Blair continues to haunt State House

WHAT do you call a man who wants to speak to foreigners but will not speak to his fellow Africans? Muckraker reckons he is a hypocrite suffering from an acute inferiority complex. That’s a terrible situation for a nation to fi

nd itself in, particularly where the person so afflicted is the leader of that country.

President Mugabe has ruled out talks between Zanu PF and the opposition MDC. He has also refused to meet MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai because instead he wants to meet British prime minister Tony Blair. His excuse is that Tsvangirai is Blair’s puppet.

If this kind of reasoning had been used by a white man he would have been labelled a racist of the worst type. He would have been pilloried for looking down upon Africans. Mugabe can’t be accused of being a racist in this case, but there is clearly a pining to meet his master at 10 Downing Street. He told his supporters at Heroes’ Acre on Monday that he wanted to speak to Blair, although he didn’t say what about.

“When will they (MDC) learn that power to rule Zimbabwe comes from the people of Zimbabwe?” asked Mugabe. So what does he want from Blair?

Well it does appear that the sense of isolation is getting more unbearable as problems in the country mount. A dream meeting with Blair is seen as the first tentative step towards rehabilitation. Unfortunately he will have to wait until the end of time, to borrow Professor Jonathan Moyo’s expression.

Mugabe even scoffed at African friends such as Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo who have been calling for national dialogue. “Today we tell all those calling for such ill-conceived talks to please stop misdirecting their efforts,” he warned.

So for Zanu PF supporters and the rest of the country who were foolishly thinking that wisdom comes with age, it is back to the drawing board as they say. Blair’s ghost is firmly ensconced at State House and will not go away. But as we have warned in the past, the solution to Zimbabwe’s problems does not lie in Britain. Our problems start and end in Harare. Does Mugabe seriously believe he needs to meet Blair before Zimbabwe can grow sufficient maize to feed itself?

The Herald has come up with a novel idea to deal with “the dreaded quelea birds” that threaten wheat farmers in the country. They must be harvested and eaten is the solution that has been put forward by the brains at the Herald .

Zimbabwe destroys millions of these birds each year, said the Herald , but “no one has yet come up with a permanent solution to end the menace”. Did they expect such a solution to come out of Joseph Made’s head?

More importantly, we seem to have found another convenient excuse for the chaos on the farms. Last time around it was drought, this time it must be the quelea birds.

When the Herald told us not to miss its exclusive interview with former Finance minister Chris Kuruneri, we wondered what he was going to say. The paper didn’t disappoint with its heading on Saturday, “I’m not bitter: Kuruneri”.

But he was never quoted saying he was not bitter with his incarceration for over 15 months without trial or bail.

Despite telling us that the minister was staying away from his family, the writers still wanted us to believe their fable that he wasn’t bitter. “I had chosen to be at my farm but was not allowed,” said Kuruneri who is under 24-hour house arrest in Glen Lorne.

He said he was not allowed to talk to the press either. Nothing useful came out of the hour-long interview.

Just what did the Herald expect Kuruneri to say? That the country is under a heartless dictatorship?

And there were many denials on that day: “I’m not bitter: Kuruneri”; “I’m not a copycat: Mafia”; “I’m not biased, says Mhlauri.” Had the subs just returned from a refresher course on denial journalism we wonder?

A row has erupted in the UK over the award made by British American Tobacco, the British-based cigarettes multinational, to Monica Chinamasa, wife of Zimbabwean Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

She was presented with $25 million prize money at the BAT Tobacco Grower of the Year awards ceremony in Harare recently.

Richard Yates, a Zimbabwean farmer, told the Sunday Telegraph the Chinamasas took the farm from him in September 2003. “They virtually evicted me at gunpoint,” he said.

Yates still has the title deeds to the 800-hectare farm in the Headlands area. Although he was paid some compensation by the Chinamasas, he is still waiting for full payment. “As far as I am concerned I still own the farm,” he said.

The prize has sparked outrage among critics of the Zimbabwean government, the Telegraph says, many of whom believe international businesses should avoid any involvement with the country because of its appalling record of human rights abuses and illegal land grabs.

Kate Hoey, the British Labour MP and former minister who has recently returned from a fact-finding mission in Zimbabwe, described BAT’s actions as “shocking”.

“I am very surprised that BAT has done this,” she told the Telegraph . “It’s pretty shocking for a multinational corporation to reward theft. It is like someone stealing a race horse and winning the Grand National.”

But BAT refused to apologise for its involvement in the awards. “It is not our place to say how that farm was acquired and whether we believe it to be right or not,” said a spokeswoman.

“BAT believes that it is not our place to condone or condemn governments.”

Roy Bennett, a former farmer and MP, was quoted by the Telegraph as saying BAT’s apparent tacit support of the regime was particularly shocking in the light of an initiative taken recently by the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“As soon as you get companies the size of BAT involving themselves in issues that are clearly issues of human rights, it is indefensible,” Bennett said.

Muckraker agrees. This newspaper has repeatedly drawn attention to companies that are adopting amoral positions on human rights and governance issues, even though the way this country is governed impacts on their ability to do business. Nestlé provided a glaring example recently.

In this context we were rather surprised recently to see a report in the Business Herald stating that telecoms company Econet had “thrown its weight behind efforts to turn around the economy”.

“As one of the largest companies in Zimbabwe we consider it our duty to lead the way in ensuring that the economy is turned around,” a company spokesman said following Econet’s commitment of $200 billion to network expansion.

This would encourage investors to have confidence in the country, he said.

Somebody needs to point out to Econet that they are ill-served by naïve statements of this sort. Anybody using the expression “turnaround” is attempting to deceive the public when no such phenomenon is taking place. The economy is currently being sabotaged by spendthrift management. Every consumer knows that.

If Econet wants to be part of an economic turnaround it should point out why no investment can take place until confidence has been restored in fiscal management. The IMF was very clear on that.

Econet’s spokesman said the slowdown in the economy had not affected the level of telephone traffic.

Of course not. People still have to communicate. What we want to see from Econet is a better service, not statements about non-existent turnarounds designed to impress the government.

President Mugabe has been making equally misleading claims about his recent visit to China.

“I am happy to announce that our Look East policies are beginning to assume a concrete form and yield quantifiable economic results for our nation,” he said at Heroes Acre.

Our question is: Who will be doing the quantifying? As South African newspapers pointed out, he did not mention gruelling shortages of fuel and food. And what results have come out of China to date apart from a flood of cheap manufactured goods?

Mugabe called on Zimbabweans to grow more food, because “until and unless we feed ourselves, we remain vulnerable to outside influence and subversion”.

Who has subverted agriculture over the past five years? Whose policies have resulted in national ruin? They are not difficult to quantify. How does he get away with this empty posturing? He has nothing to show for his trip to China and he knows it. Which explains the fist-waving aimed at Thabo Mbeki and Kofi Annan whose position has been strengthened by the failure of the China trip.

The MDC also came in for particular abuse with Mugabe once again pinning the “stooges” label on them. But he didn’t say what we should call a leader who sells the country to the Chinese.

Meanwhile, the South African Catholic Bishops Conference last weekend invited Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to a special service of blessing at Marianhill near Durban. They evidently felt that after recent statements that the suffering in Zimbabwe was an internal matter she needed their help.

Richard Menatsi, the secretary-general, told the SABC the Zimbabwean government through its policies and actions had wreaked havoc and suffering among the people. They, therefore, had reservations about financial assistance being given to Zimbabwe.

Menatsi said they had invited the deputy president to receive the church’s blessing as she was occupying an important position in the country and they wanted to offer her all their assistance. He said the Catholic Church was concerned about fraud and corruption. According to Menatsi, the Catholic Church faced serious challenges of bringing comfort and compassion to people in countries such as Zimbabwe where widespread suffering is the order of the day.

Has the Herald’s Fortious Nhambura found out the correct date of the arrival of the Pioneer Column yet? He was 10 days wide of the mark, a reader points out. And Olley Maruma appears to be mixing up Yankee Doodle Dandy with Crocodile Dundee to produce a film called “Yankee Doodle Dundee”. Very amusing!

The Sunday Mail’s Emilia Zindi, who interviewed Nathan Shamuyarira on land reform, needs a word of caution. Yes, the governments of South Africa and Namibia are facing difficulties in forging ahead with land reform policies. But listen to their spokesmen — and even South Africa’s radical Landless People’s Movement — and you will hear the same thing: “We don’t want to go the way of Zimbabwe”.

Zimbabwe is being held up as an example of how land reform can go bad unless managed in a proactive way. Emilia, who made no disclosure about her interest in land reform, should have asked Shamuyarira what has happened to his biography of President Mugabe. Why does that no longer appear to be in the pipeline?

And why does Shamu think Britain and America need Zimbabwe’s agriculture to “sustain” their economies? Which bits of the basket case do they need?

Finally, amidst all the indignation over the Tibaijuka report, why did nobody ask what happened to government’s pledge of “Housing for all by the year 2000”? How come that target came and went without anybody noticing?

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