A case of turkeys voting for Christmas

EXPOSED: One Robert Mugabe, president of a godforsaken country called Zimbabwe who thrives on brinkmanship while his heart flutters with apprehension.

Last week he proved himself not the man of principle hi

s supporters have touted him as. Why did Zimbabwe have to pay the IMF US$120 million when he has always claimed we can go it alone and told the World Bank and the IMF to go to hell?

The answer is not hard to find. The IMF called his bluff and he fainted at the prospect of Zimbabwe’s complete isolation from the international community. While it was easy to posture about principles in quitting the Commonwealth to spite British prime minister Tony Blair, this time around, the risk was very immediate. There would be no prospect of even approaching China for help. South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki is fed up by the lack of progress on the political front in the country.

The reality is that for a country that is landlocked, Zimbabwe would be left an island. There is no doubt Mugabe now knows of a country that is broke. That explains why he was forced to eat humble pie and sanction the payment to the IMF if only to secure the country’s membership. But he knows there will be no new loans, no improvement in the country’s credit rating and definitely no massive foreign direct investment inflows in this heavily polarised political environment.

And the shame of it: there was near-hysterical official celebration of the partial payment of the debt as if the country had sealed a huge business deal. Finance minister Herbert Murerwa said the debt payment was sufficient proof that the country was committed to meeting its obligations and maintaining good relations with lenders.

Since when? What is needed for the nation’s wellbeing is much simpler: charity must begin at home and everything else shall follow, an adage our pedestrian Vice-President Joice Mujuru appears to grasp more easily than the rest.

She was clear about the costliness of national polarisation when she contrasted our childish failure to talk among ourselves to the maturity of the South Africans. We shudder to imagine what Mugabe would say if Morgan Tsvangirai was Tony Leon.

The Sunday Mail Metro had on its front page a picture whose caption read: “Free for all … Southerton residents fill their containers with vegetable oil destined for Olivine Industries which spilled when a haulage truck belonging to B&C bus company overturned along Geneagles Road on Thursday morning.”

In the picture were barefoot youngsters scooping dirty cooking oil from the roadside for consumption. We were immediately reminded of Tsvangirai warning that Zanu PF was turning Zimbabweans into scavengers. That picture in the Metro said it all.

Also making interesting reading was a story in the Herald on Monday in which a woman in Chitungwiza is demanding $110 million as monthly maintenance from her estranged husband. She said the $100 000 she was currently getting was not enough to meet her child’s school fees, clothes and medical requirements.

The matter is set down for hearing at the magistrates court on October 6. Muckraker would have loved to hear the verdict on this history-making claim. Unfortunately the said husband is a mere civil servant employed by the Ministry of Education. Unless the woman knows something we don’t, she should be warned that she is barking at the moon. Is this also a sign of how our currency has collapsed? Perhaps she is right.

Another article inside the Metro said the commission running Harare was looking for US$27 000 for Sekesai Makwavarara to travel to Moscow. The figure translates to about $650 million at the official exchange rate.

Makwavarara reportedly wants to “establish development cooperation” between Harare and Moscow.

The trip, involving Makwavarara and four council officials, is subject to foreign currency availability. Will Gideon Gono sponsor this junket we wonder? As for the commission, it should put its money where its mouth is, remembering that it is no more than an impost of Ignatious Chombo. Any funds it spends without the approval of ratepayers will be for the accounts of those individuals who think they can get away with it because Zanu PF is currently in power. Wait and see Sekesai!

Zanu PF national chairman John Nkomo is suing one Langton Masunda whom he wants evicted from Jijima Lodge in the Gwayi conservancy in Matabeleland North. According to the Sunday Mail , Nkomo wants $5 billion as compensation for loss of business and the illegal occupation of the property in the “lucrative wildlife-infested” area.

Nkomo claims to have been allocated the farm in 2003 through an offer letter from the Minister for Special Affairs in the President’s Office. And guess who that minister was? John Nkomo himself. Apparently he forgot to mention that salient fact in his court papers. Obviously he found it impossible to decline the offer!

There was a great scoop by Patience Nyangove in the Herald on Tuesday. The trouble is those who are supposed to fight corruption are themselves so steeped in sleaze they wouldn’t know where to start.

Nyangove says she managed to connive with smugglers and other human traffickers to slip into South Africa without a travel document. She smuggled goods valued at R1 200 through Beitbridge border post undetected. She didn’t say whether this was part of an assignment by her editor or a personal adventure.

The risk was substantial considering the tragedy that claimed the lives of 20 desperate Zimbabweans along the same route about the same time. How did Nyangove raise the R1 400 she used to bribe the conductors at Road Port bus station in Harare plus the R1 200 for shopping? Hopefully not from Gideon Gono.

The long trip ends triumphantly with the Herald paying $3,3 million to Zimra for Nyangove’s groceries. What a brilliant way to fight corruption. As for her illegal entry into South Africa, we were reminded of one rocket scientist asking wistfully if anyone should raise their finger when the law takes its course.

Why should a Cosatu delegation coming into Zimbabwe be declared unlawful and then have the same sticklers for the rule of law bragging about how they evaded the law by hiding in toilets?

There is evidently no love lost between Wonder Guchu of the Herald and directors of the TV soap Studio 263 . His gripe with them is that they are poor at the job, that the soap has lost the original storyline, which explains why everything has been reduced to “a semi-pornographic soap”.

Muckraker has not had the good fortune to watch the soap, but was lucky to see the Miss Rural Zimbabwe pageant beamed live from Kariba. Semi-literate poor girls were exposed on TV with breasts flapping about like Swaziland’s reed dancers. Uncouth and lascivious old men, including MPs, sat ogling at the abused children organised as “entertainment” by women who pretend to care for the girl child.

We have little doubt that Guchu was one of the people who were entertained by this real-life pornography on national TV. We are yet to read of his proselytising against this immoral exploitation of rural poverty. Yet he has no qualms about lecturing Studio 263 actors about what is good for them and a “cultured” Zimbabwean family. “We are in Zimbabwe gentlemen,” wrote Guchu. “People here still have a culture different from that shown in The Bold and the Beautiful or Sunset Beach .”

And what about Kariba, Wonder?

Visiting Indian cricketers had a rude reminder last week of the realities of Zimbabwean life. They had their passports stolen from right under their noses by an enterprising thief at Harare Sports Club.

Calcutta’s The Telegraph noted that “usually, visitors to South Africa are cautioned over thefts (and, yes, muggings). Now, it seems an advisory has to be issued for those travelling to neighbouring Zimbabwe as well.”

During the tri-nation series match (New Zealand versus Zimbabwe) 10 members of the tour party lost their passports when manager Amitabh Choudhary’s bag was stolen while he was watching the Black Caps confirm a title-round berth. Also stolen was US$250, recently-purchased Polaroid sunglasses and tour-related documents.

Others who met Choudhary’s fate were Coach Greg Chappell, physio John Gloster, sports scientist Ian Frazer (all Australian passport holders), Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Murali Kartik, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina and Rudra Pratap Singh.

A complaint was promptly lodged with the police, the Telegraph said, “but till Saturday evening the police were clueless”.

We know that feeling!

Muckraker was intrigued to hear pro-Mugabe journalist Udo Froese’s explanation of why he has been exiled to the pages of the Herald . Unsurprisingly he has difficulty finding a publisher in South Africa.

“I was published in a national Sunday newspaper, City Press , which belongs to Nasionale Pers. But they sacked me overnight,” he told the Herald’s Caesar Zvayi. “Then I tried to have my columns published in the Sunday World and had some printed. That was short-lived too.”

But undaunted, Udo ploughed on.

“I was headhunted to co-host a current affairs programme on SABC-Africa,” he related. “But after three months the contract was just not renewed.”

So how does he explain this remarkable record of failure?

Friends in the media — of which there appear to be very few — told him it was because he was a Mugabe apologist. Udo has however learnt a great deal from his Zimbabwean publishers. When all else fails, blame the usual suspects. It was all the fault of the “racist colonial-apartheid mindset” that Udo’s turgid prose failed to find purchase among South African readers, he firmly believes.

Finally, Muckraker was shocked by the celebrations that took place in parliament following the passage of yet another amendment to the constitution that will abridge the rights of Zimbabweans. Nothing could have been more calculated to deter the investment the country so badly needs as this measure that will remove the courts from hearing appeals against arbitrary land seizures. Zanu PF MPs have once again inflicted an own-goal on the country. The damage will be immense. By dancing and singing they will have presented to the world a picture of turkeys voting for Christmas!

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