A PERUSAL of the state press can be a demanding business nowadays.
Â Like Isvestia in the Soviet era, much can be concluded by reading between the lines.
The big news issue for most people on Monday was the vote recount in which Zanu PF had placed so much faith.
A pattern of systematic fraud, the ruling party hoped, would demonstrate that President Mugabe had victory snatched from him by unscrupulous polling officers.
Alas, it was not to be.
Whatever the shortcomings of the electoral process â€” and there were many â€” the number of ballot papers in the boxes remained largely the same. An occasional miscount here or there but nothing systematic and certainly no grounds for the politically-inspired arrest of polling officers.
Zanu PF lost the contest for the lower house but the Herald declined to report such grim tidings.
Instead it led with an interview with Kenneth Kaunda taken from Zambiaâ€™s The Post saying Gordon Brown wasnâ€™t qualified to comment on the â€œchallengesâ€ facing Zimbabwe.
It was a trite little story which, given the outcome of the recount, should have been headed â€œfrom one loser to anotherâ€.
The Herald beefed it up by including the remarks of some little-known Zambian boxer who appeared to think we would benefit from his views on Iraq.
But there was an even funnier story on Page 3 of Mondayâ€™s Herald headed â€œPresident a living legendâ€.
This was a pathetic paean of praise from Obert Mpofu at the opening of the Zimbabwe International Flea Market last Friday.
For the third row in a year there was no head of state willing to open it except Mugabe. Mpofu obviously saw an opportunity to ingratiate himself with some fawning remarks.
Mugabe has worked tirelessly for the economic empowerment of the majority of Zimbabweans who had been marginalised during the colonial era, Mpofu grovelled.
He didnâ€™t explain why then they were worse off today than they were in 1980. In fact worse off than they were in 1960 when the trade fair first opened.
And every time Mugabe opens his mouth everyone gets a little bit poorer as investors stay away!
He used the platform provided last Friday to claim that his land reform programme was â€œthe final solution to the land questionâ€.
His speech writers failed to warn him that Adolph Hitler was the last person to speak of the â€œfinal solutionâ€, only on that occasion the German fuhrer was referring to the elimination of Jews, not productive farmers.
And who is Mugabe to decide whether his corrupt and deeply flawed land programme will be accepted by Zimbabweans as the last word on the subject? Mugabe lost the election.
His views on land reform were rejected by the voters. So it really doesnâ€™t matter what he says any more.
A land audit will soon establish which criminals got which farms.
There will certainly be a â€œgoing backâ€ on land when it comes to multiple holdings.
No wonder some people have been begging Mugabe to stay on whatever the result.
Despite the obvious fact that Mugabe and his party lost the election, Zimpapersâ€™ publications have continued to believe this is an occasion they donâ€™t have to rise to.
Instead they persist in the view that there has been no material change in the politics of the country â€” that voters didnâ€™t really know what they were doing â€” and comfort themselves with the delusion that Zanu PF won control of the senate and can block things there.
That remained true until Monday when the two MDCs agreed to link up.
But you would have thought a public press would have woken up to the new realities: the people voted overwhelmingly to rid themselves of the criminal gang in their midst, and the fact that the government media continue to betray the public who rejected all their fatuous and dishonest claims shows just how deep the roots of misrule go.
Letter-writers, columnists and cartoonists continue to live in a world of self-deception, a world the people unambiguously rejected.
The Herald seriously tried to tell us on Wednesday that Tendai Bitiâ€™s team had gone to New York to address the Security Council and were â€œsnubbedâ€.
And who was the newspaperâ€™s source? Zimbabweâ€™s ambassador to the UN Boniface Chidyausiku who occupies no position of authority whatsoever. He told the Herald that the MDC team were â€œtold offâ€.
Only governments could address the Security Council, they were told.
All nonsense of course. Nobody was â€œtold offâ€.
Bitiâ€™s team was happy to brief the UN secretariat on what was happening in Zimbabwe.
And they had an opportunity to speak to Security Council member-states on the margins of the meeting.
Chidyausiku should try and be more professional in his briefings to the gullible state media.
Or is he determined not to survive the advent of a democratic government?
â€œZimbabwe will never be a colony again,â€ the nationâ€™s threadbare rulers chant.
Itâ€™s all rather pathetic.
The country has moved on dumping the empty rhetoric, yet Zimpapers continue to parrot its mantras as if nothing has happened.
What happened to the â€œmother of all seasonsâ€? Is that the situation on the ground? And did a 300% increase in its cover price not wake the Herald up to the chaotic economic policies that have proved ruinous to the country?
Why is the public media so intent upon misleading the nation when it should at least be trying to reflect the diversity of views reflected in the election?
Last week we referred to the manufacture of a whole raft of stories attributed to Tendai Biti.
These turned out to be clumsy lies designed to assist Mugabeâ€™s run-off campaign and Bitiâ€™s lawyers wrote to the editor of the Herald to warn him he was circulating defamatory statements.
They included stories about thousands of white farmers returning to reclaim their land in league with the MDC.
The curious thing about this particular story is that nobody ever actually saw the white farmers in question.
But that didnâ€™t stop ministers repeating the lie.
We asked last week which fool would open his mouth next to claim white farmers were reoccupying farms.
Tafataona Mahoso obliged on Sunday with the claim that â€œformer Rhodesiansâ€ had organised a convoy from Chimanimani to Mutare which was â€œintended to announce to Manicaland province that Tsvangirai had won the 2008 electionâ€.
They moved from farm to farm, Mahoso said, â€œtelling resettled farmers to prepare to vacate the farmsâ€¦â€
The whites were â€œinstigating MDC thugs and former farm workers to attack some resettled farmers and burn their cropsâ€, he claimed.
Our question to Mahoso: Did you personally see this convoy of farmers? What evidence do you have of â€œ750 to 1 000 former white Rhodesian farmersâ€ returning to the country? We know you wouldnâ€™t want to circulate unverified reports.
As for the â€œprovocative behaviourâ€ of these farmers, we once again had only vague second-hand reports.
That is until Thursday night when ZTV filled our screens with the ample form of Reuben Barwe â€” a land beneficiary â€” who claimed eight homesteads of resettled farmers in Headlands had been torched by MDC members.
The Herald repeated the story the next day.
Among those injured were a Zanu PF district chairman and a war veteran. Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena was helpfully on hand to say police were hunting suspects still on the run.
Two have appeared in court.
But our question is: Why did it take a week for this story to emerge? Barwe tried to link it to the story of returning white farmers. â€œDid you see them?â€ he asked a Zanu PF supporter, â€œbecause some people say they are a product of our imagination?â€
â€œNo they are there,â€ the supporter dutifully replied. But Barwe certainly didnâ€™t see them. And nor, we can safely say, did anybody else!
The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is still in denial about what ails the nation.
The recent â€œspate of negative publicityâ€ has begun to take its toll on the industry, the Sunday Mail said, reporting remarks by ZTA CEO Karikoga Kaseke.
â€œIt is believed that the resurgent onslaught on the country will most likely put a serious dent in the perception management programme that is being implemented by the ZTA,â€ the Sunday Mail reported.
Kaseke said the recent development was â€œa real concernâ€.
The perception management programme was initiated â€œto reverse the adverse effects of the same negative publicity but the negative impact caused by the current onslaught is a real concern to us,â€ Kaseke convolutedly said.
Seventy-eight percent cancellations have been recorded to date.
What was particularly galling, we are told, is the fact that Japan and South Korea have joined the US and UK in issuing travel warnings to their citizens regarding Zimbabwe.
The ZTA needs a wake up call.
Nobody from their prime markets wants to visit a country in political turmoil and where there have been reports of beatings, even killings, of opposition supporters.
So long as Zanu PF believes it has the right to punish people for voting against President Mugabe, the international stayaway will persist.
No amount of â€œperception management programmesâ€ will change that.
It is not perceptions that need to change but realities on the ground. Kaseke doesnâ€™t seem able to grasp that.
There will be no turnaround in tourism or in any other part of the economy until the rot at the top has been cleaned out.
As for the Look East policy which is taking a beating at present, Eastern tourists follow their Western counterparts in deciding where to go.
They donâ€™t shout â€œwe want to express our solidarity with President Mugabe and Zimbabweâ€ and book a holiday at Vic Falls.
They see where the Western tourists are going and follow them. And Western tourists wonâ€™t come here so long as state brutality is the order of the day.
This has been an object lesson in how not to win friends and influence people.
The ZTA needs to be targeted by a democratic government.
It is a parasite that clings to the tourism sector sucking its life blood but offers nothing useful in return except for delusional schemes to â€œmanage perceptionsâ€. Please, letâ€™s get real.
Still with winning friends and influencing people, last week Muckraker looked at two cases of where official hostility (to Cosatu and Levy Mwanawasa) has had serious consequences for Zimbabwe.
We can now add another case.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the target of frequent abuse in the official press, has lent his considerable prestige to the campaign for an arms ban against Zimbabwe.
We reproduce here his comments last week when he spoke out, together with other Anglican leaders, on the Zimbabwe issue.
â€œZimbabwe is staring into the abyss,â€ he said. â€œViolence is growing and the people are suffering greatly as a result. It is now vital that we all do what we can to calm the situation.
â€œIn particular I join the worldwide calls to stop the supply of weapons to the country â€” by land, sea or air â€” until the political crisis is resolved.
It is obvious that supplying large quantities of arms at this stage would risk escalating the violence, perhaps resulting in the large-scale loss of life.
â€œWe should be proud of the African trade unions and governments who refused to let the most recent Chinese shipment off-load in their ports but China must now agree not to try and send these arms by air instead.
â€œI join the South African church leaders in urging all governments to immediately start work at the UN level to agree a binding UN arms embargo as quickly as possible.
â€œIn the meantime I hope that every country will agree to a moratorium on the supply of any arms to the country.
If violence flares further in Zimbabwe, those supplying the weapons will be left with blood on their hands. It is up to every country in the region and beyond to take a stand.â€
Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga made a useful point last week.
In her capacity as Mutambara MDC deputy secretary-general she pointed out that those rounded up in last Fridayâ€™s police raid on Harvest House included youths, staff members and displaced people from rural areas who had sought refuge in the building.
â€œSome of these people have had the misfortune of having their homes, food, clothes and other personal belongings either burnt or destroyed by Zanu PF agents and thugs,â€ she said.
â€œThe further assault on their right to seek refuge smacks of sheer cruelty and unabated brutality.
â€œThe further raids on Zesn offices by the ZRP speaks volumes of Zanu PFâ€™s intention to silence voices and subvert the will of the people expressed so loudly in the March 2008 elections.
â€œThe MDC calls upon the ZRP to behave in a manner consistent with a professional police force and desist from allowing it to be used as an instrument of oppression and terror by the regime of Robert Mugabe.â€
That message should have been read out at this weekâ€™s passing out parade where Commissioner Augustine Chihuri claimed electoral fraud was a new phenomenon in the countryâ€™s history.
He also laid emphasis upon the need for people to obey the laws of the land.
That of course involves obeying court orders and respecting the right of citizens to freedom of association and expression as set out in the amended Posa.
Journalists found themselves after the election prosecuted under provisions of Aippa on accreditation which had been repealed following inter-party talks.
Regarding poll fraud, Chihuri should ask for a briefing from government law officers on events in Sunningdale in 1995 when Margaraet Dongo found her constituency stuffed with ruling-party transplants. The courts upheld her protest.
Finally, did you know that candidates for employment with the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe need a diploma in agriculture and four years post-training experience in poultry production?
That is if they want to be a manager on the CAAZâ€™s farm.
Surprised to hear the CAAZ, which should be concentrating on airports management, is engaged in farming? So were we.
But a large advert in the Sunday Mail alerted us to this questionable activity on the side.
We presume that wherever chefs are involved there is an inclination to go farming.
Letâ€™s hope they wonâ€™t be using their empty hangars to house their chickens.