SO what were the â€œcircumstances beyond his controlâ€ that President Levy Mwanawasa cited as keeping President Mugabe from attending the Lusaka summit?
â€œWe are very good friends and very good brothers,â€ Mugabe told the press following his meeting with Thabo Mbeki in Harare. â€œSometimes you attend, sometimes you have other things holding you back.â€
Like what? We donâ€™t recall seeing him performing any official duties on Saturday.
And since when has he ever turned down an invitation to strut upon the world stage?
This was the politics of pique. Mugabe wasnâ€™t going because he wasnâ€™t willing to have his peers sit in judgement on him. His pride proved more important than finding a solution to Zimbabweâ€™s deepening crisis.
Mugabe feared most what we can call a Camp David moment: that Mwanawasa would force him and Morgan Tsvangirai to shake hands before the worldâ€™s television cameras.
Mugabe wasnâ€™t going to let that happen. According to reports Mugabe had flown into a rage during the meeting with Mbeki calling the summit â€œa show staged by Britainâ€.
The heads of state spent 13 hours debating whether the Zimbabwe crisis was a crisis or not. Sadc couldnâ€™t ignore what was happening, Mwanawasa was reported as telling the meeting. But Angola and Mozambique worked hard to let Mugabe off the hook.
However, this wasnâ€™t the solidarity show we have become accustomed to.
Why for instance would the summit â€œappeal to ZEC to ensure strict compliance with the rule of law and Sadc principles and guidelines governing democratic electionsâ€ if they were satisfied Zimbabwe was already complying with those guidelines? Only last week the ZECâ€™s lawyer was claiming that it may be â€œdangerousâ€ for the court to compel the ZEC to release the results because it may not be able to uphold such an order. So much for the rule of law!
Despite protestations to the contrary, what happened in Lusaka last weekend is what Mugabe had dreaded: Zimbabwe was in the dock. And its silly dossiers no longer find purchase on regional leaders.
Anybody reading Tendai Bitiâ€™s supposed internal memorandum on how to deal with the transition would immediately recognise a forgery. Biti speaks in legalistic terms when he makes a statement.
He doesnâ€™t speak in the language of Zanu PF apparatchiks pretending to be Biti. And would he, in all seriousness, want to incriminate himself by committing to paper the preposterous suggestions contained in this document.
How about this for a give-away clue as to where this memorandum really originated: â€œIn order to send the correct political signals to both the illegally resettled new farmers and our international partners, all our white farmers who are still in the country have been instructed to visit their former farms during the week leading to the election and soon thereafter to assess the level of vandalism and disuse they have been subjected to and therefore to give us some idea of the amounts of money required for their resettlement.â€
It then proposes that the white farmers phone the resettled farmers â€œat odd hoursâ€ to tell them they are coming back to their farms.
This of course became the basis for the fiction Zanu PF began to disseminate about white farmers taking back their farms.
Â â€œThe beneficiaries of Mugabeâ€™s land grab should quickly be made to understand that their number is up,â€ Biti is alleged to have written. â€œWe have also directed some of the remaining white farmers in the country to mobilise their workers to poison cattle, slash or burn crops in the fields and carry out many other acts of sabotage on the resettled farms.â€
Now who does that sound like? Certainly not Biti. It sounds more like those who actually do those things.
Has anyone ever heard of a commercial farmer poisoning his cattle?
Just last week there were reports of people claiming to be war veterans ordering dairy farmers to stop milking their cows.
But we liked the bit about â€˜President Tsvangiraiâ€™ ordering the disbandment of â€œundesirable forcesâ€.
â€œAny current members of the security forces who wish to join the new dispensation will have to reapply and must first pass a rigorous vetting exercise to establish if they have any lingering loyalties to Zanu PF.â€
This suggestion is designed to cause anxiety in the ranks, no doubt, but news that Zimbabwe will be getting â€œnew commanders for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Zimbabwe National Army and Airforce of Zimbabwe as well as a new Commissioner General of Police, Director General of the Central Intelligence Organisation and Commissioner of Prisonsâ€ is more likely to inspire confidence than panic.
But once again the credibility of the document is seriously undermined when we read that: â€œAs an interim measure we have secured the agreement of some selected reputable generals and senior officers of the former Rhodesian security forces who are presently in Australia, Britain and South Africa to take charge of our security forces.â€
We had a good laugh over that one. And the bit about repossessing the tractors.
Those responsible for this childish and frankly farcical document should stop insulting the intelligence of the Zimbabwean public.
The â€œBiti Memorandumâ€ is the biggest forgery since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. At least we can be sure the original Biti would know how to spell Raftopoulos!
In addition to contriving stunts of this sort, Zanu PFâ€™s subterranean moles have been busy writing letters to the Editor of the Herald. We had one last Friday signed by a â€œPrince Kahariâ€.
He affected to be furious that radio stations such as SW Radio Africa were â€œmaking a mockeryâ€ of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe. Its staff should be stripped of their citizenship, â€œPrince Kahariâ€ declared.
And where was this super-patriot writing from? London of course!
The subject of the recount is generating much emotion â€” understandably given that the ZEC appears to be making claims that it is unwilling to substantiate.
The ZEC claims Zanu PFâ€™s demand for 23 recounts were considered by the commission within the 48-hour window provided by the law. But nobody believes them.
No statement was issued by the electoral commission about the complaints nor were competing candidates informed, Prof Welshman Ncube says. But ZEC chair Justice George Chiweshe says the commission met to consider the complaints from mostly Zanu PF losing candidates.
According to Chiweshe, â€œwe sat as a commission and considered them (the applications)â€. I canâ€™t tell you when we did this at this moment â€¦ we received them, that is why we ordered recounts â€¦ we didnâ€™t have to tell the world. Why should we? We are not obliged by law to do that. Are you calling me a liar?â€
Ncube did not mince his words. â€œThe ZEC is acting in collusion with Zanu PF and if they think any of us will believe them when they are a gang of fraudsters, then they can go to hell,â€ he said. â€œThey are such brazen liars and they have had custody of the ballot boxes for more than two weeks.
There is no guarantee that they didnâ€™t go back and tamper with the ballot boxes, so the outcome of the recount is a foregone conclusion.â€
Ncube said Tsvangirai won a clear majority, which was why the results were not released.
MDC (Mutambara)Â secretary for legal affairs David Coltart agreed: â€œWe have asked for proof the complaints were submitted within the 48-hour period. The delay between the expiry of the 48-hour period and the writing of the letters of complaint by ZEC is inexplicable, unreasonable. The only inference one can draw from the delay is that the commission has connived with Zanu PF and therefore acted illegally. One would have expected the ZEC would immediately have notified all interested parties, but they took nine days to do so.
This is a brazen subversion of the Electoral Act.â€
As Jacob Zuma said: â€œWe haveÂ never heard of elections being conducted and counted and the commission not allowing the result. It is unprecedented.â€
Our question is, were heads of state in Lusaka made aware of this fraud?
Zanu PF must be asked: When you have finished your rigging and fiddling, what exactly are you going to offer this country? More of the same: more inflation, unemployment, and empty shelves? The people spoke in the election of March 29. You want to reverse that verdict and might well do so with the help of the ZEC.
Â But everybody knows that the country rejected you. You will have to live with that knowledge but you wonâ€™t be able to turn the economy around. It will just go on getting worse and nobody will give a damn about your conspiracy theories.
You know things are getting bad when the public prosecutorâ€™s office writes to you asking for stationery. Here is a letter from the public prosecutor at Mbare magistrateâ€™s court.
â€œThe industrial action that had hampered our operations has since been solved, therefore we have started working tirelessly to ease the backlog that was created by such action. However, our office is facing serious difficulties in meeting our targets because of shortage of material resources and as such we are inviting donations of stationery from well-wishers.â€
Anybody prepared to help?
Then we had sight of another letter that would have been better off without a supply of stationery. It was from one Kenyan lawyer to another: â€œYour smart-mouth letter of 27 June refers.
We find the contents thereof to be callous, in bad taste and calculated at imputing bad motives against our client and ourselves. Needless to say that in view of the contents of your letter your client is in the cave of Trophonius.
Her defence of privilege is hoist with its own petard and cuts the baby figure of the giant mass of things to come. We have firm instructions to file suitâ€¦
â€œAbout your hoity-toity penultimate paragraph. This hard-heartedness that borders on inebriation and befuddled ardour that tickles the tongue of vanity is regrettable in the least. Remember that no one is insulated from the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to and all the ills that men endure in the sea of troubles.
The mindâ€™s immodesty breeds the desire of the moth for the star. Your remarks are disrespectful and rekindle thoughts of jaundice of the sole. The least we can expect from this sudden and quick quarrel is an apology.â€
We donâ€™t know whether he got one. But it all goes to show that a little learning is a dangerous thing.
Finally we had the Venezuelans pitching in with their piece of literary extravagance on the occasion of their national day.
â€œFor the Venezuealan historiography the celebration of the anniversary of this day has not been converted in an annual routine, neither in a civic obligation, but in a feeling of a new native country, a small native country, and great Hispanic-American native country.
â€œA new start because on that day the people and armed forces rescued the president, democratically elected Hugo Chavez Frias, of a nasty coup dâ€™etat, forged internally by those who with an ancestral way had enjoyed the privileges of the social exclusionâ€¦Of great Hispano-American native country because this gesture carried out by the binomial armed peopleâ€™s forces which was engraved in an indelible way in consciousness of Venezuelan women and men, was inspired by the doctrine (in) international politics of
The Liberator Simon Bolivar who thought for the South American mixed race in a great native country of republics without atomisation and big, not by his wealth and extension but by its justice and freedom.â€
The author of this turgid text looks like a candidate for speech-writer in the Office of the President where he can wax lyrical about big Bolivarian extensions. What we donâ€™t understand is why, when they both have so much in common in terms of populist demagoguery, Chavez eschews a visit to the Mugabean Republic of Zimbabwe.
lIn last weekâ€™s edition we said Bona Mugabe voted in Highfield. In fact she voted at Hellenic Primary School in Harare. Her Dad voted in Highfield.