So the ‘First Family’ is now ‘needy’?

WHY does the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists insist on inviting to its opening ceremony ministers who insult media workers by trotting out tired and puerile accusations of “working with the country’s

enemies to effect regime change”?

Acting Information minister Paul Mangwana is generally a likeable fellow. We were however surprised that the sickness that afflicts all Zanu PF leaders is catching up with him, the belief that journalists are unpatriotic if they report what is inconvenient to an overweening government.

He said the “public” was getting worried by the deteriorating media standards where some journalists had “dedicated their careers” to working with the country’s enemies.

We get very worried when government officials start talking about the public. More often than not it is some control freak or a small clique in government that sees itself as the public and must decide what people can or cannot read. It’s hardly ever the public in the ordinary meaning of that term.

Then there is the ambiguity of the country’s enemies. Surely if Mangwana and his oppressive regime have created enemies for themselves those can’t be everybody’s enemies too. That is why despite all the posturing about the “Look East” policy very few Zimbabweans consider travelling to or working in China one of their priorities. In short President Mugabe’s friends are not necessarily the nation’s friends. It’s a personal choice and he will have to live with it.

On Aippa, Mangwana said the law became necessary after journalists failed to regulate themselves through a formally constituted Media Council. Lack of self-regulation caused a lot of suffering among the people, Mangwana suggested, while employers “reaped fabulous profits” and journalists won awards.

We don’t know about fabulous profits that can be wrung from such a fast-shrinking economy except perhaps by Zanu PF fuel fraudsters. Mangwana didn’t say in what way Aippa had improved the standards of reporting apart from the persecution of journalists. Does he recall a single case in which a journalist has been convicted in a competent court of law for recklessness?

Aippa is no more than a self-serving instrument of the state to criminalise a profession that has become government’s gadfly.

“We continue to read and listen to self-opinionated stories devoid of fact and truth continuously attacking the establishment and championing external political agendas,” Mangwana said.

Did ZUJ president Matthew Takaona respond to any of this in a robust way? We recall him standing silently next to the late Tichaona Jokonya while the minister delivered a vicious attack on the independent media accusing it of betrayal.

This is the standard Zanu PF line and it needs a forcible rebuttal which it is evidently not going to get from ZUJ.

Firstly, Zanu PF’s idea of a patriotic media is one that hides their trail of corruption and repression. They have an entire media industry on their side which parrots the facile mantras of ministers while masking the plunder of the nation’s resources such as we saw in the War Victims Compensation Fund, the VIP housing scheme, and the diversion of DDF equipment to ministerial farms.

None of those things would have seen the light of day without an outspoken independent media. And it is not remotely patriotic for newspapers to repeat Zanu PF’s childish conspiracy theories which seek to explain their misrule by dishonestly blaming others for the country’s decline.

What national interest is served by the pillage of hitherto productive farms, Mangwana should have been asked? How do false crop forecasts and fake GDP figures serve the national interest?

It is not journalistic ethics that have been sacrificed on the altar of expediency but ministerial integrity. And Mangwana should stop pretending that the public are “worried about the deteriorating standards of journalism”. We heard the same claim from Tafataona Mahoso at the time his Media Ethics Committee was undertaking its “research”. Needless to say, nobody swallowed it then and only Takaona seems to now.

What we want to see, he should have said in response to the minister’s address, is greater ministerial honesty, less attempts to hoodwink the public, and an end to Zanu PF’s waste and mismanagement. How can Mangwana lecture journalists on the need for ethics and self-regulation when Zanu PF abandoned its leadership code 20 years ago?

Journalists should start defending themselves instead of putting up with “self-opinionated” politicians who long ago lost the nation’s respect.

ZUJ should be equally concerned with government public relations officers masquerading as journalists. The Sunday Mail’s Munyaradzi Huni was last weekend having a go at independent newspapers, unoriginally branding them “weapons of mass deception”, going “all out to create the false impression that Zimbabweans were in the mood to join the circus” of ZCTU/MDC protests.

“Instead of thinking of mass protests,” Huni claimed, “the people of Zimbabwe are busy trying to find means of survival, and slowly most of them are finding solutions to their hardships”.


We recall Huni being thoroughly humiliated by a previous Information minister who rewarded his abject loyalty by publicly roasting him for incompetent reporting. Undaunted he seeks to serve new masters with his disingenuous claims.

“Of course, there was a time when the public was angered by the rise in inflation and price hikes, but that was before people understood that the source of their hardships were the sanctions imposed on their country,” Huni opined. “And that was before the people realised that the government was doing all it could to revive the economy.”

Now that’s what we call massively deceptive!

The Harare commission is already working on another budget for the residents of the capital. The commission’s deputy chair, Tendai Savanhu, said this time around there would be wide consultations with stakeholders. In fact he spoke of a “people-oriented” budget where people’s views would be considered. In the event that people raised objections, said Savanhu, the proposals would be reviewed.

As usual he promised improved service delivery, including refuse collection, filling in of potholes on the city’s roads and repairing of traffic lights.

All we can say is that we wish we could believe him. A number of high density suburbs have not seen a single garbage collection truck since before the launch of Operation Murambatsvina in May last year. Residents have resorted to burning refuse in the open which sometimes causes a huge pall of smoke and an unhealthy stench for residents.

Incidentally, Muckraker has been told that whenever the commission collects garbage from Kuwadzana 4 shopping centre, it is dumped in front of the unfinished and collapsing city library less than 100 metres away. Is the library perhaps the new dumping site?

We particularly enjoyed the bit where Savanhu said the days of “imposed” budgets were over. It can’t be coming from an imposed commission. That should be the residents’ first objection.

Then there was Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono proposing a new approach to budgetary planning because of the “guerilla warfare” the country was engaged in. He said orthodox budgetary frameworks did not work under the current hyperinflationary environment.

“We need a change of approach,” warned Gono while giving oral evidence to the parliamentary portfolio committee on Budget and Finance, “otherwise what we do remains totally academic. We need a framework that allows regular reviews of budgets.”

After being told of economic turnarounds, that failure is not an option, and of falling inflation we thought perhaps we should soon be out of the woods. Is the need for change a tacit admission that we are in this guerilla warfare for the long haul we wonder?

We had a good chuckle at the Sunday Mail’s cartoonist Musapenda’s impression of the interior of No 10 Downing St. He seems to think Tony Blair’s office looks like one in Mkwati Building. The little mouse, which appears to inhabit these offices, is saying “Your days are numbered”.

Ironic isn’t it, that President Mugabe and Blair now have something in common: Everybody is asking when they are going.

By far the funniest comment in the government media last week came from George Charamba who, responding to a report in the Standard on Arda and its former boss Joseph Made assisting the “First Family” with their farming endeavours, said: “The relationship between Arda and the First Family is a typical one between the parastatal and any new needy farmer.”

So the “First Family” is now “needy”!

Meanwhile Made, “himself an agricultural expert”, had “freely assisted the First Family in certain specialised agricultural activities”, we were told.

So that’s all OK then. But wouldn’t it have been more accurate to describe Made as “himself an agricultural disaster”?

Why has the regime been so terrified of the ZCTU’s planned protests this week? They have done everything conceivable to undermine the organisation’s capacity to operate effectively including prosecutions of its leadership on trumped up charges. They have also set up a rival outfit whose job is to pretend all is well and that the government is “solving the workers’ grievances”.

Then we saw a full page ad by the rival ZFTU and a group calling itself the “Concerned ZCTU affiliates” who were opposed to strike action. It came as no surprise that none of these affiliates was named. And their ad looked suspiciously as if it had been crafted by people who were not workers, as did the ZFTU ad. This was evidently not Joseph Chinotimba’s work!

The ZCTU should adopt a more robust position in response to state persecution and quisling collaborators. There can be no participation in the Tripartite Negotiating Forum so long as Zanu PF continues to harass trade unionists, sabotage the economy and destroy workers’ jobs.

Meanwhile, Didymus Mutasa should take a break from waving his fists at the ZCTU. He only advertises to the world how insecure the regime feels at the prospect of a handful of workers exercising their right to strike. Do his silly threats speak of a government secure in the hearts of the nation?

In the same vein, we would appeal to Emcoz’s Mike Bimha, the CZI’s Callisto Jokonya, and ZNCC’s Mara Hativagone to avoid lending themselves to the state’s agenda by making gullible remarks to state newspapers. Can you imagine Hativagone saying “the government is trying its best” to revive the economy? What planet is she living on?

SW Radio Africa reports that armed riot police descended on a workshop organised by the Zimbabwe National Students Union and arrested eight student leaders in Harare on Tuesday. The student leaders were holding a strategic workshop ahead of  protests scheduled by the ZCTU and Zinasu. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) Rapid Reaction Unit lawyer Tafadzwa Mugabe was denied access to his clients all day.

“The ZLHR said the police threatened the lawyer saying they were going to throw him out of the police station and warned that further unspecified action would follow,” the radio station reported.

“The human rights body said upon the attendance of a further lawyer from their Public Interest Litigation Unit, Lawrence Chibwe, and insistence by the two lawyers that their clients’ rights were being violated, a police officer from the Police District Intelligence Office told the lawyers: ‘We have been violating your clients’ rights since this morning, and we will continue doing so. We are also violating your right to see your clients.’”

Please tell Muckraker that this is a misunderstanding and that no such statement was made. It is difficult to believe that despite the emergence of a police state, officers would be so brazen knowing their statements would be reported.

Where’s Wayne when you need him?

Have you noticed that by saying “there was nothing sinister about it”, a number of questionable actions become justified?

So there was “nothing sinister” about council assisting people with their water problems, according to suspended town clerk Nomutsa Chideya in evidence to a government-appointed committee of inquiry. When Ignatious Chombo summoned Chideya to his office to hear how Harare Commission deputy chair Tendai Savanhu
needed water at his residence, Chideya felt obliged to assist. “What could we do?” Chideya said wringing his hands. After all there was “nothing sinister” about it.

Meanwhile, thousands of other residents continued to be waterless. Sekesai Makwavarara received her water supply from the Fire Brigade, we gather. Was this a service available to all residents?

Savanhu was “associated with very powerful politicians”, we were told in Chideya’s testimony.

Chideya was told to get rid of certain heads of department.

“The minister said these were not our people and they were to be removed from council and Ms Makwavarara concurred.”

Chideya said it was his understanding that they were perhaps people seen “as not belonging to Zanu PF”.

What a fascinating insight into the way the party does business. Herald municipal reporter Michael Padera was allocated a flat in Trafalgar Court after Chideya had written to the director of housing. There was of course “nothing sinister” about him getting accommodation “like everybody else”.

Perhaps he meant everybody else at the Herald!

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