Bambazonke Moyo gets religion

EXACTLY who has been in charge in

Zimbabwe during the president’s absence in the Far East?

Ostensibly one would say Vice-President Joseph Msika. But apart from some badmouthing of politicians in his own party, he has been rather quiet. Instead we have seen a torrent of invective emanating from the wide and permanently open mouth of Information minister Jonathan Moyo who is also, we are told, acting Minister of Transport.

 He has referred to reports in this newspaper of President Mugabe’s holiday arrangements in the Far East as “blasphemous”. He has also, it would appear, been ordering the arrest of journalists and determining which orders of the courts the government would choose to obey.

So in addition to his portfolio as chief government abuse-hurler, he is also Air Zimbabwe spokesman and appears to be standing in for the Minister of Home Affairs, the Minister of Justice, Chief of Police and Attorney-General.

Oh, we almost forgot. He has also assumed ecclesiastical functions in determining that criticism of his defective deity constitutes blasphemy!

It is a sign of his immense authority that none of the legitimate holders of these august offices has dared say a word of criticism about their growing irrelevance. Zimbabwe has a new de facto vice-president and they had better get used to it.

But how strange that after all the spitting and spluttering from Moyo last Saturday, there was hardly a word about it in the state media thereafter. A report in the Sunday Mail of what Air Zimbabwe was saying appeared identical to what had been carried in the Herald the day before. That quoted the managing director as claiming that the reduction in the Air Zim fleet — from 18 planes at Independence to just three planes now (actually five but two are non-operational) — was not a depletion. They had a full fleet, he claimed!

ZBC appeared confused. At first (Saturday) they said reporters Dumisani Muleya and Itai Dzamara had been picked up. They later included editor Iden Wetherell. By Sunday it was back to Muleya and Dzamara. Vincent Kahiya didn’t feature. Where are they getting their information? And somebody should tell the Herald’s reporter that magistrates do not charge people. They hear charges laid by the police.

Perhaps the most informed report appeared in the Sunday Mirror which supplied accurate information on the arrests together with useful background detail borrowed from the German DPA agency.

By far the funniest statement to appear in the press last week came from the Department of Information in the Office of the President. A spokesman took umbrage with the Mail & Guardian for publishing a report about President Mugabe acquiring a wine estate in Stellenbosch. He lashed out at the M&G which he said “like all white-owned and apartheid-tainted South African newspapers, may continue to make headlines against President Mugabe but they will not take away the passionate and emotional admiration that the president enjoys amongst the black masses of South Africa”.

And the evidence for this dubious claim? The “popular applause” that greeted Mugabe’s address to the Sustainable Summit in Johannesburg in 2002.

Sadly, the spokesman has been the rather gullible victim of a practical joke. The report in question was in an edition of the M&G called “Not the M&G”. It contained a number of spoof reports which even readers with limited intellectual grasp would have spotted immediately as a joke such as the SANDF acquiring a three-deck, 600-ton “super jumbo”. But not the President’s Office apparently which swallowed the whole thing hook, line and sinker.

Is there, by the way, a single newspaper reader in South Africa who would be so foolish as to call the M&G “apartheid-tainted”? The President’s Office can only get away with calumnies of that sort in the Herald. As for the “popular applause” for Mugabe at the Sustainable Summit, it did not come from “the black masses” but from a handful of largely Western NGO delegates using the summit to pursue their war against the Bush administration.

But if that’s all Mugabe has got to hold onto for comfort let’s not disabuse him. He must be allowed to take comfort wherever he can find it nowadays.

That includes the silly suggestion from the Herald’s Nathaniel Manheru that there were not many readers of the Zimbabwe Independent. If that was the case, why is Moyo hysterical about what we publish? In fact our circulation has been steadily rising in recent months while that of the Herald has declined to some 34 000. At the current rate we will soon be overtaking the lame-duck daily!

We all had a good laugh when we saw Stephen Ndlovu and Pikirayi Deketeke were setting up an organisation called the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum and committing themselves to freedom of expression and adherence to the AU Charter of human and people’s rights.

This is a clumsy attempt by editors of hate-mongering and boot-licking newspapers to take over an organisation that already exists. And in so doing they will pretend, for the benefit of regional editors, that they are committed to freedom of expression and other democratic values.

Perhaps we should call their outfit the Not the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum!

George Charamba was recently interviewed by the Daily Mirror about Zimbabwe and the Commonwealth. The headline was “No retreat” as Charamba was given ample space to say Zimbabwe would not be returning to the fold.

What he meant was, Zimbabwe under the present regime would not be rejoining. He forgets that South African politicians said the same thing in the 1960s. South Africa returned in 1994.

We will not have to wait 33 years. When Zimbabwe gets a democratic government it will immediately rejoin an organisation that has benefited this country enormously. What Charamba thinks about it really doesn’t matter and the Mirror should be less indulgent in affording him the space to advertise his irrelevant views.

It is hard to tell which planet the Sunday Mail’s political editor Munyaradzi Huni is living on. He has delusions of an economic recovery which he thinks will help the ruling party win next year’s parliamentary election.

Writing in the Sunday Mail on “Issues likely to dominate 2004”, Huni says the opposition MDC won 57 mainly urban parliamentary seats on the basis of a protest vote in 2000.

“In 2000, if the truth is to be told,” declares Huni, “the opposition party could have won about the same number of seats in parliament that it won even if it had not campaigned. There was a general resentment against the Zanu PF government due to the hardships that the urban electorate was facing and the disgruntled people opted for the MDC.”

That statement, coming from a shameless Zanu PF apologist, tells us all we need to know about the state of decay in the ruling party. At last they are beginning to accept that Zanu PF so stinks that the MDC could have won 57 seats without campaigning.

But Huni doesn’t say how far the hardships that fuelled the resentment against Zanu PF have been assuaged. So far as Muckraker knows, most Zimbabweans in both urban and communal areas still depend on food donated by the much maligned Western imperialists. If anything, the much praised land reform appears to have worsened these hardships and people are waiting for the opportunity to make their sentiments known in any election. It looks like 2005 won’t be any different. So long as the MDC remains an option for those disgruntled with Zanu PF, there will be no room for complacency in the ruling party despite the bluster by its apologists that it represents the majority of voters.

Huni is right to point out that some MDC MPs have let down their electorate. Unfortunately he doesn’t show us how that translates into a dividend for Zanu PF.

“With the economy showing signs of recovery, the ruling party could give the MDC a good run for its money next year.”

If there are any signs of recovery at all they cannot be credited to any palpable policy decision by Zanu PF. Which explains the strange semantic contradictions by Huni where an opposition party has to be given “a good run for its money” by a ruling party. It’s normally the other way round!

Still on the subject of elections, Under the Surface was over the moon about how US president George W Bush was jeered at when he visited Florida last week.

“When he went to Florida,” says Under the Surface, “he was met with placards that screamed ‘Jail the thief’, ‘They stole our votes’, ‘Palm Beach County remembers’.”

We are surprised by Under the Surface’s interest in stolen elections when they happen in far off climes. In an unnamed country in southern Africa such interest would be criminal. If this were not so, the voters would not carry just placards proclaiming how they were robbed of their vote in broad daylight. They would erect billboards on every street corner. While Bush’s campaign team might be worried by the placards calling Bush a thief, Muckraker is happy that Bush seems to know that it is their democratic right to wave them.

Rural Resources minister Joyce Mujuru has hit out at model A2 farmers for grabbing more land than they could effectively use. She told newly-resettled farmers in Mazowe last week that “greed has made many new farmers fail to utilise their land”.

“People want big pieces of land when they know they will not be able to purchase enough fertiliser and seeds,” complained Mujuru.

We are not surprised. The land grab was a free-for-all exercise meant to shame the British, not to increase production. Those who applied for land didn’t need to show that they had any skill to use the land productively. All they needed were papers claiming they had certain sums of money, they didn’t belong to the opposition and that they supported the so-called third Chimurenga, whatever its agenda.

While it is easy for Mujuru to accuse the farmers of greed, what is not acknowledged is that government itself fed the fallacy that mere possession of land equated to prosperity, hence the misleading refrain in its nauseating Sendekera jingle that “Our land is our prosperity”. Prosperity requires more than mere possession.