Can we hear the whip crack, VP?

UNDER the heading “Let’s celebrate Independence together”, the Herald on Monday carried a front-page appeal by Elliot Manyika for Zimbabweans to put aside their political differences and atte

nd the celebrations held on April 18.

Significantly, his appeal included the following observation: “It was disturbing to note that some Zimbabweans, particularly the youth, were no longer honouring such national events as the Independence Day celebrations and Heroes’ Day commemorations under the misguided belief that these were for the ruling party.”

At least Zanu PF now recognises that it is the party of the past, not the future. And in bold contradiction of Manyika’s claim that Independence Day was a national, not a partisan event, the Herald carried on its editorial pages a vicious character assassination of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai penned by Caesar Zvayi.

Nothing could be more calculated to signal to MDC followers that April 18 is not for them than this crude, clumsy attack on the MDC leadership repeating a whole raft of lies about Tsvangirai and dragging in Arthur Mutambara for good measure. The article was locked in the mindset of the past.

What Zvayi seems to resent more than anything is the MDC’s promise of “a new Zimbabwe and a new beginning”.
That is the last thing the political dinosaurs in Zanu PF want. They want to continue feeding at the trough of the old Zimbabwe, the country they have failed with their ignorant posturing and bankrupt policies but which they insist still owes them a living.

Zimbabweans have voted with their feet against that Zimbabwe where inflation is 1 000%, unemployment 80% and the right to protest trampled under foot.

Manyika is correct in his understanding that the youth of today are not buying his party’s silly excuses for failure.
Blaming the MDC for the country’s problems (Zvayi had to say “challenges” because he is not allowed to say failures) is an exercise in delusional dishonesty. And those in the state media who aid and abet this dishonesty are equally culpable as their failed political masters.

William Bango had to write to the Herald last week to rebut some of the more pernicious lies being told about Tsvangirai. But Herald columnists continue to repeat them.

Recently Swedish ambassador Sten Rylander gave an interview in which he said he had never called for the lifting of EU sanctions. His remarks on relations between Zimbabwe and the EU had been “distorted” in the official press, he said.

But Campion Mereki in the Herald last week wrote a whole opinion piece based on the false premise that Rylander had indeed made a call for the lifting of sanctions and was therefore at odds with other EU members.

Mereki completely ignored Rylander’s denial.

In his interview Rylander said the government media had failed to adhere to basic principles of media ethics and professionalism which was self-defeating since it was crucial for the country to convey the correct message to well-wishers who may want to assist the country in its recovery.

While we are on the subject of media ethics, Tafataona Mahoso should be asked how professional it is for the MIC chair to attack newspapers whose political views he doesn’t like in his weekly column when he is expected to preside over the registration of those papers with a measure of fairness and impartiality? And he should tell us why he considers the jongwe a Zimbabwean national symbol. He refers to “Zimbabwe’s jongwe symbol”.

He earlier states that it is the symbol of the united Zanu PF.

We are not sure that even that claim is true. Did Zanu PF and PF Zapu not agree on the Great Zimbabwe site’s conical tower as their united party’s motif? Could somebody involved in those talks please clarify.

We were intrigued by a story carried in the Mail & Guardian on the systematic looting of Kondozi Estate by Zanu PF chefs.

Vice-President Joice Mujuru was visiting the farm in the company of six ministers. Col Ronnie Mutizhe, deputy commander of 3 Brigade charged with running the farm, told her that the maize crop had wilted because it no longer has irrigation equipment.

Mujuru demanded to know what had happened to the equipment.

“It’s not something I can say in public, Your Excellency,” Mutizhe was reported as replying. “I need to discuss it with you in private.”

Mujuru would have none of that. “Let the cameras roll,” she ordered. “I want you to tell me now what happened to that equipment. I’m the vice-president.”

Mutizhe reluctantly admitted, we were told, that the pump was taken by Christopher Mushohwe who had “not returned it since”. He added that another minister, Nyathi, took the tractors.

When Mujuru demanded to know who Nyathi was, he replied: “It’s the Minister of Intelligence, Didymus Mutasa, Your Excellency.”

The M&G reports Mutizhe as alleging provincial governor Tinaye Chigudu had also removed tractors.

“It’s for that reason that we are unable to do much on this farm,” the paper reports Mutizhe as saying.

Isn’t this story emblematic of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme: chefs helping themselves as good productive farms go to waste?

Not long ago there was huge excitement in official circles at the prospect of Al Jazeera setting up shop in Zimbabwe. This would tell the “true story” of Zimbabwe to the outside world, we were told, and correct Anglo-American “lies”.

Well, Muckraker checked out the Arab broadcaster’s website over the weekend. Prominently displayed was a story headed “Zimbabwe’s curse of Independence”.

“Zimbabweans mark 26 years of Independence on Tuesday with little to celebrate as the African state plunges into deep economic hardship, personal tragedies and a rapidly growing gap between the elite rich and the majority poor,” it said.

And there was Zvayi on Tuesday telling us “our country is evidently a success story in Africa”. Not so evidently, it seems!

We pointed out last week that Zanu PF is crafting a hagiographical account of Mugabe’s role in the liberation struggle. This week the Herald’s Isdore Guvamombe told us that “the turning point in Zimbabwe’s liberation war was on April 4 1975 when Cde Mugabe crossed into Mozambique with Cde Tekere to start the armed struggle”.

Can we expect a North Korean-style tableau to this effect?

We can safely assume from this that Cde Tekere has now been fully rehabilitated after his little indiscretions. And we liked the way Lord Soames and Bishop Abel Muzorewa have been airbrushed out of the following: “On April 18 1980 the vehemently cruel and illegal Rhodesian regime led by Ian Smith collapsed and paved way for a democratically elected Zimbabwean government led by Cde Robert Mugabe.”

Lancaster House has disappeared!

Those few tourists who do brave the “negative publicity” to visit Zimbabwe may be in for a rude welcome. Passengers arriving on BA153 at 06:30 from London on April 13 were still standing in queues to be cleared by customs at 12:30. It appears that passengers who arrived minutes earlier on an Air Zimbabwe flight from Dubai were carrying huge quantities of goods and as a result customs forced all passengers to go through the red route.

Our informal business sector, it would seem, has taken a tad too literally the invitation to do business with the Middle East. And ordinary travellers are paying the price!

Air Zimbabwe is proudly joining the league of parastatals that are being forced to unbundle. It is being transformed into five strategic business units. The Business Herald reports that this has been necessitated by a huge salary bill and reduced business. As a result the company plans to retrench about 360 workers.

But you need time to follow the logic. The airline’s acting chief executive officer Captain Oscar Madombwe recently told a parliamentary committee on tourism that the airline only managed to transport 230 000 passengers last year from a peak of 1 000 000 in 1999.

Ordinarily one would expect those in charge to think of downsizing from the top down. Instead, Air Zimbabwe has created five so-called strategic business units and is inviting applications to engage five general managers for each of these.

From our experience with the former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, more general managers mean more expenses on salaries and other perks. How they plan to do it this time around for less with reduced passenger traffic remains a mystery. Does somebody understand the logic beyond creating jobs for the boys?

Still on Independence Day celebrations, President Mugabe on Tuesday repeated the flyblown claims about the causes of poverty in Zimbabwe. It was the usual scapegoats: drought and unjustified sanctions that caused shortages of food, drugs, electricity and other essential commodities.

In the fashion of all propaganda fairytales Mugabe said nothing about the havoc wrought on commercial agriculture by the unplanned land reform and how this had undercut the supply of essential raw materials to industry. Where he did mention the abuse of fuel, seed and fertilisers by some of the beneficiaries of the land reform, it was as if he had to apologise instead of demanding punishment for the offenders. Even his comments on the levels of corruption in the country did not sound convincing. It was as if he was mentioning a pardonable aberration by junior officials in his government filching petty cash.

Those involved must have had problems trying to suppress a belly-laugh.

But he was not done yet. The speech had to end with a positive prophesy. We were told government had dreamt up a new “priority programme” that would turn around the economy in the next six to nine months. The miracle programme would increase food security and generate more foreign currency. The result? Economic growth of between 1 and 2% this year on the back of a 9% growth in agriculture.

How will this be achieved in the face of so-called “unjustified sanctions”? It sounds like a poor rendition of one of Aesop’s many fables.

Harare council has splurged a mind-numbing $280 million on two cellphones for its officials, one of whom has been on suspension for the past three years with full benefits. According to a Herald report on Wednesday, the fancy cellphones were not in the capital budget for 2006. Instead Harare residents had to foot the cost of this obscenity by having money diverted from allocations for chairs and office desks.

What is shocking is that this is the same council that is charging ratepayers swingeing rates but is failing to collect refuse. It is the same council that cannot repair potholes, burst sewerage and water pipes because it claims it has no money. It is the same council that recently splashed $1,1 trillion on vehicles and was having a fun day arguing about commission chair Sekesai Makwavarara’s request for $35 billion to buy curtains for the mayoral mansion.
Having been thwarted on that front, she dribbled past the bemused town clerk Nomutsa Chideya and installed a satellite dish in the same mansion without going to tender.

What else can we expect from these big spenders? At least now Muckraker understands former Zanu PF MP Philip Chiyangwa’s exhortation: If you want to get rich join Zanu PF. Makwavarara’s timing can’t be faulted.

Finally, we were rather amused by a story in the Sunday Mail’s business section. It proclaimed that Zimbabwe was back in ARSO and had even attended an ARSO meeting in Cairo last month. The meeting was hosted by Egyptian ARSOs.

In case you are wondering, ARSO stands for the African Organisation for Standardisation, according to the Sunday Mail. The acronym would more likely suggest the African Regional Standards Organisation. Whatever the case, it is rather unfortunate that this august body did not contemplate the consequences when it devised its appellation.

Meanwhile, David Coltart may have been alarmed on Tuesday to hear ZTV referring to “Cde Coltart Chimurenga”.

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