Harare voters give Nhara punch on the nose

SO William Nhara, despite all the publicity in the world, still couldn’t convince Harare voters that he had anything useful to offer them? Despite acres of editorial space in the Herald and Sunday Ma

il, interviews on ZTV where he would pose as an expert on political and economic matters, and the use of the state’s coercive machinery, Nhara was unable to amass more than 1 304 votes in Harare Central.

This was a spectacular defeat, not just for the hapless Nhara, but for the Information department in the Office of the President which instructed Zimpapers and ZTV to give him saturation coverage. He pathetically blamed his defeat on “poor party structures”, but the fact is nobody bought his silly conspiracy theories or other attempts to excuse the government for its record of misrule.

The turnout was admittedly thin. But whatever the case, hardly anybody was prepared to endorse the views Nhara expressed on a regular basis in the pages of the state press. His defeat was theirs. And it firmly puts Nathaniel Manheru, Under the Surface and all Mugabe’s other creepy-crawly apologists in their place. They are yesterday’s men. And nobody buys their excuses for failure. The only way they can succeed now is through their ghost voters, supplementary rolls and militia legions.

That is the best they can do in places like Kadoma, Marondera, Shurugwi and Karoi where it is still possible to get away with intimidation and manipulation. What is amazing is that the opposition succeeded in Bulawayo, Masvingo, Hwange, Gwanda and Kariba despite having the electoral playing field tipped against them. It proves once again that Zanu PF is incapable of winning a free and fair election.

The University of Zimbabwe, once widely respected as an independent institution with a high standard of learning, has in recent years become nothing more than a second-rate degree factory run by the government. The most shocking example of this descent into mediocrity was the passing a few years ago of an official from the President’s Office who in fact didn’t make the grade academically. The vice-chancellor was prevailed upon to push him through.

It should therefore come as no surprise to see the university conferring honorary degrees on individuals with close links to the state and ruling party. ZDF commander General Vitallis Zvinavashe, not known for his searing intellect, headed the list of politically well-connected individuals awarded honorary degrees at last Thursday’s graduation ceremony presided over by President Mugabe.

Former army commander General Solomon Mujuru, former airforce commander Air Chief Marshal Josiah Tungamirai, Zimbabwe ambassador (not high commissioner as the Herald claimed) to Cuba, Major-General Jevan Maseko, and Ali Abdus Salam al Tereki of Libya were also “honoured” for their part in the liberation war or post-Independence national development.

This comes at a time when the country has sunk to its lowest level ever. There is no national development taking place, unemployment is over 70%, inflation is running at 400%, and there are shortages of everything including bank notes. Zvinavashe, it will be recalled, made unprofessional and partisan remarks ahead of last year’s presidential poll instructing the nation on the army’s choice of leader. That clumsy intervention in the electoral process was matched by army officers being seconded to the Electoral Supervisory Commission, a move sanctified by the abuse of presidential powers.

The University of Zimbabwe is clearly open to political manipulation. But who exactly instructs the authorities there on recipients for honorary degrees? And which academic cowards at UZ meekly swallow these instructions without first considering the impact on the university’s reputation of such questionable awards?

Herald columnist Nathaniel Manheru has been fulminating against sanctions which he blames on the MDC. He thinks that if he calls the sanctions “illegal” enough times they will become illegal. Sadly, it doesn’t quite work like that. Measures passed by the US Congress, the EU and the Commonwealth are all perfectly legal. While Sadc leaders have questioned their efficacy, they have not questioned the right of the US or EU to prevent Zimbabwean officials from travelling to their countries.

But there appears to be a contradiction here. How many times have people like Manheru told us that Zimbabwe has defeated sanctions? That Britain, the “white” Commonwealth, and the US have been “isolated” by Zimbabwean diplomacy?

The Sadc leaders last week referred to sanctions as ineffective. So why is Manheru squealing like a stuck pig every Saturday about how awful these sanctions are?

The answer is obvious. Zanu PF needs to explain to its followers that it is not responsible for the terrible mess of shortages and inflation. So it blames “Western” sanctions.

Sanctions, it would seem, are working only too well. So what happened to Zimbabwean diplomacy, or the efforts of its allies? And should anybody blame the West for declining to throw good money after bad by fuelling the free-spending habits of the Mugabe regime?

Why should countries that manage their affairs properly be asked to provide funds to those that don’t so big-mouthed ministers can go shopping in South Africa while their boss builds the most palatial mansion in Africa? Why should a leadership that daily spits venom at Britain and America be indulged by those countries when there is every likelihood that any funds donated will be lost, stolen or abused?

Zimbabwe has its own resources. It just prefers to spend them on youth militias and presidential mansions. If you were a bank manager, would you lend money to Zanu PF? Would you have any confidence in their business plan?
Why should Zimbabwe’s delinquent leadership demand the right to be given money when it has no intention of using that money for anything other than retaining power?

And the next time Manheru abuses journalists like Andrew Meldrum, it might be worth checking which newspapers they work for. Meldrum doesn’t write for the Telegraph and never has. Nor is he based in Johannesburg. “Ignorant” Manheru should engage his brain before hurling abuse. As for South Africa “giving sanctuary to the likes of Meldrum to use its land as a base for destabilising its neighbours”, it seems that Zimbabwean diplomacy, in particular Manheru’s, has suffered yet another setback in this regard. This is what happens when you insult neighbouring heads of state just because their national newspapers expose your trail of free-loading.

It is always disappointing to see otherwise intelligent men sink to the level of Manheru. But it is a sign of the times that even previously well-regarded ministers are now required to say the daftest things in parliament.

Parroting the party line, Herbert Murerwa told the House last week that Zimbabwe was under siege by Western nations. This had resulted in dwindling donor support and poor investment, he said. Zimbabweans were suffering because of sanctions advocated by the MDC, he claimed.

So that explains inflation at 400% does it? It’s all the fault of the British and Americans that the Zimbabwe government can’t control its expenditure; that it has warped priorities that see public funds being wasted on presidential opulence?

Murerwa has presided over an economy that is sinking by the day. And all he can think to do is blame the MDC! Are they in charge? Since when has government ever listened to the MDC?

Murerwa should stop pandering to the ignorant in his party and instead spell out what needs to be done to secure recovery. It is about time he made himself useful. What exactly has he achieved since he became Minister of Finance?

Angola’s defence minister General Kundi Paihama has urged Zimbabweans to work hard to reclaim the country’s place as the breadbasket of Africa. He urged politicians, particularly from the liberation movements, to lead their respective countries in the fight against poverty and hunger.

What planet has he been on? Zimbabwe’s agricultural production has sunk by 60% as a result of the depredations of Zimbabwe’s liberation movement. As a conse-quence the country, once a net exporter of agricultural produce, is now going begging bowl in hand to international donors. What sort of leadership is that?

General Paihama said European countries view former liberation movements as “an obstacle to their ambitions of plundering the economy of Africa”.

This coming from a minister in a government with an unenviable international reputation for plundering resources. Angola was once one of the wealthiest countries on the continent. But, according to the NGO Global Witness, the MPLA regime has presided over the systematic looting of the country’s mineral wealth, siphoning off to a parasitic leadership the benefits of oil, diamonds and hardwood extraction. A tiny elite in Luanda grow rich while aid agencies cater for the poor.

Now, General Paihama wants to see Zanu PF reduce Zimbabwe to the same condition. With Sydney Sekeramayi accompanying him, we are sure his message will be taken on board.

We are accustomed to President Mugabe’s hypocrisy and double standards. But his remarks in Cuba this week were in a class of their own. He said developing countries should work together to address problems such as environmental degradation. In Zimbabwe, he claimed, “we have partially eliminated poverty through land reform”.

Did he really say that? Is he completely delusional? Does he think the rest of the world is unaware of his government’s record in creating poverty and hunger? Have UN agencies not publicly revealed that his policies have led to dramatic falls in agricultural production and widespread hunger? How can he hope to get away with such deceit?

Then there is the devastation caused by his followers in national parks and conservancies where an estimated 70% of wildlife has been destroyed. Few countries have seen such rapid and extensive loss of habitat and wildlife resources as Zimbabwe has in the past three years.

We can understand his Cuban audience being taken in by Mugabe’s claims in Havana. Cuba locks up journalists and critics of any sort. But it is at least consoling to know that his shocking record of environmental degradation is now a matter of public knowledge.

On drought, Mugabe said the government had embarked on various irrigation projects to lessen farmers’ dependence on rain. Really? Where are those projects? Has anybody seen them? Perhaps Itai Musengeyi who covered Mugabe’s remarks in Havana as if they were the gospel truth would care to show us one of these irrigation projects. Perhaps he could tell us why as a journalist he retailed Mugabe’s outrageous claims when the evidence of degradation is difficult to miss. Or does the Herald employ only vision-impaired reporters?

What we need are more journalists prepared to follow the example of the Namibian editor who, in response to dishonest claims by Sam Nujoma about an event in Namibia’s struggle for independence, told him bluntly that he was telling “a gross lie”. “Nujoma, I don’t fear you,” he said in response to the president’s crude threats against him.

Ever wondered where all those $500 notes went? They are in Bindura, according to the Sunday Mail’s reporter there. At the Bindura preliminaries of the Miss Malaika pageant, guests threw $500 notes onto the stage during the performance of a “young wonder”.

Twelve-year-old Evans Mozeka — a “tiny package of dancing dynamite” — so thrilled the crowd that they rewarded him with their bank notes. Young Evans “wiggled his waist, jerking to and fro in typical Congolese style” which left the audience “in ecstasy”, we are told.

“So appealing were his dances that the crowd pelted him,” the Sunday Mail reported. But it was money they were throwing!

Somebody should tell Miss Zimbabwe to cheer up. She was photographed by the Sunday Mail looking rather glum at a recent fund-raising event.

“‘When is this gonna end?’ a bored-looking Miss Zimbabwe (Phoebe Monjane) seems to be thinking,” the paper captioned its pic.

But the cause of her boredom was soon evident. She was sitting next to her chaperone, Dame Kiki Divaris who was locked in conversation with Unicef’s Christine Koerner.

Phoebe might have perked up if she’d been allowed a nibble at one of those snacks Dame Kiki collects on occasions such as this. They’re in her handbag Phoebe. We know because they all came tumbling out on one occasion!

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