Muckraker

Press puppies puddle party parade


ZIMBABW

E’S ambassador to South Africa, Simon Khaya Moyo, has been complaining that a Sunday Independent story by “discredited and disgraced” journalist Basildon Peta claiming that Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono had been “sent packing” by irate Zimbabweans in Midrand at the weekend was a fabrication. Peta was “a decomposing puppy”, Moyo said.


In particular, the ambassador objected to the report that he had been pelted with salt-shakers and cutlery. Where were his injuries from this attack, he asked? The well-attended meeting was full of peaceful Zimbabweans wanting to know more about the Homelink scheme, Moyo said.


Then “20 hooligans carrying MDC placards interrupted the governor as he took the podium”. They were paid R20 each for their efforts, he claimed.


But the rest of the audience “restrained themselves”.


“Shame to their sponsors,” Moyo said of the protestors. “These misguided hooligans will remain in limbo for a very long time while others seize the golden opportunity. Zimbabwe shall prosper and indeed shall never be a colony again.”


We found it rather strange that the “discredited and disgraced puppy” Peta should be blamed for this version of events when it revealed marked similarities to a report carried by the Sunday Mail.


Gono and his team had expected protests, the report said, but the governor was willing to let the demonstrators in.


“However, the protestors refused to allow him to address the meeting,” the Sunday Mail said, “singing, dancing, throwing missiles and doing press-ups.”


Eventually “the governor had to leave”.


So not quite the glowing success the ambassador would have us believe!


And who inserts silly lines like “Zimbabwe shall never be a colony again” into his and other people’s statements? Why can’t Zimbabwean officials be allowed to think for themselves without this sort of heavy-handed assistance? After all, SK was a senior party official when his current creative directors were just “puppies”!


We had a good chuckle over the Herald’s latest descent into delusional journalism. Under the heading “Refugees opt for Zim”, we were told over 10 000 were being sheltered here.


“Zimbabwe’s long years of peace, tranquility and stability, coupled with a good human rights record since Independence in 1980, has seen the country attracting the refugees.”


Good human rights record? What planet are these guys living on?


Why are over three million Zimbabweans living abroad? What conditions forced two million to seek refuge in South Africa with thousands more streaming across the Limpopo and into Botswana every month?


How does 10 000 compare with three million? And who in their right mind would try and pretend Zimbabwe has a good human rights record?


Only last week United Nations security officers were being threatened by the authorities for daring to suggest that Zimbabwe wasn’t altogether stable and peaceful. What sort of society is it that has to insist that it is stable and peaceful and that those claiming otherwise could be liable to prosecution?


Those asserting that Zimbabwe is stable and peaceful may want to ask Mrs Kidd what her experience was!


This week, the Sunday Mail came up with one of its many speculative masterpieces that only the most naïve of its readers would take seriously. It claimed the Mail & Guardian of South Africa wanted to “clandestinely” publish in Zimbabwe without registration.


The paper was also using unregistered local journalists to write “anti-Zimbabwean stories for foreign publications”, the Sunday Mail claimed without seeing the need to produce at least some evidence.


Of course this would have been hard to come by. Why would the M&G want to use unregistered journalists when there are so many registered ones who the government’s Media and Information Commission is putting on the streets by closing down their newspapers?


And how would it be possible to publish such a high-profile newspaper “clandestinely” under a paranoid regime like this one?


To his credit, MIC chairman Tafataona Mahoso appeared sceptical about the Sunday Mail’s fictional report.


“If that is the case (publishing clandestinely), then this is a serious matter that needs to be looked into,” was his luke-warm response.


Since Trevor Ncube’s acquisition of the M&G in 2002, it had “lost considerable readership in South Africa”, the Sunday Mail claimed.


An anonymous South African editor was quoted as saying “most publishers and journalists” in South Africa did not understand why Ncube needed a South African paper to cover Zimbabwean stories when he already had a Zimbabwean paper.


“Ncube is just a hatchet man, that’s why his paper is lynching everyone who represents African interests,” the “editor” said. The paper had been critical of the ANC and lambasted the likes of Jacob Zuma, we were told.


Who is this brave South African editor, full of opinions but who wants to remain anonymous?


And being critical of the ANC is an offence?


The M&G, as the recent survey by The Media magazine, cited by the Sunday Mail, revealed, is one of the few South African publications to have increased its circulation in recent years.


Why didn’t the Sunday Mail ask the advertising agencies that monitor these things for their findings? They are freely available. And is the M&G not allowed to cover Zimbabwean stories just because the publisher owns another paper in Zimbabwe?


Soccer fans appear miffed, to say the least, over ZTV’s refusal to bring them any coverage of Euro 2004. The Sunday Mail’s TV reviewer Garikai Mazara last week said he had received a number of queries from viewers. But he gallantly defended the public broadcaster’s refusal to screen the matches.


“There has been a major shift in policy by ZTV since they started restructuring, a shift which has seen the television company thrust its synergy towards promoting our local values or the Pan-African paradigm,” Mazara ventured, bravely voicing the official line.


ZTV had undergone a “tremendous makeover”, he claimed, and their general focus had changed, “mainly leaning towards decolonising the local mental framework. Such a change had been met with some resistance, which given time, will dissipate.” People tend to “realign their emotions”, he suggested.


They certainly hadn’t realigned their emotions by the following Sunday.


Viewers were livid about being deprived of the opportunity to watch one of the world’s leading football championships and weren’t going to be bamboozled by the regime’s mantras about “decolonising the local mental framework”.


They wanted to see the action. Period.


“I must have touched an open wound last Sunday when I suggested that the scrapping of the Euro championships was somehow good for us,” the besieged Mazara wrote. “What vitriol I got in my e-mail box.”


People were looking for him at the National Sports Stadium, “ostensibly to vent their anger”, he was warned.


Mazara pleaded that he was only playing “devil’s advocate” in reflecting the official view the previous week.


“Last week many might have misconstrued my contribution to mean that I was defending the stance by ZTV. Nada, I was just putting facts on the table.”


And, as if to make up for his devilishness, he did a good job this Sunday in reflecting public disaffection.


Just because ZTV withdrew coverage did not mean people weren’t watching the matches, one caller said. One simply had to visit sports cafés and clubs around Harare to see how people were packing them to watch Euro 2004 matches.


ZTV should not expect viewers to renew licences when they were “forcing us to watch what we don’t want”, another said. She said “many more are shifting to DStv because ZTV is not giving them an option”.


Mazara ended up conceding that we need a window through which we can see the world around us. But he remains seriously deluded in thinking the 25% left of viewing that is not local content provides it.


That window, like all others in the country is being slammed shut. The information iron curtain is descending across the land. Only now when it blacks out their favourite sport are Zimbabweans waking up to the danger!


In another report headlined “Private schools overstaffed” the Sunday Mail quoted Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere as saying among such schools was St George’s College which had an enrolment of 600 students versus 65 teachers. This gave a teacher/pupil ratio of 1:9. Thus the school was overstaffed by 40 teachers, he declared. Parents were being made to pay salaries for superfluous staff.


But the headmaster’s secretary at St George’s told the paper enrolment was 720 versus 44 fulltime teachers, giving a teacher/pupil ratio of 1:16. She also explained that they offered 15 subjects at O level and 15 at A level plus other subjects not normally on offer at government schools such as music and drama. But it is clear the Sunday Mail was too lazy to find out the correct enrolment figures.


Where did the minister get his statistics? Dreamt up just like most of his historical accounts?


 Muckraker was happy to get into the contorted workings of the Zanu PF mind this week courtesy of Lowani Ndlovu who appears so provoked by the succession debate it makes him choke with fury. To help us put that debate to rest, he told us Emmerson Mnangagwa, John Nkomo, Joseph Msika and Sydney Sekeramayi and their sponsors couldn’t be in the running to succeed President Robert Mugabe because they don’t lead or represent any discernible movement in the ruling party. The truth, thus spoke the Oracle, “is that today the revolutionary task of the ruling party is being led by the new resettled farmers…specifically the peasant farmers and war veterans”.


The conclusion therefore must be that “this is a movement inextricably intertwined with President Robert Mugabe’s leadership and is therefore not interested in any succession because they do not see or have any leader who is irreversibly committed to true and total land reform from a white minority to a black majority. This is why the chiefs’ meeting in Masvingo last month unanimously asked President Mugabe to stand for re-election in 2008.”


So it had nothing to do with the massive pay hike they were given (3 000% in the case of headmen)? And the future of this nation is going to be determined by peasants and the few remaining war veterans, the majority of whom probably don’t even read Lowani’s convoluted columns?


Unfortunately Lowani didn’t disclose the other social movements through which other leaders might emerge. So what happens when Mugabe finally quits by whatever means since everything is “intertwined with his leadership”? Or will his  departure mark the death of the party, according to Lowani’s thesis, since none of the others are “irreversibly committed to true and total land reform”?


 It looks like the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has some explaining to do about its inflation figures. This was clear at a recent NECF meeting when Consumer Council of Zimbabwe regional manager Comfort  Muchekeza asked to be shown “concrete benefits to the man on the street” of the allegedly falling inflation.


The Sunday Mirror quotes him: “We read in the press that from November 2003 to May this year, year on year inflation has fallen from 600% to 448% and month on month inflation has also fallen from 33% to 6% over the same period. We are also told that by the end of June this year foreign currency reserves were at US$675 million, more than double the whole of last year’s figure of US$300 million.


“Consumers have no need for statistics, they want to be told that the price of bread has dropped from $3 000 to $1 500 and that drugs are now readily available in hospitals due to availability of foreign currency. Where is the foreign currency going?”


We have no doubt millions of Zimbabweans are asking the same question, seeing as the excitement in the state media has failed to translate into cheaper food or affordable water and electricity bills. Instead prices of all basic commodities seem to buck the inflation trend. Latest bullish projections tell us inflation could drop below 200% by year-end. But what does that mean to a family that receives a water bill of $20 million and is told to pay up or we cut supplies?


Muchekeza warns: “The RBZ must not create an impression of over-expectation among the citizens or they will end up with egg on their face.”


 It seems like the chickens are coming home to roost for Ignatius Chombo. Harare’s popularly elected first executive mayor Elias Mudzuri was hounded out of office ostensibly because he had failed to deliver proper service to ratepayers. Only two weeks ago over a dozen MDC councillors were suspended by the self-important Local Government minister for disrupting council business.


So now we have the apple of Chombo’s eye, Sekesai Makwavarara, his blue-eyed boy Leslie Gwindi, the original town clerk whom Chombo ordered reinstated, Nomutsa Chideya, and President Robert Mugabe’s appointee Witness Mangwende all presiding over the affairs of Harare against voters’ express wishes.


But, as fate would have it, Harare is experiencing unprecedented water problems with cuts now lasting for 24 hours in most suburbs. Why is Chombo not as enthusiastic to crack the whip as he was in raising all sorts of calumny against MDC councillors and their mayor? Now that Zanu PF has virtually stolen the reins at Town House why is central government not releasing the resources that were denied the Mudzuri council?


We can be certain that there will be no spontaneous demonstrations organised by Zanu PF to protest this shoddy service!