Gono, brief Joyce Mujuru please!

JOYCE Mujuru has been demonstrating all those qualities we would expect from a Zanu PF vice-president. Don’t worry about assistance from the IMF and World Bank, she says. The government will use “local resources

” instead for development. Government had its “own plan”, she confided, which would get around sanctions to build dams and irrigation schemes.

Sanctions had prevented all these things happening in the past. Now, with a little help from friendly countries in the East the future was bright. For instance, the “major problem facing the country was food reliance”. So government was “planning to harness the country’s irrigation potential”, Mujuru told villagers in Zaka.

That would be a good place to feed unsuspecting rural folk this hogwash because it wouldn’t get airtime anywhere else!

What has happened to all the irrigation schemes over the past five years? Were they not pillaged or destroyed by members of her party? If government had a plan for dams development why didn’t it tell us before? Was it sanctions that wrecked Tokwe Mukorsi or political interference and sheer incompetence? Why did the Italians run away? Joyce should grow up and tell people the facts. Nothing is going to work so long as Zanu PF steals the country’s resources. Zimbabwe has gone begging to the IMF precisely because it doesn’t have any “local resources” left.

Could Gideon Gono please brief her!

It is no longer apocryphal. The truth is out. President Mugabe made his intentions clear as a whistle in Tsholotsho last week. Either the electorate vote for his party or a whole generation will remain forgotten. Unfortunately the people of Tsholotsho and other areas in Matabeleland have learnt to live with being forgotten. There is absolutely nothing new in that statement unless it was meant as a camouflaged threat.

He repeated the argument in a similar vein when he told a rally in Chitungwiza that residents had to confess their sins and repent for having voted for the opposition in 2000 before government could do something about the splurges of sewage effluent in the dusty working class suburb.

This is exactly why people in Matabeleland voted for the opposition in the 2000 general election. They felt forgotten and wanted to express their resentment at this type of deliberate, institutionalised neglect.

It is a political gimmick akin to the scorched earth policy when one region is left to the ravages of dereliction to coerce the electorate to support a ruling party. Kenneth Kaunda tried it in Zambia to penalise opposition supporters but the plan backfired many years later when he needed crucial votes from the south of the country to beat Frederick Chiluba’s nascent MMD.

That mentality seems to have ingrained itself deep in the ruling party because even Vice-President Joseph Msika put in his penny’s worth when he told a rally: “Akula umuntu weopposition ozabuya eqoqoda emnyango kahulumende nxa livothele iMDC. “Akula sibili!” he thundered. (There is no opposition members who will come knocking at government’s door looking for development funds if you vote for the MDC.) Another surreptitious threat.

The Sunday Mail seems predictably ill-informed about some of the foreign journalists visiting the country for the just-finished general election. The story headed “Several international scribes given greenlight to cover elections” was based on remarks made by presidential spokesmen George Charamba and should be used in media training institutes to illustrate how the intrusion of commentary completely discredits a news report.

For instance the writer reports that CNN has been accredited and proceeds from there to note that its South African-based correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault “has in the past constantly churned out rabid anti-Zimbabwe pieces”. The example given is that of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants to South Africa escaping from the train returning them to Zimbabwe.

We seem to recall other TV stations doing that story. But whatever the case, how is it “anti-Zimbabwe”? Charlayne, by the way, has stepped down from CNN because she wants to remain in South Africa with her husband rather than pursue promotion by returning to Atlanta. She has always been a favourite of Zanu PF’s old guard such as John Nkomo who don’t regard her at all as anti-Zimbabwe.

The Sunday Mail report tells us the BBC was refused accreditation “because of their close allegiance to the British government”.

The writer has evidently not been following the messy fight between Tony Blair’s office and the BBC which saw the departure of the broadcaster’s director-general who, while a friend of Blair, declined to be his mouthpiece.

Just because that is inconceivable in Zimbabwe doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen elsewhere!

The writer also cannot have been listening to Focus on Africa or Network where any Zimbabwean opposition or civic spokesperson is given a rough ride by their Bush House interviewer while government spokesmen such as Charamba go virtually unchallenged when rubbishing their critics in organisations such as Cosatu.

The Telegraph’s David Blair and the BBC’s Grant Ferret were disallowed on the grounds of having broken media law, we were told, “hence their subsequent deportations”.

In fact neither Blair nor Ferret were deported. And it would be useful to know what media law they broke.

“Surprise applicants were the BBC’s Hilary Anderson,” the Sunday Mail reports, “who had the audacity to apply for accreditation despite her having run the notorious fabricated story of the National Service Camps…”

What surprises us is that a journalist — for whom audacity is evidently a sin — could express such obviously personal and hostile views in what is supposed to be a news report.

Who said Anderson’s report was “fabricated” apart from the government? Certainly none of the people who gave evidence to her. And for the record she never “dissociated” herself from her documentary. That is a myth propagated by the regime.

The writer says Australian news organisations were denied entry because of their “Crown illusion” in following British prejudices.

Most Australian journalists would consider it laughable that they receive their marching orders from London — or that they were monarchists. It illustrates the ignorance of the Sunday Mail writer — or his government informant — that he could make such a daft allegation. And why are the words “Crown illusion” placed in quotation marks when nobody apart from the Sunday Mail writer used that expression? This reminds us of other Sunday Mail writers who are in the habit of putting their own expressions in quotation marks.

Who is responsible for such unprofessional training at our media institutions that turn out journalists like this who write reports packed with prejudice and ignorance which have all the hallmarks of having been fed to them by government spokesmen?

In this context Muckraker had the misfortune last week to watch a ZTV programme called National Agenda. It was chaired by Claude Mararike and had as its studio guests Tafataona Mahoso, Ngugi wa Miri, and Sheunesu Mpepereki from the UZ departure of agriculture.

It was all about research agendas being set by people who don’t have Zimbabwe’s true interests at heart. If anybody wanted to listen to redundant and misguided nationalist waffle then this was an opportunity to do so.
Each of the self-important participants hinted darkly that foreign forces were at work. But they took ages to get to the point, inspired no interest whatsoever in the viewing public. In fact it was what any panel discussion should never be — downright boring.

Why were other voices not present who could tackle the shibboleths of these stale apologists for the old order and perhaps provoke some interesting debate? There was needless to say no attempt to get to the root of the problem: the subversion of democratic institutions by a ruling political class, the best example being the University of Zimbabwe where senior academics have been reduced to the role of eunuchs in the service of the state.

UZ is a classic case of how a once self-respecting institution has been suborned so that it no longer plays a useful role in society. National Agenda’s team of intellectual prima donnas should try discussing that. But please don’t bore us to death!

Did anyone see a funny little story in the Sunday Mail titled “MDC hijacks AU poll observers”? The two African Union observers, the Sunday Mail told us, were whisked off to the Sheraton from Harare International Airport by opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s special assistant Gandi Mudzingwa. More shocking though was not the benevolence of Mudzinga but the disclosure by the two officials that they didn’t have a clue who had driven them from the airport.

“Yes we were picked up this morning from the airport by a certain gentleman,” one of the observers, Rev Jephthah Gathaka, told the Sunday Mail. “But to tell you the truth, I do not know who that man was. We only saw him carrying a placard with our names and we just went straight to him.” This is a classic case of pliant foreign observers being led by the nose. They will follow anyone with a placard bearing their names!

Does ZEC chair Justice George Chiweshe really want everyone to think he is partisan? We ask because when asked by an observer why Zimbabweans abroad couldn’t vote, he trotted out the party line: Government officials who were slapped with sanctions could not travel abroad to set up the necessary logistics, he lamely said. At the same time Zanu PF officials on the sanctions list would not be able to campaign abroad.

This looks suspiciously like a poor excuse rather than an adequate explanation. Are all Zanu PF officials on the sanctions list? What about lower-ranking civil servants? Or George Shire and other apologists for Zanu PF’s misrule based in the UK? Isn’t it about time they showed us how effective their propaganda has been? Why is it necessary for Zimbabwean ministers to travel abroad to set up something as simple as a postal vote? All the embassy staff in London have one without the visit of a minister.

If anybody visiting Zimbabwe for the election had any doubt that this country is a police state they had only to look at two articles in the Herald on Wednesday.

The first was an instruction by police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena that people should go home after voting. Proposed vigils to prevent cheating would “disturb the peace”, he said.

In other words people may not exercise the freedom of movement and association to which they are entitled.

The second was headed “Subversive literature lands youth in court”. And how subversive was this literature? A book found on the youth at the Beitbridge border post entitled “Is Zimbabwe a democracy?” said “the problems bedevilling the country were a result of bad governance and that the country was being run ‘like (President) Mugabe’s back pocket’”.

Now we don’t know what Mugabe keeps in his back pocket. But a reasonable person reading those remarks would be inclined to say they are fair comment. In these cases the Legal Resources Foundation and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights should rush in pro bono to uphold the right to free speech under threat from colonial laws.

Remember the man in the back of a taxi who got a suspended sentence when he should have been acquitted for merely stating what many believe to be obvious about Mugabe?

And what about the language Mugabe uses at rallies; his attacks on minorities and individuals? Why is civil society not reacting to these gross abuses of power by a malevolent head of state?

Speaking of which, we liked the picture of Adolf Hitler in the Herald last Friday which accompanied an article by barmy contributor Udo Froese who has difficulty getting his copy into the South African newspapers so he dumps it on the Herald instead.

There was only one problem. It wasn’t Hitler. It was an actor playing the part. There was an editorial above it saying “Let’s make Easter accident-free”. That didn’t apply to the subs desk it would seem!

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