Muckraker: Mavunga In Trouble

Have you noticed how an increasing number of columnists in the state media are based abroad?

 

They are obviously not prepared to share the sacrifices of their compatriots back home. But Muckraker would be keen to know if people like Peter Mavunga and Reason Wafawarova returned home to vote in the presidential run-off. We would hate to think these super-patriots were hiding in the comfort of their imperialist refuges!

Mavunga was the subject of an investigation by the Daily Telegraph this week. Its article was headed “A Robert Mugabe supporter who is said to use a newspaper column to attack Britain and the West is receiving tens of thousands of pounds a year of taxpayers’ money.”

“The Ministry of Justice said it was investigating the affair as a ‘matter of urgency’,” the Telegraph reported.

“Peter Mavunga, 54, allegedly uses his column in the pro-Mugabe Harare Herald newspaper to attack the Zimbabwean dictator’s opponents and rant against the UK and the West.

“Yet it was reported (on Tuesday) that Mavunga earns £25 000 from British taxpayers as a court probation officer for the Ministry of Justice.

“One UK-based opposition activist said: ‘It’s rich that he criticises the British government yet is happy to make a living working for them’.

“Anti-Mugabe campaigner Dumi Tutani, 38, who fled to London in 2001, added: ‘Mavunga is putting down the country that offered him sanctuary. He knows he can say what he likes because this is a democracy. If he’s such a big fan of Mugabe’s, why doesn’t he return to Zimbabwe to live?’

“Mavunga is thought to have come to Britain to study journalism in the 1970s,” the Telegraph reported. “In his column he is said to have claimed this year’s rigged polls — in which government mobs killed dozens of opposition workers — were ‘held in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity’.

“Last week, Mavunga, who lives in Newham, East London, allegedly accused one woman of lying about her torture to win UK asylum.

“In April he reportedly branded opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC ‘liars and hypocrites’ and added: ‘They’ve become so used to lying that it’s part of their vocabulary’.

“A spokesman for the Probation Service said: ‘These views have been expressed in an individual capacity; these are not the views of London Probation. We are looking into this as a matter of urgency’.”

Zim can solve its own problems”, the Herald reported Patrick Chinamasa as saying last weekend. If Britain, the United States and the European Union stopped “interfering” in Zimbabwe’s affairs, “Zimbabweans would soon find solutions to the country’s problems”

So why haven’t they done so to date? Has Zimbabwe solved the problem of inflation? Has it solved the problem of growing unemployment? Has it solved the problem of political violence?

All these problems persist precisely because we have in office a government that refuses to solve them. It is not the British and Americans who are fuelling inflation by printing money and squandering resources. It is not the British and Americans who are making conditions impossible for business. And they are certainly not unleashing retribution against the opposition because it had the temerity to win an election in March.

These are all home-made “problems” that can be squarely laid at the door of the party Chinamasa represents.

President Mugabe was the president of Zimbabwe because he won the second round with a “resounding majority” in an election that was held in accordance with Zimbabwe’s laws, Chinamasa claimed.

Does he really believe that? What laws permit abduction, assault, and torture?

Mugabe won the second round because his party embarked upon a campaign of systematic violence when it became evident he would lose.

This is what Botswana’s observer team had to say:

“Under postal voting ZEC informed the observers that in the March 29 elections 8 000 people had applied for postal voting, but that in the presidential run-off elections this number had increased to 64 000. The observer teams were however not able to observe the postal voting process because information about it was not forthcoming from ZEC. Even where the observer teams got information about postal voting taking place they were denied access to the polling stations by the commanders at the police stations where most of this postal voting was taking place. When the observer teams enquired about this with ZEC we were informed that it was within the discretion of the commanding officers to either grant or refuse such authority.

“Worth noting however was that the observer teams received reports that postal voting took place in the presence, and under the directions, of commanding officers who instructed their juniors to vote for the Zanu-PF candidate or risk losing their jobs.

“The team observed that the holding of rallies was a preserve of the ruling Zanu-PF, whilst the MDC-T’s political rallies were systematically disrupted by the Zanu-PF militia and youth.

“For instance, on Sunday June 22, the team witnessed first hand how a planned “star rally” organised by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai was prevented from taking place by a group of youths wearing Zanu-PF regalia armed with sticks, stones and sjamboks. They chased and indiscriminately beat all the people in the vicinity of the venue where the rally was taking place. All this was done in full view of Sadc observers. Riot police passively witnessed these attacks making no attempts whatsoever to intervene. After completing their task, these youth retreated to the Zanu-PF headquarters where they were treated to food.

“Other incidents of politically motivated violence by the team included the following:

“People believed to be associated with the MDC-T party were subjected to severe beatings, harassment, torture, killings and general threats of violence. The police also appeared not to be enforcing law and order, and the Zanu-PF youth and militia mounted illegal road blocks, forcing people to attend Zanu-PF rallies and had bases where they tortured perceived opponents under the guise of re-educating them. In contrast Zanu-PF supporters received the full protection of the police as their rallies were never disrupted nor did they report any incidents of harassment to the observer teams.”

Because of this blatant breach of the Sadc electoral principles and Zimbabwe’s own laws, the international community has drawn a line in the sand and will now tighten sanctions.

That is a disaster for Zimbabwe. But it is one that has been invited by lawless behaviour.

As for the role of the British and Americans, the MDC is entitled to cultivate friendships with those countries that will provide investment and the means of recovery once a settlement is agreed.

Zanu PF has China and Cuba. Why can’t the MDC befriend Britain, the US and EU states? Every other African country understands the benefits of good relations with the EU under the Cotonou convention.

And let’s not forget those African countries who have refused to swallow Mugabe’s claims to legitimacy. Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Liberia have agreed with Sadc observers that the June election was not free and fair.

Mugabe used to celebrate how Africa invariably lined up behind Zimbabwe in confronting the US and EU. Now all he can do is hurl insults at the growing number of African states who have “betrayed” him. Appeals to revolutionary solidarity have fallen on deaf ears.

We are informed that in the AU closed session Mugabe’s attempts to point to the beam in the eye of his accusers made no impression on African leaders. Africa is being discredited by a stolen election, he was told. Botswana’s vice-president made a significant intervention pointing out Zimbabwe’s electoral shortcomings.

Relieved that African leaders didn’t put their straight-talking into a resolution, Mugabe returned to a “heroic” welcome from a crowd rounded up in Mbare and driven to the airport on Saturday morning.

But, as a Zanu PF advert nicely put it, “the writing is on the wall”.

Evidently, the party’s publicity department doesn’t understand that usage. But we do. The writing is indeed on the wall.

Many people will have been unimpressed with Arthur Mutambara’s accommodating grin when greeting Mugabe, carried on the front page of the Sunday Mail. How many MDC supporters have been killed? How many seriously injured? How many people have lost their homes?

Come on Arthur. We want to see a principled stand if you must talk. And that doesn’t include beaming from ear to ear. Has anybody noticed, by the way, that all those meeting at Zimbabwe House last Saturday were March 29 losers: Arthur Mutambara went down to defeat in Zengeza West; Priscillah Misihairabwi Mushonga was a notable casualty in Glen Norah; so was Welshman Ncube in Makokoba; Patrick Chinamasa lost his bid for a seat in Makoni; and most notably President Mugabe was defeated by Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round.

Perhaps we should mention Thabo Mbeki’s defeat in Polokwane a few months earlier.

The odd man out — Nicholas Goche who kept his seat.

Which brings us to the role of the press in covering talks between the parties, assuming they get off the ground. We cannot have a situation in which Zanu PF ministers use the state media to attack the very people they are negotiating with. Some of those ministers have an axe to grind because they lost their seats to the MDC and are now bitter.

The public media needs to be reminded of its duty to serve the public by professional and non-partisan reporting. That means providing space for other voices. And let’s see an end to the dishonest nonsense about sanctions being responsible for Zimbabwe’s problems.

So long as Zanu PF continues to misrule this country there will be sanctions imposed upon it. That is the sad reality. Killing and maiming political opponents is not acceptable to the rest of the world. It is Zanu PF that must lift sanctions by putting an end to the violence and toxic business climate. The MDC cannot do that for them.

The Sunday Mail published a cartoon last weekend depicting Raila Odinga brandishing a bow and arrow, claiming “1 500 die in post-election violence”. His arrow was dripping with blood.

The only problem with this is that Odinga was not prime minister or indeed in any other position of responsibility when the Kenya violence took place in January. Why don’t we ever see a Sunday Mail cartoon telling us who was prime minister of Zimbabwe when over 20 000 people lost their lives in the 1980s? That might put things in perspective.

Readers may be interested in recent remarks by Zambian Information Minister Mike Mulongoti who said last weekend that Mugabe risks going down in history as a leader who refused to give up power and oppressed his people.

In an interview with AFP TV, Mulongoti first paid tribute to Mugabe for “standing up against colonialism” and winning Independence for the former Rhodesia in 1980. “But now you cannot transplant colonialism for oppression,” he said. “If you oppress people, what’s the difference between you and the colonialists? So, I do not know whether — when we write history books — he shall go down in the history books as our hero or we should begin to cast doubt as to whether the services he’s supposed to have rendered he took away himself by overstaying and doing certain things that were unacceptable in a civilised world.”

Those “certain things” received some exposure last Thursday when Matabeleland North governor Sithokozile Mathuthu addressed a meeting of Joint Operations Command members and civil servants in Lupane.

“We are very happy,” she said. “For most of us the campaign was very personal because we were not campaigning for Cde Mugabe but for our father. As you know you can kill for your father, but I’m glad that we campaigned peacefully and not a single soul lost his or her life in Matabeleland North.” So that’s OK then.

Muckraker was intrigued to note from the Sunday News that you can be arrested and prosecuted for saying President Mugabe is old and should step down from power.

A headmaster from Tsholotsho, Hlozamandla Moyo, expressed this view while travelling on a bus. He was unaware that a security agent was sitting behind him.

He was subsequently arrested and charged under the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act with undermining the authority and office of the president.

Public Prosecutor Fritz Madida said Moyo was alleged to have
said that President Mugabe was “now old and medieval in outlook and should step down from power”.

Moyo is also alleged to have said the president was “a central striker in the destruction of the Zimbabwe economy because of his policies”. Moyo claimed Mugabe was using people’s shops as an electoral gimmick.

This case should be followed with interest by human rights lawyers to test exactly what you can or can’t say about a candidate in a presidential election campaign.

And by the way, are state newspapers not pursuing a regime-change agenda when they increase their cover price from $200 million to $8 billion?

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