Muckraker

Ncube’s sin and media scatology


IT is diffi

cult not to feel just a little sorry for Lovemore Mataire. Here is the editor of a party newspaper chosen for his obedience, not to say enthusiasm, for the Zanu PF cause when writing as an editorialist in the state media. Upon the basis of that misguided loyalty he was duly promoted to editor of the tired and little-read party mouthpiece, The Voice.


From there he was expected to toe the party line and generally continue with the slavish tradition exemplified by the geography teacher Caesar Zvayi whose ignorant and hate-filled posturing gives Zimbabwean journalism, not to mention teaching, a bad name.


Now Mataire is under fire as he finds himself caught up in the internecine war for the succession to President Mugabe. His crime was to have innocently referred to talks between Zanu PF and the MDC on the much-touted electoral reforms.


These informal contacts are now common cause and as the proposed reforms bear a remarkable resemblance to those being advanced by the MDC, it is hardly surprising that observers should point to their source, which in private is not denied.


Civics and regional governments have also played their part in getting Zanu PF to adopt measures it was implacably hostile to only a few months ago.


But the Department of Information and Publicity immediately put out a statement, in the florid language which provokes so much national mirth, calling The Voice’s report “a complete falsity” and its editor “ideologically confused”.


“It is appalling that an editor of an organ of the ruling party can get it so wrong,” the department commented.


It’s appalling that state media are being treacherously abused by officials in the Information department who should clearly explain the national interest as opposed to their petty wars with Nathan Shamuyarira who appointed Mataire.


It was difficult to know where the editor got the story given Patrick Chinamasa’s denials, the department’s over-excited spokesman fumed. The proposed electoral reforms had “fundamentally evolved from Zimbabwe’s experiences since Independence”, and not from anywhere else, it was argued. Sadc was in the process of working out its own electoral reforms. Not a single Sadc state has the set of electoral reforms proposed by Zimbabwe on its statute books, it was claimed.


Except for South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. They all have provisions contained in the Sadc proposals. Only Zimbabwe is out of line, and has now been obliged to conform if Sadc is to declare the March poll free and fair. There will also be amendments to Posa and Aippa, we can safely predict, which will again be presented as a Zanu PF initiative!


But what we want to know is why officials of the Department of Information are issuing statements which concern a Zanu PF newspaper? Should the complaint not have been addressed to Shamuyarira and John Nkomo who are responsible for The Voice? Or can we safely assume that this spat is yet another manifestation of the power struggle that has seen the Herald hijacked for the use of one particularly ambitious contender while his superiors are confined to the pages of the party’s equivalent of Pravda which, as was the case in the Soviet Union, nobody reads except the nomenklatura?


Meanwhile, the Information department’s spokesman should calm down a little before issuing such manifestly self-interested statements. This latest effort reminds us of Smokey Jones, a character in one of James Hadley Chase’s thrillers whose reaction on the trigger is so fast that those who cross his path are rarely able to open their mouths before they are gunned down. Readers will notice that no other Zanu PF official has had access to the state media or a right of reply since Smokey Jones, took over.


“I can say without equivocation that this Bill in the original form was the most calculated and determined assault on our liberties guaranteed by the constitution,” said Eddison Zvobgo, chairman of the parliamentary legal committee, of the original Access to Information and Protection of Privacy law.


Unfortunately, when the Bill was debated in parliament Zanu PF MPs thought only the MDC would be outlawed from the media. By the time they wake up, most of them could have lost their seats in next year’s election. 


It does appear that our “uncolonised” friend Lowani Ndlovu won’t go down without a fight. He is furious that he has been called a “mafikizolo” and is apparently one of the multiple farm owners. Never mind that there were errors in sending withdrawal letters to wrong ministers. What is clear to everybody who has been following this sordid land saga is that there are greedy fellows who don’t want to surrender land they stole from the people, the so-called “landless masses”.


President Mugabe said everyone who needs land would get it. That includes the breed called mafikizolo. That includes MDC supporters who need land. It is only those who are sick in the mind like Lowani who think only Zanu PF supporters must benefit from a vital national resource such as land.


It was never announced as government or party policy that land reform was for Zanu PF. That would be criminal and sow seeds of future conflict. And Muckraker doesn’t believe that was the intention of the party leadership when they embarked on the land reform.


What the party is now fighting is greed. Why should a few people, no matter their position in the party or their role in the liberation war, want to eat more than their fair share of national resources? Certainly clinging on to more than one farm without disclosure amounts to corruption. And that is one of the things that Mugabe has said he will root out. So Lowani Ndlovu and the cabal of multiple farm owners he is trying to defend have nowhere to run.


But we note his claim this week that Land Reform ministry permanent secretary Simon Pazvakavambwa has been colluding with some officials “to falsify records, distorting them in the hope of creating and presenting a picture that has no basis in reality”.


That is a very serious charge and we hope Pazvakavambwa will respond in equal measure. That is if he hasn’t already started receiving unsolicited advice from ambulance-chasing lawyers. So while that is an interesting ball to watch, we still expect Lowani and his ilk to return ill-gotten farms — including those allocated to “cousins”.


What is interesting in all this is that the high-level dispute has smoked out the interested parties. Lowani is no longer even pretending to be anybody other than the chief land-grabber and information-hogger. Whether it be Mugabe’s succession or talks between Zanu PF and the MDC, the man’s insecurity is there for all to see.


Ignatius Chombo wants to run Harare council. He has become the virtual chief executive. We wonder why he wants to perpetuate the illusion of following the law. If anything, he is wasting our resources by appointing silly committees of party hacks whose verdict is predictable.


On Friday he decided it was time to fire the 13 MDC councillors whom he suspended in June. That brings to 19 the number of councillors that Chombo has dismissed from council, thereby subverting the democratic process.


What is startling, if not shocking, is the minister himself cannot spell out the offence the councillors committed. His biggest case against them is simply that the Urban Councils Act gives him the power to fire them. Not even the partisan Herald could find anything against the councillors. All Chombo said was the councillors were “interfering in the management of council affairs”. This was after the councillors rightly challenged ministerial meddling in council affairs.


In fact, Chombo’s behaviour in Harare exposes him as a village bully who is abusing the law to incapacitate an elected body. If he is bitter that his party lost the capital to the opposition why doesn’t he go and rule from Zvimba where he was elected MP? Ever since he was appointed Local Government minister, Harare residents have never enjoyed the benefit of their decision to elect MDC councillors after years of shoddy performance by Zanu PF at both local and central government level. We wish Zanu PF was equally quick to deal with malfeasance among its top officials.


We note that the fired councillors interviewed by the Herald and on SW Radio Africa said their appeal to the courts was only a formality because they had lost confidence in the judicial system.


This is a common refrain heard across the land and it is one which the judiciary should take note of. Public confidence is fundamental to an effective judicial system.


The most optimistic headline of all time must surely be that in the Herald last Saturday: “Blitz flushes out street vice.” Needless to say there was little in the story to justify such unrealistic claims. It is naïve in the extreme to expect the arrest of just 11 men to end a vice as pervasive as prostitution — the world’s oldest profession!


The writer told us he had driven in the Avenues area around 10pm and prostitutes and their potential clients had suddenly vanished from Harare streets because of the police blitz.


“Also conspicuous by their absence were kerb-crawlers,” enthused the would-be voyeur. “Gone too were the women who used to ply their trade along Samora Machel Avenue East and near Avondale Shopping Centre.”


Not surprisingly, by Monday the same paper had another headline extolling the miracles of the ZRP operation. “Prostitution blitz nets 14 more Harare men,” ran the heading. We hope they won’t be telling us these were policemen wrongly arrested while posing as prospective clients.


The most dire heading was in the Daily Mirror, “Battle for Hwange rages on”, in which the provincial administrator for Matabeleland North allegedly wants Chombo to dissolve the local board because of financial irregularities. We were told failure to deal with the problemthreatens the town with “imminent collapse”.


What does that mean, even before we ponder the unimaginable where Chombo can save a town from collapse? Is the administrator playing politics or does he think Harare residents are forever grateful to Chombo for usurping the powers of an elected council? Let’s get real.


While Lowani Ndlovu attacks Lands minister John Nkomo with gusto in the Sunday Mail, his alter ego, Nathaniel Manheru in the Herald, lashes out at Archbishop Pius Ncube with searing passion. We were told Ncube lied about Zimbabwe in a BBC interview in London.


“Not only was the ‘holy man’ lying between his divine teeth; he made sure each lie was swollen with earthly hyperboles.”


A case of the pot calling the kettle black! Muckraker doesn’t have the good fortune of hypocrites such as Manheru who advocate and impose 75% local content in the electronic media while watching the godless BBC. So we don’t know precisely what lies Ncube is accused of telling the British. But Manheru’s advice should be noted: “The best medicine is to ignore the idiot; to leave him to wallow in his uncatholic hate.”


Indeed, all idiots should be ignored whatever their religion!


The little we do know, of course, is that Archbishop Ncube has consistently refused to collaborate with Zanu PF in its culture of torture and violence against opponents. While most church leaders have looked the other way in the face of mounting repression, Ncube has dared to be different and speak his mind as informed by his conscience. It is an unforgivable sin to have a conscience in Zimbabwean politics. That is Ncube’s greatest sin.


Muckraker recently wrote about “Toilet” Tambaoga’s scatological Agrimende song. A reader this week e-mailed us complaining of offensive language in the Herald. Pius Ncube is described in the paper’s Comment on Saturday as having “mental diarrhoea” and the MDC’s proposed Broad Alliance is sneered at as “masturbatory”. Ncube is described by Manheru as spitting “uncooked saliva” in his BBC interview.


Responding to a letter published in the Zimbabwe Independent last week in which a reader wanted to know why he is always critical of Tony Blair and George Bush’s policies and the opposition MDC but says hardly anything against Mugabe, Manheru responds thus: “As to why I continually criticise the dead MDC, well it is to make sure it’s thoroughly dead, this browning, brooding excreta we should never ever allow another white man to shit and deposit on our land.”


We wish to commend this encyclopaedia of hate speech and uncouth language to our ethics police led by Tafataona Mahoso. When President Robert Mugabe recently smugly told viewers that he only read the Herald did he know this is what it prints? Is that what he wants his children to read? And it claims to be a family newspaper! My foot.


Tel*One has increased its tariffs by almost 390%. According to New Ziana, the new rates are four times those for January. In summary, this is what the rate hikes mean: a three-minute local call now costs $585 from $120, Internet services cost $235 from $48 per minute.


A spokesperson for the telephone company said the rates were a result of “maintenance costs”. This is a company in which government is the majority shareholder. Inflation is currently around 350%. The question is, if government entities are hiking rates above inflation, what faith are ordinary consumers supposed to have in claims of an economic recovery and falling inflation? How are workers expected to absorb these rate increases except by demanding higher wages, which entail a spiral of price increases all round?


Gideon: Where are you?