Waiting for Blair’s anti-Mugabe poll results

MUCKRAKER is eagerly awaiting the results of the Anti-Mugabe election in Britain which should be available today. Obviously a victory for Tony Blair will be a huge blow for our leader who has staked his reputation on de

feating the British premier. Many people in the UK, including Michael Howard, hadn’t realised that the Leader of the Opposition was based in Harare!

Unfortunately, owing to certain logistical difficulties, Mugabe couldn’t travel to Britain to campaign himself but his megaphones such as George Shire were happy to do this for him.

If Mugabe is defeated we trust that Shire and all those funny little Zanu PF fronts in the UK like Davira Mhere will pack up and return home. We would hate to think of them bowing to the dictates of the British electorate and having to live under a third term of Blair and his cronies amidst all that First World comfort. Obviously the patriotic thing for them to do is return home and live under an endless-term Mugabe even if it does mean going without fuel, power, food etc!

Those pundits who thought they detected a certain reformist shift under the new regime at the Information ministry will have noted deputy Minister Bright Matonga reverting to totalitarian type.

He was reported by the Sunday Mail as speaking “at length” at a press reception in Bulawayo about the need for cooperation between his ministry and the media. He said in conclusion that “press freedom ends where national interests begin”.

Please don’t tell us that the Bulawayo press corps let him get away with that facile statement. Obviously we can’t have a self-interested politician defining what constitutes the national interest! Every dirty little secret — and some big ones — have been swept under that particular carpet over the years.

What would have happened to all those Willowgate vehicles if the press had not been around to decide that the national interest lay in disclosure? And what has happened to the missing millions from the War Victims Compensation Fund? While they remain safely tucked in the pockets of those highly-placed individuals still walking around with 80% disabilities, at least the nation knows what the national interest Zanu PF-style looks like!

Then there is the recurrent spending on military hardware at a time when the nation faces unprecedented demands upon the fiscus for food relief, hospitals refurbishment, and crop irrigation. Where does the national interest lie there? Certainly not with the Ministry of Defence!

Can we afford to have people like Not-So-Bright Matonga defining where the national interest lies?

The Herald on Monday reported that Mahoso’s opposite number in Zambia, Justice Kabaz Chanda, had declared Zimbabwe was not a pariah state but “a good example of democracy in Africa”.

Chanda said democracy was a “relative concept” because there was no universal model to measure it against. “It is difficult for any African leader to fashion his own model of democracy as he will be pilloried by the West like what is happening to President Robert Mugabe who has done nothing wrong apart from angering British prime minister Tony Blair and United States president George W Bush,” Chanda reportedly told a conference in Zambia to commemorate World Press Freedom day.

We would have wanted to accuse the judge of a dangerous relativism until we realised the article was written by Ceasar Zvayi.

Apart from the heading claiming that “Zim is a good example of democracy”, Chanda doesn’t say that in the story.

We suspect that was Zvayi’s own interpretation. Nowhere does the judge say Zimbabwe is not a pariah state in the story. Again we suspect it was Zvayi’s helpful intervention, perhaps to justify his trip to Zambia.

He would have been hard-pressed to find Zimbabwe’s friends and what they have done in material terms to improve the lives of Zimbabweans. And why should Mugabe use us as guinea pigs in his experiment to “fashion his own model of democracy”?

That model of democracy found further endorsement in Zimbabwe’s re-election to the United Nations Commission for Human Rights last week. The country’s permanent representative to the UN Boniface Chidyausiku hailed this as a triumph for “Zimbabwean democracy”.

Quite the contrary, remarked a cynical observer, “they say you set a thief to catch a thief”. We couldn’t agree more.

Incidentally, the reporter let it be known that perhaps Zimbabwe’s re-election was not entirely due to lack of blemishes on the human rights front, but rather a flawed process. Those countries opposed to Zimbabwe’s re-election couldn’t do so “in the absence of an open voting system”, he blurted out. Sounds like another rigged election!

Meanwhile, Caesar Zvayi has every right to act as a mouthpiece of a discredited regime if he wants to but he should stop telling silly stories that even he knows are not true.

For the third time now he has told us that Ian Smith wept as the Union Jack was lowered at the Independence ceremony at Rufaro Stadium on April 17/18 1980.

Why should Smith weep for a flag he had discarded 12 years earlier in 1968 to be replaced by a green and white concoction? This is at face value an unimportant point. But our question is: what else is Zvayi prepared to mislead Herald readers about?

Still with Smiths, but hopefully of a less inflexible variety, Muckraker would like to extend a welcome to Tim Smith of the US embassy’s Public Affairs section. He replaces Gerry Keener who had to return to the US for health reasons. Our best wishes go with her.

Tim Smith has now been reminded that Zimbabwe’s toxic political climate can be dangerous to your health by a sulphurous emission from Tafataona Mahoso writing in the Sunday Mail last weekend.

If the truth be told Smith had gullibly asked for this outpouring by visiting Mahoso at the offices of the Media and Information Commission and inviting him to participate in a teleconference on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day which took place on Tuesday.

We don’t of course for one minute believe Mahoso’s claim that Smith, during his visit to the MIC offices, “agreed that the negative stories being used by the Western media to stigmatise and criminalise Zimbabwe are at best blatantly biased and at worst based on pure fabrications”. That sounds like an impure fabrication.

But by visiting Mahoso in the first place Smith gave a hostage to fortune and provided a platform for the unhinged tirade that followed.

Journalists participating in Tuesday’s event did not ask the US Public Affairs section to lean over backwards to provide airtime to their persecutors, and while it is true that left to himself Mahoso would do much to discredit the regime he serves by his frothing fulminations, it should not be the function of the US embassy to engage too closely the enemies of press freedom!

Mahoso, in his weekly column, which by the way desperately needs an editor, asked whether those journalists and media organisations selected to participate in the teleconference were any “different and separate from those responsible for the biased and fabricated stories we have already noted?”

And he wanted to know if any of those participating had received funding or sponsorship from US government sources such as USAid. “What is the facilitator’s relationship with the illegal Studio 7,” he asked.

The VoA’s Studio 7 is not of course illegal. Mahoso, as head of a quasi-judicial body, should know that but then again he has in the past leapt to similar self-serving conclusions. The regime, under the former Minister of Information, tended to brand as “illegal” anything to which it took exception.

Studio 7, SW Africa Radio, and other stations operate in terms of the law as defined by their host countries. They are a response to a Supreme Court ruling which struck down ZBC’s monopoly of the airwaves and opened up broadcasting to other applicants. When the regime ignored that ruling to ensure the only voice heard across the country was President Mugabe’s, a number of hopeful broadcasters were obliged to transmit from outside the country until they were able to return home to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa Simon Moyo appears to live in cloud cuckooland. He reportedly said the elections were “over and done with” and all Zimbabweans should rally behind government’s “economic revival policy”.

The elections might surely be over but they are not done with as yet. The nation is still weighed down by the hopelessness of that election result. Not even a jubilant Zanu PF has any clue about how to proceed from here on or galvanise support for its “Look East” policy.

SK also thinks all that is needed to revive the economy is to deploy hundreds of so-called “trade attachés” across the globe and wait for tourists to flock into the country. For a start, very few people swallow the deception that we need to go to China to earn American dollars or British pounds. The Chinese themselves are going straight to those countries. Secondly, the Chinese are coming to Zimbabwe at a huge cost to local industry because of their sub-standard products.

Companies and factories are closing down and workers being laid off because the Chinese have been allowed to dump their products on the local market. That doesn’t sound like an economic revival policy. If Moyo were keeping abreast of what’s happening on the continent he would know about the revolts against Chinese products in Senegal and how the South Africans are fighting the Chinese invasion. Zambia is still mourning the loss of 50 workers killed at a Chinese explosives plant in the Copperbelt region last week.

For a party whose slogan is “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again”, why does Zanu PF imagine that the Chinese are so charitable? It’s colonisation by whatever name Moyo and his colleagues want to call it. Except that it is colonisation by invitation, itself a first and bizarre case of industrial suicide.

Unlike our election where voices are silenced by agents of the incumbent party, they do things rather differently in the UK. There, you can always rely on some prankster or opportunist to get in on the act.

Tory candidate Ed Matts, fighting to win back Labour’s most marginal seat in Dorset South, was not so long ago involved in a local campaign to have a Malawian family saved from deportation. He was photographed, the Guardian reports, standing alongside Tory bigwig Ann Widdecombe holding a placard saying “Let them stay”.

He apparently changed his views about immigrants and doctored the placard to read “Controlled immigration” and “Not chaos and inhumanity”.

This sleight of hand was quickly drawn to the attention of Michael Howard who, to his credit, immediately phoned the Malawian family involved to apologise. Howard is himself the son of immigrants from Romania.

More entertaining was the manifesto of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party which has been fielding candidates in British elections since the 1960s.

It pledged to reduce class sizes by making the pupils sit closer to one another and issuing them with smaller desks!

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