Conversion on the road to Zvimba

>ANYBODY reading last Saturday’s official press must have wondered if there had been a change of government. “Sweeping changes to polls,” we were told by the Herald, “RG’s office won’t be involved”, “Independent body to conduct elections”, “Voting to take place in one day”.

Where was all this coming from? These obviously weren’t Zanu PF’s policies that Patrick Chinamasa was asking the politburo to approve. Only a few weeks ago he was proposing amendments to the Electoral Act that sought to restrict civic contributions. But here he was last Friday, telling the politburo of a raft of reforms that appeared to owe more to MDC demands than any we have heard from the ruling party.

Since when has Zanu PF favoured an independent electoral commission? Isn’t that something they have fought tooth and nail against over the past four years? And where did they tell the Americans to go when they last proposed translucent ballot boxes?

Don’t we recall one-day elections appearing in the MDC’s latest list of conditions? And hasn’t removing Tobaiwa Mudede from managing polls been fundamental to just about everybody’s, except Zanu PF’s, agenda?

Then there was that small matter of voters having to prove domicile with scraps of paper from chiefs. Now just an ID card will do!

But obviously these electoral concessions owe more to regional pressure than domestic persuasion. They reflect, after all, the Sadc parliamentary forum’s norms. And despite official attempts to pretend that Sadc parliaments are not really part of Sadc — as if only governments matter! — the Sadc parliamentary norms have been translated into the draft Sadc principles and guidelines on electoral management to which all governments in the region are expected to agree at their summit in Mauritius in August.

Zimbabwe’s belated adherence will enable President Mbeki and his colleagues to argue that quiet diplomacy and political dialogue work!

So far so good. But this leaves the obvious question: What is the point of a reformed electoral supervisory process when political intolerance and violence persist? Already we have suspicious “political analysts” telling us that “elections in Zimbabwe have always been substantially free and fair and Zimbabwe has one of the best electoral systems not just in the region but in the world…”

The “analysts” weren’t asked why, if that was the case, Zimbabwe was now having to change just about every aspect of its electoral management!

Not content with “analysts” of this sort, the Sunday Mail thought we might like to know the views of a motor mechanic who quickly admitted he was not “well versed” in electoral matters. But his skills as a panel beater may come in useful when the measures go before parliament.

 What has become of Philip Chiyangwa? The Chinhoyi MP, often described in the media as “flamboyant”, used to be a politician with definite views on a wide range of subjects, somebody who was very obviously his own man. Like him or hate him, you had to admire his chutzpah. Not afraid to court controversy, he stood up for the indigenous business sector and was happy to be described as one of the “Young Turks” who would introduce new blood to Zimbabwe’s sclerotic leadership.

Now he happily persecutes black businessmen like Kindness Paradza and leads the campaign in parliament to punish MDC leaders for “disrupting” RBZ governor Gideon Gono’s recent visit to Britain and South Africa — as if Zimbabweans abroad didn’t have the right to express their views.

These are not positions he would have bothered with in the past. After all, are his views on Aippa and the Broadcasting Services Act very different from Paradza’s?

So how do we explain this conversion on the road to Zvimba? The answer is not difficult to find. Philip has allowed himself to be embraced by the patronage system of the Big- Headed one to whom all must bow in order to survive in the ruthless contest now under way. Even though Chiyangwa is an elected member with his own support base, the events of January illustrated that swimming in Zimbabwe’s shark-infested sea is dangerous without the right sort of patrons. Supposedly powerful people were unable to help when he needed them most.

So he has now fallen in with political charlatans who, because of their proximity to the throne, can offer preferment to those that bend their knee. That includes endorsing the likes of Leo, with a record of own goals, for Paradza’s seat.

We don’t begrudge Philip his ambitions. But it is rather sad to see a self-confident and talented scion of the party become in six short months so very obviously somebody else’s man!

 Still with the Big-Headed one, you have to feel a certain pity for his long-winded literary alter ego, Nutty Nathaniel. Every week he expresses his frustration that the Zimbabwe Independent won’t share his attempts to divert public attention from human rights abuses in Zimbabwe by pointing to the mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq. His own media have dutifully done that, studiously ignoring torture cases at home.

Nutty Nat is free to pretend these have never taken place. But he should not expect the rest of the nation to share in his deceit.

Meanwhile, Smutty Nat has been denounced as a hypocrite of note by a vengeful e-mailer who has stories to tell and beans to spill. Hell hath no fury like a fellow publicist betrayed, it would seem. His retributive tales about goings on in Kenya and Joburg have been entertaining thousands, both at home and in the diaspora, and help to explain why Nat is so keen to get his hands on other people’s communications.

This is bound to be an ongoing saga so stay tuned.

 The Sunday Mail’s “Social Scene” last weekend appeared to be rather limited to the Zimbabwe/Algeria match and a graduation party held by Zimpapers CEO Justin Mutasa for his son.

The party was held on a farm Mutasa has acquired in Raffingora. One picture showed rather despondent Herald football club members being consoled with a meal following their loss to the Mutasa football club, presumably some affiliate of the boss. The other showed women dancing chihodho.

We didn’t learn what Shingirai Mutasa had graduated from. But whatever it was, the Sunday Mail was clearly happy to oblige with coverage!

 ‘Prominent economist” Dr Samuel Undenge appears to think that if there were no corrupt people in Zimbabwe, the country would not need external aid nor would it have the problems that now affect everyone.

He made this observation at a seminar organised by the National Economic Consultative Forum that appeared aimed at providing a number of apologists with a platform for finding excuses for Zimbabwe’s current predicament.

Is Undenge seriously suggesting that the commercial farming sector would not have been sabotaged, that tobacco and horticultural exports would not have collapsed, and tourism would not have suffered? What exactly is his PhD in?

 Perhaps we should ask Ignatius Chombo the same thing. He has frozen rate increases in Harare because of “much lower inflation and stable exchange rates”.

The proposed increases were unjustified because the Zimbabwe dollar had stabilised against major currencies and prices of goods had gone down owing to the strengthening of the local currency, he was reported as saying.

It would be useful to know from Chombo exactly which products have gone down in price over the past six months. While ratepayers will appreciate being spared massive rate hikes, the cost of populist interventions will sooner or later catch up with them. Because we can be sure government won’t be picking up the tab for any shortfalls once the election is out of the way.

 Did anybody take seriously the screamer on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings’ Newsnet, “Blair admits working with the MDC to effect a regime change in Zimbabwe”? The Information minister went to town to proclaim how it had finally been confirmed that the MDC was a puppet of the British.

British prime minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons his government was working “closely with the MDC on measures that we should take in respect of Zimbabwe … It is important that we give every chance to, and make every effort to try to help, those in South Africa — the southern part of Africa — to put pressure for change on the Mugabe regime, because there is no salvation for the people of Zimbabwe until that regime is changed.”

Muckraker is still wondering what’s so new in all this. How is it different from Dzikamai Mavhaire’s “Mugabe must go” motion not so many years ago? Wasn’t that a sign that Zimbabweans were tired and in need of a change of regime? Of course the likes of Nathaniel Manheru will pretend they are not aware that people overwhelmingly voted “No” in the constitutional referendum because they were fed up with the Mugabe regime.

There are few left in Zanu PF who have the conviction of people like Mavhaire to tell Mugabe to go. The rest choose to skulk in the dark corners because they can’t listen to their conscience, which might cost them a few juicy privileges which go with being part of the Zanu PF gravy train. Which in part explains why Mugabe himself thinks he doesn’t have a fitting successor. They are all cowards. Ask Margaret Dongo if in doubt.

But back to the Blair statement. All we understood it to mean is simply a confirmation of the general mood in the country that Mugabe has become our biggest liability. He is so stuck with the past he doesn’t seem to believe there is a Zimbabwe beyond him and the liberation war. But we know that Tony Blair has been working with the MDC.

He has been working with Thabo Mbeki and other Sadc leaders. He has been trying to work with Zanu PF to resume dialogue with the MDC. Nobody doesn’t know that. US president George Bush said as much when he said Mbeki was the point man to deal with Zimbabwe’s crisis. Mbeki’s much maligned “quiet diplomacy” has all been about finding a peaceful solution to the Zimbabwe conundrum — to avoid dangerous implosion on the scale of Somalia.

In his excitement about this very old and tired story Manheru claimed Blair made the revelation “just ten days ago, on 14th June, 2005”. See you then Natty.

 Zimbabwe’s newly resettled farmers must have got a pretty healthy insight into Zanu PF’s food fixing techniques. An official appeared on Newsnet on Tuesday to allay the fears of those aspiring farmers who had failed to meet the May 1 deadline for the planting of the winter wheat.

Not to fear. When planted on time the wheat should be harvested before November so that it is not spoiled by the rains. So for those who planted later than May 1, the official said, all they need to do is to starve the wheat crop of moisture so that it matures prematurely at the same time as the early planted crop.

Some voodoo science that appears to work in Zanu PF politics — starve opposition supporters a little and force them to vote for you — has now been extended to crops so that they ripen according to Zanu PF’s schedule. No wonder the quality of the bread is insufferable.

 Also caught in the same Tuesday bulletin was MDC MP for St Mary’s, Job Sikhala. He provoked the ire of Zanu PF moral charlatans in parliament by alleging that former British minister for Overseas Development Linda Chalker made frequent visits to Zimbabwe during her tenure of office because she had a secret lover here.

Foreign Affairs minister Stan Mudenge immediately leapt to his feet in protest. He dissociated the government of Zimbabwe and its people from such an abominable allegation.

“The honourable member implies that Linda Chalker was a woman of loose morals,” fumed Mudenge. Among those who took offence at Sikhala’s allegation was Mt Darwin Zanu PF MP Saviour Kasukuwere.

Muckraker was immediately reminded of the same Kasukuwere giving “Toilet” Tambaoga $200 000 for his near scatological Agrimende song denouncing British prime minister Tony Blair. When Tambaoga sang “the only blair that I know is a toilet” at the height of anti-British propaganda, Kasukuwere rewarded him with the handsome donation.

Which is more offensive — the amorous allegation against Chalker or equating the prime minister of her country to a toilet?

And both hypocrites had just ended their parliamentary contributions in which they took turns to denounce Blair “for admitting” that he was working with the opposition MDC to topple a popularly elected government. What can one say of such fellows? Beyond shame.

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