If Mangwana was the (mis) Information minister

IT does look like Zimbabwe is fast descending into complete lawlessness. The shock of it is that thugs now target high profile individuals in society.


y, it was Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono who said thugs were looking for his address and that his life was in grave danger. His security was reportedly beefed up to allow him to focus on his task to fight corruption and money laundering. This was soon after the launch of Project Sunrise.

Now Anti-Corruption minister Paul Mangwana says his home was attacked by as yet unknown assailants. He has tried to link the said attack on his home to his anti-corruption crusade whose effectiveness is known only to himself. He nevertheless said the attack would strengthen his resolve to fight corruption.

Police have however dismissed almost as completely false earlier claims by the minister that there was an exchange of gun fire between the policeman guarding his residence and the attackers. It turned out later that they were not armed with anything more than stones.

Could the minister please tell us what really happened? We shudder to think what might happen should he become Information minister.

But that is not the end of the drama. The guard appears to have a very fertile imagination. First he had a faulty gun that jammed after just single shot at the intruders. An inquiry is called for there.

Then, under a flurry of attacks with stones, the policeman claims to have had the chance to rush to the Attorney-General’s home to look for another gun. He returned fully armed only to spend 21 rounds firing blanks. All his opponents had were stones. What would happen if they were armed themselves? Another inquiry there.

Now unarmed, he suddenly sighted a cab to take him to Mabelreign police station for reinforcements. When they returned the stone throwers were still ready for the good fight to the extent that the sergeant he had brought from the police station had to bolt from the minister’s premises for fear of his life. A third inquiry there.

The fourth inquiry should be around the guard himself, whether he hasn’t seen too many Westerns. It calls for a leap of faith to believe this fiction over something potentially serious. Unless he is telling us the minister’s house is haunted.

Meanwhile we hope there is someone to take seriously Mangwana’s parting threat. “If you are a criminal, big or small, you will be arrested. These are the instructions I got from my principals.”

Talking of setting the record straight, we were interested to read that Health deputy minister Edwin Muguti now thinks the National Aids Council is a fantastic organisation doing a wonderful job for the poor. He discovered this soon after attacking the same institution for wasting people’s money on salaries, workshops and office furniture. This was at the expense of people living with HIV and Aids, he said.

If you ask Muckraker, that is the general feeling.

But the minister quickly made a volte-face, accusing the media of sensationalism and having a hidden agenda. He said when he made the comments, he was talking about the past. As for now, said the good doctor, he wanted it known that he was on good working terms with the NAC and Health minister Dr David Parirenyatwa.

A ha, now that is all it is about. He had upset the applecart by telling the truth about the how our money is spent. Is there no parliamentary committee to look into the health of this department and pronounce a verdict? It smacks of a “hidden agenda”.

We enjoyed President Mugabe’s swansong to the anachronism calling itself the Non-Aligned Movement (Nam). He said at its height Nam was consulted at the United Nations and that their adversaries had to think twice before taking any action against its members.

Alas, all that is gone, mourned Mugabe. Twenty years down the line “we seem to have lost the respect and recognition we used to enjoy”.

Is it a mere coincidence that that loss of respect and recognition have occurred simultaneous with the great leader’s loss of stature in international affairs and Zimbabwe’s precipitous decline at home?

It all appears to have something to do with failure to reinvent oneself. What counterweight position is Nam serving after the collapse of the Soviet Union?

If the Commonwealth was a useless club, at least he got the chance to rub shoulders with the rich. This time around all he had was a meeting with the deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, Sharma Oli. Mr Oil would have had a more positive ring.

The independent press and NGOs have been accused of fabricating evidence of human rights abuses in order to tarnish the country’s image.

Patrick Chinamasa made such accusations when he was interviewed in regard to the proposed Human Rights Commission. Columnists in the state media regularly suggest that NGOs lie about assaults and torture even when, as in the cases of Gabriel Shumba and Tonderai Machiridza, the evidence is overwhelming.

This week we saw Harare magistrate Paradzai Garufu handing a sharp rebuke to the police for unlawfully detaining directors of Lobels Bakery and Saltrama Plastics for allegedly hiking prices of their products without government approval. The police behaved like “a bull in a china shop”, one of the directors’ lawyers said. They need better training, the prosecutor said.

A magistrate in Bulawayo recently slammed the police for detaining Woza women for distributing roses during a demonstration earlier this year to demand affordable food and a dignified life. They were charged with disturbing the peace.

But the magistrate said they did not create a public nuisance or obstruction by simply singing and distributing flowers.

“Police are supposed to maintain law and order,” the magistrate said, “but they failed to do so and went on a fishing expedition to arrest any women in the vicinity of the protest.”

They provided no evidence that incriminated the accused, he said, and failed to exercise reasonable doubt in the manner of the arrests.

Last weekend we saw evidence of systematic and savage assaults on ZCTU officials after they had been arrested and placed in police holding cells.

As none of this has been denied by the state, we are surprised that government media made no mention of it. But pictures of the horrific injuries sustained by ZCTU members were carried around the world so nobody was left in any doubt how detainees, arrested for exercising their democratic right to protest against deteriorating economic conditions, were treated.

Zimbabwe is a police state where people are detained and assaulted regardless of the law. We hope reports of Chinese training in the art of brutal repression, Tiananmen Square-style, are no more than rumours. But let’s not hear any more dissembling from state apologists alleging that human rights abuses are manufactured by NGOs and the independent media. Evidence over the past few weeks of how far President Mugabe’s regime will go to suppress legitimate protest has become abundant.

Can you imagine detaining company directors in filthy cells just because they attempt to recover the costs of production and stay in business? These are people manufacturing the nation’s daily food supply. Will directors of Air Zimbabwe or Tel*One suffer the same fate when they next hike charges as they so often do? Would a Zanu PF company director agree to charge less than what it costs him to produce something?

But there is another question here. Who is directing the police to arrest and assault civic activists? Who is behind this trail of brutality? A magistrate has ordered a full investigation after seeing the latest victims in hospital. At least the politicians and their media allies can no longer pretend it doesn’t happen.

Didymus Mutasa is evidently a minister who holds himself in high regard. In a letter sent by his lawyers to this newspaper, reference is made to Mutasa’s standing as “a senior minister and politician, as well as a member of the House of Assembly of Zimbabwe”.

A report carried in this newspaper two weeks ago concerning an assault on James Kaunye was “a lie and constitutes a deliberate falsehood”, his lawyers said.

Which is why we were interested to note Prof Arthur Mutambara’s comments in an interview with the Sunday News last weekend on remarks made about him by Mutasa.

Asked about allegations that he worked for the CIA, Mutambara replied as follows: “By (Didymus) Mutasa. This is the tragedy of the Zanu PF old guard. The argument was akambosvika seiko ikoko? I am a Zimbabwean who went to school in the UK, in America and so on. I am a scientist and to accuse your own Zimbabwean product that has worked among the best in the world in terms of technology as an agent of the CIA is laughable…It shows that the Zimbabwean old guard has no capacity to engage and come up with solutions to the country. It should be rejected with the contempt it deserves.”

We mention this because Mutasa’s branding of Mutambara as a CIA agent, if correct, is not only “laughable” but also arguably defamatory. After all, Mutasa is not only a “senior minister” but also a minister charged with security and national safety. He knows perfectly well that Mutambara is not a CIA agent. But the charge, it would appear, was designed to tarnish the MDC leader’s image and cause him maximum embarrassment — exactly what Mutasa accuses the Zimbabwe Independent of.

Mutambara should have no hesitation in inviting Mutasa, given the portfolio he heads, to either prove his charge or retract it. We would hate to think the minister was guilty of double standards. But Mutambara is unlikely to do that. The reason? It is often difficult to take the minister’s remarks seriously. This is the same man who in 1996 told the BBC “Mugabe is our king. You don’t elect your Queen.”

In this connection we would like to know how the minister’s threats against the Independent reached the Herald before they were seen by the editor of the paper to which they were addressed. How professional is that conduct?

Mutambara made some useful points in his Sunday News interview, particularly in regard to land. But on one point he is dead wrong. Britain did not “renege” on its Lancaster House agreement to help pay for land reform, as he claims. It gave over £44 million between 1980 and 1995 for land redistribution and then pledged a further £36 million after the 1998 Harare land donors conference on condition that the UNDP endorsed a workable scheme that contributed towards poverty alleviation and did not disrupt agricultural production. A UNDP technical team subsequently found the government’s fast-track programme failed to meet these elementary conditions.

Mutambara should know this. It is time he dropped populist references to Lancaster House and to “images of puppetry”. These are frames Zanu PF has imposed on the opposition to divert attention from its misrule and repression. They are not claims that somebody of Mutambara’s intelligence should feel the need to respond to.

Tony Leon meanwhile may be amused by Mutambara’s suggestion that he is an Afrikaner intellectual!

Meanwhile, anybody reading the Mirror’s coverage of the events of last week will have been left in no doubt as to who is pulling the editorial strings there. The paper’s coverage of the ZCTU’s protests gave acres of space to a group calling itself the ZCTU affiliates, which opposed the protests, and to the ruling party’s quisling formation, the ZFTU.

Statements by both outfits sounded suspiciously familiar: that the government was doing all it could to meet workers’ needs; and that the ZCTU action was “political” and designed to bring pressure to bear on government — as if that was something people weren’t allowed to do!

Nick Goche issued a statement saying that the protests were by “political” and “anti-establishment” elements — again, as if it was illegal to be “anti-establishment”.

This sort of childishness could be seen at every level of the Mirror’s coverage. The Tripartite Negotiating Forum was held up as the panacea for workers’ grievances even though the government only mentions it at times like this when it wishes to appear flexible, and as soon as the threat has passed it reverts to its usual indifference to alternative views on the economy.

“The existence of yawning cracks within the ZCTU, and between the ZCTU and the ZFTU, shows that democracy is anathema to the ZCTU,” the Mirror pronounced in an editorial.

So the state undermines a legitimate trade union organisation and then sets up a rival organisation benefiting from state patronage which doesn’t even seem able to write its own press advertisements, and the Mirror describes this as evidence of the ZCTU’s hostility to democracy!

Joseph Chinotimba, we assume, is the Mirror’s model of democratic leadership!

The ZCTU was grandstanding in order to divert attention from internal corruption, we were told. Now where did they get that idea? As for the Mirror’s allegation that the ZCTU was “wood-winking” the public, this we must assume is to be expected from boyz-in-the-wood.

Finally, as President Mugabe grandstands at the UN General Assembly in New York, his local mouthpieces are finding it increasingly difficult to conceal the realities of his sovereign rule. The Herald on Wednesday carried the following items: “Bread disappears from shelves”; “A man jumps over raw sewage flowing along a road in Zengeza 4”; “Rain-fed agriculture faces challenges”; “Nightmare of living without water”; and pictures of a dumpsite in Mabvuku which, we are told, is about to be
cleaned up. All due to sanctions no doubt.

And just in case you thought government was getting its priorities wrong, on the front page of the same edition was a picture of central bankers in sharp suits handing over 304 vehicles to government ministries and departments including the President’s Office, Vice-Presidents’ offices and the defence forces for Operation Maguta.

Oh yes, the cartoon blamed bakeries for pocketing consumers’ money!

Any chance of a reality check here?

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