Only one thing they want to know: when’s he going?

IF you have ever wondered why our churchmen are held in such low regard by their South African counterparts the evidence was there for all to see in Friday’s Herald and on ZTV.

There w

ere these supposed “men of God” falling over each other to praise President Mugabe and telling us that we must support the government.

“We know we have a government that we must support…” Zimbabwe Council of Churches president, Bishop Peter Nemapare, said after their talks with President Mugabe at State House.

“Those of us who have different ideas about this country surely must know that we have a government that listens,” he opined.

“We love Zimbabwe and support your efforts,” ZCC secretary-general Densen Mafinyane was reported as saying.

He did not tell us which particular efforts the fawning churchmen supported. Was it Operation Murambatsvina? How much attention was given to that at the State House meeting? How much listening did Mugabe do? What about Didymus Mutasa’s offer letters to farm raiders? Did they discuss the brutality and hunger that are the direct product of land reform Zanu PF-style?

We suspect not. These prelates, who included Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, evidently came to praise Caesar, not admonish him. The ZCC leaders, we are told, suppressed a damaging report on the March 2005 election.
Bishop Levee Kadenge, convenor of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, expressed surprise at the extent of the praise-singing.

“We refer to such people as ‘court prophets’,” he told the Standard. “But then I suppose after being given a lot of sadza at State House our colleagues were obliged to sing praises of the government.”

Where he was speaking from in Bulawayo people were still suffering in the wake of Operation Murambatsvina, he pointed out.

Ecumenical Support Services director Jonah Gokova said the church leaders had “missed a great opportunity to be in solidarity with the poor and suffering people of Zimbabwe”. The suffering, he said, has been “caused by the policies of the same government that they were praising. I don’t know if the leaders were representing the views of their church members.”

It is doubtful. How many would agree that Zimbabweans are free to express themselves, as Mugabe claimed? And he appeared to think freedom of expression should stop as soon as it became “offensive to others”. In other words he can close down newspapers as soon as they say things he doesn’t like!

Similarly, he said he was aware “some people” were pushing for a new constitution, but they should pursue their agenda in “a proper manner”.

And who defines what is “proper”, we wonder, with Posa in force?

The meeting was closed to the press after the president made his opening remarks. But that didn’t prevent other things he later said finding their way into the Herald!

Mugabe must have been feeling under siege last week. It emerged that everybody was talking about him but very few were talking to him. Thabo Mbeki was talking to Tony Blair about him. They were expecting UN secretary-general Kofi Annan to get involved. And then we find even the “loyal” Tanzanians were engaged in what was increasingly looking like an exit plot. All this pressure even though he was going voluntarily in 2008, the Herald indignantly complained!

Can you imagine how galling this high-level diplomacy must be for one who once strutted upon the world stage and was consulted by all? Now, there is only one thing everybody wants to know: when is he going?

One of those whose fate is tied to that of the Mugabe regime is media policeman Tafataona Mahoso. He was on Sunday pretending that travel sanctions against people like him were put in place “because they speak and write against US interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe and other countries or because they head ministries or other institutions which seek to strengthen Zimbabwe’s sovereignty against US intervention”.

So that’s what it’s all about is it? How convenient. It has nothing to do with individuals aiding and abetting political violence or electoral manipulation?

Thankfully Mahoso himself clarified things further down by quoting the letter he had received from the US embassy. The US had suspended issuing visas to people “responsible for actions that threaten Zimbabwe’s democratic institutions or impede the transition to a multi-party democracy”.

The Media and Information Commissioners who received such a letter “had many good laughs”, we are told. They evidently think threatening democratic institutions in the name of a spurious sovereignty is a laughing matter. But are they all as happy as Mahoso claims to be about being excluded from the US?

The Sunday Mail last weekend carried a photo of Zimpapers CEO Justin Mutasa with his daughter Tammie and a friend. Tammie, we were told, has been accepted at the University of the Sorbonne in Paris on a scholarship.

Tammie is currently a student at the University of Texas where she is reading for a journalism degree, the caption said.

It didn’t say why she didn’t want to study under Mahoso’s media regime in Zimbabwe. Her father, after all, runs a newspaper chain that endlessly reminds us of the need for patriotism while scorning those who choose to live abroad. Its columnists fully support Aippa. But he evidently prefers to educate his children in the US.

Don’t we by the way recall some similar celebration Mutasa held in Raffingora not so long ago which the Sunday Mail also photographed for posterity? We hope there is no executive arm-twisting here! Let’s also hope when Tammie has finished her course she will be able to instruct the Sunday Mail’s caption writers how to spell the name of the university she is attending in Paris.

Talking of scholarships, last week the Sunday Mail led with a story about the low voter turnout in the Budiriro by-election that was won by the MDC. Next to the story was a picture of President Mugabe, the First Lady Grace and two of the president’s relatives who were enjoying a graduation party.

The two, Chipo Matibiri and Albert Mugabe jr, graduated from South African universities courtesy of a government scholarship programme. Speaking at the occasion in Zvimba, President Mugabe said it was government policy that every child attains at least 11 years of education. His two relatives already have first degrees. But can they sincerely be described as poor beneficiaries of the government’s scholarship programme?

We don’t mean to impute any sinister motives to the scholarship selection committee, but we have realised that companies often avoid inviting calumny by specifying that certain categories of people cannot enter their competitions. We have no doubt that there are more deserving cases than Mugabe’s relatives.

The outgoing Electoral Supervisory Commission always had a battle to be seen as an independent body by Zimbabwe’s civic society. It was often regarded as an arm of government. It will have confirmed that reputation by a report tabled in parliament by the Minister of Justice in which the ESC argues for the registration of political parties.

This was to discourage the emergence of rogue parties, we are told.

But which party has created a rogue state? Which party unleashed its militias on law-abiding citizens? Which party has undermined the rule of law and allowed people like Joseph Mwale to roam free?

The ESC, needless to say, saw no obstacles to the activities of that party. Instead, it recommends that political parties are investigated to see whether they had a “national outlook”.

This sounds suspiciously like the language of Zanu PF. Who said political parties had to have a prescribed outlook? Registration will enable the authorities to be aware of any planned sabotage, we are told.

Once again, which party has sabotaged Zimbabwe’s economy? Which party invents sabotage charges in order to detain members of the opposition?

The ESC proposals are thoroughly partisan and sinister. They further erode civil liberties. Let’s hope they are given the reception they deserve by MPs.

Kembo Mohadi, speaking to the Sunday News last weekend, provided a useful disclosure. Responding to a question about alleged human rights violations by police officers, he said the police force we have now was the same as we have had since 1980.

“The moment we decided to take our land from whites and give it back to the people of Zimbabwe, over-night we became violators of everything.”

Useful to have that for the record!

In fairness, Mohadi did add that the police took a course on human rights as part of their training. So charges of human rights violations were not true, he said.

So why didn’t his interviewer ask him about specific cases which have not been investigated, such as those of Gabriel Shumba and Tonderayi Machiridza, instead of just giving him an easy ride? What about the report of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the role of the Law and Order unit? Why wasn’t he asked about that?

What use is a journalist if he can’t ask an inconvenient question!

Muckraker was unimpressed with a Zesa statement this week saying Zimbabweans would have to adapt to the inconvenience of living with power cuts because Zesa Holdings’ electricity generation and distribution capacity has been severely reduced by a combination of an ageing distribution network, vandalism of equipment and low tariffs.

In fact Zimbabweans do not have to put up with Zesa’s incompetence. They can leave the country and take their skills elsewhere. Thousands will if power cuts persist.

The problem at Zesa is the same as that at the City of Harare. There is a complete absence of a culture of supervision and maintenance. This goes in particular for the water pumping equipment in Harare. Both Zesa and the City of Harare invariably suggest that tariff hikes will solve their problems. But we all know they won’t. In a couple of years the same spokesmen will be coming back to the consumers and ratepayers saying the equipment is “too old” and needs replacing.

It is not the equipment that needs replacing. Those in managerial positions who allow equipment to go unsupervised and unserviced should be identified and fired. They are causing widespread inconvenience and economic damage. No more excuses.

We liked a Newsnet clip last week showing George Charamba at the Beitbridge border post, looking listless as he stood in a queue of people apparently waiting to be cleared. With him in the queue were dozens of hungry-looking Zimbabweans. Among their most prized possessions were green bars of washing soap, cooking oil, tubes of various types of toothpaste — all for resale back home.

It wasn’t clear what Charamba’s mission was. But the picture of villagers around him was far from one of plenty. Yet he is one of those who want to give the impression that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe.

Will he insist even after that tour of Beitbridge that claims of a crisis are the creation of opposition parties and unpatriotic NGOs? His former boss Jonathan Moyo used to posture that there were no food shortages in Zimbabwe until he was caught red-handed by the South African Sunday Times on a shopping spree in Johannesburg. It was a huge embarrassment even for the government.

Last week we referred to President Mugabe’s visit to Malawi. A reader thought we had missed a story there. Apparently, when departing from Lilongwe Airport Mugabe inadvertently gave the UDF (Bakili Muluzi) salute to the assembled crowds. President Bingu waMutharika (DPP) might have wondered what sort of reward this was for his abject loyalty. Next thing, our leader may be inadvertently giving open-palm waves!

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