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Editor’s Memo

Windshield smash

Vincent Kahiya

THIS week President Mugabe returned from the Langkawi International Dialogue in Malaysia where leaders of developing countries sought business deals wi

th the rich Asian nation, considered an icon of anti-imperialism.

Mugabe and his entourage have always brought back promises of fantastic projects from their escapades in the East. This time around the trip was supposed to bring back bucketfuls of water for the people of Matabeleland who have been waiting for the fruition of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project for decades.

But Mugabe did not append his signature to the agreement for Malaysia to provide the US$600 million for the construction of the pipeline. The deal could not be sealed because Mugabe had not taken his “water people” to Langkawi.

How did Water and Infrastructure Development minister Joyce Mujuru miss the trip when a US$600 million water deal was on the table? Did someone fail to remind the president that a major spin-off from the trip would be the water deal?

Perhaps Science and Technology minister Olivia Muchena, who did attend, was following up on technology transfer deals announced two years ago. Had Agriculture minister Joseph Made, who was also there, gone to assure the Malaysians that $2,5 billion agro-exports were on their way after this year’s bumper harvest? Perhaps Stan Mudenge went along in search of another diplomatic victory for the country!

So there will be no gargantuan deals to splash in the media because the water people did not make the trip. But the non-water delegation evidently had a good time on the island resort.

“The hospitality is abundant. I have expressed our gratitude to your Prime Minister for hosting it and for the hospitality that we have received,” Mugabe told the Malaysian media.

What could have spoiled the party are statements which have followed Mugabe on his last two foreign trips calling for good tenets of governance such as power-sharing and transparency.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi urged leaders gathered for the smart partnership dialogue to adopt a new mindset and attitudes which embrace openness and transparency.

“Genuine power-sharing between different groups in the country should be considered as an important element in nation-building,” said Badawi. “Nations should develop and implement a positive approach to ethics and integrity.”

So this is no longer an imperialist ploy as we have been tutored by our rulers here? Mudenge will argue that this was not aimed at Zimbabwe.

Last month at the AU summit in Addis Ababa United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan opened up on intractable rulers on the continent.

“Let us pledge that the days of indefinite one-man or one-party governments are behind us,” Annan said to applause. “There is no greater wisdom and no clearer mark of statesmanship than knowing when to pass the torch to a new generation.”

Mudenge told the media in Addis that this had nothing to do with Mugabe. The minister should be reminded that when the winds of change start to blow some build windshields and others windmills.

Mudenge may continue to erect windshields but this is not the last time that Mugabe will encounter similar sentiments at international fora. It will become increasingly difficult for Zimbabwean rulers to market their brand of democracy built on political intolerance and suppression of dissent indefinitely.

At the Sadc summit in Mauritius this month the Zimbabwean delegation will hear about international best practice in governance, transparency and power sharing.

Parliament reconvenes next Wednesday for the final session before the general election in March next year. This is the last opportunity for legislators to make meaningful contributions in the House instead of emulating Innocent Chikiyi who had to be ejected from the House for using vulgar language against a fellow member.

As usual there will be the tepid debate on the presidential speech where MPs will fall over each other in singing praises to their dear leader. The debate on the presidential speech is supposed to mirror societal discourse on key national issues and influence policy formulation. The Zimbabwean parliament has fared badly on that.

The danger is for the House to be bogged down in petty discussions which give excitable MPs the opportunity to prance about like prima donnas.

This session of parliament bears immense significance to the country’s future as legislators have to debate crucial pieces of legislation. The House will consider changes to the electoral law. There is the contentious NGO Bill and a repealing of the Witchcraft Suppression Act.

The proposed amendments to the electoral system – which could entail the repeal of sections of the constitution – should be the focal point of legislators, some of whom have endorsed Bills they have never set eyes on.

The electoral legislation that will come out of parliament will have a huge bearing on the conduct of the general election next year, which will chart the future for the country. The current tension between Zanu PF and the opposition MDC stems largely from the issue of Mugabe’s legitimacy. The opposition claims Mugabe was elected on the platform of a flawed electoral system hence questions about his legitimacy.

But power-drunk politicians have been known to sacrifice common sense on the altar of political expediency. That has been accomplished with perfection by Zanu PF legislators. The record speaks for itself: the Public Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Land Acquisition Act and its attendant amendments.

Given this record, it is hardly surprising they now want to repeal the Witchcraft Suppression Act in the coming session!

* Last week we informed readers that the judgement in Morgan Tsvangirai’s treason trial, initially due on July 29, had been postponed to give the assessors a chance to go through the trial transcript. The court’s registrar took issue with our story and sent us a statement to publish which you may have already seen in the Herald. It appears in full (opposite, top) on this page.

I must place it on record that contrary to the registrar’s contention, we did not suggest that the Judge President had already prepared a judgement. Nor was it our intention to do so.

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