Muckraker

Herald staffer meets the real ZRP


PATIENCE Nyangove of the Herald recently had an inconvenient encounter with the real ZRP. She said she was picked up outside Queen Elizabeth nightclub around midnight and accused of “loitering for purposes of prostitution&#8

221;. She claimed to have been sitting on the pavement outside the nightclub with a colleague when she was picked up by a plain clothes policeman.

If she got into the city centre at 11:30pm, then proceeded to Herald House as she asserts, that means by the time she got to the nightclub on Julius Nyerere Way and Robert Mugabe Road it was well after midnight.


She spent “some minutes in the nightclub” before deciding to go and sit outside.

She doesn’t say what time it was by then. But that is when a ZRP officer allegedly pounced and dragged her by the collar to Harare Central. Attempts to plead her innocence were met with verbal abuse, she says. Her explanation that she was coming from a late assignment did not help. Not even her press card. She was told the fact that she worked for the Herald was no insurance against arbitrary arrest.


“My heart-rending experience is only one in a myriad of other cases whereby women are wrongfully arrested and traumatised for alleged loitering for the purpose of prostitution by some ignorant and rogue police officers,” protested Patience in the Herald on Saturday.

Considering the time we are dealing with, we beg the right to suspend belief. It will take some serious persuading for Muckraker to buy Patience’s alibi that she was still waiting for transport in that seedy part of town well after midnight.


At least she now knows a thing or two about the breakdown of the rule of law that other human rights campaigners have had to endure at the hands of a repressive police force that has become a law unto itself. Far more important is the fact that the state media always want to proclaim that such and such a law has been broken when perceived enemies of the state are arrested. Shouldn’t she be praising the police for doing their duty against women who break the law on prostitution? Are they “rogue police officers” only when state media reporters are inconvenienced during their nocturnal trysts?


Last week the Herald carried a great story appropriately headlined “Harare hospital in intensive care”. In short this is what the story said: five of the elevators have broken down, toilets and sinks are blocked, the ceiling is leaking, laboratory equipment and anaesthetic machines are not functioning while incubators and dialysis machines are out of order.
 
One wonders why it is still called a hospital at all. We also wonder who the scapegoat is going to be for the collapse of the institution? Shouldn’t that make us sober as we reflect on the country’s silver jubilee instead of the sanitised reports we read of Zimbabwe’s unparalleled achievements?


Nathaniel Manheru can produce a shocker. This week he was angry that there was so much pressure from within and outside the country for Zimbabwe to comply with Sadc guidelines on the holding of democratic elections. He said there wasn’t similar pressure when Botswana, Mozambique and Malawi held their elections last year. Then the shocking claim: “I happen to know that most of the systems running elections in Sadc are fashioned after Zimbabwe’s inimitable one.”


Really? So why is government in such a hurry to be seen to be democratising its electoral laws if they are already better than the Sadc principles? Why is the state media always anxious to broadcast even the tiniest tinkering that will show that it is complying with the Mauritius terms?

Manheru’s anger appears to have been sparked by reports that there was a Sadc troika coming into the country to check on compliance and he wants to know why the team didn’t go to Botswana or Mozambique.


The short answer to Manheru’s puzzlement is that Zimbabwe is a known rogue state that has never complied with its own laws when it comes to elections. It has a shocking record of violence, which is why it has become a pariah state. There are also fatuous claims that the country is democratic because it has the biggest opposition in parliament in the region. What Manheru refuses to acknowledge is the MDC won the 57 seats despite the widespread violence and electoral manipulation, not because the country is democratic.


Why is the opposition being denied access to the state media which is publicly funded? Why are Zimbabweans in the Diaspora being denied the right to vote when government is keen to lay its dirty hands on every pound sterling or US dollar earned overseas? How cynical can one get?


Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings has joined the civilised world. Whether this will have a civilising effect on the station remains to be seen. It is now available on channel 104 of DStv.

According to state media reports, joining DStv will enable Zimbabwe television to broadcast clearer pictures and to reach a wider audience across the country. We wonder who this wider audience craving to watch Hondo Yeminda is. And how many Zimbabweans who can afford DStv subscriptions still bother to listen to or watch ZBH propaganda? Is it true that viewership is confined to Zimbabwe? Surely, why would those already enjoying free Botswana television reception revert to vapid Zanu PF falsehoods?


Talking of Hondo Yeminda, Zanu PF is launching its election campaign tomorrow. The centrepiece of the campaign will be the same hate theme against British prime minister Tony Blair. The party’s national commissar Elliot Manyika will be the centre of attraction at the launch in Harare with his hate-filled Nora that fuelled the orgy of violence during the 2000 and 2002 elections. In addition to Nora that became the theme song at the party’s nightly torture bases across the country, he has added more songs. One of them calls on the people of Zimbabwe (read Zanu militia and war veterans) to “vanquish the enemy”.

The song Musha Unemabhunu is clearly intended to incite violence against MDC supporters who allegedly work in cahoots with Tony Blair. The long and short of it is that Zanu PF has not abandoned its violence. While in public they want to give the outside world the impression that they are reforming and complying with Sadc protocols on the holding of democratic elections, there is no such thing on the ground. If proof were ever needed of this violent tradition, nothing gives away the trick better than Manyika’s album which will be given saturation airplay.


Now we understand why the likes of Nathaniel Manheru are nervous about Sadc’s troika that is visiting Zimbabwe to verify compliance with the Grande Baie protocols. There is simply no intention to ensure the election in March “reflects the will of the people”. That Sadc troika, if it does its job, should attend Zanu PF’s campaign launch and assess whether there is any need for the opposition to give a patina of legitimacy to a criminal charade.


Lovemore Mataire’s Candid Brief in The Voice made interesting reading this week. Headlined pompously “Why young people like us support Zanu PF”, Mataire claimed the MDC was a “retrogressive force” while Zanu PF represented the “new thinking in terms of economic development” which is being adopted by other African countries as a model. Needless to say no such country could be found on the African map — not even Namibia despite Sam Nujoma’s embarrassing and shameless antics at the world summit in Johannesburg two years ago.


Then we were treated to some overweening and infantile political orientation. He said he supported Zanu PF for “personal and ideological” reasons.

“My mother and father were combatants of the liberation struggle and I was the product of their courtship at Chimoio camp in Mozambique,” explained Mataire naively as if that makes him a war veteran.


Is Mataire saying the liberation war was won in Mozambique? Is he saying being a refugee in Mozambique gives him special privilege over those who participated in the war here without running away to some refugee camp outside the country?

We all know the role of a party mouthpiece, and Mataire should stick to the party brief. We are not interested in his trite history.


‘US steps up anti-Zim campaign,” the Herald proclaimed on Monday.

The US had intensified efforts to destabilise Zimbabwe ahead of the March election, we were told.


And how was this nefarious strategy to be fulfilled? By warning of food shortages, it would appear! The claims were made by Joseph Made who, one would have thought, the Herald would have avoided quoting at length given his poor credibility record after a series of misleading food forecasts in the past. The public might well prove sceptical about any declaration emanating from such an unreliable source, a sensible editor would have concluded.


But no, the Herald went on to quote the minister at length as he tried to joke about Condoleezza’s Rice’s name (Dr Mupunga), claim that Zimbabwe was the victim of a campaign of vilification, and in the same breath suggest all this stems from the ruling party’s anti-Blair campaign. “The claims from the West are simply because we have embarked on an anti-Blair campaign for our elections and they can see the land is in our hands,” Dr Mad Made said. So the vilification is aimed at the British prime minister? And land is in the hands of ministers?


This is all useful to know. As for the claim that “God has been smiling on us and…the land reform is a resounding success”, that is not what was said at the Zanu PF congress when Made gave his report. Ask Cde Chikowore!


Just when you thought the police might be addressing concerns about their independence and professionalism by avoiding political statements, Deputy Commissioner Levy Sibanda comes to the rescue with a pronouncement that removes any doubt as to where the police stand.

Speaking at a belated end-of-year party in Masvingo, he castigated the UK and US for giving refuge to fugitive businessmen. “Ironically, only a few days back the UK acknowledged that there is no evidence of political persecution in Zimbabwe and this only goes to show how desperate the UK has become always shifting goalposts and imposing immoral sanctions against our leaders under the guise that there is no rule of law in Zimbabwe.”
 
Perhaps it should be spelt out for the deputy commissioner that in a society governed by the rule of law, those upholding the law should be seen as independent of partisan politics. That means avoiding the repetition of the ruling party’s childish claims about Britain and the United States.


He should also understand that politicians who manipulate elections or employ violence as an electoral tool are likely to find themselves isolated on the world stage, even if they have more recently renounced violence.
 
Furthermore, foreign governments won’t cooperate in the return of “fugitives” where they see the police as partisan, detention without trial as routine, and the courts as suborned.


Muckraker was amused to hear of a recent incident involving a minister and one of his media minions. Apparently, sensing the minister’s receding authority, the minion, an important figure in his own right, proved reluctant to attend one of his boss’s endless policy meetings aimed at ensuring everybody sings on message.

The minion sent a little message of his own to another senior official expressing relief when the meeting was cancelled. But it was then suddenly revived and the minion was embarrassed to be reminded by the minister that, despite his recent setbacks, he was still master of all he surveyed in his ministry with the power to hire and fire!

The minion’s text messages had been going straight to the minister’s mobile instead of to the intended recipient.

There is perhaps another message here. When next hiring key officials, the minister should at least ensure they are technologically literate!