When men of the cloth are bought for a hymn

WE were interested to note the lavish praise bestowed upon Bishop Trevor Manhanga by Nathaniel Manheru in his column last weekend. Manhanga’s warning about “fly by night messiahs” who “l

ine their pockets with donor money” was taken by Manheru to be a reference to Archbishop Pius Ncube. Manhanga has not denied the suggestion.

Indeed, Manhanga’s role in defending the current dialogue between church and state is fascinating. Here was a once robust critic of government who clearly understood the issues which divided a conscientious church from an abusive regime.
But Manhanga appears to have changed his tune and is now not only in the forefront of promoting support for the government, but also leading attacks on churchmen who cannot in all conscience defend supping with politicians who have presided over the most appalling human rights abuses, not least the Murambatsvina urban holocaust.

Even today the impact on informal business activity in the townships of that “clean-up” is everywhere visible as is the social cost. Yet Manhanga and his fellow-church collaborators think they can deliver dialogue with a government that has never listened to anybody and shows no prospect of doing so.

How then do we explain turnabouts by people such as Manhanga who appear happy to be used by state propagandists? And how can churchmen with a mission to build a better nation consort with those who are determined to continue with the policies of hate and repression that have got us where we are today?

The most we got from President Mugabe was an intriguing prayer for God to pardon Zimbabwe for “sins committed that had brought reproach to the nation”.

We weren’t told who committed those sins!

Manhanga spoilt his credibility by repeating the Zanu PF mantra. “We refuse to join our detractors and short-sighted fellow citizens who cannot see any good in our nation,” he told fellow suborned clergymen.

Such cognitive dissonance is dangerous for a man of the cloth.

By the way, we see that the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference was listed as among those sponsoring this questionable day of prayer. Is that true? While we know the Zimbabwe Council of Churches lost its way years ago, we don’t expect the Catholic Bishops, with their fine reputation for resistance to oppression under two regimes, to collaborate with the incorrigible author of the nation’s pain.

Neither of their two archbishops were present so perhaps the Herald misled us. And the 5 000 people who attended the event can hardly be counted as a sizable crowd. More people attended a soccer match on the same day.

But all the same, we welcome President Mugabe’s virgin admission of his government’s plethora of failures at the event. And, it must be said, he pulled off a clever religious coup by persuading the men of the cloth present to organise the proceedings.

The clergy surrendered their initiative and allowed Mugabe to dictate the pace of events.

We suspect he learned the trick of pacifying critics from Bingu waMutharika on his recent visit to Malawi where a road was named after him. Bingu made sure critics singing the wrong hymn by opposing Mugabe’s visit turned over a new leaf by inviting them to State House for lunch.

Mugabe used the same therapy effectively on the clergy. Having a chit-chat at State House works wonders in massaging egos!

Unless the Herald misquoted him, Mugabe said: “We must accept our failures. We should have to acknowledge that as trustees in our part of the world (read Zimbabwe), we have not succeeded as we had wished.”

Well said Mr President. Now we know that all along we have been wishing we could succeed but have failed dismally in spite of all advice. But please Mr President, don’t use the inclusive “we” as the povo were not part of your skewed schemes that brought about such ubiquitous failure.

“We” (the ruling elite) are so mentally challenged that “we” (the Zanu PF chefs) could not distinguish that wishing and succeeding are completely different things.

So for the past 26 years leaders have been wishing “we” would succeed, but “failed” and still continue to wish “we” could succeed. Now that “we” know, what are “we” going to do about it? For how long can “we” remain in wishful mode without succeeding and still wish something different will happen?

Those worrying about growing corruption in Zimbabwe need fret no longer. Everything is under control, Anti-Corruption minister Paul Mangwana assures us. The Anti-Corruption Commission is at work, he says, but operating “outside the public glare”.

Responding in parliament to concerns about its performance, Mangwana said its members were only sworn in last October. It had been putting in operating “structures” since then. It would soon be launching a website, he said.

Let’s hope it takes less than eight months to get that up and running!

Every Zimbabwean has a responsibility to build a positive image about this country and to communicate the message to the outside world to change the misconceptions held by many out there,” government spokesman George Charamba has said.

“The burden of building a positive image about Zimbabwe should be carried by every member of society,” he said. And in a revealing admission he added: “Zimbabwe has a bad image out there because it has a bad image here at home.”

Indeed it has. And which Zimbabweans are responsible for that: those that campaign for good governance, freedom of expression, the rule of law and human rights, or those that use hate speech against their critics, devise oppressive laws, use the police as a tool of repression, and loot farms for their own benefit?

Building a positive image for Zimbabwe should start at the top. Tourists will not visit a country where there is no rule of law, where human rights are subverted, and where political leaders use racist language to justify their brutal grip on power.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Karikoga Kaseke said his organisation was working on a “perception management programme”.

He really doesn’t get it, does he? You can’t improve Zimbabwe’s international image so long as its leaders are delinquent in what they say and do. While some visitors paid for by government may be impressed by our facilities, it is only a matter of time before the country’s leaders say something outrageous which directly impacts on source markets.

Charamba described Zimbabwe as “a country subjected to illegal sanctions by countries of ill-will”, but, he said, “we have managed to implement empowerment programmes to eradicate poverty”.

Has anybody heard of any of these programmes? And are those “countries of ill-will” the same ones that are keeping Zimbabweans fed?

Then there is the issue of the rule of law. Where is Joseph Mwale? Where are the bombers of the Daily News and Voice of the People? What sort of society is it that shelters such miscreants? Tuesday’s edition of the London Times provided instructive reading on the extent of torture in Zimbabwe, quoting a report by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.

Zimbabwe’s international reputation can be directly ascribed to the behaviour of its rulers. So long as the ZTA fails to understand that it will fail in its mission.

Still with building a “positive image” for the country, the Times cited a recent episode at Reps bar where patrons were watching the World Cup. Deputy Finance minister David Chapfika who was also present, the newspaper reported, switched the channel to the local station so he could watch the government news bulletin.

One of the drinkers switched it back to football. “We don’t watch that garbage here,” he said. Twenty minutes later two policemen entered the bar and took the man away, the Times said. They accused him of saying: “We don’t watch that Mugabe here,” confusing the word “garbage” with “Mugabe”. He was kept in the ordurous cells of Avondale police station for two freezing nights before being let go without charge.

On the subject of getting things mixed up, we were amused to hear Simba Mumbengegwi’s reference, during his harangue to diplomats last week, about aborigines being held in a Tasmanian zoo where the last of the species died out in the 1930s.

Could he have been thinking of the Tasmanian Tiger, the last of which died out in a Tasmanian zoo in the 1930s? Whatever the case, Mumbengegwi’s outburst against Australia convinced many diplomats present that Zimbabwe’s rulers have lost the plot. Didymus Mutasa contributed to the debacle with his customary words of wisdom.

Bridge-builders will have difficulty proceeding, several of those present say, after that episode where Zimbabwe put its worst foot forward. But can you imagine the government thinking it could make a good impression on experienced diplomats by putting up the trio of Mumbengegwi (thinking he could do another Hardtalk), Mutasa and Joseph Made!

Bulawayo commemorates the death of veteran nationalist and founder politician, Joshua Nkomo, who died seven years ago. The gala celebrated with an orgy of saturnalia, accompanied by song and dance serves to remind Zimbabweans of the political icon. As usual the state television station has been running cherry-picked rave reviews of Joshua Nkomo and his works and speeches.

In order to give the younger generation an accurate history, would it be asking too much for ZTV to get someone to recite excerpts of the great man’s letters written during his short exile in Britain, written to the then Prime Minister, Robert Gabriel Mugabe?

Karigamombe Building, built from Railway Pension funds, was so named in fawning praise of Mugabe to mark how his Zanu PF had slaughtered the Zapu bull.

The then Transport minister, the late Herbert Ushewokunze, came up with the name to spite Nkomo and his party symbol.

Is it impossible to rename Karigamombe Building more appropriately to reflect the unity we are so keen to crow about? What about cloning a bull and a rooster, then pitch the result on the party headquarters where the cockerel still reminds us who rules the roost?

Muckraker notices some parts of the neon sign on the building have gone on the blink at night. Instead of ZANU PF the neon sign reads ZA U F, probably signifying that there is no longer “nationalism” and “patriotism” in whatever we do.

It is amazing how revealing reports by the parliamentary committees on various portfolios can be . The reports are second only to the indicting details contained in maiden speeches by newly elected MPs. These can easily pass for a barometer to measure how government has fared or failed depending on the sycophancy of the orator.

The maiden speeches invariably make short shrift of the mythical claims that Zanu PF has been developing the rural areas since ZIMCORD all these years it has been in power.

Unwittingly new legislators’ speeches contradict the pre-election party manifesto that always paints a glowing picture of Zanu PF’s achievements.

Almost all MPs gripe and groan about lack of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, clinics and all that stuff in their constituencies. The huff and puff contradict rather bashfully government’s self-glorification.

Maiden speeches are instructive too on the probabilities that the legislator would have employed the lack of infrastructure as a campaign strategy in convincing biddable peasants to vote for him or her.

Muckraker cannot remember which legislator debunked the misplaced notions that an MP can bring about development. For one thing the MP has little resources to do so. For another the legislator will have to convince everyone else in parliament that his constituency is worse off than the rest and merits first preference.

What might be a priority in his constituency might not necessarily be so in the eyes of the cabinet.

But going back to committee reports, Muckraker was deeply unsettled by a report that government’s failure to provide basic sanitary items in prisons has forced inmates into committing sacrilege.

Inmates obviously don’t expect God to forgive these ungodly acts even when they have atoned themselves of their crimes by serving their sentences.

Prisoners are tearing the prison-issue Bibles apart and using the pages as toilet paper out of necessity and desperation.

Why not collect pages of “The Other Side” or “African Focus” as well as heaps of returns from a certain publication and deliver it to prisoners?

Remember the Tswanas buying copies of the Chronicle saying it was cheaper than a toilet roll?

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