Muckraker

Manheru bares his tortured soul

AT last we begin to understand the deep traumas that drive Nathaniel Manheru in his bitter weekly discourse. His deeply disturbed psyche, and in particular his dislike of whites, had to have some explanation rooted in childhood experience or earl

y adulthood. And last week, in what many analysts would regard as a classic case, Manheru disclosed that the taunts of teachers and fellow students in response to his early literary efforts left him a scarred and bitter man.

I am one of those Africans,” he recalled, “who suffered under white tutelage in the early years of Independence, all the time being reminded by white teachers that I was incapable of comprehending even a figure of speech let alone alliteration, assonance, front-, cross-, or final-linking in poetry let alone a sonnet, for my type, colour and rearing culture made this impossible, put it beyond me.


Then there was the reaction of his white classmates, “always giggling whenever such hefty assaults were made on me by their kith and kin”. Infinitely dimmer than the ambitious Nathaniel, they “loved it, luxuriating in my periodic humiliation”.


Scholarships to the imperial metropole don’t appear to have assuaged Nathaniel’s deep sense of resentment against all bearers of a lighter pigmentation. They will be taught a lesson.


“I hope I will not have to box one from this tribe, or do much worse, to demonstrate this rejection to my children.”


We hope not too Nathaniel, because your advocacy of spontaneous violence against those whose relatives may have mocked you in English A-level class does not provide a good advertisement for the office you now represent. One Joseph Mwale is enough!


The prejudices of his classmates drove the young Nathaniel “to study their language and their culture in its various embodiments, for I sought to be a Caliban that masters the master’s language so as to curse him better. This I have done in this column and in the greater world.”


We would have thought such a vaulting claim would be better coming from Herald readers than the author himself. Nathaniel’s prose remains leaden, all-too-obviously advertising his literary pretensions while failing to win friends and influence people. The office he speaks for appears resentful and vindictive in dealing with its critics. Evidently no interest here in making the president look better apart from some foolishly contrived indignation about a picture of him having difficulty holding up his pants!


In this connection Ngugi wa Mirii’s remarks in the Sunday Mirror of October 10 claiming the picture in the Standard, taken at the Harare Show, represented another “outrage” and inviting the Media and Information Commission to investigate the paper, demonstrate the sinister alliance between so-called nationalist intellectuals and officials who see their job as preventing media scrutiny of the regime’s leadership.


“What national benefit could have been derived from the use of such a photo?” the fawning Kenyan exile wanted to know as if there has to be a “national benefit” to every picture published.


Wa Mirii asked the MIC if there had been a pattern of complaints against the newspaper. Indeed there has: by the same official in the Office of the President! This, it can be confidently expected, will provide a pretext for action against the paper at some future date.


No complaints from named members of the public, just from officials intent upon glossing over the less edifying dimensions of geriatric rule.


Wa Mirii himself shows little regard for accuracy. He claims the Zimbabwe Independent lied when it said that itself and the Standard were “the only two newspapers in Zimbabwe that were not state-owned”.


In fact the paper said there was growing harassment of journalists at “two of the country’s remaining private publications”.


Not quite the same thing is it Cde Wa Mirii?


But we note with interest the Kenyan’s indignation that the Sunday Mirror had not been credited by us as an independent publication. Perhaps that’s because no independent paper worth the name would subscribe to the discredited New World Information and Communication Order, junked years ago by Unesco as inimical to media freedom, or allow itself to be used as a platform to instigate a witch-hunt by the state against another paper!


It was only a couple of months ago that the government was making a huge amount of self-congratulatory noise about Zimbabwe’s adherence to the Sadc guidelines and principles governing democratic elections. Now it seems their commitment is less solid.


Lowani Ndlovu, who reflects views similar to those of Information minister Jonathan Moyo, was on Sunday reminding readers that these were just guidelines and not part of any binding treaty or protocol.


“None of the countries, not even big brother South Africa itself, has had their parliaments ratifying the guidelines and principles because they do not have that kind of legal significance or import in terms of international law,” Lowani declared.


So there you have it. They are just some sort of vague outline that member states are free to adopt, adapt or junk.


What appears to have stung Lowani into this act of disownership is the suggestion that President Mbeki is being asked, along with other Sadc leaders, to press the Zimbabwe authorities into adopting the “electoral norms”.


They are not norms, Lowani raved, just parameters! How can the Sadc security organ troika, due to visit Harare, press for any such thing?


What this all tells us of course is that any such visit will be greeted with huge resentment in Harare, not least because the authorities here are trying to get away with not implementing the Mauritius terms. Patrick Chinamasa has already demonstrated that the government will define what the opposition stands for and then deny it access to the public media on the basis of that definition — the very opposite of the Mauritius accord as set out by premier Paul Berenger.


Moyo appears to have realised, rather late in the day, the public relations damage that open defiance of the Mauritius terms is creating in the region. He therefore sought in an address to religious collaborators on Monday to claim that government was implementing the terms and that MDC claims to the contrary were wrong.


But it isn’t just the MDC that believes the government is insincere in claiming adherence to the guidelines. It is a view widely held across the country, reinforced by maladroit statements from government officials.


In a speech read on his behalf at the opening of an election workshop, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri said it was crucial that all police personnel understood their obligations under the new electoral guidelines which include full participation of citizens in the political process and freedom of association. But he said he would not tolerate the bussing of people to other constituencies. Only a “reasonable number of people” will be allowed to travel.


So the guidelines will clearly be interpreted upon the basis of what the police commissioner will tolerate, not what the law allows? He was reported as saying the March election posed a challenge to all police officers and required “well-thought-out tactical plans to counter enemies of the state whose fortunes thrive on bashing the image of the country”.


So no change there! Chihuri, by the way, had an explanation for the growth in crime: it could be attributed to “the birth of foreign-funded opposition parties in the country” which had seen “a polarisation of society resulting in political crimes”.


By all means let’s have ZTV play again and again those clips of Blair joining 12 million Zimbabweans in advocating regime change. But make sure it includes the bit about Sadc states being involved!


“If there is one thing which is fundamentally unZimbabwean”, declared the uncouth Ndlovu this week, “it is for any Zimbabwean to invite outsiders to poke their fingers in our national affairs.”


Muckraker reckons what is fundamentally unZimbabwean is having lying ministers who claim that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe and then sneak across the border in the dead of night to shop for food in South Africa as if Zimbabweans were fundamentally lazy and unable to feed themselves.


It is only politically insecure people like Lowani who are afraid of the transparency required by the Sadc principles and guidelines on democratic elections. There was a similar foulmouthed reaction when Nepad’s peer review mechanism was first mooted. Those with skeletons in their cupboards cried foul. Now we are being told that the Sadc principles and guidelines “are not law” as if anybody other than Lowani would be so naïve to think that they were law.


Meanwhile there was a spirited attempt to intimidate Sadc leaders even as their said visit was being denied. They were warned not to make “Zimbabweans” (ie Lowani) feel that British prime minister Tony Blair was correct when he claimed he was working closely with “some Sadc leaders to effect illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic regime change in Zimbabwe”.


Did he actually say that? Where has illegal regime change ever been constitutional or democratic? Not to mention one that has not changed in nearly a quarter century.


Media and Information Commission chair Tafataona Mahoso has attacked the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference for merely pointing out that opposition political parties were being denied access to the public media. For all we know, that is a public secret and we don’t understand what Mahoso’s problem is. We know also his job thrives on fiction although he seems to confuse this with fact.


“Who exactly is being denied freedom and for what reason?” Mahoso sincerely inquired without a sense of irony.


Mahoso told the The Voice that the claim by the bishops was false because “there is ample access even for scoundrels”. Scoundrels and the opposition are not the same thing Cde Mahoso. But then Zanu PF propagandists always stretch hyperbole to bizarre levels. Before the 2000 parliamentary election the party told its supporters in Masvingo they should be prepared to vote for a baboon if it came to them carrying a Zanu PF card. Most did. Lately we have been told the opposition in the United States is called al-Qaeda. What next?


“The West is funding churches to criticise our media laws,” Mahoso announced with the authority of an oracle. “I want to remind Christians that it is wrong to bear false witness.” Which reminded Muckraker of Jesus’ temptation when the devil quoted the scriptures. But as Saddam Hussein’s Comical Ali would say, God is roasting all liars in hell.


Talking of roasting, Sadc ambassadors accredited to Zimbabwe last week had a mouthful of tongue-lashing from Foreign Affairs minister Stan Gorerazvo Mudenge. He said a report had been produced by “Western forces” prejudging next year’s election and that Zimbabwe would “not tolerate hypocrites … involved in clandestine issues”.


He said such ambassadors would not be allowed to observe the country’s election even if they were accredited. He didn’t say who these ambassadors were or who had authored the offending report. In fact we doubt if the said report can be authenticated.


Which leaves us wondering why the ambassadors would allow themselves to be treated like kindergarten kids. What the world is watching is whether the Sadc ambassadors will be browbeaten by Mudenge into endorsing a flawed electoral outcome. Last time around Sadc election observers did not come out shining. Their integrity was left battered while Zimbabweans continue to suffer from that act of infamy. They say “once beaten twice shy”. That’s why the spotlight has remained on Zimbabwe and not Namibia and Mozambique who are holding elections before the end of the year. Sadc guidelines and principles on the conduct of democratic elections seek to ensure victory with legitimacy. Why is government afraid of light?


When friends quarrel it is advisable for outsiders to keep a safe distance, elders always say. Muckraker wants to make an exception of The Voice editor Lovemore Mataire and Financial Gazette columnist, CZ. Mataire accused CZ of making a mountain out of every molehill error in the The Voice and called him an “untrained zombie”.


He claimed CZ had been consigned to the “commissioners’ pool” at the Fingaz and finally left out of frustration.


“How many years did you spend at the pink paper seeing young people twice your age being employed and becoming your bosses overnight…” asked Mataire mockingly, seeing as he has risen overnight to become editor of a nondescript party publication.


“Young people twice your age” is a strange construction by any standard. Lovemore’s credibility would be enhanced if he lost that hat!


Another howler in the Herald on Tuesday with Jonathan Moyo’s comment on the implementation of Sadc guidelines and principles on the conduct of democratic elections. “None of the Sadc countries are going to legislate themselves out of power.”


Did he really say that? We didn’t know Zanu PF was a country.


The story was headlined “MDC on a campaign to discredit government” in which it was claimed opposition officials were “ignorant” of the Sadc principles. It was claimed in the story that MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who met South African president Thabo Mbeki in SA on Monday, had embarked on a regional tour “to discredit the government”.


“Details of the meeting (between Tsvangirai and Mbeki) were not available,” said the Herald. So how does it know what “campaign” Tsvangirai is on? By the way, is it true SK Moyo refused to see pesky Morgan when he turned up at the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria after his talks with Mbeki?