Aippa casts pall over ‘Africa’s Paradise’

fareast-language: JA”>WHAT sort of “courage” does President Mugabe think it takes to accomplish the land reform programme when all the resources of the state, including the police, army and militias, are at his disposal?

He told his courtiers at a belated birthday celebration on Monday: “If we had not put up courage and spectacular bravery we would not be where we are today.”

“Today”, the country is a wasteland. Agricultural production has suffered an unprecedented collapse. Mugabe was presented with a leopard skin at a time when Zimbabwe’s wildlife resources are being decimated by land invaders.

What sort of “courage” and “bravery” are required to threaten and evict, often at a few hours notice, defenceless farmers and their workers who have no means of upholding their rights other than through the courts whose rulings the state is anyway prepared to ignore?

The Olds family were given a taste of the “bravery” fast-track land reform has produced. A convoy of trucks containing ruling-party militia passed unmolested through a police roadblock in Nyamandhlovu and gunned down Martin Olds. Neighbouring farmers attempting to go to his rescue were stopped at the roadblock and could not proceed.

What has happened to the killers of Martin Olds and his mother Gloria? And what sort of “courage” and “bravery” does it take for those supported by the instruments of the state to threaten and assault innocent citizens while the forces of law and order stand by helpless saying it is a “political matter”?

That is “courage” and “bravery” Zanu PF-style. But as we all know, bullies usually turn out to be cowards.

Chief among them, Nathaniel Manheru, has been waxing indignant of late about the Zimbabwe Independent’s choice of photographs. He took us to task for not publishing pictures of Iraqi prisoners being abused, especially when we had previously featured the bare buttocks of Zanu PF’s victims.

“What can be more humiliating than pix of white British urine descending in a torrent on a haplessly manacled Arab suspect?” he wanted to know, claiming we had “spiked” the story.

In fact the pic in question turned out to be fake. The editor who published it was forced to resign and apologise. He had been hoaxed, he claimed.

That was last Friday afternoon. On Saturday the Herald spiked any mention of the latest revelation.

No doubt it would have proved inconvenient to Manheru’s claims about the beastly British. But you would have thought the Herald would have wanted to correct its own columnist’s error before someone else did. Especially with all that urine splashing around.

As for Manheru’s jibes about  “abused reporters” at the Independent, what do we call government editors who are obliged to carry the following self-serving drivel?

“Hands down, this man from Tsholotsho they call Jonathan Moyo seems to have trouble aplenty for his opponents who now appear quite beggared of replies. Clearly he has got them on the run…”

But while the Herald’s much-abused editor had been dutifully filing reports saying how well Moyo stood up to media heckling in Maputo, Manheru subsequently appeared less sure of events. There was, he claimed, “an attempt at physical abuse and even harm of the minister in Maputo”.

Surely not? The minister getting a taste of his own medicine? That would never happen in Zimbabwe — unless of course Roy Bennett was on hand! We did spot one glaring error in Manheru’s frothing last Saturday. He claimed to have a small head.

How Piet de Klerk could end up as an adoptee of some of the ruling party’s bigwigs “is a baffle too sharp to ache my small head”, Manheru suggested, taking his now-customary swipe at political rivals. Or did he mean his brain, after the Maputo embarrassment!

But he stretched credibility a bit far in expecting even Herald readers to buy the claim that his head has shrunk in recent weeks. There is no evidence of that!

Would you buy a second-hand car from this salesman? We refer of course to Joseph Made who last week claimed that Zimbabwe will this season produce 2,4 million tonnes of maize, surpassing the national grain requirement of between 1,5 and two million tonnes.

Isn’t this the same person who in 2001 took a flight in a plane, called it an aerial reconnaissance mission and predicted a bumper harvest after the first round of land seizures? That prediction proved grossly wide of the mark.

Now he is at it again predicting another bumper harvest even though the situation on the ground is even more dire than it was the last time he opened his mouth. It is in fact so serious that even the UN has been prevented from assessing crop production because their findings may prove too embarrassing.

What we are seeing here is a case of ministers attempting to assert mind over matter. Sadly, when it’s Made’s mind that is being applied, we know there is likely to be little in the way of matter!

The minister gave ample proof of this when he reprimanded the acting director of Agricultural Engineering Paul Gotora for suggesting irrigation equipment and transformers had been vandalised or stolen during the land reform programme.

“It is very unfortunate that Gotora had to make such a reckless statement,” Made declared, “when we all know that white former commercial farmers are responsible together with their principal handlers, the British, for the vandalisation of farm equipment.”

Officers like Gotora needed to be educated so “all of a sudden light is shone on them”, Made said.

And in remarks that did nothing to help his case, he claimed the director of Agricultural Engineering, a Mr Chitsiko, had taken a Cummins Genset 166 horsepower generator for his personal use.

Made pleaded with all officers who took equipment without authority to return it. He didn’t say how many of them were British.

Meanwhile, Manheru has been trying to get us to celebrate the “surge” in the economy predicted by the IMF. We are constantly trashing such indications when they emanate from government, he complained last Saturday.

It is just rather unfortunate that Manheru’s comments came on the same day that the Herald carried a front-page story saying “Prices of goods, services on upward surge”.

This could be the beginning of a trend, the paper reported, which would see prices of all commodities going up.

So which surge should we regard as significant? The IMF one which nobody can see or the prices one that is so evident not even the Herald can ignore it?

We liked the letter to the editor of the Herald last week headed “President highly respected in US”.

Apparently this wave of popularity emanated from a little girl at Philadelphia High School who had chosen Zimbabwe as her project for Black History Month.

“In her project, Zimbabwe’s land and history were displayed,” a correspondent, JM Khamba, proudly wrote, “with President Mugabe’s picture well decorated at the centre of Zimbabwe, and his moustache properly trimmed…”

Thank goodness for that. But presumably unconnected to this earth-shattering revelation was an editorial on the same page headed “US/UK behave worse than Hitler”.

Khamba told the Herald’s editor that the pupils at Philadelphia High School exhibited their work outside their classrooms “and Zimbabwe had the most attention of those viewing the projects because of its ruins…”

We can understand that.

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono will need to tell President Mugabe to play his political cards well if he wants a major turnaround of the economy anytime soon. While the governor believes we need the support of multilateral lending agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Mugabe appears to think we can “go it alone” as he has claimed in the past.

Gono recently told visiting Kenyan journalists that he had positive discussions with IMF and World Bank representatives and that Zimbabwe was willing to pay its creditors. “As a nation Zimbabwe remains resolute in redefining its place in the international arena through engagement and cooperation with international partners,” he said.

Unfortunately that is not what Mugabe thinks. The IMF should keep out of Zimbabwe’s affairs, he believes. Quite the opposite of what Gono is trying to do. Mugabe seems to favour the politics of further isolation as clearly demonstrated by his “No going back” response to the Commonwealth. The situation is worsened by the foul-mouthed Moyo who will not pass up an opportunity to rubbish anyone who doesn’t sing his boss’s praises.

Could it be a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing? Because until we get the politics right, there is clearly no magic that monetary policies alone can change the country’s fortunes. That is the message that Gono should be driving home. As it is he is merely papering over the cracks.

South Africa has won the right to host the 2010 World Cup finals, thanks in part to the luminaries who went to Switzerland to push the case for their country. The win was despite efforts in the local state media portraying Johannesburg as the crime capital of the world.

But Zifa chairman Rafiq Khan is probably being overoptimistic about the benefits of the South African victory to Zimbabwe. The Sunday Mail, which of late has reverted to referring to the “apartheid South African media”, said Zimbabwe would get a tourism boost.

It quoted Khan as saying: “We are going to feed off South Africa’s preparations for the World Cup as we are also bidding to host Acon 2010. A lot of teams will come and camp this side maybe for a month on their way to South Africa and this will greatly improve our standards.”

So we have been reduced to feeding off other nation’s virtues just because we have politicians who don’t know which side their bread is buttered on? The country’s ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo, was quick to seize on the opportunity, saying the “whole of Africa should share in the glory”.

“We must therefore celebrate this moment and ready ourselves for the challenges ahead of us,” he said without elaborating. “This gives us a chance to extensively market our country as Africa’s Paradise,” gushed Moyo.

We wish we could share his enthusiasm. It would help if he could discourage those ministers who want visitors to Zimbabwe to first get clearance under Aippa. That piece of legislation does not give the impression of a Paradise, and that could just put us beyond the glow of South Africa’s splendour.

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