Surely not while Chigwedere stays

THERE were a number of letters and articles in independent newspapers last week commenting on Zanu PF’s exploitation of Kirsty Coventry’s success in Athens. The writers pointed out that Kirsty woul

d never have been able to benefit from mosquito-infested swimming pools at government schools in Zimbabwe or the Chitungwiza aquatic black hole.

One of those hoping to acquire a little political lustre from Kirsty’s parade was that Sunday News vulture Mzala Joe who is in reality nobody’s cousin.

He spotted a placard at Harare airport last week on Kirsty’s homecoming which said “Our Kirsty is our Prosperity”.

Muckraker should “eat his British heart out”, Raptor Joe suggested, “because the message that ‘our land is our prosperity’ has gone down well with Zimbabweans of all races and is now in the swimming pools”.

We’re glad to hear there’s something in the swimming pools because it’s certainly not water!

But we did like the report in the Sunday Mail which told us how the “first family” had been following Kirsty’s success on TV.

President Mugabe said he had watched Kirsty clinch the silver in the 100m backstroke and then the bronze in the medley race a day later.

But he was unable to watch live the gold-winning event on Friday, August 20 because he was having a bath.

Grace and the kids were watching, however. “My wife suddenly gave a shout. ‘She has done it. She has done it.’

“I asked what she had done and learnt that she had finished first to win gold.”

That meant both Kirsty and himself were “in the waters” at the same time, he joked. But he warned Zimbabwe’s dolphin that his totem in Zvimba was Garwe — the crocodile! Quite what we were supposed to conclude wasn’t clear. But we know how he feels about totemless citizens.

Mugabe, who managed to produce US$50 000 faster than you can say “Gono”, promised to do more for sport and “hinted” at creating a separate ministry.

“This is a golden country so what stops us from winning gold,” the president asked?

The answer should be self-evident. First get rid of Aeneas Chigwedere. He has been an unmitigated disaster in the job.

Secondly, stop the campaign against private schools that want to uphold sporting standards. Thirdly, maintain facilities at government schools that enable pupils to excel.

Why doesn’t he know what needs to be done?

Finally, Muckraker was struck by the wonderful irony of it all. Here is a regime that has been preaching a diet of unadulterated racism for over four years telling whites to “go back to Britain”.

Yet whites who have not been driven out hold the country’s flag aloft in Athens while Britain’s medal-winning black athletes and Asian boxers have been draping themselves in the Union Jack.

The world it seems is no longer amenable to Zanu PF’s simplistic racial theorising. And despite last week’s attempts to have some of Kirsty’s glory rub off on the ruling reptiles, what the whole country was saying was how those Zimbabweans who succeed in sport do so without official sponsorship of any kind and from their campuses deep in the heart of “enemy” territory.

Minister for Policy Implementation Webster Shamu appears to have excited the wrath of his home-boy rivals with comments made in the Independent last week suggesting there should be a probe into how some party leaders became so rich so quickly.

His remarks were subject to “deliberate distortions”, he claimed. What he said was “Zanu PF does not want to see greedy people in its structures who use money to buy their way into the party structures”.

So what did we quote him as saying?

“Corrupt officials have tried to usurp the restructuring process in order to appoint their henchmen to ensure their re-election.”

Sounds pretty much like what he admits to saying!

“Problems within the party,” Shamu told our reporter, “are caused by people who want everyone to know that they drive a Mercedes Benz ML or the size of their mansion. They have destroyed the party in the province. Such people buy their way into office and hence cause conflict with genuine party members.”

Now did he say that or not? What does it look like?

His complaint in the Herald the next day appeared to focus on our reluctance to include his remarks in full about the need for a “holistic approach” to tackling problems within the party.

As a former editor himself, Shamu will appreciate that not all of what he says can be included, especially when it becomes a tad long-winded. He will also appreciate that it is unprofessional, when you have a complaint about what is carried in one paper, to complain to another that is not a party to the dispute. And trying to discredit the journalist who wrote the story by revealing details of a pre- or post-interview discussion is not the best way to endear yourself to readers!

Webster: when you speak to a journalist the next time try and understand that it is all on the record unless you say otherwise. And however much your comrades may howl the next day, try not to be a political coward by running away from the very pertinent remarks you made. Nobody likes a politician who, like Sekesai Makwavarara, bears the impression of the last person to have sat on them!

Muckraker was interested to note a report carried in the Herald on Saturday saying Odzi commercial farmer Peter Spero Landos had been granted bail. Justice Tedias Karwi said in view of the forensic, ballistic and post-mortem reports, it was accepted that the state’s case was weakened.

The evidence, the Herald reported, seemed to support the defence contention as to the circumstances leading to the commission of the offence and contradicted the state’s case that Landos had fired his gun indiscriminately at the crowd and shot the victim unprovoked from a long distance.

Charges against Landos arose after he allegedly shot dead a war veteran and injured another in a boundary dispute on Riverside Farm.

According to the reports submitted in court, the victim could have been shot from close range as he tried to wrest the pistol from Landos who was allegedly lying on the ground.

Now don’t we recall at the time of Landos’ arrest police spokesman Oliver Mandipaka speculating that “the misunderstanding emanated from Landos’ attitude towards the government’s resolution to have new families on Riverside Farm as he wanted the whole farm to himself . . . Some newly resettled farmers who witnessed the shooting tried to disarm him. He was injured in the process.”

In fact he had both legs broken.

“We would like to advise white farmers,” Mandipaka said, “to desist from taking the law into their own hands by shooting, injuring or killing some people who were legally resettled by the government.”

Does that include defending themselves from attack?

On the subject of premature declarations, we were interested to note that 66 detainees who the Zimbabwean state media, bowing to the dictates of their political masters, had been referring to as “terrorists” implicated in a coup plot against the president of Equatorial Guinea, had on Saturday been transformed into “suspected mercenaries” after the state failed to provide any clear evidence to link them to the purchase of firearms — the key charge against them.

Simon Mann was the only member of the group to be convicted. The men had earlier pleaded guilty to lesser charges of violating immigration and aviation regulations.

“The state has failed to discharge its onus of proving the accused (66) persons guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” the magistrate declared.

But that didn’t stop the state incarcerating them in appalling conditions for six months while, as with James Makamba, it tried to fish for a case against them. And it didn’t stop government spokesmen and newspapers assuming their guilt — including the two exonerated on Friday of all charges — in violation of elementary professional procedure that you don’t convict somebody before the court has.

At least from evidence provided in the Nkala case we know who the real terrorists are: those who tortured suspects who were subsequently found innocent. But that didn’t stop the state holding them for two-and-a-half years and directing the government media to broadcast their “guilt”. It didn’t stop President Mugabe declaring their party to be a terrorist organisation on the basis of evidence which the judge called a “work of fiction”.

Needless to say, the state has learnt no lessons whatsoever from these cases except perhaps to squeeze their victims harder in future. The two “suspected mercenaries” released last Friday are busy telling the international media how they were tortured and abused during their stay in Zimbabwe. The country is increasingly resembling Equatorial Guinea.

We liked the report in the Standard about only nine cattle being exhibited at this year’s Harare Show. There were also two East African goats and three sheep.

The Herald’s business supplement last Thursday showed a spectator asking a cow from Henderson Research Station to smile for him. It seemed reluctant to do so, having lost all its relatives. But at least it had all four of its legs still attached.

In this context it is surreal to see ZTA chief Tichaona Jokonya and Tourism minister Francis Nhema talking blithely about community-based tourism as a “sustainable livelihood” when some 60% of our wildlife has been destroyed over the past four years.

They were speaking at a cocktail party to launch a community-based tourism initiative.

Nhema spoke about the “empowerment of our marginalised African majorities”, “poverty reduction” and “self-sufficiency”.

What planet do these guys live on? Is Nhema completely unaware of the destruction of forests, the poaching of game that has seen some species decimated, and the illegal hunting that is now endemic in some areas?

Zimbabwe has never been less self-sufficient as a direct result of the mayhem unleashed by the party to which these professed advocates of “community-based tourism” belong.

Jokonya and Nhema should tell us what they are doing to stop the slaughter that has deprived Zimbabweans of one of their richest resources. Cocktail parties are one thing. Getting real is another.

The Herald carried a story last Friday headed “Public scoffs at MDC poll boycott”.

But readers hoping to find the views of the public were disappointed. The “snap survey” of “Zimbabweans from different walks of life” included Professor Claude Mararike who despite being a professional researcher appears determined to ignore the statement of Nigeria’s foreign minister that reports of Nigerian support for the MDC were “ludicrous and false”. Let’s hope his disregard for this key evidence is not because it might get in the way of his conclusions!

Also among the cross-section of the Zimbabwean public interviewed was a certain William Nhara who said the MDC had pulled out because it had failed to deliver on its election promises.

Nhara didn’t say how he had managed to deliver on his by-election promises!

Exactly what are Nhara’s qualifications as a “political analyst” and who funds the research agency he heads? Does anybody else work there?

If anybody knows, will they please tell us.

Mzala Joe, not content with keeping his dim light under a bushel, is intent upon advertising how little he knows. He claims that in the Zimbabwe Independent of Friday, August 27, our reference to a statement by Patrick Chinamasa in parliament “last Wednesday” was inaccurate because “last Wednesday” would have been two days earlier, on August 25, not the week before.

In fact, as any student of journalism could have told the Sunday News ignoramus, from the standpoint of Friday, August 27, Wednesday, August 25 was simply “Wednesday”, as in “this Wednesday”.

“Last Wednesday” was the previous week.

This is elementary stuff for journalists with some grasp of English usage. Which excludes the dead-beats at the Sunday News who in all seriousness think they can talk about “MDC officials taking their instructions from imperialist overlords at 10 Downing St” without readers laughing out loud.

How many people, with the possible exception of Tafataona Mahoso, do you hear using that redundant language in Zimbabwe today? Now we understand why their editor is called Brezhnev. They are all living in the 70s. But very soon the Bulawayo Wall will have to come down!

We were interested to note, by the way, that Mzala Joe uses identical language to Nathaniel Manheru and Lowani Ndlovu when hurling abuse at the Zimbabwe Independent. They also seem to have difficulty spelling Kansteiner the same way twice.

Is this just a coincidence or is the same multiple-farm-owning big head imposing himself on the Bulawayo Bore as well as the two Harare papers he effectively edits?

This may also explain why his columnists can’t understand why the Zimbabwe Independent may not want to carry the same lead story as another paper appearing the day before. Evidently, nobody in the Zimpapers stable, where repetition is a much-prized virtue, understands the logic of that!

So everything is looking up in the parastatals sector, New Ziana tells us, because the Ministry of State (sic) for State Enterprises and Parastatals in the President’s Office is “spearheading turnaround strategies”.

These strategies will see parastatals play their rightful roles in the development of the country’s economy, Secretary for Finance Willard Manungo assured a workshop on public policy.

He didn’t say why nothing had been done to “turnaround” these parasitic non-performers earlier or what magic panacea government had suddenly discovered to break with the record of failure over the past 24 years. Sydney Gata showed us what they might have in mind when he suddenly started talking about George Bush and Tony Blair at the CZI congress last month. Even funnier, the Herald carried a picture of Noczim House saying the useless corporation “is one of the key parastatals expected to benefit from turnaround strategies being managed by the Ministry of State Enterprises and Parastatals”.

How naïve can a paper get?

‘Vindictive” and “out of control” were just two of the more printable things said about a certain spin doctor in the British press last weekend. “Deranged” and “political thug” were others.

It must have been a Zimbabwe story, we naturally assumed.

No, it was ex-BBC head Greg Dyke talking about Tony Blair’s former media advisor Alistair Campbell.

Dyke should consider himself lucky. At least Campbell didn’t get to lock up his critics!

Then we had Thejiwe Lesabe making curious disclosures in The Voice last weekend. She said party members should submit their CVs because after the liberation war some members had tended to “relax without being reactionary”, while others “really turned reactionary and issued reactionary statements”.

Who could she be referring to? “We are not convinced those people have now changed,” she said, “given what they are now doing and the statements they are now uttering in the press.”

All very mysterious. But as with the Soviet Union in the 70s, you have to read between the lines.

Lesabe said there were “some individuals in the party who criticised others when it suited them, but frowned upon those who criticised them for the same things”.

Surely not!

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