Muckraker

Why is the Herald silent on Georgia?


o-fareast-language: JA; mso-bidi-font-size: 12.0pt”>IT was the wealthiest of the Empire’s former dependencies when it secured independence. It had the highest per capita GDP in the region. But a combination of corruption, cronyism and eventually chaos impoverished its people, leading to a successful rising that saw its stubborn old-guard leader forced out.


Events in Georgia last weekend will have inspired Zimbabweans with a fine example of what peaceful “people power” can achieve in removing an obdurate and parasitic regime. But it will also have served as a rebuke.


The opposition, following the blatant theft of an election by President Eduard Shevardnadze, came out onto the streets in their tens of thousands. Eventually their critical mass was so strong that the army gave up trying to control the situation. And Russia’s foreign minister told Shevardnadze — himself an ex-Soviet foreign minister —  that he should work out his differences with the opposition which had successfully used parliament as the central forum for its protest. It shows us that where the numbers are irresistible, the forces of repression cannot prevail


A visitor from Georgia may be forgiven for concluding that, given their docility, Zimbabweans generally prefer things as they are. But the authorities were clearly worried: the Herald didn’t mention Georgia on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.


Do journalists with the state media have any say over what they write? We ask because despite the finding of the Utete committee on land reform that only 127 000 families had been allocated land so far under A1 and 7 500 under A2, and of these many had not yet taken up their allocations, scribes such as Alfred Chagonda writing in the Herald last week continue to claim that 300 000 have been resettled under A1 and 50 000 under A2.


What is happening here? Is Chagonda genuinely ignorant of the Utete report, or does he know what the real figures are but is obliged by the story-tellers at Munhumutapa Building to go on peddling their false statistics? The Herald repeated the now discredited figures again on Wednesday. What’s the charge to be: ignorance or deception?


Meanwhile, the Herald’s chief reporter seems to be under the same gun. He managed to slip this into a report on the upcoming Zanu PF conference: “Although Dr Muzenda will be greatly missed, his patriotism and commitment to the total liberation of Zimbabwe should inspire members to remain steadfast in safeguarding the country’s sovereignty and independence.”


Are those the chief reporter’s words? And what about these?: “Zimbabwe has this year witnessed a systematic Western media barrage bent on creating gory scenarios in the country.”


Really? Who has been creating the “gory scenarios” for the Western media to write about?


We feel sorry for vice-chancellors with a distinguished academic record having to say all sorts of strange things when awarding honorary doctorates to the president. He was featured on the front page of the Sunday Mail last weekend receiving a citation from Midlands State University Vice-Chancellor Professor Ngwabi Bhebhe who said Mugabe was being honoured for “empowering the majority”.


At a time when the majority are experiencing unparalleled unemployment and poverty, this was a particularly inappropriate time to award Mugabe a doctorate in anything, let alone commerce, one would have thought!


Unless you read the report carefully.


“The impact of your economic policies,” Bhebhe was quoted as saying, “have been particularly felt in the commercial and industrial sectors.”


Indeed they have. Four hundred companies closed last year and over 290 so far this year, according to the CZI. Many companies that have gone to the wall didn’t respond to the CZI survey so we can be sure the number is much higher.


These closures are a direct product of the toxic business climate Mugabe’s damaging policies have spawned. Mugabe had “braced himself to completely dismantle foreign ownership of the economy”, the citation said.


In fact he has gone further than that. He has completely dismantled the economy!


But we liked the president’s remarks on how disappointed he was with construction work at the Midlands campus. As a result he was having to receive his degree in the open.


“Ndapiwa degree mudondo (I have received a degree from the bush),” he said.


Shouldn’t that have read: “I have received a degree from a bush university”?


Still with bushy academics, Stan Mudenge must be deeply disappointed that President Luiz da Silva of Brazil gave Zimbabwe a big miss during his recent sweep through the region. Although he went to South Africa, Lula was focusing on Lusophone states, of which Brazil is the largest. He managed to visit all sorts of funny little places, but completely overlooked the Lusophonie’s most anxious and insistent candidate-member — Zimbabwe.


Readers will recall that Stan has been trying to establish a claim to membership on the basis of some obscure events over 400 years ago when the Munhumutapa kingdom (not a reference to Jonathan Moyo’s department) was looking for balance-of-payments support. He reckons that reviving ties to Lisbon will dish the Brits. But with Lula coldly spurning his advances, Stan must be heart-broken.


Oh well, as the maputukezi say, Não faz mal — don’t worry about it!


Muckraker was shocked to learn last weekend that the Supreme Court was now part of the Zanu PF regime.


According to a report in the Sunday Mail, Information minister Jonathan Moyo, in a notice opposing an ANZ court application, “argued that by drawing parallels, as it did in its press release on October 9 2003, between the Rhodesian regime and the current Zimbabwean ‘regime’ that the Supreme Court is part of, the ANZ has shown how ‘unprepared’ it was not to respect the highest court in the country”.


This all looks “not” a little convoluted here. But the salient point Moyo appears to make is that the Supreme Court is regarded as part of the regime that he is part of. It may be debatable as to how far the parameters of a “regime” extend. But the distinction between the executive and judicial arms of the state is one that we would have thought any minister would be keen to underline, not occlude. After all, aren’t the Supreme Court judges, together with others, expecting to stay on after Mugabe and Moyo have gone?


We note however that harassment of those considered too independent-minded appears to have resumed through the agency of ministerial spooks.


Poor old Olusegun Obasanjo has become Zanu PF’s latest target of abuse. This stems from his most recent visit to Zimbabwe where he made it clear he was still consulting on whether Zimbabwe would be invited to the Abuja Chogm next month.


In fact, he was doing a number of Zimbabwe’s friends a favour by appearing to go the extra mile for Mugabe. This followed representations from Malaysia and Uganda, among others.


But we can always count on Mugabe to kick his friends in the teeth. He refused to humour Obasanjo by holding an unscheduled meeting with Morgan Tsvangirai which would have enabled Obasanjo to argue that talks were under way and therefore Mugabe should not be shut out of the summit. Instead he came under a torrent of ridicule in the Nathaniel Manheru column which is the mouthpiece of Mugabe’s office boys.


Obasanjo emerged from his talks “tired and sombre” after failing to secure the summit between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, Manheru claimed. “In sharp contrast, the supposedly embattled Zimbabwean head of state emerged playfully shadow-boxing, only too happy to dramatise Obasanjo’s dilemma.”


The South Africans were meanwhile enjoying the whole drama as it played out to the detriment of the general, we were told. And why’s that? Because his diplomatic failure spikes Nigeria’s chances of a UN Security Council seat. The office boys reminded the Nigerian ruler that he would need Africa’s support when Nigeria’s candidacy for a seat comes round. Meaning don’t cross us.


This of course presumes they will still be around to threaten and bully weaklings like Zambia when the opportunity arises!


Having said that, Zambia doesn’t need to go on behaving like a submissive state. It now exports fuel to Zimbabwe, despite producing none of its own, and its farmers — including many from Zimbabwe — are selling maize to their mendicant neighbour. It even puts former presidents, charged with misrule, on trial!


We were gobsmacked by the twist  the Herald gave to Obasanjo’s categorical ‘No’ to Mugabe.


The Herald reported on Wednesday that “Obasanjo reiterated yesterday that he was still to invite President Mugabe to next week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.”


But this is what Obasanjo actually said:


“We will not have an invitation (for Zimbabwe). If there is no invitation they will not come.”


 Which part of ‘No’ does the Herald not understand?


The Zimbabwe Independent revealed last week that claims in the official media that there was near-unanimity on Canaan Banana’s non-hero status at last week’s politburo meeting were less than accurate. Something that had been thought “in the bag” at the beginning of the meeting turned out to be out of the bag by its conclusion.


The blemishes, it would seem, outweighed the shine. But as just about everybody has commented, if blemishes were generally an obstacle, how come “Hitler” and Border passed the test?


Meanwhile, an irreverent reader has written in to suggest what the poet Algernon Swinburn may have thought would be a fitting epitaph to the nation’s first president:


“Now Canaan’s newly met his god, Not earth to earth, but sod to sod. It was for sinners such as this Hell was created bottomless.”


Our thanks to Algy who would probably be aghast to see his work thus transformed.


At a breakfast meeting on the budget this week, economist Rob Davies, referring to government’s 10-point recovery plan, said the only other organisation he knew of that had a 10-point plan was Alcoholics Anonymous. He said rule number one: you have to admit you’re an alcoholic. We thought that was a bit hard on ministers!


Wags are pointing out that following the failure of Merp, the millennium recovery plan, we had Nerp, the revival plan. When that fails, what will the next R be? A resuscitation plan?


Looking at George Charamba’s long-winded justification this week of the unpopular Sendekera Mwana Wevhu, the latest partisan agricultural jingle, we were amused to see George Bush’s spokesman entangled in a similar, if smaller, knot recently.


Trying to minimise the political damage done by a Republican senator’s remarks on a Supreme Court ruling, press officer Ari Fleischer said “the president typically never does comment on anything involving a Supreme Court case, a Supreme Court ruling, or a Supreme Court finding — typically.”


Asked why the president had given a speech expressly to comment on an affirmative action case recently before the court, Fleischer replied that was why he had stressed the word typically.