Mugabe’s Masvingo birthday present

ZANU PF and its supporters are clutching at straws to win legitimacy in the next election. And they are having to search in all the corners for some positive comment to prove to the world that th

ey are ready to embrace civilisation.

This week it was Lowani Ndlovu who landed the elusive gem from South African government spokesperson Joel Netshitenzhe.

Commenting on the political situation in Zimbabwe, Netshitenzhe said there were some “positive developments that give us hope that Zimbabwe should come as close as possible to the protocols that have been agreed by Sadc”.

This was twisted by Lowani as a ringing endorsement of the changes government has made ahead of the election in March. But Zimbabweans and the world will be looking for concrete steps, not cosmetic changes, to accept that there has been change at all. Zimbabweans want a return to civilisation so that they can choose their leaders without being intimidated by Zanu PF militia and roguish war veterans.

In any case, if everything is normal and Zimbabwe is a peaceful country why is the Zanu PF government so terrified of a Cosatu visit? What do they have to hide?

ead of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Justice George Chiweshe should be wary of making tendentious statements about the forthcoming election. He reportedly told the Sunday Mail that they are ready for the poll because the “machinery has always been in place”.

The role of his commission is to be an impartial arbiter in the election. Nobody has faith in the system that has been used by Zanu PF to rig the election over the years. Nobody trusts the registrar-general’s office and the way it has handled the voters’ roll.

Chiweshe claimed there was “nothing new about such elections” and there was enough time for his commission to get everything right.

We hope he is not condemning the commission he chairs to irrelevance before it has even started its work. We thought the idea of an independent commission was proposed precisely because there were glaring inadequacies in the current electoral mechanisms!

It’s time to get real and address those concerns instead of endorsing a system that even Zanu PF itself acknowledges is fraught with shortcomings. Otherwise there would have been no need to ask parliament to pass an Act to deal with these issues.

ormer Information minister Chen Chimutengwende has a dream. He wants to build a nirvana out of Africa’s checkered history through what is called the United New Africa Global Network. In a half-page advert in The Voice this week, Chimutengwende says they plan to transform Africa into a united socialist state that will be “powerful, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, socialist, independent, self-reliant, incorruptible, prosperous and democratic”.

This destination will be achieved through pan-Africanism and socialism through class struggle as advocated by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.

We wonder if Chimutengwende has ever heard of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the beginning of the end of the great socialist experiment in the Soviet Union. Why does he believe Zimbabwe needs to reinvent the socialist wheel when even countries such as China are embracing capitalism and free-market economics?

We also wonder who is funding this anachronistic outfit. Socialists are not known for their generosity unless it is the supply of firearms.

he Voice’s columnist Don Muvhuti is evidently part of this threadbare legacy. He appears confused about which MPs are Zanu PF and who belong to the opposition MDC.

In an article titled “No room for spies in parliament” in this week’s issue, Muvhuti said in an effort to recolonise Zimbabwe, imperialists had created an opposition to serve their interests. They had created spies under the guise of democracy and freedom of expression, he claimed.

It is our duty as society, declared Muvhuti, “to prove the enemy wrong by voting MDC out of the next parliament. The moral we will be getting across is that being a parliamentary opposition does not give the persons involved the freedom to indulge in espionage and treasonable activities against their society. That sort of disloyalty to society can be punished with a complete ban at the ballot box.”

Does he know something we don’t? Which party has three of its officials in prison for selling state secrets and two others awaiting trial? Does one become an opposition MP as soon as he commits a crime and is facing trial?

The following day the Herald led with a story on Philip Chiyangwa losing his chairmanship of Mashonaland West province because of the spying charges that he is facing. We hope Don Muvhuti had the chance to read it and get his facts right.

e should be forever grateful to the Herald for the subtle disclosures, though inadvertent, of the ruling party’s modus operandi in the run-up to the election. On Tuesday the paper ran a story titled “Zanu PF blasts Tutu” in which it was alleged Zimbabwe’s enemies were out in full force to discredit the March election. Among them was Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa who said Zimbabwe made a mockery of the continent’s commitment to good governance and freedom.

For his pains, he got a rebuke from Zanu PF mandarin Didymus Mutasa who said Tutu was “a vassal of imperialism”. Cosatu was also among those accused of defending “white interests”.

By attacking Tutu and Cosatu like this, Mutasa is simply holding his party up to public ridicule in South Africa. It is a measure of how isolated Zanu PF leaders are that they can’t grasp that.

When US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated the obvious — that Zimbabwe was an “outpost of tyranny” — there was an outbreak of contrived nationalist hysteria. Zimbabwe was under attack ahead of the election, we were told.

One of the “attacks” on Zimbabwe by the US was the claim that half the country’s population would need food aid in the next two months. That stirred the wrath of unnamed “analysts” who said the US government was making a “devious attempt” to force the Zimbabwe government to allow non-governmental organisations to distribute
food in the rural areas, “a move aimed at helping the MDC to penetrate these traditional Zanu PF strongholds”.

What further proof does one need to show that some places in Zimbabwe are no-go areas for the opposition because they are considered Zanu PF strongholds? So communal lands have become “restricted areas” the way they were during the war? And the opposition can’t campaign there because the Zanu PF militia and war veterans have been stationed there as enforcers to ensure NGOs don’t penetrate these areas on behalf of the MDC. We need that detail for the record.

very day brings a new revelation about Zanu PF’s inability to understand the requirements of democracy.

On Monday the Herald carried a story headed “Reclaim Masvingo Central”. The exhortation came from the chairman of the 21st February Movement, Walter Mzembi, who said Zanu PF members in the province should join forces and wrest the seat from the MDC.

He said the party had an obligation to win back Masvingo Central as “a worthwhile birthday present” for the president.

Nothing here about improving service delivery or benefiting the electorate.

The president had on many occasions expressed “dismay” over the loss of the seat, we are told, and wanted it “reclaimed”. Reclaiming Masvingo would “fulfil the president’s long-held desire that Masvingo retain its one-party status that it held in the 1980s”, Mzembi said.

“Zimbabweans were blessed to have a leader like President Mugabe,” the fawning Mzembi gushed, “whose legacy of economically empowering his people by defending national sovereignty were ever going to rank him as one of the greatest African leaders in history.”

Is Mzembi aware that per capita GDP is lower than it was in 1975? What sort of empowerment is that? And we were interested to see that he donated $15 million at a Zanu PF fund-raising dinner held in Masvingo over the weekend. ZFTU vice-president Joseph Chinotimba pledged $2 million.

This is a profitable way of doing business, isn’t it? Zanu PF sets up an organisation claiming to represent workers, permits it to go on a lawless rampage extorting money from companies, and then receives the proceeds as a “donation” to its election fund.

Despite talk of one-party domains, Zanu PF has of late been frantically advertising its “compliance” with the Mauritius principles on the conduct of elections. At every opportunity it flags its adherence to the Sadc protocol. So here’s a challenge. Let’s see President Mugabe go on TV to give an assurance that everybody’s vote is their secret; that contrary to what his militias have reportedly been telling susceptible rural voters, Zanu PF does not have any means of telling how people voted. And there will be no penalties for communities where the MDC does well.

We’re sure Zanu PF will have no difficulty taking up that challenge given its much-advertised commitment to the Mauritius terms! And when the Sadc technical team does finally get the green light to come and test compliance, it should look at the Herald’s editorial on Monday, “Voters won’t be fooled by MDC”, to see the extent of abuse of the public media by the incumbent party.

n the same page somebody called Maria Kwindi confessed to spending six months in the UK “mixing and socialising” with other Zimbabweans.

That evidently included a little freelance spying on behalf of the ruling party. She reports that MDC meetings are poorly attended and that it was hypocrisy for the MDC to want postal ballots when Zanu PF leaders were banned from the UK and therefore couldn’t campaign there.

She doesn’t mention that MDC leaders are banned from campaigning in many parts of Zimbabwe. Nor Homelink’s attempts to take money off Zimbabweans in the UK while they are denied the right to vote for those who will make use of their funds!

e were intrigued by Joel Netshitenzhe’s reference to the technical team that Sadc was “planning” to send to Zimbabwe ahead of the election. Is that the same technical team that has been cooling its heels over the past few weeks while Zimbabwe’s leaders try to make up their minds whether they want it here or not?

The Herald’s report on Tutu, referred to earlier, omitted the following observation by the archbishop: “I don’t know what happened there,” he said about Zimbabwe, “because I’d always held President Mugabe in the highest possible regard, until something peculiar happened and I don’t know what it is. And we’ve got to say what is happening there is not acceptable. Say it in as friendly a manner as possible, but it is some thing we should say for the sake of all of us. It is not acceptable not to allow freedom of association, freedom of speech…”

We know what “happened there”. It was the prospect of political mortality after the 2000 electoral defeats. And have you noticed the mind-insulting way the state media talks about the “protest votes” of that year as if people are not allowed to protest against the way the country is being run when they vote!

Let us also take this opportunity to record the obstacles which Tobaiwa Mudede is helpfully putting in the path of people trying to register as urban voters. Is he constitutionally entitled to make it so difficult for people to register?

No wonder that technical team is being kept waiting. Their first port of call, the voters’ roll, is being nicely stitched up, just as it was in 2002, while they are waiting to hear if they will be admitted.

fter ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe’s remarks about the “anomaly” of MDC officials having to seek police permission to communicate with their followers, it should be interesting to see what he thinks of 13 MDC members reportedly being arrested and fined because deputy Foreign Affairs minister Abednico Ncube thought he was “insulted” when they gave him the open-palm salute.

Nothing better illustrates the abuse of the law to thwart the opposition’s right to free expression. By the way, apart from ordering the arrest of MDC members, what exactly does Abednico Ncube do?

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