Must do better to get off Zisco hook

We liked the picture on the front page of Tuesday’s Herald. It showed what looked very much like two waxworks from Madame Tussaud’s museum. But on closer inspection they turned out to be President

Hu Jintao shaking hands with President Mugabe in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

The hall faces on to Tiananmen Square where in 1989 the Chinese “people’s” army ruthlessly crushed a popular movement by students and workers seeking reform. Perhaps Hu Jintao passed on a few tips. What we do know is that the two leaders looked decidedly wooden in their greetings. There was considerable space between them and, indeed, it looked as if Hu Jintao was holding Mugabe at arm’s length.

The president will recall similar treatment from Jacques Chirac in that memorable Elysée Palace scene where an embrace was extended to just about every African leader except ours.

Why don’t Chinese leaders try and look less contrived in these scenes?

Greeting visiting luminaries follows a well-choreographed pattern. Barely have they touched hands when the Chinese head of state will swing his guest round to face the camera. There will then follow the most plastic of smiles as if to say “I have done this a thousand times before and this is how it goes”.

Hu Jintao spoke of “unshakeable” ties with Zimbabwe. So why didn’t he look as if he meant it? Perhaps having another 47 leaders to greet, all of whom were assured of “unshakeable” ties with Beijing (so long as they have minerals) proved tiring for the Chinese president.

Meanwhile, here is a list of things that could have been discussed: how to crack down on trade unions; how to monitor the Internet; how to hold fake elections; and how to have a partisan judiciary.

Not discussed was independence for Tibet and the performance of MA60 aircraft.

THE Chinese, it would appear, have been bestowing their favours rather liberally in Africa as they seek to win friends. Apart from the small incident of birds that don’t fly, much has been made of the approved tourist destination status bestowed on Zimbabwe. This would lead to a veritable stampede of visitors, we were told.

In fact there has been only a trickle, and those that have ventured here tend to sit on their wallets. Given a choice, the more affluent tourists flock to London and other European capitals. Britain is also an approved tourist destination and Chinese tourists, like everybody else, want to be pictured outside Buckingham Palace. They should avoid doing the same thing outside State House!

Now the authorities in Beijing have taken the shine off Zimbabwe’s exclusive status by conferring it upon a host of other African cou tries.

On arrival in Beijing last Friday Rwanda’s Paul Kagame was told his country had been awarded approved tourist destination status. And now we discover 10 African states currently enjoy that status.

Oh well. Perhaps when they have “done” London, Paris, Rome, Berlin and Amsterdam the Chinese will find time to visit us in significant numbers. But it won’t be just yet.

Anybody out there feeling sorry for Zimbabwe Tourism Authority boss Karikoga Kaseke? He can’t understand why he has been refused a visa to visit the UK. He said he had received a call from a lady at the British embassy who asked him “funny” questions about his association with Zanu PF.

“I told her that I do not hold any positions in Zanu PF but I am a party cadre and cannot deny that,” he said. “I am what I am today because of Zanu PF.”

He thus helpfully dismissed any lingering thoughts we might have had that he owed his position to professionalism or performance!

Somebody else not too worried by professionalism is Didymus Mutasa, the Minister for State Security, who appears to think police officers have the right to beat up somebody being arrested if they can argue that they were earlier assaulted by that person.

The police had been “provoked” by trade unionists, he told Irin news agency. “One of the trade unionists had attacked a policeman at a roadblock. So then the police told the trade unionists: ‘Now you are in our hands, we are beating you.’ How can people attack the police and not expect them to retaliate?”

So an unverified claim by a policeman becomes a pretext for police violence against peaceful protesters? Mutasa’s statement needs to be circulated as widely as possible. Nothing better illustrates the criminal nature of the regime: a group of people peacefully exercising their right to demonstrate are viciously attacked with batons because a policeman claims he was assaulted by one of them weeks before.

In any case, nothing could justify the degree of violence used. This was not self-defence.

It was a planned and systematic assault on civic leaders both before and after their arrest. That Mutasa should attempt to justify this disgraceful episode by characterising it as a warranted reprisal tells us just how abusive this regime has become.

We were intrigued to note the following inserted in a recent Herald article by Caesar Zvayi: “At the beginning of July UN secretary-general Kofi Annan openly condemned the sanctions that he acknowledged are hurting ordinary people.”

We have checked reports appearing in the press at the time and statements made by Annan’s office. Nowhere can we find a statement by him “openly condemning” sanctions or saying they were hurting ordinary people.

The only thing we did find was a claim to that effect by President Mugabe after their meeting in Banjul.

Does Zvayi really think Annan, a consummate diplomat, would give such a hostage to fortune? That he would publicly endorse the claims of a leader who has denounced the secretary-general’s own emissaries and refused to cooperate with the UN? That he would agree to pursue diplomacy that is directly contrary to the views expressed by the US and EU?

Not very likely is it? Zvayi should get real and stop swallowing the self-serving rubbish dumped on him by the President’s Office. It is almost as bad as Tafataona Mahoso claiming that the future of the economy lies with new farmers, parastatals,Phillip Chiyangwa and publications that carry pictures from the galas! That, in all seriousness, is what Mugabe’s minions are churning out with the obvious implication that independent papers are out of touch.

Can you imagine a future in which corrupt parastatals are the only form of advertising and galas the only form of activity?

And there was Manheru last weekend telling us Zisco’s problems were a product of “corporate evil”, not the corporate corruption of the leadership he speaks for! They will have to do better if they want to get off this particular hook.

Another point, Zvayi claims the church leaders omitted from their National Vision document to explain why government delayed in distributing land. This is a falsehood. In the same section that the church talks of a homegrown constitution, it notes that under “relevant restrictive provisions” the Lancaster House constitution “included the 10-year moratorium on constitutional amendments, a clause protecting white property, rights and privileges, and the willing seller and willing buyer clause”.

Even when it’s in black and white, it would have got in the way of a sweet lie along with “illegal” western sanctions. Then there is the twaddle that the vision is not “exhaustive” because it “focused on political parties” instead of the bigger society. Where do they claim that it is “exhaustive”? How can a discussion document ever be exhaustive?

But what can one expect from a mafikizolo of journalism who sees Zimbabwe’s national vision in the coat of arms, flag and national anthem as if there was ever a referendum to endorse these. Was it not just a panel of a few men who chose Solomon’s Mutswairo’s composition as having some merit and he was paid $7 000 for his individual effort?

One of the biggest fables to hit the pages of the Sunday Mail was created by one Robert Mukondiwa. It was touted as a revelation of the animal that is Harare Commission chair Sekesai Makwavarara. She was described in the Sunday Mail as a no nonsense, political survivor and a political schemer who had outwitted her rivals.

It turned out that her greatest achievement was no more than to play turncoat, dumping the MDC for Zanu PF when it suited her. When it became clear that Zanu PF had lost power at the Town House, all they needed to do to stage a backdoor comeback was to produce a malleable woman that Ignatious Chombo could manipulate. She stabbed her boss in the back for the love of Zanu PF and has never pretended that she knows anything about improving service delivery to Harare residents.

That’s about all there is to Makwavarara’s claim to fame.

There was a statement this week issued by a company named S & M Bricks which sought to “officially categorically clarify” a story in the Standard that working for the Chinese was hell. One of the stations in the ZBH stable carried a similar story warning of a deadly disease outbreak if the workers’ compound was not attended to urgently.

The statement carried in the Herald on Tuesday denied claims that the only available lavatory was not working.

“The truth is the lavatory has been working properly since it started functioning,” was the categorical clarification. So when did the lavatory start “functioning” but not working we wonder?

Just to rub it in, the statement accused the Standard of a hidden agenda and “irresponsibly spreading lies with blind eyes”. We have heard about substandard products but we had not heard about “blind eyes”. And these are the people Mugabe believes will lead us to prosperity!

The statement called on the Standard to “apologise in all the newspapers in Zimbabwe” or face legal action. Let’s hope their lawyers are more literate than their managers!

Finally, as South Africa said farewell this week to former President PW Botha (known as the Great Crocodile), there has been controversy over his legacy. He presided over a paranoid regime which believed it was facing a “total onslaught”. It was also responsible for unprecedented human rights violations. He liked to wag his finger at his critics, when he wasn’t locking them up. But this particular crocodile made a significant contribution to the diverse and democratic state South Africa is today. He understood when the time came that he had to get out of the way to facilitate negotiation and change. Other crocodiles who like to wag their fingers could benefit from his example.

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