Muckraker

Welcome to the club Comrade Ndou


MUCKRAKER would like to welcome South Afric

an High Commissioner Jeremiah Ndou to the club.


What club? The club of tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who have been victims at one time or another of state-sponsored lawlessness. In other words those who have been clubbed!


At a time when Information minister Jonathan Moyo has been bleating on about the rule of law, the government’s supporters on occupied farms illegally held Ndou against his will.


Their excuse? “There have been a number of stage-managed situations in the area aimed at portraying lawlessness in Zimbabwe,” the settlers on the farm, previously owned by South African investors, said.


So, in order to correct this impression, the settlers got a tractor and barricaded Ndou’s car, warning him they would mobilise more people if he tried to leave. An SABC reporter on the scene said a policeman present could not do much to help.


We believe it. At last the South Africans have some idea of what the government means when it speaks of the rule of law. Some of their officials have been describing the closure of the Daily News as falling entirely within Zimbabwe’s laws. Thankfully, the illegal detention of their high commissioner was plastered all over the South African press last weekend so they can have no illusions about the nature of those laws. Ndou was only last week telling bankers about the forthcoming bilateral investment agreement between South Africa and Zimbabwe.


This same, very able, diplomat is currently mediating in the inter-party talks. He was due to complete his tour of duty in June but stayed on to be of help. This is how he is rewarded!


He then had to undergo the indignity of being summoned to the Foreign Affairs ministry to be told he should not have proceeded beyond the 40km cordon that has been placed around the city for foreign diplomats.


That cordon is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention to which Zimbabwe is a signatory. Diplomats are at liberty to go wherever they like without restriction. The government’s claim that its advice to diplomats is designed to ensure their safety tells us all we need to know about the security situation in Zimbabwe today. Diplomats are not “safe” from Zanu PF’s marauding gangs unless their visits to rural areas such as Lion’s Den have first been cleared with the Foreign ministry, it would seem.


Ndou was the victim of “a misunderstanding” with a Mr Tsvakwi, one of the newly resettled farmers on Hillpass Farm, the Herald disingenuously informed us. And what of other people travelling to Lion’s Den and Chinhoyi en route to Kariba and Zambia? Do they need to notify the government in advance to avoid “misunderstandings” with Zanu PF supporters? Tourists should be informed of what precautions they need to take before travelling.


And what will happen to those settlers who held Ndou captive? Will the rule of law be mobilised against them? Or can we safely assume nothing will happen?


Other victims of Zimbabwe’s “rule of law” are Italians who owned properties in this country.


The Italian ambassador was told recently that properties belonging to Italian nationals who had acquired them before 1980 were distinct from those protected under a governme-nt-to-government agreement signed more recently.


In what looked suspiciously like an effort to ingratiate himself with Vice-President Joseph Msika, Ambassador Guiseppe Marchini Gamia said the dispute between Britain and Zimbabwe was an entirely bilateral matter. In other words the strong stance taken by the European Union, which Italy currently heads, on democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe, was of no concern at all!


We appreciate there may have been some distortion in the Herald’s account. But this sort of abdication of responsibility looks bad by any account.


And why is Msika bothering to make a distinction between farms acquired before and after Independence when even those Italian-owned farms under an investor protection agreement are swarming with illegal occupants?


Italy was accused of joining the “bandwagon” against Zimbabwe by imposing sanctions. But judging from the ambassador’s remarks we can be sure Zimbabwe has nothing to fear from the Italian presidency of the EU!


Msika, by the way, told the ambassador that “mistakes had been made” during land reform. But these do not appear to have been the mistakes of violence and lawlessness. They were the mistakes of a handful of chefs helping themselves to a whole fistful of farms and getting caught.


“We are changing that,” Msika assured the ambassador.


But how long does it take? And why, week after week, have we not been given the names of the offenders? If there is a rule of law, how long does it take to enforce?


It is sad to read what President Mugabe’s bootlickers are obliged to say nowadays to maintain their jobs.


“Mugabe is no Sani Abacha,” one of them wrote last weekend, “and the white settler farmer is no Ken Saro Wiwa…indeed Mugabe is no Musharraf. He is a deeply evocative figure, a powerful and resonant fo’c’s’le of the Third World, a potent symbol whose meaning expands beyond the foundational race/liberation template of the 70s and 80s to encompass anything, everything that the Third World must gain through bold struggles against this torridly neo-liberal unipolar world with an Anglo-Saxon imprint.”


It is not difficult to detect the author of this torridly over-written prose. When Nathaniel is taking a rest, he steps in to advertise that a little learning is a dangerous thing, especially when it’s acquired by courtesy of British sponsorship. But next time he attempts humour along the lines of “Feel Goof” (it doesn’t get any better!), he should be told in clear Anglo-Saxon terms to “Fo’c’s’le off”.


Another bootlicker of note, Lovemore Mataire, was doing a hatchet job on the Daily News recently. Let it never be said of the Herald and Sunday Mail that they are reluctant to kick a man when he is down. The Daily News was “doomed from the start”, Mataire asserted in the style of his informational masters. Its agenda was premised “on the pedestal of wanting to remove a system of government from power… The paper started with wishy-washy articles that in most cases were written in a decontextualised  manner but its true identity began to manifest when it started to write libellous articles against the president, cabinet ministers and Zanu PF officials.”


This was done in a “systematic way to discredit the government”.


“Decontextualised” is the Mahoso code for failing to attribute national collapse to external forces. In other words, it is heresy to suggest Zanu PF’s record of criminal misrule may be attributable to a parasitic political class in Harare. The Daily News committed the unpardonable offence of holding politicians to account and exposing their hypocrisy. This is what Mataire thinks is libellous. Why shouldn’t President Mugabe be allowed to build his mansion while half the country is dependent upon donors for their survival? Why shouldn’t the government waste billions on a war in the Congo nobody wanted while hospitals and clinics at home collapsed?


In a sense Mataire is right about the Daily News wanting to remove a system of government. The paper shared with other independent papers and civil society — ie a majority of Zimbabweans — a desire to remove by democratic means a cruel and corrupt dictatorship. It shared with them the need to end politically-directed violence and establish independent electoral institutions where people have the right to make informed choices. It shared with them a desire for professional policing and independent courts.


Mataire works for a paper that systematically misleads the public about the health of its rulers, the success of the land reform exercise, and Zimbabwe’s standing in the world. Any fool can do that. Confronting the rogues in power with the consequences of their misrule takes courage and commitment.


Mataire is not half the man the journalists at the Daily News and Daily News on Sunday are. We suspect he knows that himself.


Muckraker was interested in the comments of Murray & Roberts chairman Paddy Zhanda in the company’s annual report. M&R has performed well this year but faces huge obstacles, he said.


“Economic activity in all areas of the economy is declining under the burden of flawed economic policies,” Zhanda said. “The policy of maintaining artificially low interest rates has entrenched a culture of consumptive spending which sustains the inflationary expectations in the economy. This has decimated savings and all but eliminated any infrastructure development so necessary to create employment and sustain future growth.”


Zhanda, it should be recalled, is a loyal Zanu PF adherent. His remarks show that, in business circles at least, the Pollyanna perspectives of the Department of Information have made no headway.


There seems to be some confusion at Mabelreign Girls High School as to what books are supposed to be studied for the English Literature exam. The Herald said the “anormally” was discovered after a teacher tried to make a last-minute switch in the curriculum.


Students were supposed to study Waiting For The Rain by Charles Mungoshi and I Will Marry When I Want by Ngugi waMirii. But for some reason they ended up with Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.


Now “anormally” we might detect an official hand guiding students towards Great Expectations despite its imperialist origins. After all, we have great expectations of an agricultural miracle. And after this week, it is no longer true that we are waiting for the rain. But how do we explain Things Fall Apart continuing to take pride of place in the curriculum?


The answer, as we said in relationto Zhanda’s remarks, is that certain realities are no longer possible to conceal!