Going way back in time with Zanu PF

WE have entered the period of hyperbole again. Election fever is upon us and Zanu PF is taking us back to the trenches. On Friday the party launched its election campaign by unveiling a manifesto that is inspiring more f

or its nostalgia than reality. President Mugabe talked of the party’s achievements in education, health and now land reform.

Much could have been achieved in the area of education in the early 1980s when literacy levels rose to a claimed 80%, but is that still true today when most of those schools have collapsed and teachers have been forced to run away by war veterans and party militia? Only two weeks ago the Herald led with a story about Harare central hospital being in the intensive care unit because it lacked basic infrastructure and resources. Most council clinics have no medicines, that is if they have qualified medical staff left. The brain drain has hit most sectors of society so that whatever gains Independence may have brought have been undermined by years of mismanagement and widespread corruption. All this has happened under Zanu PF’s uninterrupted rule of nearly 25 years. They have no one but themselves to blame if the public see them as responsible for the destitution all around us.

A Sunday Mail reporter who covered the campaign launch described it as “colourful and electric”. The picture of the president sporting a doek and looking like Sabina on a bad day told it all. The reporter said thousands of people had gathered at the Harare International Conference Centre “to unveil a package” that could be decisive in the March 31 election. The “package” turned out to be a huge disappointment.

“With music from party national political commissar Cde Elliot Manyika and placards denouncing the opposition MDC, its leader Morgan Tsvangirai and British prime minister Tony Blair, one got the clear message that the ruling party is sensing victory,” gushed the reporter-cum-Zanu PF supporter. So the party has nothing to offer other than denounce the opposition? And that is expected to motivate hungry voters? We shall see. Meanwhile, Mugabe himself was less flattering of aspiring Zanu PF candidates. Doing what he always does best in front of the cameras, that is name and shame, he denounced “charlatans and witches” in the party who want to use money to get elected. He said an election was not a purchasing game.

In Zimbabwe, he said, “we do not accept leaders who come through the marketing route, who pay people in order to be leaders”. Unfortunately he didn’t draw the line between a donation and a bribe. How do we classify his computer donations to schools? Was Jonathan Moyo buying votes when he donated computers in Tsholotsho? We also note that the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project is high up on the agenda once again. Could that be a vote-catcher?

On Monday Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings’ Newsnet joined in the attack on the MDC for allegedly supporting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who called Zimbabwe “an outpost of tyranny”. It was accused of being anti-people and against all “independent-minded countries” such as Belarus, Burma, Cuba and North Korea. It looks like we are in pretty good company indeed, and one must ask: Why are we so blessed?

Mzala Joe of the Sunday News is an angry man. He accuses his party, Zanu PF, of conducting “a senseless witch-hunt” and purging individuals following the so-called Tsholotsho Declaration. He says nobody has explained what happened on that fateful day at Dinyane secondary school except the “sickening fiction” that has been peddled in the state media.

Of course Mzala Joe should be able to explain what happened in Tsholotsho. What has not been convincing is the claim that it was a simple prize-giving function. Only the very simple-minded would buy the notion that six provincial chairmen would travel all the way from Manicaland, Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland South to present $10 million to a remote rural school for no political gain. It also turned out that those involved were not amused by Joyce Mujuru’s elevation to the Zanu PF presidium. And why would Jonathan Moyo spend $10 million on hiring a plane to go and attend a $10 million function? Keep talking Cde Mzala. The truth will out some day.

In another heresy he also attacked Mugabe’s idea that the March election be dubbed “anti-Blair”. He says lots of Zanu PF candidates feel there has been “too much propaganda against Blair” and that he should be left alone. He didn’t say which candidates these are.

Unfortunately Mzala Joe’s article got lost while being carried over to Page 9 so it was not possible to know what platform he would have preferred for the election. Similarly, there was no answer to the heading of the article:
“Who is the worse enemy in Zimbabwe today: external or internal?” None had been identified when the article came to its abrupt end. Mzala scoffs at suggestions that an anti-Blair platform would win the ruling party a two thirds majority in the House. “The two thirds would be of what nationalist idea, purpose or programme? And what would the two thirds be used for after the elections and for whose benefit in view of the ongoing succession debate?” asks Mzala Joe.

It’s his party and he should know, whatever the recent ructions.

Miss Tourism World contestants are in town. No, they have since moved on to Victoria Falls. A lot is being said about how the contestants will boost tourism in the country. What is not said is what caused the decline in the first place and whether the situation has dramatically changed.

According to the Herald, the pageant on Monday toured greater Harare. President of the pageant John Singh reportedly described Zimbabwe as a “peaceful” country, contrary to reports in certain sections of the media.

What he doesn’t know is that there is a difference between a guided tour and living in a particular environment. He doesn’t even know that it is illegal for more than three people to gather without notifying the police. He doesn’t know that the pageant organisers could have been lawfully arrested for an illegal gathering when the contestants paraded in Africa Unity Square.

Harare is certainly not what it used to be when it was called the Sunshine city. The pageant didn’t need a “hostile media” to grasp this painful reality. Herald photographer Tawanda Mudimu captured the girls standing on delapidated structures in front of Herald House where a few years back these would have been beautiful fountains and a photographer’s paradise. Now it is dry and barren concrete and bricks.

Justice Lawrence Kamocha has joined the call for zero-tolerance for violence in the forthcoming election. He said people should not ride on the blood of voters into parliament.

He urged the police to arrest all those who perpetrate or incite violence irrespective of their political affiliation or standing in life “to avoid the perception that the law is being selectively or arbitrarily” applied. We are happy that the bench has finally acknowledged that there is such a perception. It is now up to the police to make sure that it is just that — a perception and nothing more. The reality cannot be wished away by Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena’s claim that all political parties are subjected to the same conditions when they want to hold rallies. How come Zanu PF has never been denied such permission when there are widespread reports of infighting in the party? Anyway, it was good to hear from Bvudzijena that the force will “deal with culprits who incite violence”. The police had a duty to maintain public order, he said.

It will be instructive to see what steps are taken to enforce the six court orders Roy Bennett obtained to prevent disorder on his Chimanimani farm. Bvudzijena may also care to explain why, in addressing issues of political violence, an employee of the President’s Office, Joseph Mwale, continues to roam free despite being implicated in the murders of MDC officials Talent Mabika and Tichaona Chiminya in 2000.

Nothing more clearly illustrates the delusional thinking at the top of Zanu PF than the preposterous claims made in the party’s manifesto released last weekend.

The Sunday Mail reported as follows: “Turning to the next five years, the manifesto says following the successful conclusion of the land reform programme and a massive turnaround of the economy reinforced by the ‘Look East’ policy, Zanu PF has been placed at an advantageous position to fight poverty and improve the living standards of the general populace.”

It is difficult to know who is committing the worst offence here: a party that lies about the economy or a newspaper that gullibly repeats those lies?

How could the land reform programme have been “successfully concluded” when the country, which before 2000 was self-sufficient in agricultural production, is now having to import maize?

What “turnaround” is Zanu PF talking about when the economy remains stagnant and companies continue to close their doors? What significant investment has there been from the Far East? Why are the Malaysians no longer involved in the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project?

What sort of a fight against poverty is it that leaves Zimbabweans poorer than they were in 2000? The economy has shrunk by 30% since Zanu PF last claimed it was fighting poverty!
Please, no more lies!

Muckraker recalls Stan Mudenge last year berating the UN for allowing one of its security officers to describe parts of Zimbabwe as unsafe. They are “deliberately demonising this country and its leadership through a campaign of lies and misinformation”, he said. The officer, a Malawian working for the World Food Programme, was removed from the country in response to Mudenge’s raving. But last month when a Dutch official working for the World Health Programme was murdered during a hijacking attempt in Harare, the Zimbabwe authorities didn’t say a thing. It wasn’t even reported in the Herald. Why the silence?