ON Monday the Herald carried a picture of a â€œZanu PF supporterâ€ who had benefited from phase 3 of the governmentâ€™s farm mechanisation programme in Bindura. The supporter was given a scotch cart and he was â€œpulling itâ€ home.
Quite tellingly, he had wrapped himself all over his upper body with â€œVote Zanu PFâ€ posters. What further evidence of vote-buying can one look for? But like all things that are not properly planned, somebody forgot to give him donkeys to pull the cart.
On a related subject, Gender and Womenâ€™s Affairs minister Oppah Muchinguri told an International Womenâ€™s Day celebration in Harare last week that government had set aside $38 trillion for empowerment projects. She however said the money was losing value â€œwhile lying idle in our officesâ€. Shall we all go on a looting spree! Is that where money is kept now and what does one need to qualify for the funds? A Zanu PF card and an election!
But the party is not over yet. Zanu PFâ€™s aspiring candidate for Highlandsâ€™ council ward 8, Mavis Gumbo is helping residents in her ward access free medical treatment. The residents, mostly gardeners, housemaids and security guards, were reportedly treated for â€œvarious ailmentsâ€ at Highlands healthcare centre.
She said although Highlands was an upmarket suburb where most people could afford to pay for treatment, suddenly she had discovered another group which could not afford it. â€œThrough consultations and idea-sharing with some residents in the ward, we agreed that there was need to invite doctors and nurses to assist in providing treatment to our people as part of community service,â€ said Gumbo unctuously.
And what is Gumboâ€™s claim to being elected councillor? She is a permanent resident of the area, she says. Yet she has only just discovered her impoverished neighbourhood.
The voters should seek clear commitment here. How long is this vote-buying trick going to last?
In its campaign adverts, government has been at pains to demonstrate how the â€œland is the economy and the economy is landâ€. In this vein, we are told that economic recovery â€œwill be led by agricultureâ€ by â€œcomprehensive retooling of the sector through an expensive and inclusive mechanisation programmeâ€.
There is no doubt that the government has been giving â€œfarmersâ€ cheap fuel, seed, fertiliser and agricultural machinery although all this has apparently gone to waste as there is no evident correlation between these expenses and productivity.
Many people believe most of these inputs have found their way on to the black market for faster returns. Now a reader has pointed out another interesting anomaly as we get closer to the fruits of the â€œmother of all agricultural seasonsâ€. He says while trillions of dollars are being spent on cellphone farmers selling foreign currency in hotels and on the streets of Harare, has anybody ever thought about the toiling farm workers upon whose shoulders rests the burden of the whole enterprise?
More than that, says the writer, not only are the farm workers getting so-called slave wages, they can actually go for three months without being paid while inflation plays havoc with their pittances. To cap it all, a majority of them are aliens who didnâ€™t benefit from Mugabeâ€™s land largesse and therefore have no stake in its success.
Is it any wonder therefore that all predictions of bumper harvests have always turned out to be a pipedream?
Another advert promoting President Robert Mugabeâ€™s bid says: â€œThe great teacher; the great scholar: Vote Bob for enlightened leadershipâ€.
Do they always believe their claims?
â€œTsvangirai flees rally,â€ screamed this weekâ€™s Sunday Mail in its lead story. It turns out that the story concerns a small incident in which a few party supporters protested against a candidate who was â€œimposedâ€ by the leadership. Muckraker knows someone who is more likely to flee from the Zimbabwean people before the end of the month. There is no guessing who.
Instead the paper had a moreÂ interesting story which it chose to downplay. Vice-President Joseph Msika said he had been saddened by Zanu PF politburo member Dumiso Dabengwaâ€™s decision to join Simba Makoniâ€™s presidential bid. He said this was an â€œill-conceivedâ€ decision but that he did not agree with those who called Dabengwa â€œa selloutâ€.
â€œI am not together with those that say Dabengwa is a sellout,â€ said Msika. â€œOthers are celebrating because they were plotting against him â€” I have minutes of those meetings. I canâ€™t go to the extent of saying he is a sellout, the good he has done outweighs the bad,â€ he said.
Which sounds reasonable enough. But how do those comments fit with his own attack on the same man in the same breath, saying Dabengwa has â€œlost his dignityâ€ by joining Makoni? He went on to call Dabengwa â€œdangerousâ€. How does that differ from calling him a â€œselloutâ€ we wonder.
Still, it is important that finally some people in Zanu PF are beginning to see the light. It is no longer the monolith it used to be. And how dare that hired fool Coltrane Chimurenga call Dabengwa and Makoni sellouts and charlatans. What role did Coltrane play in the struggle for Independence? And now he sings for his supper. He is nothing more than a charlatan himself scavenging on the rubbish tip that his fallen hero has spawned.
Chairman of the National Incomes and Pricing commission Godwills Masimirembwa has decreed that employers must meet 80% of workersâ€™ medical expenses. The reason, he says, is because specialist medical practitioners have been â€œdefying the NIPC directive by raising their fees every month. We are aware that some service providers are still increasing fees â€” especially specialist doctors â€” almost on a daily basis.â€
So what solution does the chicken farmer dream up? Set the workers against their employers. He says the employers can incorporate the increased medical expenses into product pricing.
Fantastic idea. That is until you realise that this is the same guy who has caused terror in industry by directing the arrest of company chief executives for increasing the prices of goods to meet costs. Medical cover is not the only cost that employers must meet good comrade. If companies were allowed to operate profitably they would probably pay high enough wages for workers to meet their own medical expenses without Masimirembwa trying to play Robin Hood.
We were relieved to read Zanu PF chairman John Nkomoâ€™s impassioned denial that Mugabe had â€œriggedâ€ his way to be the partyâ€™s sole presidential candidate. This was not true, said Nkomo, according to the Herald.
â€œPresident Mugabe was nominated and when I asked for other nominations, there was dead silence,â€ Nkomo said. â€œSo let me correct this: President Mugabe never rigged to become the partyâ€™s presidential candidate and it is me who should have rigged for him, but I do not rig.â€
He is probably right. But can anybody imagine him saying: â€œMugabe rigged the nominations process?â€ That would be news.
â€˜Forget the dollar,â€ says expatriate Herald columnist Peter Mavunga. â€œThe majority of our people have not got the dollar neither do they have a bank account, let alone savings or pensions.â€
It is always good to hear President Mugabeâ€™s publicists making a virtue of necessity. But now they are actually boasting of the privation his policies have wrought.
And of course they are making wild promises of improvements in the lives of ordinary people when they have sat back and done nothing for years.
Mines minister Amos Midzi urged people â€œnot to look at challenges being faced by the country but to remember that Zanu PF was a familyâ€¦â€
A pretty dysfunctional one at that. But Midzi was advertising the role of his own family by â€œdrumming up supportâ€ in Mt Pleasant for the ruling party candidate, Alice Midzi. Zanu PF was the party that had brought development to the country, he claimed. But not much later he was promising the residents of Epworth that government had a package to develop Epworth to match standards in other residential suburbs. That probably means they can expect more potholes.
Government had started drilling boreholes at clinics, he told them. But why, if Zanu PF was the party of development, did it only embark upon this project now?
And when he was in Mt Pleasant, did Midzi refer to the state of the votersâ€™ roll?
Alice Midziâ€™s rival for the seat, Trudy Stevenson, who unlike the Midziâ€™s has a record of bringing development to the people, has discovered the name of Desmond Lardner-Burke on the roll. He was born in 1908 and was for many years Minister of Law and Order. He imprisoned many in our leadership today. But they want his vote, even though at 100 he may have difficulty getting to the polling station!
We liked the Herald picture of the president road-testing a bus, one of several the government is distributing in areas where it needs support.
But our question is: Can he drive? In the 1920s it was not unusual for parents to be photographed
sitting in the driving seat of their sonâ€™s new car. They would pretend to be driving it. It didnâ€™t fool anybody.
The way in which Zimpapers have prostituted their newspapers to the incumbentâ€™s tattered cause will surprise no one who has followed their suborned record over the years. But last Sunday the Sunday Mail took this shoddy performance a step further by telling a whopper of gigantic proportions.
The newspaperâ€™s editor claimed that the head of the 2002 Commonwealth observer team, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, â€œhad decided to vest all his trust in a secretariat that wrote a damning report which the team leader had never readâ€¦It was embarrassing for the general to later admit that his team had betrayed him by writing a false report.â€
In fact it was the Sunday Mail writing a false report that had no doubt been concocted by the usual suspects. When this scurrilous lie first appeared in the state media General Abubakar was asked by the Zimbabwe Independent whether there was any truth in the story. He promptly issued a statement repudiating it. He fully endorsed the Commonwealthâ€™s report, he said. He wouldnâ€™t have signed it if he didnâ€™t agree with it, he pointed out.
Nothing could be clearer than that. At no stage did he â€œadmit that his team had betrayed himâ€. But Zimbabweâ€™s state media continued to be fed the lie and dutifully repeated it without bothering to seek the generalâ€™s views. It remains an emblematic case of journalists being told to mislead the public on behalf of their political masters.
The same of course goes for the report on â€œMDC violenceâ€ that government newspapers carried extensively last year without once asking themselves why nobody had been successfully prosecuted.
In this connection we were interested to note the comments of Angolan External Affairs minister Joao Miranda. â€œPeople who are going to observe the elections on the ground are the ones who should make the pronouncements on elections and not people from outside,â€ he declared.
But it hadnâ€™t occurred to him that people who are â€œoutsideâ€ are being kept there because the government doesnâ€™t want them making unwelcome discoveries, like the EU and Commonwealth teams did in 2002.
And by the way, when was the last time Angola held an election? It is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and hardly a paragon of democracy.
Have you noticed a number of stock phrases cropping up in the government media? These include something soon becoming â€œa thing of the pastâ€ now that government is addressing the problem. What invariably happens is no sooner has the Herald or Sunday Mail made this confident forecast than the problem resurfaces. It can be applied to wheat production, electricity supplies, transport problems or just about anything.
The current hot favourite is the president having his audience â€œin stitchesâ€.
This is supposed to imply that he has said something really funny. He has â€œa witty way of spicing his speeches with a bit of humourâ€, we are told.
But sometimes the joke falls a little flat.
For instance, last week he was briefly reunited with pupils he taught at Mapanzure primary school in Zvishavane. Some of the pupils are now walking with difficulty, â€œa stark contrast to their teacherâ€™s swift gaiety (sic)â€, the Herald reported. It probably meant gait.
But we can see why they were having difficulty walking. The president called for a cane so he could discipline the pupils in a reenactment of scenes from 1944.
Very funny. Except when you consider that is what heâ€™s been doing to the country!
No doubt some of those on the receiving end are not just former pupils.
We can imagine cabinet ministers lining up at Munhumutapa Building for â€œsix of the bestâ€ when they have broken school rules â€” like talking to the independent press.
Still with the government papers, we understand that the president has asked them to stop translating his Shona into English. This is because he feels some statements have not been correctly reported from the vernacular.
Have you noticed how the front page of the Herald is looking increasingly like Kwayedza.