Don’t say you weren’t warned!

Church-going Zimbabweans who believe this country’s problems cannot be resolved until there is a change of regime should say so when they next meet their faith leaders.

ify>According to reports published in the Herald after they met President Mugabe last week “the church leaders reaffirmed their commitment to Zimbabwe as a sovereign country and expressed their opposition to illegal regime change”.

Did they? Did they say the current regime which beats up and tortures its opponents is okay with them? Did they say a regime that has induced nationwide poverty and rendered thousands homeless is also okay with them?

And do they not understand that by using the language of the regime (“illegal regime change”) they are discrediting their project?

“They emphatically distanced themselves from Reverend Levee Kadenge’s Christian Alliance describing it as a fringe organisation,” we are told.

Did they also dismiss the whole democratic movement as a fringe organisation, we wonder?

Admittedly, Mugabe’s officials were feeding the Herald with their spin on events and sections of the National Vision such as those on democracy, good governance and participation are well-crafted. But one can’t help but feel there is an element of naivety, if not open collaboration, in much of the project.

For instance, we have this facile statement: “Some Zimbabweans have unfortunately become very unpatriotic in their thinking, words and behaviour. They refuse to see any good in their nation or to work for the welfare of the nation. In order to develop patriotism certain features of the nation must be regarded as a common heritage of all Zimbabweans. These must include our history, our heroes, the national constitution, flag, national anthem, defence forces, the civil service national holidays etc.”

If that is true, the project is doomed from the outset. The country’s history is a matter of intense debate, as recent statements by Vice-President Joseph Msika show. How many educated people accept Zanu PF’s version of events? Must we accept the likes of Chenjerai Hunzvi as a national hero? And the crafting of a new constitution is the aim of all Zimbabweans apart from Mugabe and Zanu PF. So is depoliticisation of the defence forces and civil service.

(Mugabe’s propagandists told us in 2000 that constitutional reform was a vital national necessity if we were to throw off the debris of colonialism. When he lost the referendum his ministers told us reform was no longer a priority. Now Mugabe tells us the Lancaster House constitution is “sacrosanct”.)

We hope the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, which is riddled with collaborators, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe understand these obvious objections and are not allowing Zanu PF to hijack their enterprise with its discredited and “non-negotiable” mantras.

The ongoing land redistribution process is “irreversible”, the clergymen say. Does this mean Zanu PF chefs get to keep their ill-gotten gains? Does it mean army and police chiefs, judges and journalists get to hold on to farms they have been awarded for their assistance to the regime?

And do the church leaders really believe that the 17 amendments to the constitution “signify efforts to address the shortcomings of the Lancaster House Constitution”?

We need to know these things. At least they got it right when they said issues of human rights and governance had impacted negatively on the image of the country and that a credible independent land commission was essential to ensure transparent, equitable and fair land redistribution.

Apparently, Mugabe waffled on for 75 minutes. His written speech was full of sweet reason. The rest was the usual posturing. He doesn’t appear to know that the expression “majoritarian” is now regarded as pejorative.

What do the churchmen think they can gain by talking to the EU about sanctions? What can they do to remove the political violence and electoral manipulation that led to those sanctions?

It looks to us very much as the prelates have compromised their mission by attacking clergymen committed to democratic reform and allowing Mugabe to impose his own narrow frame upon the exercise. He talked about consensus emerging “some day”. Exactly when is that?

You have got to hand it to the Herald. They manage to see a silver lining behind every dark cloud. They have now convinced themselves that Britain has arm-twisted all 25 EU countries to follow its lead on the sanctions issue; that most EU countries are opposed to sanctions but Tony Blair cracks the whip and they all fall into line!

That leads Herald editorialists to state that the constraints of group solidarity prevent member states from “telling Mr Blair to build bridges with Harare”.

What this tells us is that Herald writers have absolutely no idea how the EU works or what the sentiments of the various members are. Yes, it is true that countries like Portugal are “wobbly” on the sanctions issue. So are Greece and Italy. They always have been. But is it seriously suggested that Blair carries such enormous clout in Europe (and the Commonwealth for that matter) that his word is law? Is the Herald unaware of the rivalries that are constantly at play in the EU and how many states miss no opportunity to have a go at the Brits because they are not “European” enough?

And can you imagine the French easily succumbing to anything the British propose? Very simply, for any country to get a consensus on policy is a Herculean task and it can only be done if there are good grounds and a reasonable measure of majority support. Don’t take our word for it. Ask any EU ambassador.

But Britain has an important ally in its sanctions policy — President Mugabe. Just when Zimbabwe looks like it is slipping off the political radar and the sanctions momentum is faltering, London can rely on Mugabe to make a speech like he did in Cairo a few weeks ago which appeared to endorse police violence against trade union leaders. That will make it impossible for the French, Portuguese and others who say sanctions don’t work to speak up the next time the issue comes up for consideration.

No EU government is saying to the British “build bridges with Harare” at the present time because there is no pressure from their various publics to do so. On the contrary, there would be stiff resistance.

Meanwhile, Blair’s spokesmen will no doubt be delighted to hear that their boss is viewed in Zimbabwe’s official media as the Master of Europe. This will come as news to the British public. And Jacques Chirac may have something to say about it!

Two cellphone stories in the Sunday News caught Muckraker’s attention this week. The first involved pupils at a Hwange school who were caught exchanging answers by phone to their Integrated Science paper during an “O” Level exam. The school has informed Zimsec but doesn’t seem to know what else to do. Perhaps they should call somebody. Meanwhile, Muckraker would like to know if this is a first for Zimbabwe: an Integrated Science practical involving cellular communication!

The other story involved a man who had a puncture at Mbembesi and used his phone to summon help. He had difficulty finding a signal at first but then discovered that if he sat on the railway line he could get through. Sadly, he didn’t hear the Bulawayo-bound train coming…

NRZ spokesman Fanuel Masikati offered his condolences but said he managed to welcome people aboard the train.

“They were all fine and arrived safely.”

This sounded a bit like: “And apart from that Mrs Lincoln how was the play?”

Joke of the week: Tafataona Mahoso’s claim in the Sunday News, referring to the so-called Media Ethics Committee, that “the overwhelming majority of the people of Zimbabwe, when we went around the country, wanted regulation including the journalists themselves”.

You can imagine thousands of people in Nkayi and Buhera carrying posters saying: “We demand media regulation.”

Mahoso refers to the Unesco Declaration of 1978 without telling us what happened to it, a significant omission. And he criticises the local media for not doing enough to promote the “Look East” policy. That, in all seriousness, is what he thinks newspapers should be doing!

He also has no time for journalists who say people are cutting down firewood instead of farming but can’t prove it because they have no car. Why can’t they hop on a bus, he asks?

This is the same Mahoso who drives around in a 4X4. He claims ZUJ was the first to challenge the legality of Aippa. In fact it was IJAZ. And can he prove his claim that IJAZ was a beneficiary of Dutch aid?

We were amused by his claim that the Independent Xtra section of our newspaper which he says carries pictures of “Madonna and some people from overseas”, is being challenged by Zimpapers’ Trends magazine which features local content such as gospel musicians and dancers from the galas.

We took a look at Trends and liked the article headed “My breasts are real — Dolly Parton”.

Mahoso thinks Phillip Chiyangwa should be involved in setting up newspapers rather than “floating” (flaunting?) his wealth by importing a Hummer H2.

Regarding further regulation of the media, such as the Internet, Mahoso said “anything that is digitalised can also be controlled. It is just a question of getting the technology”.

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

The Sunday News interview, while a tad long, contained much that was useful. However, the interviewer could have enlightened us further by asking Mahoso what contribution he thinks he made to the liberation of Zimbabwe. And why certain aspects of his Sunday Mail column, African Focus, appear to mirror views expressed by his colleague Nathaniel Manheru? We hope the ex-Poly professor is still able to think for himself. We would not want him to become Polly Parrot!

We enjoyed the story on the front page of The Voice in which Zanu PF’s information secretary Nathan Shamuyarira was “outraged” by a report in the Standard alleging members of the ruling party’s politburo were not happy with substandard goods from China.

Shamuyarira might be right that the politburo never condemned Chinese goods as substandard. Unfortunately that alone doesn’t make them any better. He said such reports “were malicious and outrageous” as the Chinese “have always been our friends”.

Needless to say “our friends” refers to Zanu PF politburo members only, not workers in the textile sector and Bata shoe company who have lost their jobs because Shamuyarira’s friends have dumped their substandard products on Zimbabwe. Significantly, one such product is a gift MA 60 that apparently sits like an ostrich at Harare airport.

By the way, we hope Shamuyarira’s indiscretion about Zanu PF giving consideration to allowing Mugabe to stay on until 2010 also turns out to be false.

We were struck by Harare Commission chair Sekesayi Makwavarara’s “dare me” look in the Herald as she swore to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” to the parliamentary committee on transport and communications. She didn’t tell anything to the committee until she was set free. Let’s see if there will be any change after the two weeks she was given to return and explain what’s going on at Town House.

Nelson Chamisa was right. “If the confusion that is being shown in (Makwavarara’s presentation) is the confusion in the city council, then the residents are in trouble,” he said.

We only wonder why it takes our MPs so long to appreciate voters’ problems.

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