Muckraker

Lowani Ndlovu full of sound and fury


WHAT

qualification does one need to join the Herald as a journalist? It looks like the geography teacher Caesar Zvayi reckons all he needs is to attack all and sundry who don’t work for the state media.


On Monday this week the Herald gave him a long enough robe to expose himself. While he appeared keen that the Media and Information Commission should enforce ethical standards in the media, he didn’t think it was necessary to be bound by the same.


He was full of praise for an unnamed foreign delegate to last week’s Zanu PF national youth congress who claimed: “The only problem in Zimbabwe is the media, for all the perceived problems originate and exist therein.”


Caesar then launched into a diatribe against privately-owned media as the source of all the country’s problems. Can anybody then take him seriously as a teacher at a distinguished Harare school? All the problems such as fuel shortages, transport, foreign currency, high inflation, water and power outages are the creation of the privately-owned media? Is that what he is teaching his students?


We ask this not because we don’t know the obvious answer. We are surprised that somebody talking about ethics can lie so unashamedly in a government publication with impunity. Even Zanu PF itself has acknowledged that the country is facing serious problems on many fronts. Yet Zvayi wants us to believe all this is fiction. After exposing the fiction in the “reactionary media” Zvayi concludes smugly: “The MIC (Media and Information Commission) must ensure that standards prevail in our media by making sure that ethics are respected in all newspapers operating on Zimbabwean soil.”


Zvayi, with deliberate lack of hindsight, does not believe that the story about the MDC plotting to bomb all tall buildings was a work of fiction by the Chronicle. How about the editor of the same paper inventing a story about what happened at an editor’s meeting in Namibia?   The state media has its own set of ethics founded on the principle that you can lie with impunity about your political opponents.


It is instructive that Zvayi ends his article by making contradictions that only an ill-informed teacher can make. He says the media “is a critical institution in any society as it shapes opinions and moulds consciousness…An ill-informed elec-torate is a threat to democracy.”


There are bound to be many ill-informed voters if teachers deliberately seek to mislead readers and students about the country’s source of problems. And what opinions is he giving students? Pity the poor souls abandoned to propagandists masquerading as opinion makers!


How many people have listened to Professor Jonathan Moyo’s latest musical offering called Back2Black? The Sunday Mail’s Under the Surface columnist appears to think that the CD has been a run away success. He says the album “comprises danceable love songs that have already taken the airwaves by storm”.


It would be interesting to know if Under the Surface actually bought the CD or got a complimentary copy. But we are still to find out which radio or TV station has been hit by the Victoria Falls storm.


By the way, nobody has been able to give us a breakdown of how much the junket cost to produce. And who paid for the many guests who were transported to Victoria Falls on an Air Zimbabwe plane, booked into Elephant Hills Hotel over night before the launch of the album? Why was it treated as if it were a state function when it was a personal project of Jonathan Moyo?


But we liked the extravagance of it. While Harare residents are going without water and electricity for various reasons, and people are reportedly dying of hunger in Bulawayo and Nkayi, Moyo can book his colleagues into a plane to go and launch a music album away from the madding crowd in Victoria Falls. While we lesser mortals are forced to listen to some silly jingle about non-available Zesa power, Moyo has resources enough at his disposal to indulge the refined taste of his ilk with “danceable love songs”. We hope the electorate will remember all this when voting time comes.


We enjoyed the puff piece on the Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) by one of many new Zanu PF farmers, Emilia Zindi in the Herald on Monday. She told readers Arda was taking over underutilised land to increase production.


An example of such underutilised land was Kintyre Estates outside Harare. Our patriotic friend didn’t have the courage to tell her readers who is responsible for the wasteland that is Kintyre Estates today. Isn’t it one of the classic examples of what went wrong with the so-called land reform? And what became of the motley plots that were touted as a replacement for the once productive dairy and maize farming project that fell victim to Zanu PF depredations?


According to Zindi, a drive to one of Arda’s estates in Middle Sabi in Chipinge last week showed that “indeed production is at the highest level. The 20 000-hectare estate is a hive of activity. Estate manager Luxmore Madzikanda took the Sunday Mail on a tour of the estate, which has 2 500 hectares under wheat.”


So 2 500 hectares out of 20 000 is what Zindi understands by “the highest level” of production? What was happening before Arda moved in if all they can boast of is 2 500 hectares?


Unfortunately embedded state media reporters are not likely to ask inconvenient questions of their benefactors. We can also safely conclude that there wasn’t much to report about on Kondozi Farm and Charleswood Estate which Arda has invaded.


Lowani Ndlovu is chafing under the collar. He certainly knows a thing or two that President Robert Mugabe and all his cabinet ministers, party supporters, the politburo and the central committee don’t know. Going by his latest instalment in the Sunday Mail, everybody in government and the party is stupid. They don’t know what is meant by multiple farm ownership. They don’t know that all newly-acquired land is owned by the state. They don’t know that if you are a true Zanu PF supporter and can use the land productively you can have as many farms as you wish.


So President Mugabe was wrong when he declared last week that: “As per our tradition, a man can have as many wives as he wants as long as he can look after them. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about farms?” He added, for purposes of clarity: “We are going to have one-man one-farm. Even if you have two wives, you are entitled to only one farm.” 


We might add also that the policy applies even if you have sisters and other relatives. The new policy by Lowani flies in the face of Mugabe’s pronouncement that he was working with Lands minister John Nkomo to make sure those allocated more than one farm surrendered the excess.


Lowani now wants everybody who has more than one farm to give up the extra land “regardless of how and when these MDC types acquired the multiple farms. It is also a fact that many so-called neutrals in the business community are multiple farm owners and they all claim to have bought the farms when closer scrutiny indicates otherwise,” he wrote.


But Lowani can’t be so illiterate as to fail to notice the distinction between land allocated for free by the state and land bought by individuals well before the fast-track land reform. Surely Lowani doesn’t think that he can muddy a simple policy issue by pretending that it is MDC supporters and so-called Rhodies who are multiple farm owners.


In fact, it does appear that his attack is aimed at Mugabe. “Besides, there’s an obvious stupidity inherent to the proposition that any newly-resettled farmer allocated land under the fast-track land reform programme could be a multiple farm owner. That is just not possible because even idiots know that the land is owned by the state,” said Lowani helpfully.


So Mugabe and John Nkomo are so ill-informed as to be unaware of important legal distinctions between a freehold land tenure system which implies title and land owned by the state? Muckraker reckons leaders in Zanu PF and government are allowing Lowani enough rope to hang himself.


If he knows people who are multiple farm owners, let him expose them. If government has not acquired a farm that was bought before the fast-track land reform, it means such a farm is not targeted. Let’s not try to fudge issues. As the Igbo proverb goes, an old woman feels unease when old bones are mentioned in a conversation.


Lowani should not be allowed to get away with cheap double standards to circumvent incovenient party policies. He would do well to recall what he said a few weeks ago. When Nkomo said land was going to be nationalised it was Lowani who said there was nothing like that. He said all land held under existing tenure systems remained as such except for land recently acquired by the state for resettlement.


So why is he worried about those who bought land before the fast-track acquisitions? In any case, what stops Zimbabwe from having two systems running side by side — freehold and leasehold?


We could not understand the Herald headline last Friday: “Water shortage looms” with a subhead telling us “Morton Jaffray equipment rotten, broken down”. Two weeks earlier the same newspaper printed a timetable showing that nearly two-thirds of Harare and its satellite towns were facing critical water shortages. There has been no change in most suburbs. We wonder what the situation will be like when the “looming shortages” finally set in.


We thought that Zanu PF governors for Harare and Bulawayo would work magic where MDC councillors and mayors had been denied resources.


Last week the Herald also ran a story in which four companies donated equipment valued at $150 million to Avondale police for use in the fight against crime in Harare and surrounding areas.


Speaking at the handover ceremony, Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi said: “It is encouraging to recognise that the fight against crime is not a lone battle for the police as members of the corporate world and the residents have come in handy to assist.”


Sitting below a picture of the minister “trying” one of the motorcycles was a story headlined: “Cops accused of robbing gold panners.”


The story said two police officers in Chipinge had been “arrested for allegedly robbing three gold panners of millions of dollars and household property worth nearly $90 million”.


Muckraker would sincerely want to hope that the juxtaposition of the two stories was purely coincidental and not meant to impugn the reputation of our illustrious ZRP.


Talking of juxtapositions and coincidences, the Herald Business on Wednesday last week had two pictures on facing pages B2 and B3. This is what the caption on B2 said:


“An elderly farmer leads his mule, which is pulling a Chinese-made Cherry taxi along a street in Xi’an, in China’s Shaanxi province, hired by the taxi owner in a show of protest against the car company for the shoddy workmanship causing the vehicle to be repaired 100 times in one year.”—AFP.


Directly opposite was a picture of an Air Zimbabwe plane. The caption read: “The national airline, Air Zimbabwe, is to acquire a long haul aircraft from China soon to ply the Asian route.”


If you can read the first caption, you can’t say you were not warned. There is already an outcry from people buying cheap Chinese goods at flea markets dotted across the city.