The return of the diesel mystic

Recently police and state prosecutors in Zimbabwe took a decision to pursue the prosecution of Rotina Mavhunga (more commonly known as the legendary “diesel con”) after Mashonaland Central cops finally caught up with her after several years on the run. Most of you won’t recognise her name, but some will recall her outlandish claim that she could, with the help of benevolent spirits, produce pure diesel from certain rocks in Chinhoyi.

Diesel oozing from rocks is really hard to believe, especially considering the fact that diesel does not occur naturally, rather it must be fractionally distilled off crude oil, a process which, obviously, does not randomly take place within rocks. I didn’t pay much attention to Rotina’s claims at the time, I figured that she was either a loon or that she was trying to take advantage of gullible people desperate for diesel in a country crippled by fuel shortages. What did shock me, however, was the fact that some of our government leaders, including President Robert Mugabe, didn’t share my sentiments… they actually thought there may be some truth in her claims. Either that or they were hoping that Rotina’s mystic powers would mean they wouldn’t have to print so much money in order to settle Zimbabwe’s fuel debt to South Africa.

So Mugabe sent a delegation to Chinhoyi to investigate. The delegation consisted of Ministers Didymus Mutasa, Kembo Mohadi and Sydney Sekeramayi, who happily trekked up to Chinhoyi to see Rotina doing her thing:

There are several things that confuse me about this photograph, apart from the fact that the caption says Rotina “horses” Mashonaland West Governor, Nelson Samkange, with diesel. It took me a while to realise they meant “hoses”… but maybe that’s just because I haven’t had my morning coffee yet. I also don’t understand why anyone would allow themselves to be sprayed so happily with diesel, or why the Ministers present found this ludicrous situation so entertaining, with it being reported that they were “photographed gleefully celebrating instead of verifying the supposed diesel find”. Perhaps they just didn’t have anything more constructive to do at the time, who knows. Anyways, they were obviously fooled and the government paid Rotina Z$500 billion as a gratuity, as well as giving her a farm, three cows and a buffalo. How awkward.

Needless to say, it later turned out that the government had been taken for a ride by Rotina, who had since disappeared with the money. Her farm was taken back, but they didn’t go after Rotina, no doubt shamed by their own gullibility. It was clear that the government just wanted the story forgotten. What was not clear was whether Rotina had actually demanded the money, farm, cows and a buffalo, or whether they had been given voluntarily by the government… so it couldn’t really be established whether fraud and stupidity had been committed, or just stupidity.

In response, Mugabe initially said that he was “disgusted” by the whole incident, but later saw the funny side and admitted that his Ministers were a product of a “society long steeped in superstition”, so he had forgiven them for their moment of weakness. He seemed to have conveniently forgotten that it was his own belief that there may be some truth in the matter that had sent the Ministers to Chinhoyi in the first place.

Anyways, that was back in 2007 and, over the years, everything had been forgotten until the cops bumped into Rotina recently and decided that there was enough of a case against her to investigate her for fraud. One of the cops said that “the Ministers were clearly stupid, but that is not illegal under our statutes. Yet Mavhunga clearly intended to defraud, and there is a law against fraud”. I find his blatant honesty rather hilarious.

It is now thought that the only explanation for the cops and state prosecutors’ decision to pursue fraud charges against Rotina is because the police and other criminal prosecution entities have been infiltrated with opposition MDC agents, who are seizing this opportunity to further embarrass the ZANU government over the ridiculous incident. Well, I guess that conspiracy theorists will continue to conspire… and, meanwhile, the cycle of stupidity will continue.

Maybe the Ministers will be called as witnesses against Rotina, making them unavailable to attend to the more constructive parts of their jobs, such as running the country and, well, assisting in the drafting of a new constitution and the planning of December’s referendum. I think I’m finally beginning to understand why so little progress has been made with the drafting of a new constitution. Sigh.

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