Only ‘village pumpkins’ would do that

IT was more than callous of Lowani Ndlovu to gloat over the misery of thousands of Zimbabwean investors whose banks have been placed under curatorship or are facing liquidation. It was immoral of him.

>Lowani sees Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono’s attempt to gather the insolvent banks into the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group as some creative genius born of the Third Chimurenga when ordinary Zimbabweans cannot access their salaries or savings. How cynical can one get in the name of specious propaganda?

Nobody is blaming Gono for the problems in the banking sector. He didn’t issue any licences. But he promised that no bank would collapse. Evidence on the ground suggests at least seven have.

We won’t waste time on semantics with Lowani who wants us to believe the ZABG is evidence of the country’s economic recovery. Can hard-pressed customers go and withdraw their money from the ZABG?

And one can be certain that Lowani is not affected by the collapse of the banks although he claims to champion the cause of indigenous people. Banks are not merely buildings. They have to be able to transact business. Has Lowani read Gono’s statement where he says ZABG is an amalgamation of banks that have failed to trade out of their difficulties despite billions of dollars advanced to them from the Troubled Bank Fund?

Our argument has always been that it is hypocrites like Lowani who undermine Gono’s well-meaning policies by their reckless statements and populist demagoguery.

At least Gono has no need to be a starry-eyed idealist about the problems in the financial services sector. He warned those in government against sabotaging his economic plan by making unbudgeted payments to so-called ex-detainees which could have another serious impact like the 1997 payout to war veterans. Although he has since been obliged to revise those remarks, his third quarter statement is unambiguous.

Does Gono really want a mad dog like Lowani, who barks at anybody questioning the state’s facile mantras about a non-existent economic turnaround, acting as his spokesman in dealing with the media? Is this frothing-at-the-mouth abuse and juvenile name-calling really the sort of thing likely to impress the international community and inspire confidence in Zimbabwe’s battered banking system? Somehow we don’t think so.

Cosatu’s leaders have described Zimbabwe’s official spokesmen as buffoons. Most Zimbabweans would agree.

After all, a columnist who confuses Jim, Jack and Mary with Tom, Dick and Harry is not your best publicist!

Meanwhile, we are enjoying the internecine warfare taking place in the upper echelons of Zanu PF. Lovemore Mataire, editor of the party’s official mouthpiece, The Voice, this week attacked Lowani Ndlovu for showing disrespect for his superiors.

Lowani himself has not concealed his contempt for the same leadership, and only defends President Robert Mugabe for personal gain. As Mataire indicated in his Candid Brief last week, Lowani is evidently a senior member of the party. One does not need to be a rocket scientist to tell that Lowani would need to be very close to Jonathan Moyo’s power nexus to write all those abusive articles that the Sunday Mail carries every week while it claims to be a family paper.

“I am sure by now the president knows the real identity of Lowani Ndlovu,” said Mataire. “This Ndlovu has gone berserk and needs his tail to be cut for his behaviour is damaging to the party.”

Which is precisely what we have warned against. Only “village pumpkins” would deliberately flout government policy on multiple farm ownership and still go on to defend such action by attacking the party’s leadership when they remind him of some simple rules.

But instead of cutting his tail off, Mataire might consider another strategy that usually works: give him enough rope and he will hang himself!

President Mugabe appears keen to consolidate his pariah regime’s ties with another such state — Equatorial Guinea. Reports suggest that Equatorial Guinea President Theodoro Obiang Nguema shot dead his predecessor, who was also his uncle, to seize power.

What he did next is too grisly to relate.

Despite abundant evidence of Nguema’s bloody ascendancy to power, Patrice Makova of Newsnet insists that alleged mercenaries arrested in Harare in March wanted to overthrow the “democratically elected government” of Equatorial Guinea.

What does that mean? Which election brought Nguema to power? Or did Makova mean “democratic election” Zanu PF-style?

Jonathan Moyo has just made a mammoth discovery. Zimbabwe has “set high standards” for running elections, he claims. According to the Saturday Herald, Moyo either discovered or disclosed this information at Mpandawana growth point in Gutu in rural Masvingo.

He said Zimbabwe had set high standards in running elections and deserved to be respected as a sovereign state. Our electoral standards were better than American practice, where there were problems in Florida in 2000 and nearly another problem in Ohio this year, Moyo told his bemused rural listeners, most of whom probably didn’t even know America was having an election.

If our standards are so high why is government engaged in frantic efforts to amend the law ahead of elections in March? As Moyo himself is wont to remind us, these electoral changes started well before the Mauritius guidelines and principles on democratic elections.

Is his memory so short? What did he say about Zimbabwe’s electoral record in Voting For Democracy and why has he changed his mind?

Newsnet on Monday roped in eccentric “author” Claude Maredza to attack those thought to be enemies of Zimbabwe. How were such people identified, you might wonder. It’s very simple in the government media where a label by Lowani Ndlovu, Nathaniel Manheru or Jonathan Moyo is enough to turn you into an enemy of the state.

In this case, a product of pure coincidence and emergency, the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group was touted as a farsighted creation which should be lauded by everyone. Maredza called those who said the ZABG was formed from the ashes of insolvent banks — ie the Zimbabwe Independent — “enemies of Zimbabwe”. They were “against home-grown solutions” to the country’s problems, he fatuously said.

Of course he didn’t need to explain how the idea of enemies got into his head since reporters in the state media cannot ask a single illuminating question. But you would expect Maredza as a writer to be more open-minded and amenable to all manner of disputation.

Wrong, of course. Most of his so-called novels are virulent personal monologues brimming with invective against whoever is targeted on the day of writing. It’s a pity Zimbabweans have to be subjected to this level of abuse courtesy of government monopoly of the airwaves.

When friends are few and very far between, you surely have to cherish all of them. Sifelani Tsiko had to do his patriotic duty this week to remind us of how popular President Mugabe has become. A clear indicator was the number of presidential visitors or visits.

Tsiko said President Mugabe had confounded “his fiery critics” who said he had “few friends left on the world stage”. So how did Mugabe confound his critics?

“A visit by Malawian president Bingu wa Mutarika to Zimbabwe in August, another by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni last month and his three-day official visit to Mozambique recently and Equatorial Guinea last weekend has seen the veteran statesman emerging with renewed vigour at a time when the opposition is seemingly becoming hopeless and disorganised,” said Tsiko helpfully.

Precisely what we are saying — you can now count those friends on the fingers of one hand. Tsiko forgot to mention the visit last week of the Chinese delegation led by chairman of the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee, Wu Bangguo, which the Herald ignorantly billed a “state visit”.

There was further recognition when Moroccan Foreign minister Mohammed Benaissa delivered to the president “a special message” from King Mohammed VI. This included an important international assignment for the president — to help mediate in the protracted dispute between Morocco and the Saharawi Arab Republic.

You should not stint about mentioning these victories in these times of scarcity, Cde Tsiko.

But how does Tsiko explain the flurry of damage control gymnastics between the Information department, the Herald and Lowani Ndlovu if the idea was not to avoid offending the only friend Mugabe can depend on, Thabo Mbeki? Let’s pay attention to detail.

Talking of detail, Newsnet’s diplomatic correspondent Judith Makwanya last week called people gathered for graduation at the Zimbabwe Open University a “congregation”.

Government ministers and MPs have been addressing numerous congregations lately to win voters in next year’s election. So diplomatically speaking she might be right.

The Sunday Mail last weekend led with a story proclaiming that labour unions in the region had “snubbed” calls by the Congress of South African Trade Unions to gang up against Zimbabwe for the embarrassing debacle last week. Tony Blair was immediately brought in to give the story the usual “conspiracy” angle to “effect regime change in Zimbabwe”.

The usual faceless “impeccable sources” claimed Cosatu had been in contact with labour movements in Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia, all of them being marshalled by Blair for a “regional onslaught” on Zimbabwe.

Unfortunately for Cosatu, the response was unanimous that there was no labour problem in Zimbabwe, reported Sunday Mail political editor Munyaradzi Huni.

Come Tuesday and we had “civic organisations” from the whole of Sadc plotting a blockade of Zimbabwe’s four major border posts. To give this bizarre claim an air of urgency, the Herald said the “demonstrators” planned to disrupt electricity supplies to State House from the border posts and demolish non-existent Mugabe statues.

It is remarkable how far fiction in the state media can go. This was of course to support the “witch-hunt” Lowani promised us two weeks ago “to find out which countries in the region” are working with Blair and the MDC to effect regime change. That investigation has turned up the whole of Sadc, yet Tsiko is claiming that Mugabe’s critics have been confounded. It leaves you all dizzy sometimes!

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