AFTER three weeks of pernicious propaganda including what were manifest lies about the opposition preparing to take over, the Herald finally decided to make a clean breast of things and admit it got the story from the Internet.
This, it felt, excused it from any responsibility for republishing the fake stories about whites reclaiming farms, generals recruited from Australia, Germans at the Reserve Bank and Morgan Tsvangirai approaching the British for military intervention.
It took a letter from Tendai Bitiâ€™s lawyers to get the Herald to confess that the stories were cooked up.
And the British Embassy pointed out that the letter from Gordon Brown to Tsvangirai pledging help with regime change was also a fabrication.
The Herald splashed it across Page 2 of last Thursdayâ€™s edition.
â€œThe fact that the (Biti) document did not emanate from Tendai Biti or the MDC (Tsvangirai) was brought to your attention,â€ Mbidzo, Muchadehama & Makoni wrote to the editor of the Herald.
â€œThis notwithstanding, you went ahead and published stories or articles purporting that the document was authored by Tendai Biti and MDC (Tsvangirai).â€
The lawyers pointed out what everybody else, including this columnist, had observed: â€œThey (MDC) say that the document was so poorly drafted, concocted and so unintelligible (that it could not) have possibly emanated from them or their offices.â€
So what is the provenance of this document, the so-called Biti Memorandum, one of the worst forgeries since the Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
We recall Tsvangirai being the victim of a mugging when arriving at his venue from Johannesburg airport a few months ago.
Among the things taken was a laptop.
This, we can safely assume, contained correspondence.
It didnâ€™t take much of a resourceful mind to extract names and dates to concoct a â€œmemorandumâ€ from this material and add the stateâ€™s well-practised spin about regime-change.
Which obviously raises questions about who organised this theft.
And what has the Media and Information Commission, the clumsy instrument of the state in its war with the independent press, got to say about such an obvious fabrication knowingly carried by the public media?
Is this the sort of professional conduct we should expect from the public media? Did not one of the editors involved ask himself if this story was true, especially given the mileage ministers and individuals like Jabulani Sibanda were getting from it?
What have Patrick Chinamasa, Didymus Mutasa and Ignatious Chombo got to say for themselves now?
There were no white farmers moving around warning they were coming back.
It was all part of a fictitious document circulated on the Internet and published by the state media, used to justify farm invasions and the myth that war veterans were defending Mugabeâ€™s land revolution.
Chinamasa called Tsvangiraiâ€™s behaviour â€œtreasonousâ€ on the basis of â€œcorrespondenceâ€ which the British Embassy has said was a forgery.
All these fabrications were part of Mugabeâ€™s run-off strategy. He would once again pose as the nationâ€™s champion against the threat of British and American depredations. Except they were all based on a state-manufactured falsehood.
The only threat to Mugabe was a democratic election.
We hope Bitiâ€™s lawyers are watching carefully to see which big-mouthed idiots are repeating the Goebellian big lie despite their letter of warning carried by the Herald last Friday.
The Sunday News for instance is continuing to peddle the document. So is Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.
We know it takes a while for news to reach Bulawayo but that is no excuse for ministers and newspapers to propagate manifest falsehoods.
Â Muckraker thought readers might be interested in this account from the Sunday Times of the events surrounding the arrival of the arms shipment at Durban harbour last weekend.
â€œThe Sunday Times has established that this weekâ€™s Chinese shipment of arms turned away from Durban harbour on Friday was just one of several botched attempts by the embattled Mugabe regime to buy arms this year.
One well-placed Zimbabwean defence industry official told the Sunday Times: â€˜In the first three working days after the election, there were queues of people outside (arms procurement) offices â€” police, the presidential bodyguard unit, army, the CIO.
I saw 20 to 30 officers in a single waiting room, all begging for new weapons and ammunition. (But) most of the orders could not be filled, because the Reserve Bank doesnâ€™t have the forex.
â€œAnd on March 20, military intelligence chiefs sent a full detachment of the presidential bodyguard to escort a small shipment of 70 000 rifle bullets after it was mistakenly believed to have gone missing when the driver â€˜went drinkingâ€™, causing panic among Mugabeâ€™s military intelligence chiefs, who believed the MDC had seized the shipment.
Another police order for 25 shotguns and ammunition had to be amended to exclude the shotgun cartridges for lack of hard currency, while a US$4,1-million tender for anti-riot equipment was abandoned when the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank failed to raise the forex.
â€œA revised tender of US$2,2-million was abandoned for the same reason. Finally, a US$200 000 purchase of Chinese equipment was made after personal intervention by Mugabe.â€
The ship sailed from Durban harbour on Friday with its six container-loads of arms still on board, after the Durban High Court ordered the seizure of the weapons.
We can safely conclude from all this that the instruments of repression are being put in place so Mugabe can ensure there is no opposition to his electoral â€œvictoryâ€.
And it confirms the sinister role played by China in aiding and abetting the Zanu PF regime.
Cosatu played a key role in ensuring the cargo would not be unloaded at Durban.
Letâ€™s not forget those Cosatu officials who were arrested and deported from Zimbabwe a couple of years ago.
What goes around comes around.
Itâ€™s now payback time.
The same goes for all those insults hurled at Zambia in the last couple of weeks by Mugabeâ€™s acolytes.
Now Levy Mwanawasa has repaid the favour.
The shipment will not be transported across Sadc member states, he says.
Solidarity, it seems, cuts both ways.
The Zimbabwe Prison Service has been prominent among those advertising its loyalty on the occasion of the Independence Day celebrations.
â€œTogether we have remained resolute and steadfast in safeguarding our sovereigntyâ€¦â€ its message proclaims.
â€œMay this spirit of oneness prevail over the machinations of our determined detractors.â€
That was obviously a reference to the people of Zimbabwe who know all about tractors.
They are determined to get rid of those professionally-challenged service chiefs who cannot imagine a Zimbabwe without the dark shadow of Mugabe presiding over them.
Letâ€™s hope they grow up and understand their professional duty before the machinations of the people of Zimbabwe catch up with them just as they are catching up with their patron.
Arda, a failed parastatal, features a field of tobacco in the same Independence Day edition. It is not clear who it belongs to.
The board and management of the IDBZ offer their congratulations but omitted the word â€œbankâ€ from their advert so it became the â€œInfrastructure Development of Zimbabweâ€.
Zinwaâ€™s ad showed a generous flow of water which the nation is unable to share while Zimpapers should update their picture of the president.
After all, they are supposed to be in the news business when they are not advertising fictitious plots.
â€˜It is unfortunate that these reports of violence are only surfacing on the Internet with no formal reports being made,â€ police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was quoted as saying in Tuesdayâ€™s Herald.
â€œWe respond to information supplied to us by the public and we have nothing to hide.â€
Now perhaps he will tells us who killed Tichaona Chiminya and Talent Mabika and why that person has not been brought to justice.
That would be a good start.
Then we could move on to the cases of Martin and Gloria Olds, and Tonderayi Machiridza, not forgetting David Stevens and more recently Edward Chikombah.
Patrick Chinamasa also needs to be asked about these cases the next time he denies the existence of state-sponsored violence.
â€œPeople should ask the MDC to give the names, addresses and other details of those it says have been killed,â€ Chinamasa said.
First of all he should tell us about those killed since 2000.
Then we can deal with this year!
Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi last year â€œchallengedâ€ the opposition and civil society to come forward with information on state-sponsored political violence.
They did not do so, he claims.
In fact the MDC handed over a bulky dossier of crimes to which he has never replied despite their reminders.
The police, Chinamasa said, arrest people regardless of their political affiliation.
If you have a complaint just go to the police, he said.
But he didnâ€™t tell us what happened to Morgan Tsvangirai, Ian Makone and Sekai Holland last year when they did just that.
They were accused of â€œprovokingâ€ the police and were severely assaulted at a police station. They deserved to be bashed, Mugabe commented.
Chinamasa, we are told, chairs Zanu PFâ€™s information sub-committee.
What is that outfit exactly and how long has Chinamasa been chairing it?
Why has it just been sprung on an unsuspecting public?
And what happened to Sikhanyiso Ndlovu?
Chinamasa is evidently happy to be used as the public voice of the party.
But he should be careful not to be held in the same high regard as Mutasa, Ndlovu and Chombo. It is one thing to be a serial loser, quite another to be one of the presidentâ€™s clown jewels.
We were interested to see Mugabe will be opening the Zimbabwe International Flea Market this year.
They evidently couldnâ€™t find anybody else.
Is there no head of state who is prepared to grace this occasion?
What about asking the ICC if they can spare Charles Taylor for the day.
He would feel right at home with the violence and the vote-rigging. But mind your limbs!
Hifa has what promises to be an impressive programme this year.
Needless to say, some performers have proved a tad skittish, given the publicity surrounding Zimbabwe, and cried off.
But we were rather surprised by the well-known Zimbabwean actor and playwright who said he couldnâ€™t come because his children were worried about his safety.
And he lives in South Africa!
We reported last week how merciless the South African press was with Thabo Mbeki over his facile remarks in Harare.
And how he deserved the excoriating criticism he got.
But he won the ultimate accolade last weekend by being accorded Mampara status in the Sunday Timesâ€™ Hogarth column.
South Africans have concluded their president really is from another planet, Hogarth wrote.
â€œHIV/Aids, rampant rape, child murders, unemployment, kleptomaniac health ministers, and bent police chiefs donâ€™t exist where he comes fromâ€¦But when he flies to Harare to be humiliated again by sulky Bob; when we see him on television stroking the hand of the last mad dictator and smiling into the cameras: â€˜Crisis, what crisis?â€™; when he calls an election marred by broken heads, shattered limbs and bleeding faces â€œnormalâ€; when he takes our common national pride to New York to chair the UN Security Council and forgets to mention Zimbabwe as an African challenge; when he tells the worldâ€™s press he canâ€™t imagine where they got the idea he had ever denied the Zimbabwean crisis; when he makes us fools together on the world stage, then, at last we must reluctantly conclude that the President of South Africa is a Mampara.â€
Meanwhile, back in Zimbabwe.
Interviewer: â€œMr President, are you ready to say farewell to the people of Zimbabwe?â€
President: â€œWhy, where are they going?â€