by Taona Moto
“Secrecy still binds me, from when I was minister. But of course you know that some waiters in hotels work for the CIO. Your phones are listened to a lot. The CIO is huge. It produces many reports. From the UN there will regularly be a report. A report about the British. Or India. Not very good reports really. I had to read them. They made me tired.”
This was former Presidential Affairs minister and former ZANU-PF secretary for Administration, the disgraced Didymus Mutasa, in an interview with foreign media.
Of late Mutasa, who is still adjusting to life of powerlessness in a country where power is everything, has been saying anything to anyone who has time and patience to listen to him.
“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose,” opined the late America novelist, essayist and social critic James Baldwin.
Mutasa appears to be becoming perfectly such a man.
While many Zimbabweans have every reason for disliking Mutasa for the unforgivable sins that he committed against them while he was still in power, their dislike should never blind them from seeing some nuggets of truths that the madman has been throwing around.
Where I grew up, there was one villager called Dhazimata (bastardised version for Doesn’t matter) who would either be sick or mad depending on whether he was sober or drunk and naturally he preferred the latter. Dhazimata had moved in with his in-laws and over the several decades under them, everything that should never happen to a man had happened to him. He made sure that every evening on his way home from a beer drink, in his drunken “madness” he cleaned all the dark corners of his heart… standing on top of an anthill, he would shout on top of his voice telling all how his mother-in-law was a witch, how his wife was a prostitute, how his brother-in-laws were blood-suckers and everything there was to tell. At the end of it all he would dare his “witch” mother-in-law to kill him: “It doesn’t matter because it is your daughter who would become a widow (like you) and your grandchildren who would have no father. It doesn’t matter!”
All any other villager who had a grievance against another just needed to do was to confide in Dhazimata and everything became known … who was sleeping with whose wife, who was milking whose cows at night, who was plotting what against who.
Every villager had to think twice and being careful in whatever mischief they plotted, making sure it would never reach Dhazimata’s ear. So in the end, nuisance as he might have been, Dhazimata became a very useful member of the village. As the sages say, although no one may want their child to be a plumber, every community needs one.
Mutasa is increasingly becoming something of a Dhazimata to Zimbabweans. Although most of the things that he has been saying are things that are already in the public domain, the fact that they are coming from one of the people who for a long time made part of Robert Mugabe’s inner circle gives them a bit of flavour and colour.
His revelations about ZANU-PF surviving through electoral fraud and extensive CIO operations do not come as a surprise at all to anyone, but are quite useful.
This is what happens when a country is cursed as to have a leadership whose primary duty is to preserve itself—to perpetuate their stay in power—and nothing else.
This week ministry of Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Willard Manungo told Parliament that Zimbabwe diplomats based in the country’s 43 embassies around the world were owed more than $10 million in unpaid salaries and allowances. The truth of the matter is that a majority of these “embassy officials” were in fact intelligence operatives working round the clock to protect the interests of Mugabe and which ever faction of ZANU-PF would be close to him at any particular moment. National interests are secondary to them.
The job of these goons is to trace those citizens who appear to pose a danger to Mugabe’s continued rule.
These are deployed to each and every country where there is a sizeable number of Zimbabwean citizens. Most of these, if they are not hangers-on at embassies, they are (or appear to be) professionals in their own right, and they talk the same language as that of every other Zimbabwean refuge abroad. “Mugabe is bad. We can’t go home because will be killed… this and that.” In the process they collect information about these fellow Zimbabweans sending it back home.
They are all over… starting at universities and colleges right to every facet of life, they are there.
The world over this is standard practice for countries that have reasons to believe that their security and other national interests are at risk. It becomes a problem when the machinery exists solely to serve the parochial interests of a party and its leader. This is the sad case of Zimbabwe.
Reading the late Edgar Tekere’s book A lifetime of a Struggle, one comes across this paragraph: “Against this background, the nation-state-in-the-making is lacking in the strength and self-confidence with which to promote democratic discourse and tolerance, not least when the leadership now accepts the State itself as its own, as the only means to defend itself against internal and external enemies. As such, the leadership becomes increasingly paranoid, and remote from the people: and, with the passage of time, relies almost directly on a combination of costly patronage, crude ethnic balancing, and even brute force, in order to keep things together.”
However the good thing about the CIO’s overstretched hand is that it can be effective for so long. The longer the regime clings to power, the over-stretched hand naturally becomes tired and less and less effective.
In the 1980s, CIO operatives were so feared that it was almost unheard of for someone to admit they were one. Over time, it grew and grew and in the process attracted all sorts of characters… some of whose interest did not last more than one season… and others who had more common sense than that which is necessary for the job… and that mysticism started fading until it became just like any other job.
Just like in every other job, the zeal wears off with time and the job becomes another boring chore, with only those without alternatives being left to plod on, on and on.
It is no longer unheard of for CIO operatives to tip the next victim of an impending swoop… or to simply pretend they cannot get him when infact they have facilitated his escape. These are also human beings. The more they are used to do brainless assignments, the more their conscience revolt against them and they start asking themselves whether what they are doing is the best way they can serve their country and humanity. Haunted by their conscience, many simply go AWOL, only to emerge as asylum-seekers in far away countries. These are some of those that the ever-growing CIO network spends its time tracking… it is not unusual for operatives sent to trace these renegades to defect, and more and more are sent… in the long run the whole madness becomes not just tiresome, but costly and unsustainable as it is becoming to the Zimbabwe government. And when these goons are not paid, chances of them being counter-productive are very, very high.
I once toured the former Communist part of Germany—the former East Germany—and this was one country that once had one of the most advanced intelligence system. Towards the end, there was a file for each and every citizen, which means almost every citizen had a duty to spy on the next person… going through the files, one could find almost everything about the “victim”… from their name, their spouse, their girlfriends, their job, their children, their favourite drink, the number of phone calls them make or receive per week and to or from whom and their nature of conversation, the letters they write and received and copies of these, relatives and friends in “enemy” countries, the shop where they buy milk (and the particular brand)… almost anything.
In the end the whole exercise became just bloated, tiresome, boringly routine and unsustainable, so collapse was inevitable. The same was the case with the NAZI Germany, Communist USSR, China and other regimes. Those regimes that did not reform from within eventually crushed out of existence.
It is on the basis of these examples that Zimbabweans should not worry when demented people like Mutasa tell them that the CIO is everywhere. Most of these operatives are people who are taking advantage of any easy way of making money.
Over the years I have worked with so many CIO operatives in many organisation that sometimes I start thing that almost everyone in this country is a CIO operative.
Now that there are mad men—the likes of Mutasa—on the loose out there, it will no longer business as usual for Mugabe and his ZANU-PF when it comes to commission of electoral fraud and other mischief… they would have to be careful, just like the villagers where Dhazimata the madman lived.