It’s dirty business for Zim’s urban poor

MUCKRAKER was last week struck by the hy

pocrisy displayed by President Robert Mugabe and his Namibian counterpart Sam Nujoma. Without saying who had threatened to attack either Zimbabwe or Namibia, Nujoma told his audience in Bulawayo that his country stood ready to help Zimbabwe fight against imperialist forces. “Where do we go,” asked Nujoma almost rhetorically, “if we allow colonialists to come back again? Therefore we have resolved to continue fighting whether imperialists want it or not…If they dare to attack any of our countries, they will meet us here.”

He didn’t say much on the purpose of his visit, which was to officially open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair. That would have been a huge embarrassment to his host whose black empowerment bid appears to have gone horribly wrong. On display were mainly handmade merchandise and other handicrafts such as wood and stone carvings.

In the past ZITF provided the platform at which new machinery, technological innovations and the latest vehicle models were unveiled. All that is gone. The star attraction in the livestock section, Muckraker is informed authoritatively, were two donkeys. That’s a calamity for a country such as Zimbabwe whose farmers have a worldwide reputation for their industry and expertise.

That did not stop our fist-waving leader from offering to share Zimbabwe’s experiences and expertise in land reform with Namibia.

“Your excellency,” said Mugabe, “I am fully aware that the land question is equally emotive in Namibia. I wish to assure you that my government is ready to share its experiences and expertise in areas of land planning, land evaluation and land redistribution, as well as land tenure, land use and estate management.”

As Zimbabweans will testify, Zimbabwe is a case study on how not to…And Nujoma cannot be said to be naive. It was only two weeks ago that he announced land redistribution in Namibia would be properly planned and done according to the law and that landowners would be compensated.

That is not to say Namibians are not passionate about land. It only reflects pragmatism and statesmanship. And a few months back German chancellor Gerhard Shroeder pledged to help a legal and organised land reform programme. Not a project of vengeance as we have in Zimbabwe. Nujoma knows the distinction between solidarity rhetoric and what’s good for his country!

So Information minister Jonathan Moyo’s department got even more slighted by claims that it had been offended by Zanu PF Makonde MP Kindness Paradza’s maiden speech in parliament in which he criticised the Broadcasting Services Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act as inimical to investment promotion in the media! The department was stung into another vitriolic attack of the MP’s speech as “ignorant” and full of “inaccuracies”. People were not supposed to point out that the department was angered by Paradza’s speech, who himself should have known better than to attack party policies in public, or in private for that matter as a “nervous novice parliamentarian”.

“For serious-minded people to imagine that the department would be offended by ignorant remarks made by an ignorant novice parliamentarian is a joke that is not funny,” fumed the department “happily” in the Sunday Mail. We are surprised that a department that wants to be taken seriously has no shame in publicising its feelings even on the pettiest of issues.

Why is Paradza now described as ignorant when there were wild celebrations after he was elected as the MP for Makonde? So despite the department’s pretence that it is omniscient, it makes mistakes about the candidates that can faithfully represent the interests of the party?

Meanwhile Paradza seems to have thought he was within his rights as an MP to point out bad legislation, without knowing this was taboo in Zimbabwe. The lesson he should have learnt long ago is that it is almost a contradiction in terms to belong to Zanu PF and be independent-minded. Precedents litter the whole history of independent Zimbabwe, from Byron Hove, Eddison Zvobgo, Edgar Tekere to Dzikamai Mavhaire.

Somebody please help one apoplectic Lowani Ndlovu. He appears to think that spitting venom and epithets at 80 km/hour on its own constitutes an argument. In an article titled “Sellout papers peddling lies about Kondozi Farm” published in the Sunday Mail, he poured forth about “rubbish”, “stupid” papers as if that was enough to make him sound better than “hogwash”. Muckraker can almost bet that the fellow claiming to know the whole truth about Kondozi doesn’t even know where the farm is located. Then he has sentences like Kondozi Farm being “acquired for acquisition and resettlement”. Can anything beat that? But the ignorance gets worse.

Media reports said 70 traditional leaders, including 39 chiefs, visited VP Joseph Msika at his Munhumutapa offices in Harare led by Chief Marange. Nobody talked about 39 chiefs and 70 traditional leaders. He calls the reports themselves “lies” but doesn’t say where Msika has denied meeting the traditional leaders. Such an inquiry would necessarily have interfered with his preordained script. Why let an inconvenient fact get in the way of sweet-tasting falsehoods?

The article ended with the astounding claim that “most Zimbabweans agree with and support the government’s position that there should be no going back on Kondozi”. Who carried out such a survey? If you ask Muckraker, the only person who has expressed such a sentiment publicly is Information minister Jonathan Moyo. Eureka! The sentence structure, the language, the venom and tone of the article are clearly traceable right up to the doorsteps of Munhumutapa Building! Lowani stays a myth.

Sunday Mail political editor Munyaradzi Huni is worried about the South African media writing what it wants about President Mugabe. It can be inferred that he is more comfortable with a media wearing blinkers, “a gullible press which believes that finding and highlighting government faults is unpatriotic”, to use Professor Jonathan Moyo’s phrase. A mentality which sees an enemy of the state and a foreigner behind every thinking Zimbabwean.

According to Huni, the South African press is still controlled by what he calls the “apartheid man” who cannot tell the “African story, the people’s story”. Needless to say that he doesn’t tell us what that story is. The only thing that used to be common about Africa is that it was once described as the Dark Continent. Beyond that, what can Huni say we have in common with Liberia or Somalia for instance? What do we have in common with the Sudan? Unless he wants to endorse colonial stereotypes about famine, dictatorships, civil wars and mass poverty as the hallmarks of the continent!

But he soon found himself puncturing his own over-generalised claims. While the media wanted South Africans to ignore President Robert Mugabe when he visited that country for President Thabo Mbeki’s inauguration, ordinary people gave him a “standing ovation”.

“That standing ovation is enough to tell the South African media what the people in South Africa think about President Mugabe. President Mugabe is their hero despite all the stinking lies from the apartheid press.”

That is the contradiction Huni doesn’t appreciate. Why bother to control the press when people know better what they want, unless you have something sinister to hide? If people don’t want the press they are getting that press dies a natural death.

But when they choose to listen to their conscience, even state media reporters can sometimes see the reality of our existence. Like Sifelani Tsiko did last Saturday. In a story headlined “Living on garbage”, the reporter managed to capture in unsanitised detail the tough life that most Zimbabweans go through everyday.

“Seemingly oblivious to the overpowering stench and buzzing flies, James Simango pokes at a heap of garbage and plucks out a prize — plastic containers full of all kinds of waste, which he puts into a sack…It’s a dirty business, but one that can bring in up to $40 000 (about US$7,5 at the Reserve Bank auction rate) a day,” is how Tsiko opens his article on the lives of scavengers in Harare.

The caption under one of the pictures of a major municipal rubbish dumpsite reads: “Thousands of people in Zimbabwe comb through waste dumps for recyclable materials to survive.”

This is part of the daily reality for the urban poor that his bosses in the Information department would rather not see because they are insulated by fat pay cheques and see the world through rose-tinted windows.

When opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai warned ahead of the 2002 presidential election that Zimbabweans hadn’t seen the worst of their problems, this was cynically twisted to imply that he wanted sanctions imposed on the country. He predicted that most people would be reduced to scavengers. Instead the state media produced its Hondo Yeminda and Sendekera jingles on how the majority of the people had been empowered and that the land reform was an unparalleled success. Luckily Tsiko managed to smuggle into the Saturday Herald home truths to make his bosses squirm in their seats. Truth will out, whether Newsnet wants it or not.

Talking of Newsnet, whose motto claims “When it happens we will be there”, it was nowhere to be seen last week when National Constitutional Assembly demonstrators were beaten by riot police in the Harare city centre.

In fact, there was such a blackout a lot of people don’t know to this day that there was a demonstration that was suppressed by brutal police gangs. That tells us all we need to know about the type of information we are permitted to have access to. It’s a feat not even the colonial regime could have achieved in a thousand years.

South Africa’s Mail & Guardian seems to have exposed its treachery by reporting that Zimbabwe could face a famine. Our patriotic Tazzen Mandizvidza was not impressed by that report. He claimed people were harvesting their crops after a good rainy season. The claims by the newspaper were meant to tarnish the country’s impeccable image.

While Muckraker thinks the figure of eight million people facing food shortages is grossly inflated, we do not understand how the Mail & Guardian has “demonised” the country as claimed by Mandizvidza. To us that reads like the meteorological office forecasting very cold weather next month. It’s a mere forecast. You can make preparations the best you can. You don’t lose anything if June turns out to be hotter than October.

But more telling was the fact that Mandizvidza studiously ignored the Herald report about thousands of Zimbabweans “living on garbage”. Where is the food Tazzen?

Assisting Mandizvidza on his Monday programme was one Lady Rubi who appeared fairly literate but allowed herself to be led by the nose down the garden path. Her answer to everything that irked Mandizvidza was “capitalism”. You get lured into a ZBC Holdings studio at great peril to your credibility. We hope Rubi will be more circumspect next time instead of simpering over-indulgently to Mandizvidza’s every question.

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