Muckraker: A Classic Case Of Media Deception

IT is always good to start the week with a chuckle and the Herald on Monday obliged.

 

“Rhodie group unearthed in Braeside,” their triumphal heading ran.

The police had launched investigations into the activities of a secretive group of former Rhodesian army officers who were holding “clandestine meetings” at the MOTH social centre in Braeside, we were told. These came “amid concerns that the group could be linked to military-style attacks being perpetrated on Zanu PF supporters by suspected MDC activists countrywide”.

War veterans and Zanu PF youths “stormed” the centre following a tip-off from members of the public, the Herald reported.

Is this the same MOTH centre that was “unearthed” over a week ago and given extensive coverage on ZTV? If so, how come it is suddenly “news” again? And why have the war veterans and Zanu PF youths not been prosecuted for illegally “storming” a bona fide social centre?

A whole childish conspiracy was constructed by the Herald around an organisation that has been operating in the public domain since 1945! It was a duly licensed club whose only real offence was that of nostalgia.

The Herald’s attempts, no doubt prodded by their political masters, to link the MOTH club to “unsolved violence cases that have bewildered security agents in the country” is reckless at best and defamatory at worst.

“Two Zanu PF supporters were recently murdered in cold blood by suspected MDC-T gunmen while several cases of arson targeting long distance buses, commuter omnibuses, and passenger trains have gone unsolved for months,” the Herald claimed.

Does the inability of law-enforcement agents to bring a viable case against MDC members warrant the occupation of a lawful social club and WW2 museum by Zanu PF thugs? Is it illegal to have a Union Jack on the premises? “Conspicuous by its absence was the Zimbabwean flag,” the Herald lamented. We don’t recall the Zimbabwean flag being much in evidence during the Second World War!

The writer of the story evidently knew nothing about the MOTH history or membership. The article was a classic case of media deception in which a gullible press is fed a story by officials pursuing their own desperate agenda against the opposition.

What happened to all those charges about burnt-out buses the last time they were fielded? Or the rest of that dubious dossier?

Is this the best they can do? The City Bowling Club was similarly raided and occupied recently with nothing to show for it. Why does this regime assume that everybody is their enemy? Unless of course that is the case!

It was interesting to note how the largely coloured membership of the MOTH centre was airbrushed out of the Herald story so it could be portrayed as a whites-only establishment.

The Chinamasa sub-committee should be warned that clumsy episodes like this invite derision rather than the public concern they are designed to engender.

On Saturday, following the episode at Mazowe involving US embassy officials who were detained at a roadblock, we had state officials warning the US embassy that “in future the police will not be encouraged to leave their lawful duty to protect citizens of Zimbabwe in favour of these misadventurers”.

So in other words Zimbabwe will not uphold the Vienna Convention governing the role of diplomats to which it is a signatory? And then the government complains when the country is portrayed as lawless.

We have heard a lot, by the way, about the US embassy failing to notify the Zimbabwean authorities of its travel arrangements. In fact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was duly notified of the proposed visit to Bindura.

Diplomatic notes 165 & 166/08 providing the names of the embassy staff who would be travelling to Mashonaland Central were delivered to the ministry on June 4 and duly signed for.

The state media lied that the government was not informed. It also lied that the ministry had not been informed of Ambassador James McGee’s visit to Mashonaland Central on May 13. The embassy informed the ministry in diplomatic note 131/08 that it would be undertaking the visit.

In any case, diplomats are free to travel where they like in the country without giving notice. A communication from the Zimbabwe authorities of May 16 2006 clearly states that “notification is a
formality, not a request for permission”.

This followed a complaint in which the US embassy pointed out that the requirement to provide travel notification represented a direct contravention of the obligation of the government to ensure free travel of diplomats throughout its territory as provided for in the Vienna Convention.

Article 29 of the Vienna Convention states: “The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving state shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, freedom or dignity.”

Minister tells off US, UK officials”, the Herald declared on Saturday in relation to this episode.

Can you imagine any of the US or UK officials attending the FAO conference in Rome being impressed with Simbarashe Mumbengegwi’s posturing? Here is a country in the throes of hunger, dependent upon the US and EU for food supplies, whose Foreign minister, sounding very much like a Burmese general, is trying to lay down the law on where diplomats can and can’t go.

“I don’t want to hear from you,” Mumbengegwi reportedly told US and British officials. “Instead you are going to hear from us.”

Quaking in their boots? We don’t think so. And by the way, how many of these bold responses we read about in the Herald are more what the speaker wishes he had said?

That difference to Harare has the Mahachi Commission made since its appointment? Can it be said that the city has been renovated in any way? Does it look any better or work any better?

Why did Mahachi take on responsibility for the city when he clearly is unable to make a difference, especially considering that he is occupying democratic space in violation of the rights of residents? He is there to do Ignatious Chombo’s bidding.

Muckraker’s benchmark is a crater in the road outside Alexandra Sports Club. It is a particularly dangerous obstacle that could cost lives in an accident. But, we wonder, does Mahachi ever travel around making a note of these things?

Which brings us to all those policemen on duty at intersections along the route travelled by Mugabe on any given day. Exactly what is their purpose? And couldn’t they help out by directing traffic where robots are not working? That way they could prevent accidents and keep traffic flowing smoothly.

We were intrigued to hear that motor-mouth war vets leader Jabulani Sibanda, who was quoted in The Voice this week attacking “imperialist mouthpieces”, is not a registered voter. His passport has expired and he doesn’t have a valid ID card, Muckraker has been told.

This could of course just be a rumour circulated by his enemies, so we hope to see evidence that he voted on March 29. After all, there is not much point being a Mugabe loyalist if you can’t vote for him!

Meanwhile, other vociferous Mugabe adherents appear to be managing very well despite their disability claims 10 years ago. Police commissioner Augustine Chihuri claimed a 20% disability on the grounds of dermatitis in his big toe, according to the findings of the Chidyausiku Commission. Constantine Chiwenga claimed 66% for food poisoning, neck pains and arthritis. He was awarded 59%. Perence Shiri claimed 50% for arthritis and mental stress.

All three remain at their posts where their injuries have not prevented them from fighting strongly from Mugabe’s corner.

The same goes for Happison Muchechetere who also suffered from mental stress. He claimed 86% for back and right leg pain and was awarded 85%.

Anybody seen him hobbling around recently? But it must be admitted, since taking over as propaganda boss at ZTV he has become something of a pain in the back….!

The prisons are being cleared to make room for people convicted of political violence, we are told. And Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa has confirmed that prosecutors have been urged to deny bail to those suspected of political violence.

Is there not a conflict of interest here? Chinamasa is in charge of the media dimension to Mugabe’s run-off campaign. He thus needs to demonstrate firmness in dealing with the opposition.

But surely it is the role of magistrates to determine who gets bail? The liberties of ordinary Zimbabweans need to be protected against ministers on the campaign trail who want to lock up opponents. Especially when it’s their party that is accused of fomenting the violence in the first place.

Many times in the recent past the state’s case against individuals accused of political violence has come apart as soon as their trial opens or even earlier because there is no evidence to support the state’s politically-driven claims. The most notorious example was the incarceration of MDC officials after the killing of Cain Nkala. The judge in that case said the state’s case read like a work of fiction. That’s because it was a work of fiction. And today they still haven’t found Nkala’s killers.

We wonder why!

Magistrates need to uphold constitutional liberties, not ministerial whims. The evidence of ministerial delinquency is evident across this scarred nation.

And the AG’s office needs to resist Chinamasa’s blandishments and act with professional competence. It should not be beholden to political needs.

As the police have been so quick to tell the Herald how many MDC-T “thugs” they have arrested for political violence, perhaps they could tell us how many Zanu PF “thugs” have been arrested since March 29. Why is this statistic permanently missing?

That nationality is Stella Orakwue who wrote an opinion piece for New African magazine which found its way into the Herald on Tuesday? It was full of racist venom.

She sounds West African. Why are so many of the Herald’s contributors foreign?

Very simply, foreign columnists see an opportunity in Zimbabwe to fight a proxy war against George Bush and Gordon Brown. They don’t give a damn about the plight of Zimbabweans. Most of them have never been here. It just provides a good platform to pursue their war against the West whose comforts they enjoy.

A reader driving along Nelson Mandela Avenue noticed a large election banner featuring Mugabe against a backdrop of the Victoria Falls and the slogan “Our Land, Our Sovereignty”.

It then struck him that the photograph of the Victoria Falls was taken from the Zambian side. Mugabe is therefore depicted in Zambia with the slogan “Our Land, our Sovereignty”.

A case of Zimbabwean imperialism? Don’t tell Levy Mwanawasa.

Joke of the week: In response to a BBC story that Zanu PF was forcing people to attend reorientation programmes, Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said it wasn’t true.

“These are public workshops,” he said, “being conducted by seasoned politicians who are explaining to the people what the government has achieved since Independence and what it is doing to address the economic challenges.”

That should take all of five minutes!