Not-so-Bright Matonga speaks

WE were interested to read the story on Information deputy minister Bright Matonga urging youths to “become self-reliant” in Zimbabwe’s shrinking employment market. Matonga was addressing 300 students in his Ngezi constitue


“The most affected by the unemployment crisis are school-leavers with neither training nor experience,” Matonga pointed out, explaining this was the reason government had set up the ministries of Small and Medium Enterprises Development and Youth Development and Employment Creation.

This sounds like a huge contradiction. In case Matonga hadn’t noticed there is currently a massive crackdown by the police and local authorities against informal traders and small-scale indigenous operators. How many informal traders have had their future ruined in the current operation with either direct or tacit approval of either government or city council?

How does Matonga reconcile his anguished plea for self-reliance with his government’s ruthless crackdown against those seeking to be self-reliant through informal trade?

On another note, Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo said government would soon come up with less stringent standards for housing construction that would cut costs by as much as 68%. He said local authorities were failing to adapt and consequently their requirements made it impossible to reduce housing backlogs in urban areas. He said council requirements were “British-oriented” and too costly for Zimbabweans.

Is the order that council and government are trying to “restore” in urban areas any less British? How is Chombo going to Africanise it we wonder?

We feel sorry for the poor mandarin who, for whatever reason, insinuated that The Voice newspaper was not the official mouthpiece of Zanu PF. The editor of the paper, Lovemore Mataire, went ballistic that the tag of party mouthpiece had wrongly been bestowed on the Herald by a government official who should otherwise know better.

The official was reminded in no uncertain terms that in Zimbabwe “an individual is Zanu PF first before being a government minister”.

“With all the tireless efforts that I have done in uplifting this paper,” fumed Mataire in his Candid Brief column, “it is disheartening that there are some within or among us” who don’t appreciate the paper’s role.

Mataire needn’t worry. The Voice is appreciated about as much as the Chinese People’s Daily!

But seriously folks, we wonder how much the paper is taken seriously outside party structures. Especially when it claims that a company quoted on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange such as Zimpapers “is a private company and not a public company”. So much for party indoctrination!

One thing that one cannot take away from former Information minister Jonathan Moyo is that in his operations you could easily see the workings of an evil mind, at once fascinating and repellent. He did his job with a finesse which is evidently lacking from his successors. He gave the state media life, albeit for the wrong reasons in the main.
Without him Operation Murambatsvina has been reduced to a humdrum affair whose overall purpose remains tenebrous.

When we thought it couldn’t get any worse, Matonga showed us we were wrong. He has decided on a news blackout on the destruction of shacks and other illegal urban structures, according to a weekly paper. While Newsnet was following behind Chombo this week showing us what government was doing for displaced people, there was not a single video clip on the havoc going on in Highfield, Glen View and other high density suburbs. But they had images of US Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo, courtesy of politically-correct editing.

Then Monday’s 8 o’clock main news led with people commenting on the Warriors’ game against Gabon on Sunday, won through a dubious penalty that would have been better forgotten. Obviously taking instructions from the same not-so-Bright mind, the Herald ran an editorial comment on Tuesday titled: “Warriors’ battle for glory a national issue”.

As we have already said, at least there was something to admire in Moyo’s calculating mind although he irritated all and sundry by trivialising our sense of judgement of issues. Unfortunately he has been replaced by a slouching, almost sightless pair that can only lead us to hell.

Meanwhile, President Mugabe has emphatically denied reports that he is dead. Presidential spokesman George Charamba, who told Mugabe he was reportedly dead as a result of heart failure, said the president laughed off the rumours.

The Zimbabwe Independent two weeks ago reported that Mugabe had visited a heart specialist in Harare. We did not at any point suggest he was dead. But if Charamba wishes to add value to our story he is welcome to do so.
Mugabe was in fact as “fit as a teenager”, Charamba said. “He is in the best of health and is at work. Those doubting can check on Thursday when he addresses parliament.”

We definitely hope a lot of people did check and Muckraker awaits their verdict after hearing what the government will offer the country in the forthcoming session. We also hope that Charamba is aware that today’s teenagers are hardly the best measure of a healthy person for the obvious reasons, in addition to unemployment, hunger and other ills that go with a country whose economy stopped functioning some five years ago.

Some observers, by the way, have pointed out that what ails the president is not so much heart failure as Yellow Fever. He can only see allies in countries like China which will not criticise his oppressive policies.

Muckraker would like to put to rest a mischievous story doing the rounds. It was reported that during talks at the White House last week between President George Bush and South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki an intruder broke into the grounds. CNN showed the man being wrestled to the ground by security staff.

This was not, as some observers unkindly suggested, Morgan Tsvangirai carrying out a one-man protest. Nor is it true that he was shouting: “It was a stitch-up…We wuz robbed.”

Although those words may well come to mind in the context of the March poll, the intruder did not utter them. Nor is it true that Mbeki told Bush: “Disregard him. He follows me everywhere. I have never seen him before in my life.”

We were interested to hear Benjamin Mkapa’s words of wisdom flowing from the Africa Economic Summit meeting in Cape Town. How come he is suddenly an expert on Operation Murambatsvina?

“A secondary economy should be dealt with in any economy,” he opined, “especially during the time when attempts are being made to re-establish stability. The government of Zimbabwe is just trying to formalise the economy.”

So that’s what it’s doing?

You have to be truly ignorant of Zimbabwe’s recent economic history to come up with such a facile explanation. The formal economy has contracted by 30% over the past five years — and is still shrinking. Investors have fled the country in droves because of threats to their companies from people like Joseph Chinotimba and chaotic fiscal measures which make it impossible to do business. The burgeoning informal sector is a symptom of government’s failure to sustain the formal sector.

Tanzania, after 40 years of economic-management failure, has more recently adopted a completely different approach that has witnessed growth and stability as a result. That enables Mkapa to express revolutionary solidarity at international fora but to avoid like the plague the sort of policies his friend President Mugabe is pursuing in Zimbabwe.

What intrigues us is how much longer Tony Blair and Gordon Brown can go on talking about the need to throw more money at Africa when people like Mkapa, although pursuing sound policies at home, are aiding and abetting Zimbabwe’s descent into chaos.

It was not long ago that any friendly visitor passing anywhere near Harare was asked to say a few words in support of Zimbabwe’s land reform policies. We don’t hear much about those any more. But it seems regional leaders are now being asked to say something idiotic about Operation Murambatsvina. Who will be the next poor sucker?

Still with medical matters, UN special envoy James Morris appears to suffer from a disease known as diplomatic paralysis brought on by policy contradictions. Unable to speak out on how poor governance leads to food shortages, he clearly believes that it is better to admit failure than exhibit anything so inconvenient as firm values.

Asked in Johannesburg on his return from Harare last Wednesday if the recent crackdown had not made Zimbabwe’s humanitarian crisis worse, he paused for 30 seconds, during which journalists wondered if he would ever speak again, only to concede: “I have no answer for that.”Indeed, that probably goes for the UN as a whole!

Still on the subject of diplomacy, we were sorry to say goodbye to South Africa’s ambassador Jeremiah Ndou. A consummate diplomat, Ndou played his cards close to his chest. He was kept on here well beyond his normal transfer date in order to mediate talks between Zanu PF and the MDC — a mission from hell!

He showed what an accomplished diplomat he was last weekend by giving a lengthy interview to Herald political editor Caesar Zvayi during the course of which he managed to avoid disclosing one single thing of interest!
Somebody might like to count the number of times he referred to the “challenges” Zimbabwe faced and see if some sort of record was broken. “Challenges” is the new diplomatic buzzword to describe far-reaching structural problems like dictatorship and starvation.

Ndou was not asked the obvious question: Why do you believe sanctions are inappropriate for Zimbabwe because they isolate the country when your party advocated sanctions against South Africa throughout the 1970s and 80s?
Was that not to isolate a brutal and abusive regime?

Ndou said when on leave in South Africa he read press reports on Zimbabwe and couldn’t believe this was the same country where he was stationed. A picture was presented of collapse in which there was no life and people couldn’t move around.

Was this before or after Operation Murambatsvina, we wonder?

While the media was there to criticise, he admonished, it was incumbent on them to report the good things that government was doing.

Perhaps when he has thought of a few examples he could write and tell us.

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