Muckraker: The Re-discovery Of The Senate

IT was an all-time Herald classic, to be cut out and sent to friends and colleagues abroad. Many will have it framed.

 

Even if you didn’t see it last Friday, you would have heard about it. It provided merriment in bars and clubs across the country. As the nation sank further into the abyss, the Herald declared: “Zim’s inflation not that bad.”

It was not that bad, it said, when compared to Weimar Germany’s monthly 3,25 billion percent in 1923 or Hungary’s 4,19 quintillion percent in 1946. Then there was Yugoslavia in 1993 where the monthly rate reached five quintillion percent.

So, no reason to worry then. We are “yet to claim number one spot in modern world history”. But judging by the speed at which we are travelling we will soon be there, on a par with post-war Hungary!

But the Herald must get some sort of award for this latest piece of sunshine journalism.

Do the people working at the Herald really believe that “Zim’s inflation not that bad”? Is that what people say? What sort of cloud-cuckoo land do these guys live in?

Then there was the bit in the story which said: “A tough monetary policy, a balanced blend of economics and politics, as well as increased production will be key to achieving macro-economic stability.”

Indeed, but since when has this government ever shown the slightest inclination to achieve these goals? Journalists have a duty to exercise healthy scepticism when reporting on these matters, not utter gullibility.

We were interested to see in the Herald last Thursday a ZimOnline interview with Welshman Ncube which our paper also carried. What caught our attention was the spin given to the interview in the introduction (that the Herald was just seeking clarification on Morgan Tsvangirai’s “dithering”) and the omission of the interviewer’s name.

Why was the Herald unable to disclose that the interview was conducted by Basildon Peta?

Here we have a case of a publisher denying to a journalist his right to proper attribution. The Herald was happy to use the interview because it was grist to its political mill, but was unwilling to credit the person responsible for it. This is another sign of a suborned media that conducts vicious attacks on journalists based outside the country, questioning their professionalism, but is then happy to appropriate their copy when it suits them.

Muckraker is delighted that Kirsty Coventry was able to bring honour to the country with her gold and silver medals haul. They seem to have generated a good deal more excitement than the medals handed out a few weeks ago to those responsible for the current mess.

But Kirsty should beware of attempts to associate her with the Chitungwiza Aquatic Complex. This mosquito-infested pond has become a byword for Zimbabwe’s misrule.

At the time of its construction for the All-Africa Games in 1995 the government was warned of the danger of it becoming another useless white elephant.

Sure enough it was never put to good use. Zimbabweans like Kirsty who wish to excel at their chosen sport have to seek the hospitality of nations denounced daily by our politicians and state media.

It would be entirely inappropriate in the circumstances to accept the dubious honour of having any sporting facility here named after her. Kirsty should be happy with her diplomatic passport and leave it at that.

Meanwhile, the anti-Tsvangirai campaign is scaling new heights. What this has done is to show the outside world the “face of the beast” he is up against here. Can you imagine MPs elected by the people being arrested when arriving at parliament to be sworn in?

There was a nice little letter in the Herald last week saying it was “odd that a whole nation can be held to ransom by the intransigence of one man…What monster are we creating in allowing one man to think he holds our destiny in his hand?”

Indeed!

We enjoyed the debate between George Charamba and Tendai Biti on the pages of last week’s Mail & Guardian. Asked what he considered the most important outcome of the inter-party talks, Charamba put economic independence at the top of his list.

“To put it down simply to matters of democracy and good governance is missing the issue altogether,” he said. “Talks are of no significance if they do not address economic independence.”

Asked what influence Zimbabwe’s economic decline had on the talks, Charamba asked “what decline”? The banks and mining companies were doing very well. They were in for the long haul.

Biti on the other hand said that the economic decline was proof of the fact that nationalism had been a failure. Some people’s values systems were skewed and the economy is the least of their concerns, he said. Thousands were fleeing the country every day. Inflation was sky-high.

“One of the ironies of the present matrix is that the regime that has made sovereignty the national religion has made the Zimbabwean economy so vulnerable. This has decreased our independence.”

Irony indeed. In an editorial the M&G points out that under the deal being offered to Tsvangirai, Mugabe would retain the right to hire and fire ministers and to veto all legislation.

“How can a lasting solution to the country’s profound crisis be found?”

ecretary for Justice David Mangota doesn’t appear to grasp the elementary principle that it is injudicious for judges to accept gifts from any source other than those prescribed by law.

That includes accepting anything from the Reserve Bank. Nobody is opposed to the government “looking after the judiciary”, as he ineptly puts it.

This means they will be giving more of their time and attention to their work, he claims. Weren’t they doing that in the first place? Perhaps he could enlighten us.

And why has Mangota suddenly decided to speak up several weeks after the event?

Law Society president Beatrice Mtetwa made the obvious point that many of the gifts dished out last month were unrelated to a judge’s core business. How is a plasma-screen television an essential tool?

Why is it when government officials rise to defend the government they invariably make things look worse? All these officials are required to do is the right thing. Why is that so difficult?

We have in the past accused New African editor Baffour Ankomah of not being his own man. That’s because his magazine serves as a public relations platform for President Mugabe. We would be keen to know who paid for his latest visit to Zimbabwe.

Here is a clue. Ankomah says “the impression widely created by the Western media that the political violence in Zimbabwe was perpetrated by only one side, Zanu PF or Mugabe’s thugs, is absolutely not true. There have been no saints in Zimbabwe. In fact all independent analysts agree that it was the MDC that first started the violence before Zanu PF retaliated…”

Really, is that the view of “all independent analysts”? Not even Zanu PF believes that.

Let’s throw down a challenge to Ankomah. Name “the independent analysts” who suggest that the MDC started the violence. Or did you, as in the past, get your information from the Office of the President?

Could Dairibord clarify its outrageous charges. A week ago a 500 ml packet of Chimombe milk from vendors on Prince Edward St cost $40. The same packet this week is going for $115. Some vendors are charging $130.

Where’s the National Incomes and Pricing Commission? Dairibord is ripping it.

Readers are welcome to write to us with particularly shocking cases of price hikes. Of course companies have to recover their costs. But there are some unjustified cases of profiteering that need to be exposed.

Muckraker is amused by Zanu PF’s sudden rediscovery of the Senate. In 1989 the upper house was declared a colonial relic we could do without. Now, we are told it is an essential instrument which can block measures passed by the lower house.

Not strictly true. It can delay but not block. But it is obvious why we are seeing reports about who’s who in the Senate and Zanu PF’s majority there. It’s the only place they won any significant support in the March election, largely because most people weren’t bothering. Even with the current set-up the opposition is well placed to resist any attempts to roll back the democratic tide.

Zanu PF’s response to the drubbing Mugabe got in parliament on Tuesday was to be expected. The party’s spokesmen waxed indignant. “Childish grandstanding”, we were told. “A mockery” of the august House. “Pathetic and disgusting”.

Mugabe himself described the demonstration as “barbaric and nonsensical”.

These criticisms of the understandable exuberance of a new generation of MPs come from those who have denied us freedom of speech on a systematic basis. What the unprecedented events of Tuesday so clearly demonstrated is that the mould has been broken. Mugabe is no longer the icon the nation worships.

Many may indeed regard the demonstrations staged in parliament as childish and unnecessary. But stop for a moment and think what those MPs have been through at the hands of the ruling party.

They endured three months of brutality and bloodshed designed to reverse the nation’s will. Many lost members of their immediate family and colleagues. These were the survivors of the most vicious campaign since Gukurahundi. And Mugabe in his speech tried to suggest these were isolated incidents.

It was significant that the jeering started when he tried to blame Britain and sanctions for our predicament. “These must stop now,” he ordered.

That proved provocative. The opposition wasn’t having any political dishonesty of that sort. They had heard it all before. In a sense what we witnessed was some healthy iconoclasm. The MPs took the opportunity to express their anger and contempt for their oppressors.

It was a lonely president who made his way out to his colonial-era Rolls and sat down on the back seat looking a shrunken, melancholy and rather forlorn figure.

But he was back to his old self when addressing the party faithful at the lunch hosted by the Ministry of Local Government. It was actually “disgusting” watching these chefs stuffing themselves at taxpayers’ expense while the president entertained them with stories about people spending the night in bars. Casual abuse hurled at the opposition instead of educating his party on the realities they now have to face.

Caesar Zvayi thought parliament resembled a rowdy high school on Tuesday. Then he decided the demonstrators behaved like “pre-pubescent youths”.

This is what happens when you really have nothing useful to say. You get mixed up about which grade you’re in.

Their raucous behaviour at times drowned out the president’s voice, Zvayi indignantly observed.

Goodness, the voice that dominates the airwaves and newspapers while denying a say to others actually met its match. Surely not!

And Caesar, if you must resort to other languages please get them right. A dog is un chien, not “chain”. And the expression is “the dogs bark but the caravan moves on”.

We appreciate Zvayi’s barking role in defending the indefensible, but if the “on-going inter-party talks were predicated on mutual respect for each other’s political space”, then surely the public media, given the MDC majority, should allow other voices to be heard?

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