Mangwana, beggars can’t be choosers

ONE of the first rules of public discourse is not to declare somebody guilty of an offence they have not been convicted of in the courts. Nearly every day we see the presid

ent, ministers and state media referring to opponents as “terrorists” and “saboteurs” when they have not been convicted of any such offence. Indeed, the state has been accused of fabricating charges against political opponents.

Then on Sunday the Standard reported Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Paul Mangwana as saying all exiled businessmen would be put on trial when they return to the country.

“When we talk of our people in the diaspora, we are not talking of these criminals,” Mangwana said.

He was presumably referring to bankers, such as Julius Makoni and James Mushore, and others who have been accused of economic offences. But he should have been asked what these self-exiled businessmen have been charged with. Their lawyers say they have no case to answer and in fact the Attorney-Genera’s Office has confirmed this.

Indeed, many self-exiled business people are refusing to return to Zimbabwe not because they are guilty of anything but because they are worried about getting a fair trial. There are all too many cases of people being locked up while the police look for a case against them. More often than not that case fails to materialise.

Mangwana said the government was only interested in doing business with honest people in the diaspora. But he forgets that beggars can’t be choosers. It is not people in the diaspora who need government’s support but government itself that needs external business partners.

And nobody in their right mind would get into a relationship with a government that can change the law at a minute’s notice, lock up inconvenient partners, and generally pollute the business climate by hostile rhetoric.

It is not dishonest people in the diaspora that Mangwana should worry about. It is those closer to home.

In what regard is he and his cabinet colleagues held by potential investors? What incentive to investors is provided by the arrest and prosecution of businesspeople for “over-charging”? What will a businessperson who cannot recover the costs of production want to do in this country?

Mangwana needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Nobody in the diaspora or elsewhere will want to put their money in a country where ministers make the sort of comments Mangwana made in Sunday’s Standard. There are many other attractive locations in the region.

On the subject of better locations, why are Zanu PF students in Australia continuing to advertise their loyalty to the regime by attacking Morgan Tsvangirai when government officials have told them to relocate to Malaysia?

This week we had all sorts of dubious characters coming out of the woodwork. Tsvangirai was a “political dunderhead”, said Melisa Welsh who is studying at the University of New South Wales. Tsvangirai’s conduct was typical of an “unlearned loudmouth”.

We weren’t told if Ms Welsh was a Zimbabwean or what she was doing in Australia when patriotic Zimbabweans have been told by our government to leave.

Then we had a “Zimbabwean lawyer based in Australia” saying he was “shocked” by the alliance between Tsvangirai and John Howard’s government.

We are shocked that a Zimbabwean lawyer based in Australia should be attacking Tsvangirai from the comfort of Australia when his colleagues in Harare get beaten up by the police. Why does the Herald not tell us who this brave fellow is!

Tsvangirai’s spokesman William Bango told VOA that during the connecting flight between Johannesburg and Harare, which brought the deportees home, ZRP Commissioner Augustine Chihuri accused Tsvangirai of spurring Australia to deport the students.

He evidently hasn’t woken up to the fact that states where opposition leaders are beaten up by the police while in detention are understandably regarded as rogue states by the international community. In other words there are consequences for violent and unprofessional behaviour by those entrusted with upholding the rule of law.

Muckraker was interested in a story published in the Daily Telegraph recently which said China’s new special envoy for Africa, Liu Guijin, had said his country would be limiting its relationship with Zimbabwe to humanitarian assistance.

He said this to Lord Malloch Brown, a former UNDP boss and now responsible for Africa and Asia in Gordon Brown’s government who was visiting China. While the shift in Chinese policy in Darfur had been noted, that concerning Zimbabwe had not, Malloch Brown said. He welcomed it.

“Privately,” the Telegraph reported, “diplomats believe that while Zimbabwe once seemed like an opportunity for China to make diplomatic gains in an area abandoned by Western countries, Beijing had been unable to avoid the evidence of the harm being done to Zimbabwe’s people.”

“It was difficult to see what long-term result China could get, when Zimbabwe failed to meet basic standards of economic discipline,” one diplomat said.

As expected, the Chinese have denied any change in policy. But with the Olympics looming, there is a clear need in Beijing not to be seen cohabiting with rogue states that pursue punishing policies.

Liu Naiya, an expert on Africa at the government think-tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said China’s experience in Sudan had led it to adjust its Zimbabwe policy as well. China is now working much more closely with the UN on Darfur.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s People’s University, said “China has traditionally good relations with Zimbabwe but Zimbabwe has changed greatly in the last few years and the situation is deteriorating. This is definitely a problem for China,” he said.

There was an interesting exchange in court last week at the trial of Gift Phiri for practising as a journalist without accreditation.

Beatrice Mtetwa asked an official of the MIC if it was true that MIC head Tafataona Mahoso wrote a weekly column in the state press. Yes, he did, was the response.

Is he accredited as a journalist? she asked the official. No, he isn’t, was the reply.

Why isn’t he accredited? she asked. He doesn’t need to be because he’s a social commentator, not a journalist, came the reply.

What’s the difference? Mtetwa doggedly enquired. A journalist gathers information, we were told.

So if someone goes onto the Internet, are they not gathering information?

Yes, was the answer.

Phiri was acquitted.

Talking of Mahoso, where is he when he is not searching the Internet and practising journalism without accreditation? What was the purpose of that ghastly picture in the Sunday News of a dead woman with an axe stuck in her skull?

The least one can say is that it was completely in bad taste while it added nothing of value to what we already knew about how the woman met her tragic end. If anything, that picture shows how much we have all died in terms of sense and sensibility.

A sign carried by war veterans and Zanu PF Women’s League members last week said: “We will die with our president.” Do they know something we don’t?

And we liked the picture of the president with an ox-drawn plough. What happened to the tractors?

We have come a long way since the pictures of Mugabe on a BMW motorbike in Germany. A long way backwards!

Herald business editor Victoria Ruzvidzo appears to have woken from her long slumber. She thinks the electricity crisis in the country should be declared a national disaster.

“The intermittent electricity supplies have caused more harm than good to industry, hence the economy.”

Wheat farmers, tobacco growers, fertiliser manufacturers and mines have all taken a knock, she points out.

Ruzvidzo is in particular indignant that the sacrifices made by the public to help the wheat growers did not translate into benefits for the wheat sector. “They have been let down and I can only imagine what this has done to their farming business.”

Yes, and what about the rest of us?

It is important that journalists adopt a sceptical view of promises by politicians. Ruzvidzo recalls that Vice-President Joice Mujuru had an “eye-opening” meeting with Zesa management in which they promised to get their house in order.

“So far there are no indications that the message got home unless there is something happening behind the scenes,” Ruzvidzo comments. “May be one day soon we will all wake up to a brighter Zimbabwe.”

Then again, maybe not!

“You can never count on Zesa but let’s wait and see,” she concludes.

Doesn’t that neatly summarise Herald journalism?

Despite all the evidence that Zesa is incapable of providing an elementary service, Ruzvidzo is happy to “wait and see”, in the dark! She needs some “eye-opening”.

Another one who needs help is Newsnet’s Brian Paradza.

In the past, he reported on Tuesday, it was rural people who dreamed of tap water. Now urbanites were going for weeks on end without clean water, he reported, showing pictures of people doing their laundry on the banks of the Mukuvisi river.

“Piped water will soon be a thing of the past in urban areas,” warned Paradza sagely.

So, the politburo is “happy” with progress in the talks with the MDC, the Herald reported yesterday.

The politburo received a report from Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa and “noted with satisfaction the progress that has been made in the dialogue with the opposition”.

Is this the same Patrick Chinamasa who told the media in Lusaka recently that there was no point in Zanu PF negotiating with the MDC? And is this the same MDC who Saviour Kasukuwere describved as “traitors” in the House of Assembly?

Any Zimbabwean who is described by Western countries as a hero, as happened to Morgan Tsvangirai recently, was a traitor, he was reported as saying.

The MDC should seek the lifting of sanctions by their Western friends, Kasukuwere said.

So it’s a deal then, Saviour. Zanu PF supporters stop abducting and torturing opposition members and sabotaging the economy and the MDC will seek the lifting of sanctions? Sounds good to us.

Meanwhile, we are pleased you are all so “happy” with the talks. But wouldn’t it be a good idea to stop making childish accusations against those you end up with at the same negotiating table? In the end you are going to have to make concessions. How do you explain this to your excitable followers who have been told there will be no dialogue with “traitors”? Best to keep big mouths shut, right?

Finally, President Mugabe last week vowed he would not leave the country under any circumstances, even if it was part of a sweet exit package.

“Some were saying an exit package for Mugabe would do,” he told thousands of war veterans bused in to renew their vows of allegiance.

Vanoti anoenda kunaMahathir kuMalaysia ndiko kwaanozogara and he will be happy. (They say he will go to Mahathir in Malaysia where he will stay in exile.)

“He will be happy with the package to go where?

Kune ivhu rani ikoko, kune mhuka dzedu here, kunoriira shiri dzaani, neshumba? Kune midzimu yaani ikoko? (Whose soil is there, are our animals there, whose birds sing there, and lions? Whose ancestors are there?)

“Here I was born, here I grew up and here I shall die and be buried.”

We have heard you, Mr President. So does the stuffed lion at State House symbolise your resolve to remain in office?

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