Why can’t the state media inform us?

THE Sunday Mail has been able to take advantage of the MDC’s inept publicity machine to suggest reports of state violence against the party’s supporters were “l


The MDC attributed the death of Morgan Tsvangirai’s bodyguard Nhamo Musekiwa in Johannesburg to assaults by the police on March 11. But Roy Bennett said his death was the result of an Aids-related illness.

This is indeed an embarrassing episode for the opposition. But what is so dishonest about the Sunday Mail’s coverage of this faux pas is the suggestion that there is no such thing as state-sponsored violence.

Why doesn’t the Sunday Mail tell its readers what happened to Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika? Who was responsible for their murder and where is he now? What happened to the killers of Martin and Gloria Olds? More recently we still haven’t been told why the killers of Gift Tandare and Edward Chikomba have not been brought to book.

Newspapers have a duty to expose state criminality but the Sunday Mail hasn’t revealed a single case because it is locked into an agenda of denial.

The Sunday News followed the same line suggesting the MDC had been “lying over the years as it rabble-roused”. Its editor said the MDC should report any “excesses” by a political grouping to the police, not the media. In other words he doesn’t want to know!

This is a pathetic case of an emasculated press masking the state’s dirty business.

Did Tsvangirai and Beatrice Mtetwa lie about their injuries? What sort of a society is it where the leader of the opposition and the president of the Law Society are beaten black and blue by law enforcement officers; where the president warns that his opponents will be “arrested and bashed”?

But what the episode with Kembo Mohadi tells us is that state violence is no longer an acceptable political tool in the region. Obviously prodded from Pretoria, there was an unusually quick ministerial reaction to the MDC’s claims while the state media’s shrill response tells us that “bashing” is something South Africa’s mediators can’t indulge.

Meanwhile, let’s hope the maladroit MDC avoids giving any more hostages to fortune. What they should be doing is swallowing their pride and reunifying with the Arthur Mutambara camp to provide a viable opposition which voters yearn for as elections loom.

Tsvangirai revealed after travelling around the country not so long ago that MDC supporters wanted unity. After lengthy negotiations agreement was reached on reunification and Mutambara agreed to serve as vice-president to Tsvangirai.

But then, after months of painstaking negotiation, the Tsvangirai faction came back to insist that Thokozani Khupe be the party’s second vice-president after Mutambara, a condition they knew would humiliate the opposition leader and negate the agreement.

Whoever was responsible for this clumsy intervention after the agreement had been virtually signed and sealed performed a signal disservice to opposition politics. What is worse, nobody in the Tsvangirai camp appears willing or able to make the concessions required for the opposition to mount a serious joint challenge to Mugabe. The national interest requires it but the MDC is unwilling to provide it.

Remember, in politics you don’t have to like your allies. You just have to work with them towards an agreed goal. As we have it now, the incumbent has driven the country into poverty and dereliction. But, despite the fact he has nothing to offer voters except more of the same, he will be reelected because the MDC can’t mobilise the country against him.

As a result the economy will further contract, businesses will go to the wall, the army of the jobless will grow, and millions more will be driven into exile.

It’s a tragedy and it’s coming to a theatre near you in March.

Just in time for the election we note the launch of a dubious student organisation that has been told to safeguard the country’s resources and resist the temptation to emigrate.

Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa, formerly our ambassador to Beijing, addressing the “Association of Responsible Youths in Zimbabwe” last week, said “God has made us rich so we should make good use of our resources”.

It is not absolutely clear what this outfit actually does apart, we suspect, from collecting state funds. Mutsvangwa told the youths that the current rift between Zimbabwe and Britain was about the control of resources. The youths should “guard our resources jealously”, he said, because the imperialists were after them.

This suspicious state-sponsored association has as its patron Godwills Masimirembwa who said he liked working with youths. A few tips may be useful on how they can get their hands into the national cookie jar. Seven or eight members of a similar organisation, Zimbabwe Integrated Youth Survival Alternative, could be seen marching into town on Saturday waving placards with a police escort.

There is already one such phoney student movement called Zicosu. How many more are there?

Meanwhile, we would like to hear from Mutsvangwa what prompted his return from China and what he is doing now apart from misleading impressionable youngsters with silly tales of imperialist plots.

On which subject, we were intrigued to read that in the midst of the worst economic crisis on record the government has the resources to spend on an intelligence school to be named after President Mugabe.

The country was at war with the “forces of imperialism personified by Britain and America who preach the ideology of hate and murder”, the president told those attending the laying of the foundation stone of the “multi-billion dollar” National School of Intelligence.

We are a little mystified as to why, if it is to be named after the president, hasn’t it been? And it is clear that, far from engaging in specialist research, its findings have already been made known! So what use is it, apart of course from providing political grist to Zanu PF’s threadbare ideological mill?

In this context, have you noticed how the president accuses others of exactly what he is accused of? We appreciate turning tables on one’s enemies is extremely satisfying but people tend to notice the obvious point that it is a case of the pot calling the kettle black!

At least you don’t have to be particularly intelligent to be in charge of the intelligence college. The Herald carried a picture on its front page of Didymus Mutasa at the opening ceremony. But on this occasion he had dispensed with his blue shawl and was wearing a white dustcoat and yellow hard-hat.

Still on pots and kettles, we liked the description by Tafataona Mahoso of the National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute as “veteran rigging organisations”. Coming from an apologist for a successfully rigged state, this was rich indeed! Mahoso was incandescent this week that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights regarded NGOs, trade unions and the independent media as human rights defenders and not the regimes that presumed to carry the mantle of the liberation struggle.

He really doesn’t get it. When those regimes resort to lies, coercion and violence to retain the people’s loyalty they cease to be human rights defenders and become liberation-betrayers. Zimbabwe is now widely regarded as a classic example and it will take more than Mahoso’s constipated conspiracy theories to change that.

And what does Patrick Zhuwao think he is doing replying in the Sunday Mail to an article published in the Independent? He was responding to views on agriculture expressed by John Robertson and Bruce Gemmill. If he wants to discredit himself as a politician by such unprofessional conduct, that is certainly the best way to go about it.

Perhaps in the meantime he could tell us how much he has spent and what he has achieved as deputy Minister of Science and Technology?

Zanu PF still hasn’t told its newspaper, The Voice, the dates of its extraordinary congress. We have published those dates, December 12-14, several times over the course of the past month. None of the state or party organs have been allowed to do so for some mysterious reason.

If the ruling party’s own newspaper can’t tell members something as elementary as the dates of its forthcoming congress what can it tell us that is of any news value?

The story about mayoral posts being scrapped was in the Independent of October 5 (Page 4). It was published by the Sunday Mail as “News” on October 28 and by The Voice on the same date.

Still with The Voice, we noticed a banner heading saying: “Who will win the road race in his owner (sic)?”

The marathon was run in Gweru in honour of Simon Muzenda.

We referred last week to the unenviable task Godwills Masimirembwa faces as Prices Tsar. He has not got off to a good start. When our news reporter made an appointment to see the self-important official he was chased away with a flea in his ear.

“Read what I think about the Independent in today’s Herald,” he barked. “You are not a serious newspaper.” Our crime was to have reported on the succession without saying Mugabe was the only candidate at the ruling party’s special congress in December.

It was heresy, apparently, to mention other possible contenders.

Thabo Mbeki had reportedly asked if there was anyone else who might want the job.

Masimirembwa’s piece in the Herald of last Friday is worth a look. It is one of the most fawning, attention-seeking articles the paper has published — in a field where the competition is strong.

“President Mugabe is the epitome of a valiant defender and protector of the right of Zimbabweans to nationhood, ownership of their land and resources,” Masimirembwa said. “That the so-called independent press is mesmerised by the intellectual and political genius of President Mugabe is not in doubt.

“President Mugabe’s capacity to hold Zanu PF together, to hold the country together to make this country an oasis of peace and tranquillity, to face the economic challenges brought by illegal economic sanctions and to keep the ship steady in stormy waters is what worries the so-called independent media.”

Indeed it is. The thought that the country will face another five years of hardship and poverty because ambitious job-seekers and praise-singers are promoted over the qualified and competent is truly worrying.

One consequence of Mugabe’s damaging economic policies is inflation of 8 000% — and the illusion that the regime can control prices by arresting businessmen.

Masimirembwa, whose credentials in the business sector are unclear, is the agent of a failed policy. Price controls have failed wherever they have been tried. Significantly all those letters to the editor in the Herald and Sunday Mail backing the government’s crackdown appear to have dried up! It is evident to even the most obtuse Zanu PF supporter, of whom there are a number, that the policy
isn’t working as empty shelves attest.

Masimirembwa also appears to know nothing about the press. It is not a good idea when you want to win the confidence of the public to attack the media as your first step. You don’t have to like newspapers in order to communicate with them!

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