See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

WHAT a fine old mess the government has made of the powers it has assumed under the latest constitutional amendment. Government spokesmen like to argue the purpose of the amendment was to draw a line und

er land reform. But the issues of title deeds and offer letters couldn’t be murkier. Are offer letters sent out before the amendment still valid or not? It seems not. But where does this leave recipients of land reform?

As for the assumption that finality has been brought to land thefts, it needs to be spelt out for the criminals involved that Zanu PF will not last forever. Democracy will dawn one day soon. And a land audit will then deprive many powerful people of their ill-gotten gains. There is no finality whatsoever to the land issue just because land has been nationalised. Ask the good people of Eastern Europe what happened to the land after the communist regimes collapsed there.

Speaking of which, we were amused to read on ZimOnline that Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa had taken a second wife. According to the report, wife No 2 is demanding the same perks as wife No 1. That of course includes a farm. Needless to say, wife No 1, the not-to-be-messed-with Monica, has not taken kindly to Patrick’s latest acquisition. She has threatened to take her complaint right to the top. But can she expect a sympathetic hearing there over the matter of taking second wives?

Did anybody see the Daphne Barak interview with President Mugabe on CNN over the weekend? Why did it take so long for the interview to reach CNN? And how did the blonde bombshell with the short skirt manage to get the interview in the first place?

We particularly liked the bit where Mugabe was carrying on about the depredations of Operation Murambatsvina being “magnified by the West” while CNN screened footage of blazing huts and dispossessed people sitting on the rubble of their homes.

Nathan Shamuyarira is normally a sober commentator on events who in his dotage has no need to make the more preposterous claims of his colleagues.

But his interview, sorry “conversation”, with Caesar Zvayi on Saturday disclosed a fundamental flaw in his reasoning that every journalist in the country should take issue with.

Journalists should “serve the people of Zimbabwe and not confuse them”, he declared. He pointed to examples in the foreign press of where newspapers might differ on policy “but when it comes to national issues they are one”.

He evidently hasn’t read the Guardian on the war in Iraq!

But it was his next point that set the alarm bells ringing. One of the issues on which journalists should “be one” was “support for the president”, he claimed.

“Whoever is elected president by the people of Zimbabwe should be fully supported by all journalists, that is the patriotic position,” Shamuyarira declared.

Leaving aside the obvious issue of whether President Mugabe was in fact elected by the people of Zimbabwe, Shamuyarira’s position is simply untenable. Mugabe is not just head of state. He is head of government and head of the ruling party. He sets policy and is at the centre of national discourse. It is the duty of all patriotic journalists to assess whether his conduct has been beneficial to the nation. Or more to the point, whether his extravagant claims are matched by practice.

It is called accountability!

Does Shamuyarira, once a journalist himself, seriously suggest that Mugabe should not be criticised for the disastrous policies he has pursued that have pauperised the nation and led us to beg for food from the international community? Does Shamuyarira seriously think we should not inconvenience the president by mentioning that small matter or his other glaring failures?

And what about all those rights enshrined in the constitution that have been torn up because they threaten his grip on power? What about those citizens, including lawyers and civic activists, who have been tortured and mutilated by employees of the Office of the President, one of whom roams free despite being a wanted man?

Why should the press remain silent when Mugabe attacks his critics with menaces? What right does he have to say what he likes about civil society and the opposition and then hide behind the trappings of his office when his critics reply? What sort of leadership is that?

Shamuyarira should know better than to argue the case for a muzzled media. We already have a eunuch press that is forbidden to discuss the matter of the president’s record except to praise it. We already have a press that criticises only Morgan Tsvangirai. We already have a press that seeks to excuse every fault, to dishonestly apportion every blame, and to cheer every depredation upon the people of this country. It belongs to the government.

Meanwhile, will Dr Shamuyarira please tell us what has happened to his biography of Mugabe? One can imagine how useful it is going to be when its author believes his subject is beyond criticism!

And then we had Tafataona Mahoso attacking this paper for reporting the views of Misa, ZUJ and MMPZ given to a parliamentary portfolio committee on Transport and Communications last month.

Mahoso said the MIC was “not amused” by the publication of a “distorted story” claiming that editors and publishers are violating readers’ rights because the MIC has failed to impose a national code of ethics on them.

At no point was the word “imposed” used in the story. That is Mahoso’s distortion. Those giving evidence to the portfolio committee pointed out that while the MIC was requiring everybody else to submit their codes of conduct, it had failed to produce one of its own.

We are supposed to inform our readers that the MIC’s views have not been presented to the committee yet, Mahoso admonished.

He appears not to know the difference between a newspaper reporting the views of others and a newspaper expressing its own views. He should not try and conflate the two to advance his threadbare argument. When he gets round to presenting his own evidence to parliament it will probably be reported. So will his code if and when he gets round to publishing it.

In the meantime he must not pretend the survey conducted by the Media Ethics Committee, touted extensively by Mahoso as if it were the law of the Medes and Persians, carried any weight nationally or bound any news organisation to its questionable conclusions.

Does anybody seriously suggest the public out there were clamouring for a media regulatory body, handpicked by the minister, that empowered this gang of ruling-party supporters to close down newspapers whose views they didn’t like?

What obviously stung Mahoso about the Misa/ZUJ/MMPZ presentation to parliament was the suggestion that the MIC was derelict in its duties.

“It has been three years since the MIC was established but it has not come up with any publicly-known code of conduct,” their submission said.

They said the MIC had also failed to enforce professional standards in the mass media to ensure accurate, balanced and unbiased reporting.

That obviously raises the question: what is this dubious body doing with the public funds allocated to it apart from creating a job for Mahoso?

As for Mahoso not being “amused” by our report, strange as though it may seem, our reporters do not write to amuse him. He is evidently unaware that the expression “we are not amused” is indelibly identified with Queen Victoria who reportedly used it to signal her displeasure with press comments.

Muckraker was intrigued by a recent front-page story in the Herald. It was headed “Mandaza suspended as fight over Mirror intensifies”.

Our question: when did the Herald report on this in the first place? Obviously for something to “intensify” it should first happen in the pages of the paper reporting it.

And there was Munyaradzi Huni doing one of his MDC falls-apart stories in the Sunday Mail last weekend claiming that the party was the victim of factionalism, when on the same page the subs had unkindly stuck a story about Zanu PF infighting in Masvingo.

“Factionalism is deeply entrenched in Masvingo with some said to belong to the Zvobgo faction and others to the Hungwe,” President Mugabe was quoted as saying, adding: “We do not like that.”

Strange how Huni never reports on such matters. In Zanu PF even the dead have factions!

Mugabe recently used a platform provided by the FAO and WHO to claim that his land reform programme was never about dispossessing anybody. Apart of course from Roy Bennett, Peter de Klerk, Edwin Moyo and some 4 000 other commercial farmers.

The FAO bears a heavy burden of responsibility in allowing him to get away with such self-evidently false claims.

Returning to Nathan Shamuyarira’s “conversation” with Caesar Zvayi, we were interested to note his denial that the new senate will be used as a retirement chamber for failed party loyalists. Instead, said Shamuyarira, the senate will be made up of people with wisdom, people who have something to contribute to the nation. Specifically he said we should expect to see “fresh candidates” who should “enrich parliament” through informed debate.

We hope by fresh candidates he is not talking about the likes of Edgar Tekere and Victoria Chitepo. They represent typical political deadwood.

Shamuyarira also had no kind words for former Information minister Jonathan Moyo whom he claimed cheated his way into cabinet. He said Moyo cheated “everybody” for four or five years as a minister that he was “loyal to the party”.

What does that tell us about the Zanu PF leadership’s judgement when it can be “cheated” for so long by an individual — especially one who has control over its image? Can such a party be trusted to make the right national decisions?

While Shamuyarira said he respected Moyo for finally showing his true colours and sticking to his beliefs, what are we to make of his claim that there is no “bad blood” between his department and the Ministry of Information? Surely the mudslinging between the Herald’s Nathaniel Manheru and The Voice editor Lovemore Mataire cannot be said to reflect “harmony” in the sense suggested by Shamuyarira. That would be cheating if you ask us.

And what does Shamuyarira mean by preaching tolerance among Zimbabweans and then saying criticising government or President Mugabe “is unthinkable”? Sounds like totalitarian double-speak.

Gullible scribes in the state media believe the fuel supply situation will soon improve merely because President Mugabe said so. This was in response to reports that a few filling stations had received trickles of petrol and diesel over the weekend.

Last time around Mugabe said he was experiencing stomach and headaches over relentless fuel shortages and promised this would be solved soon. We all know what became of that pledge. Quite why the Herald now believes Mugabe can resolve the fuel crisis when the country has no foreign currency defies all logic. The situation calls for more than oracular pronouncements.

Another gullible believer is Energy permanent secretary Justin Mupamanga who claimed in the same report that government had always been “consistent” in making fuel available. What planet has he just descended from when a majority of workers have to walk to work every day because commuter omnibuses have become permanent fixtures at empty service stations?

Meanwhile, we liked the picture in the Herald on Tuesday of a fuel attendant filling a 200-litre drum with petrol at a Total service station along Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare. The policeman standing by with his back to the camera portrayed the classic definition of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.

All we can say is well done to the Herald photographer and shame on the ZRP. The question is how much money did the police officer and the petrol attendant receive from the economic saboteur who bought the fuel? Didymus Mutasa’s anti-corruption commission clearly has a tough task ahead when the law has chosen to turn a blind eye on corruption.

On Monday the Business Herald had an interesting heading, “Foreign investment grows 100%”. We were curious to find out where this was coming from and what the 100% growth amounted to. We didn’t have to search far. The intro was precise: “Foreign direct investment to Zimbabwe stood at US$60 million last year,” ran the report, “representing a 100% growth on US$30 million registered in 2003.”

It’s a sign of how terribly bad things have gone when every pittance has to be celebrated. More importantly, it shows how the Zanu PF government has ruined a once prosperous economy when you consider that only in 1998 the country got as much as US$444 million in FDI.

As for the headline, it’s a good example of sunshine journalism that Shamuyarira would no doubt encourage.

President Mugabe has appealed to Zimbabweans to shun tribalism and regionalism for the sake of national development. He appealed to the Masvingo province to unite under the leadership of Samuel Mumbengegwi and Dzikamai Mavhaire (remember the “Mugabe must go” fellow?).

“We would not have won our Independence if we had looked at things like one’s totem, tribe and where one came from,” Mugabe said at the memorial service for the late national hero Josiah Tungamirai. “Every one has a right to boast that he is a Zimbabwean first and foremost,” he said.

Fair and fine if that did not come from the same hypocrite who attacked residents of Mbare as totemless after they rejected his party. In any case how can Zimbabweans outgrow such divisive and primitive concepts when they have been institutionalised in the country’s highest office? Why is the nation saddled with a dual vice-presidency if not to maintain Mugabe’s reputation as a pastmaster at tribal juggling?

Another tribalist is Nathaniel Manheru of the Herald who turns everything tribal simply because Gibson Sibanda supports Welshman Ncube’s position on senatorial elections. Why does it automatically become a tribal issue when it’s an African but nobody tells us what tribe Tony Blair comes from?

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