Zanu PF remains party of rural poverty

SO Dr Ndlovu: Who thumped who?

Zanu PF’s secretary for education, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, was quoted in the official press on Friday as saying his party’s candidate for Bulawayo mayor, Dickson Abu-Basutu, would

“thump” the MDC’s candidate, incumbent mayor Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, in last weekend’s poll.

In the event, Abu-Basutu managed to pick up a paltry 5 509 votes to Ndabeni Ncube’s 29 575. Zanu PF once again got a good thumping in Bulawayo.

The Herald tried to find a silver lining to this gloomy result by pointing out that the MDC lost in six rural district council by-elections. But what this message only confirms is that Zanu PF remains the party of rural poverty and ignorance. Where people can think for themselves it makes no inroads.

The result represents another defeat for Ndlovu who remains without a seat in a hostile terrain. On Friday he had confidently forecast that Abu-Basutu was the “mayor-designate and he is just waiting to be sworn in on Monday”.

He will have to wait now until hell freezes over. The ruling party’s coercion evidently doesn’t work in Bulawayo.

While Ndlovu graciously conceded defeat, it may be time for him to review his position after promising that Bulawayo would be “reclaimed to the people”. On Sunday he conceded that “the people have spoken”. It would seem he is somewhat confused as to who the people are!

We heard similar bombast from the author of the Herald’s Manheru column. He was busy on Saturday claiming that Anna Tibaijuka was a liar and that the people of Harare were well-housed and well-fed.

“Where did the multitudes come from?” he asked with reference to those who turned up to listen to President Mugabe’s speech at Heroes Acre.

The answer is very simple: They were bussed in. A policy decision was taken by the Department of Information a few years ago to ensure these functions were well-attended. This followed several years of declining attendances and pesky members of the public telling Mugabe that things were better under Smith. As a result steps were taken — in the best Stalinist tradition — to reorganise the people. Today the president is greeted by hired crowds wherever he goes. They even hold up banners produced by his officials. But, as Bulawayo shows, the Information ministry is incapable of winning back hearts and minds. It is too late for that now.

Last week we referred to the row surrounding BAT’s Tobacco Grower of the Year Award made to Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa’s wife. The award stirred controversy because of the manner in which the farm had been acquired. The company put out a statement saying “BAT do not interfere with award decisions”.

This prompted a reader to remind us that BAT’s statement contrasted with its behaviour a couple of years ago regarding the annual ZIPR Communicator of the Year Award which went to Jenni Williams, then CFU spokesperson.

“They vetoed this, for obvious reasons, and made ZIPR cancel the award,” our reader reminded us.

As we pointed out last week, corporate cowardice is a national curse and deserves public exposure whenever and wherever it occurs.

South Africa’s new ambassador to Harare, Prof Mlungisi Makalima, has not got off to a good start as he begins his tour of duty. After presenting his credentials to President Mugabe, he launched into an attack on the press for speculating about the conditions attached to Zimbabwe’s loan.

“I am surprised to learn that you (the press) talk about conditions,” Makalima scolded. “Matters of this nature do not entail the discussion of the arrangements the two parties have entered into.”

These remarks provided an opening for a government spokesman to throw dust in the public’s eyes about inter-party talks.

Why does Makalima think the press should not discuss conditionalities? Is this not a matter of public interest? Are these not public funds? Does this government’s long record of failing to repay debt and wasting other people’s money not enter into the argument at any point? South African officials such as Joel Netshitenzhe have been very clear on the need for “political normalisation” in Zimbabwe as well as economic recovery. Will those things happen without South African prompting?

If Makalima is “surprised” that the media is pursuing these matters, he clearly does not understand the role of the press in society — which may be a disadvantage in his diplomacy.

Muckraker understands however that the state media likes to ambush new envoys and that it is probably too early to judge how the ambassador will fare.

Reading through Manheru’s rabid column against talks between Zimbabwe’s main political parties, you get the feeling that there could be some truth in those who believe there are many in Mugabe’s government who thrive on the current crisis. Other than regurgitating Mugabe’s statements that MDC leaders are puppets of the West, there has never been any convincing reason why Zimbabweans cannot discuss their problems. Why is it so unpatriotic of the MDC to try and find a way out of this mess?

Last week there was a gratuitous attack on former Mozambican president Joachim Chissano for offering to mediate in the envisaged talks between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. He was reminded that Zimbabwe had “staved off Renamo” and warned not to repeat “Western diatribes about the need for presidential term limits”.

For a start Mozambique has since moved on from civil war to presidential elections. Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama is a respected politician despite his despicable past. The people of Mozambique have not allowed themselves to be unduly encumbered by a history of petty vindictiveness and rivalry. While in 1980 Mozambique was way behind Zimbabwe in terms of development, investment there is now booming while the likes of Manheru thrive on dark deals at the expense of national progress. Talk of patriotism!

And why shouldn’t people propose presidential term limits? Of course we know that’s an office far beyond Manheru’s criteria based on beauty and his “six feet tall” American heroes. Even if one’s liberation war record were to be the criteria, how many would attain the office of president if one man wants to rule until eternity? Incidentally, is it now official policy that government spokespersons who presume to be oracles of the president can call foreign leaders “impudent quislings”? What is the Nigerian embassy’s view of its leader being likened to a harlot in the government media?

And the Herald’s editor evidently hasn’t got a clue how Commonwealth countries lined up at the Abuja Chogm in 2003. Most of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which the editor thinks were “betrayed” by Obasanjo in fact voted against Thabo Mbeki’s attempts to lift Zimbabwe’s suspension.

It shouldn’t be too difficult for the editor to check how countries like Jamaica, Ghana and members of the South Pacific Forum decided.

By the way who is propagating the nonsense that the one parliamentary seat won by Jonathan Moyo in Tsholotsho “represents one percent of Zimbabweans”? We thought people like Manheru would know better but we were definitely expecting too much. Another one in need of help with her maths is the mother of a son who was allegedly denied a visa to go and study in the US. She fumed in the Herald that the interview lasted three minutes, her son was asked only three questions before he was dismissed, “yet I had paid $1 320 million for the visa fees”. What junk currency is that we wonder? And why sacrifice so much to study in an imperialist country?

The debate on the Education Amendment Bill appears to be getting muddled. This was evident in a contribution by Dr Obedia Mazombwe in the Sunday Mail who appears to think government rules for itself and can impose laws on flimsy claims of national interest. The first issue is whether our education is the most pressing problem the country faces at the moment. For if a government cannot get its priorities right, it loses the moral authority to superintend policy issues. Why is government trying to smuggle through parliament an education amendment Bill at a time when people are distracted by critical food and fuel shortages to fully pay attention to what Aeneas Chigwedere is trying to achieve?

Mazombwe takes issue with assertions that Zimbabwe’s education system is one of the best. This, he says, is doubtful because it carries questionable values. The “values inculcated in that education are those of the people who gave that education in the first place — the colonisers”.

How have the colonisers affected the quality of our nurses, doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers and architects who are in demand all over the world?

Nobody says people should not be taught vernacular languages or our history of the struggle. But that content cannot be decided by Chigwedere alone while other stakeholders are stuck in fuel queues or are trying to get food for their children.

Chigwedere himself has been responsible for the ruin in our public schools and now wants to spread the cancer to private schools under the phoney claim that they are elitist. Surely one of the benefits of the liberation struggle should be the choice of what school a parent wants to send his child to. That includes hypocritical ministers who send their children to imperialist universities overseas “because such courses are not available locally”. What sane minister would propose the same uniform for all schools in the country as if Zimbabwe were one huge barracks? Answer — Chigwedere of course.

What our education is in dire need of is protection from a predatory minister who has failed to administer examinations to ensure the integrity of the results. Don’t tell us colonisers taught Zimbabweans how to leak exam questions! If anything, Chigwedere and his supporters should be ashamed of the havoc they have caused to our education system — so much so that parents spend millions of dollars sending children for extra lessons during holidays when they should be resting. Most schools lack basic textbooks and furniture — a legacy only Chigwedere can be proud of.

Street kids, illegal vendors and beggars are back in full force in urban areas, according to ZBC’s Reuben Barwe. The abominable vehicle touts have become a nuisance once again. But there is no respite yet for Harare residents. Harare Commission chair Sekesai Makwavarara said they were training officers to deal with the menace. What has happened to those who carried out the clean up in the first place?

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