SO, twice as many voters in the Harare suburb of Budiriro would prefer to be governed by a “foreign” party than by President Mugabe.

That is the shocking indictment of Mugabe’s party delivered by the residents last weekend.

Mugabe was in Budiriro last Thursday attempting to drum up support for his dysfunctional party. Other candidates were prevented from canvassing while the president was actively campaigning in the constituency, handing out computers to schools. He claimed that the MDC was a “foreign creation” whose aspirations were “at variance with the aspirations of Zimbabweans”.

By a two-to-one margin, voters either declined to believe his claims or alternatively said they didn’t care.

It was a humiliating rebuff for a president who quite obviously can no longer deliver votes. It also shows that voters did not buy his promises to turn around the economy. And who can blame them given his past performance?

The Herald’s Caesar Zvayi attempted to discern a silver lining in this dark cloud hanging over Zanu PF. The outcome represented a big improvement on the ruling party’s performance in the general election, he pointed out gamely.

Perhaps it did. But it also showed that voters no longer see any point in expressing their wishes. Zanu PF will continue to misgovern the country and destroy the economy no matter what the views of the electorate. That is the message of 2000, 2002 and 2005. And it is nothing to be proud of!

You have to be very stupid indeed to swallow Mugabe’s exhortation to “vote Zanu PF for meaningful development”. What evidence is there of meaningful development after six straight years of GDP contraction?

Why does the president insist on insulting the intelligence of urban voters? He may get away with this sort of thing in Zvimba, but there will be no takers — apart perhaps from Caesar Zvayi — in the nation’s teeming cities.

Zvayi thinks urban residents are “notorious for voting with their stomachs”. Does he think hungry people should not protest against the authors of their hunger?

We liked William Nhara’s remarks, in response to Nelson Chamisa’s claims, that Zanu PF did not have the capacity to organise 9 000 people to vote in the election. It sounded very much like a statement of regret. And let us never forget what the party nearly achieved in its bid to unseat Margaret Dongo in Sunningdale. Fortunately we then had an independent judiciary to expose their bussing fraud.

How does Nhara explain the number of new registrations in Budiriro, all living at the same address, the home of a well-known Zanu PF activist?

But “all is not lost”, to use a Herald expression. Nhara can advise Jeremiah Bvirindi on what government jobs are available to candidates rejected by the people in Harare and how electoral losers can continue to live the good life aboard the gravy train!

What again exactly is it you do Cde Nhara? And how much do we have to pay you to do it?

Munyaradzi Huni was earning his crust in the Sunday Mail this week rubbishing Tony Blair. But we were intrigued by the ambiguity of his arguments. Here was Huni talking about the “King of Spin”, a “creepy character” who is under siege from the public and his own party. He had perfected the art of blundering, we were told. Everything seemed to be going wrong for him. He recently suffered an electoral defeat. And voters wanted him out well before his term expired in 2010.

Readers who hadn’t already been told could be forgiven for wondering who the target was of Huni’s piece!

A political science lecturer at UZ was hauled in to say that for Britain to change its policy on Zimbabwe, Britons would first have to exert pressure from within.

“If Britons put pressure on their government, that it should mend bridges with Zimbabwe, the government could listen,” the academic said hopefully.

You can imagine thousands of protestors in the UK carrying banners saying: “Give Bob a chance”, “Zim president victim of imperialist plot”.

Huni told us that Gordon Brown would be “more sober” than Blair. But George Zimbizi, “a social commentator”, said Brown was “a heavy drinker” and therefore wouldn’t be much better.

“These Labour leaders are too young and they don’t appreciate the colonial history,” Zimbizi opined.

Really incisive stuff this. Does it get any better?

Last week Muckraker commented on the dishonesty of papers which continued to put words into the mouth of Swedish ambassador Sten Rylander, even after he had denied making the remarks attributed to him.

Unperturbed by any statement to the contrary, the Herald again quoted him last week as saying sanctions were hurting the poor. It even quoted him as attacking the ambassadors of EU countries that supported sanctions. The original false story appeared in the Manica Post.

Rylander immediately sent a statement to the editor of the Herald pointing out that his remarks had once again been deliberately distorted. Sensible readers of the Herald and Manica Post would realise that the ambassador of any EU member state would never make statements deviating from the EU common position, he pointed out.

The statement was published on Tuesday without an apology.

We would love to know who is behind these willful fabrications — the spin-doctors Rylander referred to who appear to be twisting his comments to suit the state’s delusional claims that the EU is divided over sanctions.

Zvayi naively states that he can’t understand how one man can be misquoted in three provinces by different journalists. He evidently doesn’t know how the system works. Wasn’t it exactly Rylander’s point that Herald/Chronicle/Manica Post copy is panel-beaten at one central depot?

Talking of which, has Nathaniel Manheru discovered which country the Aswan Dam is in yet? He situated it in Ghana last week. Perhaps he was thinking of the Volta Dam?

African presidents seeking to amend their constitutions to enable them to stay on for a third term invariably cite the call of the masses as irresistible. We recall Sam Nujoma justifying his hanging on to office because he was “indispensable”. More recently Olusegun Obasanjo received a much-deserved rebuff from Nigeria’s senate when he said the same thing.

Here in Zimbabwe we understand only too well the depredations of “indispensable” rulers foisting themselves upon the electorate for a fourth term.

It must be catching because now we learn NCA chair Lovemore Madhuku is busy behind the scenes arranging another term for himself. And yes, it is the call of the masses he is responding to.

“I am responding to the NCA grassroots and the public,” he claimed last week. Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust director David Chimhini provided the response most of us feel: “We need to be honest with one another as civil society,” he told the Mirror. “If we criticise the government over its amendments to the constitution, but proceed to do the same, then we are guilty of double standards. We would be mincemeat to our critics because we would be doing exactly what we are criticising.”

That Madhuku can’t see this obvious truth tells us all we need to know about his political judgement.

We were interested to read in the Business Herald that a delegation of government officials and industrialists is set to leave for Equatorial Guinea on a trade and investment mission. The story was filed by New Ziana. It concluded thus: “In March 2004 Zimbabwean security agents intercepted a 70-man group of suspected mercenaries at the Harare International Airport while on their way to stage a coup to topple President Nguema’s government.

Last year the Zimbabwe Independent received numerous calls from New Ziana asking why we didn’t take their copy. Here’s why: While we may suspect the motives of the so-called mercenaries in March 2004, they were not charged in court with attempting to topple the regime of Obiang Nguema. Instead they were charged under firearms and immigration laws precisely because the state couldn’t find any evidence to support a more serious charge.

It is elementary practice in journalism not to treat individuals as guilty where the courts have not done so. But the state media proceeded to find the men guilty and described them accordingly.

At least New Ziana in its report above referred to “suspected mercenaries”. But they were never charged in this country with trying to “stage a coup” as suggested in the New Ziana copy. The state would dearly love to have brought such a charge and is now preparing legislation which would have made it easier to do so. But very simply, people must be regarded as innocent until found guilty in court, whatever intentions we may suspect them of. News agencies that decline to follow these basic rules deserve to have their copy turned down.

Meanwhile, we welcome the Southern News as a new media player on the regional scene. But how much effort does it take for the editor to spot two references to President Mbeki’s “quite” diplomacy, one of them on the front page?

Education and Sports minister Aeneas Chigwedere says those who blame Zifa for the loss of the bid to host the Africa Cup of Nations 2010 don’t know the history of the tournament.

Being a historian himself, he should know better. And what does that history of the tournament amount to, one might ask?

Chigwedere said the Confederation of African Football leadership only favour either countries from North and West Africa or those that produce oil.

“The rest of us are simple pawns in their game,” declared the minister authoritatively.

“We are important to them but only for assisting them to develop their economies. The history of the tournament since its inception in 1957 proves this beyond any doubt.”

He didn’t say why South Africa was able to win the bid in 1996 beyond the lame excuse that this was “by default after Kenya ran out of time”. But Kenya is neither in West or North Africa nor does it produce oil. Where does that leave the minister’s porous thesis?

What is evident though is that we are proving to be very sore losers. What do these scurrilous attacks on fellow Africans say about the much-vaunted pan-Africanism?

Chigwedere should open his eyes and see what everyone else can see. The Caf decision was based squarely on Zimbabwe’s incapacity to host such an event. It also reflects on his stewardship of sport in the country. This was a vote of no confidence — as much in Chigwedere as Zimbabwe.

By the way, what happened to the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex after the All-Africa Games in 1995? What is the condition of sport generally in Zimbabwe today?

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, it is said. We could think of another name for it: plagiarism.

Here is the Herald’s entertainment reporter on Tuesday this week: “Thomas Mapfumo’s tribute to Benny Miller is an eight-track album which is a special homage to the late Benny Miller, a man who made music but remained an unsung hero even in death.”

Several tracks, the author reported, revealed “Mukanya’s voice control” to be “as usual, amazing”.

Here is Darlington Majonga in last Friday’ s Independent: “Legendary musician Thomas Mapfumo today releases an eight-track album as a special homage to the late Benny Miller — the man who made music but remained an unsung hero even in death.”

In the track Horomba, Majonga said, “Mukanya’s voice control is as usual amazing”.

The Herald carries full-frontal assaults on the Independent every week penned by government spokesmen who threaten us with Aippa. But it is happy to copy the work of our journalists and pass it off as its own.

Finally, Muckraker heard the following story from a jocular reader in Malawi.

President Mugabe was asked during his recent visit when he was going to bid the Zimbabwean people farewell.

Looking puzzled, he replied: “Why? Where are they going?”

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