going on in Zimbabwe does he not know because he could be fast asleep when people are talking about such issues? In his rulings and judgments, does he consider other people’s views when he is not even awake to listen to them?
I know he has aides who will tell him what would have transpired in a meeting, but do we trust them well enough to be our spokespersons when they relate our trials and tribulations to him?
h3. Country with a leadership crisis
His party Zanu-PF has said he is still their man to even stand for the 2018 presidential elections. Now when a party puts their trust in a president who is tired enough to take a nap in important meetings not only once but many times, then it tells you that this country indeed has a leadership crisis. If the president is tired enough to take a nap in public meetings, one wonders how often he take these naps behind closed doors when the nation expects him to be working. I respect my president and what he stands for. But I think he is biting off more than he can chew and at the end of the day his principles and policies become a burden that no one can carry.
I don’t think his ministers understand what he wants with regards to indigenisation because if they did, we wouldn’t be hearing the lead adviser to the deals telling the whole nation that most negotiations with miners were abandoned and up to now there is no alternative solution. I know a great deal of work was invested in negotiating these deals, with some executives flying from their foreign bases in an effort to find common ground, only for those negotiations to be abandoned without an alternative solution. Who does that? What investor would come and pour his money into such an environment, where there is no certainty and everything is just hanging in the air and subject to manipulation?
h3. Ministers don’t understand Mugabe’s land reform policies either
I don’t think his ministers understand what he wants with regards to the land reform programme because if they did they would not have allowed some individuals to have multiple farms, something which is against the law. They would not have allowed people with no intention of being farmers to get hold of our prime land in the first place. If his ministers understood what he wanted, they would have given land to people who would have demonstrated their ability and capability to be farmers. Would it not have been a better idea to give first preference to those who have studied agriculture at various universities and colleges? At least we know they have already sacrificed years of study to be in this field.
There is talk that some farmers are going to lose some of their land as government embarks on a national land audit. And these are the same farmers you want banks to support with loans, when the next day, that farm can be taken away. It doesn’t work that way and no bank will budge on this one.
In my view, these issues have destroyed investor confidence for years now, and the sooner we stay awake to these challenges, the better.