THE president “romped” to a “landslide victory”, the Herald told us on Monday.
We all understand what “romp” means! To romp as to bludgeon and subjugate, according to the Zanu PF dictionary on political behaviour (revised edition). But how can you have a landslide with only one candidate?
The big fiction of this election was that there were two candidates. Only by maintaining that fiction could the regime, aided by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, pretend that there was “a landslide”.
The only landslide we know of was in Pelandaba/Mpopoma and the Minister of Information lay prostrate underneath it!
But despite the strenuous efforts of Mugabeâ€™s minders to put a spin on this outcome, the cold hard fact remains that this was an election regarded as profoundly flawed not just by the Western powers but by many of Zimbabweâ€™s allies in the region. The government press tried its best to disguise this but once Mugabe started wagging his finger at the culprits, Herald readers must have realised that not all was well.
For the benefit of those who didnâ€™t see the various reactions, the Sadc observer team said the run-off did not reflect the will of the people and that pre-vote conditions impinged on its credibility. They said the process leading up to the vote “did not conform to regional principles and guidelines governing democratic elections”.
In Johannesburg, ANC president Jacob Zuma told the ANC Youth Leagueâ€™s national conference that the party could not remain quiet when “wrong things were taking place in Zimbabwe”, as they would be regarded as “accomplices”.
Pan African Parliament observer mission leader Marwick Khumalo told a press briefing that “unpalatable messages” were written on many of the spoilt ballots. He felt “uncomfortable” giving details.
A Sadc observer, who declined to be named, told the press some of the words included “stupid”. “Some wrote distasteful things. They were messages of anger,” the observer was quoted in The Star as saying.
The Herald carried a heading last Friday morning saying “Zanu PF leads popular vote”.
In other words, before a single vote had been cast the Herald was able to report that Zanu PF led the popular vote. As an assumption that was understandable. But as a reported fact?
One of the most important elements in a journalistâ€™s professional equipment is a healthy sense of scepticism. In other words, donâ€™t just swallow what you are told.
Nobody has told the Heraldâ€™s columnist Stephen Maimbodei about the need for scepticism. He told us in his narrative of events leading up to the run-off that a “document exposing alleged MDC-T ballot bribery” was published on April 14.
What he didnâ€™t tell us is that this was the same document that a High Court judge last week described as “good bedtime reading”. Meaning that it was fictional.
He was referring to a clumsy piece of disinformation allegedly authored by Tendai Biti but carrying what his lawyers said was a forged signature.
Justice Ben Hlatshwayo said: “Itâ€™s a good document for bedtime reading. I have seen a lot of glaring shortcomings in this document because some of the issues and charges are based on assumption of things that did not or will not occurâ€¦”
But for Maimbodei and his friends at the Herald it was the Gospel truth. How gullible can you get?
The same gullible lot at ZBC were on Monday telling us about the latest five-year plan for empowerment and economic turnaround. Shouldnâ€™t they be asking themselves what happened to the last “turnaround” plan, and all the ones before that which didnâ€™t fly?
Listen up you Pollyannas. It wonâ€™t be the MDC or Sadc that finishes off the Mugabe regime, now showing signs of terminal decay. It will be inflation. Just watch the collapse as the rate of 9 000 000% bites into the fabric of the economy.
Turnaround plans administered by economic illiterates in a situation where you have reckless money-printing will prove fatal to your health. Watch this space!
A very instructive story appeared in the Sunday Mailâ€™s Business section last weekend. It centred on the decision by Japan to issue a travel warning on Zimbabwe. But slipped in, almost as an afterthought, was the news that China had done the same thing â€” and South Korea.
This was a major setback, African Sunâ€™s CEO Shingi Munyeza told the Sunday Mail. Most tourists from Asia were now opting to go to Europe, he said.
Does anybody recall stories about Chinese tourists flooding in? Now the irony: reports of electoral violence have scared away Chinese tourists from the country whose government China regularly defends from criticism, although it must be said with Chinaâ€™s recent vote in the Security Council that protection seems to be wearing thin.
The “perception management programme” that was launched by the ZTA has suffered “a serious dent as the negative publicity aimed at the country increased last week”, it is now admitted.
But donâ€™t worry, the ZTAâ€™s Karikoga Kaseke says he will come up with a plan to lobby the authorities from the Asian markets to remedy the situation.
Tourism had been on the mend, the Sunday Mail said, as stakeholders like the Reserve Bank and the government heightened efforts to promote the country as a safe tourism destination.
So, the same government that unleashes the most terrible retribution against innocent people for voting the wrong way in March now thinks it can woo tourists back here by “perception management”. The perception, thanks to Zanu PF, is already well established that Zimbabwe is a dangerous place for its own citizens, never mind those from abroad!
The state media doesnâ€™t seem to understand the “nature” of the global village. As President Mugabe was being sworn in by the Chief Justice on Sunday, farming families in Chegutu were being savagely beaten by a “war veteran” called Gilbert Moyo and his gang of thugs.
News of that atrocity was on the wires within minutes. SABC TV showed gruesome visuals. So did CNN.
Then Kaseke says he needs to apply “perception management”. Heâ€™s going to have his work cut out!
The Herald, unable to disguise this case of brutality, reported police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena as saying the Moyo gang were just “common criminals”.
How then do we explain film footage of them sitting comfortably on the verandah of the farm they occupied?
There was a need for some “anger management” in Sharm el-Sheik as African Union leaders met on Monday. Pesky reporters challenged President Mugabe on the outcome of the “stolen” election.
It may have been a good idea to have ignored them, as Thabo Mbeki did, but Mugabe was clearly in the mood for a fight. So were the journalists. A verbal battle took place in full view of delegates and things began to look ugly as Gordon Brownâ€™s name was bandied about.
At this point Mugabeâ€™s Egyptian minders locked arms around his waist and led him out as the exchanges continued even as the president was being carried off. His head was facing a full 180 degrees backwards as he tried to get the last word in! It was all a tad unseemly but ITNâ€™s Julian Manyon gets our persistence award for his door-stepping tactics.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Timesâ€™ social reporter Gwen Gill took issue with “Bobâ€™s bilious blouses”.
The Mugabes were once natty dressers, she noted, but of late on the campaign trail they have let things slip. Lately, she says, “the Mugabes have lowered the fashion bar by making their His and Hers rally outfits from cheap cotton material, with what looks like old-fashioned razor blades in the design”.
Where do these outfits come from? Gill asks. “Perhaps his Chinese friends donâ€™t just supply him with arms, but also with tasteless fabrics and faux Armani.”
“When Mugabe is thrown on the scrap heap of African politics,” Gill says, “I pray there will be room on the list of his wrongdoings for one that deserves more mention than it gets: his fashion crimes.”
One of the issues Zanu PF wants the MDC to resolve is that of sanctions. Mugabe insists they will have to go before dialogue can start. But he hasnâ€™t always been such an opponent of sanctions as this excerpt from an article he contributed to the journal Foreign Affairs in 1987 shows.
“As a nation with long-term interests in southern Africa and a fundamental commitment to the promotion of justice and democratic values,” he said, “the United States cannot stand aside as a human tragedy of potentially immense proportions threatens to unfold…”
He was of course talking about South Africa. But what the article reveals is his commitment to sanctions as a moral weapon.
“The stakes are too high. At risk are the lives of thousands, possibly millions, of South Africans, black and white, the future political and economic viability of the entire southern third of the African continent, and historyâ€™s judgement of the United States.
“Against this background it is necessary for the US administration to condemn by concrete actions those enforcing the apartheid system and to support, again concretely, those struggling for freedom and justice. The US Congress did pass last year, over the Administrationâ€™s veto, a package of limited sanctions. But the US should give political, moral and material assistance to the majority who will sooner or later take their rightful place in the governance of the country.”
Muckraker received the following mail from a reader who thought it may be of interest. It was written by a patriotic Kenyan in response to the election result in that country which returned Mwai Kibaki to power in January. It was addressed to Samuel Kivuitu, chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya.
“Weâ€™ve never met. Itâ€™s unlikely we ever will. But, like every other Kenyan I will remember you for the rest of my life. The nausea I feel at the mention of your name may recede. The bitterness and grief will not.
“You had a mandate, Mr Kivuitu to deliver a free, fair and transparent election to the people of Kenya. You had a tremendous pool of resources, skills, technical support to draw on including the advice of your peers in the field â€” experts in governance, human rights, electoral process and constitutional law. You had the trust of 37 million Kenyans.
“We believed it was going to happen. On December 27 a record 65% of registered Kenyan voters rose as early as 4am to vote. They stood in lines for up to 10 hours, in the sun without food or drink. As the results came in we cheered as minister after powerful minister lost their parliamentary seats; when the voters of Rift Valley categorically rejected the three sons of Daniel arap Moi, the despot who looted Kenya for 24 years.
“The country spoke through the ballot en masse against the mind-blowing greed, corruption, human rights abuses, and callous dismissal of Kenyaâ€™s poor that have characterised the Kibaki administration.
“But Kibaki wasnâ€™t going to go. When it became clear that you were announcing the vote tallies that differed from those counted and confirmed in the constituencies there was a sudden power blackout at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre where the returns were being announced. Hundreds of GSU (General Service Unit) suddenly marched in and ejected all media except the government mouthpiece KBC.
“Fifteen minutes later we watched dumbfounded as you declared Kibaki the winner. Thirty minutes later we watched in sickened disbelief and outrage as you handed the announcement to Kibaki on the lawns of State House where the Chief Justice, strangely enough, had already arrived; was waiting fully robed to hurriedly swear him in.
You betrayed us. Perhaps weâ€™ll never know when or why you made that decision.
“As the Kenya Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists rescinds the Jurist of the Year award they bestowed on you, as the Law Society of Kenya strikes you from their Roll of Honour and disbars you, I wonder what goes through your mind these days.
“Do you think of the 300 000 Kenyans displaced from their homes, their lives? Of the thousands still trapped in police stations and churches, any refuge they can find across the country? Without food, water, toilets, blankets?
“Meanwhile, the man you named president cowers in the State House, surrounded by a cabal of hard-line power-brokers and a bevy of unseated ministers and MPs who jostle for position and succession; who fuel the fires by any means they can to keep themselves important, powerful, necessary.
“A repressive regime rolls out its panoply of oppression against legitimate dissent. Who guessed that in a city of perennial water shortages we had high-powered water cannons to terrorise Kenyans off the streets?
“Is this what we have trained all our lives for? To confront
this epic catastrophe, caused by a group of old men who have already sucked everything they possibly can out of Kenya, yet will cling until they die to their absolute power.”
Finally, Muckraker would like to know what has happened to our old friend Caesar Zvayi. Is it true he has defected from the Herald and sought refuge in Botswana? Surely not?