Case of the blind leading the blind

WE are currently witnessing a rush of politicians to justify their involvement in the Nomatter Tagarira affair where the young Grade III dropout hoodwinked government officials into believing she could produ

ce diesel from rocks.

Mashonaland West governor Nelson Samkange last week tried to justify this madness on the grounds that “the government and the president believe in African culture, we believe in spirit mediums”.

It would be useful to know which dimension of African culture required governors, senior policemen and ministers to believe that diesel can be conjured from rocks. That a whole team of politburo taskforce investigators swallowed this hokum tells us all we need to know about the intellectual calibre of the Zanu PF leadership.

Didymus Mutasa justified it on the grounds that everybody was responsible for a lapse of judgement.

“The Chinhoyi diesel hoax was not a personal expedition by me,” he pleaded. “Rather it was a national exercise mandated by the ruling party’s politburo and I was one of those selected to be on that research team.”

A case of the blind leading the blind!

“As a research team we did not manufacture that spirit medium. We saw her there.”

So that’s all it takes?

And how does Tobaiwa Mudede explain his role in harbouring the girl? Perhaps she could conjure up ghost voters!

This wouldn’t be so bad if the participants were simple country folk. But they are educated people occupying senior positions in the land.

And now the same people who believe pure diesel emanates from rocks are telling us how to manage incomes and prices. It is shocking.

How do we know we are not being told to cap price rises because a n’anga has whispered something to officials in return for $5 billion?

Samkange said if asked by state prosecutors, he would testify against the girl because she had taken the government for a ride.

Was it her, Cde Samkange, or was it you and your colleagues who took the country for a ride? It is not the poor girl who should be in court but those who gave her public funds in the hope of a political miracle.

Have you noticed how the Herald devotes its front page to “the spirit of unity” with the MDC but then publishes vicious attacks on the opposition on its opinion pages from people like Mukanya Makwiro and Mabasa Sasa?

Why do these op-ed pages never reflect the diversity of views that a self-respecting public media should contain?

Those involved in the current inter-party talks should ensure that the public media not only provides a platform for differing views but is run professionally along non-partisan lines in a way that generates public trust. That is certainly not the case at present.

Those currently contributing to its columns who just spit venom and malice should be prepared to explain their role as President Mugabe’s cheerleaders at a time when the country is sinking in an economic morass caused by people who are willing to believe diesel flows from rocks!

Bishop Trevor Manhanga appears to be singing from the Zanu PF hymn book as he demands the lifting of sanctions. This comes just a week after reports of the shooting of MDC members on a retired army officer’s farm at Kwekwe. One died from his injuries.

The ex-army officer and ruling-party activist was arrested after that incident. But who has been arrested in all the other cases of political violence since March? Why have the killers of Gift Tandare and Edward Chikomba not been brought to book? Perhaps Manhanga can tell us?

Sanctions were imposed in response to political violence and electoral manipulation. When it is evident that those issues have been resolved sanctions will be lifted. That message must go out loud and clear to those who want sanctions removed but cannot win without coercion.

Muckraker’s attention was caught by a full-page advert in the Standard inserted by the workers of Watermount Farm. They allege that senior government officials on November 5 hired a gang to violently assault the workers causing serious injuries. They then instructed hospitals not to admit the injured workers so there would be no record of the violence.

“To date some of our black brothers survive and progress on the basis of using the government machinery to destroy innocent fellow blacks,” the workers said. “Public officials should act in the public interest and not personal interest.”

They should obey the law.

There is plenty of idle farm land elsewhere which can be allocated to government officials, the workers pointed out.

“The conduct of such officials is tarnishing the country unnecessarily, both locally and internationally,” they charged.

Indeed. Now the jongwes are coming home to roost!

Reports of rapacious officials grabbing land regardless of court orders are now a permanent feature of Zimbabwe’s lawless landscape.

We feel sorry for the Watermount workers. But they were no doubt cheering the government on when it directed land seizures in 2000. What did they say when Kondozi Estate was taken?

What goes around comes around. The rule of law is there, ideally, to protect all Zimbabweans from over-mighty rulers. The government is behaving like a bully because it can get away with it. And the courts, widely seen as suborned by gifts of land, nod their assent.

Potential investors in Zimbabwe should read Tafataona Mahoso’s vitriolic denunciation of the business sector in this week’s Sunday Mail. It helpfully reveals the depth of hostility exhibited by this regime towards those who try to keep the wheels of industry and commerce turning. Nobody in their right mind would invest in a country where business becomes the scapegoat for a regime that needs somebody to blame for the chaos caused by its collective ignorance.

We have half-baked lawyers with no business experience attempting to regulate prices and half-baked media professors purporting to speak for the people!

“There can be no business without people,” Mahoso lectures our business editor. But he omits to tell his readers why three million Zimbabweans have emigrated. Those people voted with their feet.

Mahoso blames business for failing to inventively mobilise the Diasporan dollar. He should ask Diasporans why they won’t invest here in the sort of projects Mahoso thinks are laudable like agricultural equipment. They just want houses and luxury cars, he suggests.

Hang on a moment. What sort of car does Mahoso drive around in?

Deputy Minister of Economic Development Sylvester Nguni appears to have a realistic grasp of current events. Addressing a pre-budget seminar in Bulawayo last week he spelt out what was ailing the country.

Zimbabwe was facing significant challenges such as a decline in output in all sectors, hyperinflation, frequent power outages and fuel shortages, he said. These problems, coupled with water and coal shortages, price distortions, brain drain and a poor transport and telecommunications network, have caused serious operational problems in industry, Nguni said.

What was so remarkable about this statement was its refreshing honesty. There was no attempt here to blame sanctions.

The deputy minister even said there was a need for a policy that ensured exporter viability and “the removal of price misalignments on the exchange rate”. He also called for the reform and recapitalisation of parastatals.

This is a project that won’t fly so long as ministers interfere in the day-to-day running of these corporations. Air Zimbabwe is a perfect example of a potentially profitable company that has been wrecked by ministerial meddling.

Nor, sadly, will the Zimbabwe Economic Development Strategy get off the ground. You have to be very naïve to believe it will succeed when the National Economic Development Priority Programme has flopped.

What is needed is for Gideon Gono to set targets for reducing inflation and engage the government and the public in a national campaign to get the headline numbers down.

Gono himself must first stop printing money. As it stands, inflation will continue to rise and the economy to dive so long as Zanu PF fails to address the macro-economic distortions that are causing the current havoc.

Spain’s King Juan Carlos won praise back home this week after telling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to “just shut up” before storming out of an Ibero-American summit, AFP reports.

Spain’s monarch was applauded by Spanish media for his angry reprimand last Saturday of Chavez, after the Venezuelan leader described a former Spanish prime minister as a “fascist” and launched into a wide-ranging tirade.

“The king has put Chavez in his place in the name of all Spaniards,” the centrist El Mundo newspaper said, noting that it was “an act without precedent”.

It said the monarch’s rebuke was “something that should have been said to him (Chavez) a long time ago”.

The fireworks made for a dramatic finale to the 17th meeting of the heads of state and government of Spain, Portugal and their former colonies in the Americas, which started last Thursday, AFP reported.

Chavez’s outburst and King Juan Carlos’ admonition to “shut up” was replayed again and again late Saturday on Spanish television news programmes to the delight of viewers, the news agency reported.

Newspapers in Spain on Sunday praised the regal rebuke, with the right-wing press in particular relishing the outburst from the king.

Their response is not surprising. It is always good to see demagogues told to “shut up” when they pontificate about the sins of others without mentioning their own. We need to see more of this.

The Standard has done a good job in exposing the exploitation of young girls by the Miss Rural pageant’s organisers. Many were promised modelling contracts.

A Chinese gentleman called Mr Wang came to take revealing photos, we were told. The Chinese embassy, asked about Mr Wang, said: “There are many Mr Wangs here.”

Indeed, a bunch of Wangers it would seem.

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