Muckraker: Daylight Robbery

ZIMBABWE’S schools are becoming a hotbed of confusion and irresponsible behaviour.

 

Parents and pupils are their main target, not those responsible for the economic mayhem.

Many schools are demanding school fees either in foreign currency, in the form of fuel coupons, or in the case of the elite Petra High School in Bulawayo, livestock.

Some schools are demanding up to US$2 000 while others want 1 500 litres of fuel in flagrant violation of the law.

Then there are those like Queen Elizabeth school in Harare pretending to obey the law by charging their fees in local currency. This week the school demanded a top-up of $851 000 in “hard cash” although fully aware that withdrawal limits are just $1 000. According to a Herald report, the school has rejected bank cheques or direct transfers because “it needs the cash to buy food”.

Officially, maximum school fees for the third term were set at between $40 000 and $200 000 by the National Incomes and Pricing Commission. The question is who authorised these outrageous figures, against what average national income? Is there a worse form of discrimination against the poor than this or is it only discrimination if there is an element of racism?

The only sensible conclusion one can draw from this criminal behaviour by the schools is that now it is only illegal foreign currency dealers and cash barons who should send their children to school. Honest citizens have become undesirables.

One question for Petra High School: How many beasts are equivalent to the fees of $750 000 and who determines their market value? It’s nothing short of daylight robbery.

Still on money matters, the Reserve Bank has increased daily maximum bank withdrawals from $500 to $1 000. Muckraker has no access into the arcane workings of RBZ governor Gideon Gono’s sophisticated mind.

Our simplistic assumption is therefore that this irritating adjustment is meant to rein in inflation. This is because in our lawless and amoral economy, every rise in the daily withdrawal or a removal of zeros from the currency is followed by a mad rush of price increases.

But short of a holistic political resolution of the national crisis, Muckraker reckons raising the daily maximum bank withdrawal from $500 to $1 000 is an insult to the country’s already overstressed workers.

Many questions are being raised about the import of the power-sharing agreement signed between Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC on Monday this week. To us the jury is still out.

The Herald was keen to show us that nothing substantial had changed from the status quo ante. The president would chair cabinet, we were told, and subject to the constitution, retains the authority to “declare war, make peace and can proclaim or terminate martial law”.

“This,” it reminded the reader, “means that the president remains commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.”

Given the number of appointments Mugabe is allowed to make under the agreement, including that of prime minister, came the rub, “means that the president effectively remains the head of state”.

It deliberately sought to downplay the executive powers given to the prime minister who shall oversee the formulation and implementation of government policies.

No doubt Morgan Tsvangirai would have loved to have been at a theoretical par with Mugabe in terms of power. In practice, he realised this was not possible without reverting to the irresoluble question of March 29 or June 27 as the benchmark –– a return to a devastating stalemate.

The solution, and we believe this is where the facilitator Thabo Mbeki played the most decisive role, was summed up by both Mugabe and Tsvangirai in their speeches at the signing ceremony.

Both had to accept things they didn’t want for the sake of progress. “There are many issues in the agreement that I did not agree with and still don’t agree with,” said Mugabe. “Likewise Mr Tsvangirai has some issues he did not agree with. There are things that we both do not like.”

Tsvangirai called the deal “a painful compromise” for the sake “of a new, better and brighter” future.

To us the deal will stand or fall on whether the two, together with Arthur Mutambara, are able to persuade power-brokers in their respective parties to make painful compromises for the national good.

Who is in the news in South Africa today?

You are wrong if you said ANC president Jacob Zuma. You are wrong again if you said Thabo Mbeki. Cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro) takes the trophy for his stinging depiction of the political madness going on there since Polokwane in December.

His cartoon of Zuma and his alliance partners, the South African Communist Party, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the ANC Youth League, ganging up in the rape of Lady Justice has turned Zapiro into more than “Zapiro as-usual”.

He has at the same time provoked outrage and admiration from conservatives and liberals and from men and women for his depiction of how the ANC, especially under Zuma, has become a major threat to the independence of the judiciary in South Africa.

A sample of readers’ reactions and comments on the rape cartoon in the Sunday Times:

“Zapiro’s cartoon stripped away the public relations fuzz that the ANC has been trying to create around Jacob Zuma, and incisively portrayed the truth about what’s happening,” –– A Laurie.

“The most telling part of Zapiro’s cartoon was the shattered symbol of the scale of justice. It would appear that there are elements in the ANC who are not comfortable with the fruits of the struggle or ‘revolution’, one of which is, critically, an independent judiciary and the due process of law with all its checks and balances,” –– Peter Auld.

A lady who wrote that she had counselled a lot of rape victims, was offended by the cartoon. “I find this cartoon to be insensitive and hurtful to women as a whole, raped victims in particular,” she said, and wondered whether senior female editorial staff would have allowed that to pass.

Another reader observed: “…I wonder who really has the right to feel offended: Zuma, his supporters depicted in the cartoon, the justice system or women?”

For its part, the Mail & Guardian this week had three reproductions of the “offending” cartoon and a deluge of mixed reactions from across South Africa.

“One of the best cartoons of our time,” said Louis van Heerden, to which Mtungwa Mbulazi retorted that the “cartoon is insensitive and an insult to black people as a whole”.

Tsiliso Tamasane came in Zuma’s defence saying “Zapiro has an insatiable hatred for Mr Zuma and will use any event to humiliate him publicly”.

This was rebutted by Mzantsi FoSho: “Calling judges names and protesting outside justice offices to try to influence rulings is exactly as Zapiro has depicted it. Rape!”

But most hilarious was a picture of Zuma on the front page of the Sunday Times. Those now familiar with Zapiro’s portrayal of Zuma since the 2006 rape trial in which he said he took a shower after sex to prevent an Aids infection must have split their sides over the picture.

Zuma, for some strange reason, has his right hand over his head in the exact image of his now world famous “shower-cap”.

Finally, we have a gem from Uganda.

Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister says miniskirts should be banned –– because women wearing them distract drivers and cause traffic accidents.

Nsaba Buturo told journalists in Kampala that wearing a miniskirt was like walking naked in the streets.

“What’s wrong with a miniskirt? You can cause an accident because some of our people are weak mentally,” he said.

The BBC’s Joshua Mmali in Kampala, the capital, said journalists found the minister’s comments extremely funny.

Wearing a miniskirt should be regarded as “indecent”, which would be punishable under Ugandan law, Buturo said.

And he railed against the dangers facing those inadvertently distracted by short skirts.

“If you find a naked person you begin to concentrate on the make-up of that person and yet you are driving,” he said.

“These days you hardly know who is a mother from a daughter, they are all naked.”— BBC.

What ever became of WAG?