Since when did Bright hate the UK?

THINGS must be going really awry for Emmerson Mnangagwa. Muckraker understands the Minister of Rural Housing and Amenities was last week vaingloriously trying to make himself relevant in the rural backwaters where President Mugabe has

banished him. He told a gathering in Zvishavane that he was Mugabe’s eminent messenger sent to deliver development in the form of roads and houses for teachers and traditional leaders. He said the Midlands would be the first beneficiary of this presidential largesse.

We indeed do hope that people will now believe him. But the chances are very slim. Many people must still be nursing lingering suspicions about the man who was the Minister for State Security during that dark period of our history when government literally went mad, killing close to 20 000 people and maiming thousands of others in both the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces for challenging Mugabe’s rule. For that he has not been forgiven. Twice the people of the Midlands have defiantly rejected him in parliamentary elections.

Even after he claimed to have been born again, still people did not believe nor forgive him. Why does he now think they will when his master has cast him into the bush? Let’s wait and see if the guy can reinvent himself again, for a rural constituency this time around.

By the way is this Mugabe saviour going to cast a blessed eye over Mnene Hospital, the only referral hospital in Mberengwa district, now threatened with closure? There is no water courtesy of Operation Murambatsvina (sorry Cyclone Eline) and no qualified doctors or nurses courtesy of violence and lack of development that have made the place inhospitable. Ever since the Swedish benefactors ceded control after Independence, things have never been well at all their institutions in the district and beyond in Manama in Matabeleland South. Yet year in, year out the people of Mberengwa have been fooled or been bludgeoned into voting for Zanu PF. And the MPs move around without any sense of shame when they see the development others have brought to their constituencies. Let’s see what Mnangagwa has to offer to make himself relevant.

Following several weeks of state-sponsored mayhem in the high-density suburbs, we learn that the government has reluctantly agreed to admit a UN observer mission to assess what is euphemistically called the “clean-up” operation.

The government says it is addressing “general lawlessness”. But the Urban Councils Act requires the authorities to first notify the owner and the occupier of any land or building against which action is contemplated regarding what steps are to be taken against them. The owner/occupier then has 28 days to appeal to the Administrative Court during which time the authorities are not permitted to proceed.

Is that what is happening now? Or like land “reform”, are we seeing arbitrary and illegal behaviour by the state?

President Mugabe, we read, has “allayed” Kofi Annan’s fears regarding Operation Murambatsvina. No Zimbabwean would be prejudiced, he told the UN secretary-general as tens of thousands remain homeless. Just as no Zimbabwean was prejudiced during land reform, we suppose?

We recall Mugabe’s assurances that every farmer who wanted to farm would be able to do so and that commercial farmers had nothing to fear, the government just wanted them to share the land. Every farmer would be left with one property on which to farm, they were “assured”.

Let’s hope former UNDP chief Mark Malloch-Brown reminds Annan of the record of assurances from Mugabe. And Annan will not be deceived by the silly claim by the president that similar operations were being undertaken in the UK, South Africa and Kenya. The difference in those countries is that slum clearances are properly planned and alternative provision is made for those losing their homes. They are not left homeless in the cold. Is Mugabe seriously suggesting that in Britain local authorities tear down people’s homes while the victims looks helplessly on?

Somebody describing himself as “a correspondent” was last weekend holding forth in the Sunday Mail about privacy, ethics, and human rights — all the things the Sunday Mail is least qualified to talk about! This was in reference to a letter by Sister Patricia Walsh concerning the excesses of Operation Murambatsvina which she had disseminated via e-mail and which the Standard published.

Carried away by his own role as an Internet policeman, lecturing the media on what it can and can’t use, the writer melodramatically warned of the dangers of “cyber terrorism” and quoted Information ministry acting permanent secretary Ivanhoe Gurira as asking: “Are we safe using the Internet?”

Sister Patricia had naively stirred this seething cauldron by scolding the Standard for using the article when it was supposedly a personal message confined to family and friends.

Why then did she not object when it was published widely on the Internet and in the Daily Telegraph of June 3 in the week preceding the Standard’s reproduction of it? And why, if it was confined to family and friends, does it attempt to conceal the real names of victims in the way that newspaper reports do?

The Sunday Mail’s indignant correspondent warns darkly of the case being one for the Media and Information Commission to ponder, as if that sinister outfit is capable of regulating the Internet as well as the Zimbabwean media. He suggests it has left “a dent in the efforts by the new powers at the helm of the Ministry of Information, Dr Tichaona Jokonya and Cde Bright Matonga, to harmonise relations between the ministry and a polarised media fraternity”.

That provides a clue as to which dark corner this particular Sunday Mail correspondent inhabits. He needs to be told that there is no chance of the “new powers at the helm” of the ministry harmonising anything so long as they resort to using as their chosen weapon in dealing with inconvenient reporting a discredited media agency which contains not a single representative of the independent press and whose chairman weekly demonstrates his lack of professionalism by attacking independent papers in his vituperative column.

This week he was castigating us for failing to give his “Hotelgate scandal” the “significance it deserved”, as if newspapers have a duty to pursue the self-serving claims of party propagandists!

While it may be embarrassing for the ministry to have Sister Patricia’s letter published on the Internet, it should also examine the Herald’s account of the depredations of Operation Murambatsvina published on Monday. Hiding the truth is proving difficult — even for the state media!

As for Sister Patricia, is she now disowning her testimony? Why does she not remain true to her faith and stand by the facts instead of begging the pardon of the same authorities who are busy inflicting the pain and destitution she describes?

Which brings us to a letter from Bright Matonga published in the Standard on Sunday which took the newspaper to task for claiming that he had invaded a farm near Chegutu. It was not correct that he had two farms, Matonga said, nor was it correct that he had hired a mob of Zanu PF women to invade the farm. It was also not correct that he had been unavailable for comment. The article was based on malice, he suggested.

In a story published in the Mail & Guardian on May 20, the newspaper reported that Matonga and a group of 15 war veterans had invaded Chigwell Farm belonging to Tom Beattie and thrown out his possessions.

This was despite the Administrative Court issuing a “notice of withdrawal” by the Minister of Lands in regard to Beattie’s family properties.

Beattie was quoted in the M&G report as saying: “The new deputy minister is causing all the trouble here. They don’t have proper letters and I am wondering why this is happening to me. Matonga doesn’t even belong to this district; he is not even an MP of this area.”

Beattie said he summoned the police who temporarily restored order “but Matonga and the war vets returned the next day and forcibly removed workers from the workshop where they were processing and packaging produce”.

The article states that in 2002 Matonga was allocated the 670ha Mpandaguta Farm in Banket. The previous owners had run a successful horticulture business there.

“You go to Mpandaguta now,” Beattie said. “There is nothing on the ground. But he wants to come here and do the same.”

Muckraker’s question: Did Matonga write to the M&G to deny any of the claims made in that story? If not, why is he now taking issue with the Standard?

Matonga’s smiling face can be seen in the Sunday Mail this week. He was reported as saying that EU sanctions — renewed last week — were a “non-event”. The latest action was “inconsequential as Zimbabwe had adopted the ‘Look East’ policy”, Matonga said.

“Who would still want to go to Europe anyway?” he asked.

Well he would for starters. Didn’t he used to live in the UK? Wasn’t he employed there? Didn’t he come back with a British wife?

So when did he decide he no longer wanted to visit the UK: before or after his name was added to the list?

And why are President Mugabe’s ministers saying sanctions are a non-event when they go to such lengths to pin every single one of their policy failures on Tony Blair and sanctions? Do they not see these yawning inconsistencies?

We note with interest Matonga’s claim that “some” EU ambassadors endorsed Operation Murambatsvina at a recent meeting. Muckraker will be checking to see which ones are prepared to admit that they now “see sense in the clean-up exercise”.

Muckraker was under fire in the Herald on Saturday. In an unprecedented step, the Nathaniel Manheru columnist rose to the defence of another columnist, Caesar Zvayi, who had been accused of certain inaccuracies by this writer. Exactly why Zvayi was unable to reply for himself is not clear. But whatever the case, Muckraker is delighted to be able to take issue with the malevolent Manheru.

The story so far: Zvayi has repeatedly stated that Ian Smith wept as the Union Jack was lowered at Rufaro Stadium at midnight on April 17 1980. Muckraker replied that this was unlikely as (1) Smith was not present at the ceremony, and (2) he would be unlikely to weep for a flag that he discarded 12 years earlier in 1968 when he introduced a green and white concoction.

Manheru attempts to deflect Herald readers’ attention from these self-evident truths by focusing attention on the Zimbabwe/Rhodesian flag of the Muzorewa regime which superseded Smith’s.

“It is astounding that a man of Muckraker’s age and knowledge,” Manheru wrote, “does not know that at the conclusion of the Lancaster House Constitutional Conference on December 15 1979, Zimbabwe came under a transitional authority headed by British governor Lord Soames. As such the Rhodesian flag was pulled down and the Union Jack reintroduced to signify that the Queen now held dominion over Zimbabwe till a new government was elected in line with the Lancaster House agreement.”

Manheru concedes that Smith’s green and white flag was replaced by Muzorewa’s “black, green, red, yellow and white flag of Zimbabwe/Rhodesia after March 3 1979”.

But “there was no way the flag of the vanquished Rhodesians and their Zimbabwean puppets could have been allowed to fly during the transitional period because the transition involved a departure from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.”

Manheru admits to being a “tiny tot” at the time and therefore dependent upon material from the Rhodesia Herald for his account of the Rufaro Stadium ceremony. He makes great play of the Union Jack being folded and handed to Prince Charles. None of that is in dispute. What is in dispute is Manheru’s claim that the Union Jack was reintroduced in December 1979.

With the exception of a small corner of Government (now State) House grounds, it wasn’t.

The British had indeed attempted to get the Union Jack reintroduced to symbolise the restoration of legitimacy. But the Muzorewa government put up strong resistance arguing their flag was the country’s legal emblem. The British didn’t have the inclination to make an issue of it. It was the price they had to pay for the cooperation of the existing power structure. As a result the Muzorewa flag continued to fly across the country at government buildings, police posts and, above all, at arguably the most important flagstaff of them all, that in Cecil (now Africa Unity) Square.

Anybody working across the road at the Herald at the time would be able to confirm this detail.

The only presence recorded of the Union Jack in 1979-1980 was at Government House where Soames resided and at the Rufaro Stadium ceremony where it was symbolically lowered.

These facts would be easy enough to check. Any Zanu or Zapu leader present in the country between December 1979 and April 1980 will confirm them. They also took exception to the continued presence of the Muzorewa flag but were confident it wouldn’t survive the election.

Manheru not only hasn’t done his homework but believes that by volubly repeating a lie and occupying acres of space to do so he can shout Muckraker down. Here we have a classic case of the Herald and its columnists having access to the facts but choosing to ignore them — all in the interests, Manheru claims, of the Silver Jubilee.

How many readers noted a significant concession in the Sunday Mail last weekend? In his Comment headed “Continue reasserting Gono’s authority”, the editor suggested the Reserve Bank governor was losing his grip.

“All sorts of mischief are at play,” he claimed. “Reports of Dr Gono no longer enjoying the full support of the ruling-party bigwigs have also gone a long way in weakening his authority.”

Now when the Zimbabwe Independent reported on May 6 (“Knives out for Gono”) that Gono no longer enjoyed the full support of the ruling-party bigwigs, the governor used an interview with the Sunday Mail to hotly deny any evaporation of support and suggested those spreading such stories were engaging in wishful thinking.

So who are we to believe now?

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