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Editor’s Memo

Own goal

Vincent Kahiya

THE self-centred pettiness of the Zanu PF government continues to give Zimbabwe a bad name. If our democratic deficit was ever in doubt, the evidence came in a

flood this week.

Hour-by-hour, while these petty men with absolute power continue to occupy office, this deficit gets bigger.

Our rulers cry loudest in the face of international condemnation of their daily misdeeds. They are determined to fight back, albeit with an ill-equipped campaign whose strategy has become all-too-predictable: blame all the country’s woes on Tony Blair.

This ideological dementia has opened too many fronts for Mugabe’s PR soldiers. The country will continue to be peppered as long as Mugabe’s government keeps declaring war on anyone sane enough not to sing Zanu PF slogans.

Events this week opened another front for the propaganda combatants.

Only two weeks ago, the government tried to parade itself to the world as a paragon of justice and doyen of transparency following the acquittal of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on charges of high treason. We were told that the country’s detractors had been shamed by the ruling, which not only epitomised the independence of the judiciary but also the presence of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

South African Foreign minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was caught in this subterfuge and concluded that the ruling would result in “national healing” in Zimbabwe.

She said the ruling “must indicate to everybody that there is a rule of law in Zimbabwe”.

This notion was put to the test when unwanted guests in the form of a Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) delegation flew into Harare on Monday night on a fact-finding mission.

Cabinet on Tuesday ruled that the 13-member Cosatu team must be deported. Cosatu had just met officials from the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and was due to meet with civic groups like the NCA and Crisis Coalition. That this was the South Africans’ only crime is an illustration of just how petty and vindictive Mugabe’s government has become.

Their trip to Harare was deemed unacceptable. They were bundled from the Sixth Floor of the Quality International Hotel and driven to the airport on Tuesday afternoon to catch a plane back to Johannesburg but, when none could accommodate them, ended up being dumped at the Beitbridge border post at dawn on Wednesday after a 600 km road trip.

The court order obtained by the team allowing them to remain in the country was ignored in the same manner as journalist Andrew Meldrum’s. The Guardian correspondent was booted out of Zimbabwe despite three court rulings interdicting the state from deporting him. That is the rule of law in Zimbabwe, Madam Foreign minister!

Critics of the regime, no matter how well-meaning, are not allowed in this country. The only political groupings welcome here are those that sing praises to President Mugabe. The government fatuously finds it convenient to bracket Cosatu together with Mugabe’s arch-enemies, Britain and the United States.

The Department of Information described the Cosatu mission as an alien invasion.

“Some dubious individuals claiming association with the South African Congress of Trade Unions, and working with Tony Blair’s well-known anti-Zimbabwe, pro-Western interests opposed to the Zimbabwe’s land reform…” it rattled on.

This is an obvious falsehood because Cosatu never disowned its delegation to Harare, which does not make the team in any way “dubious”. Secondly, Cosatu is not a pro-Western organisation. It is in fact opposed to globalisation and highly critical of the United States.

Cosatu has held large anti-Western demonstrations in South Africa. In one such protest in Pretoria in July last year during US President George Bush’s visit to South Africa, Zanu PF jumped on the bandwagon and marched with the labour body. Cosatu was surprised by this sudden exhibition of solidarity.

“I was surprised to see them in our march,” said Cosatu president Willy Madisha. “We don’t know where they came from. Our position is very clear – we don’t support the actions of the Zanu-PF government of harassing and intimidating ordinary workers through their war veterans.”

The labour grouping in May 2002 said government must disband youth militia camps which were used as torture bases. Cosatu has also spoken strongly of Zanu PF’s lack of commitment to dialogue with the opposition.

There is powerful irony in the fact that Mugabe’s latest tactics – deporting outspoken foreigners, denying opposition media coverage, harassing political opponents – so closely resemble those of Ian Smith during the last days of Rhodesian white minority rule.

Two weeks ago foreigners going to a fishing tournament were arrested in Makuti for allegedly celebrating opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s court victory. The tourists went back home and told their compatriots the truth about Zimbabwe – stay away.

The government’s own goal over the Cosatu visit has been splashed on newspaper front pages around the world. Let’s not hear any more nonsense about government critics tarnishing Zimbabwe’s image abroad. Moyo and his friends did a great job of that this week completely unaided!

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