WHATEVER the objections of the British or Americans to a flawed election, President Mugabe could always count on the loyalty of African states who were, it often seemed, prepared to look the other way.
Last weekendâ€™s declaration by some 40 African leaders has put an end to that and signalled a more robust approach to dealing with Zimbabweâ€™s defiant rulers.
The 40 African leaders, including 14 former heads of state, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, signed a declaration published last Friday calling for an end to violence and intimidation ahead of the June 27 run-off. (See Page 5)
“We are deeply troubled by the current reports of intimidation, harassment and violence,” the leaders said. They include Kenneth Kaunda, Festus Mogae, Benjamin Mkapa and the Mandela Foundation.
At the same time, Botswana lodged a formal protest over the arrests of Morgan Tsvangirai and Tendai Biti.
“These repeated arrests do not augur well for a free, fair, and democratic election,” Foreign Affairs minister Phandu Sekeleman told the BBC.
Biti was arrested for treason upon his return from South Africa last week.
On April 18 his lawyers had written to the Herald complaining that a document, published by the paper on April 14 headed “The Transition Strategy”, purportedly authored by Biti and dated March 25, was concocted and did not even bear his correct signature. Names of prominent Zimbabweans were misspelt (Nelson Chamisa was called “Antony”) and the language was calculated to arouse the anger of those aligned to the ruling party.
For instance, it proposes that chefsâ€™ “girlfriends and cronies” be disinterred from Heroes Acre to make room for “Chiminya, Tandare and our other fallen heroes”, cars and tractors given to chiefs be repossessed, the judiciary purged, pensions to war veterans halted, and 200 farms returned to their previous owners.
“All our white farmers who are still in the country have been encouraged to visit their farms in the week running up to and after the election to assess levels of vandalism,” the memo claims.
This subsequently became the basis for reports by ruling party spokesmen that large numbers of white farmers had returned claiming their land and were harassing the current occupiers. No evidence was ever supplied to support the contention.
The current owners should be called “at odd hours”, the document suggested.
Commenting on Bitiâ€™s arrest, Bulawayo senator David Coltart said “the law in Zimbabwe over the past six years has not been an instrument of justice, it has been a weapon in the hands of Zanu PF. “This is a shocking breach of due process.”
Coltart said the continued detention of Biti was an “enormous challange to Sadc which claimed to be mediating in the Zimbabwean crisis. “Is Sadc going to defend the basic tenents of democracy or not?” he asked.
What interested us about the signatories to the declaration by 40 prominent Africans were the names of Jerry Rawlings, Joaquim Chissano and Abdulsalami Alhaji Abubakar.
Rawlings was a kindred spirit of Mugabe 10 years ago, an anti-imperialist demagogue although less virulently anti-British. Chissano tried engaging our leaders during a visit to Harare a couple of years ago but was sent packing.
Now the two have joined hands to speak out against the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. Their intervention will not be seen as helpful.
Equally annoying to the regime will be the signature of Abdulsalami Abubakar. He, it will be recalled, headed the Commonwealth Observer Mission to the 2002 poll which gave it the thumbs down.
Zimbabweâ€™s spin doctors then suggested the former Nigerian ruler was manipulated by the British. The state media even tried recycling this lie a few weeks ago.
What will they say now? That he has been manipulated for a second time? And what of the 39 others; were they also manipulated?
The propaganda is beginning to wear a bit thin!
On the subject of propaganda, we were interested to see the New African being cited as a source for claims that Zimbabwe had vast reserves of strategic minerals of interest to the US. The New African item appeared as part of a full page Herald advert.
“Apart from the greatest world deposits of gold, diamonds, platinum and chrome, the Americans itemised other strategic minerals in Zimbabwe,” it said.
Indeed, but what we are not told is that the quote comes from one of the stateâ€™s own paid-for insertions in the magazine.
“What do the British and Americans want from Zimbabwe?” the ad asks. “Our minerals” is the predictable answer.
What it doesnâ€™t say is that the UK and US can easily find those minerals elsewhere in countries where mining companies are welcome and governments donâ€™t help themselves to unearned holdings.
Ghana and Botswana have diamonds, South Africa has platinum.
The British and Americans invest in those countries which means growth for their hosts and enhanced employment prospects for their people.
What do Zimbabweans get out of a predatory regime that scares off investors?
“Together we can rebuild our economy using our God-given resources,” the ad says.
So what happened to the economy that requires us to rebuild it? And why hasnâ€™t any of this reconstruction taken place until now?
Muckraker attended a conference at Meikles on Monday and joined colleagues for lunch at the Pavilion Restaurant. It was a bitterly cold day but our group and several others were exiled to the Siberian wastes of the patio.
That was because the dining room was packed with Sadc observers scoffing away at the buffet fare.
Without wishing to appear too patronising they all seemed to be about 21 and straight out of college. When Zanu PF extended its tentacles to Mabvuku on Tuesday they were nowhere to be seen!
The Herald is plumbing new depths by appropriating remarks made by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in Rome on food production and pretending he was talking about Zimbabwe.
The heading, “UN chief commends Zimbabweâ€™s role in food production”, was downright dishonest.
Ban Ki-Moon “praised countries such as Zimbabwe that helped small-scale farmers to pay for basic agricultural inputs such as seed and fertiliser”, the Herald reported.
In fact he never mentioned Zimbabwe.
But that didnâ€™t stop the Heraldâ€™s business editor inserting several paragraphs of opinion.
“Zimbabweâ€™s congruence with the UNâ€™s agricultural thrust has put paid to critics who were vilifying governmentâ€™s programmes,” the Herald asserted.
“The farm mechanisation programme, Aspef, and input support schemes must therefore be expanded to increase Zimbabweâ€™s food production,” an agricultural expert was quoted as saying. “Through this Zimbabwe has all the capacity to meet its Milennium Development Goals,” the “expert” said. The similarity between what Zimbabwe was actually doing and the UNâ€™s vision on food “came as a big boost for Zimbabwe to stay on course”, he said.
He didnâ€™t say why agricultural production had fallen by 60%!
In fact, if anybody cared to call the secretary-generalâ€™s office in New York they would tell you just what the UN thought of Zimbabweâ€™s suicidal land policy.
There is no vacancy for Morgan Tsvangirai at State House because Zanu PF has enough cadres with quality leadership attributes to take over from President Mugabe, his wife says.
Grace Mugabe, who describes herself as the “mother at State House”, thinks Tsvangirai should instead go and stay with Gordon Brown at 10 Downing St.
“Brown can have Tsvangirai as his president because Zimbabwe does not need him,” Grace declared. Her husband was a simple man who had a record of working hard and fighting for the interests of the people, she said in Chikomba last week. “He is a man who would do anything for the people but the opposition lies about him.
“He does not have businesses or mansions anywhere,” she declared.
Donâ€™t we recall her acquiring a mansion, dubbed Gracelands, some years ago? And what would she call her present abode in Borrowdale: a cottage?
As for Tsvangirai moving in to State House, that would be a matter best left to voters, not the current incumbents. Grace does not have the authority to determine who stays where. And her opinions are immaterial. The title “First Lady” is an American invention which Zanu PF happily adopted. It has no basis in law.
And Grace needs to be introduced to the expression about people living in glass houses throwing stones. “Tsvangirai is confused,” she said. “He does not think of anything but violenceâ€¦Now his thugs are killing and assaulting people and the Western media is lying that Zanu PF is responsible for the violence.”
So there you have it. It was MDC thugs causing all the mayhem across the country. What we donâ€™t quite understand is why they would victimise fellow MDC members!
And who are all those Zanu PF cadres “with quality leadership attributes” who will be moving into State House after the Mugabes have moved all their katundu out? Joseph Msika? Didymus Mutasa? Jabulani Sibanda? The mind boggles at all that talent!
As for those who fought and died for this countryâ€™s freedom, what would Grace know about that other than what her husband has taught her? If she would like to enhance her limited education in this field we can refer her to Edgar Tekereâ€™s book that has some fascinating insights into her husbandâ€™s war record.
“The whites controlled the country for too long,” Grace thinks. “They exploited our natural resources to develop their countries in Europe. They were at State House for a long time. But what
did they do for the country? Nothing.”
And what has she done exactly? Did she build any roads or clinics? Zanu PF canâ€™t even fill potholes!
And what happened to the scheme to help street kids at Iron Mask Farm?
If Grace is going to make political statements she should be subject to the media spotlight. She castigated voters for rejecting “one of their own daughters”, Susan Chibizhe.
“I am prepared to go to war for this country,” she squawked.
And what outfit will she head: the Borrowdale Bling Brigade? Uniforms supplied by Armani.
Enough of this posturing. We are not interested in the crass opinions of the “First Lady”. All we ask of the Mugabes is that they allow Zimbabweans to express their free will and abide by the outcome. If the voters prefer a pro-British or pro-American party that is their right. Zanu PF has had its chance at governance and it failed. What does it want to do now that it couldnâ€™t do over 28 years?