Muckraker

Enough Dumi, the people have spoken


IT’S a measure of how desperate Zanu PF is for electoral validation that it can claim a “landslide” on the basis of a 19% voter turnout.


There was indeed a “landslide” in Bulawayo,

but the ruling party lay underneath it!


This was the worst result for them since 1980. All those column inches in the Herald about how the MDC and its Western sponsors had to be sent an unambiguous message, all that aviation fuel guzzled as the president toured the country in his helicopter hawking his threadbare political goods, and all they had to show for it at the end of the day was a handful of seats in a parliamentary chamber nobody wants.


“3,2 million expected to vote”, the Herald misled the country into believing last week. In fact that was the size of the total electorate. Only 19,4% of that figure bothered to vote. That was the “stupendous” victory the Herald talked about on Tuesday. Significantly, like the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, it went to some lengths to keep the total percentage poll a secret.


You can’t blame the Herald for trying to provide a silver lining to this electoral disaster. Dissembling of this sort is part of its mandate. It even had Zanu PF senators scoring “victories” in uncontested seats!


Caesar Zvayi said the MDC had been “thumped” — thumping evidently being something he would know about. He took the Standard to task for saying that Mugabe had been rebuffed. Mugabe was not a candidate, Zvayi lectured.


How does he therefore explain all those drums of aviation fuel consumed, all those rallies and all the attention given to Mugabe’s every word?


Or rather wasted. If there was any message in this election, it was that Mugabe is no longer able to get the people to support him at the polls. Which is hardly surprising as neither he nor his party were able to tell us why we should vote for Zanu PF apart from keeping the MDC out. Indeed, this was an election in which the divided opposition featured more prominently than the ruling party.


Mugabe wasn’t able to tell us how he was going to solve a single one of the country’s problems. He didn’t even try.


Zanu PF’s serial losers in Bulawayo demonstrated a distinct lack of learning skills. Dumiso Dabengwa is arguably one of the country’s more respected politicians. But he failed to grasp the significance of his defeat in 2000. He deluded himself with the thought that he could stage a come-back; that the MDC was a transitory phenomenon.


“Unfortunately the people have decided what they want…,” he declared on Sunday, a telling epitaph if there was one. Why did he stand when it was obvious that “the people” have had enough of his party’s empty promises? Or can’t he, as we suspect, say no to Mugabe — the Victoria Chitepo dilemma?


Joshua Malinga was even more pathetic. “Naturally I’m disappointed but I will not abandon the people,” he said. But the people certainly abandoned him!


It could have been a protest vote, he mused. “If it is a protest, then for how long will they be protesting?” he asked, unwittingly exposing a rotten plank in Zanu PF’s propaganda platform which has claimed the 2000 election was a protest vote — as if people are not supposed to protest against poverty and hardship! They are still protesting, Malinga has discovered the hard way.


Then he tried to shift the blame onto the Bulawayo city council. The council ran the city, he claimed, while “government just creates an environment that is conducive for council to run their areas”.


And how “conducive” is that environment? Has he checked recently with the Bulawayo business community?  


Another lesson to emerge from this week’s events is the futility of appealing through the courts for protection from a predatory regime. Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, who was at one time camped in a caravan on a farm he was claiming, declared that the restriction of postal ballots to members of the uniformed forces and diplomats abroad, the retrospective extension of the voter registration period, and the compilation of the supplementary voters roll were not enough to warrant the nullification of the election results.


It must be asked: exactly what is it that the government has to do in placing impediments in the path of opposition parties before the courts will react?


It took Hlatshwayo two years to announce his conclusion that there was no legal dispute to resolve.


Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku recently invited the public to comment on court judgements, something they are at liberty to do anyway. The public should use this opportunity to comment on the steady erosion of supposedly entrenched liberties and the rule of law. The issue of a lopsided electoral playing field has not been addressed by the guardians of the constitution.


The Sadc Observer Mission was quick to declare the senate election free and fair. But it made no mention of the government’s failure to adhere to many of the points raised in its report on the March poll such as equal access to the media. A token attempt by the Herald to offer space to the MDC on Saturday hardly meets the Mauritius terms.


There are times when Zimbabwe seems a bit like what Alice saw through the looking glass. Media and Information Commission member Jonathan Maphenduka recently resigned from the commission in disgust with the biased and partisan nature of its decision-making. His letter of resignation was published in this paper.


But MIC chair Tafataona Mahoso claims Maphenduka has not resigned. Why? Because the Office of the President has not accepted his resignation!


That is the most fatuous and implausible explanation imaginable. A resignation is a resignation. Period! Only in Zimbabwe’s Orwellian information regime does a resignation become a non-resignation because its recipients find it inconvenient!


In a clumsy attempt to rubbish our story on the spreading sanctions net last week, the Herald declared that Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono had never been barred from entering the US.


That may be true, largely because he was seen as the acceptable face of an otherwise rotten regime that abuses office and rigs elections. It was hoped he would restore the economy to better health by encouraging sound policies.


However, judging by his silly comments in the Herald on Saturday about sacrificial lambs and martyrs, he has, like our judges, been badly compromised.


He claimed to be “apolitical” and “above it all’, but then situated his struggle for economic reform in the same context as the struggle for Independence. “The struggle to emancipate the country from poverty, indiscipline and economic backwardness was never going to be easy,” he sanctimoniously declared. No amount of blacklisting would reduce his commitment to an economic turnaround, he told the Herald.


This was the same weekend that saw elections for a senate that is estimated to cost the country $60 billion a year. Gono should understand that he is not being blacklisted because of his noble campaign for an economic turnaround but because he has identified himself too closely with a regime that has thwarted his efforts at every turn. It is precisely because his political masters have made any turnaround impossible that he is now being branded a failure who supped with the devil but forgot to use a long spoon.
 
It appears that US ambassador Christopher Dell hit them where it hurts most. Nathaniel Manheru is still furious that a foreign ambassador could be so deadly forthright about the cause of Zimbabwe’s economic and political crisis. This week Manheru went over the top, accusing the US of paranoia by building a concrete wall around its embassy along Hebert Chitepo Avenue. Where was he all along?


“Make me president of this country for just one moonlit night and Dell and his lot will find themselves huddled in an all-thin-glass-embassy situated right next to a humming mosque,” prayed Manheru.


We don’t know to whom the plea to be made president was directed. But we think even President Mugabe who once boasted that he could be ten times worse than Hitler is well aware of international conventions regarding the treatment of diplomats.


As for paranoia, if Manheru were not a hypocrite he would be telling us about the fortifications around State House and how many innocent lives have been lost on that accursed road. We have not heard of anyone shot outside the US embassy.


Also refusing to go away is the saga of Makosi Musambasi in the UK since she joined the Big Brother reality television show. She last week won a stay in the UK for another five years, which has provoked the ire of many moral humbugs both in Zimbabwe and in the UK who felt they deserved to be in the UK and not Makosi.


The Herald tried to build a case against Makosi for openly saying what a majority of the people fear to say. While her life may not be in danger back home, she said she was happy to be allowed to stay in the country she loves.

And thousands of Zimbabweans spend a fortune trying to get a visa to go and stay in the UK but still fail. Caps United recently lost eight players after they vanished during a trip there.


Commenting on Makosi’s victory, jealous Zimbabweans could not hide their bitterness: “Makosi sold a watery alibi and succeeded in fooling the immigration authorities … because genuine Zimbabwean asylum-seekers have over the years been denied refugee status, detained, bundled onto planes and flown back into the real lion’s den.”


So how does that become Makosi’s problem we wonder? Who would want to return to “a lion’s den”? And how many of those now playing holier than thou can prove that their own lives were in danger in Zimbabwe but still went on to tell lies about persecution just to escape poverty? Talk of people living in glass houses throwing stones!


Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo is not ashamed to boast about his government’s incompetence. In his spirited attempt to spread the Zanu PF malady to all urban centres, Chombo last week attacked the Bulawayo city council for allegedly failing to provide residents with water. He accused the MDC-led council of playing political games instead of implementing the same failed Zanu PF policies.


Bulawayo has been in the throes of water shortages for the past three months and Chombo, beyond making asinine threats against elected officials, is out of his depth. He went ballistic when he was told that the council planned to stop using the scarce water from the Nyamandlovu aquifer for irrigation purposes and divert it to hospitals, schools and residential areas. He accused the council of trying to cause food shortages. That was sabotage, he told the Chronicle, as if farming was the core business of local authorities.


Incidentally, more than 46 of the 77 boreholes are still down after war veterans wrecked them and stole parts.


Without saying where additional water should come from, Chombo told the council to sort out the water problem in the city or risk being pushed out to make way for people who are prepared to do the job. And everybody knows that Sekesai Makwavarara has been his star-performer in Harare! How is that for a leadership that has “clarity of thought and vision” Cde Chombo?


Yet the people of Bulawayo have been calling for precisely that vision for more than a century now and Chombo behaves as though he heard about the city’s water problems yesterday.