Turning wishful thinking into paradigm shift
WE have often commented on the requirement for all state journalists to insert the word “illegal” before “sanctions” in their copy. This is despite the fac
t that any sanctions in force against Zimbabwe’s ruling junta are approved by the respective parliaments of those countries — or Congress in the case of the United States — and therefore adhere to both national and international requirements.
The new Swedish ambassador Sten Rylander was patiently and politely trying to explain this to a rather obtuse Caesar Zvayi on Saturday.
“As a lawyer, I see you are a trained lawyer,” Zvayi helpfully observed. “At international law, is it legal for a bloc like the EU to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe without the blessing of the UN?”
It would be difficult to imagine Sweden sending as its ambassador an untrained lawyer. But that aside, Rylander replied as follows: “I think so. I think it was done on good grounds. We do not accept the notion of our sanctions being illegal, we really don’t. We take these decisions ourselves and we are free to do so. The Cotonou Agreement makes provision for such actions.”
So in other words the very treaty between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific states which governs their collective relationship has provision for such measures. And as the ambassador pointed out, removal of those sanctions would be very easy if the Zimbabwe government improved its behaviour. Sanctions would “go away in due course”, he said, “when you have a normal situation”.
But armed with this hint of goodwill, Zvayi managed to run another story on Monday claiming that Rylander’s unremarkable comments constituted a “policy shift” by the EU. They represented a “clear departure” from previous EU hard-line positions for illegal regime (change) in Zimbabwe.”
Something happened to the word “change” in Zvayi’s copy inadvertently rendering Zimbabwe an “illegal regime”.
We are sure Zvayi didn’t mean that! But his attempt to detect a change of position in the EU was then linked to remarks by US officials to suggest a “paradigm shift” by everybody on Zimbabwe. The fact that the EU was providing funds for the fight against HIV and Aids was adduced as evidence of a softening of position. Even new Tory leader David Cameron was brought into the act!
As anybody following the diplomatic scene will tell you, all this is wishful thinking. The EU and others have been happy to assist Zimbabwe’s fight against Aids for some years now. It is nothing new. What Zvayi could have said but did not was that some EU states — not Sweden — were openly sceptical of the efficacy of sanctions. Ask any French diplomat.
But such is the pernicious nature of recent laws passed by parliament — Rylander singled out the Constitutional Amendment 17 allowing the government to confiscate passports — and the persistence of a culture of political repression and subversion of the rule of law that even sympathetic countries like France, always prepared to dish the British, have had matters taken out of their hands.
There is simply no evidence of that change which the Swedish ambassador referred to. On Wednesday he issued a statement denying the said “paradigm shift” claimed by Zvayi. If anything there has been a hardening of attitudes in Europe. The US certainly won’t entertain any relenting of pressure on this regime and nothing Jendayi Frazer said suggests otherwise. Now we hear even President Thabo Mbeki has given up on us.
That Zvayi was able to find a silver lining to this particularly dark cloud only shows that the state media will seize on anything to suggest Zimbabwe under its present regime has a future.
Arthur Mutambara’s acceptance speech was by any definition a tour de force covering all the salient issues confronting us. He, and fellow ex-SRC president Gift Nyandoro, are understandably keen to throw off the “British-puppets” straitjacket which Zanu PF has attempted to foist on the party and to proclaim the MDC’s nationalist credentials.
The British government reneged on the Lancaster House agreement, Mutambara claimed, while white farmers were guilty of resisting land reform.
He didn’t mention the £44 million that was disbursed from 1980 to 1996 for land redistribution or what happened to the 1998 donors’ conference plan. You would have thought that after six years in which commercial farmers have been attacked and forced off the land — often with the collaboration of law-enforcement officers — and with the handful remaining under threat, that Mutambara would think of something more helpful to say. He did, in fairness, propose “a democratic and participatory framework that seeks to achieve equitable, transparent, just, and economically efficient distribution and use of land”.
This, he said, “must have emphasis on productivity, food security, self-sufficiency, and collateral value of land”.
But he clearly feels the need to advertise his nationalist credentials in an era when such claims have little popular appeal, largely because they have been so badly abused by the ruling party.
“We are Zimbabweans first, whether we call ourselves MDC or what, and we are not puppets of the British,” Nyandoro told the Sunday Mail.
We know that. But if he were to go on the streets of Harare or Bulawayo and ask people if they agreed that “ideological redefinition” was needed, as he suggests, they would shake their heads in disbelief.
We have moved on from there. But not King Arthur and his Nitwits of the SRC Round Table. Having been away on other crusades a while, they are locked in the mantras of yesteryear and very soon the people will tell them so. The Holy Grail no longer lies in anti-imperialist rhetoric.
But Muckraker doesn’t want to appear too harsh. King Arthur has brought a welcome fresh breeze to the stagnant atmosphere of Zimbabwean politics. We shall see what the other faction’s congress produces.
Government newspapers on Sunday led with President Mugabe’s remarks to youths on the occasion of his 82nd birthday.
“I appeal to our people to rediscover their lost cultural values and moral standards,” he said in Mutare. “The incidence of HIV and Aids should constantly awaken us to the need for strict moral behaviour…”
We would add to these wise words the need for our youths to shun predatory elders who fool around with their secretaries!
We don’t know whether it is true or not. There are reports that government has withdrawn two farms from former Mashonaland West governor Peter Chanetsa.
The Sunday Mail reports that Chanetsa is one of the people alleged to own more than one farm against government policy.
For all that gesture is supposed to signal, one must ask why it took so long for the government to act. Several land audits that have been carried out in the past have shown that there are many chefs who are not only multiple farm owners but are underutilising them as well.
Why Chanetsa? The age old cliché is that his days are numbered. When Zanu PF has used you beyond your productive life, it spits you out like you were never a comrade.
Meanwhile, we were touched to read that the flamboyant Philip Chiyangwa has been expelled from his beloved party. He lost the chairmanship of Mashonaland West during his controversial allegations of being one of a team of senior party officials who sold state secrets to a foreign power.
Readers will recall Chiyangwa’s famous dictum for those who want to get rich: join Zanu PF. Presumably he now wants to get poor. There is consolation though, if wallowing in poverty in multitudes is any such consolation, we hear the purge is going to be massive.
We enjoyed the story of the MDC congress in Bulawayo at the weekend. There were blunders upon blunders. Delegates from outside Bulawayo didn’t know where the party’s offices were. So they were found loitering in the city much on Friday and had to sleep in the open.
Come Saturday and food quickly ran out. Gibson Sibanda was forced to apologise. They had underestimated the turnout, perhaps due to lack of self-confidence about their support.
The answer came from the third blunder by Sibanda himself. His prepared speech had a number of pages missing and he ended it dramatically with “…these are the ideals that distinguish us from opponents …” These same people want to run the country yet they cannot run a congress!
There was an interesting story on Page 6 of the Sunday Mail titled “Ministers’ children shun local varsities”. The first question is whether it is the children or the parents who make the choice. We let the subs blame it on the children but the story bit the kernel.
Deputy Education minister Sikhanyiso Ndhlovu insists we still have the best education. He advised the reporter to ask those who had children overseas why. One cabinet minister boasted that there were better prospects outside Zimbabwe, rubbing it in by telling us two of his children were offered employment before they finished their studies.
Moreover, he bragged, his position gave him the right contacts outside which enabled him to secure scholarships for his children who are currently working overseas. “I can’t force them to come back as there are no right opportunities for them now,” cried the minister hopelessly.
These are the same fellows who miss no opportunity to debase our standards or to make sure tertiary education is beyond the reach of the ordinary man. Talk of forked-tongued patriots! So they allow their own offspring to become imperialist stooges while they lord it over us to be hungry patriots.
A reader has sent the write-up below in celebration of RBZ governor Gideon Gono and his team:
“Permit me sir, to express my admiration for our central bank. It’s team’s enterprise, innovation and quick thinking continue to set new standards of excellence. Most recently, the IMF thought they had us in a tight corner but with the wizardry akin to that of Thierry Henry, we are away and laughing. When in doubt, print! Inspired, I have become determined to emulate their exploits.
“Never impressed with my personal academic achievements, I chose to extrapolate the principles of their more recent success to this area first. A brief visit to the office photocopier later, I am now the proud owner of nine degrees. I am open to offers from any local political parties in search of new perspectives.
“I am next focusing my attention on feeding the hungry within our borders. If I can convince the Minister of Agriculture to make not one but three aerial surveys with adequate photography, I am convinced that there is a way to treble our national agricultural output in one season. I am nearly feverish with excitement at the potential for success with this and future projects.”
Gives you food for thought.