Muckraker

Does Obasanjo know something we don’t?



RONG>THE Sunday Mail’s Under the Surface columnist is miffed that the Nigerian state of Kwara is giving expelled Zimbabwean commercial farmers land to continue to do what they do best — produce food. He says this proves that the Nigerians cannot be trusted. He is sceptical that Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo ever meant well when he tried to mediate in the political stalemate between Zanu PF and the opposition MDC.


“Next time you see President Obasanjo appearing as if he wants to mediate in solving any problem, then know that he is up to something bigger than help solve your problems,” complains Under the Surface.


He doesn’t say what is wrong with Nigerians appreciating talent when they see it. The Nigerian leader has not hidden the great esteem in which he holds Zimbabwe’s cast-away white farmers. We still remember earlier this year when he said he did not want Zimbabwe’s former farmers to leave the continent because that would be a great loss to Africa. This is unlike President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party who would rather cut their nose to spite their face. So what would Under the Surface have Nigeria do? Turn down offers from Zimbabwe’s farmers in the name of spurious solidarity?


Fortunately Obasanjo knows which side his bread is buttered on.


Is there something they put in their reporters’ tea at the Sunday Mail that produces the lickspittle journalism that is the chief characteristic of that ministerial propaganda mouthpiece?


We have weekly the conspiracy theories of its political editor which appear to have been inspired by his swollen-headed mentor and are therefore given prominence despite being far-fetched, improbable, and mostly downright daft! The same emasculated individual would also seem to be using the paper’s Under the Surface column to settle a few scores with journalists in the independent press, not to mention foreign diplomats.


We still haven’t managed to work out the point about Sir Brian Donnelly being an MI6 agent in uniform. Why would he want to be in uniform if he was an MI6 agent? Something seems to have got lost in the translation here!


But competing vigorously for the Sunday Mail’s Bootlicker of the Year Award  — in a busy field — is young Robert Mukondiwa who last weekend supplied a loving paean of praise to the author of the Back2Black album.


“I felt that after listening to the grooves and words in the songs, exploring the intercourse of sound on the album I had grown a shade darker after the experience — I had truly and in practical essence gone Back2Black,” he gushingly wrote.


Nothing that is black is ever good, Mukondiwa bemoaned. “Even in snooker and pool, where the highest scoring ball is black and is the most coveted, the catch is the same. The black ball has to be sunk last after all other lighter-shaded balls and it is given its painful whack by — you guessed it, the WHITE ball!”


Some therapy is obviously needed here.


Nathaniel Manheru offered a back-handed welcome to the new British ambassador, Roderick Pullen, in his weekly column last week. In fact he invented an entire history for himself so he could posture as the great nationalist redeemer.


“I am sure Sir Donnelly (sic) would have told you a thing or two about me, Nathaniel, the first son of old Manheru.”


Indeed, he would probably have told his successor what an old fraud you are. Don’t we recall Pikirayi Deketeke telling a judge last year that he was Manheru? So are all the ancestors listed last Saturday his or yours?


And they would have had difficulty fighting for the “great Queen” in Burma when she had been dead 40 years!


Let’s hope Dr Pullen turns out to be as outspoken as his counterpart in Kenya, Edward Clay, who, accusing the Kenyan government of arrogance, greed and corruption, told an audience of businessmen recently that ministers “could hardly expect us not to care when their gluttony causes them to vomit all over our shoes”.


The East African Standard, one of the papers our government has been trying to court, had this to say of Clay’s remarks: “Below the indelicate vomit imagery, beneath the usual British scepticism about us, Mr Clay was speaking the ugly truth about the state of our country and its government.”


And in comments that will resonate in this country, Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi said if the Kenya government’s commitment to fight corruption “is to carry any credibility and conviction, then it must act firmly against the culprits in its ranks in accordance with its pledge that there will be no sacred cows”.


We were intrigued by Jonathan Moyo’s remarks that next year’s general election would be aimed at consolidating Zanu PF’s gains made in 2000. Does he mean the “gains” that saw his party lose 57 seats? Or the “gains” that have seen the country’s economy contract by 30% since?


There appears to be some confusion here.


“Time has come for us to deal with the puppet once and for all,” Moyo declared to supporters at Nyahondo Primary School. The MDC had fallen into Blair’s toilet and what was left was to flush them down, he said using the scatological metaphors now common in the ruling party.


Herald columnist Caesar Zvayi had a better idea. “Every Zimbabwean must pledge his ballot to kill the sellouts in our midst at the polls,” he said.


This is the second threat made against opposition voters by this  state columnist and it is remarkable that none of our church leaders or civic spokesmen think it is noteworthy! Why are Densen Mafinyane and Trevor Manhanga so quiet about intimidation of this sort?


If anybody was in doubt about the depth of the skills drain from the University of Zimbabwe, the Sunday Mail laid everything bare this week. Out of an optimum staff complement of 1 200 lecturers, the university has about 580 as of February this year. In other words while enrolment figures have been rising sharply, the staff required to teach has been deserting the institution because of “poor conditions of service”. We don’t know if there is a minister responsible.


But these shocking developments have not, of course, stopped the predatory Education minister Aeneas Chigwedere from interfering in the affairs of the few remaining private schools still offering quality education in the country. In other words soon we might have another exodus of skilled teachers from primary and secondary schools because of poor salaries and political uncertainty in the country.


Even the patriotic Herald was on Friday forced to concede that something was wrong with the government arbitrarily setting limits on fees schools could charge. Not only had standards in government schools declined over the years, it said. In a telling metaphor on what is happening, it compared private and government school education to a Mercedes Benz and a Mazda 323. Suppose farming doesn’t need education!


For the first time Saturday’s Herald appeared to acknowledge that some of the land seized under the free-for-all land grab had been laid to waste. Except that in this case it was mainly to spite the new owner. Resettlement permanent secretary Simon Pazvakavambwa has allegedly not paid his workers on Lynton Farm since May. Irrigation equipment and tractors on the farm are lying idle, moaned the Herald in its lead story. “The previous owner,” it said, “Mr Mike Malzer, used to grow paprika, maize, tobacco and ran a thriving cattle ranch and piggery.”


It didn’t say why a productive farmer was chased off the land, of course. “Workers on the farm said the farm used to be very productive but was now run down and feared for their future as the new owner was allegedly not committing himself to farming,” disclosed the Herald.


That’s what happens when resources are allocated to people for free on the basis of political affiliation. Meanwhile, less jaundiced investigations by the Herald could reveal that the new wastelands go well beyond Lowani Ndlovu’s petty quarrel with Minister John Nkomo over the Tsholotsho constituency.


There are multiple farm grabbers who are refusing to surrender extra properties despite President Mugabe’s repeated appeals to these greedy fellows. Muckraker understands one judge who seized what used to be a hugely productive estate in the Chinhoyi area has reduced it to a two-donkey affair. Nobody knows what happened to the tractors and combine harvesters on the farm.


Hell hath no fury like a columnist whose newspaper group has been ordered to pay damages for defamation. Lowani Ndlovu was furious that Justice Yunus Omerjee found for the banned Daily News after they were defamed by Information minister Jonathan Moyo in his many reckless articles published in the Herald in 2003. The Herald and its shadowy Nathaniel Manheru were also ordered to pay damages.


What struck Muckraker as contradictory beyond description was Lowani’s howls about democracy and freedom of expression. It has a jarring feeling like chewing sand. In comments that verged on contempt of court, Lowani pronounced Justice Omerjee’s judgement the worst ever made by the High Court and a direct attack on freedom of the press. He said of the judgement:


“It is a naked and rather crude attack on freedom of expression that should never ever be allowed to stand in any constitutional democracy because it is unreasonable and unjustified in such a society.”


Really Cde Lowani? Since when have you become a spokesperson for those seeking to reclaim their right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press?


While he was attacking Justice Omerjee’s judgement, he could not miss the chance to gleefully refer to the Daily News as “defunct”. What hypocrisy!


It is no secret that it is the likes of Lowani and other charlatans in the state’s propaganda armoury who orchestrated and celebrated the closure of three newspapers and the arrest of dozens of journalists in a space of two years. Not even diabolical Ian Smith could match that. Not in a thousand years.


But then Lowani is a clever fellow who can hedge his bets. While he was bitter about Justice Omerjee’s judgement, what better way to attack it than mask his assault as a defence of freedom of expression? That should forestall a possible contempt of court charge as an infringement on his freedom of expression. Let’s see how this one pans out!


Meanwhile, Lowani’s alter ego in the Sunday News, Mzala Joe in Bulawayo, had a go at Zanu PF chairman and Resettlement minister John Nkomo. Nkomo’s sin was an interview he had with the Zimbabwe Independent in which he said the ruling party had been infiltrated. The Independent was gratuitously labelled an opposition mouthpiece “that never ever publishes a single true or good thing about President Mugabe, Zanu PF, the government and Zimbabwe”.


We are not going to waste our time defending the Independent from Mzala Joe Lowani Ndlovu who, for some very strange reason, sees himself as the people, the government, Zanu PF, the state and President Mugabe all rolled into one. The court of public opinion is out there to make a verdict. The real issue is that Lowani and Mzala Joe are two faces of the same coin. The attack on Nkomo was transferred to Bulawayo to accommodate the attack on Justice Omerjee’s judgement in Lowani’s “colonised” Sunday Mail. That’s as threadbare and flyblown as the trick can go. The source is exactly the same.


Control of the state media has become a personal passion, a one-man struggle for access to public attention. We have said it before that only one person now is able to speak through the state-controlled media. Aggrieved Zanu PF officials cannot use the state media unless they are attacking Tony Blair or the MDC. When some evil laws were promulgated to muzzle the media or to close down certain newspapers, Zanu PF MPs voted with their feet because they thought it was an opposition thing. Now while the likes of Lowani are shedding crocodile tears about freedom of expression, all he is crying for is a licence to attack all and sundry because he is guaranteed space in the state media. Nobody else enjoys that “democracy”. In fact everybody else has been relegated to The Voice, which nobody reads.


So it was that Nkomo committed the unpardonable sin of granting an interview to the opposition press. And in Lowani’s logic you cannot use the private press without being a traitor. He holds the key to the state media.


Thus spoke hypocritical Mzala in the Sunday News: “The fact that Cde Nkomo chose to speak through a paper that everyone knows is opposed to President Mugabe, Zanu PF, the government and Zimbabwe itself raises eyebrows and leaves Cde Nkomo open to criticism that he used that paper fully knowing that the outcome would be negative on President Mugabe, his own party, of which he is national chairman, and the government of which he is a senior member.”


Has Mugabe grown so old that he is supposed to be seduced by this kind of cheap flattery by people in Zanu PF who don’t want to surrender the extra farms they looted during land reform? So if you steal a farm all you need to do to keep it is to pretend to love Zanu PF and the president and you are as safe as a leech?


How do you describe an organisation that still calls itself the best employer in the country after its workers go on strike demanding a pay rise? Such is the phenomenon that is Zimpapers. Its workers downed tools on Monday over salary increases and this was described by management as an act of sabotage.


“There is definitely an agenda behind this illegal sit-in,” fumed the group’s acting chief executive Oswell Matore. The Herald then bragged that “Zimpapers employees are currently the envy of many organisations”.


Zimpapers chief executive Justin Mutasa recently also bragged that they were buying their senior employees “state-of-the-art” executive vehicles. Two weeks down the line the employees cannot take any more  of this forked-tongue double-speak. It’s called the ostrich mentality.


We hope young Tommy Deuschle and his fellow-student from Celebration College, Andrew Irish, benefited from their visit to the US where they were due to attend the Global Youth Conference. They were also due to visit the World Bank, Wall Street and the United Nations, we were told. Last we heard, they were seeking donations for their trip.


While we wish the two lads all the very best, we can’t agree with Tommy that “it’s our duty to cast Zimbabwe in good light” while in the States. Surely their first duty is to tell the truth!

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