“YES, the goods are cheap, yes the goods are of cheap quality, but surely no one should begrudge or blame the Chinese business people for getting their marketing strategy spot on,” gushed Munyaradzi Huni about substandard Chinese products that have been dumped on the Zimbabwean m

arket as part of the “Look East” policy.

During his shopping for the zhing zhong goods, Huni eavesdropped on fellow shoppers, one of whom remarked: “The products are very, very cheap, but if they last for more than a week, consider yourself lucky.” Huni goes on to claim that Zimbabweans “just love” these cheap imports.

He might be right about one thing, that is that Chinese business people got their marketing strategy right after the Zanu PF government managed to pauperise a whole nation in just 25 years. The economy has been so ruined that the only products we can afford are rejects from China. That does not approximate to “love” by any stretch of the imagination — when you buy something you know won’t last a week! Especially Chinese footwear.

When Zimbabweans still had some pride left and valued quality, one of the best marketing punchlines came from Eric Davies: “It pays in the end to buy the best in the beginning.” Which makes a lot of economic sense! We wonder what its converse would read like.

P/S: Muckraker has just been warned that it is now considered offensive to criticise Chinese junk, sorry quality products. It is said this is disrespectful of the Great Leader. Long live our Chinese comrades!

There was a curious letter in the Sunday Mail from one Boswell. He complained that war veterans were being unfairly treated by Zanu PF after they helped the party win the March 31 parliamentary election. He said the $1 million monthly pension they were getting was “peanuts” as some of them needed to pay school fees for their children.

“These people are very loyal to the party. They don’t revolt but are the least paid in Zimbabwe,” he said.

We don’t know about them being the least paid, but we wonder what they are being paid for? If they owe their loyalty to Zanu PF first then they should be paid by the party.

Boswell didn’t say if he was a war veteran. What was evident was that he doesn’t have to pay anything himself from his rural enclave of Mberengwa.

The commission running Harare council affairs has resolved to “unbundle” so that various departments operate as business units, we were told last week. As usual we can expect water shortages, poor refuse collection and problematic commuter transport to become “things of the past” as state media always make a point of reminding us. But as in the case of fuel shortages, nothing wants to be relegated to the past.

Reporting on the unbundling process, Robert Mukondiwa quoted a sceptical journalism student who said there had been similar endeavours at ZBC, but the corporation has nothing to show for it.

“Maybe behind the scenes something is happening, but from where we stand, there is just a whole lot of confusion and the unbundling has only passed as a name-calling exercise,” said Tawanda Mutyisa.

Simon Pitt of the Mukuvisi Woodlands Association said it was “ridiculous” to expect the city to provide clean water when residents were paying peanuts for services. Mukondiwa appeared to agree, saying part of the solution to the city’s service delivery headaches lay in charging commercial rates instead of those dictated by what he termed “politicking and populist resolves”.

Could someone pass that on to Ignatious Chombo and his blue-eyed girl heading the commission. So long as council relies on the services of people appointed for their loyalty to the party and not for their skills, it is difficult to even imagine how this unbundling will work. There is no incentive for anyone to perform, and no threat to their jobs in the event of failure.

Meanwhile, the Herald reported on Tuesday that the Zimbabwe National Water Authority had taken over Harare’s bulk water requirements to alleviate chronic water problems in the capital. Council will now deal only with distribution from city reservoirs and billing consumers, it was reported.

We can only hope that the minister in charge of that parastatal, Engineer Munacho Mutezo, will acquit himself better than Chombo whose unprofessional fingers in council affairs have been an unmitigated disaster. We don’t need “two bad superstars” to botch council affairs.

It was also salutary to see the Herald for the first time conceding that Harare’s water problems started seven years ago in 1997 due to lack of sufficient storage capacity and financial resources. It’s a seismic departure from the usual mantra of incompetent MDC councillors.

It also exposes Chombo as a liar who dismissed Elias Mudzuri and other councillors from Town House simply because they were elected on an MDC ticket and not because of corruption and mismanagement as has been the official line hitherto.

We all enjoyed ZTV’s little joke, complaining that the general election in the UK was “marred by lack of transparency, suppression of media freedom, and fraud”.

News agencies picked up the story and ran with it giving the international media much scope for amusement.
Those at ZTV who thought up this wheeze should have first anticipated the cost as attention focused on what real fraud and suppression of media freedom look like. Two Telegraph journalists were able to testify.

We are not aware of anybody being arrested and detained in Britain for reporting on its election. Nobody had to ask for permission to travel there to cover it. And the possibility of postal fraud became a big issue which was not swept under the carpet but dealt with openly and rigorously.

There were no police spokesmen to wave their fists or order the arrest of editors because the story might cause embarrassment to government!

And can you imagine ZTV, the original home of third-class journalism and tendentious reporting which ensured the opposition voice was barely heard, actually complaining about lack of transparency in electoral conduct!

No wonder the world laughed when that report appeared. Zimbabwe got a little more well-deserved publicity!

Speaking of which, can you imagine a Minister of Information holding a reception and then attacking his audience.

Tichaona Jokonya and his deputy Bright Matonga presided over a belated World Press Freedom Day event at the Sheraton last Friday. Although thirsty scribes were grateful for the hospitality, even if it was at taxpayers’ expense, they didn’t appreciate having their intelligence insulted by a minister who is so obviously out of touch with today’s Zimbabwe.

Jokonya, who has spent the past two decades abroad defending the indefensible, slammed those journalists who concealed their identity when working outside the country. He said there was a disturbing trend among younger practitioners to masquerade as nationals of their host country. This opened them to manipulation by foreign forces, he suggested.

He didn’t mention his own record as ambassador to Ethiopia pledging Zimbabwe’s unyielding support for Mengistu’s blood-soaked Dergue.

Has Jokonya thought for one minute why Zimbabweans working outside the country may not feel so proud to wave the country’s flag?

Firstly, there is the shame of representing an oppressive regime that persecutes journalists to prevent them exposing its misrule. And secondly, Zimbabweans living abroad quickly become the target of surveillance and punishment by the regime. Ask the staff of SW Radio Africa who were illegally forbidden from returning home.
As for being used by foreign forces, Jokonya didn’t say why it was OK for journalists to file gullible reports from China which make no mention of that country’s press-freedom record. Zimbabwean journalists are being manipulated by the regime every day in pursuit of dubious foreign policy objectives that result in economic exploitation.

What all this says to us is very simple: We cannot have ministers defining our patriotism or our agenda. They have their own reasons to want a compliant media. Our job is to deny it to them.

In the meantime it might be a good idea for the minister to get the measure of his audience before telling silly stories about his grandmother rising from her grave in defence of the revolution. He probably told Mengistu the same story! And by the way, nobody in the media is insulting rural folk for voting the wrong way, as Jokonya suggested. But they are castigating deceitful politicians who mislead gullible rural voters with promises of food and a better life that never seems to materialise.

It is the fundamental role of journalists to hold this bankrupt class of political parasites accountable, something the new minister doesn’t appear to understand!

Our front-page story last week, “Knives out for Gono”, appears to have stirred the Ministry of Information into action. It promptly issued a denial saying such “crusading articles” were based on “cheap gossip and rumours” and did not in any way help the country’s economic turnaround programme.

Gideon Gono had the government’s “full and unstinted (sic) support”, we were told.

So again it’s OK for the state media to “crusade” on behalf of government’s “Look East” policy but not OK for the independent media to report difficulties in fiscal-policy implementation?

Clearly, we touched a raw nerve there. The difficulties Gono has been facing in recent weeks are no secret. His monetary policy has been thwarted at every turn by a government spending money hand over fist to appease ex-detainees, accommodate superfluous ministers who don’t even know what their job descriptions are, and clinging to a damaging exchange rate which is sabotaging industry.

While the ministry’s statement says Gono’s latest monetary policy update is “widely anticipated”, it doesn’t say that he had to defer it while government got its act together. The IMF was similarly told to wait.

Now the turnaround programme is clearly in trouble, newspapers have an even greater responsibility to point out its structural flaws —like parastatals helping themselves to trillions of dollars in RBZ aid while continuing with the same old incompetent and party-directed management.

The ministry seems to think the press are “stakeholders in the economic turnaround programme” and therefore shouldn’t criticise it. How can we be stakeholders in a programme that was entirely delusional in the first place?

Muckraker was interested to note Air Zimbabwe chief executive Dr Tendai Mahachi saying he will axe non-performing employees at the airline.

They had no role to play in AirZim’s “turnaround” programme, he said.

A scorecard system would result in having “the right people in the right jobs”, Mahachi said.

The obvious question: why have the right people not been in the right jobs up until now — 25 years after Independence? Why has the state, which is responsible for the airline, not taken steps previously to have the right people in the right jobs?

Mahachi says AirZim is now “accounting for every action that it takes and the company is moving away from the cultural mindset that is inherent in most workers at parastatals”.

That’s a start. But it doesn’t help to have Mahachi talking about “turnaround” programmes when we all know that is the lexicon used by government spokesmen when pretending things are getting better despite the evidence on the ground.

Departing on time and putting passengers at the centre of the airline’s policy-making would be helpful. Schedules between Harare and Bulawayo don’t suggest that. It would also be helpful if senior public relations officers and other top-tier corporate managers could return phone calls.

AirZim has been advertising new schedules to the Middle and Far East. Asked by this newspaper when they were due to commence, we were told that information could not be released yet. We published the dates last month but AirZim remains coy.

Given the hype surrounding the airline’s acquisition of two Chinese “aircrafts” and how this fits well with government’s “Look East” policy, it must be doubtful that a technical partner will be willing to come aboard when routes to destinations such as Beijing appear unsustainable and politically-inspired.

Dr Mahachi sits on the Harare commission, a body that has no popular mandate and is a product of government’s campaign to thwart democratic outcomes in the capital. It is bitterly resented by the city’s residents.

How equipped is he to stand up to ministerial interference at Air Zimbabwe when he serves on the apparatus of ministerial interference in Harare?

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