Mkapa’s mission headed for the rocks

WE were interested to note recent statements by South African and Namibian ministers on land reform in those countries. This followed recent claims in the Zimbabwean official media that Zimbabw

e’s example of arbitrary seizures had set a paradigm for Africa. In fact it has been a lesson in how not to proceed judging by recent statements from South African and Namibian officials.

First we had South Africa’s newly appointed Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs Lulu Xingwana saying: “We have learned from the Zimbabwean situation that force does not work. You’ve got to have the buy-in of all the people involved.”

Farmers’ leaders agreed.

Then Namibia said last week it will not abandon a market-driven approach to land redistribution by going the route of Zimbabwe.
This clarification followed recent remarks by a Namibian junior minister praising Zimbabwe’s land programme which led to fears that Namibia’s economy could be similarly sabotaged by fast-track seizures.
A government statement last Wednesday in Windhoek distanced itself from those comments.

“There has been a total misunderstanding on the statements made by the Deputy Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Isak Katali, during his recent visit to Zimbabwe,” the statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said. It set out Namibia’s commitment to a market-driven approach that observed constitutional provisions.

It is useful to have these corrections. It is widely understood in southern Africa that Zimbabwe has created a major threat to regional investment and productivity. Usually regional governments have been reluctant to say so. But now they are doing so, making the point loud and clear that Zimbabwe’s way is not Africa’s.

We were also pleased to note an incisive comment by respected South African politician Frederick van Zyl Slabbert which applies as much to Zimbabwe’s leaders as it does to South Africa’s.

“If you make yourself a hostage to a racist past you can plan on a racist future,” he told a trade union forum in Pretoria.

Zimbabwe provides ample evidence of that. But another point about Zimbabwe’s anarchic land reform process needs to be made here. Where the rule of law is ignored and law enforcement agencies suborned, powerful political thieves will fight with each other over the loot. Isn’t that what we are seeing now with Zanu PF fat-cats at each other’s throats?

It is tempting to derive some satisfaction from this inevitable descent into anarchy on the farms. But the country is the loser in the final analysis.

The IMF says Zimbabwe’s GDP will contract by nearly 5% this year. This contradicts rosy predictions of recovery by ministers. It will compound six years of steady contraction under a government clearly bereft of policies. With unemployment at 80%, inflation at over 1 000% and businesses going to the wall on a weekly basis the country’s supreme ayatollah appears unmoved.

Rescue? Who needs rescuing, he wants to know. “You would think we were about to perish as a nation.”

At last he’s got it, you may conclude. But actually he hasn’t. He simply can’t recognise the appalling reality around him. People who claim we need rescuing are mistaken, he suggests.

Benjamin Mkapa’s mission is evidently headed for the rocks before it has even cast off!

The official condition is called cognitive dissonance. Cocooned in a comfort zone of official deceit and surrounded by a coterie of hard-line nationalists from the Stone Age plus a handful of opportunists, our leader has decided we don’t need help.

Of course he will take the food aid from our “enemies” which is keeping the nation fed. But there will be no change, no reform, and therefore no recovery so long as he is master of all he surveys.

Thabo Mbeki has given up trying to be of help, and so it seems has Kofi Annan and Joachim Chissano. No statesman in his right mind wants to be forever indelibly stained by the brush of Zimbabwe’s toxic politics.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes Mkapa to wake up to the immovable object that blights Zimbabwe’s present and steals its future.

Friends and former colleagues of onetime Herald editor and now Olympic official Tommy Sithole will be delighted to hear of his latest achievement which we share with readers.

“I have over the past one year been arranging to enroll for a sports management science doctoral programme at the world’s leading sports university, the United States Sports Academy in Alabama.

“However, last week, the president of the college called to tell me that the board had decided to confer on me an honorary doctorate due to my experience in sports management, journalism and aviation. Phew! That saves me, my sponsors and the Sithole clan almost $40 000 in tuition, travel and other fees . . . and two years of burning the midnight candle.

“I wanted to share with you my friends this piece of good news and to thank you for your support over the years. I do hundreds of presentations for the IOC on what we call Olympic Values. We talk a lot about sport being the ‘school of life’.

“My sporting career has no doubt been my school of life. So has it been in business, journalism and aviation. From my days in Tanzania to that particular day you gave me a great bash on my departure, the support of all the people around me has been absolutely wonderful. Difficult sometimes but wonderful all the same in the end.”

Victoria Ruzvidzo, writing in the Business Herald, had a go last week at those Zimbabweans who were “in the forefront of tarnishing their country’s image by exaggerating the state of affairs here, be it on the political, economic of social front”.

The result, she said, was “the creation of a bad Zimbabwe that no one should do business with”. Their stories are easily believed by their target audiences, she said. “Who would doubt a story on Zimbabwe coming from a Zimbabwean?” she asked. “And yet most of the stuff is mere fabrication.”

Really Victoria? Chefs fighting over farms; mere fabrication? Properties under Bilateral Protection and Promotion Agreements overrun; mere fabrication? Lowveld sugar estates and conservation areas parcelled out; mere fabrication?

And what of the hostile business climate that makes it impossible for any company to do business here? All attributable to sanctions no doubt.

We understand that our colleagues in the state media are required to pretend that the situation is normal; that our rulers have only the welfare of the people at heart. But when they attack other journalists for telling it like it is, we have to ask questions about their motives.

Did they choose journalism in order to see nothing, hear nothing and say nothing? Are they content to be the ruling party’s public relations officers?

If so, they should stop calling themselves journalists. Anybody can be a government PR agent although admittedly it must take some resourcefulness to defend Air Zimbabwe as Victoria was trying to do last week!

Muckraker was amazed at how some ministers and politicians take the electorate for granted.

Addressing a housing co-operative formed by domestic workers, Zanu PF information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira last week stretched the truth beyond its trading limits by raising the hopes of the poor workers that they will own homes of their own in urban centres.

Shamuyarira chose to ignore the fact that a brick now costs $45 000 each and what that meant to a domestic worker taking home $3 million gazetted by the government. It will take two generations for a domestic worker to lay a foundation at today’s building costs.

Why raise their hopes needlessly?

If local authorities with all the billions they generate in revenue have not been able to build rent-to-buy units over the past two decades, what chances does a domestic worker have?

Chombo this week featured in the same pantomime with his wishful thinking when he told local authorities to release stands to the homeless so as to clear the housing backlog in two years’ time.

What happened to our Housing for All by the year 2000 promise?

No one would think we have dented the housing backlog one bit despite all the posturing. The slogan fits well and sounds more prescient running in the vein of mansions for all chefs by the year 2000. The mansions are of course those that the chefs wrested away from commercial farmers.

Does the minister know how much it costs to build a modest house, not the “jathropha” Hlalani Kuhle/Garikai units?

“Development must focus on houses for the poor emanating from deliberate central and local government policies of social inclusion,” Chombo enthused.

When did Chombo wise up to the nostrum by Abraham Lincoln who said: “The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.”

Muckraker was stunned by President Mugabe’s dog-in-the-manger view of the disaster government invented on commercial farms since 2000.

When Gideon Gono flays robber barons that turned productive farmland into “weekend braai spots” Mugabe brazenly dares critics not to talk of the rot on the farms.

“Ndimo matiri. Kana tikada kuita Jerusarema zvinenge zvineyi nani? (This is where we are. If we decide to be idle and dance no one should bother us, what has that to do with them?)” Mugabe blustered in jingoistic reference to criticism of the failed land reform scheme.

Up till now we least suspected that land beneficiaries are allowed to perform that hip-jigging and raunchy dance made popular by Murehwa villagers instead of putting their nose to the wheel and growing crops as long as they did that in the name of Zanu PF.

Reading between the lines of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s speech at the AU summit gives the impression that he had one country in mind when he spoke about the three waves in the lifespan on an African nation.

Annan said the first wave was decolonisation, the second
was the struggle against apartheid and first attempts at nation-building.

The third wave, Annan said, was a disappointing one marked by civil wars (we had our own during Gukurahundi), the tyranny of military or one-party rule, economic stagnation as a result of corruption, weak governance, inadequate regulatory systems and state-sanctioned theft. Sound familiar?

There has been some predictable satisfaction in Zanu PF ranks over the assault on MP Trudy Stevenson. This just goes to show what a violent party the MDC really is, the ruling party sanctimoniously tell us.

But there is a difference of course. The MDC will have the incident investigated by a credible team and its findings will hopefully be published.

Then we can see how Morgan Tsvangirai acts to deal with the perpetrators. It will be a litmus test of his leadership.

But how many investigations has Zanu PF carried out into documented cases of torture? What has been their response to abductions and beatings? They are the last people who should be commenting on this episode. Let civil society judge the MDC once it has the evidence. And if they let Tsvangirai’s tsotsis get away with violence we will be the first to cry foul.

Anyone following Bishop Trevor Manhanga’s drift to the government side of the fence in recent negotiations will have had their fears confirmed by his warm welcome to “Comrade” Kangai at the US embassy’s Independence Day celebrations this week. Manhanga is an impressive public speaker who in his address made some telling points about the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as the bedrock of a successful society. But if Kangai is his comrade, we will need to question his judgement.

We still haven’t heard from Manhanga or the ZCC what values they think government should embody or what steps it needs to take in resolving the current crisis. Why are they so silent on issues of Christian principle and social justice. Why have they not said a word about Operation Murambatsvina? Curious isn’t it?

It is good to know that some of our neighbours don’t carry around the baggage of colonial hang-ups. One forthright African diplomat was very clear which team she would be supporting on Tuesday night. “Germany,” she said without hesitation.

Sadly, it turned out to be a case of Viva Italia!

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