Muckraker

Putting Zimbabwean Travel on the scrapheap
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ZIMPAPERS last month launched its much-heralded (sorry!) tourism publication, Zimbabwean Travel. And at $3 000 it is a bumpy ride. Riddled with typographical errors, it is a poor advertisement for the country’s publishing industry, let alone its tourism sector. It is also distinctly economic with the truth!


“After years dogged by a serious decline in business, Southern Africa’s tourism titan is smoothly roaring out of its slumber,” the magazine’s editor Nomsa Nkala tells us.


“In the past few years, spirited bad publicity and a weakening macro-economic environment had impaired Zimbabwe’s tourism sector but this is becoming a thing of the past thanks to an aggressive marketing strategy by the government and key stakeholders.”


No mention here of lawlessness by Zanu PF thugs and the destruction of prime wildlife conservancies. Up to 60% of Zimbabwe’s game has been wiped out in the past two years, it is estimated.


What now remains is for stakeholders to “lure clientele”, we are told. The weak Zimdollar will help.


“Why on earth would one snub a destination offering world-class services at reasonably low costs?” Nomsa wants to know.


Perhaps roving gangs of Zanu PF militia, the closure of newspapers, or human rights abuses might have something to do with it — in addition of course to the invasion of tourist resorts like Hippo Pools and the expulsion of international visitors staying there?


“African countries have to accept Victoria Falls as their trump card,” we are told as if they don’t really have a choice! The launch of a campaign in South Africa to promote the Victoria Falls as a destination showed South Africans were ready to embrace the resort as a major gateway to Africa, Nomsa gushed.


“What had slowed the growth of the industry was mostly bad perception on (sic) Zimbabwe but reality has now dawned. The two launches (in Johannesburg and Cape Town) provided a platform for the South Africans to clear some of those deep-rooted misconceptions.”


Until Zanu PF hoodlums occupy another resort, that is, or Mugabe threatens people who happen to claim ancestry from Britain, Europe or the US.


By the way, did you know that, according to Zimbabwean Travel, from Third Street looking east down Samora Machel is an old building called the Stables, “apparently because once in the late 1990s a mounted infantry unit was briefly stationed there”.


Really, as recently as the 1990s? Don’t recall seeing it!


One or two slips of this sort are easy to make. We all do it occasionally. But the publication has all the hallmarks of Zimpapers’ sloppiness. We are quite sure for instance that the Meikles Hotel that can be seen today is not the one built in 1912. And it would have been difficult for the Sheraton to have hosted the Non-Aligned Summit in 1984 — a whole year before it was completed!


Julius “Nyrere” Way and Sam “Njoma” St are both novelties.


We heard that George of the Jongwe Jungle was hopping mad when he saw it. Understandably so!


 Still with Zimpapers, shouldn’t ZUJ president Matthew Takaona’s National Journalistic and Media Awards ceremony be called the Sunday Mail Awards? The whole event seems to have been organised by and for their journalists. The newspaper spoke of its staff “snatching” awards. Takaona himself received an award for organising the ceremony!


We thought for a minute he was getting the award for actually writing a story but that turned out not to be the case. They even gave themselves awards for sub-editing skills when last week the Metro section had a caption which said: “Tafara residents have now resorted to fetching water for domestic use from poodles formed by water from the vandalised pipes. These two Tafara residents were spotted fetching water from a poodle.”


It must have been raining cats and dogs there!


 Arch-apologist Jonathan Moyo has been trying to talk his way around the economic crisis.


“Yes, we have an economic crisis,” he conceded last Thursday at the NECF meeting, “but in a rather limited way.”


So 500% inflation, 70% unemployment and shortages of everything is all “rather limited”.


How so? Because beyond the economic crisis was “a more critical crisis” which was ideological.


By this Moyo meant “spirited and sustained attempts to derail and subvert the country’s 23-year project of nation-making and building which is commonly referred to as sovereignty”.


Actually, “sovereignty” is his own mantra which other party functionaries have been instructed to repeat ad nauseam. Everybody else understands it to be a smokescreen for tyranny.


The nation-building project was on course until 1991 when Esap derailed it, Moyo claims. Ideological cohesion is now absent. Esap had weakened first Zanu PF, then the state. No mention here of the dictatorship and misrule he wrote about at the time!


Then there has been the emergence of  “ideologically excluded youths” who had “failed to connect themselves with the ethos and objectives of the liberation struggle”. There was also “an ideologically indifferent professional class whose daily existence was removed from the everyday politics of the ordinary person”. This “rootless” middle class lacked self-confidence and was “culturally imitative”, we are told.


The working class, omitted from this warped analysis, was also solidly “rootless”, we can safely assume.


So who does this leave? Zanu PF supporters, we suppose: an impoverished and foodless peasant class and paid hooligans calling themselves war veterans and national youth service trainees.


This raises an obvious question. At what point did Moyo convert to his current faith? Was it in 1999 when he joined the constitutional commission? Or, as this analysis suggests, much earlier?


But he cannot have been insincere when he said in 1990 “the ruling party has distinguished itself as an intolerant organisation whose morality is defined by violence”? Or when he said in the same year that Zanu PF had “the face of a vengeful devil who is moved by evil intentions of power to spell doom on anyone who does not believe in Zanu PF”?


As for his claim that nation-building would remain “elusive unless we go back to, at least conceptually, the project that was abandoned when we adopted Esap in 1991”, some may assume he was referring to the one-party state which he warned in 1990 “will give ruling politicians in Zanu PF a monopoly of power to govern under the false pretence that the party is a permanent choice of the people”.


At least we agree with him when he said commentaries in the government-controlled press read like “badly memorised socialist rhetoric reminiscent of Radio Moscow’s now discarded paranoid view of the world…”


His audience at the NECF meeting should have reminded him of that!


 New Zealand High Commissioner Warren Searell appears to have got himself into a spot of bother ahead of his presentation of credentials to President Mugabe last Thursday. The Herald got hold of an itinerary suggesting Searell was due to meet Morgan Tsvangirai and senior diplomats ahead of presenting his credentials. This enabled Stan Mudenge to puff himself up and threaten Searell with deportation. It was “odd” that the high commissioner had arranged to see other people before making a courtesy call on himself and the vice-president, Mudenge remarked. And he was shown on television shaking hands with the new envoy without really wanting to (looking the other way).


This was all very “embarrassing” for New Zealand ahead of Chogm, one non-existent diplomat was quoted as saying.


Actually, it was all very embarrassing for Zimbabwe. It is in fact customary for newly-arrived envoys to call on other diplomats prior to the presentation of their credentials. The whole incident exposes Mugabe’s sensitivity about his own declining importance and shows the lengths to which his minions will go to keep Tsvangirai out of the picture. In a pompous editorial, the Herald complained that New Zealand saw the opposition leader as “more politically significant than he really is”. People in Searell’s position, the paper pontificated, could save themselves embarrassment by “familiarising themselves with precepts of diplomatic etiquette and civilised deportment”.


Let’s hope these remarks are published in Wellington and Auckland where people will fall about when they read them. New Zealand is a thoroughly unpretentious society.


Meanwhile, Searell should know that Mudenge is an office boy. Foreign policy is decided in the Office of the President. Mudenge does what he is told. But he does have the occasional pet project he is allowed to pursue. Currently, we are led to believe, he is busy trying to transfer Zimbabwe from the British Empire to the Portuguese Empire on the basis of an incident that occurred over 400 years ago.


It would be better to keep in touch with Tsvangirai. He lives in the real world.


Searell shouldn’t fret over his bumpy landing. It happens to many newly arrived envoys. They get set upon by Mugabe’s captive press. But they soon discover that Harare is enemy territory for Mugabe and his gang. They haven’t won an election here since 1996. And it isn’t for want of trying!


 Malawi’s new high commissioner, Retired Justice Hanjahanja, has evidently descended from another planet.


“The land reform programme has benefited people in the Sadc region, including some from Malawi,” he said as nearly 500 000 farm workers — “including some from Malawi” — have been made landless by a programme characterised by violence and lawlessness. Thousands of Zimbabweans are seeking better lives in Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique. Some even in Malawi!


“We have been getting negative publicity on Zimbabwe,” he said, “but when you come here the situation is different.”


Until you take the blinkers off that is!


 General Vitalis Zvinavashe is awaiting the call of the leadership to “position” him, he tells us. Not for him a mere district appointment like Gutu North. His calling, when it comes, will be a national one.


“I am the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces which is a national position,” he grandly announced to the Herald. “A political cadre is different from a simple politician because I fit everywhere because I am guided by revolutionary values.”


So he will await the call of his leadership who will “appoint him to an appropriate position”.


Apart from regurgitating all the facile mantras of the party he appears to support, Zvinavashe is no believer in something so unrevolutionary as democracy, it seems.


“There is nothing wrong with opposition political parties,” he charitably conceded, “because they bring competition and in turn give birth to quality service but an opposition which goes against the wishes of the people becomes irrelevant in any political structure.”


Goes against the people? What did the people say in the 2000 referendum and the subsequent parliamentary election? And is it seriously suggested that Zanu PF would still be in power had they not manipulated the electoral roll, beaten the hell out of voters, and prevented the opposition from campaigning in many parts of the country? As it stands, were it not for its current appeals against court rulings on election outcomes, Zanu PF would have less elected seats than the MDC.


Has it not occurred to the less-than-razor-sharp mind of our ZDF commander that it is not the place in a democracy either for generals to dictate which parties are entitled to stand or for ruling parties to decide who can stand against them for the blindingly obvious reason that they cannot be trusted to make such a determination in a disinterested way!


What is the point of a democratic process when the ruling party is able to declare that “the opposition is an agent of the former colonial power and therefore doesn’t have the right to contest against us even if a majority of people support them”?


All governments want to outlaw the opposition and loot the resources of the state (and other states) in order to remain in power. In a democracy they are prevented from doing what comes naturally.


Before he is appointed to “an appropriate post”, Zvinavashe should stop making naïve statements and take a course in political science for beginners. That way he might at least sound a little brighter than he is!


 The US ambassador may care to reflect on Zimbabwe’s official position on Iraq. The Nathaniel Manheru column in the Herald, which reflects the views of the Office of the President to the extent of announcing the appointment of the next attorney-general ahead of the Minister of Justice, last Saturday referred to Iraq as America’s new Vietnam — a not wholly original observation. This followed the killing of American troops in recent days.


“Today the Third World mocks the bully,” Manheru gloated, “vicariously sharing in Iraq’s repeated victories that has robbed America of its majestic awe.”


Mugabe’s speech to the UN General Assembly recently was designed to situate Zimbabwe at the fore of developing-countries’ resistance to the US global order. But nobody rallied around his moth-eaten banner.


The US is facing considerable resistance to its hegemony in a number of places and the role of David to its Goliath is therefore open to a number of opportunists. Mahathir Mohamad had a go at it. But there are no takers for Mugabe just as there were no takers for his coup against Don McKinnon which, having collapsed, his officials are now insisting was never contemplated!

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