Muckraker

Mugabe’s bungling weighing us down

“IN a series of deft moves, government overhauled its image from a negative one as the destroyer of the common person’s livelihood to one of a maker and improver of the common man’s options, indeed from a destro

yer to a builder and repairer of livelihoods.”


This is the callous verdict of one Nathaniel Manheru on the impact of the ongoing destruction of so-called illegal settlements in urban areas. The alleged deft move is the announcement by government that it would allocate residential stands to those who lost their property.


But in his attempt to defend the indefensible, Manheru forgets some of the people who lost their properties were retrenchees and pensioners who had invested their last cent on those structures. Some of them cannot afford to build on the new stands. Many of them now sleep in the open and have no food. Can somebody take Manheru on a drive to Caledonia please? If he is able to pass through the cordon of riot police and still has a human heart, he may even shed a tear.


But then we are dealing here with someone who has not visited a single township where this destructive government has deployed its bulldozers and graders. All he has seen are ZBC’s sanitised pictures of people “voluntarily” destroying their homes. Can there be greater irony?


Later on comes the mother of all contradictions: “Outside shards of broken stalls,” he writes almost unconsciously, “outside broken livelihoods stands out one haunting question. Why so many vendors? What economics are implied by the swelling army of vendors?”


To most people that would pass for a rhetorical question. But Manheru is so insulated from poverty that he doesn’t know why there are so many vendors in urban areas and along the country’s major highways. The answer is simple: man’s instinct for self-preservation in the face of adversity.


The economy has been in freefall for the past five years and the informal sector provided the net for those dropping from the formal sector. Yet Manheru wants to condemn the victims for their situation. But beyond this hypocrisy, Manheru is aware that this is not “a normal economy”. In fact he should admit this is not the economy government inherited at Independence in 1980.


‘Private media mum on Hotelgate”, declared Tafataona Mahoso on Sunday. This was in reference to a list of hotels and other tourism facilities which Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono said had not remitted all their foreign currency to the authorities. Mahoso lurched on to this list and started talking of “corrupt hotels which have been sabotaging the economy”.


Not so fast comrade. These are mere allegations. How many hotels have been convicted by courts other than Mahoso’s? The media would be irresponsible to use Gono’s list to convict hotels of wrongdoing. The same goes for claims that most flea market operators were dealing in foreign currency. How much has the police blitz brought into state coffers after four weeks of searching, Dr Mahoso? Are we to assume that the police are converting the foreign currency to their own use?


Apparently inspired more by a blind zeal for control than sense, Mahoso claimed the action by the hotels “threatens all three pillars of the country we call Zimbabwe: the nation, the people and the state”.


“The state,” declared Mahoso imperiously, “wants independence and sovereignty, the capacity to organise, direct and influence the entire space, assets and infrastructure called Zimbabwe, and the right to determine how this Zimbabwe relates to the rest of the world in all its political, economic, cultural and financial aspects.”


Well said, but is that intrusion good for the country, that the state should poke its nose in “the entire space” of our lives? Isn’t too much regulation a sign that government has failed to create a conducive environment for businesses to operate in freely? And our “analyst” Mahoso still thinks more is better?


We were happy to be reassured last week by President Mugabe that “we will never collapse”. The president said some people and countries were always “contriving” to bring Zimbabwe down but they “will never succeed as the country is resilient”, he boasted. He didn’t say how we came about the misfortune to be so assailed.


But methinks he has courted more difficulty for himself than for the country and is in fact weighing the country down because of his mismanagement of the economy. The crude displacement of thousands of small-scale business operators and the destruction of homes could only make things worse.


As for “not collapsing”, we wonder what facet of life stands unscathed by his government’s depredations except for State House where everything must be in plentiful supply. All around things have collapsed, from commercial agriculture to education and health facilities.


Last week we ran an article on Justice Hilary Squires who was brought out of retirement by President Thabo Mbeki to hear the Schabir Shaik corruption case in Durban recently. Squires was a former Rhodesian Minister of Justice and High Court judge.


What we omitted to say was that he was also the judge who acquitted Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku of treason charges in 1983. He said Dabengwa was one of the most impressive witnesses he had seen before him.


Interestingly, Minister of Home Affairs at the time, Herbert Ushewokunze, denounced Squires as a reactionary.


What is little known is that Squires had been Ushewokunze’s lawyer in Bulawayo in 1970 when the future minister had been charged with receiving stolen goods. Drugs we gather. Squires defended him in that case before his client fled the country.


Caesar Zvayi had a very interesting article on Squires in the Herald on Tuesday. He was a Rhodie to the core, was Zvayi’s conclusion and Ian Smith appointed him to his cabinet because of his “white supremacist excesses”.


This was evident when he became leader of the Rhodesian parliament in 1977.


“That year he warned nationalist protestors and freedom fighters that their actions would be tolerated as long as they were of nuisance value but when they threatened the establishment they would be crushed ruthlessly,” wrote Zvayi.


A government that claims to have brought freedom to Zimbabwe appears to have turned the tables. Now Zimbabweans are not even allowed to make a nuisance of themselves, let alone threaten the establishment. A black government cannot tolerate benign protests by its own people. We have come full circle and gone beyond Squires’ threat. We bet Squires would love to hear of this lasting legacy that a free Zimbabwe has embraced with open arms.


The Business Herald has been taking its sunshine journalism to new heights. Last week it carried a headline announcing “Summit endorses Homelink”. This was a reference to the World Economic Forum’s Africa Economic Summit in Cape Town which identified Africans living in the diaspora as key players in the continent’s economic transformation.


Apart from the material inserted by the Herald’s own journalists praising Homelink, there was no evidence of the scheme receiving “overwhelming endorsement” by the summit. It was a case of imaginative editing. The session had discussed diasporan revenues in general terms. If there was specific focus it was on Ghana and Nigeria.


Which reminds us, last week we were told that after measures put in place by the Reserve Bank, fuel queues would soon be a thing of the past.


They are indeed. Now there is no fuel, there are no longer any queues!


Have we had an explanation yet from the president’s spin-doctors why he has appointed to office individuals who failed to win seats in the March election when he gave an undertaking to the electorate
that losers would not be accommodated?


Why, when such a blatant contradiction emerges, is the president not required to provide an explanation? This is the very definition of unaccountable governance.


Then we had Nathan Shamuyarira claiming that the resurrection of the Senate was designed to make Zimbabweans happy. Since when has that been one of Zanu PF’s concerns? How can they pauperise a country and then claim they are there to make people happy?


Do they now acknowledge that they were making Zimbabweans unhappy when they abolished the upper house in 1990? That this was the wrong decision? Or, as we suspect, is Shamuyarira talking nonsense and thinking, like Mugabe, that it doesn’t matter.


Muckraker’s question: Who pressed Zanu PF into setting up the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, reviving the Senate, and withdrawing the NGOs Bill? Since when
did Zanu PF decide to reform
itself?


So the magic formula has now been unveiled. Anybody facing a little difficulty in court — like flouting exchange control regulations — need only say that they did it in the national interest, which they of course define, and that the public should not be allowed to hear of the details.


Speaking in parables is now acceptable testimony, it would seem!


How very convenient. But is this self-serving nonsense what our judicial system is prepared to entertain?


And why does the individual so generously exonerated remain incarcerated if he was performing a national service?


Muckraker had a call from a former UZ law student recently who recounted an interesting class discussion a few years ago on the merits of bail conditions set by the courts. The caller remembered a fellow student arguing vigorously that the state should legislate to restrict bail conditions to prevent accused persons enjoying an unwarranted freedom.


The fellow student’s name? It was something like Kuruneri.