Outbreak of barmy worm

THAT rather unpleasant little worm that lives Under the Surface at

the Sunday Mail has been taking pot shots at the Zimbabwe Independent. He accuses us of always writing stories about inter-party talks, “blah and blah and so on”.

This was in response to our last edition on December 19 when we referred to President Thabo Mbeki’s visit to Harare. During the course of that visit Mbeki managed to extract an admission from Mugabe that informal talks had already taken place with the MDC and that further talks were an urgent matter.

No wonder Cde Under is peeved. He has been energetically telling us for some months that no such talks had taken place — that this was all a product of the imagination of reporters at the Independent.

Now he has heard it from the horse’s mouth, he has adopted a new tack. Without the talks the MDC, and therefore the Independent, will be finished, he argues. That is why we gave them such prominence, he claims.

Perhaps we gave them prominence precisely because Cde Under’s handlers have been denying their existence and saying that anyway they don’t matter. Now their boss has been smoked out by South African diplomacy, instead of apologising for misleading the nation they have resorted to the rather sorry claim that the Independent needs these talks more than Zanu PF. Who are they trying to kid?

While we are on the subject of Cde Under, Muckraker would like to know how much of his copy is actually his own work. There seems a remarkable identity of views between Cde Under, whose simple-minded conspiracy theories loom large every Sunday, and officials in the President’s Office who have similar fantasies. Indeed, Cde Under’s colleagues say he doesn’t actually have any views of his own. He simply transplants them from a disk he carries around.

But he does at least provide a useful insight into official thinking. Spurning President Olusegun Obasanjo’s offer to help bring Zimbabwe back into the Commonwealth, Cde Under, or rather his handlers, had this to say: “The Nigerian leader had his chance to show his brotherly concern before Chogm, but then he decided to dance with the wolves and now his image in Africa is in tatters.”

That’s not what the rest of Africa is saying. The wolves would appear to include Botswana, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone and Kenya. And what about Jamaica, the rest of the Caribbean, the Pacific and Asia? They all decided to dance with Obasanjo, not the flat-footed Mugabe.

When not trashing Obasanjo, Cde Under’s alter ego, Munyaradzi Huni, is required to sing the praises of his mentors. President Mugabe is nominated “Newsmaker of the Year” for his “powerful speeches” at international conferences.

“The president (so) dominated the news,” Huni slavishly wrote, “that he appeared in the South African paper the Sunday Times more often than the country’s leader…”

But Huni doesn’t tell us what the Sunday Times said about him!

“While they jostled to demonise him, President Mugabe always outshone them and now the hero in him is coming out…”

Where has he been hiding all this time we wonder? Zimbabwe’s pullout from the Commonwealth, we are told, “left the British government devastated while the opposition MDC was stunned”.

Did it? Has anybody out there seen a single report saying the British government was devastated or the MDC stunned? How can the successful ring-fencing of a rogue ruler devastate those who helped achieve it?

But anybody wondering where this drivel is coming from need look no further than Huni’s declaration that the disgusting Sendekera Mwana Wevhu jingle found favour with Mugabe.

“He showered praise on the Department of Information and Publicity in the Office of the President and Cabinet in Masvingo. What more should we say?”

Nothing at all Munyaradzi. That tells us all we need to know!

Lovemore Mataire appears equally prepared to disclose the pushers behind his pen.

“It would be a miscarriage of justice,” he gushed, “not to acknowledge the efforts of the Department of Information and Publicity led by its minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and Secretary Mr George Charamba who with the mastery of seasoned intellectuals and politicians made the Zimbabwean story known to the whole world.”

Indeed they did, utterly discrediting this country and making it an international pariah when it was not a laughing stock. The South African media have had a field day ridiculing Moyo’s pretensions.

On the subject of worms, have you noticed how poor old Tafataona Mahoso appears obliged to write every week in support of government policy. He once had a mind of his own — however disordered. Now he has become part of the presidential media machine, churning out articles explaining why Zimbabwe’s humiliating exit from the Commonwealth was a “well-timed” withdrawal — in fact a triumph of nationalism.

Zimbabwe’s isolation will enhance South-to-South liberation just as the people of Iraq are united in resisting US occupation, he claims. Although many indigenous owners of land in Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand have been wiped out, the survivors’ admiration for President Mugabe will spread the movement, we are told.

“In the cases of Namibia and South Africa…the hounds of white economic panic must be unleashed there immediately.”

And this is the person charged with the regulation of the media in Zimbabwe!

Meanwhile, Mahoso’s ideological colleague Ngugi wa Mirii, writing on the presidential succession issue, has been reduced to this: “There is also Dr Joseph Made…who has articulated the needs of the land reform with such brilliance and vigour. Through his understanding of the need and problems of land and the subsequent mandate to lead the agrarian reform, we have seen his abilities at work.”

We sure have: grossly incompetent estimates for crop production made on the basis of aerial tours and widespread starvation in a once self-sufficient society. Either Ngugi Wa Mirii is having a little joke with us or he has been smoking some of that stuff everybody at the Sunday Mail appears to be on!

Minister of State for Science and Technology Olivia Muchena seems to have been on it as well. She declared Zimbabwe can prosper without the aid of Western countries “if people are united and share a common vision”.

She used the example of Malaysia “which raised itself from the economic doldrums when its relationship with the West had hit its lowest ebb”.

“It is totally incredible, but it is possible”, she declared.

“Totally incredible” is a good definition. Muchena doesn’t appear to understand that when Malaysia decided to hold out against the IMF on the convertibility issue in 1998, it was on the basis of an already strong and self-sufficient economy. And that economy had been built up by massive foreign investment over 40 years made possible by sound economic policies and an attractive civic/legal environment.

It tells us all we need to know about the intelligence of Zimbabwean ministers that they are unaware of the basis for Malaysia’s success but think Zimbabwe can achieve the same defiance of the West without any of the economic underpinnings. What do we call this sort of intellectual dissonance?

We heard similar childish pleadings for people to be “united” on December 22. The state made rather forlorn efforts to whip up loyalty around the unity accord of 1987. The fact that almost the whole of Matabeleland has since defected to the opposition escaped the notice of official commentators who tried to suggest huge strides had been made because of unity.

Public corporations were required to take out adverts in the Herald. The Grain Marketing Board congratulated the president and people of Zimbabwe for 16 years of unity and — in a clue as to where all this was coming from — their “steadfast sovereignty”.

Tel*One, whose network failures have led to communications breakdowns across the country in recent weeks, joined in the congratulatory mood. So did the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe.

No explanation as to why Zimbabwe is immeasurably poorer today than it was in 1987, or why the people of Matabeleland have reaped no dividends from the accord.

So Econet is to have its operating licence withdrawn because its foreign currency proceeds are allegedly being used to “finance subversive activities to undermine the government of Zimbabwe”, according to the Herald.

Not a scrap of evidence is produced to substantiate this paranoid claim. Instead we are told the company has been defying, along with everybody else in the telecoms sector it seems, a government directive that there should be only one gateway for international calls in and out of the country in the interests of “national security”. Relevant ministry officials and Potraz staff have been “dragging their feet” on implementation of the directive because they were involved in the earlier decision “under which Econet was controversially awarded a licence to operate by the Anthony Gubbay-led Supreme Court”, a source told the Herald.

In fact the only controversy surrounding that award involved the huge sums of public money the then Minister of Information spent on trying to prevent Econet founder Strive Masiyiwa from exercising his right to freedom of expression. It was also shocking that having lost the case in the courts, the government proceeded to issue a licence to its cronies.

The reference to the “Anthony Gubbay-led Supreme Court” should tell us where this story originated. It is an indication of just how rotten Zanu PF governance has become that officials upholding court rulings and behaving professionally should be attacked by anonymous sources in the Herald reflecting the views of ministers who bear a grudge against Gubbay.

Significantly, while we were being told that Zimbabwe’s pullout from the Commonwealth was a nationalist triumph, government sources were confiding in the Herald that the publication of the Daily News in Abuja during Chogm was enormously damaging.

Where is this? The president is facing a “palace coup” as his chief party rival tells him not to run for re-election again. “When you have given all you are capable of giving to your country, it is wise, through term limits, to make room for others.”

His remarks cut right to the president’s weakness, his age, growing decrepitude and a sense among voters that he is washed up, too comfortable in the trappings of office and uninterested in his country’s domestic problems, we are told.

It is France where President Jacques Chirac faces a challenge from Interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy (48).

The incumbent is doing all he can to minimise the issue of his age, the Daily Telegraph reports.

“But the French dread M Chirac becoming like Francois Mitterand in his later years —  a tired geriatric clinging to power for its own sake.”

We know the feeling!

Choice channels for the First Family

DURING the recent postal strike DStv had difficulty getting copies of its Dish magazine to customers.  People were encouraged instead to go to DStv offices to collect their copies.  But postal addresses had already been stamped on the packets so customers got somebody else’s copy.

Which is how Muckraker ended up with a copy addressed to Hon RG Mugabe, Zimbabwe House, 7th Avenue, Harare. We don’t know whose copy Hon RG Mugabe has, but if he would like the one belonging to him he is free to call Muckraker and ask for it.

What intrigues us about this is why the president should want to subscribe to satellite television, with all its subversive British and American stations transmitting “lies” about Zimbabwe, when he could be watching ZTV with its good news about the success of the land programme, not to mention its entertaining gyrating jingles.

Zimbabweans will be curious to learn that after a hard day’s work, Bob and Grace like nothing better than to put their feet up and watch Will and Grace, and other American or British TV programmes. Perhaps they just have it for the kids, switching across to Newshour once the little ones have gone to bed?

Somehow we doubt it. It looks as if, like the rest of us, they can’t stomach ZTV! What’s the betting they watch BBC World, Star Trek, Outer Limits, The Drew Carey Show, and CSI Miami? Who knows, Grace may even pick up a few tips from Nigella Lawson on the Food Channel!

Following Mugabe’s appearance at the Geneva World Summit on Information Society last week a reader has written in to ask: “Does this man even know how to turn on a computer? His only interest in information technology is tapping people’s phones and reading their e-mails.”

Our reader may be right. While Grace probably knows how to use it for Internet shopping and the kids can play Fantasy Football, it is doubtful if Bob, unlike his South African counterpart, spends his spare time surfing the Net.

Thabo Mbeki is addicted to his computer, we gather, surfing into the early hours and reading all those rude responses to his ANC Today column.

European newspapers reporting Mugabe’s address to the conference delegates in Geneva pointed out that five people had been arrested in Zimbabwe and charged under Posa for sending e-mails urging participation in protests against the Mugabe regime. Hardly what is meant by the “Information Society”!

Then there was the person charged with sending a fax to the UK about the human rights situation here. Somebody looking over his shoulder reported him to the police. And we are pleased newspapers have been quick to point out that, under the Postal and Telecommunications Act, Internet Service Providers are required to hand over transcripts of e-mail communications. The Act makes it an offence for ISPs to reveal that they have been instructed to disclose such messages to the authorities.

Perhaps instead of warming up his standard speech on US and British imperialism, Mugabe could have read a few passages from Animal Farm or 1984. Because Zimbabwe’s information cul-de-sac is about as Orwellian as it gets!

Zimbabwe’s state-owned fixed line provider, Tel*One, rose to the occasion by losing its connection to South Africa via the Mazoe earth station link during much of the period Mugabe was in Geneva pontificating on the information super-highway. As a result, e-mails were down for two days.

Readers may be interested to know what Zanu PF founder Enos Nkala has to say about his old party.

Now a born-again Christian, Nkala says a break with his past has changed his perspective on life and politics. He believes that Zanu PF is in a fix with an economy on its knees, massive starvation, political instability and lawlessness.

“Zanu is on its death bed, it is dying, it is disintegrating and the purpose for which it was formed has been lost,” he said in a recent interview.

“The economy is gone, the party itself is disintegrating, the war vets themselves are running the party and some of them are ignorant human beings. Fighting the war does not make you a leader.”

Thanks for that insight Enos!

Not everybody believes Zanu PF is dying. Cde Under the Boot, writing in the Sunday Mail, thinks the ruling party is led by a “hero who continues shining”. Because the BBC’s Mark Doyle reported that President Mugabe’s speech in Geneva stood out from the bland contributions of other heads of state, meaning it was controversial, Cde Under spun this as a speech that “stunned” the BBC, CNN and Reuters.

“No wonder why (sic) the British war-monger Tony Blair and that Australian coward Howard fought tooth and nail to make sure the president was not invited to Chogm in Abuja,” Cde Under spat.

“They knew that once the hero was in the house they would be reduced to size, like what happened in Johannesburg and New York some time ago.”

“Some time ago”? Aren’t political editors supposed to know when? And are they now reduced to saying what might have happened if their dear leader had been afforded a soap box to perform his grandstanding?

The fact is a clear majority of Commonwealth members declined to buy his claims. Is it seriously suggested countries like India, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Jamaica and Malaysia were all “bulldozed” into excluding Zimbabwe? That Britain and Australia command that sort of power?

Munyaradzi Huni claims Oluse-gun Obasanjo’s strategy of not inviting Zimbabwe left “his face with a lot of egg” (sic).

In fact Obasanjo’s standing has increased considerably as he managed the debates at Chogm. But the best thing to have come out of it was not just the resistance of the Commonwealth as a whole to Mugabe’s pretensions, it was the refusal of a number of significant African states to join Sadc in insisting on Mugabe’s attendance. Then of course there was the collapse of the Sri Lankan challenge to Don McKinnon.

Zimbabwe’s supporters have been reduced in number and isolated from the rest of Africa and the progressive world. Just one Caribbean state supported Mugabe. And that was a tiny island (actually one and a bit). And well done to Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia and Kenya. They finally put to rest the myth of African solidarity.

The picture in the Sunday Mail said it all. While it was captioned “Listen brother…President Mugabe hammers a point to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo”, the Nigerian leader is in fact looking at the camera with an expression that says: “Would you believe this guy”!

The other “big loser” was Tony Blair, Huni inventively suggested.

Really? Was Britain excluded from Abuja? Was it Blair’s allies who deserted him? Was it Blair’s agenda that was defeated at Abuja?

Come on Cde Huni, when you have lost it is sometimes better to concede defeat gracefully than continue to make a fool of yourself. Don’t you remember telling us not so long ago that Mugabe would attend Abuja and we would all get a rude shock?

The Herald’s Presidential office boys have been suggesting Zimbabwe should look towards improving ties with Francophone and Lusophone countries. In other words, having discarded one parent they are looking for another.

But do these little orphans not understand that France and Portugal have the same position as Britain on events in Zimbabwe? The French might indeed make remarks about Britain’s flea-market following OECD figures showing France falling behind Britain in the GDP stakes, but Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair have been working closely on foreign and defence policy while EU ambassadors in Harare meet regularly to coordinate their response to events here.

Do Francophone and Lusophone states really want such a sore loser in their midst who will sooner or later disgrace them? Muckraker will be putting it to the prospective parents when we next see them.

And our commiserations to the office boys for the loss of Saddam Hussein. We mean the Iraqi one, not theirs. For some weeks now they have been advertising their solidarity with the Baathists in their resistance to the coalition. Every bombing has been cheered on. But like so many cowards who bully their own people, Saddam proved ready to throw up his hands when he saw the game was up.

Let’s hope the office boys are learn-ing how. Meanwhile, listen out for burrowing noises at Munhumutapa Building.

Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi could at least have the courage of his convictions when threatening productive minorities. His menacing speech to senior police officers last week, redolent in the discredited mantras of Mugabe’s spin-doctors, had to be read by the Secretary for Home Affairs because Mohadi couldn’t make it to the function.

It was all about dismantling “the economic hegemony of the white settler colonial minority” in order to deliver “total emancipation”.

In fact it is the entire economy that the government is busy dismantling. The “total emancipation” Mohadireferred to has been the emancipation from food self-sufficiency, emancipation from the rule of law and emancipation from good governance.

But it was useful to have his remarks on record so as to assess his culpability in Zanu PF’s misrule when the day comes.

Exactly who is it, Cde Mohadi, who has “distorted the political and economic domains”? Who has “led us up the garden path” so per capita GDP is today lower than it was in 1980 and unemployment over 70%?

Mohadi has been obliged to parrot the Moyo line that economic difficulties are “Western-contrived”. In other words Mugabe’s well-documented misrule is not to blame!

But he was right about the need for a new paradigm, one in which public funds are spent wisely and don’t disappear into the pockets of a parasitic political class, one in which the public can trust the state security forces to enforce the law professionally and impartially, not selectively, and one in which justice and decency prevail instead of state terror, brutality and torture. What has Mohadi got to say about lawyers being assaulted in police stations on the orders of generals’ wives?

Perhaps we should be a little more indulgent towards Mohadi. In declining to read the address himself, he might have been distancing himself from the worst excesses of Zanu PF’s destructive rule!

Under the heading “Tambaoga: Zimbabwe’s bad boy”, the Sunday Mail carried a puff piece on the controversial singer last weekend. When the Sunday Mail visited, Last Chiyangwa (his real name) was watching the Zanu PF conference in Masvingo on TV. Which may explain why, in the accompanying picture, he was unable to keep h

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