Muckraker: General, People Know Who Hit Them

TWO fascinating insights to the regime’s frailties were evident on the Herald’s front page on Monday.

Firstly we had the revealing quote from army commander Lieutenant-General Philip Sibanda saying the president’s detractors were “wondering what had hit them” in the June 27 run-off.

Most people know perfectly well who “hit” them, General.

And then we had Patrick Chinamasa saying Morgan Tsvangirai “should listen to the people of Zimbabwe who want peace and stability so that we can focus on economic recovery”.

So why can’t Zanu PF deliver recovery as they promised in full-page adverts prior to the run-off? And who is blocking peace and stability? It is not Zanu PF activists who are still being abducted and murdered.

Sibanda thanked the security forces and the nation at large for “standing solidly behind our candidate”.

This is the partisan stance we had all safely assumed. But it is useful to have it on the record so that restoration of professionalism in the armed forces is top of the agenda in the forthcoming talks.

The country’s detractors were doing everything possible to overturn the people’s will, Sibanda declared.

Isn’t that what happened after March 29? Wasn’t there a systematic campaign to overturn the people’s will? Isn’t that why the UN and AU are now involved in ensuring the people’s will is respected? What would they be doing here if the people’s will had already been respected?

There appears to be a degree of cognitive dissonance here!

Chinamasa’s reference to the need for economic stability is intriguing. This came just as the government announced it would use the Indigenisation and Empowerment Act to “audit” British companies with a view to distributing them to Zanu PF cronies.

British investors have interests in some 499 companies, the Sunday Mail told us. “Friendly countries” would be approached to take control, a “source” said.

The story later reveals that of the 499 companies, British nationals have interests in 134 in which locals have majority shareholdings. Others are jointly owned.

What the story doesn’t say is that over the past 10 years British investors have been leaving the country in droves for the very simply reason this is no place to do business.

There are now only an estimated 60 British companies left.

The “source” in the Hate Mail’s sinister story seems to think there will be a rush by Chinese and Indians to take up the slack. What he doesn’t understand is companies from those countries usually look to first see what the investment climate is like before leaping in. They speak to other investors, particularly well-established ones. Once they discover they will be mugged of a 51% share of their ownership by an avaricious political class they move along to more fertile ground in South Africa, Botswana and Mauritius.

Zanu PF likes to think it is punishing the British for threatening to pull out. But it is the people of Zimbabwe who end up punished by the scorched earth policies of Zimbabwe’s rulers.

A good example is “people’s shops” where the state sources commodities from South Africa and then sells them for a fixed price to ruling-party supporters.

This distorts the economy by importing goods and selling them well below the cost of production locally. As a result companies go to the wall.

This produces an artificial economy that is designed to impress local consumers. But at the same time it compounds inflation and unemployment. Very simply, it is not sustainable. But economically illiterate policies of this sort will persist so long as Mugabe’s acolytes are in charge.

This perhaps explains why the focus of the inter-party talks will be on the impossibility of recovery so long as Zanu PF is free to damage the economy at will and blame sanctions.

The MDC has said it wants to see an end to militia gangsterism and the release of political prisoners before serious talks can get under way. This is not an unreasonable demand. Those prisoners are being held as hostages. There can be no political settlement so long as abductions and arrests persist.

But from our point of view there is an equally important demand that needs to be met. That is to stop the abuse of state newspapers and ZBC by ruling party supporters to rubbish the opposition and pursue a dishonest agenda of blaming the British and Americans for Zimbabwe’s predicament.

Last Thursday night ZTV screened a programme suggesting Morgan Tsvangirai was a police spy in the late 1970s. It was a nasty defamatory piece of journalism for which its author, Tazzen Mandizvidza, should be held to account. None of Tsvangirai’s accusers were named, nor were their faces shown. It was a disgracefully unprofessional product.

And despite Zanu PF’s pro-claimed need for a political settlement, poison pen writers in the government media continue to contaminate the political climate by vilifying the opposition and civil socirty.

Many of these columnists are foreigners pursuing their own anti-American agenda.

Yet we expect the US and Britain to come to Zimbabwe’s rescue once the talks mature!

The public media needs to revert to public ownership — meaning a diversity of views should be heard. As it is, the public interest is not being served; in fact it is being betrayed.

We had for instance Tafataona Mahoso on Sunday telling us why the AU is not a true successor to the OAU. The OAU legitimised the election of liberation movements, he contended. “Subsequent elections are valuable since they serve to confirm the legitimacy of the same movement and its leadership to generations who were not grown up in 1980.”

So that’s what democracy is about? Confirming the rule of those who are already in power! And what if those comrades have transformed the country into their private property, wrecked the economy and driven millions of citizens into exile? What do we do then — confirm them in power for another term?

These delinquent views on elections appear every day in the state media. Essentially they argue that it doesn’t matter what people think or how bad governance has become, the liberation movements must never be removed. Isn’t that the perverse verdict of June 27?

The AU has turned these liberation-movement values upside down, Mahoso complains as he rubbishes “mere dialogue”.

Watch the rearguard action in the weeks ahead from these Stalinist die-hards who fail to understand that liberation-movements-gone-rotten need to be evicted.

In this context Muckraker has been following the agitation by residents of a Durban township who want Mugabe Rd in their neighbourhood changed back to its old name of Umlazi St.

“Last week angry Umlazi residents demanded that the name Robert Mugabe be removed from the street in AA Section because they felt the Zimbabwean leader was not a good role model for their children,” the Sowetan reports. “They accused Mugabe of unleashing a terror campaign on Zimbabweans.

One of the residents, Zandile Mntatmbo, said the name should be removed as part of demonstrating that South Africans truly believe in democracy and government with integrity.”

The eThekwini municipality said the residents were free to make the change after consulting their councillor.

No doubt Mahoso would feel the views of the locals were inadmissible. When the people disappoint like this they need to be reconstituted so they think again.

What have the following outfits got in common? The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Noczim, GMB, Zupco, Zimbabwe Newspapers, Air Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Defence and CMED. Well, apart from providing sheltered employment for the ruling party’s more challenged members, they placed slavish adverts in the Herald congratulating Mugabe on his “landslide victory”. In fact the word “landslide” appeared in nearly all the ads and appears to have been prescribed to them.

Meanwhile, so desperate was the Herald for editorial copy to accompany these fawning adverts, it had to regurgitate some of the official brochures put out ahead of the run-off.

Media pundits and political detractors had been “competing to dispirit Zimbabweans through negative propaganda” since the March 29 elections, we were told.

“Some people were misled into believing that Zanu PF had become unpopular and made President Mugabe unelectable while Morgan Tsvangirai and his foreign-funded and foreign-driven MDC had become so popular as to be unbeatable.”

There was no truth to these claims, we were assured.

Following the March poll, the MDC did not “hide its sinister agenda against ordinary Zimbabweans” who were now legally resettled on farms, according to the ruling party’s public relations machine. “It would be too much and downright irresponsible for anyone to expect President Mugabe to hand over such a situation to a successor and even worse to hand over to Tsvangirai and his MDC which is controlled and manipulated by the very same hostile interests that are behind the current suffering of the majority of Zimbabweans.”

So that is how it goes: Reference is made to whites returning to reclaim their farms in a document now widely seen as fake and referred to by a judge as fictitious. This falsehood then becomes the basis for Mugabe refusing to hand over power if he lost the pending election. It also became the basis for the arrest and incarceration of Tendai Biti.

Then there is the dishonest little claim at the end suggesting that the “same hostile interests are behind the current suffering of the majority of Zimbabweans”.

In other words crashing agricultural production, inflation of 9 000 000% and widespread hunger have nothing to so with the policies of President Mugabe. How convenient!

Very few African leaders have spoken out in support of President Mugabe in the wake of the stolen June poll. Most have confined themselves to calling for dialogue. But a notable exception has been President Omar Bongo of Gabon.

Bongo, it will be recalled, provided landing facilities for Rhodesian sanctions-busting flights in the 1970s and never cared particularly what the OAU had to say. He
spent more time in France than in Gabon according to some accounts, with an acute taste for the good life.

Now we have the following disclosure from the London Sunday Times.

“A mansion worth £15 million in one of Paris’s most elegant districts has become the latest of 33 luxury properties bought in France by President Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, the world’s longest-serving leader, and his family, it was alleged last week.

“According to files seen by the Sunday Times, a French judicial investigation has discovered that Bongo (72) and his relatives also bought a fleet of limousines, including a £308 823 Maybach for his wife, Edith (44). Payment for some of the cars was taken directly from the treasury of Gabon, a country rich in oil.

“Bongo, who started his career as a postal worker, has ruled for 40 years and has become one of wealthiest leaders in the world while 30% of his people eke out a living on less than 50p a day.”

And this is Zimbabwe’s new best friend!

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