Zanu PF’s month of the long knives

HAS Nathaniel Manheru been reading the papers lately? On Saturday he tried to dismiss Joyce Mujuru’s nomination for the post of vice-president. This was a “media construct”, he declared.

The Saturday Herald was made to lead with a little story about a missing baby being reunited with its family to avoid the seismic movements going on in Zanu PF that left Manheru, Lowani Ndlovu and Jonathan Moyo with egg all over their face.

As it turned out, Mujuru didn’t need Moyo’s newspapers to get the endorsement she needed. It was left to the Zimbabwe Independent and the Daily Mirror to scoop Pikirayi Deketeke who thought burying his head in the sand would prevent the unfolding reality before him.

By Sunday the “media construct” had metamorphosed into the woman candidate called Mrs Joyce Mujuru. Six provinces had nominated her. The selection of a woman had the support of the president.

How could Manheru be so far off the mark about “a vigorous debate” going on under his nose? A case of the wish being father to the thought! With or without any media coverage, Mujuru still managed to knock out a number of competitors who thought they had it in the bag.

Then there was what looked like an attempt to push Jonathan Moyo’s candidacy amidst strident complaints that the criterion of seniority is being used selectively. Why was Moyo being dismissed as a mafikizolo, complained Manheru bitterly on his master’s behalf.

The simple reason Moyo does not feature in the succession debate is that he doesn’t qualify. His overweening control of the state media hasn’t managed to ingratiate him with the top echelons of the party. Instead he has managed to alienate many of them.

Nobody likes naked ambition, especially when combined with the abuse of power.

We are also not aware of Moyo’s secret admirers who Manheru conjures up. Nor those who hate him. But we certainly are aware of those who hate his plan to shut down all private newspapers because he wants only his own voice to be heard. While he claims to be in favour of “vigorous debate and ideas”, he is in fact a political coward suing papers that expose his hyprocrisy and closing down those which he can’t bully.

Meanwhile, one of Moyo’s many surrogates, Cde Under the Surface continues to sink into irrelevance. He appears to see enemies of Gideon Gono everywhere.

This week he accused the Independent of sabotaging the Zimbabwe Allied Banking Group initiative. The ZABG is a result of at least seven banks that have closed down. Some of those banks will also lose their licences whether Cde Under wants to hear this truth or not. This is just as true whether Lowani Ndlovu believes his semantics about banks being liquidated or placed under curatorship. The ZABG is a monument to bad corporate governance and that has nothing to do with Gono as an individual.

Efforts to paint a rosy picture of the tourism sector don’t seem to be working. If anything, there has been a significant decline since the launch of the land reform programme. The Sunday Mail’s Business section reports the movement of passengers and cargo airlines in and out of the country “has declined by 58% and 55% respectively since 1999”.

As usual, all is blamed on the “negative perceptions” of the country portrayed by the local and international media.

What became of the “Come to Victoria Falls, Down in Zimbabwe” video that was launched with so much fanfare in Victoria Falls and Johannesburg? The Ruvhuvhuto Sisters were roped in to give the video the illusion of a country at peace with itself. Nobody believes the propaganda and tourists have evidently decided to keep their distance until the situation is really back to normal.

Incidents like the harassment of the Congress of South African Trade Unions delegation at the beginning of the month can only make a bad situation worse.

Is December going to be the month of the long knives — or the tall “knaves” — for Zanu PF? That is if President Mugabe’s fire and brimstone speech in Matabeleland North this week was anything to go by. Leaving aside for a while his traditional enemies, the MDC and Tony Blair, Mugabe focused on his own Zanu PF party which he said was riven by infighting for top positions. He talked of “divisive elements” trying to sway voters using money and other cunning strategies.

“We are going to congress in the next week and we want delegates to be aware of these clandestine and cunning knaves,” he said.

“There are crooks in the party who want to get posts at whatever cost. The names will be revealed because they have been using money from white capitalists, some of them who even have links to Britain.”

We hope these are not going to be the same idle threats as we heard last year about recalcitrant multiple farm-owners. Are we really going to see action this time round?

Talking about multiple-farm ownership, has there been progress on that front? Are we to believe that there are untouchables in Zanu PF who can defy party policy and still call themselves loyal party cadres?

We ask this after government last week announced yet another land audit, a clear sign that all is not well with the land reform programme. Land preparations still lag far behind, inputs are reportedly in short supply while senior party officials are said to be fighting over the occupation of farmhouses instead of getting on with the business of farming.

We can have as many land audits as there are ministers to undertake them, but so long as their findings are not implemented simply because they do not endorse the view of a successful programme, then we are wasting everybody’s time.

Economic commentators can be forgiven for getting their recovery programmes mixed up. There have been so many of them that it is difficult to know which one is currently operational.

First we had Esap in 1991, then Zimprest (Zimbabwe Programme for Economic and Social Transformation) in 1996, Merp (the Millennium Economic Recovery Programme) in 2000, and Nerp (the National Economic Revival Programme) in 2003.

None of them worked because government allowed populist posturing to take precedence over fiscal prudence.

Now we have “Towards Sustained Economic Growth” which forms part of the Macro-Economic Policy Framework for 2005-6.

The Sunday Mail’s business reporters think there was something called a National Economic Recovery Programme in the middle of all this whose “gains” the current thrust is meant to “consolidate”.

Dr Herbert Murerwa, who was the Minister of Finance in 2000 and who dismally failed to achieve macro-economic stability under Merp, is back in charge on account of the real Finance minister being unavoidably detained for having a macro-economic plan of his own.

The main thrust of fiscal policy, Murerwa says, will be focused on sustaining the current “turnaround”.

Will that be the same turnaround he achieved when he was previously Finance minister, we should ask? Government borrowing will be maintained at levels consistent with the monetary targets necessary for further reduction in inflation, he says. Requests for unbudgeted amounts by ministries will not be supported, he warns.

So who approved the proposed handouts to liberation war detainees and collaborators? How does that fit into his scheme of things?

Gideon Gono said in his third-quarter statement that such unbudgeted items would not be countenanced. But then it would appear he was sat on by the usual suspects because within a week he was saying such expenditures were OK with him. They wouldn’t rock the fiscal boat, he assured the country. And what else will he be pressed to OK as the election looms?

There is something delusional in the current talk of a turnaround. Companies are going under every week. And no investor will put his money in a country where ruling-party supporters can invade his property and seize control, or where policy, as in the mining sector, is subject to capricious political intervention.

Zimbabwe has signed a number of bilateral investment agreements with various countries and scrupulously ignored them all.

Then there is the “master plan for tourism” which Murerwa thinks will do the trick for a once thriving sector. Aggressive marketing of tourist destinations and strategic alliances with operators are his answer to “challenges associated with the perceived country risk”.

He would be better advised tackling selective application of the law and racist rhetoric by the country’s leaders. As we said earlier, nobody wants to visit a rogue state where they could be targeted by government supporters because of their presumed country of origin. The Bennett case and a new raft of repressive laws have done more for “negative perceptions” than any “hostile media” could have done.

What we have now is a chain of self-deception about the economy. One tour operator, for instance, told the Sunday Mail that the tourism master plan would give the country an advantage over others in the region. Perceptions would “certainly change”, she ventured. Other players should put in place plans “to enable them to cope with the huge tourist arrivals” that will be “triggered by the new recovery plan” and Zimbabwe’s designation as an approved destination by the Chinese government.

All completely delusional of course, but grown-up people are actually repeating these official mantras as gospel truths.

Thank goodness for Zimsun CEO Shingi Munyeza who had to spell things out for Pollyanna tour operators.

“Nothing significant has been realised from the Chinese,” he reported last week. “The Chinese travel in volumes but they are not the best of spenders.”

Occupancy levels at Zimsun hotels, Munyeza reported, were at 36% compared to 39% in 2003. Meanwhile, Zimsun had to cope with a 700% hike in electricity bills courtesy of the state-owned power provider, Zesa, which hasn’t been told about the turnaround!

Compare this dose of cold realism to the National Economic Consultative Forum whose leaders appear ready to swallow anything. An NECF-sponsored research team headed by Prof Chris Chetsanga, it was reported, recommended that there was an urgent need to create a sense of patriotism among Zimbabweans.

This could be achieved, the team said, by “making national and strategic studies compulsory at all levels to change people’s mindsets…”

This would include carrying out “ethno-based learning”, “citizen orientation programmes” and making national youth service compulsory.

All this, it was fondly thought, would reduce the brain drain.

Some brains, it would seem, are already drained!

Talking of which, Professor Claude Mararike, despite his elevated title, is sometimes induced to say some very silly things in the state media. Last weekend, commenting on President Mugabe’s congratulatory message to President Bush, he pontificated as follows: “Behind the congratulatory message, the president is saying if the people chose their leader, anyone with other views has no business to challenge that decision.”

What about the thousands of people who were stripped of their right to vote by manipulation of the voters roll? Don’t they have the right to challenge that decision? What about those candidates who the courts have found were deprived of their victory by violence or fraud? Did they not have the right to challenge the outcome?

What does Mararike think he is doing telling us that the only people who opposed the poll outcome were those “instigated by their financiers and Western sympathisers”?

Those who lost loved ones or who were the victims of torture and coercion do not need “foreign instigators” to tell them what to think of Mugabe’s “victory”!

The government media is replete every day with talking heads prepared to endorse a stolen poll and blame the West for sanctions. But they educate their kids in Britain and the US and send their families to work there when life becomes impossible at home. Somebody should ask them to comment on that little double standard!

We liked the bit in the Sunday News’ story about African countries having to spend a lot of money meant for development in hiring international public relations consultants to counter negative publicity caused by “meddling” Western countries.

Firstly, it would seem, these PR firms have difficulty countering the evidence of a police state coming from Zimbabwe on a daily basis. Ask Woods & Cohen. Then you have Ari Ben-Menashe causing untold damage to the state’s case by his poor performance in court, not to mention his dubious record. And the public are asked to foot the bill because the government is delusional and can’t understand where the problem lies!

Meanwhile, the relentless propaganda goes on. This was the heading in the Southern Times business supplement last weekend: “Botswana’s inflation soars”. And what was the appalling figure: 600%, 200%, 50%?

No. It was 7,7%.

This was alongside an article saying Zimbabwe had unveiled a new policy framework “to buttress its largely successful new monetary policy to further accelerate the country’s economic turnaround and bring down inflation to under 10% by the end of two years”.

Notable “gains” so far included the increased availability of goods and services and “the virtual disappearance of the parallel market”.

Now that’s news!

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