Frankenstein’s monster runs amok

DID the Herald go overboard this time round? Did it allow its “Features Writer” to go over the top in his attack of South African president Thabo Mbeki last Friday? The paper got itself berated by the Informa

tion department in what commentators said was a case of Professor Jonathan Moyo attacking himself in his various disguises.

The features writer on Friday claimed Mbeki was turning his back on Zanu PF and consorting with MDC sellouts by agreeing to meet opposition officials and the party’s president Morgan Tsvangirai. It said “there were growing fears that these meetings were promoting the MDC’s image abroad at the expense of Zanu PF”.

Going by Jonathan Moyo’s daily vituperation against the whole world in the state media, we are surprised that he would wish his party any image other than what he has earned it. Not to mention the worry about the party’s image abroad “when the people who matter are Zimbabwean voters”.

The “Features Writer” was made to recant on Saturday under the guise of a “Herald Reporter” when readers were told Mbeki’s involvement in the “Zimbabwean issue” had always been “open, honest and above board”. Why was there suddenly an “issue” when Moyo’s department has always denied that there is a crisis in Zimbabwe?
“Whereas government would want the media to operate in an environment of freedom, it expects the media to be accurate and informed . . . to avoid damaging falsehoods, imputations, innuendoes and unfair comments,” Moyo’s department warned the Herald.

The veil of secrecy was pierced when The Voice reported that President Mugabe had attacked the Herald for not knowing “our friends and foes”. The assertion that senior Zanu PF officials have in the past complained against the Herald being used to attack “certain political figures” was a hint pointing to the hand of Lowani Ndlovu as the “Features Writer” who penned the original attack on Mbeki.

Lowani, as readers know, thinks, writes and reasons exactly like Professor Jonathan Moyo. Which explains why the charade could not be sustained beyond a certain point. Thus it was that on Sunday Lowani Ndlovu was made to “attack” Jonathan Moyo’s “attack” on the Herald for “attacking” Thabo Mbeki.

While the Herald on Saturday merely quoted a statement by the Department of Information, Lowani knew it had been written by Professor Moyo. Lowani told us there were “no sacred cows whose pronouncements and actions are beyond questioning”. That could refer to either Mbeki or Mugabe or both. “Not just Zimbabweans but also Sadc has a right to debate Mbeki’s interest and involvement in the Zimbabwean question and all views on the matter should be put on the table,” raved Lowani defiantly in the same manner he has gone about attacking “certain political figures for personal gratification”, to quote The Voice.

Has Zanu PF created for itself a Frankenstein monster?

MDC MP for Chimanimani Roy Bennett has been tried and jailed. Government has denied that the decision to jail the legislator was in any way political. We can leave that to the conscience of the speakers — Paul Mangwana and Stan Mudenge.

Both claimed the evil deed called for a deterrent custodial sentence.

Mudenge told his Non-Aligned Movement colleagues in Harare on Monday that the attack on Patrick Chinamasa and Didymus Mutasa by Bennett in parliament was brutal. “It was barbaric law of the jungle, back to the stone age,” declared Mudenge with a straight face. “It was essential that a deterrent sentence be imposed.”

The fact that Bennett was also accused of not apologising soon enough for the alleged offence only aggravates the impression of vindictiveness. Muckraker’s verdict is one of a man “more sinned against than sinning”. And why was Mutasa, who boasted of kicking Bennett “very hard”, not made an example of? Where is the precedent of violently defending a comrade in parliament? Two-faced justice!

Mudenge claimed the behaviour by Bennett had no precedent anywhere in the world. This is conveniently true if you choose to ignore Taiwan where MPs will not brook the arrogant nonsense that we endure everyday in the name of sovereignty and how we should be forever grateful for being liberated from colonial rule when what we urgently need is freedom from Zanu PF tyranny, mendacity and hunger.

And Roy Bennett was not “trying to run away”. He was keeping an appointment with his lawyers at Johannesburg airport and returning the same day. As his arrest took place before the parliamentary vote to jail him it will be interesting to see if the charge of defeating the course of justice stands up in court.

Muckraker is getting irritated by Tendai Chari’s so-called media analysis in the Sunday Mirror, which increasingly looks like a joint effort with Tazzen Mandizvidza of Media Watch. It is easy to understand Tazzen’s predicament, his intellectual limitations notwithstanding. He is a ZBH employee and therefore doesn’t enjoy the latitude that Chari should ordinarily enjoy were he not embedded at ZBH and beholden to his former lecturer Rino Zhuwarara.

This week he attacked the Zimbabwe Independent for leading with a story he claimed had appeared in the Financial Gazette on Tsvangirai’s trial verdict. His callow mind was “boggled” that a few weeks back the Independent had “imposed a blackout” on the MDC’s “boycott of all future elections” after the story appeared in other papers.

“Why the same principle did not apply on the treason trial story then boggles the mind,” said Chari, sounding thoroughly boggled. Pity the students if the head is so thick.

We don’t want to give his column the respectability it does not deserve by wasting too much time on it, or to reduce ourselves to his fawning level which lacks the intellectual rigour and honesty that an analysis requires.
Who at the Independent imposed a blackout on the so-called boycott story? Is he being honest in claiming that the MDC said it was “boycotting” all future elections unconditionally? Has he been following the MDC’s 15-point demand on fair elections and Sadc’s guidelines and principles on the same issue?

This is what the MDC statement said: “The MDC will not participate in elections until the political space has been opened up and a legal, institutional and administrative framework for elections has been established that harnesses acceptable levels of transparency and fairness in the electoral process. For this to happen, the government needs to combine a comprehensive reform of Zimbabwe’s electoral framework with significant political reforms.”

Not nearly the same thing. We expect a difference between a university media lecturer and Munyaradzi Huni. Unfortunately in Chari we are asking for what is politically and intellectually unattainable.

President Mugabe claimed last weekend that Western powers were inspiring conflict in developing countries by creating political impasses which afford them a pretext for interference.

Western powers indicated “a real determination”, Mugabe said, “to play registrar, returning officer, polling agent, monitor and observer all at once”.

But aren’t these precisely the functions he is accused of usurping in 2002?

No wonder he is irritated. Other people are muscling in on territory he has come to regard as his own.

Referring to the Mauritius electoral guidelines, Mugabe declared “these standards are not a manifesto for the West or for a bankrupt opposition. They are ours…”

So Mugabe sees the Sadc guidelines as belonging to his party, not all players in the electoral process as was intended at Grande Baie?

Only “invited observers” would have a right to observe the poll, Mugabe added. In other words invitations to observe the election will be made not by an independent electoral body tasked to manage the poll but by a government that is a party to the election.

Do we need any further evidence that Zanu PF has hijacked the Sadc protocol to suit its own partisan needs? As for Mugabe’s assertion that the US will not have its own elections, which took place this week, monitored or observed, he should not mislead gullible folk. Hundreds of election observers were invited to the US to follow the poll. He knows that perfectly well.

Muckraker was intrigued by a front-page article in the Herald on Monday reporting that at least 6 000 ex-political prisoners, detainees and restrictees will be rewarded for their contribution to the liberation struggle.

This follows passage of a Bill extending to the former political prisoners the sort of benefits awarded to war veterans in 1997. Some reports put the amounts to be handed out at $10 million a person.

The Bill “sailed through” parliament last Thursday, the same day Gideon Gono told the nation in his third quarter statement that we should guard against “unplanned benevolent or gratuity payments that are unrelated to current production activities or real economic growth”.

We were told in the Herald report that dishonest conduct by applicants will constitute an offence. A person will be liable to refund any form of assistance they are not entitled to.

Now why should we believe that dishonest conduct by such applicants will be treated any differently to dishonest conduct by those who fleeced the War Victims Compensation Fund? What has happened to those who the Chidyausiku Commission found had benefited unduly from the fund? Have they been made to repay those amounts or were they, as we suspect, written off?

As for China and Malaysia, which Gono admires so much, their progress in the past decade owes much to investor-friendly policies and political stability — the very opposite of Zimbabwe.

Ask Zimplats what delayed their planned investment package that was about to be announced before the president opened his mouth on 50% equity!

The official media has been telling the nation for some months now that President Mugabe’s “bold stance” on the land issue and relations with Britain have earned him the respect of Africa. So how do we explain the expulsion of Africa’s largest trade union organisation from Zimbabwe and the vicious tirades that followed?

The answer is obvious. Cosatu was about to expose Mugabe’s claims as hollow.
Here is a trade union organisation that, unlike the Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Unions, is nobody’s puppet. Attempts in our state media to describe it as Blair’s instrument are so plainly stupid that nobody is taking them seriously. Cosatu has for years been the authentic voice of South Africa’s black workers. And it has been in the forefront of the democratisation struggle, both before and after 1994. It is rigidly opposed to Western imperialism.

Its visit to Zimbabwe was therefore highly significant. This was manifestly not the EU or the “white Commonwealth”. Its report would, we can be fairly sure, have exposed the repression that workers and civics in Zimbabwe experience on a daily basis. Mugabe’s claims to be the champion of Africa’s landless masses would have been seen for what they really are — populist demagoguery. He has effectively pauperised the nation he rules with an iron fist. That much the world already knows. Cosatu was expected to report what it saw, albeit with an occasional coating of liberationist indulgence.

But by evicting the Cosatu delegation, the government has signalled its fear of the truth. South Africans will draw their own conclusions. They have been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy in Zimbabwe since the Hwange campaign of 1967 when Umkhonto fought alongside Zapu. They have every right to comment on events here since they are keeping the country afloat.

Now we have Botswana being assailed by government spokesmen and half-baked academics whose credentials are still unknown. Former BDP cabinet minister Patrick Balopi, who is reported to have described President Mugabe as “a greedy leader who does not have the interests of his people at heart”, is the latest target of state vitriol.

What seems to have added salt to the wound is the support Balopi has received within his own party. BDP executive secretary Botsala Ntuane told the Botswana media that Balopi was “within his rights”. Not reported were his remarks that Botswana MPs are allowed to be similarly outspoken about their own leaders.

Attempts by Zimbabwean embassy officials in Gaborone to bully the Botswana government in the same way their Minister of Information allowed himself to be bullied when he came here a few months ago don’t appear to have succeeded this time.

So apart from Zimbabwean officials who now find themselves having to defend President Mugabe on a full-time basis, who else is “slamming” Botswana? “Political analyst” Dr William Nhara, the failed politician who now appears to be singing for another seat to lose.

He made the significant revelation that it will be another 10 years before agriculture recovers from Mugabe’s land reform programme. This comes after it took whites 48 years “to get the issue of agriculture right in this country”.

We are not sure where he is getting his figures from. Perhaps Joseph Made! Zimbabwe was way ahead of Botswana in health, infrastructure and social services, Nhara maintained. Botswana was a village by comparison.

Which doesn’t explain why thousands of Zimbabweans have flooded Village Botswana looking for jobs.
Botswana’s per capita GDP overtook Zimbabwe’s years ago. It is rich, not because of diamonds as Nhara implies, but because it encourages investment and provides an example of a well-managed economy. It also promotes racial tolerance.

Zimbabwe’s ambassador to Botswana, Phelekezela Mphoko, said she was aware criticism of Mugabe was a lucrative undertaking and “as a result political clowns and intellectual parasites who have nothing to offer beyond parroting designed options, surfaced”.

Which is where Nhara came in, we suppose!

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