So Makoni is a British stooge?

THE Herald’s front page on Wednesday told us what to expect in the coming weeks. Simba Makoni’s decision to throw his hat into the ring — a mould-breaking development that was news

worthy by any standard — was relegated to the bottom of the front page while the president’s return from an ordinary session of the AU in Addis Ababa occupied pride of place at the top.

Even then the Makoni story was heavily panel-beaten to make it fit with the ruling party’s childish regime-change conspiracy theory involving the British, Americans and Swedes.

Instead of simply reporting the story straight, the Herald devoted four introductory paragraphs trying to establish a linkage between Makoni’s candidacy and the Anglo-American plot to unseat President Mugabe.

Only at paragraph five did we get to know what Makoni had actually said at his Tuesday press conference. And even then the following key remarks were omitted from the Herald report: “Let me confirm that I share the agony and anguish of all citizens over the extreme hardships that we all have endured for nearly 10 years now,” Makoni said.

“I also share the widely held view that these hardships are a result of failure of national leadership and that change at that level is a prerequisite for change at other levels of national endeavour.”

Caesar Zvayi in his column referred to this part of Makoni’s statement but claimed Makoni was part of government for the better part of those 10 years.

In fact Makoni was Finance minister for two years (2000-2002) and was thwarted at every turn by Mugabe who accused him of being an economic saboteur.

Zvayi appears to have forgotten that episode including the circumstances surrounding Makoni’s departure from office.

The Herald’s front-page story included Joseph Chinotimba’s melodramatic remarks that war veterans would take control of the Zanu PF headquarters — presumably to safeguard it against a Swedish attack.

Does the Herald want to be taken seriously? Quoting threats by former municipal policemen who are a law unto themselves is hardly the way to go about it. How will tourists and investors feel about manifestations of a lawless society?

The lack of shame at the Herald is astounding. On the front page of the Business section yesterday the paper said we have been experiencing electricity shortages because of “rapid industrialisation….”

Once you have stopped laughing, can you believe that this is being said by a so-called business reporter. Everyone (including Gono and the Dimwit of Finance) knows that productivity has been falling steadily for years now and the economy is shrinking. Government is considering digging pit toilets in the cities because there is no foreign currency. Call this rapid industrialisation?

It would appear that the reporter read articles from South African newspapers which cite the stupendous growth of their economy (target growth 6%) and the housing boom as the reason for increased demand on their grid, whereas our demand is actually shrinking because companies are closing.

We always suspected that the Herald had no original thought of its own and this confirms it. We are sure even Zanu PF is cringing at this craven attempt to lick its boots. Such servility can be embarrasing to the master sometimes.

Muckraker received a mail recently from a prominent resident of the Bvumba who described the rapidly deteriorating conditions the community there faces.

“I feel that I must appraise you,” he says, “of the appalling circumstances that hotels, tourist operators, farms, smallholdings,various businesses (such as canning factories and sawmills) and numerous private residents are trying to survive under due to the progressive collapse of the power and telecommunications infrastructure in the Bvumba.

“Due to theft of several kilometres of Zesa high voltage transmission lines since early December and vandalism to numerous transformers, much of the Bvumba has been without any power for more than seven weeks!

“This has also resulted in the loss of the TelOne radio-linked landline telephone service for most of the area and, as cellular telephone service is restricted due to rugged terrain, many no longer have any means of external communication.

“The losses to tourism (hotel occupancy over Christmas-New Year was less than 30%) and to business now runs into hundreds of billions of Zimbabwe dollars.

“Those fortunate enough to have financial resources have installed diesel or petrol generators to provide limited amounts of emergency power for lighting and refrigeration. These consume about a litre of fuel per hour which is unobtainable locally and has to be sourced at great expense either on the black market or by travelling to neighbouring Mozambique. Those without generators are in dire straits due to being unable to keep food fresh.

“Those without gravity fed water supplies have been without pumped water for weeks and are having to manually carry it from nearest sources. The lack of water for primary purposes poses a health risk.

Travel to town is becoming increasingly difficult due to lack of fuel, shortage of transport and deterioration of the roads. Some roads are now almost single lanes due to large potholes landslides and encroachment of mud, grass and weeds.

“Although individual representations have been made to government authorities including Zesa and TelOne, not much has been done to rectify the situation due to acute shortages of local resources, foreign currency, and international aid.

“Neither the police nor army have apprehended the culprits responsible for the vandalism and cable theft and neither been willing or able to upgrade security with patrols, roadblocks and other measures. Already there has been an armed car hijacking (the first in the Bvumba) and several instances of house breaking by thieves who are taking advantage of lack of power and telephone communication.

“It is only a matter of time before fatalities occur.

“What is particularly worrying is that nothing has appeared about the situation in the state-controlled media and very little in the local private press.

“There have been several break-and-enters in the Essex Road area and thefts of transformer oil which have been facilitated by the lack of power, security lights and communications. The result is that apart from property loss, we shall now be without any electricity indefinitely even if the lines to the area are replaced as Zesa have no transformer oil and no forex to import any.

“A few people in the same boat have purchased oil privately so Zesa can refill their transformers but with no security up here there is no guarantee that it won’t be stolen again.

“This is a dreadful situation and is in my opinion a symptom of impending total collapse. It is one which in any other part of the world would have resulted in a state of emergency being declared so that drastic remedial action could be taken and external assistance could be canvassed and received.”

On Tuesday the Herald reported that an outfit called the Zimbabwe National Liberation Supporters Association had endorsed President Mugabe because “he articulates the African dream”.

They should visit the Bvumba where that dream turned out to be a nightmare! Here was one of our flagship tourism destinations ruined by reckless policies and state corporations that advertise their slavish loyalty to the president at every opportunity but fail the public whom they purport to serve.

One reason for this institutional failure is misplaced nationalism.

Writing in the Herald on Tuesday Chinondidyachii Mararike proclaimed Zimbabwe’s solidarity with the people of Iraq and Palestine who are struggling against imperialism. He also saluted the people of the DRC.

“That is why we of Zanu PF proclaim loud and clear that we are against Tshombes, against all versions of Tshombe — Morgan Tsvangirai, Jonas Savimbi, Arthur Mutambara, Mobutu Sese Seko, John Makumbe, Eldred Masunungure, Afonso Dhlakama, Elfas Mukonoweshuro . . . Our hearts are also with our comrades in Cuba . . .
and with our brothers and sisters in Kenya who are killing each other because of evil imperialist machinations.”

Compare this vapid posturing with the views of Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya who is in no doubt where Africa’s problems lie. The cult of the “big man” is alive and well, he says in the wake of the AU shindig.

“What is happening in Kenya,” Makhanya says, “should force every African to stand in front of the mirror and ask: Why do we keep sliding back to bad ways?

“Our leaders have to take the bulk of the blame. It has happened too often before on this continent that Africa’s leaders have ignored the suffering of ordinary people while supping with dictators. Africa’s leaders, including our very own, have been quite content to go with the herd and not differentiate themselves. The sacred principle of not speaking out against evil so long as it is perpetrated by Africans on fellow Africans seems well entrenched. That is why Robert Mugabe is able to strut about and spew anti-Western rhetoric while oppressing Zimbabweans.”

Makhanya argues that “in order for Africa to move forward this misplaced solidarity between leaders of the continent has to end”.

South African political commentator Xolela Mangcu, reflecting on his country’s reversal of fortunes, says “back in 1994 I never would have imagined that we would provide cover for a brutal dictator, Robert Mugabe, under the guise of black nationalism”.

Mararike is lost in time. He inhabits a world in which the language of nationalism and solidarity excuses incompetence and wickedness. Nobody buys that dishonesty any more. Kenyans are not killing each other because of “imperialist machinations”. They are bitter over a stolen election and a suborned electoral commission. We should be doing everything to avoid such consequences. Mararike plans to export Zimbabwe’s damaging politics to South Africa and Namibia. Let’s see what reception he gets from a generation no longer locked in the sterile mantras of the past.

Meanwhile, perhaps the Law Society could comment on Mararike’s current status.

Zimbabwe has been withdrawn from the agenda of the ACP/EU joint parliamentary assembly after successful representations by the country’s delegation in Brussels last week, the Herald reports.

“We have managed to defend resolutely our country,” said head of delegation Senator Forbes Magadu, “and it was felt by everyone present that the situation in Zimbabwe was much better compared to what is currently happening elsewhere.”

Nelson Chamisa is a member of the Zimbabwe delegation. It will be recalled that he was savagely assaulted at Harare airport while on his way to an ACP/EU joint parliamentary session in April. But he remains strangely quiet when Magadu and others make statements about how tranquil Zimbabwe is.

“The Zimbabwe delegation together with their African counterparts convinced the assembly,” the Herald reported, “that there was no need to send a fact-finding mission to the country as the situation did not warrant that.”

The people who assaulted Chamisa have still not been brought to book. Yet the victim of this attack doesn’t seem to mind. What is going on here? Whoever has heard of a political spokesman who has lost his tongue?

Meanwhile, Chamisa’s wing of the MDC should be ashamed of itself following the breakdown of talks with the Mutambara faction.

Very simply, the Tsvangirai MDC wants the freedom to poach Matabeleland seats in addition to the lion’s share of Harare and Mashonaland seats it has allocated itself. The Mutambara faction obviously cannot accept such wanton greed.

“From haggling over two seats last night,” Mutambara announced after the breakdown last weekend, “this morning our (Tsvangirai) colleagues came back to us demanding 20 more seats in Matabeleland, even where we have sitting MPs. At the same time they are not prepared to make such concessions in Harare.”

Once again the MDC has put partisan bickering ahead of the national interest. They really are intent on throwing this election away. They don’t seem to understand that sometimes it is necessary to accommodate your opponents on terms that are generous rather than mean. That way you build confidence and provide space for a variety of talents. Posterity will judge them harshly for last weekend’s events.

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