The law that Mugabe gave to Deuschle

DEFENCE minister Sydney Sekeramayi has called on defence attachés accredi

ted to Zimbabwe not to engage in local politics but to concentrate on giving military advice.

“May I remind you that the world over the defence forces as the most powerful instrument of the state apparatus must be apolitical for they are meant to guarantee the peace and security of every citizen in the nation irrespective of religious, political or social affiliation,” he said in a speech read on his behalf at a reception for the defence attachés.

This is as it should be. Political neutrality and professionalism go hand in hand. That is why it is unforgivable when senior military commanders intervene in election campaigns to inform the voting public who is or is not acceptable to the armed forces as a candidate. That is why the military must not play any role in electoral supervision. That is why it is unhealthy for ex-military officers to be given party-political posts after their retirement. That is why serving officers should not engage in private business.

Most of the defence attachés present at the reception last Friday knew that already. They probably wondered if their absent host did!

 The official media recently gave coverage to the presentation of a cheque for $30 million to President Mugabe by Hear the Word Ministries pastor Tom Deuschle. Readers of the Independent have expressed their indignation in our letters columns. They will be even more angered to hear what Deuschle had to say at the ceremony.

“Pastor Deuschle said the church supported the freedom of the people but that should be expressed within the confines of the law,” the Herald reported.

Does that include the law gazetted last weekend which says people can be detained for up to three weeks without a magistrate or judge being able to release them? Does that include the media law which empowers a government-appointed commission to impose severe penalties on journalists whose reports the state takes exception to? Does it include the law which prevents women from marching in the name of peace and justice?

Deuschle said there were powers that were trying to destroy Zimbabwe. His church would not judge the president by what the press, the West or the East said about him.

“We know that God has blessed you and it’s God’s gift to the nation because God establishes leaders,” Deuschle gushed. The recently reshuffled cabinet should give the country “clear guidance”.

Which is evidently something “Pastor” Deuschle is unable to do!

At least we had some straight talking from the president at the ceremony. He admitted to failures on the political side and in the agricultural sector. He spoke of the corruption and robberies that were prevalent as well as drunkenness and drug addiction.

“We have been tarnished but not everyone has been tarnished,” he said. “There have been those who resist evil.”

The president was last week photographed with Archbishop Pius Ncube who is demonised weekly by the official media for his principled stand against the brutality and evil stalking this land. Other church leaders were quoted last week as gullibly offering their support to the president’s anti-corruption drive. They didn’t ask what happened to those who fraudulently milked the War Victims Compensation Fund of millions of dollars a few years ago.

God is obviously offering Zimbabweans a choice as to who his real spokesmen are. Tom Deuschle has shown us who he serves!

 Just as many of our readers were appalled by Deuschle’s fawning gesture, so others were by Island Hospice’s decision to invite Health minister David Parirenyatwa to open their new headquarters.

Bulawayo South MP David Coltart evidently shares the same view. He wrote recently to Island Hospice as follows:

“Dear Members of Island Hospice,“I am a great admirer of the wonderful work your organisation does and just recently received yet another glowing report from a dear friend whose wife was ministered to by your superb staff in her last days.It is accordingly with deep regret that I have to write to you to express my disappointment that you invited Zanu PF’s Minister of Health to the recent opening of your new headquarters.

“As you probably know I recently participated in the budget debate in parliament and was appalled by the stance taken by this man, and indeed all those who voted for the Ministry of Health’s budget. The Ministry of Health has onlybeen allocated $700 billion which is woefully inadequate. By way of comparison I should mention that the CIO was granted $62 billion, the Youth Brigades some $40 billion, the Army and Airforce $815 billion,the Police $339 billion and the “unallocated reserve” in the Ministry of Finance (which is not subject to the same scrutiny as other votes by parliament itself and is routinely used to supplement defence spending)$1,3 trillion.

“In other words we know that at the very least this regime will be spending $1,256 trillion defending itself (plus whatever else it takes from the unallocated reserve during the year) while poor Zimbabweans are being sent home to die from our hospitals because of inadequate medicines and lack of medical personnel.

“In these circumstances I find it distasteful that any medical organisation could associate itself with, never mind invite as guest of honour, a man who is complicit with and largely responsible for this appalling state of affairs. I hope that your wonderful organisation will never associate itself with such people again.”

If Island Hospice wants to maintain public support it should take note of Coltart’s letter. A response from them would be welcome.

 With all the new appointments to cabinet, Muckraker has been wondering how the government will find office space for them all. Many are now attached to the Office of the President. But Munhumutapa Building is already overflowing with ministers of state. We imagine it may be necessary to put in rows of school desks to accommodate the new pupils. The headmaster’s office is just around the corner if any disciplinary measures are necessary. And prefects John and George will be patrolling the corridors to keep order.

 Let’s hope President Mugabe’s office boys weren’t hoping for a reprieve by recent changes in South Africa’s editorial landscape. A preemptive strike in the Herald last Saturday suggests they have no illusions about what is on the way. And sure enough, the Sunday Times opened up with a 21-gun salute from its new editor last weekend.

Zimbabwe had become “a textbook model of economic disintegration, social decay and autocracy”, he wrote. What was “quiet” about South African diplomacy, he asked, when South African ministers have been loud in “justifying the actions of an erstwhile liberation movement that has opted to turn on the people it liberated”?

Documenting human rights abuses and repression, the editor declared that the South African government must realise that “in as much as it is not expected to resolve Zimbabwe’s problems, it should not be denying the evil being perpetrated by the Harare government”.

“Mbeki and his government should start by openly acknowledging the human rights abuses being visited on ordinary — overwhelmingly black — Zimbabweans by the Mugabe government.”

A powerful opinion piece by Raymond Louw, veteran journalist and editor of the Southern African Report, headed “(Nkosazana) Dlamini-Zuma is clearly ignorant or blind” accompanied the editor’s broadside. This followed the foreign minister’s defence of Aippa.

Meanwhile, the Mail & Guardian provided a list of her maladroit opinions on Zimbabwe, each one more daft than the last!

 Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena has accused Woza women of seeking to take advantage of St Valentine’s Day to be heard by the international community.

“They are only raising issues so that they would be heard by the international community,” Bvudzijena said. “These are the very same people who need publicity.”

Do the police not ever seek publicity? And is it not logical that when any group seeks publicity it should be on the most favourable terms to maximise effect?

That is why journalists meet on the UN’s World Press Freedom Day. That is why protestors against the war in Iraq gathered in London when President Bush visited Tony Blair there recently.

What sort of group is it that doesn’t pick the most favourable grounds to make its point?

Now whenever an international meeting looms and people gather in Zimbabwe to protest or issue a statement they are accused of seeking to attract the attention of the international community.

This may be true, or the timing may be coincidental. But it is certainly not an offence and hardly remarkable.

As it was, the threats made by the state against the Woza marchers won for them a degree of international attention they would not have otherwise secured by a simple march. Perhaps Bvudzijena might ponder that. And we presume he didn’t object to the nice big colour pic the Herald published of him which helped draw attention to his statement!

 Meanwhile, we are pleased to hear that the police are concerned with things that really matter.

AFP reports they arrested nine cricketers at the weekend for dancing nude in the rain in the middle of the cricket grounds in the north-western town of Hwange.

Inspector Andrew Phiri said the nine were arrested for crimen injuria for indecently exposing themselves during traditional annual anniversary celebrations of the formation of the Wankie Cricket Club. The cricketers allegedly took off their clothes after a stoppage due to rain then rushed to the ground and danced in full view of all cricket fans.

“Nine cricketers were arrested. They are being charged with crimen injuria. I think they will appear in court tomorrow (Tuesday),” Phiri said. “They were playing cricket, following the normal cricket rules and when it started raining all the officials and players left the ground. All of a sudden these nine undressed, rushed back to the centre of the ground and started dancing around naked … nude, nude. They showed their private parts to all the people in the ground… and to some it was offensive,” said Phiri, adding that it was not yet clear why the men had danced naked. He said some spectators took photographs, police were informed and followed up with arrests.

 Reporters Without Borders(Reporters sans frontières)has condemned the Sri Lankan information and communication minister’s decision, announced this week, to cancel the TV broadcast channel licence  that was granted to the Asian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in 1995. The decision, which ABC executives called “politically motivated”, came just as the company was about to launch the channel. Reporters Without Borders said it feared that the decision could be a prelude to further tough measures against the privately-owned  media by President   Chandrika Kumaratunga’s administration during the parliamentary election campaign that starts in a few days. The president has already started to use the state media to her party’s advantage.

So who is the villain of this piece? Who is the Information minister who is manipulating the Sri Lankan media to the advantage of the incumbent?

His name is Lakshman Kadirgamar. Now doesn’t that name ring a bell? Wasn’t he the candidate for the Commonwealth secretary-general’s job in Abuja in December? Wasn’t he the candidate Thabo Mbeki put up against Don McKinnon — the one Jean Chretien said he had never heard of; the one even his own government did little to support; the one who won only a handful of votes and then retired into what we hoped was obscurity leaving egg all over Mbeki’s face?

Muckraker will be following the minister’s career closely so we know exactly the kind of person South Africa’s leaders were attempting to foist on the Commonwealth when they stage-managed their little revolt against McKinnon because he refused to let Mugabe back into the club.

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