Muckraker

‘Stop tickling you brute, let me go!’


WHY is President Mugabe so shy when it comes to hugs? It is very much a part of the socialist tradition. In the Soviet bloc it used to be kisses as well. While nobody is calling for a return of that t

radition, it is surprising that the president wriggles like a worm on a hook whenever he is embraced by a communist-era ruler.


The Herald showed him doing his funny little dance to escape the fond embrace of fellow demagogue Hugo Chavez. Instead of reciprocating, Mugabe appears to be saying: “Stop tickling you brute. Let me go!”


But Chavez will have none of it and is determined to thank our leader for including Venezuela in his list of states under dire threat from Uncle Sam and his annoying sidekick from across the ocean who were responsible for “underhand destabilisation manoeuvres”. These included limiting the size of Chavez’s entourage accompanying him to the UN conference in New York recently.


This “humiliation” was completely unwarranted, our leader declared. Clearly the size of presidential retinues is a matter dear to his heart. And, as if to inflate his importance in such matters, Mugabe declared himself to be the leader of 14 million people.


What he didn’t tell Chavez was that as a result of his disastrous economic policies and political repression, three million of those 14 million now live abroad. And they certainly don’t count themselves as his people!


One wonders whether Patrick Chinamasa has calculated the damage to Zimbabwe’s image abroad of his maladroit public pronouncements. A few weeks ago he spoke of the need to “mop up” the remaining white commercial farmers at the same time that Didymus Mutasa was reported as making all sorts of threats against them. Violent land seizures followed.


On Sunday the Sunday Mail reported Chinamasa as threatening “drastic action” against farmers in Mashonaland West who exercised their legal rights in the courts following a High Court ruling that nullified offer letters received by resettled farmers.


Those seeking legal redress should not cry foul in the event of government taking drastic measures against them, he was reported as telling the Sunday Mail reporter, herself a recipient of government’s land seizures.


It would be difficult to find a more emblematic case of bad governance. Chinamasa was reported in 2000 as among those bringing pressure to bear upon judges whose rulings government found unpalatable. When they quit he was quoted as suggesting the new appointees would be more sympathetic to the state’s agenda. He was subsequently embroiled in a dispute over a farm awarded to his wife.


Now he is threatening “drastic measures” against people exercising their rights at law. The government must stop blaming bad publicity on the foreign media. It would be difficult to find a more serious example of misrule than threatening individuals who seek protection through the courts against high-handed state behaviour. And it is a wrong-doing entirely made-in-Zimbabwe. Chinamasa said it and he must be held accountable for the consequences.


Flora Bhuka was quoted in the same story as saying resettled farmers should stay put as her ministry was fully behind them.


So in other words court rulings are irrelevant? It is ministers whose pronouncements must be obeyed. And then ministers object when Zimbabwe is branded a lawless society!


Chen Chimutengwende recently provided an example of where the rot lies when he accused businessmen of sabotaging the economy. Commenting on daily increases in the cost of goods, he said it seemed “many businessmen have either adopted the dangerous policy of extreme profiteering or have decided to deliberately sabotage the economy”.


Here is a minister who is part of the problem but cannot see it.


Runaway inflation is the product of incontinent state spending. Handing out billions of dollars for new ministries that do nothing except provide sheltered employment for the economically illiterate is a massive spur to inflation.


Why do we need a Ministry of Public and Interactive Affairs with a principal director who is an electoral loser and a whole apparatus of employees, offices, vehicles and other expensive equipment when it is obvious that its deadwood minister hasn’t got a clue what causes inflation but is happy to blame the business sector? It is doubtful that he has even read the latest IMF report on what is preventing economic recovery.


Now he thinks price controls are the answer, a policy that has repeatedly failed in Zimbabwe as everywhere else it has been tried.


Zimbabwe is cursed by intellectually challenged dimwits who climb aboard the inflationary gravy train only to make statements that show not only that they have nothing to contribute to our salvation but are actually intent upon making a bad situation worse.


Which brings us to William Nhara, principal director for Public and Interactive Affairs in the Office of the President.


From 2000 to 2005 Nhara was the executive director of the Southern African Institute for Democracy and Good Governance, his CV, advertised by the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, tells us.


Could the ZITF please tell the public what this institute actually did and who funded it? It is extraordinary to think that somebody conducting research into democracy and good governance could stand as a candidate for Zanu PF!


It is significant to note in passing that the Minister of Industry and Trade gets to appoint the ZITF board members. This must surely undermine the credibility of what is supposed to be a business-driven organisation? Nhlanhla Masuku is chairman.


We liked the following remarks from the Sunday Mail’s business reporter on inflation: “Some members of the governor’s advisory board, who are supposed to be helping Dr Gono in policy formulation, are not committed as they openly declared that the inflation targets are not attainable while at the same time claiming to be fully behind the efforts of the central bank.”


So to be a good advisor, it is necessary to ignore the fact that the governor has got his forecasts wrong and to pretend instead that he has got them right?


What sort of help is that? And how “committed” is it to pretend that the governor can succeed in a political climate that is sabotaging economic recovery? The governor’s advisors fully back his efforts to bring down inflation. But like the rest of us, they know it is impossible to do so as long as Zanu PF continues to throw money around like confetti.


How badly did we need an airshow, for instance, in a period of fuel shortages? Why were trillions of dollars spent on parastatals that show no sign of institutional reform? Why are ministries created that add nothing of value to the nation’s performance? How important is it to resuscitate the senate when it is quite obviously a retirement home for deadwood? Who approved the purchase and importation of all those luxury vehicles for cabinet ministers and service chiefs when the government is approaching international donors for food?


We should at this point apportion some of the blame for our national problems to UN agencies that will stop at nothing to propitiate the government. How does the FAO and WHO justify providing a platform in Harare for President Mugabe to talk about food security when he has done more than anybody to sabotage food security in the region? How does the FAO justify inviting Mugabe to Rome where he talks about elections for the senate and his dispute with Britain which appears to have completely invaded his political consciousness to the exclusion of all else? What does Mugabe know about food and agriculture except to jeopardise its production?


We know the FAO will justify the invitation on the grounds that he will be pressed in the Italian capital by senior UN officials to open the way to much-needed food supplies. But that sort of diplomacy actually leads him to believe he has defeated his “enemies” which in turn only compounds his obduracy.


We must thank the Herald for their funny little story about the US ambassador last Friday. It brightened our day. The story related how Ambassador Christopher Dell had been detained by security forces after “trespassing” into a restricted security zone while walking in the National Botanic Gardens. An overheated Foreign Affairs spokesman spoke about a “flagrant disregard by the ambassador for the security laws of Zimbabwe”.


The ambassador was “better placed to know the consequences of such violations”, the ministry darkly suggested.


A melodramatic George Charamba then weighed in to spell out what those consequences were.


“The ambassador must consider himself very lucky that he was dealing with a professional army,” he admonished. “Elsewhere, and definitely in America, he would have been a dead man.”


Perhaps somebody could count how many people have been shot over the years outside State House because they didn’t see the restriction notices and then compare that figure to the numbers killed outside the White House (zero).


But Charamba should not be denied his moment of high drama. The Herald used capital letters to describe the sign which it claimed said “NO ENTRY SECURITY ZONE” -— which provided greater visibility than the sign itself which was attached to a tree and said something slightly different.


A Sunday Mail cartoon showed the ambassador climbing under a security fence which he had cut. Like most Sunday Mail material it failed to disclose the reality that the fence had been stolen. Large parts of the security zone are now unfenced and anybody can inadvertently walk in there. They might or might not be lucky enough to see the sign.


Readers of the Herald may want to know why “news” of the ambassador’s arrest was withheld from them from Tuesday to Friday? The incident occurred on the Monday.


Perhaps the suggestion that somebody innocently strolling in the Botanic Gardens could be arrested or open themselves to an even worse fate was not a suitable disclosure for a week in which the Travel Expo was taking place at the Sheraton. Charamba’s remarks will have done little to lure foreign visitors to our shores! But why, in reporting the story, did the Herald ignore the apology the government made to Dell, with the admission that the army did not know how to treat diplomats caught in such a situation? Might it have got in the way of their story?


As for Dell’s record in Angola, which the Herald twisted in its best reporting tradition, his mediation in talks between the two sides to the Angolan conflict won him an award.


This week we had evidence of how government deals with the country’s many crises. This was from presidential spokesperson, George Charamba. Fuel was flowing in but priority was being given to farmers “so that they take of your stomach”, Charamba told a Standard reporter. “After that we will move to joyriders,” he said, presumably meaning Zimbabwe’s harried and tormented urban commuters.


For the avoidance of any doubts about joyrides, Charamba disclosed that the majority of those footing to work were Zanu PF supporters. That, we assume, includes him and Bright Matonga.


If all is well as we were told when MDC Morgan Tsvangirai staged his one-man walk to work, why are Zanu PF voters not being given the freedom trains and Zupco buses? Surely this can’t be a publicity stunt for the international media to embarrass their government?


As for joyriders, we have one once or twice a week thundering down Rotten Row in a twelve vehicle motorcade accompanied by foul-mouthed outriders who threaten to kick the hell out of every motorist who can’t find a hole out of the road fast enough. The drive always ends at Shake-Shake building.


There have been numerous allegations of something thoroughly wrong with Zimbabwe’s prison services. Beatings, torture, starvation and various other forms of human rights violations. All the proof was there for all to see in the Herald of Tuesday.


Criminals of all descriptions were left to their own devices in the Masvingo police holding cells. In the event, two thieving army officers were let loose on them the whole night.


Some of the victims reportedly sustained grievous bodily injuries during the beatings during which they were ordered to shout their names and the nature of their crimes.


Several questions arise from this: where were the prison wardens during this mayhem? Why were the rogue soldiers allowed to go into the holding cells in their military gear which they used to intimidate fellow inmates? Is it the custom that arrested soldiers go into holding cells putting on their black boots when lesser mortals are almost stripped naked? We hope the authorities will get to the bottom of this Abu Ghrab without much hypocrisy about what the Americans and the British are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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