All for a mess of pottage
NEARLY 50 people have died from cholera in Zimbabwe in recent weeks. Another 10 000 were infected. Central Government has rolled out a vaccination drive in addition to other containment measures, ahead of longerterm objectives to prevent recurrence.
The private sector and donor community have stepped up, assisting with cash, medication, equipment and sundries.
Members of Parliament have also added their voice to the national effort. But not in the expected way. They want their service vehicles. Some of them say cholera is the result of mismanagement by local authorities, and Government should not divert money meant for their cars to the interventions.
Others say conditions of service cannot be tampered with because of a disease outbreak. They call it a “travesty”.
Zimbabwe is crying for fixing. MPs are crying for cars.
The “travesty” our hardworking and patriotic MPs face today reminds me of a certain fellow called Oliver Cromwell and how he dealt with such characters.
Cromwell divides opinion, 360 years and one month after his death.
The English, in one poll, rated him the 10th most influential Briton of all time. The Irish loathe him for trying to stamp out the Catholic “threat” as he pursued his dream of creating a Puritan Commonwealth.
Cromwell believed he was divinely appointed to end the monarchy, Catholicism and other perceived evils that he strongly felt would be the death of the British Empire.
You see, Cromwell rose to prominence at age 40, giving rise to self-induced ecclesiastical hallucinations of being some sort of contemporary “Puritan Moses”. Moses fled Pharaoh’s palace at age 40 for enlightenment via burning bushes in the desert, later to return to Egypt to demand “let my people go!”
Cromwell landed a seat in Parliament, soon commanded the army, took on the monarchy, pushed for the king’s execution, and got himself declared Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England.
He waged a genocidal war against the Irish, razing farms and contributing to the death of an estimated 600 000 people out of a population of 1,4 million.
By any measure, Cromwell was a nasty character. But that is not why I am reminded of him this week.
On April 20, 1653, faced by MPs not quite unlike some of ours today, Cromwell said enough was enough - and more.
I will quote his entire speech as he dissolved a Parliament more concerned with the contemporary equivalent of cars even as cholera decimated lives.
“It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.
“Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government. Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.
“Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?
“Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?
“Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?
“Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.
“Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.
“I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.
“Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!”
Need I say more?