Muckraker

Mugabe’s feet of clay showing cracks


PRESIDENT Mugabe briefly visited the planet Earth last week for an interview with the SABC. But he revealed he had not been Earth-

side for a while by offering delusional answers to many of the questions put to him. 


“The economic situation now in Zimbabwe is not so bad — it was much worse during the war of liberation — we were living in the forest and eating wild berries,” he claimed. As a reader pointed out, the man was comparing his own personal situation in 1975, when he was detained in a Frelimo camp, with 2003, not the situation of his 12 million people. For them the government is dramatically failing to deliver the basic essentials for their lives. Indeed, with its voodoo economics it is almost entirely responsible for their predicament. Possibly Mugabe’s intention is to reach the point where 12 million people are consigned to the forests, living off wild berries. But unfortunately there are not sufficient forests and certainly not sufficient berries!


Here’s his response to another question from the SABC’s Phil Mo-lefe, arguably one of the corpora-tion’s least demanding interviewers:


“I do not want to teargas my youth… I do not want to increase the suffering of my people… but they have been misled…”


So it’s OK to teargas people who have been “misled”?   Surely it is the duty of a leader to explain to his people if and when they are being “misled”? A leader who is respected for his achievements will be able relatively simply to counter any attempts to mislead the people, after all he has complete charge of all terrestrial TV, 99% of radio, and 50% of newspapers. It is not a privilege of a leader to brutalise his population because someone is “misleading” them.


Mugabe made contradictory comments on the war veterans and their role in farm occupations. One minute he claimed that war veterans were operating without any control or prompting, in the next he used the word “we”.


And just in case there were those unaware of his degrees in violence, he reminded viewers: “I can still punch!”


Molefe provided a text-book example of how not to conduct an interview. There was not a single challenging question. Instead he asked Mugabe all the questions he was happy to answer, even reading out the Clare Short letter saying Britain was no longer trapped in the cage of colonial guilt.


“How was that letter received by your government?” Molefe asked. It was a gift to the president and looked suspiciously as if it had been supplied to Molefe by the President’s Office. In reply to other questions, when Mugabe couldn’t find the right words Molefe helpfully supplied them. Mugabe was allowed to get away with assertions that “whites rallied openly behind the opposition” in the 2000 referendum as if it was some sort of offence. Nor was he tackled when he openly admitted the illegality of land invasions, saying “we took it by force”.


Useful to have it on the record. But surely SABC can do better than this? Molefe was completely out of his depth. Bring back Supa!


Do you recall all those articles in the government press telling us how isolated the US and EU were in opposing Mugabe; that the world could be divided into black supporters and white racists? Key to this view was the claim that Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean were among his greatest admirers. We are therefore pleased to bring you the following comments from the Jamaica Observer headed “It’s time for Mr Mugabe to go”.


“People who actively supported the southern African struggles against institutionalised racism and white minority rule are likely to be deeply hurt, ashamed even, by the antics of Mr Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe. Jamaicans, and West Indians in general, would be counted among these people. Race and history would have made people of this region empathetic with the peoples not only of Zimbabwe but all of southern Africa, including South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique.”


The paper explained Jamaica’s role in Zimbabwe’s struggle for freedom and the presence of Bob Marley at the Independence ceremony which served to further cement the Jamaica/Zimbabwe relationship.


“Zimbabwe began its Independence with much promise, not withstanding a few lop-sided arrangements to appease the old order,” it continued. “But we had all assumed that Robert Mugabe stood on a higher moral plane. History and circumstance had ordained it so. As it has turned out Mr Mugabe, the bush war hero, has feet of clay. But worse, he has become that much-caricatured leader in the post-colonial period. He represents a political process encased in venality, while the society crumbles around him. 


“Mr Mugabe has attempted to mask his final, and absolute, corruption by playing to the legitimate issue of landlessness among the country’s black majority population. It is a fact that a handful of white farmers controls over 90% of the country’s best land, the spoils of colonial conquest. It is beyond debate that reform is necessary. But in Mr Mugabe’s hands the land issue is a chimera. It is not a genuine attempt of a modern, tolerant and democratic society to come to grips with a real problem. Rather, Robert Mugabe has found a theme which he can milk linguistically for the perpetuation of his own power. He in the process declared a willingness to trample the rights of his people and undermine institutions, most of which survive as mere facades. Mr Mugabe does more. He marches on his people’s future and on our own dreams. He diminishes Zimbabwe as well as those who also felt that the struggle was also theirs. He weakens the Diaspora.


“Mr Patterson, our own prime minister, should rally his Caribbean Community counterparts for our region to publicly tell Mr Mugabe that he has become not only a liability to his own people, but a public embarrassment. They must advise him that it is time to go.”


This editorial, published last week, follows hot on the heels of an equally robust statement last week by African Americans. Mugabe’s attempt to divide the world into black and white on the Zimbabwe land issue has run its course. The black diaspora now see him for what he is: a ruthless despot for whom land has been a handy tool to hold back the democratic tide.


‘The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress.” That pertinent reminder comes from the newzimbabwe website (www.newzimbabwe.com). The website is managed by former Daily News reporter Mduduzi Mathuthu, now based in London. It contains some interesting reports.  Another quote worth recalling has been sent in by a reader dismayed by the events of last week. It comes from Winston Churchill who recalled in his autobiography, The Gathering Storm, the futility of appeasing dictators.


“If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may be even a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”


We haven’t come to that yet. But Zanu PF appears determined to block the means of peaceful change. People with views that reflect those held by the ruling party have been distributing leaflets to businesses in Borrowdale warning “unrepentant white Rhodesians” that they will be targeted for violence if they continue to support the MDC.


“For a long time we have been registering the houses of all racist former white Rhodesians,” the leaflets say.


“Now the mass action will be directed to your doorsteps. Prepare for teargas, destruction of properties. You have enjoyed enough.


“Prepare to run if you don’t stop the MDC hooliganism. We are no longer Kefas.”


Whoever wrote this is advertising his links to the people who control the teargas. With  such obvious clues, it isn’t too difficult to establish the connection between these threats and those contained in leaflets distributed in the city centre last week. The cowards who control the levers of power are the same people who directed the violence last week against Zimbabweans exercising their democratic right to protest against a criminal regime. We know who they are.


One of these cowards surfaced in the Herald last Saturday calling for the editors of the Independent to be “thrown in jail where coup plotters like them belong”.


This pathetic individual, who purports to be “Nathaniel Manheru”, imagines a coup-plotter behind every Bush — or is it Blair? He appears obsessed by toilets. He has one very old lavatorial joke and he repeats it several times.


His need “to go” is understandable. But the incontinent repetition of lies about journalists rather gives this particular author away. After all, who else do we know called Nathaniel? He has been speaking recently about “unrepentant racist Rhodesians”. Having bored readers of the Sunday Mail to tears with his creepy-crawly CIO tales, he is now imposing himself on the Herald under the unoriginal rubric of “The Other Side”.


We are only too aware whose side he is on. The losing side!


The Mirror’s proprietor Ibbo “Six Farms” Mandaza has got a bee in his bonnet about our reporter Mthulisi Mathuthu who is accused of “wallowing in the murky business of personality-bashing and malicious mudslinging”.


This arises from a story about problems experienced at Sapes. Our news editor Vincent Kahiya was also abused for reporting on a court case brought by former Sapes director, Mafa Sejanamane, now branded “sacked”, “bitter” and “disgraced” by the angry author of the Sunday Mirror’s “Behind the Words” column.


We shouldn’t have listened to Sejanamane was the short message. He obviously had an axe to grind.


What Mandaza doesn’t appear to appreciate is that the Independent’s story was based almost entirely on court documents. The outcome of the case was reported very fully, not to say ad nauseam, in the Mirror.


As for the funding wrangle at Sapes, should Mathuthu really be branded “psychotic” for mixing up Danida with Norad?


Nobody here is out to get the Mirror whatever its stagnant Zanu PF agenda. Those levelling the accusation of trying to “tarnish” Mandaza’s image should first consider what his paper permitted the deeply deranged David Nyekorach-Matsanga, formerly of the Lord’s Resistance Army, to say in its advertorial pages about the Zimbabwe Independent in January. Talk about psychotic! The Sunday Mirror should remember the adage about glass houses.


This is becoming a really interesting place, a reader points out. The only country in the world where your largest note — $500 — can’t buy you a beer, which is $650. A roll of single-ply toilet paper costs $1 000. There are approximately 72 sections on the average roll, so it is cheaper to take your $1 000, change it into $10s, do the necessary with 72 of them and get $280 change.


As you can see, our readers are a busy lot!


Finally, a reader in South Africa has asked us to compare the following remarks.


Ian Smith: “Never in a thousand years…”


Robert Mugabe: “Never, never, never, ever…”


Strange how those pronouncing their unyielding resistance to change don’t survive much longer!