By Chido Makunike
MY article about the expulsion of journalist Andrew Meldrum in the Financial Gazette a couple of weeks ago certainly rubbed secretary for information and publicity Geor
ge Charamba up the wrong way.
“Telescopic philanthropy by a dark do-gooder seeking white notice,” wrote Charamba caustically. My views represent “a devastating fraction of the national psyche and one just hopes it dies with him.”
My dear brother Charamba, sorry I got you so worked up. Your rage seemed so disproportionate to the “provocation”. I wondered if it had choked you up over some time, and this was just a convenient time to let it all out! I was not offended by your insults, and trust that you have regained some composure. This must be a stressful time to be a Mugabe propagandist, so I don’t mind you venting off some steam on me.
In his Sunday Mail diatribe of May 25, Charamba’s main justification of Meldrum’s extra-judicial deportation was that he was no longer a journalist, but “a hub of aggressive scenario-building for Western interests. Journalism had become a cover to the world of intelligence he dabbled in”.
The immigration department could have saved itself a lot of grief, and made Charamba’s job of fending off the outcry against the deportation much easier by simply mentioning “spying” as the reason for it. Providing just a shred of proof of his dastardly deeds, accumulated over 23 years of his stay here, would have been a fantastic propaganda coup that would have convinced the doubters about the world-wide plot against the Mugabe revolution. Instead, it appears like an afterthought of Charamba’s after the entirely predictable response of much of the world to the incident. Or could “those of us in the know” about Meldrum’s dirty deeds include Charamba but not the immigration department?
Immigration instead made itself look foolish by using the flimsy excuse that he violated his residence permit by reporting on political instead of economic issues, and “negatively” at that! Spying is regarded as a legitimate reason for expelling foreigners, and I wonder why it was not proffered at the time immigration was lying to the judge.
Such is the credibility of the government that it probably wouldn’t have been believed anyway, but at least it is a more defensible deportation ruse than the thin “he makes Zimbabwe look bad”. I take no pleasure in Zimbabwe’s poor image, but the government you serve in is responsible for that, not the local or foreign scribes who chronicle your words and actions.
If Meldrum was part of an elaborate Western conspiracy to tarnish Zimbabwe’s image by “scenario building,” you and the immigration department’s bungling sure as hell didn’t help our cause George! It would have helped if you guys had got together and come up with one story.
Instead it looks like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.
From arguing that Meldrum deserved to be booted out for nefarious activities under cover of being a journalist, Charamba moves on to how a sovereign state is free to withdraw residence status. Certainly, but the point is simply that there is a procedure for doing so, one that was not imposed on Zimbabwe by outsiders, and that procedure was wantonly ignored.
This is a particularly material issue because a lot of the Mugabe government’s image problems emanate from its lack of adherence to its own laws on all manner of issues, and mostly against Zimbabweans, not foreigners, as in Meldrum’s case. I have written about the former for years, but Charamba unleashed his fury when I happened to protest the mistreatment of a white foreigner, so that he can parrot the old “he is a native stooge of the imperialists”. How tired and unoriginal George, the same old rubbish that’s been losing you support and credibility for years now!
To act in a manner that confirms an impression of a capricious adherence to the country’s laws may be a macho way of displaying “sovereignty,” but these theatrical shows of bravado have weakened Zimbabwe in countless ways. No tourists, no investment, no credit, no foreign currency, no fuel, no friends. Thanks but no thanks to the Mugabe-type of sovereignty my brother!
In his enraged ranting, he “forgot” to address the point about a government department willfully defying the judiciary. You cannot protest to the world that you respect the rule of law when a High Court judge’s ruling can be so blatantly defied. That the government’s contravention of its own laws is “only” in regards to a hated white foreigner is not much of a defence. It’s supposed to be the rule of law, not of emotions.
Charamba scoffed at my suggestion that Meldrum’s messy deportation would do great harm to Zimbabwe’s already poor image “in countries (where) government is surreptitiously sending ministers to plead for understanding, credit and handouts”. His scorn was meant to suggest that it was silly to be concerned about “the reaction of the donor community”.
Except that this “sovereign” nation is becoming more dependent on the same countries Charamba painstakingly tells us have terrible imperialistic designs on us.
If you mean to show defiance and “sovereign” power by breaking your own laws, beating your citizens and acting in other ways the world disapproves of, make sure you do not have to go and plead for favours from that world!
* Chido Makunike is a Harare-based social and political commentator.