Dr. Simba Makoni Might be Clean But…

Published on 18th March 2008

Simba Makoni
I lived in Kenya for five years from 1979. And coming from Rhodesia and Botswana then, I can confirm that my first encounter with REAL corrupt behaviour - almost to the point of obscenity - was in Kenya. For all the racial abuse and discrimination that African Rhodesians were subjected to, there was a residual semblance of British integrity in delivery of public service. I picked up all the tricks of 'magendo' [corruption] from the streets of Nairobi, where no morsel of public service would be secured without 'weka kidogo, bwana' [throw in a little something, brother] favour.

My first hand experience of magendo was when, at age 22 [yes, I went into exile as a teenager, staying around the slums of Kawangware next to the posh suburb of Lavington], I attempted to get a driver's licence. A friend of mine [who was employed at an advertising agency run by an eccentric character called Peter Colmore, the man who claims 'discovered' Fadhili William, singer of a famous Kiswahili song called 'Malaika'] warned me that I would 'never get a drivers' licence without sticking something into the stockings of the Instructor'. My first instinct was to swear that back where I came from [in Rhodesia], we never used to pay anyone for a public service. Of course he was right.

My instructor first took me through a 'theory' test, with these little toy cars that one was supposed to move around a 'traffic circle'. Since the toy car was a few centimeters from the 'circle', I lifted it onto the track and failed the test twice. The third time he asked me: "Young man, do you lift cars onto the traffic circle…? By the way you said you come from ... Rhodesia, yes, Rhodesia. In Kenya, we drive them like this...." My friend back at Peter Colmore reminded me about the money in the socks, but being a poor student, I couldn't afford a bribe, and when he paid the instructor, I only drove the real car around the block and collected my licence the next day...

I can confirm that now, in Zimbabwe, one cannot get a driver's licence, passport, identity document, liqour licence, a place at college.... the list is endless ... without a little 'magendo'! So I guess there's something about the deficiency in public service in 'independent' Africa that drives citizens to WANT to take short cuts! Ironically, I left Kenya in the mid-eighties with this mentality [stereotype?] that Jomo Kenyatta's 'tribesmen' had more corruptive tendencies than the others, but no, I doubt whether Mr Moi, a Kalenjin, was any better that Raila's father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga .... I could be wrong. So if the World Bank thinks the 'new' Kenyan government will be any different, my guess is they have a BIG one coming their way.

My 'future president', Dr Simba Makoni, is known as Mr Clean, uncontaminated by ZANUpf politics. But he comes into an arena that has been dominated with and dogged by greed for twenty seven years. Mugabe's cronies run most systems, and some members of Makoni's 'presidential team' like political scientist, publisher and businessman Dr Ibbo Mandaza, have a history of 'impropriety'. Dr Mandaza has a lot of dust around him on how he managed donor funds for his NGOs. The man has an empire that spreads from hotels, hunting safaris, farms and urban properties. He used to own a daily newspaper that was 'conveniently' registered when ZANUpf militants bombed and banned the independent Daily News. Mandaza lost the newspaper to government cronies infiltrated onto his board by ZANUpf ... and now by backing Dr Simba Makoni, analysts argue that he is finally getting his pound of flesh from Robert Mugabe.

I could write all day on African corruption. Would you want me to continue about how so-called 'black empowerment's has benefited only slightly more that ten people in Zimbabwe and South Africa? Maybe some other time!


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