IT was interesting to see the tributes flowing in to Fidel Castro upon his retirement. Norman Mailer once described him as â€œthe first and greatest hero to appear in the world since the Second World Warâ€.
Lavish birthday bash amid abject poverty
Others differed. â€œInitially an admirer, the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa grew to hate the man he dubbed â€˜the Super Egoâ€™,â€ the Daily Telegraph reported. â€œThe Cuban people, said Llosa, had been left with only two aspirations by Castro: get enough food to eat and escape as soon as possible.â€
The South African press went to town on the $3 trillion Zanu PF was spending on President Robert Mugabeâ€™s birthday celebrations in Beitbridge at a time when shortages of just about everything blighted the land. And then there was the balloon tethered on the South African side of the river with the legend â€œBob, youâ€™ve had your cake, now beat itâ€ emblazoned on the side.
Those of us a bit slow to get the message, should understand this is a variant of the â€œhaving your cake and eating itâ€ aphorism.
Some elements in the ruling party, we understand, wanted to shoot the blimp down but cooler heads prevailed. Then there was that unprepossessing piece of embroidery the Chinese ambassador presented at Zimbabwe House.
The ambassador said Mugabe was â€œa great revolutionary in the world, the best friend of the Chinese peopleâ€.
If that was the case, someone should have asked him, why does his boss keep dodging Zimbabwe every time he comes to Africa?
Simba Makoni is unlikely to respond to the childish rebukes of a lightweight political columnist like Godwills Masimirembwa. But Masimirembwaâ€™s accusation that Makoni has â€œall along been an enemy of the revolutionâ€ leads us to ask what role Masimirembwa played in the revolution? Running a chicken farm doesnâ€™t count.
It is only revolutionary in the sense that the chickens lose their heads!
Isnâ€™t it significant that Zanu PFâ€™s most shrill propagandists at home and abroad are those who played no role whatsoever in the liberation of this country and have indeed been complicit in its collapse?
We had, for instance, the vacuous George Shire inviting us to remember our history. That, after all, is the only thing Zanu PF has left! But why doesnâ€™t Shire explain why he wonâ€™t join his compatriots in sharing their travails at this time in our history? Why does he prefer to live and work in the safe embrace of a proclaimed enemy? Intriguing isnâ€™t it? But it is typical of the double standards that infect every utterance of these useless super-patriots.
Poor old Christopher Mushohwe. He is haunted by the fact that while Manicaland has the largest number of people in the present cabinet, it also has the largest number of individuals turning against the president.
â€œI am challenging you Cde Governor,â€ he said to Tinaye Chigudu in Marange recently, â€œto do something about this problem.â€
Exactly what it was the hapless governor was supposed to do was not spelt out.
Mushohwe said â€œit was common knowledge that the Simba Makoni project is being spearheaded by whites as witnessed by several parties that were thrown in Harare when he announced his intention to stand against the presidentâ€.
Some nightclubs did not close down that night as whites celebrated the news, Mushohwe claimed.
So this is the level of intelligence ministers reach after getting their MA fast-tracked through UZ? We can see quite clearly here where the problem in Manicaland lies.
â€œPerhaps you can find out from these people what their real problem is,â€ Mushohwe told Governor Chigudu.
Now thereâ€™s an idea!
Meanwhile, Muckraker would like to know more about the Illyushin 96 deal. Zimbabwe has paid a deposit for three of the gas-guzzling planes, we are told. Why has Mushohwe not given us the details? Illyushin officials at the Singapore air show last week said it was a done deal!
Why does the Herald think voters should listen to the views of George Charamba who was given top billing in the newspaper on Monday?
Charamba claimed the opposition was going into the March 29 poll with manifestos that serve the interests of Britain and the US. He claimed Simba Makoniâ€™s manifesto was inspired by the US Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (Zidera).
â€œRead Zidera and you will know who the father of Tsvangirai and Makoni is,â€ Charamba proclaimed. â€œTheir land policies betray their parentage.â€
In fact their land policies call for a fair and equitable distribution of land which leads to agricultural recovery.
Why Charamba should find that sinister we can only guess at. But why are the partisan views of a senior civil servant being given prominence in the public media? Shouldnâ€™t he be adopting a professional stance of political neutrality?
One of the key weaknesses of Zimbabweâ€™s electoral system is the role of public servants in promoting the interests of the incumbent regime whilst abusing their government platform to hurl insults at opposition figures.
At the same time, the public media which is supposed to reflect a diversity of interests behaves as a ruling-party cheerleader.
Editors in the public media are happy to be used in this way because they donâ€™t know any better. Why isnâ€™t Charamba challenged to say what happened to the Â£44 million that Britain provided for land reform prior to 1993? And why is he opposed to a land audit which would reveal the extent of the chicanery in the land redistribution exercise?
Meanwhile, he might have a word with his boss about unstatesman-like behaviour. How appropriate is it for an 84-year-old leader to go around calling his opponents prostitutes? And what would be Mugabeâ€™s response if his opponents used the same language?
The regime has passed a raft of laws making it illegal to denigrate the president.
So Mugabe is able to insult his critics and then hide behind the law when somebody in the back of a commuter omnibus says something mildly unflattering about him!
How brave or dignified is that sort of political behaviour?
Following the nomination process, we have some curious names of political contestants. In Dangamvura-Chikanga we have Mutsekwa Giles Tariyafero (MDC Tsvangirai), Binari Yard (Zanu PF), Muza Nomore (MDC), Maeresera Taziveyi Rajab (Independent), while in Nyanga North there is Mazambani David (Independent), Nyawupembe Siboniso Tarisayi (Independent), Chibvura Nichodimus Antimalaria (Zanu PF), and Mwonzora Douglas Togaraseyi (MDC Tsvangirai).
In Mwenezi West there is Masukume Pilot (Zanu PF) and Tedious Douglas (MDC Tsvangirai).
In Zaka Central Rufurwekuda News (Independent), Mahora Douglas (MDC), and Tachiona Nyaradzo (Zanu PF) are contesting the poll.
In Gutu Mudyahoto Tapuwa (Independent), Zvinavashe Vitalis (Zanu PF), and Makamure Empire (MDC Tsvangirai) have thrown their hats into the ring.
In Lupane East Girls Ndlovu (Zanu PF) is in contention.
In Lupane West we have Vigilance Ncube (MDC Mutambara) while in Emganwini there is Vanish Ndlovu (UPP) and Legion Dube (Independent). Gwanda has Mlilo Orders (Zanu PF).
Good luck to them all!
Donâ€™t you get the impression reading the official press and presidential pronouncements that Simba Makoni has committed some unforgivable offence by standing for president?
As we know, â€œthereâ€™s no vacancy thereâ€. But surely other people are allowed to throw their hat into the ring? We are given the strong impression that challengers are unwelcome; in fact they are committing a form of lese majestÃ©, a law Louis XV1 used to incarcerate his critics in the Bastille.
We noted earlier how Mugabe uses what are called â€œinsult lawsâ€ to discourage criticism. But here we have something equally serious: a climate in which people donâ€™t dare exercise their political rights. Zanu PF, despite being the author of the nationâ€™s misery, is promoted as the only authentic claimant to the peopleâ€™s trust.
Under the mantra of sovereignty those seeking to engage the international community to help rescue the country are damned as traitors.
What one can identify clearly enough is presidential fury that anybody should propose an alternative programme to Zanu PFâ€™s bankrupt policies.
ZTVâ€™s absolutely pointless interview with Mugabe last week at least exposed his failure to offer a solution to the crisis he has spawned. It was a public relations disaster and those sitting off-camera in the shadows giggling at his puerile remarks must have known it.
This was a man bereft of policies and locked in the mantras of the past.
The big question now is, will the mix of coercion and official propaganda be sufficient to avoid a run-off after March 29? That is his biggest worry.
It all depends
on how many voters Makoni and the MDC have registered. Thereâ€™s no room for unbridled optimism there.
Zanu PF has been advertising its dishonesty by inserting words into a letter by Gordon Brown announcing an increase in funding for civil society organisations such as doctors, lawyers and NGOs.
Where Brown said civil society, Zanu PF has inserted the words â€œread as oppositionâ€. So, not just deceitful but clumsy as well! Is this the best they can do?