The biggest story that failed to fly

WHAT should have been the biggest story of the year turned out to be no more than the fevered imagination of an overly patriotic reporter. The Herald claimed last Wednesday that $10 trillion i

n old bearer cheques had been seized at Harare International Airport.

The money, it was claimed, belonged to three financial institutions and was being “smuggled back into the country”.

There is no doubt this would have been the biggest haul of the RBZ’s Operation Sunrise if the report had any basis in fact.

We had our reservations from the moment we saw the figure of $10 trillion. One would most probably need an empty cargo plane to load the “huge boxes” containing that kind of money.

Given RBZ governor Gideon Gono’s excitement about his anti-corruption crusade, he would have made a point of personally showing us the containers and shaming the financial institutions concerned — the true enemies of the state in the Hitlerite sense.

The biggest weakness of course was that the reporter could neither identify the plane nor the country where the money was coming from. What fool would hope to “smuggle” that quantity of contraband through Harare International Airport undetected?

The lie the following day that police had intensified their probe into the seizure and claims that two financial institutions had owned up to the money were no more than a shameless face-saver.

The banks referred to owned up to their money seized by overzealous officials on its way from their branches in Victoria Falls and Bulawayo, not money being smuggled into the country. In any case the figure was nowhere near $10 trillion even if the foreign currency involved were converted into old bearer cheques.

Having said that, we were still hopeful that somehow something might just materialise when we saw Newsnet’s Reuben Barwe huffing and puffing at the airport. We expected him to reveal the “huge boxes” through another Cain Nkala theatrical.

That was not to be. Instead he revealed to us “the dead Mugabe returning as a ghost” from Malaysia. A veritable damp squib if there was ever one.

President Mugabe this week thanked Zimbabwe’s international partners for supporting us through a time “of undeserved ostracism and unjustified smear campaigns”. He told people gathered at the Heroes Acre on Monday that this support had helped the country realise one of its goals this year, “our socio-economic turnaround”.

In this respect, he said, Zimbabwe “had embarked on a positive turnaround of its economic fortunes”.

Apart from his acknowledgement that the country is ostracised, whatever it is he imagines to be the cause, the whole baloney about a turnaround, whether negative or positive, must be one of the mirages only visible to deluded politicians. We doubt that even his most romantic optimist, Gideon Gono, can point out to us the mirage that the president sees.

Mugabe scoffed at civil society and NGOs who condemn government’s human rights record from neighbouring countries, saying he doesn’t pay attention to such people, whom he said they were “unhelpful”.

The groups include the Botswana Civil Society Coalition for Zimbabwe that has held several demonstrations in Gaborone to support “victims of political and socio-economic repression”.

While Mugabe was dismissing these assertions as unfounded, his police officers were stripping people of their dignity in search of soon-to-be-worthless bearer cheques along the country’s highways as if the country was under a state of emergency or civil war.

In fact, the Herald reported on Monday that 19 women had been arrested after being beaten by riot police at Metallon Gold in Mazowe for demonstrating against the non-payment of their husbands’ back pay and “poor wages”.

An apparently ignorant police spokesperson, Oliver Mandipaka, callously claimed the women were arrested for “unlawful conduct” as they had not “applied for a peaceful demonstration in line with our laws”. What law is that?

The one we know of requires only that police be notified of an intention to demonstrate. Does the same law say a “peaceful demonstration” is unlawful?

So poor people can’t demonstrate for better pay, worse still, to get money they have been promised?

Meanwhile Mugabe was telling his hungry listeners that the heroes who died for this country had given us a “legacy of freedom, peace and democracy”.

“Our heroes”, he declared in his speech, “believed in the principles of freedom, justice and self-determination . . .”

It all sounds so hollow and eerily unreal on the ground.

One of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ greatest accomplishments was their outstanding role in defence of Operation Sovereign Legitimacy in the DRC, state media insisted on Tuesday. We have nothing to say on that.

What we however fail to understand is why they want to insist on the lie that the so-called Ugandan and Rwandan rebels were trying “to topple the democratically-elected government of Laurent Kabila”.

We have tried many times to disabuse them of this lie. It is clear they want to believe their own lie although they can’t tell us who elected Kabila and the year of that election.

To prove their own contradictions, over the past two weeks following that troubled country’s recent elections, the same media have been talking of the DRC holding its “first democratic election in four decades”.

Which is which?

We enjoyed some interesting piece of investigative journalism in the Herald this week. This was a story about one Tendai Gahamadze of Mbira dzeNharira who was allegedly found in possession of mbanje along Mazowe Road on Monday. His brief arrest allegedly caused a delay in his trip for a performance in Chiweshe.

Tendai denied all the claims.

The reporter, one Wonder Guchu, then “confronted him with information that Chiweshe is only an hour’s drive from Harare” yet it took Tendai and crew about five hours. This was proof-positive that Tendai had been found with mbanje and that he had been fined presumably? Tendai had every reason to be angry and to cut the call.

What is the distance between Harare and Chiweshe Cde Guchu? Is it not possible that one can in fact be delayed because of RBZ-instigated roadblocks?

By what mode of transport and at what speed does one take one hour to get to Chiweshe? Is it a fixed legal requirement that anybody driving from Harare to Chiweshe, regardless of the type or condition of the vehicle used, must take one hour?

Who gets the benefit of the doubt here, the musician or the presumptuous investigator?

We read with interest a report that charges of “incompetence and mismanagement” levelled against suspended Harare town clerk Nomutsa Chideya by commission chair Sekesai Makwavarara had been dropped.

The lawyers for the council and Chideya, we were told, agreed that the grounds for Chideya’s suspension raised by Makwavarara were “unfounded and without substance”.

What does all this mean? That the charges were motivated by malice? Will Chideya get his job back? Could it be that the charges of “incompetence” were dropped after it was clear Chideya’s replacement is not faring any better?

Muckraker reckons it’s time we examined the fish’s head.

President Mugabe must have been miffed by the low attendance at Heroes Day festivities after mainly uniformed forces and rented crowds “thronged” the Heroes Acre to hear him deride diasporans as “mvana dzenguruve“.

Mugabe should however derive solace from Zanu PF secretary for security in Bulawayo, one Sikhululekile Ndlovu who was quoted by the Sunday News complaining that people were wedding and partying on Heroes Day.

She suggested that government should come up with a law that will ban weddings on Heroes Day.

Another Zanu PF cadre, Molly Mpofu, said: “Radical steps should be taken to address this sad development. People are no longer taking Heroes Day seriously and I urge our leaders and legislators to come up with a law that will prohibit weddings and parties on Heroes Day holiday.”

The Sunday News, which carried the sentiments of Sikhululekile (which ironically means “we are free”) and Molly, did not appear to subscribe to this as the paper splashed pictures of people partying at the Heroesplush musical gala in Masvingo. That is how the event is celebrated in Zimbabwe.

Sikhululekile and Molly should be reminded that the idea of galas came up after government realised that presidential speeches and other officious events would keep people at home.

The two ladies should direct their discontent to the Ministry of Information which organises the galas. One piece of advice the two ladies should pass to George Charamba at the ministry is: please keep artists like one Joylin at home. There is nothing heroic or solemn about her uncontrolled gyrations.

This week Musorowegomo Mukosi read a news clip in which he claimed the army had achieved “a very much resounding success” in producing maize under Operation Maguta.

Obviously he didn’t read reports of VP Joice Mujuru expressing disappointment at what she saw of the wasteland that has become Kondozi Estate after it was taken over by the army as a model for the operation. He has not heard anything about the ruined irrigation projects she found in Masvingo after she was lied to that everything was a huge success.

The man in charge of Operation Maguta, Colonel Augustine Chipere, was at least modest about their achievements.

He said although they had “done their best” they didn’t produce much maize because the project “was launched late into the season”. Which is a world of difference from Musorowegomo’s “resounding success” as seen from a soundproofed broadcast studio.

It’s like Joseph Made speaking from a helicopter.

Not to be outdone, Tendai Tagara, who led the Zimbabwean team to the Africa Games in Mauritius, said our athletes had performed impressively after winning a single bronze medal.

The medal, he said, proved that the country’s athletes were ready for the World Athletics Championships in Beijing, China, next year. Is this how low we have sunk?

But at least we can understand the source of his delusions. He is in charge of “talent identification” and therefore must sound upbeat to protect his job.

Still on sport, disciplines such as rugby and cricket are specialised and need knowledgeable and informed reporting. In this respect, Tawanda Karombo’s pieces in last week’s issue of the Financial Gazette left a lot to be desired.

In the story headlined “No glory in Zim victory”, Karombo laments, quoting a “supporter”, Prosper Utseya’s suitability for the Zimbabwe team’s captaincy. Most likely it is not known to Karombo: Utseya has been the most consistent performer in the team over the last year or so. In fact, he is now ranked the second best economic bowler in the world!

Perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much from a reporter who doesn’t know the difference between “bawl” and “bowl”.

In his rugby preview, Karombo refers to Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Bryn Williams as “Moses Williams” — unless the Motor Action footballer who goes by that name is now in charge of rugby.

Karombo describes the Madagascar and Zambia rugby national teams as “lightweights”.

Madagascar are ranked higher than Zimbabwe on the IRB world rankings, and going by their 22-22 draw with Zimbabwe in Bulawayo last week, a result the local boys should be happy with, the islanders are by no means “lightweights”.

African rugby teams are improving at a time Zimbabwe is not doing well, and as such, even the Zambians will be no pushovers for Zimbabwe when they meet next month.

Finally Muck had a good chuckle after reading the latest rendition by a reader who is definitely not amused by the new family of “burial cheques”. The ode goes:


Mentally I can’t link

A brew of Burial and Sunrise.

A Zuva ravira, instead,

Don’t you think?

Restore Value

Kindles in me a plea

A Bearer, please,

To drag THIS man back,

To the room

Where he brewed up tea!

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