MDC can’t wish away sanctions on behalf of Zanu PF

YOU have to hand it to the state media; their imagination is always a reliable substitute for facts.

The Herald’s Bulawayo bureau last

week reported that “Portugal” had “blasted” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for his “double standards and hypocrisy”.

This, if true, would have represented a rather serious falling out between Britain and its oldest ally. But, reading further down, it soon became clear that the writer had taken the views of a Portuguese MEP to be those of the Portuguese government. It was the equivalent of Tendai Biti attacking Levi Mwanawasa for behaving like a jelly and being reported as “Zimbabwe blasts Zambia”.

Mind you, Mwanawasa is giving good reason for journalists to report him as spineless. He changes his mind every week. First he said Zimbabwe was like the sinking Titanic. Then he said the country’s problems were exaggerated. And now he says he won’t attend the Lisbon summit if President Mugabe is excluded.

We can be sure he will have something else to say next week.

Are Zambians proud of this rather pathetic specimen? We would love to have seen him whimpering “but I didn’t mean that Mr President” as Mugabe excoriated him at the Sadc summit in Lusaka.

What use is a head of state who bears the impression of the last person to have sat on him? We have no doubt Brown is planning a fitting response. But nobody seems to have addressed the central question here: why shouldn’t the British prime minister stay away from Lisbon if he finds Mugabe’s presence uncongenial? Isn’t that his right?

As for the Portuguese, they will soon find their summit has become the circus Brown predicted. There are already signs of that.

When we had former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano jetting in to “throw his weight behind the president”.

This is the same Chissano who was told to get lost the last time he arrived here to offer his advice. It seems he’s learnt his lesson and will from now on only say what he is required to say.

And we are intrigued by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal. He was due to jet in ahead of the Lusaka summit but mysteriously pulled out at the last minute. We have no doubt why. Last week he said a solution to Zimbabwe’s problems could not be engineered by Thabo Mbeki alone. Other African leaders should be involved.

This would have been unwelcome news to Mbeki. The two have been conducting a very public spat over Nepad, Mbeki’s pet project which Wade believes is going nowhere. The Zimbabwean authorities were understandably reluctant to afford Wade a platform to have a go at Mbeki when he had been so helpful of late!

Meanwhile, Muckraker is trying to fathom why the Herald’s Bulawayo Bureau is being commissioned to produce virulently anti-British and anti-reform stories. What is wrong with the Herald’s political staff? We can’t believe they are insufficiently pliant!

We liked the way the Herald held back Australian ambassador John Sheppard’s letter to the editor so Caesar Zvayi could craft a response. Can’t the paper simply publish a letter without having to carry a venomous reply?

The accompanying pic was captioned “Western ambassadors picket the Harare Magistrates Court in support of MDC activists”. We liked the suggestion that diplomats doing their duty to follow events in Zimbabwe are represented by the state media as “picketing” the courts. What’s wrong with “attended”?

At least this time the Herald confined itself to using the collective “Western ambassadors”. The last time the paper tried to name them it got them horribly mixed up!

The same caption was carried on the Home Affairs’ website for several months with all the same mistakes despite our attempts to point out the errors.

Nicholas Goche says Zanu PF will want to raise the issue of “pirate” radio stations that are “demonising the government” in the next phase of discussions with the MDC.

Let’s hope the MDC points out to him that ZBC “demonises” the opposition in just about every news bulletin. What is he doing about the partisan and unprofessional service the public get from their broadcaster? It is also as boring as hell which is why Zimbabweans switch off in their thousands.

If the government could remove its clumsy hand from Pockets Hill, respect the Supreme Court ruling removing ZBC’s monopoly and give the people a choice of what to watch, then the reason why “pirate” broadcasters exist would be removed.

Goche also seems to share the naïve view of many in his party that the MDC can have sanctions removed. This will not happen until those countries imposing sanctions are convinced there has been a change in the political climate in Zimbabwe.

Why, for instance, has the person who attacked Nelson Chamisa with an iron bar and stole his computer at Harare airport not been brought to justice? Why have those officers who assaulted Morgan Tsvangirai, William Bango, Sekai Holland and others not been prosecuted?

Goche and sympathisers such as Dr Leonard Kapungu must understand that sanctions were imposed in response to state violence. Zanu PF will need to demonstrate a change of attitude and end the culture of impunity that allows people like Joseph Mwale to walk free.

If, by the way, it is true that Mwale is serving in the Zimbabwe embassy in Lusaka then we should demand an explanation from the Zambian authorities. Hiding refugees from justice in Zimbabwe is not sound diplomatic practice although it may tell us a bit about the usefulness of Sadc!

We expect there were a few heads rolling around on the floor in the Herald newsroom on Tuesday morning when the editor saw the heading on the paper’s opinion page. As if it wasn’t bad enough having Stephen Maimbodei writing about “sitting” arrangements, the subs then used this malapropism for their heading: “Of handshakes, sitting arrangements”.

You don’t have to be semi-literate to write political diatribes in the state media. It just helps!

BBC have recently provided a good example of why we urgently need a professional broadcaster. They have been running a poll on their web page (http://www.zbcnewsnet.co.zw). It runs as follows:

Who do you blame for the current shortages?

1. Manufacturers

2. Retailers

3. The black market

4. Western sanctions

What happened to Option 5 — the government?

Isn’t it amazing? The choice most people would want to make is withheld from them amidst the deceit that it is someone else’s fault. For the record, results so far suggest viewers blame the black market for their woes (43%) while only 6% blamed retailers.

The one thing we need more than anything else in the current inter-party talks is an honest public broadcaster. Will the MDC please draw a line in the sand and stop their orgy of self-congratulation. There is work to do. In particular we want to know the fate of Posa and Aippa.

It was interesting to note an article in Sunday’s Standard pointing out that some 80% of goods on supermarket shelves were of South African origin. Even the most cursory tour of one’s local supermarket reveals the extent of the South African invasion. Tins of tuna, butter, beer, cereals, tinned fruit, fresh fruit, wine, and orange crush occupy space once dominated by Mazoe, Willards, and Dairibord.

See what Obert Mpofu and his delinquent associates have done to our retail sector. As in commercial agriculture they have created a desert. This is what happens when politicians try to intervene in the market. While President Mugabe is lecturing us on sovereignty and independence, South African exporters have been quick to take advantage of the chaos wrought by inept government regulation.

One of the worst facets of this crisis has been the absence of bread and milk. What happened to Zimbabwe’s fine dairy herds which used to keep us self-sufficient in milk, cheese and butter? What happened to our beef herds?

Bread has been the dietary cornerstone of all successful societies. We used to have a steady supply of flour in this country, never for one minute suspecting that an economically illiterate regime would deprive us of this basic item by its misconceived social engineering. Now trucks are returning from South Africa laden with loaves for well-heeled consumers like Mpofu and his ilk.

So much for sovereignty and independence!

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