Moyo gets sharp riposte from South Africa
WHILE President Mugabe’s publicists were celebrating what appeared to be a successful visit to South Africa recently, the authorities down south were not exactly ecstatic.
Firstly, the University of Fort Hare d
isassociated itself from racist remarks made at their graduation ceremony by praise-singer Jongela Nojozi. Then, in response to questions as to who invited Mugabe to Walter Sisulu’s funeral, there was a flurry of statements suggesting he had invited himself. And the MDC’s Moses Mzila rained on Mugabe’s Soweto parade by recounting that when Sisulu visited Harare in the early 1990s the president had refused to meet him. Now that he needed some nationalist credibility he was only too keen to fly down with a large entourage to be seen mourning the passing of a leader whose humanity and political inclusivity were the exact opposite of Mugabe’s narrow nationalism.
But the best bit in this comedy of errors was Jonathan Moyo’s maladroit decision to send a letter of protest to President Mbeki’s office about the “demonisation” of Zimbabwe’s leader in the South African press.
Nothing could have been more calculated to excite the derision of the South African media. In particular, Moyo complained about the disrespect shown to Mugabe over the ceremony to celebrate the “historic” return of the lower part of a Zimbabwe bird from Germany.
Muckraker revealed last week that the bird’s bottom had actually been returned in February 2000 but the authorities took three years to respond to the German embassy’s request for a handover ceremony. Why if the ceremony was so historic, as Moyo claimed, was it delayed for three years?
Moyo targeted the Hogarth column in the Sunday Times which satirised Mugabe’s pretensions. He described the paper as “unAfrican, filthy and uncouth”.
That was a mistake. The editor of the Sunday Times, Mathatha Tsedu, is chair of the South African National Editors’ Forum. He is also a firm admirer of President Mbeki whom he describes as “the epitome of a truly committed son of the African soil”.
Moyo got his reply last Sunday. The Sunday Times ran a front-page story itemising Grace Mugabe’s shopping bills run up to comfort her during the first couple’s attendance at Sisulu’s funeral.
R51 860 was spent on a dinner set, R16 159 at a Pretoria hardware store, R3 443 at Pick ‘n Pay, R2 415 at Edgars, and R2 586 at Woolworths. The dinner set was imported from “Breeten”. In all she spent nearly R100 000.
It will not have been lost on South African readers that these purchases were made as millions of Zimbabweans have been reduced to dependence upon donors for food supplies. The author of their misery, Moyo says, should not be “demonised” because he is the head of state of a “friendly neighbouring country”.
There you have in a nutshell the solidarity disease. However wicked and damaging the policies of a leader, he should not be criticised or held to account because it is “unAfrican”.
Moyo invited Mbeki to intervene “given the fact that the newspaper in question has been at the forefront of demonising the president, government and people of Zimbabwe and seeking to divide Zimbabweans and South Africans for a long time now”.
This is disingenuous. No South African newspaper has demonised the people of Zimbabwe. Instead they have exposed the hypocrisy and double standards that characterise Zimbabwe’s leadership. That includes complaining about a bad press from another country while illegally abducting and deporting journalists in your own.
As for dividing Zimbabweans and South Africans, never have the people of the two nations been more unified in their opposition to the brutal regime in Harare and their determination to see it removed. Moyo should stop embarrassing Zimbabwe with his ill-conceived interventions. And if he so dislikes the Hogarth column, why does it look as if he is trying to copy it in the Sunday Mail – without much success!
Mbeki’s spokesman, Bheki Khumalo, gave Moyo an unambiguous answer to his importunities. The South African government had no intention of interfering with the media, he said on Tuesday.
“Sometimes we are criticised and lampooned in ways that we do not like, but we respect the right of the media to do this,” he said. “We fundamentally support the right of people to criticise. Our law allows people to write what they like.”
Could Tafataona Mahoso say which media representatives Walter Kansteiner met “in the desert” during his recent visit to Botswana?
We ask because Mahoso has been peddling stories about meetings in Botswana which have subsequently proved to be false. But even when it is obvious to everybody, including those sources in the state media which fed him these stories, that they are false he goes on repeating them. Then he has the cheek to label a number of journalists as “disgraced” because they allegedly repeated falsehoods.
The fact that they were acquitted in court or had their cases dismissed he regards as “mere technicalities”.
The law was badly crafted, he says of the most recent case under Aippa.
So what are we to make of the head of a state media commission who ignores court findings to pursue a campaign of vilification against journalists? He cited Grace Kwinjeh, Ray Choto, Mark Chavunduka, Andrew Moyse, Basildon Peta, Chengetai Zvauya, Lloyd Mudiwa and Geoff Nyarota as authors of “offending” material.
Choto and the late Chanvunduka were vindicated by the Supreme Court which struck down those sections of the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act which they were charged under. In the most recent Nyarota/Mudiwa case, the state again suffered the humiliation of being told its laws were bad.
But Mahoso will not let the law get in the way when he hurls accusations against journalists who have offended the pretensions of the overweening state he so slavishly serves. Needless to say, he exhumes the Magunje case as his evidence-in-chief. Andrew Meldrum failed to verify his evidence when reporting the incident, Mahoso claims.
But Meldrum was acquitted on precisely that point: that he did everything he reasonably could by seeking comment from the police. The police lost that case for the state by refusing to cooperate.
Mahoso ignores that salient point as well.
How can any journalist trust the integrity of somebody who is not prepared to respect court verdicts and who goes on repeating childish claims about meetings in the desert – all part of the state’s discredited propaganda offensive – even when it has been shown those meetings never took place?
If Mahoso thought that Aippa was “poorly crafted” why didn’t he say so? Is there any record of him having warned the minister responsible that the Act contained serious structural faults? Why is Mahoso wise now after the event? And what are the “national security implications” of the Magunje story? Have these been raised before? The only security involvement we can think of was the way the Daily News was set up!
George Charamba has been celebrating Meldrum’s deportation claiming that “a major plank of the overall Western strategy for regime change had been removed”.
There was a clumsy attempt to link Meldrum to US, British and even Swedish diplomacy with Charamba citing some fanciful ties between London and Stockholm. But Charamba’s central thrust was that the government had a sovereign right to tear up somebody’s residence permit if it so chose. He justified this by claiming that Britain had been “haunting (sic) innocent Zimbabweans out of its shores”. They were “herded into concentration camps”, he suggested, before being “thrown on Air Zimbabwe without even the slightest veneer of legality”.
Not a single one had abused Britain’s hospitality, he claimed.
Sadly, Charamba knows perfectly well that those who do abuse Britain’s hospitality like George Shire and Chinondidyachii Mararike are at liberty to stay there if they are permanent residents. Those who are not legally entitled to stay are removed, although not declared prohibited immigrants in the vindictive way Zimbabwe’s deportees are. What Charamba did not say was why it was okay for his government to disregard three court orders prohibiting the Immigration department from deporting Meldrum.
In fact, in his long rambling article that was crying out for an editor, he did not once refer to the intervention of the courts. Which is hardly surprising. This is a regime that declines to be bound by its own courts. When rulings go against it, as Mahoso has shown, they are treated as inconsequential. And then they complain when Zimbabwe is described as a lawless state!
We were grateful, by the way, to have Charamba’s admission that former Chief Justice Anthony Gubbay was “ousted”. Will the Law Society please pass that revealing reference on to the International Bar Association and other interested parties. It confirms what we already knew but is the first official confirmation.
Charamba says that “to those of us in the know Meldrum had long stopped practising journalism”.
These are the same spooky people, we can safely assume, who were “in the know” about the meeting in Botswana between Jack Straw and Walter Kansteiner (that never took place); who were “in the know” about the MDC sending a delegation to the same “Botswana” meeting; who were “in the know” about Strive Masiyiwa taking part in a conference organised in Botswana by the South African Institute for International Affairs (it took place in South Africa and Masiyiwa was not present)? What else do these people “know”?
The editor of the Herald on Wednesday demonstrated that he doesn’t have a mind of his own by branding Meldrum a “suspected intelligence officer.” Perhaps we should start naming suspected spooks at the Herald and Sunday Mail. But that could take up too much space!
Charamba is truly delusional in thinking that by abducting and deporting Meldrum he has secured a less critical press for his politically ailing boss. The next few months will show that there is “no rest for the wicked” – the Congo “gold-diggers and bootleggers” Charamba serves. And the next time Charamba foists one of his inventive tales about “Western imperialism” on the Sunday Mail he should disclose that as a Chevening scholar he was the recipient of British imperialist hospitality a few years ago!
Muckraker has a theory as to where all the missing bank notes have gone. There are approximately 20 fuel queues visible around Harare on any given day. Some of these are of course “hope queues”, but if there is fuel anticipated they will grow to at least 100 vehicles. Each driver will be carrying at least $30 000 if they hope to fill their tanks. That amounts to $60 million in Harare alone tied up in fuel queues.
Add to this the women who carry large amounts in cash awaiting cooking oil deliveries, or forex dealers who have harvested all the $500 notes they can lay their hands on. Then there are the ordinary folk who no longer trust the banks because they don’t have any cash available. How much is held under mattresses although admittedly these “bricks” could prove rather uncomfortable.
During Germany’s grosse inflation of the early 1920s people carried money around in wheelbarrows. Thieves were quick to take advantage. But instead of stealing the money they would dump the money and run off with the barrows!