Zim footballers 8 — 0 UK immigration

WE loved the howls of outrage in the government media over the defection of Zimbabwean footballers to the UK. This is the sort of thing that used to happen to Cuba and Romania.

But now, the only iron cu

rtain left is the one Patrick Chinamasa is attempting to erect around Zimbabwe. But it doesn’t seem very effective in keeping Zimbabweans in.

The errant soccer players from Caps United and Highlanders were “coerced into staying” in Britain by Zimbabwean asylum-seekers already based there, the Sunday Mail told us. The defectors include two members of the Zimbabwe national team, David Sengu and Raymond Undi. Sengu is reported to have sold his car before he went on the trip.

PSL fixtures secretary Godfrey Japajapa who travelled with the two teams suggested “big-time politics” were at play. The players failed to recognise they were being used as “tools” by asylum-seekers, he claimed. They showed “a shameful lack of respect for the reputation of Zimbabwean football”, he said.

Their defection will confirm the impression that all was not well in Zimbabwe and thus aid the case for other asylum-seekers, he explained.

Japajapa was himself approached by an asylum-seeker in a pub and invited to stay.

“I just laughed and asked him to buy me a beer instead,” Japajapa replied. But alas, his seductor could not stand the two-pounds-fifty round despite promising to “take good care” of the PSL official who ended up having to put his hand in his pocket for them both.

The Zimbabwean footballers are in good company, according to The Times . Last year nine members of the Afghan national football team disappeared in Italy before a match to celebrate the fall of the Taliban.

In 2003 five players from a women’s cricket team from India vanished three days into a tour of Britain. The same year the captain and two other members of the Sri Lankan women’s cricket team went missing during a stopover in London after a tour of the West Indies

At the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, 21 athletes from Sierra Leone disappeared. Of 58 players from Nigeria and Ghana granted visas for the 2002 Open golf championship, only five set foot on the course.

But despite national indignation over the defections, Zimbabwe is unlikely to match Ethiopia’s record. The entire Ethiopian soccer team disappeared in Rome in 1998 while en route to an international and were never heard of again.

Last week Muckraker drew attention to deputy Information minister Bright Matonga’s remarks about Morgan Tsvangirai’s walk into the city from his Strathaven home. Matonga claimed Tsvangirai had cheated by catching a lift.

“He walked only a short distance for photographs before boarding his red fuel-guzzling truck,” Matonga told the Herald’s Caesar Zvayi. “And we all saw him arriving in it at 11.30 on Friday morning (September 16).”

It quickly transpired that Matonga’s version of events was untrue. Foreign correspondents, cited by Zvayi as witnesses, told this paper that Tsvangirai had walked all the way and that there was no sign of his red vehicle. There were numerous other witnesses.

It is a very serious matter when a minister misleads a journalist but that, some would argue, is in the nature of politics. When a journalist from the independent press misreports an event, it is called a falsehood and he is charged under Aippa.

In this case we had the Herald’s political editor, who had every opportunity to check his facts, swallowing the minister’s spin, hook, line and sinker.

Could he please explain why he repeated Matonga’s claims without checking with any of the people he cited as witnesses?

Tsvangirai arrived at Harvest House on foot at 8.15am. He was interviewed by Reuter TV shortly afterwards. The state media would have had access to this evidence.

Could the editor of the Herald explain why such distortions are regarded as acceptable professional conduct at his paper?

Last Saturday Zvayi interviewed Patrick Chinamasa and asked him about exit visas “which we are reading about in the western media”.

Never heard of them said Chinamasa.

“I have never heard of exit visas and I have no clue as to how such documents would operate,” he said, adding “there is no intention on our part to introduce things we do not understand.”

That’s strange. The Ministry of Home Affairs has been running an exit visa system for some years. All permanent residents are required to obtain an exit visa before travelling out of the country.

Is Chinamasa unaware of this? Is he not on speaking terms with his colleague, the Minister of Home Affairs?

The UN news agency Irin reported two weeks ago that Chinamasa had told them his officials would be liaising with officials from Foreign Affairs to see how an exit visa system could be introduced. He later told VoA there was no intention to introduce such a scheme.

Irin could have misunderstood him. But government policy, as on the IMF issue, is as clear as mud.

President Mugabe told a journalist who interviewed him recently that he had never met Tony Blair before.

“We’d never met…” he told Israeli journalist Daphne Barak referring to the Rome incident when Blair hurriedly vacated his seat next to Mugabe.

It transpired the two men had met at Gleneagles on the fringe of the Edinburgh Chogm in 1997. That is all a matter of public record.

Zimbabwean politicians are being allowed to get away with whoppers by a supine official press whose journalists either do not know the facts or — more likely — do not care. And taxpayers have to support a dubious regulatory body that also appears not to care when the truth is mangled in the political mix. Instead it contents itself with officious interference in the business of the independent press.

Muckraker’s question is this: how can the MIC, appointed by the Ministry of Information, take to task officials of that ministry when they feed deliberate falsehoods to the official press or journalists who repeat those falsehoods as fact?

Muckraker was excited to read last Sunday that anybody visiting the premises of the Southern Times and wishing them Happy Birthday would not leave empty-handed. This was in regard to the state-sponsored paper’s first birthday.

But just as we were about to rush down to collect our reward for ploughing through the acres of mind-numbingly bland text, we read on to discover that our prize was merely a “pledge of commitment”, whatever that is.

The editor, Moses Magadza, spoke of the paper’s “birth pangs” which apparently continued well after birth. These included “negative publicity”.

But Moses had an appropriate way of countering that. The paper would just lift its leg against such obstacles.

“We learnt to crawl, to stand and to lift just the one leg against the background of that negative publicity,” he doggedly declared.

But don’t expect any “defensive verbosity or counter-offensive vitriol”.

Instead there would be just “good old-fashioned veracity”.

“As the French would say: La verite, et rien mais la verite.

We haven’t heard the French say that for a long-time Moses! But anyway, good luck to you and your team at the Southern Times . Muckraker’s advice: avoid unfortunate double page cross-heads such as “SA grabs first farm. Terror comes to Africa”.

Speaking of which, now that the courts have been removed from hearing challenges to land grabs, what are farmers expected to do when they are assaulted by people claiming to be from the Office of the President and demanding they hand over their property, as reported last weekend?

Are the courts forbidden to hear applications for protection against willful assault and confiscation of property on the grounds these are land-related? By the way, could the police please tell us what has happened to Joseph Mwale and why he has not been apprehended? Muckraker had a good chuckle over the Herald headline “Annan forced to abort visit”. The story claimed the UN secretary-general had been forced to cancel his visit to assess Zimbabwe’s clean-up after the US and UK had “politicised” the trip. In fact, he was never coming in the first place.

Mugabe had told Annan in New York that he objected to Britain and America setting the agenda for the trip. “When I extended the invitation to you, it was meant to correct yourself in respect of the unbalanced and misleading report from Mrs Tibaijuka,” officials quoted Mugabe as having told Annan.

What the officials didn’t say was that Mugabe had deluded himself in the first place. Annan does not believe that Tibaijuka’s report was anything other than accurate. And he certainly won’t second-guess his housing specialist after her exhaustive study here. He wasn’t going to come and pretend everything was rosy when it manifestly wasn’t.

That was all made clear to Mugabe weeks ago. Annan’s spokesmen have been absolutely consistent that Mugabe must address the problems raised in the report before their boss will even consider coming here.

It was the Zimbabwean side that raised the issue of Senate elections and the so-called National People’s Conference in December as impacting on the time-frame of any visit. Is that not political? As for the silly claim that NGOs are political, so is Zanu PF. Everything is political today because Mugabe has made it so.

The last thing we want is having chiefs and headmen decide who gets what. And don’t we recall Mugabe naming maize handouts after himself the last time donors came to the rescue? That was non-political we suppose!

And by the way, holding a leopard’s skin after a military shooting competition is hardly the best advert for conservation and tourism. What did this poor animal do to deserve such a fate? Own a farm?

We enjoyed the M&G’s Madam & Eve column last week which featured Robert Mugabe as the celebrity chef. Instead of the “Naked Chef” familiar to viewers of BBC Food, this celebrity chef was called the Naked Despot. We particularly liked the chef’s hat.

Asked by the presenter what he would be cooking up for viewers, he replied: “Well I thought we’d start with potato soup, and potato pancakes…followed by potato gratin à la Mugabe, potato salad…and finally potato pudding.”

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