Where are the real media terrorists?

DID you know that when Henry Morton Stanley came to Africa in 1869, he was not looking for Dr Livingstone as we all used to think? He was looking for the “North Atlantic agenda” in Africa.

This fascinating revelation came from an otherwise unenlightening interview last Saturday between Caesar Zvayi and Media and Information Commission chair Tafataona Mahoso in a vacant lot that used to be occupied by the late unlamented Nathaniel Manheru.

The interview followed the predictable route of Zvayi asking everything the media tsar wanted to be asked, enabling him to provide long-winded answers that cried out for an editor.

Zvayi got off to a ripping start.

“One of the biggest problems Zimbabwe faced over the past five years,” he opined, “is the problem of media terrorism that manifested itself in sensational reports in the privately owned press and Western media, pirate radio stations that broadcast hate speech and a proliferation of on-line publications pursuing the illegal regime-change agenda.”

This seemed more like a statement than a question and deserved to be “interrogated”, as the academics say. What examples, for instance, of hate speech could Zvayi provide from radio stations?

We recall his own threats against opposition voters last year. But we don’t remember hearing anything particularly untoward from any of the radio stations. Wasn’t one of them bombed by individuals who have mysteriously not been apprehended? The real media terrorists.

And why does he think regime change is illegal or are all state hacks required to insert that word every time they mention regime change?

Anyway, Mahoso was not slow to occupy the platform thereby provided and proceeded to berate some media for having become “a very dangerous conveyer belt of lies”.

In particular he seemed to have a bone to pick with the Swedish International Development Agency for having tried “to make the white minority voice the mainstream voice in Zimbabwe”.

What explains this extraordinary claim? Could it have something to do with the Swedish government’s invitation to journalists to visit Stockholm to assess for themselves whether Mahoso’s claim that Aippa was akin to Sweden’s media law was true? Needless to say there was no comparison. It was just unfortunate he hadn’t done his homework!

Where he couldn’t throw dust in Zvayi’s eyes, he resorted to gross economies with the truth. Asked about the findings of the Media Ethics Committee that preceded the MIC, Mahoso made the following claim: “What we discovered was that all the people we consulted recommended that we could not rely on voluntary regulation (and) that there should be statutory regulation.”

Really? All the people? The Zimbabwe Independent has kept a tape-recording of the meeting held at this newspaper between Mahoso’s envoy and our journalists. We kept the tape just in case the record might become somewhat murky in the hands of a self-serving propagandist. At no point did anybody at this paper recommend that “we could not rely on voluntary regulation” or propose a state regulatory body. Nor was it likely we would do so!

Having led the gullible Zvayi down this particular garden path, the wily old professor of journalism proceeded to pronounce that “the first responsibility of the MIC is to defend the Act (Aippa), and we have done that successfully, and it is only after the legislation is secured that we could implement the development side of the Act. Much of that cannot be visible in the sense that you have to start by creating a commission . . .”

In other words, by providing a job for Mahoso! And where in the Act does it state that the principal responsibility of the MIC is to defend the Act? That is surely the responsibility of its authors in parliament. And judging by what its principal author had to say in this paper last week, Mahoso hasn’t been doing that terribly well.

And how convenient that everything has been “invisible”. This looks suspiciously like an excuse for not having done anything useful, apart of course from closing down pesky newspapers that embarrass the ruling party.

Isn’t that what it’s all about? Claims to be policing ethics sound like a pretext for interference by people who know nothing about journalism and would have difficulty holding down a job anywhere else.

Why didn’t Zvayi ask a few pertinent questions about the qualifications of the media commissioners and the costs to the fiscus of running the commission, a body that has no public mandate?

Mahoso complains about the “external foreign voice embedded among us and the African voice which has come from exile and is establishing itself and has not yet fully overcome the obstacles created by the minority media . . .”

In other words, the state, which controls 90% of the media and has a monopoly of the airwaves, still hasn’t managed after 25 years of Stalinist controls to convince the populace of the authenticity of its voice or the credibility of its views. So other voices must be silenced while Mahoso and his state-pensioners turn up the volume of their tinny instruments!

Mahoso thinks judges that expose post-liberation corruption should be brought before a war crimes tribunal. As Anna Tibaijuka came close to recommending the same sort of thing for those who have recently inflicted such suffering upon Zimbabwe’s urban populace, the note of panic in Mahoso’s voice was understandable.

Meanwhile, Muckraker wants to know what’s going to happen to Manheru after his recent undressing by Jonathan Moyo. The former Information minister recently fired a broadside at his permanent secretary, George Charamba, who he said writes the Manheru column, for threatening Moyo with Chikurubi if he discloses cabinet secrets in his book.

Judging by the tenor of his response, Moyo is unlikely to be intimidated by warnings from Charamba, who was backed up this week by Bright Matonga wielding a cabinet handbook.

Just for the record, Muckraker understands that Moyo penned Manheru for the first 10 weeks of its venomous life and then handed it on to Charamba while the real Nathaniel colonised new territory in the Sunday Mail.

Nobody could ever accuse Moyo of being lazy! We gather his forthcoming kiss-and-tell publication is awaited with trepidation in official circles. Let’s hope it sees the light of day. Muckraker’s proposed title, “Voting for Moyo”, is unlikely to be taken up. Eddison Zvobgo’s working title for his magnum opus, “The Fall of a Dictator”, might be worth borrowing but the final chapter is likely to pose something of a problem. So is “Robert Mugabe: My Part In His Downfall”. Perhaps readers have their own suggestions.

We see Joseph Made is making crop forecasts again. We would have thought this was inadvisable for this particular minister who has been, how shall we say, a little wide of the mark in his previous projections.

We all recall the bumper maize harvest that never was. That was the product of an aerial survey. Now we hear winter wheat production is expected to double. Let’s wait and see. Will it share the same fate as Herbert Murerwa’s expected 28% rise in agricultural production?

Made’s crop forecasts are about as credible as crop circles!

Then we had this gem from Not-So-Bright when asked whether there would be a commission of inquiry into who was responsible for Operation Murambatsvina so its perpetrators can one day be prosecuted: “It was a government initiative. No one person was responsible.”

How convenient! But if that’s the case, why wasn’t it discussed in cabinet?

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku, said Anna Tibaijuka’s report was “a big let-up”.

His confusion is understandable. The government adheres to the official position that while it doesn’t like the language of the report, it does not reject it. But somebody forgot to tell the state media!

Didymus Mutasa is also a bit confused. He doesn’t recall Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono asking white farmers to return to the land.

For the record, this is what Gono said in his latest monetary policy statement:

“In order to ensure maximum productivity levels, there is great scope in the country for promoting and supporting ventures between new farmers with progressive-minded former operators of horticultural estates . . . so as to hasten skills transfer.”

Either Mutasa wasn’t listening or he doesn’t care. From this false premise he proceeded to berate the press. It was “unfortunate that journalists had decided to peddle lies when reporting on land reform issues”, he told the Sunday Mail, whose reporter Emilia Zindi also appears to have forgotten Gono’s statement. Evidently, being a beneficiary of state patronage makes one forgetful.

“Why did we repossess land in the first place?” Mutasa asked. “The land here is for the black people and we are not going to give it back to anybody. We are not inviting any white farmers back, never.”

Anybody recalling reports in 2000 of the president and ministers saying “we just want to share the land” will not be surprised by this aggressive tone. Claims of sharing were aimed at hoodwinking an international audience. Mutasa’s racist remarks are the reality. And, once again, we see the rogue coterie around Mugabe sabotaging any prospect Gono might hold out of agricultural recovery.

If anyone was in doubt as to the stumbling block in Zimbabwe’s quest for a return to normalcy, that doubt must have been cleared after President Mugabe’s unstatesmanlike comments this week. While it is clear to all who have the interests of the nation at heart that Zanu PF on its own has woefully failed to solve the country’s crises, Mugabe wants to place that burden not on Zimbabweans, but on foreigners, especially the Chinese.

Otherwise how does one explain his obdurate refusal to have Zimbabweans debate their problems to find a way forward?

Speaking on his arrival from his new colonial masters in Beijing, he said the opposition MDC could only discuss with Zanu PF in the confines of parliament. He said there was no chance of a partnership between the two parties.

“Anyone who seeks to foster relations with the MDC will be going against our democratic principles and we shall resist that stance from whomsoever,” declared Mugabe oblivious to the irony between the said democratic principles and his fundamentalist opposition to dialogue.

The comments must come as a major rebuff to South African President Thabo Mbeki and AU chair Olusegun Obasanjo who have been pushing for internal dialogue instead of external pressure.

Were it not for the abject poltroonery among Mugabe’s lieutenants in Zanu PF, they would have told him the obvious thing that the solution to Zimbabwe’s problems lies with Zimbabweans working together, not in worshipping the Chinese dragon.

Why does he think the Chinese would be keen to solve problems of our own making? Apart from finding markets for its overheating economy, there is no sign that China wants to be taken as a charity organisation coming to Zimbabwe’s aid for no charge. It would be extremely naïve if Mugabe thought that is what he was getting.

Incidentally, is it by coincidence that now we hear less and less of “sovereignty” as the country gets more entrapped by the Chinese? And they want us to believe Zimbabwe will never be a colony again. That slogan is beginning to sound very hollow indeed as the begging gets more desperate.

Is anybody taking Mugabe seriously about his Look East fishing expeditions? Zimbabweans are their own saviours, not the Chinese.

The Independent reported recently that government’s information management was in tatters. That has been borne out by conflicting statements almost on a daily basis.

A classic example was the searing Tibaijuka report. It was initially dismissed as biased. President Mugabe claimed from China to have talked to Tibaijuka who told him “her hands were tied” when she wrote the report. There was a volte face last week when Information deputy Minister Bright Matonga said government “had not condemned” the report but was instead working with the UN to rehabilitate people displaced under Operation Murambatsvina.

This week the mandarin at the MIC called Tibaijuka’s report “fake” and accused Kofi Annan’s envoy of seeking to further the MDC’s “final push” agenda.

Whatever the bluster about Zimbabwe not doing this or that, there is evident panic by a regime clutching at straws because it is isolated from the international community.

This is also evident in the confusion about government’s position concerning the report. This heightened when there were indications that the report would be presented to the United Nations Security Council. The president had to rush to China to plead for its veto.

“We are a revolutionary party,” Mugabe boasted after his trip to China. “We derive our power from the people, that is where we came from as the government of Zimbabwe after the elections,” he said.

Then why does he have to go around begging for support from countries such as China, Tanzania and Russia to justify his government’s actions? How many victims of his tsunami operation would say they knew they were voting for the demolition of their homes, we wonder?

The Herald this week revealed what lies in store for us. One of its columnists pointed out that after currency reforms in 1924 ended what Germans call die grosse inflation, their country enjoyed an economic boom. But first there had to be sacrifices.

“If we want honey at the end of the war against inflation we must be prepared to be stung by the bees, like the Germans,” the Herald columnist blithely opined.

Does he mean we have to experience 8 000% inflation and undergo the depredations of a crazed dictator and the flattening of our cities before we make a complete recovery? Surely not?

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