China awakening:Zim doesn’t pay its debts on time

SO, Africa is drifting dangerously close to Europe, at a rate of 15 millimetres a year, and the two continents could collide, a visiting Indian scientific team told us last week.

President Mugabe appears alarmed by this development.

The Indian team is exploring the existence of Gondwanaland, the continent that once bound present-day Africa and India together. The expedition seeks to unite the people of Africa and India who were separated by continental drift, the Herald said.

Mugabe saw the expedition as an opportunity for spreading his solidarity message.

“If they are known, these historical strands that bound continents and people in the past and exposed constantly may help to build consciousness of oneness and unity, especially to us who belong to the Third World,” he was quoted as telling the Indians at Zimbabwe House.

There’s only one thing wrong with this theory. The continents drifted apart 265 million years ago. There were no “people” to be separated then. Just a few dinosaurs roaming the planet.

Solidarity politics is one thing. Rewriting history to suit the plot is another.

But we can understand the president’s need to discover other dinosaur species that once populated the earth. Given recent newspaper reports, it seems our own T-Rex carnivores are intent upon sticking around to witness the historic clash with Europe which could throw up mountain ranges such as those erupting in northern India 65 million years ago.

Zimbabwe’s scientific community has been ordered to minimise the consequences of continental drift. If possible, they have been told, any drift towards Europe should be resisted in order to reduce the prospect of pre-historic eruptions in the corridors of power!

Muckraker was interested in a report to parliament by the portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs which recommended that the judiciary should move expeditiously in dealing with pending cases. Justice delayed is justice denied was their message.

The committee’s chairman Faber Chidarikire — a former mayor of Chinhoyi who it may be recalled kept his head while all about him were losing theirs — said it was disturbing that some of those currently held in remand prison would eventually be found innocent.

There is another dimension to this that appears not to have been considered. Electoral petitions often suffer the same delays as criminal cases meaning Zanu PF MPs whose election was successfully challenged in the High Court on grounds of violence or other abuses continued to occupy seats while they appealed to the Supreme Court.

Why has nobody, and here the MDC and the media are delinquent, publicised how many cases the opposition won in the High Court but were denied the seats because the incumbents appealed and were able to continue occupying those seats right up to the 2005 poll? And why hasn’t the MDC made more of the fact that, given the court verdicts, it probably won a majority of the popularly elected seats in the 2000 poll?

The answer must be that instead of performing its duty as a challenging opposition, the MDC would rather fight among itself. This is not all “water under the bridge” or of only “academic”interest. It is an important matter of public record.

David Coltart, who is considered one of the more level-headed spokesmen for the party and an expert on electoral matters, appears to have been diverted by the internecine warfare in the party. After his recent article in this paper and subsequent website forays attacking the Tsvangirai faction for indulging violence, he has now got off the fence, which must have left him rather sore after such a long sojourn there, and come down firmly on the Mutambara side which is where he really belonged.

Let’s hope he will now return to the electoral beat where his skills are “sorely” needed. He could perhaps use his parliamentary privilege to comment on judges who cannot see that by accepting the lease of farms from the government on a basis where the minister is able to withdraw the lease at any time, they place themselves in an invidious position and compromise the integrity of the judicial process.

Why is this subject not getting more attention from the opposition? Very simply they are not doing their job.

Perhaps that explains why Tsvangirai’s press conference last week failed to “wet” the appetite of the story-dry Munyaradzi Huni. His expectations of nuggets from Tsvangirai — that he would announce his plans for the planned long winter of discontent — was “enough to wet my appetite” wrote Huni. Tsvangirai only spoke for seven minutes. Huni reports that the MDC leader told reporters that he was not planning to overthrow any government.

What a disappointment for a reporter whose appetite for humbug is whetted by his own fictitious MDC treason plots. What is the use of a wet Huni in this wintry whether (sorry weather).

We should also be looking more closely at whether the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is fulfilling its duties. The Economist of April 9 2005 reported that in Manyame, Patrick Zhuwao won more votes than were actually cast.

“When the polls closed officials announced (and state radio broadcast) that 14 812 people had voted in Manyame. But during the count more than 9 000 extra ballots appeared giving Mr Bob’s-My-Uncle an impressive 15 448 votes out of some 24 000.”

We have still not had a satisfactory explanation from the ZEC as to why there were so many discrepancies in the 2005 election between the figures given at the end of polling and those reflected in the final count. And why hasn’t the ZEC responded to this paper’s questions on preparations for the Harare mayoral poll? This should be a straight-forward matter for a supposedly independent body.

On the subject of getting things on the record, Prof Welshman Ncube gave a very good interview to the Sunday News last weekend. While the picture revealed he is still waiting to have the operation most journalists must undergo — having the cellphone removed from the ear — he did manage to clear up some of the deeply held misconceptions held by the state media.

For instance, asked about the MDC’s advocacy of sanctions he described it as one of the “big lies” that is repeatedly told.

The MDC supported travel bans to protest at the way elections were run, not economic sanctions, Ncube pointed out.

“We do not believe that banning a militia leaders from visiting the United States amounts to economic sanctions against Zimbabweans,” he said.

“Again it is one of those unfortunate things that you have a government that has failed to conduct effective foreign policy blaming everyone else for its bad relations with the international community…”

Nicely put.

Still on the subject of foreign policy Muckraker referred last week to the very large and hospitable reception hosted by the Swedes. Muckraker steered clear of the reindeer meat and the Swedish proof vodka (for lying down and enjoying). It is a little-known fact that Sweden exports more proof vodka to the US every year than Volvos!

What wasn’t made clear was a wider diplomatic observation, brought to Muckraker’s attention by another embassy, that if a mission wishes to have a Zimbabwean official present at its national day, it must first submit its ambassador’s speech a week ahead of the occasion and include in it a toast to President Mugabe.

Several envoys, we gather, have declined to be treated like children and are happy to toast “the people of Zimbabwe” and leave out the author of their distress!

By the way, how many people know Dr Sydney Sekeramayi speaks fluent Swedish?

The Herald carried remarks made this week by a visiting American opponent of sanctions, Obi Egbuna, programme director of the Pan-African Liberalisation (sic) Organisation who said he wants to initiate a “Mugabe must travel” campaign.

This is a campaign which many Zimbabweans will support. The further the better. But Information minister Tichaona Jokonya used his meeting with the visiting British-born campaigner to make a number of dubious claims including the suggestion that Aippa enjoyed bipartisan support and that it was far less draconian than the USA Patriot Act.

Could he tell us which American journalists have been arrested under the Patriot Act? Or which US newspapers have been closed down? Does the Patriot Act set up a supervisory board appointed by a presidential official and comprising presidential cronies to regulate what the media can and can’t say?

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Patriot Act is its provision for wiretaps. But even there, the administration must show “probable cause” in approaching a judge for permission. Can you imagine the state in Zimbabwe bothering to get permission for wiretaps?

The next time Jokonya and his sidekick Bright Matonga entertain a visiting Coltrane Chimurenga-type apologist for their regime they should explain how their chained and emasculated media interpret patriotism (that is, Zanu PF can do what it wants); how the country’s interests have been served by a muzzled media that isn’t even allowed to question the president’s policies let alone suggest any wrong-doing as US papers do with George Bush every day of the week!

Then a visit to Kondozi might enlighten the visitor as to “Zimbabwe’s principled stand on the land issue”. Perhaps Obi meant principal looters!

Obi evidently didn’t see John Nkomo’s comment in the Herald on Monday that farmers who were underutilising their farmers were being disrespectful to the president. Seeing the number of derelict farms around, the president’s reverence among his peers — who have looted farm implements and run down farms — has plummeted. That’s nuff respect Obi.

Vice President Joice Mujuru has been enjoying her place in the sun in China away from her usual rural beat. She was scouting for investment opportunities in the East where she told Chinese business people that Zimbabwe had put in place incentives to attract and safeguard investment, the Herald reported. But everyone appears to be jittery with property rights abuse in Zimbabwe and the bad-customer tag the country has.

On Monday it was reported that Chinese company CATIC, which we were told is investing in the country’s mining and power sector, wanted assurances that mining concessions would be “legally transferred” to a mooted joint-venture company. Even the Chinese now know of Zimbabwe’s penchant to transfer property illegally. They also know that Zimbabwe does not pay its debts on time — even to its friends.

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