Bush-man Tony, singing Stan, & Talent-less Taffy

A NUMBER of readers have commented on our front-page picture last week of President Bush greeting San (Bushman) entertainers on his arrival in Botswana during his recent African tour. They had thought Tony Blair was a Bush-man because newspapers keep saying so. He doesn’t look anything like the person in the photo, one reader pointed out.

That’s because there are different kinds of Bushmen: those in Botswana and those at Westminster. Stan Mudenge, for instance, thinks the one at Westminster is a cross-dresser. He accuses him of entrancing King George Herod with his dancing skills.

Asked what he most wanted by way of reward, Salome Blair is reported to have said: “Robert the Baptist’s head.”

Sadly, that’s where the parable ends. “Robert Mugabe is not John the Baptist,” Mudenge pointed out to spell-bound Herald reporters covering the AU summit in Maputo.

He may not be. But both lost their heads at some point!

Mudenge used to be quite well respected as an academic. But he is better as a cabaret artiste singing for his supper. His script, alas, was not his own. The Foreign ministry is run from the Office of the President. And like all other eunuchs at Sultan Bob’s court, Stan has to entertain from time to time. It’s a sad fate for one who used to be able to think for himself. But that’s the way things are now.

The Zanu PF supporters who embarrassed Cosatu and the South African Communist Party by piggy-backing on their anti-Bush demo in Pretoria last Wednesday were hardly spontaneous performers either. Their presence in South Africa and their slogans were orchestrated by the same conductor who sent down a hired mob for the Earth Summit last August.

The South African government commendably tolerates these intrusions. But can you imagine the Zimbabwe authorities permitting a contingent of South Africans, sponsored by their government, to come here to demonstrate outside State House against a guest of President Mugabe?

The conductor can also occasionally be a song-writer. We are keenly awaiting the sequel to Go Warriors. It’s intriguing that at a time when the rest of the country is hoping the author of their misery might go, somebody writes a song about footballers going somewhere. Is there not some mistake here?

The Herald ran a funny editorial this week on how there had been a turning of the tide in favour of President Mugabe; how he had been “vindicated”. The evidence for this remarkable achievement? The way the “entire country” had rallied behind the government’s call to support the national soccer team.

Have Mugabe’s spin doctors been reduced to this? And have you noticed that any mention of Mugabe’s impending departure excites among his courtiers the most hysterical response? It’s as if you had pushed a certain button marked “ballistic”. Look for it in Nathaniel Manheru’s “The Losing Side” column every week or watch Jonathan Moyo on ZTV. Suddenly he is flattering Thabo Mbeki. No guesses why!

We did like the Sunday Mail heading about the “fresh” $100 million “scam”. Did we miss the story on the first one? Was it about a massive abuse of public resources by unaccountable ministers?

Nobody could have missed what must rank as the biggest rant of all time, even exceeding those associated with the regime’s chief spokesman last weekend.

Noting President Bush’s visit to our region, the “Rev” O Musindo, who heads something called the Destiny of Africa, claimed in the Sunday Mail’s letters column that the US leader was here “not for the good of African people but for multi-evil imperial purposes”.

These included “secret satanic organisations” and “evil hidden agendas” that were designed to “physiologically prepare the black people of Africa to surrender their political, economic and cultural rights”.

Musindo said his outfit condemned “religious, media, political and civic leaders who are busy fulfilling the above evil objectives of the world dictator, world chief thief, world number one murderer, world big human rights abuser, big racist, unelected court-appointed president, world peace destroyer, international criminal liar — the true earthly representative of the Anti-Christ and the devil on earth”.

On the same day this tirade appeared, Tafataona Mahoso was complaining in the Standard in his capacity as “executive chairman” of the Media and Information Commission about the paper’s “Hot Gossiper” column.

He claimed “many people” had called the commission to say the column contained “well-calculated political hatred disguised as humour and rumour”.

If the Standard had evidence about the people referred to in its column, it should publish proper news stories without the disguise of anonymity, Mahoso pontificated.

“The subjects should be named, the sources should be named, and the writer too should have a full byline,” he ruled.

If the “Hot Gossiper” didn’t stop, the commission would use its “mandate” under Aippa to take legal action against the Standard, he threatened.

What an old hypocrite he is. Why does he say nothing about the “well-calculated political hatred” spewed weekly by columnists going under pseudonyms in the government press? And what has he got to say about the “Rev” Musindo’s scurrilous letter in the same paper to which he is a contributor?

What we would like to know is who the complainants were. Mahoso said he had received “several” telephone calls. If he insists upon disclosure of names in the “Hot Gossiper” column, why does he not give us the names of his complainants so we can ensure they are not linked to government officials?

After all, one of his chief beefs is that the “Hot Gossiper” referred to “the president’s minor children”. This was contrary to international norms, we were told.

As many people suspect that the media commission is forbidden to examine the ethics of the state media but is solely targeted at the private media and, more specifically, is designed to protect President Mugabe, his family and minions from the public scrutiny they deserve according to “international norms”, we assume he won’t mind furnishing the editor of the Standard with the names of the complainants.

After all, we would hate to think that it is OK for pro-government writers to abuse at will MDC officials and foreign leaders while Mahoso protects President Mugabe and other beneficiaries of public funds from the same treatment.

Is that how he sees his “mandate”? And who gave him this “mandate”? It certainly doesn’t derive from either the media or the public.

Did the Department of Information really say “starting with President Henry Ford in the 1970s, America has had to count the consequences of approaching this complex region with simplistic notions…”, as reported in the Herald last Thursday?

It appeared under the heading “Opposition party’s antics laughable and childish”.

It is laughable that the Department of Information, commandeering the front page of the Herald for its childish antics, should mix up President Gerald Ford with the automobile manufacturer. But there could be method in its madness. Henry Ford did say, in reference to his early products, “you can have whatever colour you like so long as it’s black”.

Thankfully, he later changed his mind. But we would have thought officials in the Department of Information would know all there is to know about Ford!

Muckraker was intrigued by a statement to parliament by the Minister of State  for Information and Publicity on June 11 that “the company which owns Gramma Records is registered in a foreign land offshore in Cumin Islands” (Hansard, column 3687). He subsequently said it was “foreign owned, registered in an offshore place like Carmen Islands” (c 3689).

He seems a bit lost. Is this anywhere near the Cayman Islands?

The Sunday Mail’s weekly conspiracies are now spreading from their news columns onto the Business pages. A Zambian hotel group was “profiteering” from the “negative publicity” Zimbabwe was experiencing, we were told last weekend, by using unethical marketing strategies. It was “unethically persuading tourists to view the Victoria Falls from Zambia”.

This is absolutely shocking! Can you imagine a hotel chain “persuading” tourists to see the Victoria Falls from Zambia, and even stay on that side of the border?

There has also been a “whisper campaign”, the article, headed “Zambian hotel group plays dirty”, said. This included e-mail messages. Surely not!

“A false scenario” was being created by the rival group, it was reported.

What could this mean? Suggesting Zimbabwe had no fuel? Or that it had run out of bank notes? That it was worse than Zambia in the 1980s?

What shocking “whispering” is going on, we wonder? Thanks to the Sunday Mail’s “Business Reporters” for alerting us to this danger!

We were sorry to hear the Seychelles has pulled out of Sadc. The island paradise used to have a socialist government which made all the predictable mistakes. But it subsequently put together a coalition with the market-oriented opposition and worked for reform. Now it is thriving, although it was hit by American tourist cancellations after September 11 2001. The government has been closing embassies abroad to cut costs.

Apparently it didn’t contribute to Sadc coffers because it couldn’t see the point of the organisation, according to the M&G. A Sadc spokesman said the equivalent of “good riddance”.

But we can see why they left: a coalition government; living within its means; refusing to become a beggar-state. Not the sort of country Sadc welcomes!

President Mugabe was elected a vice-chairman of the AU, the government press triumphantly reported last Saturday from Maputo. Further down the article it transpires there are five vice-chairmen, each responsible for a region. And just about everybody who turned up for the summit was given some post or other as a reward for being there.

The praise showered on the AU by Stan Mudenge for blocking criticism of Zimbabwe’s appalling human rights record at the UN Commission for Human Rights meeting in Geneva won’t have done anything to enhance its reputation. And Muckraker is intrigued about what Mudenge thinks of Amara Essy’s fate as a candidate for AU secretary-general.

Mbeki said a firm “No” and out went Zimbabwe’s choice. Stan didn’t mention that for some reason. Perhaps he was on the phone to his agents at Munhumutapa Building about his next gig!

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