Muckraker

Wanted urgently: men in white coats


HAVE

you noticed the new offence Jonathan Moyo’s Department of Information has dreamt up? It is now forbidden to mention fatalities resulting from starvation.


The Standard last weekend carried a story, sourced from Bulawayo city council minutes, reporting the death of 62 people as a result of food shortages. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee  recently reported that 2,3 million people would need food aid in the coming months.


The government, increasingly delusional and paranoid, has denied these reports, claiming that Zimbabwe has enough food to feed itself.


Now the Department of Information has gone one step further and warned that the media is liable to prosecution for reporting “falsehoods” about food shortages.


Reminding the media of its obligation to verify information before publication, it said “publication of falsehoods, however well-sourced” was “punishable in terms of the law of the land”.


So the conclusions of the Bulawayo city council, including its health director, and the observations of international agencies concerned with food security, have been deemed “falsehoods” which cannot be cited while the government continues to pretend that the country is self-sufficient in food?


Apart from the sinister attempt to abridge the duty of newspapers to keep the public informed, this sets a new precedent in requiring the independent press to follow the state media in publishing official deceit and denying civic concerns. The gratuitous insults heaped on the archbishop of Bulawayo in the Department of Information’s statement expose the partisan and unprofessional agenda at work here.


If Pius Ncube is “quite unwell”, what are we to make of the seriously deranged people working in the government’s propaganda department who think they can win converts by placing the word “British” in front of everything?


So we had the “British-fronted tabloid”, a “British-sponsored mayor”, and “British-backed doctors” all in cahoots!


Is this not the point at which men in white coats step in to sedate those in need of help before they become a danger to themselves?


Another clear “falsehood” by the department is the claim that the government introduced executive mayors to “fight urban poverty”. Whereupon it proceeded to cleverly warn that if the “false” Standard story was investigated and “found to be true” it “would point to punishable gross negligence” on the part of the Bulawayo city council! So in fact the department is denying what it doesn’t even know?


Luckily Ignatius Chombo has taken over control from all executive mayors and we hope he is aware of his new responsibilities to feed the poor!


Somebody else in urgent need of help is geography teacher Caesar Zvayi. He has on several occasions referred to Ian Smith’s “open weeping” at Rufaro Stadium as the Union Jack was lowered at midnight on April 17 1980.


This is a poignant historic moment that Zvayi has captured for posterity.  We presume he has done his homework and can confirm that Smith was in fact present at the ceremony? It’s just that we are a little surprised by the tears seeing that the rebel leader had 12 years earlier dumped the Union Jack in favour of some green and white concoction.


These and other “falsehoods” can be found daily in the Herald. Not long ago we were told the Inkatha Freedom Party was the second largest party in South Africa. And more recently we were surprised to read that Mike Auret had said Harare Archbishop Robert Ndlovu was “the best black man for the job”.


In fact he said he was the “best man for the job”. Not quite the same thing is it?


We liked the story about Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono walking around Bulawayo “incognito” in a bid to learn more about the operations of the black market.


Did he wear a false moustache and funny nose with horn-rim glasses? No, the state media tell us, he just changed his jacket.


Presumably the Bulawayo populace is familiar with the governor’s jacket! But unsurprisingly his concealment didn’t last long. Two ladies he was in conversation with were tipped off as to his real identity and abandoned what we are told was a proposed forex deal.


But then they were picked up by the police and detained for five days on the basis of a photo published by the Chronicle. Their lawyer pointed out that in the absence of witnesses prepared to testify as to the nature of their conversation with Gono, this was a manifest infringement of their constitutional rights.


“The facts of the case,” Sindiso Mazibisa of Cheda & Partners said, “evince a clear abuse of power and arbitrary arrest and detention of citizens of Zimbabwe.”


What is Gono’s view on this? Locked up for five days just because they were pictured talking to him when he was supposed to be on a fact-finding mission? Is this all OK with him?


It is unusual for us to agree with President Mugabe. But speaking at Mark Dube’s funeral last Friday, he offered some words of wisdom.


Reminding political, religious and community leaders of their responsibilities, he said it was very easy to throw a nation into strife, to trigger an unhappy fate through unmeasured language meant to inflame, incite, and instigate.


“Is that the fate we wish for our country?” he asked. “Let us pose this question to ourselves and give honest answers to ourselves.”


Indeed, Mr President, we await your answer! Meanwhile, perhaps you could tell us who went to Britain and said “please come and invade our motherland”. We can’t find any record of Pius Ncube — or anybody else for that matter — having said that.


Readers may recall, however, what Mark Dube said to Geoff Nyarota about reporting Willowgate. And what he did to Gibbs Dube for daring to expose Zanu PF’s dirty laundry.


Mark Dube was one of the first to show us the “democracy” such heroes fought for.


In fact, President Mugabe need not wait for long to hear those who want to “incite and instigate”. Just listen to Information minister Jonathan Moyo talking about almost anyone or anything that is not Zanu PF. Or those writing using pseudonyms in the state media to attack senior members of the ruling party. Is that the culture we want to inculcate in our children Mr President?


Muckraker was a bit confused this week to see the Sunday Mail’s political editor Munyaradzi Huni under fire from Lowani Ndlovu for not getting to the core of the issues in his “Constituency Watch” column. We felt very sorry for poor Huni for he is a man already down.


But Lowani’s exposé was the cruellest backstabbing of modern times. If they are friends, as claimed by Lowani, why not pull him aside and whisper to him a few guidelines instead of taking him to an open arena for public flagellation?


And why the glaring contradictions that almost bring the two “friends” to the same wavelength? You can’t have the most “innovative” column that shows the leadership role of the newspaper being at the same time “irrelevant, inappropriate and useless”.


So it is that Lowani concludes with devastating brutality that Huni’s column is an “incredible waste of time that is so boring, so irrelevant, so inappropriate and so useless” as to risk gross misunderstanding.


Lowani should be directing his satirical barbs at the person who fast-tracked Huni to reporter, chief reporter and political editor in three years. So much for advice from a friend! Indeed, with friends such as Lowani, does Huni need enemies?


The Mail & Guardian continues to attract fire from Tafataona Mahoso, this time wearing his hat as a columnist. He appears offended that the paper could suggest President Teodoro Obiang Nguema is an evil man who should not be welcomed in South Africa. Is he any more evil than US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mahoso asks, studiously ignoring Obiang’s dispatch of his uncle and routine torture of perceived opponents.


He is also annoyed that the M&G should take issue with the crackdown on NGOs in Zimbabwe.


“All Zimbabwe is trying to do is demand that NGOs apply to themselves the same requirement for transparency and accountability which they have been demanding of government and public bodies,” he helpfully explains.


There should be no sacred cows, Mahoso says, citing the example of the M&G’s coverage of its own predicament in Zimbabwe.


This was an attempt by the newspaper to draw “imperial attention on itself as one of the sacred cows”, he suggested. The M&G has been giving the impression that “the entire government machinery in Zimbabwe had run out of priority business to attend to and was preoccupied with stalking journalists and editors”.


How on earth did that impression manage to take root? Anyway, our thanks to Mahoso for putting the record straight. By the way, all those parastatals that haven’t submitted their accounts for years: they will be subject to the same rules of accountability and transparency as NGOs will they? Including the outaged Zesa and the creaking, accident-prone NRZ!


Nothing is so comforting as when the truth finally shoots forth from the horse’s own mouth, as they say. This is one horse that bolted out of the Zanu PF stable to join the MDC stud. Then it bolted back to rejoin its original stable claiming it had been under surveillance because it was always suspected to be a wrong pedigree.


So the pony appeared this week in its true Zanu PF colours and to make a public confession.


“I was born in Zanu PF and grew up in Zanu PF. I had just strayed, but now I am back home,” the mare neighed as she was led into the owner’s enclosure at the Heroes Acre.


At least that’s how Muckraker read Sekesai Makwavarara’s “mass defection” from the MDC. We dare not say treachery, because that would sound like the forever bitter Lowani Ndlovu. But her coat is about as turned as it gets.


She claimed she could not “deliver effectively” during the time she has worked as an independent, which in itself is pregnant with irony, but which we are prepared to pass. But to then claim, as she naively does, that as an independent “I am unable to get the full support of the people I serve, the majority of whom, if not all, belong to the ruling party — Zanu PF” is to stretch credibility to breaking point.


Was she ever elected as an independent? No! Did she ever stand as a Zanu PF candidate? No! So which “majority” was Makwavarara serving?


Perhaps Ignatius Chombo, the mayoral mansion and the two council vehicles!


Which accords well with her assertion that she is “the mayor of Harare”.


And the gap-toothed goon behind her understandably grinned. After all, he knows a thing or two about taking ratepayers for a ride in 4x4s!

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