Muckraker

Gono, who are you speaking for?


WE liked Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono’s comments on the latest spate of farm invasions. He said this was the work of unruly elements and that as a matter of policy, government would not “condone violence, farm or factory

invasions”.


He told diplomats in the aftermath of his monetary policy review that government was being unfairly criticised for invasions “initiated by misinformed elements in society”.


He thereupon implored the diplomats to carry the true story of Zimbabwe to their countries so as to attract investment.


“You should have the courage and conviction to tell people back home that it’s not all doom and gloom in Zimbabwe,” Gono said. “In every cloud there is a silver lining and I believe your excellencies are also seeing that silver lining in Zimbabwe.”


It’s silver that even Gono himself, let alone a foreigner, would find hard to use to purchase a positive verdict on the state of the economy. Question one: is Gono telling us government has no power to enforce order on the farms? Then there would be no better evidence of lawlessness. Question two: are these elements an invisible third force? Are they not part of Zanu PF’s drive to chase all whites out of the country? Question three: on whose behalf is Gono speaking? Those who make such policy decisions have been conspicuous by their loud silence — which everyone must take for positive sanction.


As if to prove the same, Mashonaland East governor Ray Kaukonde was on Monday shown on Newsnet touring a piggery project. The owner of the project complained bitterly that he didn’t have enough space. He needed to breed up to 10 000 pigs because he would produce his own stockfeed.


Kaukonde immediately ordered that a farm be found for him. The man was told to visit Marondera offices and that his offer letter for a farm should be ready by Friday (today). What version of the law is that we wonder?


Meanwhile, the prospective farm owner shouldn’t find it hard to get one. Information deputy minister Bright Matonga was quoted in the Herald on Tuesday telling white farmers to be ready to move any time. He said white commercial farmers still on the land “should not refuse to be vacated” on the grounds that they had applied to the Lands ministry and were waiting advice. White farmers were “itching for a fight”, Matonga claimed. These were “the same people who are bringing negative publicity to the country”, he fatuously declared, forgetting his little bout of negative publicity not so long ago.


At least what is no longer in doubt is that this a race issue. It’s in black and white, thanks to Matonga’s facile explanation. But will Gono be happy with the deputy minister’s “clarification” of his remarks? When Matonga declares “there is no clash whatsoever between the Reserve Bank governor and President Mugabe”, you know there must be something to the story!


There have been numerous allegations of something thoroughly rotten with Zimbabwe’s prisons and detention cells. Beatings, torture, starvation and various other forms of human rights violations against inmates. The proof was there for all to see in the Herald last week.


Criminals of all descriptions were left to their own devices in the Masvingo police holding cells. In the event, two army officers arrested for armed robbery were let loose upon the hapless inmates the whole night.


Some of the victims reportedly sustained grievous bodily injuries from the beatings during which they were ordered to shout their names and the nature of their crimes.


Several questions arise from this: where were the police officers during this mayhem? Why were the rogue soldiers allowed to go into the holding cells in their military gear which they used to intimidate fellow inmates?


Is it the custom that arrested soldiers go into holding cells wearing their black boots when lesser mortals are almost stripped naked? We hope the authorities will get to the bottom of this Zimbabwean Abu Ghraib without too much hypocrisy about what the Americans and the British are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In this regard, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku’s comments last week are most pertinent: “The treatment of offenders must …be consistent with their dignity and rights.”


Was anybody converted to Zanu PF by the Herald’s clumsy attempt at a hatchet job on Morgan Tsvangirai last Saturday? It began: “Morgan Tsvangirai should be made accountable for the crimes he has committed, analysts have said.”


It then proceeded to show how all the charges brought against him by the state have either been thrown out or resulted in an acquittal.


So in other words there were no “crimes”, just the baseless charges brought by the Herald and its political masters. And there were no analysts either. The article was headed “People vs Morgan Tsvangirai”. It turned out to be the Herald vs Tsvangirai.


It tells us all we need to know about the Herald’s professionalism and reporting of legal issues that it can describe a man found not guilty by the courts as guilty. Indeed, it even found him guilty on charges that were thrown out by the courts before judgement.


For instance, charges brought under the Law and Order (Maintenance) Act were referred to the Supreme Court where the relevant sections were struck down as unconstitutional. But the Herald reporter began his next sentence: “As if that was not enough…”


We have had enough of this partisan and unprofessional journalism. If somebody is found not guilty by the courts, or the charges fall away before plea or on appeal to a superior court, that person is innocent and should be regarded as such. That is a fundamental rule in journalism and the Herald is wilfully ignoring it. Which makes their court reports suspect!


And can you imagine the Herald convicting Tsvangirai for treason in the Dickens & Madson case when it turned out that Ari Ben-Menashe was working for the CIO!


So who are these “analysts” who have been telling the Herald that Tsvangirai was accountable for his “crimes”? Not a single one was cited.


The only person quoted in the story was Bright Matonga who recently told the Herald that he had seen Tsvangirai arriving at Harvest House in his 4X4 when he was supposed to be walking into the city. It turned out Matonga had imagined it.


We were interested to see that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, a supposedly independent body set up under the Sadc Mauritius protocol on electoral conduct, has appointed a “National Logistics Committee” to “mobilise resources” for the forthcoming senate election.


We can be confident of the “independence” of this committee because it contains such independent-minded members as George Charamba, Tobaiwa Mudede and Augustine Chihuri!


And there we were thinking there had been some sort of electoral reform following Mauritius. At least, that’s what the government kept telling everybody.


Charamba was in the Herald on Monday commenting on the internal affairs of the MDC. The party was being used as a “pawn” by the British, he unoriginally commented. This same political commentator will be participating in the supervision of the electoral process!


Leaders in West Africa were also using the MDC as a pawn, Charamba said, following claims that Ghana and Nigeria were funding the MDC.


But weren’t we told Africa fully supports President Mugabe? Hasn’t that always been the case?


And if Zanu PF wants to make an issue out of this, they need to disclose any funding they have received from Cuba or China.


It was funny to hear Hugo Chavez backtracking on the BBC on Monday morning over relations with Britain and Zimbabwe. Venezuela didn’t share all Mugabe’s views, he diplomatically pointed out, and he had no intention, he said, of making an enemy of Tony Blair when British investors played such an important role in his country’s economy.


It would be useful, by the way, if ZTV editors could do a more effective job when editing footage of President Mugabe speaking at events such as the FAO meeting in Rome. The camera was allowed to capture people sleeping, chatting among themselves and looking generally bored during the president’s long-winded address. And they showed the same material over and over again.


While Mugabe understandably wanted to get in a few punches when dealing with the US and UK, he doesn’t appear to understand the need to be restrained and sensible for maximum impact. By comparing Bush and Blair to Hitler and Mussolini — in Italy of all places — he appeared to lose the plot and remained lost as he allowed his emotions to get the better of him.


What started off as a bravura display rapidly deteriorated into a bitter and belligerent rant that lost many of his erstwhile sympathisers present. The impression given was of yesterday’s man making one last bid for the world’s attention and not quite making it apart from some adverse fallout on the news wires.


Meanwhile, we were surprised to see how gullible Indonesian journalists visiting this country could be manipulated by the Ministry of Information into making statements that can best be described as naïve.


Minister Tichanona Jokonya was quoted as telling them that they should tell the “real Zimbabwean story and not the Tony Blair story”. They should focus on the development achieved by Zimbabwe since Independence, he instructed.


This, we hope, will include the dramatic fall in living standards under Zanu PF.


Extolling the achievement of Operations Murambatsvina and Garikai, Jokonya said: “There were a number of problems we were facing and Murambatsvina has managed to remove shacks and undesirable dwellings.”


Let’s see how the Indonesian journalists report this travesty of development. The Western media was biased, one of the journalists helpfully said. The Indonesian ambassador, who was part of this exchange, should be asked who the journalists met during their stay and who organised their programme.


Last week we included a few comments on Ambassador Christopher Dell’s record as ambassador to Angola. This followed his arrest in the Botanic Gardens. The Herald had suggested he tried to “gatecrash” the ceasefire talks between the Angolan government and Unita rebels.


“The Angolans wanted to avoid interference in what they termed an Angolan solution to the conflict,” the Herald quoted a diplomatic source as saying.


In fact, we have subsequently learnt, Dell was one of the international signatories of the initial peace accord of April 2002 between the two parties to the Angola conflict. He subsequently spearheaded relief efforts in the country.


By the way, is it safe to walk in the Botanical Gardens again yet?


We noted last week that Dell’s arrest occurred during the Travel Expo.


Subsequently we heard from a Malaysian visitor to the Travel Expo that he was without water in his room at the Sheraton during his stay in Harare. Another good advert for the Sunshine City!


Muckraker was delighted to see our erstwhile reporter Forward Maisokwadzo smiling from the pages of The Zimbabwean last week. He was one of the founding members of the Exiled Journalists Network set up to assist journalists who have fled to Britain to escape persecution. It has 158 members from countries such as Zimbabwe, Iran, Kosovo and Serbia. Sandra Nyaira, Simba Chabarika, Phil Gurupira and Henry Makiwa were also present.


ZUJ president Matthew Takaona attended the launch en route home from Scotland, we are told.


We wish them all the best. Does this mean Forward has completed his Reuters course which he went over there to do five years ago before disappearing into the undergrowth? Perhaps he could tell us. And what was Matthew doing in Scotland? Learning Scotch?


We missed Manheru in the Herald last Saturday but felt his stand-in did an equally good job!


What will they call the new currency to be introduced next year? Can we suggest the Bob. Because we know it will soon be absolutely worthless!