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Editor’s Memo

Right to know

THIS week we run in full the report of United Nations Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka on Operation Murambatsvina. We have no doubt that a majority of our readers will have seen governme

nt’s and civil society’s very different reactions to the report but have not had the opportunity to read it themselves.

We provide an opportunity this week for our readers to acquaint themselves with the useful remarks by Tibaijuka, not only on Murambatsvina but on why the country is in this parlous state.

We would like to thank civic groups who came in to advertise in the supplement or sponsor the publication of the long report which I believe is a useful record of our short yet eventful history since 1980.

That President Mugabe’s government has tried to convince us that the report is biased and inspired by the British does not detract from the fact that Zimbabwe has garnered more medals for notoriety by executing Operation Murambatsvina in the brutal way that they did. Zimbabwe is a bad boy in the hood and as opposition MDC secretary-general Welshman Ncube said in a statement last week, the UN report “gives Mugabe an opportunity to break with the past and make peace with the people of Zimbabwe and the outside world”.

Our dear leader is not interested in this. That is why his government elected to condemn the report without making an effort to publicise its contents. If the report was a really nasty piece of literature based on falsehoods, Mugabe could have done his government a favour by publishing it so that people could judge for themselves.

As was the case with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights report on Zimbabwe last year, the government saw it fit to mobilise people against a report they had not seen. We will strive to publicise all reports on Zimbabwe, negative or positive, because Zimbabweans have a right to know what the international community thinks about their country even if it amounts to a public flogging of its leaders.

It is the hallmark of despotism to bombard the public with tired presidential speeches which are reproduced in full in the state media. The speeches have unfortunately long ceased to be useful archival material.

In case you missed the Heroes Day offering, wait for the next burial at the national shrine or Unity Day in December. Even then the president will not talk about fuel problems or inflation or HIV and Aids or the IMF debt. At Rufaro Stadium on Tuesday he spoke glowingly about the campaign in the DRC which contributed immensely to our poverty. When is he coming home to deal with Zimbabwe’s predicament?

By contrast the Tibaijuka Report deals with all the contentious issues we face today. That is why Tibaijuka is not the flavour of the month in official circles. Read her comments about the rule of law, property rights and about the judiciary’s failure to protect sacrosanct rights of the downtrodden citizenry.

She comments without fear or favour on the ills of the land reform programme and the assault on property rights. She did not have kind words for “overzealous” politicians responsible for Operation Murambatsvina and on how the economy has been screwed up. Indeed, she said those responsible for initiating the clean-up campaign should be prosecuted.

The report, an omnibus of varied inputs from a cross-section of Zimbabwean society, including government, is important because it brings to the fore the fact that everyone is agreed that the economy is in a mess. There is agreement on the broader political context that Zimbabwe requires more than just aid for the victims of Murambatsvina and the so-called reconstruction programme. It needs a political settlement. Tibaijuka’s team could not miss that, hence the reference to dialogue in the report. Please read the report in full.

More significant though is the fact that she has set the agenda for any internal dialogue. AU chairman Olusegun Obasanjo’s anointed mediator in Zimbabwe, former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano, has his work cut out for him when drawing up the agenda. But first he has to convince Mugabe that the talks are not “ill-conceived” and that efforts to promote dialogue by the international community are not “misdirected efforts”.

Mugabe knows that any agenda for dialogue will have to deal with the crucial issue of the shrinking democratic space, a haven for authoritarianism. He knows that dialogue will entail media reform and doing away with oppressive laws like the Public Order and Security Act. Also on the agenda should be reform of security arms and the civil service which have all the bad traits of the ruling party.

As Zimbabweans, we need to openly start debating possible agenda items for national dialogue. Mugabe’s obduracy aside, dialogue will soon take place and it should have total local ownership.

Significantly, Mugabe is subtracting himself from this crucial process by pursuing Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street. He evidently misses Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer’s and Tesco. He can go on shopping sprees while we face the reality at home.

But the bitter truth that he should be told is that Blair is neither the cause nor the solution to our problems of governance, economic mismanagement and political repression. Everybody seems to understand that except him!

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