MDC rebels, arms caches and déjà vu

IT is sometimes impossible to imagine that a former editor of a national newspaper can turn bootlicker just because he cannot think beyond a tribal laager.

Last week we had more than a surfeit of it wh

en a former Daily News editor filled a whole page in the Financial Gazette with drivel of ethnic politics.

It was evident in the article that there is no love lost between Geoffrey Nyarota and Welshman Ncube while his admiration for Morgan Tsvangirai blinds him to obvious realities.

So every political movement led by somebody from Matabeleland is ethnic-based? Even Joshua Nkomo’s Zapu is described derisively as having a largely “ethnic following”.

Those who broke away to form Zanu in 1963 evidently don’t have ethnic origins. They are born nationalists. Ncube was accused of leading a “rebel faction”.

We never heard much of ethnicity when Edgar Tekere left Zanu PF to form ZUM or when the feisty Margaret Dongo formed ZUD or Enock Dumbutshena formed the Forum Party.

Remember there was also NAGG before its leader Shake Maya was catapulted to the echelons of the MDC without questions asked. Now Arthur Mutambara is being accused of “strategic miscalculation” by accepting “leadership of an irrelevant ethnic-based clique”.

Why irrelevant and ethnic you might ask? Because they dared challenge Tsvangirai for leadership after he failed to win the presidency in 2002. Just why he should not be challenged is not explained.

All that is emphasised is the myth of Tsvangirai’s “bedrock of support” which he has never been able to demonstrate. Is Nyarota so shallow he subscribes to the myth of a majority tribe in Zimbabwe? Where is it based?

It is of course pertinent that Nyarota is eager to remind readers of his stay in Bulawayo. He was working for the Chronicle when the Zanu PF genocide occurred. We would love to read a single story he wrote in support of democracy. He should never pretend that his legacy and his backing for the atrocities of the 1980s are not known.
We also liked his advice to his idol Tsvangirai: “If there is sufficient evidence to suggest that, notwithstanding his grassroots support, he has become a liability to the struggle then he must prescribe an appropriate medicine, cognisant of the fact that it takes a great man to sacrifice self for nation.”

Is it possible that this kind of drivel comes from the spirit of a man? Is this not the same dross we heard from Mugabe saying he would tell his supporters when he was ready to leave power?

Needless to say these are the same idol-worshippers who created god Mugabe whom they now pretend to revile with a passion. Nothing has been learnt. And how does one who has become a liability to a cause sacrifice himself Geoff?

Still pushing his ethnic line to ridiculous depths, Nyarota said Mutambara’s camp lost two ward elections in Bulawayo because people don’t support ethnic initiatives. But he didn’t say why the same logic doesn’t apply to the Tsvangirai group’s loss of a ward election in Chitungwiza and the more important mayoral poll in Chegutu. It is a serious indictment of our body politic that such primitive thinking finds buyers in Zimbabwe.

Haven’t we heard all this before somewhere? Law enforcement officers “unearth” an arms cache. Information is then leaked to the official media suggesting this is all part of a wider plot against the government. President Mugabe and other luminaries denounce the opposition. Arrests are made of suspects. They are often abused. And then, many months later, when the accused are brought to court, the state’s case collapses when the “evidence” proves to be not only unsatisfactory but in many cases manufactured.

We all recall the arms “discovered” on Nest Egg farm and other Zapu-owned properties in 1982. That led to the arrest of Dumiso Dabengwa and Lookout Masuku on charges of treason. They were acquitted in court but detained under the Emergency Powers. Masuku was allowed out to die.

Then there was a “plot” by the Rev Ndabaningi Sithole in 1995 to overthrow the government. Documents linking the Zanu leader to the shadowy Chimwenje movement were widely circulated but although he was convicted in the High Court, he was still appealing the case at the time of his death.

Then there were the three Americans who were arrested with weapons of war in 1999. They had a map of State House, we were told. Strangely, it was never produced at their trial. Their lawyers argued that the three had been tortured while in custody.

Perhaps most seriously in this litany of political arrests and trial-by-media, we had the case of Cain Nkala in 2001 where opposition MPs were condemned to languish in prison before a judge brave enough to expose the state’s evidence as a complete fabrication could be found to release them.

In this latest case, we have the familiar pattern of leaks from the investigations mixed with speculation by the Herald’s reporters, not to mention a line-up of useful idiots to comment on ZTV.

Police reservist Peter Hitschmann “is believed to have recruited ex-members of the Rhodesian army as well as the police force, some of whom are senior members of the MDC and former legislators, to work towards the opposition party’s agenda for illegal regime change in Zimbabwe”, the Herald breathlessly told us.

But where was this information coming from, couched in the language of Zanu PF? Then Peter Tatchell’s laughable Zimbabwe Freedom Movement was drawn into the plot as if to confirm the whole thing!

The Herald cannot understand why the British authorities did not arrest the balaclava-clad members of the ZFM who appeared at a London press conference. Somebody should explain to our colleagues in the state media that not every government arrests those engaging in amateur theatrics, especially when prosecutors are likely to be laughed out of court!

“The cabal is alleged to have come up with a list of targeted individuals whom it wanted to eliminate and consequently cause confusion and mayhem in the country,” read a story under Caesar Zvayi’s byline and those of other gullible Herald reporters.

What’s the betting that list will never be produced in court? And since when has “causing confusion” been a criminal offence?
“Police suspect that the so-called ZFM intended to target for elimination the remaining white farmers, top Zanu PF and government officials and business leaders to lend credence to opposition claims that Zimbabwe was a failed state where anarchy reigned supreme in the hope of bringing about foreign intervention and consequent illegal regime change,” the Herald told us.

Wasn’t it Didymus Mutasa who was talking about eliminating people? He evidently thinks it’s okay to say so. As for Zimbabwe being a failed state, it does not take the invisible ZFM to provide evidence of that, or that “anarchy reigns supreme” on the farms.

“Police suspect that the group had planned to justify its existence to the donor community by destabilising the 21st February Movement celebrations held in Mutare’s Sakubva stadium on February 25 by throwing teargas canisters and grenades into the venue,” Zvayi and his colleagues informed readers.

It will be interesting to see what evidence — if any — emerges from this cloud of partisan speculation. Over the weekend it was reported that Hitschmann was a licensed arms dealer and hunter. In other words he was entitled to have the weapons at his home. Did the police not know that? They could have saved the Herald considerable embarrassment by telling them! Then, on Wednesday the state’s case began to unravel as key “suspects” had their cases withdrawn before plea.
What is curious in all this is that Hitschmann was widely seen in the 1980s and 90s as friendly to a number of state agendas, particularly on the wildlife front. We all recall the role Ari Ben-Menashe played in state machinations to entrap Tsvangirai just ahead of the 2002 election; and how the state media swallowed everything they were told in that case which quickly fell apart. Events seem to be taking a familiar pattern ahead of the MDC congress.

Also of interest is that remarks about “shadowy groups” causing chaos attributed to the police in Herald reports last week turned up in the Sunday Mirror as attributed to “security and intelligence agencies”.

These same informants — not a thousand miles from the Mirror’s newsroom we can safely assume — have inventively managed to introduce the Taiwanese into the picture thus giving the whole bizarre conspiracy theory an international twist. Actually, more Jackie Chan! Then of course there are the Italians! And who is it, by the way, that has been trying to get the few remaining white farmers to flee the country? Certainly not Tatchell’s amateur performers.

Talking of amateur performers, we were interested to read claims by George Charamba’s lawyer that recent articles published by the Zimbabwe Independent suggest his client is “incompetent…crooked and unprofessional”.
We don’t recall anyone saying that. But if Charamba’s lawyer insists, so be it.

Meanwhile, could all journalists who believe Charamba has been less-than-professional in his dealings with them in the past, particularly in his replies to requests for comment on reports involving President Mugabe or the government, please contact us. We need to demonstrate just how professional he is!

In particular, Charamba resents the suggestion that he “aligned himself with political factions at the expense of his national duty, which he is very much aware of”.

Reports that he attended a rally for the Zanu PF mayoral candidate in the recent Chegutu election must therefore be false and will need to be retracted.

Confirming the public impression that you have to be completely delusional to serve in government nowadays, we enjoyed the remarks by Secretary for Environment and Tourism Margaret Sangarwe that tourism since 1980 had “grown from strength to strength and has seen the number of players grow constantly over the years in correspondence to the growing visitor traffic”.

She made the remarks at the Silver Jubilee Tourism Awards where the Minister of Transport and Communications, Chris Mushohwe, presented an award to Tourism minister Francis Nhema for his “invaluable contribution to domestic tourism” while Mashonaland West governor Nelson Samkange looked on. A case of one minister rewarding another! Have things got that bad?

Nhema has done his best in a losing battle with his cabinet colleagues who have contributed to the headlong decline of tourism by their maladroit public remarks. They should have been there to receive their wooden spoons. Meanwhile, we would be fascinated to know what Samkange has done for domestic tourism!

We were intrigued by a story by Munyaradzi Huni on Sunday entitled “Zim respects private property”. It was essentially a lecture by Gideon Gono who had been quizzed on government’s mining proposals at his recent meeting with the IMF executive board in Washington. It was a “hot issue”, he disclosed. The Reserve Bank condemned any form of expropriation, Gono remarked, clearly having experienced some embarrassment at the meeting.

Huni talked about the requirement that mining companies should cede 25% of their shares when the new legislation is enacted. There will be no compensation for this initial transfer. Apparently Huni was unable to grasp that this was in all probability what Gono was talking about.

So the governor spelt it out. The RBZ supports indigenisation, he said. “However, for the betterment of the national economy as well as sustainable integration of Zimbabwe into the competitive global space for investment attraction, the process has to be done in accordance with strict observance and respect for private property rights as well as through market-friendly principles of fair value exchange…”

In other words not the approach taken by Midzi and cabinet!

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