Muckraker

This is not a victory

HOW can Zanu PF celebrate a “victory” in which they failed to win a single urban seat and lost several they had flagged as marking their return to national ascendancy such as Zengeza, Kadoma and Lupane
Turning a blind e

ye to their failure to make any inroads in the MDC’s core constituencies, the ruling party’s propagandists tried to turn this disappointing outcome on its head.

“What stronghold can the MDC talk of when Zanu PF has won Harare South, Bubi/Umguza, Manyame, Gwanda and many other seats that opposition myths branded as untouchables…?” one gloating commentator asked in the state press.

The answer to that is obvious: the cities and towns of Zimbabwe. That stronghold populated by the people who were able to make an informed choice, unlike their country cousins!

Harare South, as the Herald pointed out in its remarkably sober account on Saturday, is a mixed urban/rural constituency. Zanu PF candidates were utterly crushed in Bulawayo, Harare, Kadoma, and Mutare. Only in Masvingo was it a close-run thing.

What did poor old Victoria Chitepo do to deserve being humiliated in this way (4 648 votes to Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga’s 14 841) in Glen Norah? And why couldn’t Zanu PF manage more than a pathetic 5 555 in Kambuzuma to the MDC’s 17 394?

Now let’s hear Zanu PF claim the MDC is only a “flash in the pan”! It was Zanu PF’s capture of Zengeza and Lupane that were the flashes in the pan.

Trudy Stevenson’s core vote came from the Hatcliffe Estate. Evidently, President Mugabe’s pernicious message about whites failed to travel there. And does anybody for one minute doubt that Heather Bennett would have won Chimanimani in a free and fair poll?

And what of Emmerson Mnangagwa? How come there hasn’t been a single mention in the government media of his fate?

Didymus Mutasa said the MDC would win a maximum of 15 seats. What can we say now of his analytical powers? And Mugabe, speaking of Jonathan Moyo in Tsholotsho, said “the real Tsholotsho doesn’t belong to this man — the chiefs don’t even know him”.

They don’t know Mugabe either, it would seem. He clearly miscalculated in the inducements offered to chiefs and headmen. The real Tsholotsho placed the president’s party third in its list of loyalties. And Binga, Hwange East, Hwange West, Nkayi, Bulilima, Mangwe, Matobo and Umzingwane remained loyal to the opposition.
Hardly a Zanu PF clean sweep even in rural Zimbabwe!

Meanwhile, Zanu PF apologists did their best to make the best of a bad job. We particularly liked the report on election day from the ZTV man with the helicopter rotor blade churning in the background. He was completely drowned out and so was Augustine Chihuri. But ZTV ran the clip anyway!

Then there was the Zimbabwe/Mozambique music festival filler interspersed with a very old cricket match that popped up in the middle of it.

ZTV must ensure when recording over old tapes that we don’t see the original footage in the middle of a concert!


President Mugabe, voting in Highfield, said “the people are behind us”.

Indeed they were. He had jumped the queue. But alas, when it came to the count, the people were no longer behind him. His party managed only a miserable 4 296 against the MDC’s 12 600. And this was the cradle of the revolution we are always being told!

Somebody else the people were behind was land-recipient Reuben Barwe.

He referred to the long line of voters behind him. Unfortunately it was rather difficult to see behind Reuben as he occupied most of the screen.

And let’s hope in his final term as president that Mugabe mellows a bit. Every time he was asked an awkward question by Western journalists he appeared to be on the verge of losing it, then caught himself and calmed down. But he shouldn’t be so disconcerted by every question put to him by Sky and others. It’s all part of the business of politics and he should be able to handle that by now.

Asked about the MDC’s response to defeat, Mugabe said: “History has shown us that (the MDC) are a very violent people.”

We recall him saying the same thing when Cain Nkala’s body was found in November 2001. We now know that information was false. So does he — but he repeats it.

Why wasn’t he asked where Joseph Mwale was hiding? That was a perfect opportunity while he was claiming that Tony Blair was lying when he said there was no rule of law in Zimbabwe. If there is rule of law why do political killers and bombers continue to run loose? He should answer that.

We liked the Sunday Mail’s commentary on Zanu PF’s defeat in Masvingo Central. Governor Josiah Hungwe said Mugabe had wanted the party to win the seat back. Hungwe said he had wanted to deliver the seat back “but failed because of circumstances”.
 
And Dr Joseph Kurebwa appears to think “Harare is unique because it is a city of government, hence voters in this area tend to be polarised”.

What is he talking about? The message to the president from Harare was the same as that from Bulawayo, Mutare, and every other urban centre. It was unambiguous: “We don’t want your lame excuses here.”


The Sunday News published a set of six pictures on its front page. The top three were winners: Obert Mpofu, Bright Matonga, and Samuel Udenge; the bottom three were losers: Renson Gasela, Paul Themba Nyathi and Amos Midzi.

Now, wasn’t there somebody who should have been in the bottom row ahead of the other losers; somebody who has now lost three elections, one in 1999, the other in 2000, and the latest last week?

Strange how the Sunday News didn’t find that noteworthy.

The newspaper told us the election outcome was “a moment to savour”. Indeed it was in many constituencies!
While the state press was congratulating itself on a free and fair outcome, the government was busy arresting and deporting journalists whose reporting proved inconvenient. A Swedish journalist was deported for “stage-managing an incident”. And what was this incident? He tried to interview former farm workers in Norton about their plight. He was arrested after a complaint by the farm owner, Chester Mhende who had taken possession from Mr Whaley. Free speech has it limits, it would seem, especially when it comes to ex-farm workers!

The Department of Information should understand that any goodwill built up by allowing so many journalists in during the election would have been dissipated at one stroke by the deportation of the Swedish journalist — who was accredited and therefore free to ask whatever questions he liked — and the detention without bail of the two Telegraph journalists who will tell the world about Aippa and our prison system. Another own goal!

Meanwhile, the Herald thought we would be impressed by the news that Zvimba MP Sabina Mugabe had scored a first in the region by being the only mother to sit in parliament with her two sons.

The paper seems blissfully unaware that having the head of state’s relatives occupying seats in parliament is not something most countries — except perhaps Swaziland — like to boast of!


Should Tafataona Mahoso be getting himself into a messy media spat with the Law Society over Aippa? He was responding to an LSZ statement on electoral preparations.

Mahoso seems to think he is obliged to leap to the defence of this thoroughly bad law — and Posa for good measure — every time it is criticised, or in this case, because the legislation impinged on a free and fair electoral outcome. He called the LSZ statement an “absurdity”.

Not content with this maladroit foray, he goes on to defend his Media Ethics Committee’s survey that long ago sunk into oblivion and deserves to remain there. Did anybody, apart from Mahoso himself, take its conclusion seriously that the “overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans” wanted statutory regulation of all mass media services?

Can you imagine thousands of Zimbabweans out on the streets carrying placards saying “We demand statutory regulation of all mass media services”?

The Supreme Court has already commented on Mahoso’s alleged bias emanating from his newspaper articles.
 
Many would say he is well qualified to comment on “absurdity” when he finds it in others. But he should understand there are times when silence is golden if he hopes to earn public respect. This was one of them.


We must thank presidential spokesperson George Charamba for setting the record straight about Aippa. According to the Daily Mirror, Charamba let it be known last week that he was the brains behind Aippa and was proud of his product.

This could explain why it was so sloppily drafted, not to mention malignant. Eddison Zvobgo described it as the most serious assault on civil liberties he had ever seen in his career in parliament.

Charamba told reporters in Harare: “Aippa was an attempt to have a rule that manages the media. It has gone a long way in doing that and I am proud of it.”

He claimed to have done a lot of research into the law. We all know the result of that law was the closure of four newspapers in two years. One proud promoter of that legislation was his former boss who now wants to seize every opportunity to get coverage from the same media he sought to close down. We hope Charamba is learning something from Moyo’s folly instead of indulging in braggadocio.


Muckraker was amused to read the silly article in the Herald on Tuesday saying “some” manufacturers and the MDC were in cahoots to push up food prices in order to “cause unrest”.

This is the sort of childish conspiracy-theory economics that has caused so much damage in the past. The reality is of course that the government artificially held down prices in order to buy votes and is now facing the consequences of its populist policies.

One of the things MDC youths were accused of in their fliers this week was saying there would be petrol shortages. We recall the head of the fuel marketers association before the election telling his members how unpatriotic it was to charge realistic prices. This could sabotage Zanu PF’s chances in the poll, he helpfully said.

He should be held accountable for partisan collaboration and subsequent fuel shortages.


Has Lowani Ndlovu undergone a sudden transformation or has he left the Sunday Mail? This week’s contribution was remarkable for its lack of the usual venom and use of profane language. Instead, there was a call for unity of purpose among all Zimbabweans for the country to move forward. Is this the same fellow who before the election was seeing running dogs of imperialism at every turn?

But he appears to take President Mugabe’s offer to talk to the MDC too seriously. He has given us no precedent for fair-dealing with the opposition. Those who are in doubt can check with former PF-Zapu leaders who negotiated the 1987 Unity Accord. The result was complete capitulation.

Lowani said: “Constructive engagement between Zanu PF and the MDC is the best and shortest way forward for Zimbabwe …” to limit the pain that people are going through. This has been evident to all Zimbabweans and foreigners of goodwill since the 2000 election. It is only Zanu PF, Mugabe and the new Lowani who are making the discovery now!

Soon after the February 2000 constitutional referendum Mugabe made similar unctuous remarks about peace and accepting the people’s verdict. Many are still licking their wounds from the retribution that followed. There were similarly half-hearted overtures about talks after the presidential election. But that was only up to a time when Mugabe started setting his own terms of trying to swallow the MDC which he routinely attacked as an imperialist outfit.

Why should we trust him now to honour his word? Why does Lowani believe Mugabe now means it, although in truth everybody knows that is the best option for Zimbabwe?

For the painful truth for Mugabe and his Zanu PF is that their victory is as hollow as a tunnel echoing to itself. It cannot bring together the key stakeholders that the country needs to move forward. It has spawned a debilitating national depression and cynical disillusion about the entire electoral process. Nobody takes the rural result seriously. Not even Mugabe himself can be proud of the so-called electoral mandate he has got.


This is in sharp contrast to the delusional Mzala Joe of the Sunday News. Still pursuing the discredited line that British prime minister Tony Blair wants to colonise Zimbabwe, Mzala Joe asserted this scheme had been thwarted by his party’s victory. The landslide victory, proclaimed Cde Joe, would enable Zimbabweans to focus their energies on socio-economic development and “get on with life as we know it”.

If Mzala Joe is not a Martian he will know that the last five years have been the darkest part of the Zanu PF nightmare and political stalemate. Nobody would want to get on with life as we have known it in past few years. In fact Zimbabweans were praying for a break from their misery and have no illusions about the causes.

But we enjoyed the macabre irony in the heading of his article: “Zanu PF tsunami buries MDC.” Unfortunately, in his short-sighted euphoria he could not realise it was more than the MDC that has been hit by this Zanu PF calamity. Only irredeemable idiots would see a positive result out of a tsunami.


And what could be more alarmist than the Herald lead headline on Tuesday: “MDC unleashes violence”? The self-serving story then claimed rowdy MDC youths had “rampaged” in the Harare city centre in the afternoon “beating up people and stoning shops” in order to “misinform and confuse” the public about the situation in the country.

The alleged rowdy youths were moving in “several groups” across Nelson Mandela Avenue when they were spotted by the alert Herald reporter who was standing in a bank queue. The reporter claims to have been “kicked all over the body” before the youths disappeared. Police at the time managed to arrest only two of the youths from the “several groups” terrorising people in the city centre in broad daylight!

One wonders what the situation is like in the rural areas if it’s so easy to cause mayhem in the city centre and police can only apprehend two offenders. Where was Newsnet to capture the horror as it unfolded we wonder?


Finally, now Tony Blair has announced an election date in the UK, will it be an anti-Mugabe poll?