New wood or dead wood in Cabinet reshuffle?

“MUGABE reshuffles dead wood” should have been the Herald’s front-page story on Tuesday. In

comes delusional Didymus Mutasa as Minister of Special Affairs in charge of the anti-corruption drive. Out goes one of the few ministers with a grasp of how a modern economy works, Edward Chindori-Chininga, and shuffled to a less important post is Herbert Murerwa who at least understood what has to be done if Zimbabwe is to be readmitted to the Bretton Woods lending system. Chindori-Chininga has also, as Mines minister, been tackling illicit gold trading in the Midlands.

President Mugabe has appointed governors for Harare and Bulawayo so those two cities which have decisively rejected Zanu PF at the polls will be subject to the whims of unelected and unpopular rulers. They will of course be furnished with offices, staff, and vehicles in addition to their salaries.

And what will Elliot Manyika be doing as Minister Without Portfolio? Is that not a post designed to assist the ruling party’s electioneering? Curiously Paul Mangwana does not seem to have been given the post of Attorney-General which Nathaniel Manheru said last June he was “certain to land unless something goes horribly wrong”, moving instead to Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare.

There is not even a hint of fresh air about the moves. Mutasa “bounces back”, the Herald told us. Does it really think Mutasa is capable of “bouncing” anywhere? And Christopher Mushowe, who warned that Zimbabwe’s enemies could take advantage of cloud-seeding, has been rewarded with the Transport and Communications ministry. What message will an ex-military Minister of Indigenisation (Josiah Tungamirai) send to investors?

What the reshuffle tells us is that this is a hidebound party incapable of reforming itself. The MDC’s Paul Themba Nyathi put it neatly: “For the suffering people of Zimbabwe, the reshuffle isa non-event. The cabinet continues to consist of ministers who have presided over the collapse of ourhospitals, the collapse of our schools, and the collapse of our economy and the erosion of ourdemocratic rights. The only thing they have been able to deliver is a chronic shortage of jobs and food andthe acceleration of our descent into poverty.”

Is there nobody at the Herald, by the way, who can go through the names ensuring they are spelt the same way in the captions and box as in the copy!

 So it’s now dog eat dog at Zimpapers is it? Or to change the metaphor, the rats are gnawing at each other as officers aboard the ship of state squabble over their divergent charts.

Last Saturday the Herald entertained us with yet another Philip Chiyangwa story.

“Chiyangwa faces fresh charges — Businessman accused of mishandling public funds”, the government’s flagship paper declared.

But the next day it was a different story. “Chiyangwa not facing fresh charges: Moyo.”

The Information minister was at his tongue-lashing best saying the story was “not just false but …based on a falsehood bordering on either sponsored or calculated mischief disguised to cause and spread political confusion in the vain hope of derailing government’s determined, focused and unwavering war against corruption and economic sabotage that has been taking place in the financial sector”.

Phew! All that in one sentence? But what’s really going on here?

The police were said in the Herald story to be quizzing the Chinhoyi MP in connection with the alleged mishandling of $36 million meant for public works programmes in the Mash West capital. There was no case, the Sunday Mail reported.

The Herald, normally seen as a pliant instrument of ministerial wishes, appears to have stepped out of line in a big way. Philip Chiyangwa has been the favourite whipping boy of the official media as it trumpets Gideon Gono’s crackdown in the financial sector. The MP’s incarceration and public humiliation were designed to show the state’s seriousness about all the things it has been accused of not being serious about in the past. So what explains this sudden contradiction?

“The use of the media to peddle political confusion will not be tolerated,” Moyo admonished, “and those behind it will be held accountable.”

This is the sort of stuff normally reserved for our paper. But we can safely conclude this is a family row. There is not much chance of the Herald’s editor being carted off to jail for what looks like a simple miscalculation on his part. But, given the Herald’s predilection for carrying stories with bold headings about “fabrications” and “falsehoods” in the independent press, a little schadenfreude may not be altogether out of place when the biter is bit!

 Still on the subject of fabrications, we were surprised to see a story in the Herald saying the Department of Information in the Office of the President had complained to Associated Press about “a false and fabricated” statement attributing to the minister remarks that he did not make in the Ijaz case.

Moyo had not commented on the verdict of the Supreme Court in the accreditation case last Thursday, the AP bureau chief Angus Shaw was told.

“We are thoroughly dismayed at the words attributed to Professor Moyo in your AP story as published in the Guardian,” Shaw was told in a letter. “We therefore demand that you effect urgently a retraction of the false and fabricated statement attributed to the minister and advise us that such a correction has been done.”

The offending article quoted Moyo as having said that while all other professional groupings had their own independent self-appointed regulatory bodies, “journalists now have the distinction of being placed under the control of central government”.

Moyo did not say that. Nor did AP report him as having said that. The Guardian, in editing the AP copy, was responsible for mixing up the statements, a genuine error as another Moyo, Sternford Moyo who represented Ijaz, was also quoted in the AP report. It was his statement that got misaligned by the Guardian. We are only relieved Gugulethu Moyo didn’t come into the story anywhere just to confuse things!

 But what is significant in all this is that although Shaw was able to show that his report for AP made the correct attributions and that the fault for the mix-up lay elsewhere, he was still accused of writing a “false and fabricated” story.  The Guardian duly corrected its error.

 Then there was the story about the donkeys. The Herald reported last Friday that the Combined Harare Ratepayers’ Association (CHRA) had dismissed MDC councillors as “a bunch of donkeys” who should not be allowed a second term owing to their incompetence.

“Harare MDC councillors donkeys, say residents,” the headline ran.

The remark it turns out came from one CHRA member, a Mr Fitzpatrick, who started off in the Herald account as Mr Fitz Patrick and mutated to Mr Firtz Patrick the following day when his remarks were condemned by councillors. But the story had by that time been consigned to Page 13!

Should the Herald get away with publishing a front-page story comparing MDC councillors to donkeys?

Can the editor of the Herald expect a letter from the MIC casting aspersions upon the credentials of the paper and referring at length to the South African Human Rights Commission findings? Somehow we doubt it!

 In our response to MIC chair Tafataona Mahoso last week, we said we also subscribed to the UN declaration against racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination which Mahoso had cited.

“Obviously, you subscribe to the wrong thing since no such declaration exists in the history of the UN,” an eagle-eyed Europe-based reader replied.

“Would you, by any chance, be referring to the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of November 20 1963, or the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of March 7, 1966? Or might you be referring to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, adopted at Durban in September 2001?”

Um, er, dunno!

“ In my view”, our rigorous reader insists, “the only thing worse than subscribing to a non-existent declaration is to want others to subscribe to it as well.”


 Last week we pandered to the whims of the legion of anti-Bush readers out there with some harsh new publications blasting the US presidential incumbent. Now, we learn, John le Carré, arguably Britain’s foremost novelist, smuggled this damning indictment into the mouth of one of his characters in his latest book, Absolute Friends: “That war on Iraq was illegitimate…It was a criminal and immoral conspiracy. No provocation, no link with al-Qaeda, no weapons of Armageddon. Tales of complicity and Osama were self-serving bulls..t. It was an old colonial war dressed up as a crusade for Western life and liberty, and it was launched by a clique of war-hungry Judaeo-Christian geo-political fantasists who hijacked the media and exploited America’s post-Nine Eleven psychopathy.”

Now if only our own anti-American fulminators could write like that they may be taken more seriously!

 Having failed to get us into the Portuguese empire, Stan Mudenge now seems to be knocking at the door of the Iranians. He was reported as tracing the historical links between Zimbabwe and Iran at a one-day seminar in the capital last week. The two countries shared a common background, he said.

Education, Sports and Culture minister Aeneas Chigwedere “took participants down memory lane” explaining the origins of barter trade and mutual cooperation between the two countries.

Iranian ambassador Hamid Moayyer spoke of Zimbabwe’s need to “look towards the east and recognise their true friends”.

Iranians once had control over the Sofala gold fields, he claimed, before the Portuguese arrived and took over. Iranians participated in the trade at Great Zimbabwe, Moayyer reminded his audience. Chigwedere said descendents of Moslems from Iran who still live in Zimbabwe include the Suleman (Seremani) and Saidi people.

Muckraker wants to know what Zimbabwe is proposing to barter with Iran as we revert to a medieval economy? There’s not much tobacco left. And the Iranians have been insisting on cash up front for oil.

And does one-time Iranian control over Sofala provide a sufficient excuse for latter-day Iranian ambitions now Zimbabwe lies prostrate? A quick call to our old friend Bill Saidi as to what we can expect as subjects of the mullahs might be timely!

By the way, how is Chigwedere coming along with all those school name-changes? Having lost the battle for control of the Warriors he seems to be harassing schools which are trying to stay in business as inflation eats away at their foundations.

 In a scornful editorial last Friday, the Herald mocked Lovemore Madhuku suggesting the NCA chairman led a group of 50 demonstrators in a bid for “cheap martyrdom”.

On Page 4 of the same edition a report said: “More than 100 demonstrators of the NCA who were arrested by police for an illegal demonstration on Wednesday were released yesterday after paying admission of guilt fines”.

This casual approach to numbers reminds us of reports of the number of people resettled!

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