Barbarians hit Africa Unity Square

IN the many accounts of the current police blitz against vendors, one detail has been lost. The flower-sellers in Harare’s Africa Unity Square were last Saturday targeted for particularly brutal tre


Their flowers were mutilated and their preparation boards demolished. This was all part of “Operation Restore Order”.

There have been flower vendors in the square for over 50 years. They have featured on the covers of countless travel brochures. They added colour and life to the capital.

There is admittedly much crime and grime that needs to be addressed in the inner city. But the flower sellers in Africa Unity Square were not part of the problem. The authorities should learn to distinguish the good from the bad — the socially useful from the purely criminal.

By its heavy-handed crackdown the state has made many enemies where they didn’t previously exist. Is Harare being punished for refusing to entertain President Mugabe’s electoral pretensions? It certainly looks like it. But what a lesson in how not to win friends and influence people!

Only a few months ago at Witness Mangwende’s funeral, Mugabe was expressing exasperation with the citizens of the capital asking them what Zanu PF had done to warrant their conversion to President Blair.

He seemed to have forgotten his spiteful remarks about “totemless” people. Will he now expect us to also forget the current heartless and brutal assault on residents trying to make an honest living?

Small and Medium Enterprises Development minister Sithembiso Nyoni says the destruction of flea markets around Harare is designed to clean out criminal activities in the informal sector.

This comes from an unelected MP with no public mandate. Has it occurred to her that the burgeoning informal sector is a reflection of government’s failure to nourish and sustain a viable formal sector?

We gather that this intellectually-challenged minister will soon be the occupant of a Senate seat — indeed that a whole constitutional amendment will be passed to enable individuals like Nyoni, whom Mugabe assured the electorate as recently as March would not be made ministers, to remain aboard his gravy train.

Anyway, amidst the current crackdown, we did enjoy the Herald’s heading last Friday: “Over five thousand more people arrested”.

Isn’t that a fitting testimony to the police state Zanu PF has built, cheered on by its malevolent press? It was 9 725 by Tuesday.

As usual, state media told us police would “leave no stone unturned” to restore Harare’s long-vanished “sunshine city status”.

Many flea markets have been shut down and illegal vendors arrested, with police spokesperson Oliver Mandipaka saying “those affected might not be happy … but we (police) have a constitutional obligation to maintain law and order in any part of this country”.

Zimbabweans must be relieved at this sudden realisation by the police that they have a duty to maintain law and order.

When did this epiphany occur? Surely we are not being told that it was only this week that the police knew street vending was illegal. And when was it finally officially acknowledged that there was a breakdown of law and order that now has to be “restored”?

“We will continue monitoring all the movements until there is order and sanity in the streets,” a police spokesman was quoted as saying. Referring to homeless people detained, he said these were the same people who made the streets unsafe.

“These are the very same people who commit crimes and we will deal with them in accordance with the law. They must go where they belong. No one in Zimbabwe comes from nowhere. Everybody belongs somewhere.”

Do we detect a Verwoerdian echo here? That the inhabitants of Zimbabwe’s cities don’t really belong here and should be returned to their “homelands”!

The weird Chinondidyachii Mararike is back at the Herald. He hasn’t changed or improved. This week his fevered mind dwelt inordinately on the virtues of Aippa and Posa. And what were those virtues, one might wonder? That there is no country that does not regulate its media, was Mararike’s facile response. Alternatively, he said, anything opposed by the West must be good for Africans.

“The louder and more virulent the opposition, the more beneficial to Africans is the thing they oppose,” he said. A case in point was the West’s opposition to President Mugabe and the land reform, Mararike said, from which he made an equally bizarre deduction: “Surely there must be something good for Zimbabwe in Aippa and Posa to make Western governments and the independent media want them repealed …”

Is that the best he can do?

Mararike’s first article claiming the West was “bitter over the success of our land reform programme” appeared on the same day the Herald reported the state was importing 150 000 tonnes of maize because the country can no longer feed itself. This time the usual suspect was drought.

Mararike didn’t tell us where he was writing from. The last time we looked it was the UK. We hope he has now relocated to Zimbabwe because we would hate to think this was another Zanu PF firebrand enjoying all the comforts of Britain while declining to live under Zanu PF’s “successes”! But looking at what has since become of Bright Matonga, we would say it sometimes pays to do these hatchet jobs for the party.

The Herald, meanwhile, seems to think that handing out 99-year leases to new farmers will “put to rest speculation by detractors that the land reform programme would one day be reversed”.

The Herald can dream. Does it really think 99-year leases cannot be reversed? That the award or revocation of a lease will not be at the discretion of the Lands minister?

That is why we have always argued it is inappropriate for judges to accept land leases when they are subject to ministerial indulgence.

Zanu PF supporters should not delude themselves that they are safe with their ill-gotten gains. Ask Zanu PF’s Communist allies in eastern Europe what happened to their assurances!

Muckraker was appalled to read in the Daily Mirror last week that there were only 49 people aboard Air Zimbabwe’s inaugural flight to Dubai last week and one solitary passenger on the return leg.

Is this the turnaround the airline promised?

The Zimbabwe Independent recently tried to confirm the dates of other AirZim inaugural flights but was told that information could not be given out. Most airline officials did not return our phone calls.

What other airline in the world advertises its schedules in the press and then refuses to say what days it will be flying until the last minute?

Still with the Mirror, Muckraker was impressed by a weighty article on Monday headed “What is Monetary Policy?” written by Mugove Hamadziripi. We assume he is also the author of an article posted on www.answers.com/topic/monetary-policy and www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/monetary-policy. Apart from a little tinkering here and there the two articles are identical.

Munyaradzi Huni must be congratulated on the number of conspiracy stories he manages to churn out weekly in the Sunday Mail. It is not an idle mind that gets to the bottom of these intricate, if somewhat fanciful, stories about plots against Zimbabwe.

The latest, coming ahead of WFP boss James Morris’s visit to Harare, is about allegedly contaminated corn soya blend that has been fed to Zimbabweans. The symptoms apparently are reduced intelligence, impaired memory, weakness, and the paralysis of wrists.

Muckraker’s advice to Munyaradzi: Lay off the corn soya for a while until the symptoms go.

On the subject of Morris’s visit we liked the statement by George Charamba that President Mugabe had made it clear to Kofi Annan that Zimbabwe welcomed UN assistance “but without political conditions”.

So Morris won’t be able to ask for assurances that food aid will be handled with transparency and in a non-partisan way? That he will just hand it over and tell the Zimbabwean authorities they can make what use of it they like?

Zimbabwe may have an unaccountable government but we are sure the UN has to account to its primary donors for the way it distributes aid!

Finally, the Independent came under fire last week from the CZ columnist in the Financial Gazette who took exception to us providing space for Jonathan Moyo to express his views.

This followed an interview two weeks ago in which Moyo described his exit from government and castigated his former employers as “primitive”. We should not be giving him the “oxygen of publicity” or “a shoulder to weep on”, the Fingaz columnist admonished this paper, ascribing all sorts of improper motives to us — including tribalism!

It’s amazing isn’t it how quickly our supposedly progressive press becomes the national censor of views expressed by individuals to whom it takes political exception?

Unlike CZ or anybody else at the Fingaz, the author of the interview in question and his editor and news editor were imprisoned — albeit temporarily — on the orders of Minister Moyo. So they probably appreciate better than most just how vindictive the man’s record in office was. But is he therefore to be banned from expressing his highly revealing views on the nature of the regime he served? Is that what journalism is about — revenge?

Judgement should be confined to the opinion columns. There is a very simple professional test here: Does what Moyo has to say constitute news? If so, it deserves to be published. Here is a distinguished academic who has specialised in electoral politics, a notable literary turncoat, an overweeningly powerful and abrasive minister whose word was for four turbulent years the nation’s command, and now a prominent member of parliament who thwarted the president’s will in a key seat and has reinvented himself as a leading critic of the regime.

It would be difficult to find a more controversial and newsworthy subject. And the Fingaz can’t understand why we may want to interview him!

C’mon guys. It makes a change from Gideon Gono’s turnarounds.

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